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Chapter 2: poets of the Civil War I

The North

With the opening of the Civil War the people of the loyal states were stirred to a more intense realization of the high responsibilities of citizenship in a republic. At once the country was confronted by the gigantic task of feeding and clothing the men in the field, of caring for the sick and wounded, of raising the crops, and keeping the shops and factories going. Such a radical readjustment of forces called out powers hitherto unsuspected either in the nation or in its individual citizens. The great present seemed to engulf the petty troubles and ill feelings, social and political, of the past, and the people of the North found themselves moved by a national spirit which knew few of the bounds of the old provincialism. Like the shot at Lexington almost a hundred years before, the guns at Sumter struck the note of a new era. The country marched to war with the gay step of youth; it came back solemnly, as if tried by fire. As it went, the bands played Annie Laurie, and the men sang the sentimental songs of adolescent America; they returned chanting
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Readers of poetry in the fifties had enjoyed the verse of Bryant1 and Longfellow2 and of others who modestly portrayed aspects of quiet nature, mildly moralized upon conduct, or willingly submitted to the spell of beauty. For not a few of the poets, poetry was something apart from the actuality of

1 See also Book II, Chap. V.

2 See also Book II, Chap. XII.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1)
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William Cullen Bryant (1)
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