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William Henry Cuyler Hosmer (1814-1877) was a fairly accomplished lawyer, author, and poet, born to the prominent pioneering Hosmer family of Avon, N.Y. He authored several books in his lifetime, ranging from histories to verse, sometimes combining the two into one. His Later Lays and Lyrics is a potpourri of poems dealing largely but not entirely with local historical themes. "The Markham Elm," for example, eulogizes a noble, ancient tree that long stood near the Rush-Avon town border. In a footnote regarding its fate, Hosmer writes: "Some wretch, who little regards what is venerable and historic, kindled a fire in its hollow boll. May the curse of the poet, and the malediction of God, rest on him forevermore!" He could be passionate.
The poems contained in Later Lays and Lyrics are divided into five sections, including "War Lyrics" (primarily Hosmer's impressions in the recent aftermath of the American Civil War), "Bitter Memories" (personal, themes of loss), and "Cypress Leaves" (death, writ both small and large). As a whole, however, Hosmer's poetry is informed by his family's history of settling Avon, his love for the land, and his reverence for the natives and their lore. He wrote these verses from the vantage point of late life, having witnessed America's 19th-century genocidal first half, through slavery and the Civil War, and into ascendant industrialization.
Later Lays and Lyrics casts the history and places of this region in a uniquely lyrical, impactful form. Indeed, in the opening "Sonnet Dedicatory" Hosmer writes: "Love for the Valley of the Genesee, / Of old the red mans favorite domain / Inspired in youth a high heroic strain..." That inspiration endured, it seems, throughout Hosmer's life and writings.
(summary written by Liz Argentieri)
Milne Library Publishing
Hosmer, William Henry Cuyler, "Later Lays & Lyrics" (1873). Genesee Valley Historical Reprints. 5.
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