Dr. Henry Meade Bland
Faculty Member of the State Normal School and San Jose State Teachers College, 1899- 1931
California Poet Laureate 1929-1931
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Legacy of Poetry
by Professor Annette Nellen, Director of the Campus Reading Program
Dr. Henry Meade Bland came to the State Normal School at San Jose in 1899 to teach in the English Department. When he arrived, he was the only teacher with a Ph.D. on the faculty other than the university president. He did a lot to help develop a love of reading and creative writing in the students of the Normal School by assisting with student publications and formation of literary societies. In 1899, he worked with students to form the Browning Literary Club to allow for further study of the works of Robert Browning and add to the social life of the school. The club met regularly and had a celebration every May 7, the birthday of Mr. Browning. In the notes about this club in the Normal Pennant of June 1900, a student notes that Dr. Bland "made the work so interesting that the membership increased to over sixty students." The description of this club in the 1931 La Torre yearbook refers to Dr. Bland as the "father of Browning."
Dr. Bland also helped students form the Short Story Club soon after he arrived. The Club later became a branch of the California organization known as the Pacific Short Story Club. A student article in the Normal Pennant of June 1908 referred to Dr. Bland as having "all the qualities of a born leader" who "has so shaped [literary instruction] and led on to a wider literary field the hundreds of those literary bent who have come within the range of his personal inspiration." The Short Story Club provided opportunities for students not only to write, but to also meet many writers of "literary prominence" which per The Pennant of June 1909 included poets Charles Keeler and Herbert Bashford. The Club members also visited poet Joaquin Miller at his home with 75 students taking the train to Fruitvale for the visit.
In 1922, Dr. Bland had an exchange professorship with Mr. Outcalt of the Teachers' College at San Diego; he returned in the fall of that year. An article in the State College Times (October 6, 1922, pg. 4) stated: "Dr. Bland is more than pleased to return to San Jose, because it has been the scene of his life's work. We are glad to welcome such a worthy faculty member back to our fold. Some of the most famous California men of letters are friends of Dr. Bland. Edwin Markham and Joaquin Miller were often his visitors during the old Normal days. Dr. Bland is author of a very excellent birthday book."
The first edition of The Quill released in June 1925 included the following statement written by a student:
"To Dr. Bland - To be builded, there must be a builder; to be led, there must be a leader - buildings, movements - all depend upon a personality. So Dr. Bland has been to us, a leader in new movements, a helper in old, a comforter in times of discouragements. To him, it is most fitting, that this, our first materialization of the aid he has given us, should be dedicated. If it brings to its readers anything of worth, anything fulfilling the attempt we have made, lay it wholly to him, since it all has been the outcome of patient and gentle encouragements."
The Quill was one of several publications written and published by students over the life of San Jose State. It contained poems, short stories, essays and plays written by students and faculty.
As indicated by the dedication above, students were quite fond of Dr. Bland. A column in the 1926 State College Times about poets on campus stated: "If you are interested in poetry drop around and talk to Dr. Bland. If you aren't interested go anyway, and if you return without admiring Dr. Bland, there is something wrong with your make-up." [full text] Student Harry Hecker wrote the following about a poem he wrote to honor Dr. Bland: "This was written during an outburst of enthusiasm in one of Dr. Bland's classes where I was a worshipful student." (The Laureate's Wreath - An Anthology in honor of Dr. Henry Meade Bland Poet Laureate of California, 1934, page 63. Mr. Hecker's poem can be found here.)
According to a 1933 entry in the scrapbook of the English Club, Dr. Bland was responsible for helping to create the Phelan award (which continues to this day). Dr. Bland got Senator James Phelan to set aside $10,000 in his will to continually fund prizes. First prize was $40, second $20 and third $10 in multiple categories for poetry and prose.
The April 1929 edition of The Quill (Vol. 4, No. 2) was the Henry Meade Bland edition with a sketch of Bland on the cover. The student dedication refers to him as a "beloved faculty member." Senator Phelan wrote the forward to this edition. He stated: "It was his hand which led the student into the domain of poetry and developed their love from the Muses."
On March 22, 1929, a Joint Resolution was passed in the California legislature to name Dr. Bland the Poet Laureate. The title given was The Laurel Crowned Poet of California (Statutes of 1929, Resolution Chapter 23). He was only the second person to hold that title in the state (the first was Ina Coolbrith). California began the practice of having a poet laureate in 1915. A California poet laureate was appointed for life (today the term is 2 years). San Jose State Teachers College's State College Times newspaper issued a special issue to mark the occasion - the "Bland Edition." It had news and stories about Dr. Bland including a front page article by his friend and well-known poet Edwin Markham. In this article - "Old Friendship Between Poets Inspiring," Mr. Markham wrote:
Poetry writing is as practical as bread-making; and, from a high ground, it is just as necessary to the life of man. Poetry is bread for the spirit: it is the bread that is made of earthly wheat and yet is mixed with some mystic tincture of the skies. It nourishes all the higher hopes and aspirations of man.
