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the Apostle John, the children of the Lord ardent feeling, refined art, and undoubted must have a care. A few of his lyrics are metrical talent, though scarcely meriting the charmingly tender and delicate, but he praise which Lamb and Southey awarded never did himself full justice as a poet, nor her, or the extravagant eulogium of her realized the purpose of his ambitious boy- modern editor. There was no lack of hood. The bustle of the Literati, as Poe rivals to her success among the American chose to call them, and the concentration pupils of Mrs. Hemans and Miss Landon. of thriving journals and book-houses in Such caterers to the literary market were Philadelphia and New York, - whither found not only upon this side of the Atlanmost roads then seemed to lead,— made tic. England was slowly escaping from her for a while the scribbling class of this own sentimentalists; the “Annuals” and middle region very conspicuous and alert. “ Souvenirs” were still in vogue, and the Their kith and kin, scattered throughout fashions of the two countries were less the States, multiplied in numbers. The divided than now. Poe, with a critical eye first green fruit of a school-system, under made somewhat keen by practice, saw the which boys and girls had models set before ludicrous side of all this, and poured out them and were incited to test their own vials of wrath upon his contemporaries, skill in composition, fell in plenty from the though with no just claim to impartiality. tree. Each county had its prodigy con- Lowell, from a classical distance, celebrated tributing to the annuals and magazines. their follies in the lines beginning : Lowell's “mass-meeting” of poets was in continuous session,—made up of those who “ But stay, here comes Tityrus Griswold, and leads made verse, read and praised it one to another, and printed it for their countrymen
The flocks whom he first plucks alive, and then feeds
on!” to read and praise. The dull and authoritative felt the responsibilities of the situation. But this reminds us that Poe, Lowell, Never was a more united effort made, with Longfellow, and Emerson were gaining inmalice prepense, to create an indigenous Auence at that very time; that others since school. It was thought essential that eminent in our literature were gradually dispurely American themes and incidents tinguished from the multitude; that, however should be utilized. Cockney poets, emu
absurd and depressing the condition just set lating the method of Cooper, sent fancy forth, a superficial literary movement may ranging through the aboriginal forest, and be better than no movement at all. As the wreaked their thoughts upon the suppositi- voyage progressed, it really was surprising tious Indian of that day. Powhatan and how soon the dullards and pretenders went Tecumseh became the heroes of hot-pressed below, while the born sailors helped the cantos, now extinct. The Spirit of Wakon- vessel forward. The fit survivors of a dah was invoked by one bard, and made to brood of poets and authors soon obtained tower above the Rocky Mountains, more a grateful hearing, and a few publishers awe-inspiring than Camoëns's Spirit of the found pleasure and profit in nursing the Cape. Each poet, moreover, tried his works of these home-writers. A number hand at every form of work, and each of poets—men of individual traits, but allied thought it specially incumbent upon him in sentiment and taste, and belonging to the self to write a drama,—not solely for the same generation-seemed to arise at once, stage, but that America might not be defi- and gained the position which they have cient in the most complex order of poetical steadfastly held to the present day. composition. Since the heyday of the Della Cruscans never were so many neophytes and amateurs suffered to bring their work before the public. Women took part in the campaign, and, truth to say, were All this preliminary ferment, then, was often more spontaneous and natural than in some way needful. The experiments of their brother-writers. One of the sex, Mrs. many who thought themselves called enSigourney, had long been supplying the abled the few who were chosen to find prose and verse that answered to the motives and occasions for work of real simple wants of a primitive constituency. import. The first year of the new dispenAnother, “ Maria del Occidente,” gained sation was worth more in its product than something like fame, and even beyond the score of years preceding it. The poets the seas. She was, in fact, a woman of who now came to the front have justly
