Uncertain Sounds

    THE wind in the leaves,
    The rain on the eaves,
    Or the low, continuous roar
    Of the rolling waves on the distant shore:
    Who shall declare
    What sounds they be?
    Whether lost in the air,
    Or found on the sea,
    And whether they laugh, or sigh?
    Not I.
    I only know
    That they come, and go,
    And people the hollow sky.

Richard Henry Stoddard (1825-1903)

Richard Stoddard's lyrics tended to be sensuous, John Keats was a great influence on his works and he found in Keats, as he says in a verse tribute, the Master of his soul.

His wife Elizabeth B. Stoddard (1823-1902), was also a writer of verse and the author of three novels. He spent the early part of his working life eking out a living in an iron factory living in the shadow of poverty for most of his life. A friendship with Bayard Taylor led to the publication of his first poems and with the help of Nathaniel Hawthorne he landed a position at the New York Custom House where his poetical work was held in high regard by other minor poets.

As an integral part of New York City bohemian and literary culture there were many Saturday night gatherings at Richard Henry Stoddard's home on Tenth Street. Many of his renown guests were of the nature of transition poets including the likes of Walt Whitman, Fitz James O'Brien, Bayard Taylor, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Edmund Clarence Stedman, and Artemus Ward.

Most of his work is the expression of commonplace sentiment and tame emotion. Its merit is melody and deftness, in phrasing, in rhyming, in imagery, with his somewhat austere devotion to beauty he was far removed from the Bohemians; he dedicated himself to poetry with a happiness and dignity, and with a degree of success in his own day. Though was well regarded in his own time Stoddard is largely forgotten today. Uncertain Sounds is characteristic of Stoddard's shorter pieces.


Elizabeth Drew Stoddard:

July 2, 1825 was the birthday of the American poet and critic...:

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved.