The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

III. Poets of the Civil War II

§ 9. Ethnogenesis

When the Confederate Congress met in Montgomery in February, 1861, Timrod hailed the birth of the new nation in his stateliest ode, Ethnogenesis. All nature’s blessings are with the South and take part with her against the North, mad and blinded in its rage. The strength of pine and palm, the firmness and calm of the hills, the snow of Southern summers (cotton), the abundance of the harvests, the heart of woman, the chivalry of men are arrayed against materialism and fanaticism. To doubt the end were want of trust in God. The poem closes with a passage that still remains the most felicitous expression of the Southern temperament. Although the poet’s vision of a separate nation was an illusion, there will never be a time when these words should not be quoted in any characterization of the natural warmth and cordiality of the Southern people:

  • The hour perchance is not yet wholly ripe
  • When all shall own it, but the type
  • Whereby we shall be known in every land
  • Is that vast gulf which lips our Southern strand,
  • And through the cold, untempered ocean pours
  • Its genial streams, that far off Arctic shores
  • May sometimes catch upon the softened breeze
  • Strange tropic warmth and hints of summer seas.