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the Apostle John, the children of the Lord
ALL this preliminary ferment, then, was
verse that answered to the motives and occasions for work of real
ardent feeling, refined art, and undoubted
"But stay, here comes Tityrus Griswold, and leads
The flocks whom he first plucks alive, and then feeds
But this reminds us that Poe, Lowell, Longfellow, and Emerson were gaining influence at that very time; that others since eminent in our literature were gradually distinguished from the multitude; that, however absurd and depressing the condition just set forth, a superficial literary movement may be better than no movement at all. As the voyage progressed, it really was surprising how soon the dullards and pretenders went below, while the born sailors helped the vessel forward. The fit survivors of a brood of poets and authors soon obtained a grateful hearing, and a few publishers found pleasure and profit in nursing the works of these home-writers. A number of poets-men of individual traits, but allied in sentiment and taste, and belonging to the same generation-seemed to arise at once, and gained the position which they have steadfastly held to the present day.
gained distinction, vying with those of other countries in finish and thought, and peculiarly in that truthful reflection of the life about them which alone could make them the leaders of a national school. At the recent date when the formation of such a school became manifest, these poets spoke truthfully for our people as they were and had been. One who gives their verse the fair consideration which he would extend to that of any foreign land or language is led to this conclusion. The new poetry was not autochthonous in the sense of differing from all previous outgrowth of the universal human heart, and as at variance with forms that have long seemed natural to our mother-tongue, but rather in unaffected and faithful, presentation of the feeling and ideas of its constituency, and after this wise was as national, fresh, and aspiring as America herself. If this land has not yet grown to full voice, it has not lacked a characteristic expression in the verse of our elder living poets. Their careers, we have seen, began almost simultaneously at the close of the second fifth of this century, and have been prolonged until now, through a period of forty years. Let me again briefly refer to the elements which our literature hitherto might justly be called upon to idealize, and make some mention of the favorite poets whose song has been the response to such a call.
I HAVE said that a fellowship with the spirit of natural Landscape, and the recognition of its beauty and majesty, were the earliest, as they are the most constant, traits of American verse. The contemplation of Nature has not often been the first step, nor the second, in the progress of ideality. But this remark applies to primitive races. The aborigines of a country are almost a part of its mold-or, at least, so closely related to its dumb fauna, that they reflect but little on the mountains, woods, and waters which appear to surround them as a matter of course. Heroic or savage deeds of prowess are their first incitements to poetic utterance. Even an extended period of culture and growth has not always led them to consider the landscape objectively. Of this the Greeks, with their curious disregard of natural scenery, are a familiar example. They observed Nature only to inform it with their own life, until there was no river or tree without its genius. First, epic action;
next, patriotism and devotion; afterward, dramatic passion; last of all, analysis and reflective art. In our own settlements, a race that already had gone through these stages took possession of a new world. A struggle with its conditions involved a century of hardship and distrust. The final triumph, the adjustment of the people to their locality, brought a new understanding, out of which came the first original quality in our poetry and design. Here it is to be noted that descriptive literature, poetry or prose, though not earlier upon the record of intellectual development, is lower as respects the essential worth of Art than that which is emotional or dramatic. In the full prime of creative work, the one must serve as a background for the other
upon which attention chiefly is concentrated. All in all, it was a foregone conclusion that our first independent artists should betake themselves to the study and utilization of American scenery. In painting, our first distinctive school-for such I do not term the early group of historical and portrait painters, from West to Allston -has been that of the landscapists. Let us own that when either poetry or painting deals with Nature in no copyist's fashion, but with a sense of something "deeply interfused," it may reach the higher plane of art-expression. To this end our modern painters, upon the whole, have striven, from the time of Cole. The hands of Durand, Inness, Kensett, the two Giffords, Whittredge, McEntee, Church, Bierstadt, Bristol, Hubbard, Martin, Wyant, and La Farge have given us a landscape-school that, for truth and freshness, is notable on either continent, and is constantly gaining in technique and variety from the experiments of younger men. The literary counterpart of this school began with Bryant, the Druid of our forests, the high-priest of Nature in her elemental types. These he has celebrated with the coolness and breadth that were traits of the earlier painters named, though lacking the freedom and detail of their successors. It is dangerous to measure one art by another, or to confuse their terms; yet we feel that the relationship between the pictures of Durand and Kensett, for example, and the meditative verse of Bryant-from "Thanatopsis" and "A Forest Hymn" to "The Night Journey of a River"—is near and suggestive. Bryant was at the head of our reflective poets, finding his bent at the outset and holding it to the very close. His work rose to an imagina
tive height which descriptive poetry of it- | self rarely attains.
