And moon-tailed orioles roost wing to wing
With mocking-birds that only dream they sing . . .
—James Whaler, from Green River: A Poem for Rafinesque (1931)
I can't for the life of me figure out where I first came across these lines, but it was many years ago, and the second one stuck with me. So I obtained a copy of Green River, a justly forgotten book-length poem as unrestrained, romantic, and crazy as its hero. That hero is Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840), who was born in Constantinople and did his most valuable work in Kentucky. He apparently fancied himself not only the premier American naturalist (his work influenced Darwin's theory of natural selection), but also an expert on American Indian history, and was responsible for publishing the Walam Olum, a specious creation narrative of the Lenapes, and for finding hundreds of ancient earthworks in the Ohio Valley. He fascinates me, and I hope to learn more about him. The Wikipedia page devoted to him is quite interesting, but to get a better picture of the man and the problems that researchers face, examine amazon.com's page devoted to Leonard Warren's Constantine Samuel Rafinesque: A Voice in the American Wilderness. It includes a remarkably eloquent publisher's description of the book (and of its subject) followed by a terrifying 3,500-word review, the longest amazon.com review I've ever read, that lists every single error the author and publisher made—a truly fascinating and obsessive document.
As for the poet, James Whaler appears to have been equally obsessive—his book Counterpoint and Symbol: An Inquiry into the Rhythm of Milton's Epic Style is apparently chock-full of mathematical diagrams and discussions of numerical progressions. Americans who strove for fame yet produced nothing but obscure and flawed works marked by mania, hubris, and a confusion between fancy and scholarship, both Rafinesque and Whaler are, in a sense, "mocking-birds that only dream they sing."