The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

V. Bryant and the Minor Poets

§ 23. Joseph Rodman Drake

Joseph Rodman Drake (1795–1820) and Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790–1867) are remembered first for a romantic youthful friendship, not common in our literary history. For a time they amused themselves and the town by facile and often pointed skits on contemporary politics, people, and events, under the title Croaker and Co., after the manner of English wits of the time, as Moore and the Smith brothers. Halleck is said to have written the last four lines of Drake’s American Flag, a lyric full of the old-fashioned expansive and defiant Americanism, and, with its flare of imagery and blare of sound, still sure to stir the blood of any one but a professional critic. And it was on Drake, dead at twenty-five, that Halleck wrote what is the tenderest, the manliest little elegy of personal loss in American literature, beginning with the familiar lines:

  • Green be the turf above thee,
  • Friend of my better days!
  • None knew thee but to love thee,
  • Nor named thee but to praise.