The San Jose Mercury Herald of May 12, 1929, included an article, "Poet, Writers Meet to Crown State Laureate." It described an event held at the Hotel St. Claire with about 100 people to honor the selection of Dr. Bland as the California Poet Laureate. The event was sponsored by the Santa Clara County branch of the League of American Pen Women, the San Jose Poetry Society and the English Club of the San Jose State Teachers College. Several people spoke about Dr. Bland including Senator Herbert O. Jones who introduced the resolution to make him the Poet Laureate. Senator Jones said that the California Poet Laureate should be a Californian even if not born here "filled with its spirit, its history." He noted that Bland was born in California and was very familiar with the coast and Sierras and had a "passionate attachment" to California history and its romance which was embodied in his poems. Assemblyman T.M. Wright noted that "the outstanding characteristics of this man is his sweet, kindly disposition." Mrs. Leda Jackson sang some of Dr. Bland's poems set to music by Jackson and Merrill Knighton including "The River" and "Sierran Pan." Dr. Bland was final speaker of the evening and read a few poems including "California" a sonnet dedicated to members of the California legislature and "Thoughts at the Ending."
The August 1931 issue of Westward magazine (Vol. 2, No. 5) included a photo of Bland and remembrance of him. It notes that Dr. Bland "loved California as the late Senator Phelan loved it, as not merely a territory of this earth, but as a field of cloth of gold spread out over the asphodel of the Elysian Fields." It also notes that after Westward reported that an association had been formed to present Bland to the legislature for the Poet Laureate title, Dr. Bland wrote a letter to the editor stating: "I have been for years dreaming a Song of the Sacramento and that you should find the best quatrain I believe I have ever written, to put in that honored position at the bottom of the second page - under "A Song of the Sacramento", is very wonderful to me." Here is the quatrain:
For souls immortal always were,
Westward then honored Bland in the August 1931 issue by putting various of his poems at the bottom of 23 of the 32 pages.
Edwin Markham wrote the forward to Dr. Bland's 1922 book - Sierran Pan and Other Poems. Mr. Markham complimented Dr. Bland on his study of the great poets, inspiring students to get to "know and love" famous poets, and for helping others to get to know the "literary promise and performance of the Far West" through his poetry. Prior to his appointment as the California Poet Laureate, Dr. Bland is reported to have written 400 poems.
Dr. Bland was born on April 21, 1863 in Fairfield in Solano County, CA. He earned in MA degree from Stanford in 1895 and a Ph.D. (1890) and undergraduate degrees from the University of the Pacific. He worked as a teacher and principal for 15 years at schools in Los Gatos, Santa Clara and San Jose before coming to the Normal School. Dr. Bland died on April 30, 1931. The 1931 La Torre yearbook notes that The Quill of 1931 was dedicated to Dr. Bland's memory. He was also honored posthumously with The Laureate's Wreath, a 124-page anthology in his honor published in 1934 by The Edwin Markham Poetry Society Chapter of the Poetry Society of London. The book includes poems by Bland, ones written for him and some found in his desk after his death.
Works of Dr. Bland include the following:
Photos of Dr. Bland:
 Gilbert, Pioneers for One Hundred Years - San Jose State College, 1857 - 1957 (1957), page 202.
 This statement is signed by "C.E.E."
 This article was found in the English Club Scrapbook of 1930 located in the SJSU Special Collections.
 Forty-Seven Poems by Henry Meade Bland, published by The Henry Meade Bland Poet Laureate Association in December 1928, page 9.
 Greathead, The Story of an Inspiring Past (1928), page 147.
The wind and the night and the stormy sea,
And I am one with the mighty three!
For the storm in my brain is sighing ever;
And the dark of the night goes on forever;
And the sea of my dream is surgeless never;-
The wind and the night and the stormy sea,
And I am one with the mighty three.
The calm and the night and the starlit sea,
And I am one with the timeless three!
For I travel the night with never a chart;
Of the sea my soul is a changeless part;
And the calm is deep in my quiet heart; -
The night and the calm and the starlit sea,
And I am one with the timeless three.
