These two are, it is to be observed, the most essentially American among them.
The book was originally to have been called ‘The Sudbury Tales,’ and was sent to the printer in April, 1863, under that title, which was however changed to ‘Tales of a Wayside Inn
,’ through the urgency of Charles Sumner
It is the common fate of those poets who live to old age, that their critics, or at least their contemporary critics, are apt to find their later work less valuable than their earlier.
, and Swinburne
, to mention no others, have had to meet this fate, and Longfellow
did not escape it. Whether it is that the fame of the earlier work goes on accumulating while the later has not yet been tested by time, or that contemporary admirers have grown older and more critical when they are introduced to the later verses, this is hard to decide.
Even when the greatest of modern poets completed in old age the dream of his youth, it was the fashion for a long time to regard the completion as a failure, and it took years to secure any real appreciation to the second part of ‘Faust.’
This possibility must always be allowed for, but the fact remains that the title which Longfellow
himself chose for so many of his poems, ‘Birds of Passage,’ was almost painfully suggestive of a series of minor works of which