Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Charles A. Jones

Ohio & Louisiana

William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West: With Biographical and Critical Notices 203-204 (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860):

ONE of the least known of Western writers, to the present generation of readers, is a poet, who, in 1835, gave promise of much activity and distinction in metrical literature. He had then written his name high in the newspapers; published his volume [The Outlaw and Other Poems], and taken his first literary degree. Between the years 1836 and 1839 he wrote frequently for the Cincinnati Mirror, and in 1840 contributed several of the poems hereafter quoted for the Cincinnati Message, but about that time the inexorable law of bread-and-butter necessity drew him from the flowery slopes of Parnassus to the dry regions of Blackstone and the bar. After he began the practice of law he touched the harp but seldom, and then in secret.

Charles A. Jones is to be honored above the generality of Western writers, because he explored extensively, and made himself well acquainted with Western character, and in the West found the theme of his essay, the incident of his story, and the inspiration of his song. His principal poem is a stirring narrative of the exploits of the bold outlaws, who, in the infancy of the settlement of the West, had their common rendezvous in the celebrated Cave-in-Rock on the Ohio. The subjects of many of his lesser productions are the rivers, the mounds, the Indian heroes, and the pioneers of the Mississippi Valley.

For five or six years previous to his admission to the bar, Mr. Jones wrote a great deal for the newspapers and periodicals of the West. His habits of composition were extremely rapid and careless, however, and he would never undergo the labor of revision. The hasty production of an hour was sent to the press with all its sins upon its head. The consequence of this rapid work, and quick printing, has shown itself, in the almost total oblivion into which nearly all Mr. Jones's productions have sunk, though many of them contain fine thoughts, beautifully and forcibly expressed. It would be easy to gather many flowers in the broad fields of what he wrote, by very hastily running over them. In the Western Literary Journal of 1836, is a poem of several hundred lines, probably dashed off in an evening, which affords several worth culling. I content myself with one. The poem is called "Marriage a la Mode," and recounts the forced union of a lovely poor girl to a rich rake, who wastes her bloom, breaks her heart and becomes estranged from her. She hopes to regain his affection; but the poet says:

"Bear back the lightning to its cloud,
   Recall the rose-leaf's vanished hue,
And give the dead man in his shroud
   The breath of life he lately drew;
Then to the bosom seek to bring
The love that once has taken wing!"

This, from another source, though less striking and original, is worth fathering:

The beautiful grape must be crush'd before
   Can be gathered its glorious wine;
So the poet's heart must be wrung to its core,
   Ere his song can be divine.
There are flowers which perfume yield not
   Till their leaves have been rudely press'd;
So the poet's worth is revealed not
   Till sorrow hath entered his breast.

In the year 1839, a series of satirical lyrics, entitled "Aristophanaea," appeared in the Cincinnati Gazette, which attracted a great deal of attention. The edge of some of them was very sharp, and in several respects many of them were well done. They were from the pen of Mr. Jones, a fact long and well kept concealed, even from the editor. He wrote another series of poems for the Gazette, as "Dick Tinto," many of which had merit.

Mr. Jones was a native of Philadelphia. He was born about the year 1815. His parents removed to Cincinnati when he was a child. For several years previous to 1850 he practiced his profession in New Orleans, but returned to Cincinnati in 1851, on account of declining health. He died in Mill Creek township, Hamilton county, July fourth, 1851, upon the old Ludlow Station, of pioneer renown. In the year 1843, Mr. Jones was united in marriage to Charlotte, daughter of James C. Ludlow, of the vicinity of Cincinnati, who survives him with two children, the issue of their marriage.

Cincinnati and its environs had always a peculiar charm for Mr. Jones. In a poem addressed to "The Queen City," he gave expression to sentiments which had an abiding influence on his mind—which led him to return from the South to the home of his youth, when warned that engrossing business cares were wearing away his life:

How blest is he whose doom it is
   A wanderer to roam,
Who even in memory can return
   To such a lovely home.
Oh, were I in the fairest clime
   That smiles beneath the sky,
Here would my spirit long to come
   If not to live, to die.
As yearns the weary child at night
   To gain its mother's breast;
So, weary with my wanderings,
   Here would I long to rest.

Mr. Jones devoted much thought and labor, in the later years of his life, to a dramatic poem called "Ishmael." It has never been published. When given to the world it will establish his reputation as a poet of high merit. It is quite different, not only in conception and execution, but also in mental scope, from any of his other productions.


Where rolls the dark and turbid Thames [1]
His consecrated wave along,
Sleeps one, than whose, few are the names
More worthy of the lyre and song;
Yet o'er whose spot of lone repose
No pilgrim eyes are seen to weep;
And no memorial marble throws
Its shadow where his ashes sleep.

Stop, stranger! there Tecumseh lies;
Behold the lowly resting-place
Of all that of the hero dies;
The Caesar — Tully, of his race,
Whose arm of strength, and fiery tongue,
Have won him an immortal name,
And from the mouths of millions wrung
Reluctant tribute to his fame.

Stop — for ‘tis glory claims thy tear!
True worth belongs to all mankind;
And he whose ashes slumber here,
Though man in form was god in mind.
What matter he was not like thee,
In race and color; ‘tis the soul
That marks man's true divinity;
Then let not shame thy tears control.

Art thou a patriot?— so was he!
His breast was Freedom's holiest shrine;
And as thou bendest there thy knee,
His spirit will unite with thine.

All that a man can give, he gave;
His life: the country of his sires
From the oppressor's grasp to save:
In vain — quench'd are his nations' fires.

Art thou as soldier? dost thou not
O'er deeds chivalric love to muse?
Here stay thy steps — what better spot
Couldst thou for contemplation choose?
The earth beneath is holy ground;
It holds a thousand valiant braves;
Tread lightly o'er little mound,
For they are no ignoble graves.

Thermopylæ and Marathon
Though classic earth, can boast no more
Of deeds heroic than yon sun
Once saw upon this lonely shore,
When in a gallant nation's last
And deadliest struggle, for its own,
Tecumseh's fiery spirit passed
In blood, and sought its Father's throne.

Oh, softly fall the summer dew,
The tears of heaven, upon his sod,
For he in life and death was true,
Both to his country and his God;
For oh, if God to man has given,
From his bright home beyond the skies,
One feeling that's akin to heaven,
‘Tis his who for his country dies.

Rest, warrior, rest! — Though not a dirge
Is thine, beside the wailing blast,
Time cannot in oblivion merge
The light thy star of glory cast;
While heave yon high hills to the sky,
While rolls yon dark and turbid river,
Thy name and fame can never die —
Whom Freedom loves, will love forever.

[1] Thames. A river in Ontario, Canada. Near its banks, October 5, 1813, the Americans under William Henry Harrison, hero of Tippecanoe (1811), defeated the allied forces of the British, under Proctor, and the Indians, under Tecumseh, who was killed in the battle.

["Tecumshe," in Emerson Venable (ed.), Poets of Ohio 59-61 (Cincinnati: The Robert Clarke Company, 1909)]

[See also, C.L. Martzoloff (ed.), Poems on Ohio 39-40, 98-100 (Columbus, Ohio: F.J. Heer Printing Co., 1911)(including the poems, "The Old Mound" and "The Pioneers")]

[In Thomas William Herringshaw, Herringshaw's Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century 537 (Chicago: American Publishers' Assoc., 1898), Jones's date of both is said to be "about 1805." "After studying law he removed to Louisiana and practiced in New Orleans. . . . He died July 4, 1851, in Mill Creek, Ohio."]


Charles A. Jones, The Outlaw, and Other Poems (Cincinnati: J. Drake, 1835)