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1858 Poem about Ball Hughes

                ART AND ARTISTS
The following lines, written in 1852 [sic], and
with only the signature “Cyphas” to indicate
the authorship, have been found among some
old letters by the family of Ball Hughes. As
a quaint and quite thorough-going memorial
of the artist, they are well worth reprinting

Be kind again, my muse, help me to write
And trace the characters you may indite.
I would be true and just in all my views,
While holding up in sight the name of Hughes.
See there the artist and the man combined!
Mind full of beauty, manners well refined,
Kind, unassuming, polished and polite.
With words of welcome and expressions bright.
His social hours, when with him them you share,
May well be counted ‘mid life’s pleasures rare,
The well-told tale, his knowledge and his lore
Will please you as you ne’er were pleased before;
While you forget, his aspect is so mild,
You stand before stern Nature’s favorite child,
His is the power created “Nell,”
Wrought her in marble
[unreadable] to excel,
A gem of wondrous art—
[unreadable] life.
Then Widow Wadman, note the expression there!
And Uncle Toby—can aught with them compare?
View General Warren, see him in the fight,
His sword upraised, his eyes alive with light--
All these and many more attest the fame
Spread all abroad attached to Hughes’s name.
But not with these alone, is he content,
in graceful pokering his time is spent,
Making the fire to furnish pigments rare,
To express the lovely things of earth and air.
I have sat by him and have seen him trace
With fiery characters, the human face.
Burn into line, with most consummate skill,
Each light and shadow in the picture fill.
But’t is not lines like that can make him more
Beloved and cherished than he was before,
‘T is but a tribute duly, justly due
To the great artist, whom I have in view.
Accept, kind sir, these few and simple lays,
Nor deem them flattery, though words of praise.
God made the artist, and he made his soul,
We must respect him as a glorious whole,
And be rejoiced, that in Ball Hughes’s birth,
A genial soul was sent from heaven to earth.


“Nell” refers to the plaster sculpture of Dickens’ Little Nell from the Old Curiosity Shop.

Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman (1834) is a sculpture group from Laurence Sterne's novel, Tristram Shandy (1765).

General Warren is a very spirited statuette of the American patriot General Joseph Warren, Jr. (1741-1775) at Bunker Hill. Gen. Warren was from Suffolk County, MA. The statuette was completed in 1858 according to the Crayon, Vol. 5, No.3, Mar. 1858, pp. 84-89[?] and the Cosmopolitan Art Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4, Sept.  1858, pp. 207-209 [?]. I don’t have the text of either of these articles. I question the date of 1852 for this poem because of the reference to the General Warren statuette. Also, Ball Hughes did most of his poker sketches in the 1850’s (after about 1853) and the 1860’s.

last update 8/10/2012
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2012