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1  But this apparently Wordsworthian couplet can be related to no system of thought or Wordsworthian instruction. These ideas are sometimes merely analogies, where in effect the flower (be it the gentian), or the bird (be it the waterfowl), is the first term in a simile on man's moral life; in this phase Bryant's thought of nature differs from that of Homer, the Psalmist, Jesus, or any sage or seer, Pagan or Christian, only in the appositeness, more or less, of the illustrative symbol. It implies no more a philosophy of nature than similes drawn from the action of a locomotive or a motor-boat would imply a philosophy of machinery. As a fact, Bryant's one abiding idea about nature is that she is a profound influence on the human spirit, chastening, soothing, encouraging, ennobling-how, he does not say; but the fact he knows from experience, and mankind knows it with him, and has known it from long before the morning when the sorrowful, chafed soul of Achilles walked apart by the shore of the many-sounding sea.Every poet, like every individual, has of course his favourite, his recurrent ideas: Wordsworth, again and again, adverts to the uses of old memories as a store and treasure for one's future days, again and again he sees his life as divided into three ages; Browning again and again preaches the doctrine that it is better to aim high and fail than to aim low and succeed; Emerson that the soul must live from within. But with Bryant the recurrence is peculiarly insistent and restricted in variety. But these ideas were involved in a temperament. The chief differences among men are not in their ideas, as ideas, but in the power of the ideas over their emotions, or in the ideas considered as the overflow of their emotions. In Bryant presumably the ideas became formulas of thought, clarified and explicit, through his feelings. A man of great reserve and poise, both in life and art, his “coldness,” well established in our literary tradition by some humorous lines of Lowell and a letter of Hawthorne, is a pathetic misreading. There is no sex passion; if there was in Bryant any potentiality of the young Goethe or Byron, it was early transmuted into the quiet affections for wife and home. There is no passion for friends; without being a recluse, he never craved comradeship, like Whitman, for humanity's sake, nor, like Shelley, for affinity's sake, and was, in the lifelong fellowship with such men as the
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