General William Booth enters into Heaven, and other poems/Memorial
Because I believe that Sidney Lanier was much more than a clever artisan in rhyme and metre; because he will, I think, take his final rank with the first princes of American song, I am glad to provide this slight memorial. There is sufficient material in his letters for an extremely interesting biography, which could be properly prepared only by his wife. These pages can give but a sketch of his life and work.
Sidney Lanier was born at Macon, Ga., on the third of February, 1842. His earliest known ancestor of the name was Jerome Lanier, a Huguenot refugee, who was attached to the court of Queen Elizabeth, very likely as a musical composer; and whose son, Nicholas, was in high favor with James I. and Charles I., as director of music, painter, and political envoy; and whose grandson, Nicholas, held a similar position in the court of Charles II. A portrait of the elder Nicholas Lanier, by his friend Van Dyck, was sold, with other pictures belonging to Charles I., after his execution. The younger Nicholas was the first Marshal, or presiding officer, of the Society of Musicians, incorporated at the Restoration, "for the improvement of the science and the interest of its professors;" and it is remarkable that four others of the name of Lanier were among the few incorporators, one of them, John Lanier, very likely father of the Sir John Lanier who fought as Major General at the Battle of the Boyne, and fell gloriously at Steinkirk along with the brave Douglas.
The American branch of the family originated as early as 1716 with the immigration of Thomas Lanier who settled with other colonists on a grant of land ten miles square, which includes the present city of Richmond, Va. One of the family, a Thomas Lanier, married an aunt of George Washington. The family is somewhat widely scattered, chiefly in the Southern States.
The father of our poet was Robert S. Lanier, a lawyer still living in Macon, Ga. His mother was Mary Anderson, a Virginian of Scotch descent, from a family that supplied members of the House of Burgesses of Virginia for many years and in more than one generation, and was gifted in poetry, music, and oratory.
His earliest passion was for music. As a child he learned to play, almost without instruction, on every kind of instrument he could find; and while yet a boy he played the flute, organ, piano, violin, guitar, and banjo, especially devoting himself to the flute in deference to his father, who feared him for the powerful fascination of the violin. For it was the violin-voice that, above all others, commanded his soul. He has related that during his college days it would sometimes so exalt him in rapture, that presently he would sink from his solitary music-worship into a deep trance, thence to awake, alone, on the floor of his room, sorely shaken in nerve.