Joseph Rodman Drake, an American poet, born in New York, Aug. 7, 1795, died there, Sept. 21, 1820. He lost his father in early life, and with three sisters struggled against adversity. He studied medicine, and shortly after taking his degree in 1816 married a daughter of Henry Eckford, the eminent ship builder, which placed him in affluence. James Fenimore Cooper and Fitz-Greene Halleck were among his most intimate associates, and a conversation between them as to the poetical uses of American rivers, in the absence of historical associations such as belong to the streams of the old world, was the occasion of Drake's longest and most imaginative poem, "The Culprit Fay," written in August, 1816. He travelled in Europe in 1818, and during his tour addressed several witty poetical epistles to his friend Halleck. In 1819 Drake and Halleck formed a literary partnership, and contributed, under the various signatures of "Croaker," "Croaker, Jr.," and "Croaker & Co.," many effective and amusing verses to the New York " Evening Post." The " Croakers " were collected and included in an edition of Halleck's poems published in 1869. Drake's health failing, he passed the winter of 1819-20 in New Orleans. But the progress of consumption could not be arrested, and a few months after his return to New York he died at his residence in Park row, and was buried at Hunt's Point in Westchester county.
His death called forth a beautiful poetical tribute from Fitz-Greene Halleck. In 1835 a volume of Drake's poetry, including his most popular poem, "The American Flag," was published in New York by his only daughter, Mrs. Janet Halleck De Kay. No American poet, with the exception of Bryant, has attained an equally early maturity of poetic genius. Almost all of his poems, including "The Culprit Fay," were written before he was 21, while several were produced at the age of 16.