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[240]
I love to hear thine earnest voice,
Wherever thou art hid,
Thou testy little dogmatist,
Thou pretty Katydid!
Thou mindest me of gentlefolks,—
Old gentlefolks are they,—
Thou say'st an undisputed thing
In such a solemn way.

These are only a few of the best of his lighter lyrics, now sprightly and sparkling, and now softer and more appealing, often evoking the swift smile, although never demanding the loud laugh, and sometimes starting the tear on its way to the eyelid; and in them Holmes proved that Stedman was only just when he declared that familiar verse may be ‘picturesque, even dramatic,’ and that it may ‘rise to a high degree of humor and of sage and tender thought.’


II. Minor writers

It is in a half dozen of the ineffably graceful lyrics of the Greek anthology and in a like number of the more personal songs of Horace that we may find the earliest analogue of English familiar verse, better and more abundant than the French vers de society, even though the native English form has been compelled to borrow a French name for itself. The Greek anthology has the freedom of the fields and of the solitary hillside, and therefore it lacks a little of the social tone which is the dominating quality of familiar verse. Yet Horace is never rustic—he belongs to the town; and Stevenson is right in saying that Horace is urban, even when read outdoors; he has the abundant urbanity and the total absence of rusticity which familiar verse must ever reveal. Familiar verse is a species of poetry which can flourish only where men and women meet frequently, without undue parade, not wearing their hearts on their sleeves, and hiding their deeper feelings behind the semi-transparent mask of conventional detachment from the serious duties of life.

Familiar verse can develop only when men congregate in cities; it is a town-product; and Boston can claim a share in Holmes's success in this difficult department of song. Other

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Oliver Wendell Holmes (2)
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