Monday, July 10, 2017

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821—1873) is an American poet who only published one book of poems in his lifetime: Poems (1860). His work was ignored by most of his contemporaries, although he received encouragement from Nathaniel Hawthorne and Alfred Tennyson, whom he had visited in his home on the Isle of Wight in 1855.

He completed a law degree from Harvard, but scarcely practiced. In the mid-1840s when he met and fell deeply in love with Hannah Jones, he began writing poems — primarily sonnets. They married in 1847. When she died shortly after the birth of their third child in 1857, Tuckerman was completely grief-stricken. It is out of this tragedy that much of his best poetry comes.

Although he was significantly influenced by the English romantic poets and the American romantics of his time, his rational, Anglican background, combined with the death of his dear wife, caused Tuckerman to become somewhat anti-romantic in his rejection of the pantheistic optimism of many of his contemporaries.

Jason Guriel wrote in The New Criterion, that Tuckerman "wrote poems too weird to be much appreciated in his own milieu, the United States of the nineteenth century, and not weird enough to distinguish the poet for many of his later readers who, failing to squint, saw little more than an accomplished sonneteer."


Not the round natural world, not the deep mind,
The reconcilement holds: the blue abyss
Collects it not; our arrows sink amiss
And but in Him may we our import find.
The agony to know, the grief, the bliss
Of toil, is vain and vain: clots of the sod
Gathered in heat and haste and flung behind
To blind ourselves and others, what but this
Still grasping dust and sowing toward the wind?
No more thy meaning seek, thine anguish plead,
But leaving straining thought and stammering word,
Across the barren azure pass to God:
Shooting the void in silence like a bird,
A bird that shuts his wings for better speed.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.