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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Olde Cambridge, Chapter 1: old Cambridge (search)
ourse from the beginning, and how keenly Holmes recognized, for instance, the weak points not merely of the Fable for critics, but of the Vision of Sir Launfal. No contemporary critic, perhaps, insisted with such fearless justice on the incongruities which form the very basis of that otherwise charming work-the picture part of the poem being Yankee in its effect, as Holmes says, with the dandelion and the Baltimore oriole in the tableaux of the old feudal castle. In even the description of June he finds some of these discords and gives absolute praise only to the description of the brook. His criticism on the measure of the poem is only the natural revolt of what he calls the old square-toed heroic against the rattlety-bang sort of verse which came in with Coleridge's Christabel. All this was, however, written in 1849, and certainly no finer appreciation --in the current phrase — of the man Lowell was ever penned than that which Holmes wrote in 1868: I cannot help, however, saying
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Olde Cambridge, Chapter 3: Holmes (search)
crowding of a redundant syllable into a line. He says, for instance, Can any ear reconcile itself to the last of these three lines of Emerson's: Oh, what is heaven but the fellowship Of minds that each can stand against the world By its own meek and incorruptible will? He goes on to denounce these lines that lift their back up in the middle, span-worm lines, we may call them, of which he says that they have invaded some of our recent poetry as the canker-worms gather on our elms in June. It does not stand recorded how Holmes was affected by Coleridge's Christabel, which emancipated English poetry from the shadow of Pope; but it is pretty certain that he would not have approved of it. Lyrical and lilting measures did not ordinarily appeal to him, except in the case of Moore, whose lilt has a definite beat, and whose verses he used in later life to read to young people who had almost forgotten the Irish poet's name. It was perhaps partly a result of all this that Holmes was,