gained distinction, vying with those of other next, patriotism and devotion; afterward, countries in finish and thought, and pecul- dramatic passion ; last of all, analysis and iarly in that truthful reflection of the life reflective art. In our own settlements, a about them which alone could make them race that already had gone through these the leaders of a national school. At the stages took possession of a new world. A recent date when the formation of such a struggle with its conditions involved a school became manifest, these poets spoke century of hardship and distrust. The final truthfully for our people as they were and triumph, the adjustment of the people to had been. One who gives their verse the their locality, brought a new understanding, fair consideration which he would extend out of which came the first original quality to that of any foreign land or language is in our poetry and design. Here it is to be led to this conclusion. The new poetry noted that descriptive literature, poetry or was not autochthonous in the sense of differ- prose, though not earlier upon the record ing from all previous outgrowth of the of intellectual development, is lower as universal human heart, and as at variance respects the essential worth of Art than with forms that have long seemed natural that which is emotional or dramatic. In to our mother-tongue, but rather in unaf- the full prime of creative work, the one fected and faithful presentation of the feel- must serve as a background for the other ing and ideas of its constituency, and after —upon which attention chiefly is concenthis wise was as national, fresh, and aspiring trated. All in all, it was a foregone conas America herself. If this land has not clusion that our first independent artists yet grown to full voice, it has not lacked a should betake themselves to the study and characteristic expression in the verse of our utilization of American scenery. In paintelder living poets. Their careers, we have ing, our first distinctive school—for such I seen, began almost simultaneously at the do not term the early group of historical close of the second fifth of this century, and and portrait painters, from West to Allston have been prolonged until now, through a -has been that of the landscapists. Let period of forty years. Let me again briefly us own that when either poetry or painting refer to the elements which our literature deals with Nature in no copyist's fashion, hitherto might justly be called upon to
but with a sense of something “deeply idealize, and make some mention of the interfused,” it may reach the higher plane favorite poets whose song has been the of art-expression. To this end our modern response to such a call.
painters, upon the whole, have striven, from the time of Cole. The hands of Durand, Inness, Kensett, the two Giffords, Whitt
redge, McEntee, Church, Bierstadt, BrisI HAVE said that a fellowship with the tol, Hubbard, Martin, Wyant, and La spirit of natural Landscape, and the recog- Farge have given us a landscape-school nition of its beauty and majesty, were the that, for truth and freshness, is notable on earliest, as they are the most constant, traits either continent, and is constantly gaining of American verse. The contemplation of in technique and variety from the experiNature has not often been the first step, nor ments of younger men. The literary counthe second, in the progress of ideality. But terpart of this school began with Bryant, the this remark applies to primitive races. The Druid of our forests, the high-priest of aborigines of a country are almost a part Nature in her elemental types. These he of its mold—or, at least, so closely related has celebrated with the coolness and breadth to its dumb fauna, that they reflect but that were traits of the earlier painters named, little on the mountains, woods, and waters though lacking the freedom and detail of which appear to surround them as a matter their successors. It is dangerous to measof course. Heroic or savage deeds of prowess ure one art by another, or to confuse their are their first incitements to poetic utter- terms; yet we feel that the relationship ance. Even an extended period of culture between the pictures of Durand and Kenand growth has not always led them to sett, for example, and the meditative verse of consider the landscape objectively. Of this Bryant-from “ Thanatopsis” and “A Forthe Greeks, with their curious disregard of est Hymn" to “The Night Journey of a natural scenery, are a familiar example. River"—is near and suggestive. Bryant was They observed Nature only to inform it at the head of our reflective poets, finding with their own life, until there was no river his bent at the outset and holding it to the or tree without its genius. First, epic action; I very close. His work rose to an imagina
tive height which descriptive poetry of it- | voice to their own heart. Bryant's verse is self rarely attains.
