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Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820), from The Croakers, 1860. Courtesy Internet Archive.

Joseph Rodman Drake (August 7, 1795 - September 21, 1820) was an early American Romantic poet.[1]

Life Edit


Drake was born at New York, studied medicine, and died of consumption. He collaborated with F. Halleck in the Croaker Papers, and wrote "The Culprit Fay" and "The American Flag."[2]

Youth and educationEdit

Drake was born in New York City.[1] He was orphaned when young and entered a mercantile house. While still a child, he showed a talent for writing poems. He was educated at Columbia College.


In 1813 he began studying in a physician's office. In 1816 he began to practice medicine and in the same year was married to Sarah, daughter of Henry Eckford, the naval architect.

In 1819, together with his friend and fellow poet Fitz-Greene Halleck, he wrote a series of satirical verses for the New York Evening Post, which were published under the penname "The Croakers."

Drake died a year later in New York,[1] of consumption, at the age of 25.

Writing Edit

As a writer, Drake is considered part of the "Knickerbocker group", a group which also included Halleck as well as Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, James Kirke Paulding, Gulian Crommelin Verplanck, Robert Charles Sands, Lydia M. Child, and Nathaniel Parker Willis.[3]

A collection, The Culprit Fay, and other poems, was published posthumously by his daughter in 1835. His best-known poems are the long title-poem of that collection, and the patriotic verse "The American Flag." "And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier's tomb, and beauty weeps the brave."

Critical reputation Edit

In the early part of the 19th Century both Drake and Halleck were widely hailed by Americans as among the leading literary personalities and talents produced by this country. That they had been leading lights in the New York area was true, but the glimmer for both could not really hold. It was finally diminished by Edgar Allan Poe when he wrote a serious study of the 2 poets called The Halleck - Rodman Review. Looking at The Culprit Fay by Drake, Poe showed that the imagery many marvelled at was quite second-rate and ordinary. In fact, he briefly invented new lines to show how easily it could be done. As for Halleck, Poe looked over Alnwick Castle and showed how a bit tighter use of structuring the lines would have immeasurably improved the entire work. The reputations of both Drake and Halleck never recovered.

Recognition Edit

Fitz-Greene Halleck's poem "Green be the turf above thee" was written as a memorial to Drake.

Drake's poem "The American Flag" was set as a cantata for 2 soloists, choi,r and orchestra by Czech composer Antonin Dvořák in 1892-93, as his Op. 102.[4]

Joseph Rodman Drake Park in Hunts Point, Bronx was named for him in 1915.[5]

Publications Edit


Collected editionsEdit

  • The Life and Works of Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820): A memoir, and complete text of his poems & prose including much never before printed (edited and memoir by Frank Lester Pleadwell). Boston: privately published, printed by the Merrymount Press, 1935.
    The American Flag Joseph Rodman Drake

    The American Flag Joseph Rodman Drake

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[6]

See also Edit



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Joseph Rodman Drake, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web, June 6, 2016.
  2. John William Cousin, "Drake, Joseph Rodman," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910, 120. Web, Jan. 7, 2018.
  3. Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 30. ISBN 086576008X
  5. New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
  6. Search results = au:Joseph Rodman Drake, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Aug. 5, 2013.

External links Edit

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