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[99] of Aeschylus, and Sappho's famous ode, and the ‘Birds’ of Aristophanes, and the ‘Hylas’ of Theocritus, and the ‘Sparrow’ of Catullus, and the ‘De Arte Poetica’ of Horace were early recognized as being the same distinct masterpieces that we now find them. It is the tradition that an empress wept when Virgil recited his ‘Tu Marcellus eris;’ and it still remains the one passage in the Aeneid that calls tears to the eye. After all, contemporary criticism is less trivial than we think. ‘Philosophers,’ says Novalis, ‘are the eternal Nile-gauges of a tide that has passed away, and the only question we ask of them is, “How high water?” ’ But contemporary criticism is also a Nile-gauge, and it records highwater marks with a curious approach to accuracy.

There was never a time, for instance, when Holmes's early poem, ‘The Last Leaf,’ was not recognized as probably his best, up to the time when ‘The Chambered Nautilus’ superseded it, and took its place unequivocally as his high-water mark. At every author's reading it is the crowning desire that Holmes should

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Wendell Holmes (2)
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