an illustration. It everywhere breathes of He was followed—at an obvious distance liberty and patriotism. But as an apostle -by Percival, Wilcox, Street, and other of all the sentiments just named, -taken mild celebrants of Nature, who, with greater singly or in combination,-Whittier, the minuteness, failed of his breadth and eleva- Quaker bard of Amesbury, whose art is by tion. Their patient measures show how turns so homely and so refined, certainly is strongly the scenery of America has im- preëminent, and in a sense has made himpressed her people. To the present day, self that uncrowned laureate—the people's the landscape, however incidental to the poet. His legend is pro aris et focis. He poetry of Emerson, Whittier, Thoreau, glows with faith, strong by heredity in New Lowell, and Taylor, is constantly there, England and thence outflowing to the and fresh as a rocky pasture-ground in New West, nor forgets the beauty and duty of England or Pennsylvania compared with temperance, charity, and virtue. Nothing a storied park of Warwickshire. In the restrains his democratic conception of the work of Mrs. Thaxter, Piatt, and other freedom of the soil, the nobility of work, the recent idylists, it is natural, sympathetic—in right to labor for oneself. He represents short, thoroughly American. And to me (to borrow Hugo's formula) our conflict the veritable charm of the poetry of Whit- with oppression, and was the herald and man and Joaquin Miller does not belong to inspired seer of the enduring fiery conflict the method and democratic vistas of the that preceded the antislavery war. His one, and the melodramatic romance of the earnestness and burning effort contrast with other; but to Whitman's fresh, absolute Bryant's stern repose. In various national handling of outdoor Nature, and to the fine qualities the more polished work of Longsurprises which Miller gives us in haunting fellow and Lowell has rivaled Whittier's, pictures of the plains, the sierra, and the and sustained it. They, in their ways, and sundown seas.
Holland, Trowbridge, and Taylor, each in Our poetry has been equally fortunate as his own, have paid tribute to the charm of the language of the ideas and human emo- American home-life, and have repeated the tions to which, as a people, we most readily ancestral and prevalent feeling of regions incline. Notwithstanding the change and which they thoroughly comprehend. In unrest of a new country, the milieu which this direction they have been accompanied Taine found in England here exists, and by many writers in verse or prose-simple with fewer qualifications. Not that America balladists like the Vermonter, Eastman, and is all middle-class, as some have asserted. tale-writers with the insight and fidelity But her ideal is derived from sentiments that belong to Sylvester Judd, Mrs. Harriet which, even more than in Great Britain, Beecher Stowe, and Rose Terry Cooke. In preserve a Saxon quality—those of domes- times of concentrated emotion, our poets of ticity, piety, freedom, loyalty to the institu- all degrees have broken out in vivid strains. tions of the land. If inessential to various Mrs. Howe's “Battle Hymn" is memorable. dramatic and impassioned art-creations, they There is native fire in the lyrics of Melville, have an art and passion of their own, and, and of a few poets who died too soon, in recognizing this, our singers are more Ellsworth, Forceythe Wilson, and that national than their English contemporaries. brave free singer, Brownell, to whom TickThe latter, except through the odes and nor, sounding the war-cry of the South, idyls of Tennyson, have conveyed to us little bore a half-likeness in manner and spirit. of the home-sentiment, the English faith and There have been many single voices, heard feeling, which brought the mother-land to but for a moment, of this class. In closing greatness. Doubtless it is because these this section, I will add a word in regard to qualities were so general in the song of their a kind of verse which, of all, is the most predecessors that the Victorian choir has common and indispensable—that devoted earnestly concerned itself with mediæval and to reverence and worship. The religious legendary work, and with those technical verse of America, whether the work of poets diversions which are counted as art for art's at large, or of those whose range is chiefly sake.
confined to it,-Muhlenberg, Coxe, CrosThe instinct of our poets has led them well Doane, S. Johnson, S. Longfellow, Abrafirst to charge their lyrics with the feeling ham Coles, Ray Palmer, Harriet Kimball, of their time and people, and in doing this Hedge, the Frothinghams, and many other they have, almost without exception, given orthodox or liberal composers, -ranks in quality, if not in quantity, with the hymnol- | laugh the Philistine to scorn, and with their ogy of other lands.
