A Wreath of Virginia Bay Leaves / Poems of James Barron Hope

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Robert Prince, and the
Project Online Distributed Proofreading Team



To the memory of the gallant little lad who bore his grandfather’s
name and image—to the dear remembrance of:

Barron Hope Marr

His mother dedicates whatsoever there may be of worth in her effort
to show James Barron Hope, the Poet, as Virginia’s Laureate, and
James Barron Hope, the Man, as he was loved and reverenced by his
household and his friends.


It has been claimed for James Barron Hope that he was “Virginia’s
Laureate.” He did not deal in “abstractions, or generalized arguments,”
or vague mysticisms. He fired the imagination purely, he awoke lofty
thoughts and presented, through his noble odes that which is the soul
of “every true poem, a living succession of concrete images and

James Barron, the elder, organized the Virginia Colonial Navy, of
which he was commander-in-chief during the Revolution, and his sons,
Samuel and James, served gallantly in the United States Navy. It was
from these ancestors that James Barron Hope derived that unswerving
devotion to his native state for which he was remarkable, and it was
at the residence of his grandfather, Commodore James Barron, the
younger, who then commanded the Gosport Navy-yard, that he was born
the 23d of March, 1829.

His mother, Jane Barron, was the eldest daughter of the Commodore
and most near to his regard. An attractive gentlewoman of the old
school, generous, of quick and lively sympathies, she wielded a
clever, ready pen, and the brush and embroiderer’s needle in a
manner not to be scorned in those days, and was a personage in her

Her child was the child not only of her material, but of her
spiritual being, and the two were closely knit as the years passed,
in mutual affection and confidence, in tastes and aspirations.

His father was Wilton Hope of “Bethel,” Elizabeth City County, a
handsome, talented man, a landed proprietor, of a family whose acres
bordered the picturesque waters of Hampton River.

He gained his early education at Germantown, Pennsylvania, and at

the “Academy” in Hampton, Virginia, under his venerated master, John

B. Cary, Esq.,—the master who declares himself proud to say,

“I taught him”—the invaluable friend of all his after years.

In 1847 he graduated from William and Mary College with the degree
of A.B.

From the “Pennsylvania,” upon which man-of-war he was secretary to
his uncle, Captain Samuel Barron, he was transferred to the
“Cyane,” and in 1852 made a cruise to the West Indies.

In 1856 he was elected Commonwealth’s attorney to the “game-cock
town of Virginia,” historic and picturesque old Hampton, which was
the centre of a charming and cultivated society and which had
already claimed him as her “bard.” For as Henry Ellen he had
contributed to various southern publications, his poems in “The
Southern Literary Messenger” attracting much gratifying attention.

In 1857 Lippincott brought out “Leoni di Monota and Other Poems.”
The volume was cordially noticed by the southern critics of the time,
not only for its central poem, but also for several of its minor ones,
notably, “The Charge at Balaklava,” which G.P.R. James—as have
others since—declared unsurpassed by Tennyson’s “Charge of the
Light Brigade.”

Upon the 13th of May, 1857, he stood poet at the 250th anniversary
of the English settlement at Jamestown.

As poet, and as the youthful colleague of Henry A. Wise and John R.
Thompson, he stood at the base of Crawford’s statue of Washington,
in the Capitol Square, Richmond, Virginia, the 22d of February, 1858.
That same year these recited poems, together with some miscellaneous
ones were published.

Congress chose him as poet for the Yorktown Centennial, 1881, and
his “brilliant and masterly poem was a fitting companion piece to
the splendid oration delivered upon that occasion by the renowned
orator, Robert C. Winthrop.”

This metrical address “Arms and the Man,” with various sonnets was
published the next year. As the flower of his genius, its noble
measures only revealed their full beauty when they fell from the
lips of him who framed them, and it was under this spell that one of
those who had thronged about him that 19th of October cried out:
“Now I understand the power by which the old Greek poets swayed the
men of their generation.”

Again his State called upon him to weave among her annals the
laurels of his verse at the laying of the cornerstone of the
monument erected in Richmond to Robert E. Lee. The corner-stone was
laid October, 1887, but the poet’s voice had been stilled forever.
He died September the 15th, as he had often wished to die, “in
harness,” and at home, and Death came swift and painless.

His poem, save for the after softening touches, had been finished
the previous day, and was recited at the appointed time and place by
Captain William Gordon McCabe.

“Memoriæ Sacrum,” the Lee Memorial Ode, has been pronounced by many
his masterpiece, and waked this noble echo in a brother poet’s soul:

  ’Like those of whom the olden scriptures tell,

    Who faltered not, but went on dangerous quest,

  For one cool draught of water from the well

    With which to cheer their exiled monarch’s breast;’

  ’So thou to add one single laurel more

    To our great chieftain’s fame—heedless of pain

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