Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

William Dana Emerson


William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West: With Biographical and Critical Notices 284 (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860):

WILLIAM DANA EMERSON is one of the Western poets who have written chiefly and happily on themes suggested by local scenery or local history. He was born in the pioneer town, Marietta, Ohio, on the ninth day of July, 1813. His father was a lawyer and an editor. William was educated at Ohio University, where he graduated with distinction in 1836. In one of his poems, written in 1838, grateful memories of Athens and pleasant recollections of college life, are recorded. We quote two stanzas:

Sweet Athens! the home of learning and beauty,
   How I long for thy hills and thy rich balmy air;
For thy wide-spreading greens, smiling sweetly on duty,
   And the valley beneath, and the stream wending there!
On the North the high rock, on the South the lone ferry;
   The ville on the East, and the mill on the West,
The lawn where the gravest at play-hours were merry,
   And the walks by the footstep of beauty made bless'd:

The old college building—where Enfield and Stewart
   Oft found me ensconced in the cupola cool;
While I glanced now and then, mid the study of true art,
   At the names graven there by the pocket edge-tool;
Oh, time has diminished the strength of my spirit,
   The visions of youth are my glories no more
But still one estate from thee I inherit,
   The old right of way to the stars and their lore.

After leaving college Mr. Emerson taught school in Kentucky and in Illinois. School-keeping in Illinois in 1839 was well calculated to make a young man thoroughly acquainted with the necessary peculiarities of pioneer life—peculiarities which in several of his poems Mr. Emerson graphically describes.

Returning to Ohio, Mr. Emerson studied law, and has, for ten or fifteen years, kept an office in Cincinnati. But he is not much known at the bar. His disposition is retiring. He shuns society, and avoids the haunts where men "most do congregate,"—except when he has occasion to visit a public library, and then, though the librarian may learn his name, he will find it difficult to learn aught else respecting him.

We first became acquainted with Mr. Emerson as a poet, through the Herald of Truth, published by Lewis A. Hine, in Cincinnati, in 1847 and 1848. Since that time he has not often contributed to magazines or newspapers; but in 1850 a volume, composed of his poems, was printed by his brother, George D. Emerson, at Springfield, Ohio, for private circulation. It was entitled "Occasional Thoughts in Verse," and is a duodecimo of one hundred and two pages—containing thirty-nine poems. . . .


To the Ohio River


William D. Emerson, Occasional Thoughts, in Verse (Springfield, Ohio: Geo. D. Emerson & Co., 1851) [online text]

_______________, Rhymes of Culture, Movement, and Repose (Cincinnati: G.E. Stevens & Co., 1874)


William D. Emerson, History and Incidents of Indian Corn, and Its Culture (Cincinnati: Wrightson & Co., Printers, 1878)