wit and learning advance the movement No one can enter upon the most cur- toward sweetness and light. Near them are sory review of our literature without being others, such as Parsons, Story, Robert struck by the share which women have had Lowell, Mrs. Fields, who may be classed in its production. A sisterhood of song, more readily with a composite group of expressing its own delicate and heroic whom I have yet to speak. But first let us nature, and many thoughts and affections observe that an imaginative and unique that are sweet and high and impassioned, division of the recent school is that which has won in America a just and distinctive represents the liberal philosophy of New regard. The female voices early added England and its conflict with ancestral softness and, at times, strength, to the gen- superstition. The mind and soul of Traneral song. The names of Maria Lowell, scendentalism seemed to find their predesMrs. Osgood, Mrs. Whitman, the Cary tined service in the land of the Puritans. sisters, Mrs. Judson, Mrs. Sewall, Elizabeth The poetry which sprang from it had a more Lloyd, Mrs. Oakes-Smith, Mrs. Kinney, and subtle aroma than that whose didacticism Mrs. Botta, many of whom have passed infected the English Lake school. The away, are cherished by not a few. They latter made prosaic the verse of famous have had successors-of whom are Mrs. poets; out of the former the quickest inspiCooke, Mrs. Stoddard, Mrs. Akers Allen, ration of our “down-East" thinkers seemed Mrs. Whitney, Mrs. Dorr, Lucy Larcom, to grow. Their philosophy, beginning with Mrs. Mapes Dodge, Mrs. Margaret J. Pres- the prose and verse of Andrews Norton, ton, Mrs. Helen Jackson, Mrs. Moulton, and the exalted spirituality of Dr. Chanand others to whom I shall refer in a later ning, and soon going beyond the early article, whose names are veritably house liberties, has found its riper expression in hold words throughout the country, and lyrical work, prophetic, mystical, or quaintly much of whose work, in verse and prose, wise. It borrowed, in truth, the wisdom of has taken a subtler range, a better finish, a the Orient and the speculations of Gerdefinite and influential hold upon the pub- many, but has not failed to apply the vision lic attention.
that so inspired it to the life and action of American culture, if not so exact and the new world. The white light of Emerdiligent as that of more learned nations, is son, the pure and elevated master of the sympathetic, and explores all literatures for Concord group, has been a steadfast beacon its delight and betterment. It is most for his companions. Among these, Thoadvanced in the sections where it took its reau, Margaret Fuller, Jones Very, Cranch, start, but there and elsewhere is well rep- and Ellery Channing may be reckoned, resented in our poetry. : A University with due allowance for the individuality of school has sent out rays from Cambridge, each. Here and there stray singers have the focus being the home of a poet with seemed to belong to this peculiarly Ameriwhose rise the new poetic movement fairly can caste. One such was the lamented began. He has grown to be not the poet Dr. Wright, whose gift was delicately pure of a section, nor even of a people, but one and thoughtful. Poe was right in claiming rendered into many languages, and known that the speculative tendency of these poets throughout the world. Longfellow, on the was at odds with the artistic effect of their score of his fame, and his almost exclusive work, but ought to have seen that a more devotion to the muse, is the center of a exquisite feeling and insight, allied with group distinguished by culture, elegant that tendency, often made amends for it. learning, regard for the manner of saying Meantime, as I was about to point out, we no less than for what is said. His early have had a quota of poets, including most of legend rightly was Outre-Mer, for he stimu- those who do not live in New England, who lated our taste by choice presentation of have clung to their art from sheer love of what is rare abroad, until it grew able to the beautiful, under varying chances of favor perceive what is rare and choice at home. and discouragement. They have paid slight With thoughts of this singer come thoughts regard to their respective localities, writing of peace, of romance, of the house made beau- after their own versatile moods, and looktiful by loving hands. Lowell and Holmes, ing wherever they pleased for models and no less than Longfellow, and wonted to the themes. Some have followed other than litersame atmosphere, represent our conflict with ary pursuits, or, if earning their bread by the rudeness, ignorance, and asceticism. They pen, have accepted the vicissitudes of their
