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[172] but it is difficult for him to master a certain waywardness and to sustain any note steadily. This temperamental flaw does not affect the winsomeness of his letters, unless to add to it. It is lost to view, often, in the sincerity and pathos of his lyrics, but it is felt in most of his longer efforts in prose, and accounts for a certain dissatisfaction which many grateful and loyal readers nevertheless feel in his criticism. Lowell was more richly endowed by nature and by breadth of reading than Matthew Arnold, for instance, but in the actual performance of the critical function he was surpassed in method by Arnold and perhaps in inerrant perception, in a limited field, by Poe.

It was as a poet, however, that he first won his place in our literature, and it is by means of certain passages in the Biglow papers and the Commemoration Ode that he has most moved his countrymen. The effectiveness of The present crisis and Sir Launfal, and of the Memorial Odes, particularly the Ode to Agassiz, is likewise due to the passion, sweetness, and splendor of certain strophes, rather than to the perfection of these poems as artistic wholes. Lowell's personal lyrics of sorrow, such as The Changeling, the first Snowfall, after the Burial, have touched many hearts.

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