Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Otway Curry


Carpenter, farmer, legislator, editor, lawyer, and poet

W.H. 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 world.

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 Kinney's "In 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.

Otway Curry
William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West
(Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860)

Otway Curry
Rufus Wilmot Griswold, The Poets and Poetry of America

Otway Curry
Pliny A. Durant (ed.), The History of Union County Ohio
(Chicago: W.H. Beers, 1883)

Otway Curry
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 text]

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 26, 1837")


Lewis Ernest Weeks, The Collected Poetry of Otway Curry (M.A. Thesis, Brown University, 1948)