Ship O' Dreams
Our white-winged ship is sailing, sailing
Into the mild sea-calm of the past;
And the twilight stars are flashing, paling,
And the oars of memory sweetly trailing
Into the mist-blown vast.
By how many magic isles do we wander
Back on this unforgotten sea?
By how many shores do we wait and ponder?
And still the old faces grow fonder, fonder
The faces that need to be.
O ship, may you ever be ready for sailing
Again to this mystical marvelous foam;
For the odorous winds, they will blow never failing
And the old and the good will prove all-availing
To anchor you safe at home.
The Divine in Nature
On Shasta's brow the thunder sleeps;
But, with the lightning's blazing rod
That burns o'er Lassen's fiery steeps,
A voice comes from the mountain deeps:
"Be still and know that I am God"!
O'er Yuba's plain the North wind raves,
And withers herb and blackens sod;
But, in the wild lake's roaring waves,
Is heard as from a thousand caves:
"Be still and know that I am God"!
Love brings the blush into the fair wild rose,
And paints the white upon the heron's plume;
And flings into wild dream the prophet's prose,
And points the starry lights in midnight gloom,
Love sends the gleam into the infant's eye,
And makes the rustle in the bladed corn;
Instills the sweetness in the young girl's sigh,
Flashes the red into the whitening morn.
And if love did not with her shining wand
Entrance the sea and earth and wondrous sky,
Chaos would break his old restraining bond;
And earth would crumble and the stars would die.
With a sign for the unknown land fevering his brain,
With a pulse as strong as the engine-beat on the rail;
With muscle like blue steel hewn for a ship of the main,
He crossed the Divide, he mastered the wild train.
No flood of the dark Missouri, no white-hot plain,
Could stay the soul of his yearning, could wreck his dream.
No mountain-storm in its fury, no savage train
Could daunt or defeat! he followed the flying Gleam.
He conquered. Men knew his glory, and followed his sign.
They swarmed, and followed till Earth was full of the tale.
He rose as a hero looms on a battle-line,
When the roads are ruts and the whistling balls a gale.
So was he hardened, heightened, and given his might
To build the State and lift the Law for light.
A Fire Within My Heart
Caught in a surge of life, with all my might
I deeply loved; and my reward is this:
That I have learned what is the beautiful
And I have put it to music in my lines.
And I have thought about the joyous mind, and it
Has come to be the symbol of perfection.
And I have looked into the fartherest sun,
Bringing it down to earth. Seeking one image,
I find you more mysterious than a start.
Then have I called the Essences from the deep,
Absorbing them that I may clarify
My soul, and make it worthy of the light
Shining because you built within my heart
A fire that glows in flame unquenchable.
I am fire and dew and sunshine,
I am mist on the foamy wave,
I'm the rippling note from the field-lark;s throat,
I'm the jewel hid in the cave.
I'm the lightning flash on the mountain,
And the cold rose-red of the dawn,
I'm the odor of pine and purple vine,
And the willowy leap of the fawn.
I'm the sigh of the south wind of autumn,
I'm the scent of the earth at first rain,
I'm the wild honker call of the earliest fall,
I'm the yellow of ripening grain.
I'm the music no singer has dreamed of,
I'm the joy in the heart of man;
I'm the lyric time of no poet's rhyme,
I'm the glad, the immortal Pan.
432 South Eighth
(SAN JOSE, CAL.)
The Edwin Markham Home
This was the place wherein the singer tuned
His harp and listening, caught the immortal strain.
Here under the sylvan shade the wild refrain,
A sorrow song of killing toil, he runed;
And with a loving pity he communed
Until his soul was touched with lyric pain
That brought an endless yearning to his brain
To heal for time the aching human wound.
Yes, guard with love the sacred precinct well
That homed the dreamer when he played the part,
And through the years, with fervent fancy, tell
The magic tale wrought by the mighty art,�
His art which, as a long Pacific swell,
Conquers the deep-set granite of the heart.
(this plaque is on the west side of Tower Hall)
Full text of the poem:
The College Tower Speaks
I stand four square upon the ancient Earth,
And keep my hold upon the solid real;
Yet, like a soul that seeks a newer birth,
I climb in joy unto the high ideal.
My guardian walls shut lurking evil out,
Lying and hatred, and the hidden sin;
And cheer and grace encompass me about;
My doors are open to let honor in.
I am not one of those who only seem,
Steadfast am I, and destined to endure;
And yet my greatest glory is to dream –
Dream of the youth who seeks the true and pure.
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Legacy of Poetry
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Source: This is the March 22, 1929 edition of the San Jose State Teachers College newspaper.Last Modified: Mar 11, 2020