Portrait of McClellan

Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today we are reading a poem by George Marion McClellan. Little is known about McClellan’s early life, but like Du Bois he attended Fisk University, graduating with first a BA then an MA. He was a minister for 2 years before pursuing a career as a teacher. From his student days throughout the rest of his life, McClellan wrote and published poetry alongside his other work. His poetry was compared to that of Paul Laurence Dunbar, who was his contemporary.

McClellan’s work is lyrical and deals with themes of nature, religion and love. His first collection of poems was retitled “Songs of a Southerner,” a title which evokes the musical quality of his work. As well as his poems, McClellan wrote and published short stories and literary criticism. However, it was his poetry that was most widely read and favourably received for his careful mastery of rhythm and rhyme.

Today’s poem is “A Psyche of Spring:”

Thou gaily painted butterfly, exquisite thing, 
    A child of light and blending rainbow hues,
In loveliness a Psyche of the Spring,
   Companion for the rose and diamond dews;
‘Tis thine, in sportive joy, from hour to hour, 
    To ride the breeze from flower to flower.

But thou wast once a worm of hueless dye.
   Now, seeing thee, gay thing, afloat in bliss,
I take new hope in thoughts of bye and bye,
   When I, as thou, have shed my chrysalis.
I dream now of eternal springs of light
   In which, as thou, I too may have my flight.”

You can find this poem on Poets.org. Read more about McClellan at BlackPast.org.

Join us tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!