The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 48, July 1944 - April, 1945 Page: 331
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The Sage of Cedar Bayou
century and having sought him out for the rare privilege of
knowing him personally, there is no pretense here of writing
with cold objectivity. Nor can this thesis be either comprehensive
or authoritative. There are none of his contemporaries to in-
terview, and of all his voluminous literary output only one thin
volume2 is accessible; the remainder are scattered through nu-
merous periodicals from 1878 to 1936.
It was no reporter's interview, that unforgettable day, but a
leisurely and friendly talk. The glowing personality of the "Sage
of Cedar Bayou" could not be resisted, and the extracts from
the conversation here quoted were obviously casual, not studied;
hence they may be taken at face value in evaluating the man
and his philosophy. He also permitted the perusal of a sheaf
of unpublished poems, "a legacy for my children," which included
work equal to the best of his prolific years.
The "Dean of Texas Poets" was born March 25, 1851, at
Hudiksvall, Sweden, far up the Bosnian Gulf in about the
latitude of Iceland. His father, a Swedish naval officer, had been
dismissed from the service for nonconformity to the state church
and, taking to seafaring in his own vessel, was drowned when it
was wrecked. John Peter was then five years old and, being
denied access to the state schools on account of his father's
dereliction, was home-taught by his mother. "We spoke Swedish,
English, and German by turns, a day of each," he explained.
At the age of eleven he was reading Scott's Lady of the Lake
and Marmion, which remained his favorite poem. Under his
mother's tutelage he also learned to love "Bobbie" Burns and
later penned a graceful and discerning tribute to the Scottish
He sang of toil, and through his gift of song
He made it high and holy, pure and strong;
He sang the riches that the poor are lent,
And turned them into jewels of content.4
When he was ready for high school, the bars were lowered,
and the state schools were opened to him on the condition,
however, that in atonement for his dead father's heterodoxy, he
must take the Latin course and become a priest. He refused and
was thrown back upon his mother's continued guidance.
3Probably his last publication was an anniversary poem for farm boys
and girls, Farm and Ranch, 1936.
4"Burns," in Salt of the Earth and Sea, 60.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 48, July 1944 - April, 1945, periodical, 1945; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146055/m1/371/: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.