at the time of their publication. We may still be stirred by the stanzas of Le Marais du Cygne and the marching-song of The Kansas Emigrants:
We cross the prairies as of oldThe ballad of Barbara Frietchie still has power to thrill its readers, and the terrible Ichabod, occasioned by Webster's willingness to make terms with the abhorred evil of slavery, has lost little or none of its original force. ‘It is a fearful thing,’ says Swinburne, paraphrasing the Scriptures in praise of Victor Hugo, ‘for a malefactor to fall into the hands of an ever-living poet.’ And nowhere in the Chatiments of the French poet is there to be found a greater finality of condemnation than that with which Whittier stamped the subject of this truly great poem. It will have been observed that many of the pieces already mentioned belong to the class of occasional or personal compositions. This class constitutes a large fraction of the total of Whittier's work. The long list of his friendly tributes and poems written for occasions includes many that are merely trivial or without any special appeal to readers for whom the incidents or personalities commemorated have no longer any meaning. Whittier had neither the wit nor the erudition that have preserved many of the occasional pieces of Holmes and Lowell from decay. The tributes to Garrison, Sumner, and a few others still stand out as significant from this mass of metrical exercises, and when a great occasion inspired Whittier to song, the result was likely to be memorable, as in the verses which celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, the Chicago Fire of 1871, and the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. The deep and sincere religious feeling of the Centennial hymn is characteristic of the entire body of Whittier's verse, and not merely of the poems specifically religious in their subject-matter. His consciousness was shot through with a sense of the divine, and the essential spirituality of his thought
The pilgrims crossed the sea,
To make the West, as they the East,
The homestead of the free!