Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bayard Taylor

Bayard Taylor (1825-1878), was an American poet, novelist, travel writer, literary critic, diplomat, lecturer and translator. He was a frustrated poet who, even though he published twenty volumes of poetry, resented the mass appeal of his travel writings, because his desire was to be known as a poet. Even his travel writings have been relegated to the dustbin of literary history, and he is known today solely for his translation of both volumes of Goethe’s Faust.

He shared Walt Whitman’s penchant for homosexual relationships. Taylor confided to Whitman that he found in his own nature “a physical attraction and tender and noble love of man for man.” Taylor’s novel Joseph and His Friend (1870), which depicted men holding hands and kissing, is considered the first American gay novel. This novel is said to be based on the romantic relationship between poets Fitz-Greene Halleck and Joseph Rodman Drake. As well, Taylor’s poem To a Persian Boy and short story Twin-Love explored homosexual attraction.

In Keith Stern’s Queers in History, it is revealed that the love of Taylor’s life was George Henry Boker, although both men had married. Mitch Gould relates that American banker, diplomat and poet George Boker wrote to Taylor in 1856 that he had “never loved anything human as I love you. It is a joy and a pride to my heart to know that this feeling is returned.”

Taylor wrote popular columns in important newspapers and magazines, and he served as a diplomat to both Russia and Germany. He was so well known at the time of his death in Germany that the New York Times printed his obituary on its front page.

To a Persian Boy in the Bazaar at Smyrna


The gorgeous blossoms of that magic tree
Beneath whose shade I sat a thousand nights
Breathed from their opening petals all delights
Embalmed in spice of Orient Poesy,
When first, young Persian, I beheld thine eyes,
And felt the wonder of thy beauty grow
Within my brain, as some fair planet’s glow
Deepens, and fills the summer evening skies.
From under thy dark lashes shone on me
The rich, voluptuous soul of Eastern land,
Impassioned, tender, calm, serenely sad, –
Such as immortal Hafiz felt when he
Sang by the fountain-streams of Rocnabad,
Or in the bowers of blissful Samarcand.

The engraving at the top of this post is by John Chester Buttre after a photograph. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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