He was followed-at an obvious distance -by Percival, Wilcox, Street, and other mild celebrants of Nature, who, with greater minuteness, failed of his breadth and elevation. Their patient measures show how strongly the scenery of America has impressed her people. To the present day, the landscape, however incidental to the poetry of Emerson, Whittier, Thoreau, Lowell, and Taylor, is constantly there, and fresh as a rocky pasture-ground in New England or Pennsylvania compared with a storied park of Warwickshire. In the work of Mrs. Thaxter, Piatt, and other recent idylists, it is natural, sympathetic-in short, thoroughly American. And to me the veritable charm of the poetry of Whitman and Joaquin Miller does not belong to the method and democratic vistas of the one, and the melodramatic romance of the other; but to Whitman's fresh, absolute handling of outdoor Nature, and to the fine surprises which Miller gives us in haunting pictures of the plains, the sierra, and the sundown seas.
Our poetry has been equally fortunate as the language of the ideas and human emotions to which, as a people, we most readily incline. Notwithstanding the change and unrest of a new country, the milieu which Taine found in England here exists, and with fewer qualifications. Not that America is all middle-class, as some have asserted. But her ideal is derived from sentiments which, even more than in Great Britain, preserve a Saxon quality—those of domesticity, piety, freedom, loyalty to the institutions of the land. If inessential to various dramatic and impassioned art-creations, they have an art and passion of their own, and, in recognizing this, our singers are more national than their English contemporaries. The latter, except through the odes and idyls of Tennyson, have conveyed to us little of the home-sentiment, the English faith and feeling, which brought the mother-land to greatness. Doubtless it is because these qualities were so general in the song of their predecessors that the Victorian choir has earnestly concerned itself with medieval and legendary work, and with those technical diversions which are counted as art for art's sake.
The instinct of our poets has led them first to charge their lyrics with the feeling of their time and people, and in doing this they have, almost without exception, given
voice to their own heart. Bryant's verse is an illustration. It everywhere breathes of liberty and patriotism. But as an apostle of all the sentiments just named, taken singly or in combination,-Whittier, the Quaker bard of Amesbury, whose art is by turns so homely and so refined, certainly is preeminent, and in a sense has made himself that uncrowned laureate the people's poet. His legend is pro aris et focis. He glows with faith, strong by heredity in New England and thence outflowing to the West, nor forgets the beauty and duty of temperance, charity, and virtue. Nothing restrains his democratic conception of the freedom of the soil, the nobility of work, the right to labor for oneself. He represents (to borrow Hugo's formula) our conflict with oppression, and was the herald and inspired seer of the enduring fiery conflict that preceded the antislavery war. His earnestness and burning effort contrast with Bryant's stern repose. In various national qualities the more polished work of Longfellow and Lowell has rivaled Whittier's, and sustained it. They, in their ways, and Holland, Trowbridge, and Taylor, each in his own, have paid tribute to the charm of American home-life, and have repeated the ancestral and prevalent feeling of regions which they thoroughly comprehend. In this direction they have been accompanied by many writers in verse or prose-simple balladists like the Vermonter, Eastman, and tale-writers with the insight and fidelity that belong to Sylvester Judd, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Rose Terry Cooke. In times of concentrated emotion, our poets of all degrees have broken out in vivid strains. Mrs. Howe's "Battle Hymn" is memorable. There is native fire in the lyrics of Melville, and of a few poets who died too soon, Ellsworth, Forceythe Wilson, and that brave free singer, Brownell, to whom Ticknor, sounding the war-cry of the South, bore a half-likeness in manner and spirit. There have been many single voices, heard but for a moment, of this class. In closing this section, I will add a word in regard to a kind of verse which, of all, is the most common and indispensable-that devoted to reverence and worship. The religious verse of America, whether the work of poets at large, or of those whose range is chiefly confined to it,-Muhlenberg, Coxe, Croswell Doane, S. Johnson, S. Longfellow, Abraham Coles, Ray Palmer, Harriet Kimball, Hedge, the Frothinghams, and many other orthodox or liberal composers,-ranks in
quality, if not in quantity, with the hymnology of other lands.