craft under the conditions heretofore set forth. just such conditions many a poet has strugTheir tastes and habits have made them gled, yet gone down to time and fame. composite, if not cosmopolitan. Their work The artistic bent of Parsons and Story, of is not provincial, though often less original Poe, Taylor, Stoddard, and Weeks, in New than that of some whom we have named. York, of the Philadelphians, Boker and But in escaping the rigors of a chosen sec- Read, and of the Southerners, Timrod, and tion, they also have foregone its distinctions. Hayne, and Esten Cooke, has been plainly The East has loved its poets, and, what seen in the application of each man's gift, is more, has listened to them. The New- whatever its degree. They have cared for England spirit has been that of Attica, poetry alone, and have believed its country which state, we are told, "secure in her to be universal, and that England, whose sterility, boasted that her land had never poets conspicuously avail themselves of the been inundated by these tides of immigra- materials and atmosphere of other lands, tion," and that “she traced the stream should be the last to lay down a law of of her population in a backward course restriction. Herein, nevertheless, they subthrough many generations.”* With respect ject their work, upon its general merits, to to philosophy and economics, and in fields comparison with models which they scarce of taste and literary judgment, the trust of could hope to surpass; the highest excelthe modern Athens is founded on her own lence alone could draw attention to them usage and her men of note. It is true that as poets of America. Some of our verse the reverence paid our elder poets is now composed in this wise has been so charming, general throughout the land, and as sincere and withal so original, as to make reputaand beautiful as that which the bards of Ger- tions. Poe's lyrics are an example, and many and Scandinavia always have received others besides Poe, less conspicuous as vicat the hands of their countrymen. It even tims of unrest and heroes of strange careers, has its jealous side, and renders it hard for also have represented the conflict with new aspirants to gain their share of welcome. materialism, and have shown as genuine But New York has been to her later poets, a gift and a wider range. Dr. Parsons somewhat as Oxford street was to De Quin- holds a place of his own. He is one of cey, a stony-hearted mother. This is partly those rare poets whose infrequent work is due to the standards of success established by so beautiful as to make us wish for more. monetary power and prosperity, and partly In quality, at least, it is of a kind with Lanto the accident that here, more than in the dor's; his touch is sure, and has at command East, idealists have had to live by all sorts the choicer modes of lyrical art—those of very practical work. Writers have been which, although fashion may overslaugh tolerated, and even welcomed, but not hon- them, return again, and enable a true poet ored and taken as counselors, until they have to be quite as original as when hunting proved themselves worldly wise, or gained devices previously unessayed. His indetheir influence elsewhere. Then New York pendence, on the other hand, is exhibited in has been proud of them, in her awkward his free renderings of Dante. These, and way, and used them at need, but has Longfellow's literal translation of the entire assigned to the provinces the duty of read- Commedia," with Bryant's of the “Iliad" ing their works. Bryant came to be her and “Odyssey,” Brooks's of various German most honored citizen, and for some years authors, Taylor's of “Faust," and with the was a kind of literary Doge; his city knew kindred achievements of Cranch, Leland, that he was a poet, for the country had told Macdonough, Alger, Coles, Miss Preston, her so. It would be interesting to learn and Emma Lazarus (whose poetic version how large a proportion of the wealthy of Heine has just appeared), have made the classes among whom he was a peer, and American school of translation somewhat who placed him at the head of feasts and eminent. Parsons's briefer poems often are civic gatherings, knew this through an ap- models, but occasionally show a trace of that preciative knowledge of his poetry. Such, stiffness which too little employment gives however, is apt to be the state of things in even the hand of daintier sense. The a great commercial center,—so great, that it “ Lines on a Bust of Dante,” in structure, matures slowly, and must long await that diction, loftiness of thought, are the peer splendid prime of which smaller towns of any modern lyric in our tongue. Inearlier furnish types in miniature; and under version, the vice of stilted poets, becomes
with him an excellence, and old forms * Wordsworth's “ Greece."
and accents are rehandled and charged