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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Walcott Boynton, Reader's History of American Literature, Chapter 1: the Puritan writers (search)
ses thither to repair; Entreat them gently; train them to that air, he urges. It was a rude air. To the ordinary privations of the pioneer, and the wearing routine of official duties, were added the sudden horrors of the James River massacre (March, 1622), and the stress of the troubled days which followed. Yet when Sandys returned to England in 1625, he brought with him the ten books which completed his version of the Metamorphoses. This translation lived to be much admired by Dryden and Pope, and, what is more important, undoubtedly had great influence upon their method of versification. The not altogether admirable distinction, therefore, belongs to Sandys of having laid the foundation for the form of heroic couplet which became a blight upon English poetry in the eighteenth century. At all events, the accident of his having lived for a time in America gives us a very shadowy claim upon him as an American writer. Anne Bradstreet. Even from the point of view of the litera
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Walcott Boynton, Reader's History of American Literature, Chapter 2: the secular writers (search)
on with the institution for most of the time until 1773. He was a close and intelligent student of English literature, and it is not surprising that his early prose and verse are imitative in form. So is most of the prose and verse in any age. The fact remains to be insisted upon that if his essays and his verse are Addisonian and Butlerian, they have the unmistakable quality of literature. His Ode to sleep, written at about the close of his New Haven residence, owns a greater master than Pope or Butler:-- Descend, and graceful in thy hand, With thee bring thy magic wand, And thy pencil, taught to glow In all the hues of Iris' bow. And call thy bright, aerial train, Each fairy form and visionary shade, That in th' Elysian land of dreams, The flower-inwoven banks along, Or bowery maze that shades the purple streams, Where gales of fragrance breathe th' enamor'd song, In more than mortal charms array'd, People the airy vales and revel in thy reign. This was written at tw
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Walcott Boynton, Reader's History of American Literature, Chapter 6: the Cambridge group (search)
only because it is, in a sense, the second growth of an extraordinarily fertile mind. In poetry his taste was conservative. He disliked modern experiments in irregular versification, and held to the somewhat rigid correctness of the school of Pope. His own verses were consequently of uniform smoothness and elegance; and as the best of them are marked by fineness rather than depth of feeling, it is not likely that a freer treatment would have increased their power. Once or twice, in poes ability to practice what he preached, there is in the substance of his best prose work a sound body of criticism such as no other American has yet produced. For scholarship, incisiveness, and suggestiveness, such papers as the essays on Dryden, Pope, and Dante have been surpassed by very little criticism written in English. The special service of the New England literature of the middle of the nineteenth century was to achieve an enlargement of the national horizon. In Cambridge, as we ha
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Walcott Boynton, Reader's History of American Literature, Chapter 8: the Southern influence---Whitman (search)
seems ingenious, suggestive, and overstrained, but it is easy to believe that to one who takes it on the middle ground where Lanier dwelt, halfway between verse and music, it might seem conclusive. Most of us associate its fundamental proposition with the poet Coleridge, who, in his Christabel, announced it as a new principle in English verse that one should count by accents, not by syllables. This bold assertion, which plainly marked the transition from the measured strains of Dryden and Pope to the free modern rhythm, was true in the sense in which Coleridge probably meant it; nor does it seem likely that Coleridge overlooked what Lanier points out,--that all our nursery rhymes and folk-songs are written on the same principle. There is certainly nothing more interesting in Lanier's book than the passage in which he shows that, just as a Southern negro will improvise on the banjo daring variations, such as would, if Haydn employed them, be called high art, so Shakespeare often e
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Walcott Boynton, Reader's History of American Literature, chapter 13 (search)
l War. 1642. Newton born. 1644. Milton's Areopagitica. 1649. Charles I. executed. 1649-1660. The Commonwealth. 1658. Cromwell died. 1660-1686. Charles II. 1663-1678. Butler's Hudibra. 1667. Milton's Paradise Lot. 1667. Swift born. 1670. Dryden Poet-Laureate. 1671. Milton's Paradise Regained, 1671. and Samson Agonises. 1674. Milton and Herrick died. 1678-1684. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progres. 1685-1688. James II. 1688. The English Revolution. 1688. Pope and Gay born. 1700. Dryden died. 1700. Thomson born. 1703-1714. Queen Anne. 1704. Swift's Battle of the books and Tale of a Tub. 1707. Union of Scotland and England. 1707. Fielding born. 1709. The Tatler, edited by Steele. 1814. Wordsworth's The excursion. 1814. Scott's Waverley. 1815. Battle of Waterloo. 1817. Keats's Poems. 1817. Coleridge's Biographia Literaria. 1820-1830. George IV. 1821. De Quincey's Confessions of an English opium Eater. 1822-182