No one can enter upon the most cursory review of our literature without being struck by the share which women have had in its production. A sisterhood of song, expressing its own delicate and heroic nature, and many thoughts and affections that are sweet and high and impassioned, has won in America a just and distinctive regard. The female voices early added softness and, at times, strength, to the general song. The names of Maria Lowell, Mrs. Osgood, Mrs. Whitman, the Cary sisters, Mrs. Judson, Mrs. Sewall, Elizabeth Lloyd, Mrs. Oakes-Smith, Mrs. Kinney, and Mrs. Botta, many of whom have passed away, are cherished by not a few. They have had successors-of whom are Mrs. Cooke, Mrs. Stoddard, Mrs. Akers Allen, Mrs. Whitney, Mrs. Dorr, Lucy Larcom, Mrs. Mapes Dodge, Mrs. Margaret J. Preston, Mrs. Helen Jackson, Mrs. Moulton, and others to whom I shall refer in a later article, whose names are veritably household words throughout the country, and much of whose work, in verse and prose, has taken a subtler range, a better finish, a definite and influential hold upon the public attention.
American culture, if not so exact and diligent as that of more learned nations, is sympathetic, and explores all literatures for its delight and betterment. It is most advanced in the sections where it took its start, but there and elsewhere is well represented in our poetry. A University school has sent out rays from Cambridge, the focus being the home of a poet with whose rise the new poetic movement fairly began. He has grown to be not the poet of a section, nor even of a people, but one rendered into many languages, and known throughout the world. Longfellow, on the score of his fame, and his almost exclusive devotion to the muse, is the center of a group distinguished by culture, elegant learning, regard for the manner of saying no less than for what is said. His early legend rightly was Outre-Mer, for he stimulated our taste by choice presentation of what is rare abroad, until it grew able to perceive what is rare and choice at home. With thoughts of this singer come thoughts of peace, of romance, of the house made beautiful by loving hands. Lowell and Holmes, no less than Longfellow, and wonted to the same atmosphere, represent our conflict with rudeness, ignorance, and asceticism. They
laugh the Philistine to scorn, and with their wit and learning advance the movement toward sweetness and light. Near them are others, such as Parsons, Story, Robert Lowell, Mrs. Fields, who may be classed more readily with a composite group of whom I have yet to speak. But first let us observe that an imaginative and unique division of the recent school is that which represents the liberal philosophy of New England and its conflict with ancestral superstition. The mind and soul of Transcendentalism seemed to find their predestined service in the land of the Puritans. The poetry which sprang from it had a more subtle aroma than that whose didacticism infected the English Lake school. The latter made prosaic the verse of famous poets; out of the former the quickest inspiration of our "down-East" thinkers seemed to grow. Their philosophy, beginning with the prose and verse of Andrews Norton, and the exalted spirituality of Dr. Channing, and soon going beyond the early liberties, has found its riper expression in lyrical work, prophetic, mystical, or quaintly wise. It borrowed, in truth, the wisdom of the Orient and the speculations of Germany, but has not failed to apply the vision that so inspired it to the life and action of the new world. The white light of Emerson, the pure and elevated master of the Concord group, has been a steadfast beacon for his companions. Among these, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Jones Very, Cranch, and Ellery Channing may be reckoned, with due allowance for the individuality of each. Here and there stray singers have seemed to belong to this peculiarly American caste. One such was the lamented Dr. Wright, whose gift was delicately pure and thoughtful. Poe was right in claiming that the speculative tendency of these poets was at odds with the artistic effect of their work, but ought to have seen that a more exquisite feeling and insight, allied with that tendency, often made amends for it.
