Stephen C. Foster Poems

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Stephen C. Foster
Stephen Collins Foster (July 4, 1826 – January 13, 1864), known as the "father of American music," was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of the 19th century. His songs, such as "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Old Black Joe", "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River") remain popular over 150 years after their composition. Foster was born in Lawrenceville, now part of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up as the youngest of ten children in a middle-class family that would eventually become near destitute after his father's fall into alcoholism. Foster's education included one month at college (Washington & Jefferson College) but little formal music training. Despite this, he published several songs before the age of twenty. His first, "Open Thy Lattice Love," appeared when he was 18. Stephen was greatly influenced by two men during his teenage years: Henry Kleber (1816-1897) and Dan Rice. The former was a classically trained musician who immigrated from the German city of Darmstadt and opened a music store in Pittsburgh, and who was among Stephen Foster’s few formal music instructors. The latter was an entertainer –- a clown and blackface singer, making his living in traveling circuses. These two very different musical worlds created a tension for the teenage Foster. Although respectful of the more civilized parlor songs of the day, he and his friends would often sit at a piano, writing and singing minstrel songs through the night. Eventually, Foster would learn to blend the two genres to write some of his best work.

the end of the furrow
When we come to the end of the furrow,
When our last day's work is done,
We will drink... [read poem]
the sky watcher
Black rolls the phantom chimney-smoke
Beneath the wintry moon;
For miles on miles, by soun... [read poem]
the winter lakes
Out in a world of death far to the northward lying,
Under the sun and the moon, under the ... [read poem]
the politician
Carven in leathern mask or brazen face,
Were I time's sculptor, I would set this man.... [read poem]
how one winter came in the lake region
For weeks and weeks the autumn world stood still,
Clothed in the shadow of a smoky haze;... [read poem]
bereavement of the fields
In Memory of Archibald Lampman, who died February 10, 1899

Soft fall the February snows,... [read poem]
pan the fallen
He wandered into the market
With pipes and goatish hoof;
He wandered in a grotesque s... [read poem]
the dread voyage
Trim the sails the weird stars under—
Past the iron hail and thunder,
Past the mystery a... [read poem]
the avenging angel
(To Flight-Lieutenant Robinson and all the heroic aviators of the Royal Flying Corps.)
... [read poem]
out of pompeii
She lay, face downward, on her beaded arm,
In this her new, sweet dream of human bliss,... [read poem]
the blind caravan
I am a slave, both dumb and blind,
Upon a journey dread;
The iron hills lie far behin... [read poem]
the higher kinship
Life is too grim with anxious, eating care
To cherish what is best. Our souls are scarred... [read poem]
vii mon. september [1742] hath xxx days.
The Reverse
Studious of Ease, and fond of humble Things,
Bel... [read poem]
an october evening
The woods are haggard and lonely,
The skies are hooded for snow,
The moon is cold in ... [read poem]
stella flammarum: an ode to halley's comet
Strange wanderer out of the deeps,
Whence, journeying, come you?
From what far, unsunned s... [read poem]
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