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as not recognized as probably his best, up to the time when The Chambered Nautilus superseded it, and took its place unequivocally as his high-water mark.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 read the latter of these two poems, though he is still permitted to add the former. From the moment when Lowell read his Commemoration Ode at Cambridge, that great poem took for him the same position; while out of any hundred critics ninety-nine would place the Day in June as the best of his shorter passages, and the Bigelow Papers, of course, stand collectively for his humor. Emerson's The Problem—containing the only verses by a living author hung up for contemplation in Westminster Abbey—still stands as the highwater mark of his genius, although possibly, so great is the advantage possessed by a shorter poem, it may be superseded at last by his Daughters of Time. No one doubts that Bayard Taylor will go down to fame, if at all, by his brief Legend of Balakl
o much to convince us, for a time at least, that we were a nation. Yet it was Washington Irving who wrote to John Lothrop Motley, in 1857, two years before his own death:— You are properly sensible of the high calling of the American press, that rising tribunal before which the history of all nations is to be revised and rewritten, and the judgment of past ages to be corrected or confirmed. July 17, 1857. Motley Correspondence, i. 203. The utmost claim of the most impassioned Fourth of July orator has never involved any declaration of literary independence to be compared with this deliberate utterance of the placid and world-experienced Irving. It was the fashion of earlier critics to pity him for having been born into a country without a past. This passage showed him to have rejoiced in being born into a country with a future. His broad and eclectic genius, as Warner well calls it, was surely not given to bragging or to vagueness. He must have meant something by this d
om all drawbacks in the way of haste and shallowness, there is a profounder difficulty which besets the most careful critical work. It inevitably takes the color of the time; its study of the stars is astrology, not astronomy, to adopt Thoreau's distinction. Heine points out, in his essay on German Romanticism, that we greatly err in supposing that Goethe's early fame bore much comparison with his deserts. He was, indeed, praised for Werther and Gotz von Berlichingen, but the romances of August La Fontaine were in equal demand, and the latter, being a voluminous writer, was much more in men's mouths. The poets of the period were Wieland and Ramler; and Kotzebue and Iffland ruled the stage. Even forty years ago, I remember well, it was considered an open subject of discussion whether Goethe or Schiller was the greater name; and Professor Felton of Harvard University took the pains to translate a long history of German literature by Menzel, the one object of which was to show that
July, 1609 AD (search for this): chapter 24
XXIII Weapons of precision when in July, 1609, the Iroquois Indians first saw a gun fired, and saw two men fall dead at a distance, because the Sieur de Champlain had raised something to his cheek, they were so utterly frightened that the whole tribe ran away, abandoning their camp and their provisions. Yet the gun was only a short weapon, then called an arquebus, and loaded with four balls. It did not take long for these very Indians to learn the use of the arquebus; and yet, if one of them were to come to life again and look at a modern rifle, it would cause him as much amazement as if he had never seen a firearm. These delicate grooves and spiral curves would strike him as a piece of mere affectation; and he would prefer by all means an honest old-fashioned affair that would send a bullet straight to its mark. He would not be convinced until he again saw a man fall dead, and this time at an incredible distance, by an invisible blow. Now, style In writing is a weapon fa
n such a method, that Maine should inform us that the majority of the present State governments were formed before the Union, and that only half the original thirteen colonies held slaves. So Mr. John A. Doyle, writing an extended history of American colonization, put into his first volume a map making the lines of all the early grants run north and south instead of east and west; and this having been received with polite incredulity, gave us another map depicting the New England colonies in 1700, with Plymouth still delineated as a separate government, although it had been united with Massachusetts eight years before. When a lady in a London drawing-room sends, by a returning New Yorker, an urgent message to her cousin at Colorado Springs, we rather enjoy it, and call it only pretty Fanny's way; she is not more ignorant of North American geography than we ourselves may be of that of South America. But when we find that English scholars of established reputation betray, when on gr
