days. She meets the chief worthies of the time, describes the landscape and the crude pioneer life, and writes of witch-hunting, Quaker-baiting, and Indian warfare. G. R. Carpenter says of this work that ‘no single modern volume could be found which has so penetrated the secret of colonial times in Massachusetts, for it is almost line by line a transcript and imaginative interpretation of old letters, journals, and memoirs.’ Its Quaker authorship, moreover, gives it just the detachment needed to save it from the danger of accepting too unreservedly the view of New England colonial life that the leaders of the Puritan theocracy so zealously sought to perpetuate. In the history of English literature in the larger sense, Whittier is probably no more than a poet of the third rank. His native endowment was rich, but it was supplemented by neither the technical training nor the discipline required for the development of the artist. He was extremely careless about his rhymes—‘good Yankee rhymes, but out of New England they would be cashiered,’ he once said of them. The construction of his stanzas was diffuse and often slovenly. The organ voice and the lyric cry were not, except at rare moments, his to command. But no American who lived in the shadow of slavery and internecine strife, none who grew to manhood in the generation succeeding those epic days, would dream of measuring his love and veneration for Whittier by the scale of absolute art. Whittier's verse is so inwrought with the nation's passion during that period of heightened consciousness that preserved the Union and redeemed it from the curse of slavery that it cannot be coldly and critically considered by any one who has had a vital sense of the agonies and exaltations of that critical time. To such, the invocation of Stedman's Ad Vatem will always be a truer expression of their feeling than any critical judgment, for they can never forget their debt to him for
righteous anger, burning scorn
Of the oppressor, love to humankind,
Sweet fealty to country and to home,
Peace, stainless purity, high thoughts of heaven,
And the clear, natural music of [his] song.