Meantime, as I was about to point out, we have had a quota of poets, including most of those who do not live in New England, who have clung to their art from sheer love of the beautiful, under varying chances of favor and discouragement. They have paid slight regard to their respective localities, writing after their own versatile moods, and looking wherever they pleased for models and themes. Some have followed other than literary pursuits, or, if earning their bread by the pen, have accepted the vicissitudes of their
craft under the conditions heretofore set forth. Their tastes and habits have made them composite, if not cosmopolitan. Their work is not provincial, though often less original than that of some whom we have named. But in escaping the rigors of a chosen section, they also have foregone its distinctions. The East has loved its poets, and, what is more, has listened to them. The NewEngland spirit has been that of Attica, which state, we are told, "secure in her sterility, boasted that her land had never been inundated by these tides of immigration," and that "she traced the stream of her population in a backward course through many generations."* With respect to philosophy and economics, and in fields of taste and literary judgment, the trust of the modern Athens is founded on her own usage and her men of note. It is true that the reverence paid our elder poets is now general throughout the land, and as sincere and beautiful as that which the bards of Germany and Scandinavia always have received at the hands of their countrymen. It even has its jealous side, and renders it hard for new aspirants to gain their share of welcome. But New York has been to her later poets, somewhat as Oxford street was to De Quincey, a stony-hearted mother. This is partly due to the standards of success established by monetary power and prosperity, and partly to the accident that here, more than in the East, idealists have had to live by all sorts of very practical work. Writers have been tolerated, and even welcomed, but not honored and taken as counselors, until they have proved themselves worldly wise, or gained their influence elsewhere. Then New York has been proud of them, in her awkward way, and used them at need, but has assigned to the provinces the duty of reading their works. Bryant came to be her most honored citizen, and for some years was a kind of literary Doge; his city knew that he was a poet, for the country had told It would be interesting to learn. how large a proportion of the wealthy classes among whom he was a peer, and who placed him at the head of feasts and civic gatherings, knew this through an appreciative knowledge of his poetry. Such, however, is apt to be the state of things in a great commercial center,-so great, that it matures slowly, and must long await that splendid prime of which smaller towns earlier furnish types in miniature; and under
* Wordsworth's "Greece."
just such conditions many a poet has struggled, yet gone down to time and fame.
The artistic bent of Parsons and Story, of Poe, Taylor, Stoddard, and Weeks, in New York, of the Philadelphians, Boker and Read, and of the Southerners, Timrod, and Hayne, and Esten Cooke, has been plainly seen in the application of each man's gift, whatever its degree. They have cared for poetry alone, and have believed its country to be universal, and that England, whose poets conspicuously avail themselves of the materials and atmosphere of other lands, should be the last to lay down a law of restriction. Herein, nevertheless, they subject their work, upon its general merits, to comparison with models which they scarce could hope to surpass; the highest excellence alone could draw attention to them as poets of America. Some of our verse composed in this wise has been so charming, and withal so original, as to make reputations. Poe's lyrics are an example, and others besides Poe, less conspicuous as victims of unrest and heroes of strange careers, also have represented the conflict with materialism, and have shown as genuine a gift and a wider range. Dr. Parsons holds a place of his own. He is one of those rare poets whose infrequent work is so beautiful as to make us wish for more. In quality, at least, it is of a kind with Landor's; his touch is sure, and has at command the choicer modes of lyrical art-those which, although fashion may overslaugh them, return again, and enable a true poet to be quite as original as when hunting devices previously unessayed. His independence, on the other hand, is exhibited in his free renderings of Dante. These, and Longfellow's literal translation of the entire
Commedia," with Bryant's of the "Iliad" and "Odyssey," Brooks's of various German authors, Taylor's of "Faust," and with the kindred achievements of Cranch, Leland, Macdonough, Alger, Coles, Miss Preston, and Emma Lazarus (whose poetic version of Heine has just appeared), have made the American school of translation somewhat eminent. Parsons's briefer poems often are models, but occasionally show a trace of that stiffness which too little employment gives even the hand of daintier sense. The "Lines on a Bust of Dante," in structure, diction, loftiness of thought, are the peer of any modern lyric in our tongue. Inversion, the vice of stilted poets, becomes with him an excellence, and old forms and accents are rehandled and charged