ne day it will yet be Hayley's turn. Would it please you very much, asks Warrington of Pendennis, to have been the author of Hayley's verse? Yet Hayley was, in his day, as Southey testifies, by popular election the king of the English poets; and he was held so important a personage that he received, what probably no other author ever has won, a large income for the last twelve years of his life in return for the prospective copyright of his posthumous memoirs. Miss Anna Seward, writing in 1786, ranks him, with the equally forgotten Mason, as the two foremost poets of the day; she calls Hayley's poems magnolias, roses, and amaranths, and pronounces his esteem a distinction greater than monarchs hold it in their power to bestow. But probably nine out of ten who shall read these lines will have to consult a biographical dictionary to find out who Hayley was; while his odd protege, William Blake, whom the fine ladies of the day wondered at Hayley for patronizing, is now the favorite o
rs of our Civil War owe the sustaining strength of moral heroism that is so touching in every record of their lives. And when the force thus developed in Boston and elsewhere came to do its perfect work, that work turned out to be the fighting of a gigantic war and the freeing of four millions of slaves; and this in the teeth of every sympathy and desire of all that appeared influential in England. This is what is meant, in American history at least, by performance. Indeed, as the War of 1812 has been called, following a suggestion of Franklin's, the second War for Independence, so the Civil War might be called in the same sense the third war of the same kind; and the evolution of the American as a type wholly new and distinct from the Englishman, dates largely from that event. We are sometimes misled by a few imitations in respect to visiting cards and servants' liveries, to be solicitous about a revival of Anglomania, forgetting that the very word Anglomania implies separation
January, 1827 AD (search for this): chapter 29
XXVIII A world-literature in Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe that poet is represented as having said, in January, 1827, that the time for separate national literatures had gone by. National literature, he said, is now a rather unmeaning phrase (will jetzt nicht viel sagen); the epoch of world-literature is at hand (die Epoche der Welt-Literatur ist an der Zeit), and each one must do what he can to hasten its approach. Then he points out that it will not be safe to select any one literature as affording a pattern or model (musterhaft); or that, if it is, this model must necessarily be the Greek. All the rest, he thought, must be looked at historically, we appropriating from each the best that can be employed. If this world-literature be really the ultimate aim, it is something to know that we are at least getting so far as to interchange freely our national models. The current London literature is French in its forms and often in its frivolity; while the French crit
XX Make Thy Option which of two who does not look back with some slight envy to the period when Professor Popkin could dwell with longing on that coming day when he could retire from his Harvard Professorship of Greek and read the authors? He actually resigned in 1833, and had for nearly twenty years the felicity for which he longed. What he meant by reading the authors was well enough exhibited in that contemporary English clergyman, described in Hogg's Life of Shelley, who devoted all his waking hours for thirty years to a regular course of Greek writers. He arranged them in a three years course, and when they were ended he began again. The only exception was in case of Homer, whose works he read every year for a month at the seashore—the proper place to read Homer, he said; and, as he also pointed out, there were twenty-four week-days in a month, and by taking a book of the Iliad before dinner, and a book of the Odyssey after dinner, he just finished his pleasant task.
pplied. In the earlier days, too, he naturally contrasted the accumulated intellectual wealth of Europe with the comparative poverty of his own land in these respects. When I see here in Europe such sums of money spent by the government upon every branch of the fine arts, I cannot help asking why we at home have no picture-galleries, or statue-galleries, or libraries. I cannot see at all that such things are only fit for monarchies. Correspondence i. 29. This was in his student days in 1833; and it would now seem less appropriate were it not that our barbarous tariff on works of art is still continued; and a later complaint, in 1851, that our American rivers are deaf and dumb for want of literary associations Correspondence, i. 125. is rapidly growing obsolete. The habitual and still lingering indifference of Europeans to all matters in the New World had already struck Motley in 1852, at the time of Daniel Webster's death, when he found scarcely any one on the European con
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