Carpenter, farmer, legislator, editor, lawyer, and poet
Venable, in Beginnings of Literary Culture in the Ohio Valley, provides the following commentary on Otway Curry:
More than half a century ago, the name of Otway Curry was familiar
to readers of verse throughout the United States, and the new-risen
western star of poetry was considered a remarkable phenomenon, even
worthy to be ranked with Poe. The merit of his work is striking,
and there is reason to regret that the collection of his poetry
promised by a prospectus, some years ago, has not been published.
Curry possessed subtle genius, and though his thought is not always
clear nor his art satisfactory, almost every thing he wrote is pleasing,
melodious, and warm, if not luminous with sincere "inspiration."
Such poems as "Kingdom Come," "The Armies of the
Eve," "The Better Land," "The Lost Pleiad,"
"Chasadine," "Aaven," "To a Midnight Phantom,"
belong, in their conception and form, to the aristocracy of letters.
There is something in their very titles suggestive of habitual meditation
on high themes, and of a life devoted to the solitude of the ideal
Otway Curry was born in Highland county, Ohio, in 1804, and he
died in 1855. He was a farmer, lawyer, editor, legislator, as well
as poet, and his general services in the cause of intellectual and
moral progress in the West should not be forgotten. He was a bosom
friend of W. D. Gallagher, and the latter relates that when the
two were youths together in the town of Cincinnati, they used, on
summer evenings, to sit on the bank of the Ohio, near the foot of
Broadway, Curry playing the flute for his friend's pleasure. The
high esteem and affection in which Otway Curry was held are manifested
in a generous tribute from the pen of a contemporary, who, in 1855,
wrote of the deceased poet:
Ohio, ne'er has lost a son
More worthy her regret
The West has comets yet of song,—
Her planet, though, has set,
Our country weakens with the want
Of good, true men like him,
To guard her tree of liberty,
Like Eden's cherubim.
[W. H. Venable, Beginnings of Literary Culture in
the Ohio Valley: Historical and Biographical Sketches 278-79 (Cincinnati:
Robert Clarke & Co., 1891). ([online text]). Venable's quoted stanza is from Coates
Memory—On the Death of Otway Curry" which appeared in the
Ladies Repository in May, 1855. Coates
Kinney was also lawyer-poet.]
Curry served in the state
legislature in 1836-1837 and again in 1842. He was one of the signers
of Ohio's state constitution in 1841.
William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West
(Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860)
Rufus Wilmot Griswold, The Poets and Poetry of America
Pliny A. Durant (ed.), The History of Union County Ohio
(Chicago: W.H. Beers, 1883)
Edward Thompson, Sketches, Biographical and Incidental, by E. Thompson
11-41 (Cincinnati: Published by L. Swormstedt & A. Poe, R.P.
Thompson, Printer, 1856)(D.W. Clark ed.)
WE strive with earthly imagings,
To reach and understand
The wondrous and the fearful things
Of an eternal land.
But soon the doubt, the toil, the strife
Of earth shall all be done,
And knowledge of our endless life
Be in a moment won.
[H. Hastings Weld (ed.), Pearls of Sacred Poetry
132 (New York: Allen Brothers, 1869)] [online
The Lost Pleiad
Millions of ages gone,
Didst thou survive, in thy enthroned place,
Amidst the assemblies of the starry race,
Still shining on and on.
And even in earthly time
Thy parting beams their olden radiance wore,
And greeted, from the dim cerulean shore,
The old Chaldean clime.
Sages and poets, strong
To rise and walk the waveless firmament,
Gladly to thee their richest offerings sent,
Of eloquence and song.
But thy far-flowing light,
By time's mysterious shadows overcast,
Strangely and dimly faded at the last,
Into a nameless night.
Along the expanse serene,
Of clust'ry arch and constellated zone,
With orbed sands of tremendous gold o'erstrown,
No more canst thou be seen.
Say whither wand'rest thou?
Do unseen heavens they distant path illume?
Or press the shades of everlasting gloom
Darkly upon thee now?
Around thee, far away,
The hazy ranks of multitudinous spheres,
Perchance, are gathering to prolong the years
Of thy unwilling stay.
Sadly our thoughts rehearse
The story of thy wild and wondrous flight
Thro' the deep deserts of the ancient night
And far-off universe.
We call we call thee back,
And suns of many a constellation bright
Shall weave the waves of their illuming light
O'er thy returning track.
["The Lost Pleiad," in Emerson Venable (ed.),
Poets of Ohio 46-47 (Cincinnati: The Robert Clarke Company, 1909)]
Otway Curry, The Lore of the Past (Cincinnati:
R. P. Brooks, 1838)("a poem delivered before the Union Literary
Society of Hanover College, Ind., at their fifth anniversary, September
Lewis Ernest Weeks, The Collected Poetry of Otway Curry
(M.A. Thesis, Brown University, 1948)