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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Joaquin (Cincinnatus Hiner) Miller (1837–1913)

CINCINNATUS HINER MILLER, known to literature under the name of “Joaquin Miller,” was born November 10th, 1841, in the Wabash district of Indiana. In 1854 his parents moved to Oregon, where the poet was brought up amid all the picturesque deprivations of pioneer life. With the next turn of destiny’s wheel he became a miner in California, living with his associates a life of adventure, of which he afterwards made good use in his long narrative poems. In 1860 he returned to Oregon and studied law until the next year, when he went as express messenger to the gold-mining districts of Idaho. Returning again to Oregon in 1863, he edited the Democratic Register,—a weekly newspaper which was suppressed for disloyalty,—after which he began the practice of law in Cañon City.

From 1866 to 1870 Mr. Miller held the office of judge of the Grant County court, Oregon; and at the same time made his first serious attempts as a poet. By a strange intuition he felt that his work would meet with more favor abroad than at home; and hence his visit in 1870 to England, where the year following he brought out his ‘Songs of the Sierras’ simultaneously with their publication in Boston, under the imprint of Roberts Brothers. The name “Joaquin,” prefixed to his own on the title-page, the author borrowed from the name of a Mexican brigand, Joaquin Murietta, for whom he had once made a legal defense. The appearance of the ‘Songs of the Sierras’ made a great stir in England; and Mr. Miller was fêted, and lauded with superlative adjectives and epithets, culminating in the illustrious title of the “American Byron.” On his return from England, Mr. Miller did journalistic work in Washington, DC, till the autumn of 1887, when he removed to Oakland, California, which has since been his permanent place of residence.

Besides the volume of poems already mentioned, Mr. Miller published in 1873 ‘Songs of the Sunlands,’ in 1875 ‘Songs of the Desert,’ in 1878 ‘Songs of Italy,’ in 1882 his ‘Collected Poems,’ and in 1887 ‘Songs of Mexican Seas.’ He is also the author of the following prose works: ‘The Baroness of New York’ (1877), ‘The Danites in the Sierras’ (1881), ‘Shadows of Shasta’ (1881), ‘Memorie and Rime’ (1884), and ‘’49, or the Gold Seekers of the Sierras’ (1884). His ‘Songs of the Soul,’ was published in the summer of 1896, and a revised collected edition of his ‘Complete Poetical Works’ appeared in San Francisco in 1902.

Mr. Miller’s chief claim to literary fame rests upon his originality, freshness of style, and vigor of thought and expression. In the sweeping rush of his rhythm there is a suggestion of the roaring streams and swaying forests whose music he heard in his youth. The power to report nature by symbols and pagan metaphors, so that she seems in his poetry to be using her own vernacular, is one of his peculiar gifts. His qualities of style are seen at their best in ‘The Isles of the Amazon.’ In his shorter lyrical poems there is a gentler cadence, with an undertone of deep melancholy that haunts the reader. This effect is well illustrated in ‘The Last Hymn’ and ‘Down into the Dust.’

In spite of his claim to a high rank among American poets,—a claim which England freely granted him,—Mr. Miller has worked out more bitterly than most authors the Scriptural sentence concerning a prophet in his own country, and the allied one of Solomon which declares that “the race is not to the swift,… nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” He died in 1913.