Joseph Rodman Drake
Joseph Rodman Drake (August 7, 1795 – September 21, 1820) was an early American poet.
Born in New York City, he was orphaned when young and entered a mercantile house. While still a child, he showed a talent for writing poems. He was educated at Columbia. In 1813 he began studying in a physician's office. In 1816 he began to practice medicine and in the same year was married to Sarah, daughter of Henry Eckford, the naval architect.
In 1819, together with his friend and fellow poet Fitz-Greene Halleck, he wrote a series of satirical verses for the New York Evening Post, which were published under the penname "The Croakers." Drake died a year later, of consumption, at the age of twenty-five.
As a writer, Drake is considered part of the "Knickerbocker group", a group which also included Halleck as well as Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, James Kirke Paulding, Gulian Crommelin Verplanck, Robert Charles Sands, Lydia M. Child, and Nathaniel Parker Willis. A collection, The Culprit Fay and Other Poems, was published posthumously by his daughter in 1835. His best-known poems are the long title-poem of that collection, and the patriotic "The American Flag" which was set as a cantata for two soloists, choir and orchestra by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák in 1892-93, as his Op. 102.
Fitz-Greene Halleck's poem "Green be the turf above thee" was written as a memorial to Drake. Joseph Rodman Drake Park in Hunts Point, Bronx, was named for him in 1915. This park has received $180,000 of New York State funding to memorialize slave workers likely to be buried there.
In the early part of the 19th Century both Drake and his friend Halleck were widely hailed by Americans as among the leading literary personalities and talents produced by this country. That they had been leading lights in the New York area was true, but the glimmer for both could not really hold. It was finally diminished by Edgar Allan Poe when he wrote a serious study of the two poets called The Halleck - Rodman Review. Looking at The Culprit Fay by Drake, Poe showed that the imagery many marvelled at was quite second-rate and ordinary. In fact, he briefly invented new lines to show how easily it could be done. As for Halleck, Poe looked over Alnwick Castle and showed how a bit tighter use of structuring the lines would have immeasurably improved the entire work. The reputations of both Drake and Halleck never recovered. "And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier's tomb, and beauty weeps the brave."
- The American Flag
- The Culprit Fay: and Other Poems (1835)
- Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 30. ISBN 0-86576-008-X
- New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
- Bob Kappstatter, "State $ for slave burial site." Bronx Times Reporter, May 16th, 2014, p. 6.
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