way to the popular heart.
When one considers the enthusiasm which greeted Willis
' scriptural poems in earlier days, or that which has in later days been attracted by semi-scriptural prose fictions, such as ‘The Prince
of the House of David
’ and ‘Ben Hur
,’ the latter appearing, moreover, in a dramatic form, there certainly seems no reason why Longfellow
's attempt to grapple with the great theme should be so little successful.
The book is not, like ‘The New England
Tragedies,’ which completed the circle of ‘Christus,’ dull in itself.
It is, on the contrary, varied and readable; not merely poetic and tender, which was a matter of course in Longfellow
's hands, but strikingly varied, its composition skilful, the scripture types well handled, and the additional figures, Helen of Tyre
, Simon Magus
, and Menahem the Essenian, skilfully introduced and effectively managed.
Yet one rarely sees the book quoted; it has not been widely read, and in all the vast list of Longfellow
translations into foreign languages, there appears no version of any part of it except the comparatively modern and mediaeval ‘Golden Legend
It has simply afforded one of the most remarkable instances in literary history of the utter ignoring of the supposed high water-mark of a favorite author.