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[262] was Emerson and the so-called Transcendentalists who really set our literature free; yet Longfellow rendered a service only secondary, in enriching and refining it and giving it a cosmopolitan culture, and an unquestioned standing in the literary courts of the civilized world. It was a great advantage, too, that in his more moderate and level standard of execution there was afforded no room for reaction. The same attributes that keep Longfellow from being the greatest of poets will make him also one of the most permanent. There will be no extreme ups and downs in his fame, as in that of those great poets of whom Ruskin writes, ‘Cast Coleridge at once aside, as sickly and useless; and Shelley as shallow and verbose.’ The finished excellence of his average execution will sustain it against that of profounder thinkers and more daring sons of song. His range of measures is not great, but his workmanship is perfect; he has always ‘the inimitable grace of not too much;’ he has tested all literatures, all poetic motives, and all the simpler forms of versification, and he can never be taken unprepared. He will never be read for the profoundest stirring, or for the unlocking of the deepest mysteries; he will always be read for invigoration, for comfort, for content.

No man is always consistent, and it is not to

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Henry Longfellow (2)
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