Whittier

IT was some ten years ago that we first met John Greenleaf Whittier, the poet of the moral sentiment and of the heart and faith of the people of America. It chanced that we had then been making notes, with much interest, upon the genius of the Semitic nations. That peculiar simplicity, centrality, and intensity which caused them to originate Monotheism from two independent centres, the only systems of pure Monotheism which have had power in history, — while the same characteristics made their poetry always lyrical, never epic or dramatic, and their most vigorous thought a perpetual sacrifice on the altars of the will, — this had strongly impressed us ; and we seemed to find la it a striking contrast to the characteristic genius of the Aryan or Indo-Germanic nations, with their imaginative interpretations of the religious sentiment, with their epic and dramatic expansions, and their taste tor breadth and variety. Somewhat warm with these notions, we came to a meeting with our poet, and the first thought, on seeing him, was, “ The head of a Hebrew prophet!” It is not Hebrew,—Saracen rather; the Jewish type is heavier, more material; but it corresponded strikingly to the conceptions we had formed of the Southern Semitic crania, and the whole make of the man was of the same character. The high cranium, so lofty especially in the dome,—the slight and symmetrical backward slope of the whole head,—the powerful level brows, and beneath these the dark, deep eyes, so full of shadowed fire, —the Arabian complexion,—the sharp-cut, intense lines of the face,—the light, tall, erect stature, —the quick axial poise of the movement, —all these answered with singular accuracy to the picture of those preacher-races which had been shaping itself in our imagination. Indeed, the impression was so strong as to induce some little feeling of embarrassment. It seemed slightly awkward and insipid to be meeting a prophet here in a parlor and in a spruce masquerade of modern costume, shaking hands, and saying, “ Happy to meet you,” after the fashion of our feeble civilities.

All this came vividly to remembrance, on taking up, the other day, Whittier’s last book of poems, “ In War-Time,” — a volume that has been welcomed all over the land with enthusiastic delight. Had it been no more, however, than a mere private reminiscence, it should, at present, have remained private. But have we not here a key to Whittier’s genius ? Is not this Semitic centrality and simplicity, this prophetic depth, reality, and vigor, without great lateral and intellectual range, its especial characteristic ? He has not the liberated, light-winged Greek imagination, — imagination not involved and included in the religious sentiment, but playing in epic freedom and with various interpretation between religion and intellect; he has not the flowing, Protean, imaginative sympathy, the power of instant self-identification with all forms of character and life, which culminated in Shakspeare ; but that imaginative vitality which lurks in faith and conscience, producing what we may call ideal force of heart, this he has 'eminently; and it is this central, invisible, Semitic heat which makes him a poet.

Imagination exists in him, not as a separable faculty, but as a pure vital suffusion. Hence he is an inevitable poet. There is no drop of his blood, there is no fibre of his brain, which does not crave poetic expression. Mr. Carlyle desires to postpone poetry; but as Providence did not postpone Whittier, his wishes can hardly be gratified. Ours is, indeed, one of the plainest of poets. He is intelligible and acceptable to those who have little either of poetic culture or of fancy and imagination. “Whoever has common sense and a sound heart has the powers by which he may be appreciated. And yet he is not only a real poet, but he is all poet. The Muses have not merely sprinkled his brow ; he was baptized by immersion. His notes are not many ; but in them Nature herself sings. He is a sparrow that half sings, half chirps, on a bush, not a lark that floods with orient hilarity the skies of morning; but the bush burns, like that which Moses saw, and the sparrow herself is part of the divine flame.

This, then, is the general statement about Whittier. His genius is Hebrew, Biblical,—more so than that of any other poet now using the English language. In other words, he is organically a poem of the Will. He is a flower of the moral sentiment,—and of the moral sentiment, not in its flexible, feminine, vine-like dependence and play, but in its masculine rigor, climbing in direct, vertical affirmation, like a forest-pine. In this respect he affiliates with Wordsworth, and, going farther back, with Milton, whose tap-root was Hebrew, though in the vast epic flowering of his genius he passed beyond the imaginative range of Semitic mind.

In thus identifying our bard, spiritually, with a broad form of the genius of mankind, we already say with emphasis that his is indeed a Life. Yes, once more, a real Life. He is a nature. He was born, not manufactured. Here, once again, the old, mysterious, miraculous processes of spiritual assimilation. Here, a genuine root-clutch upon the elements of man’s experience, and an inevitable, indomitable working-up of them into human shape. To look at him without discerning this vital depth and reality were as good as no looking at all.

Moreover, the man and the poet are one and the same. His verse is no literary Beau-Brummelism, but a re-presentation of that which is presented in his consciousness. Eirst, there is inward vital conversion of the elements of his experience, then verse, or version, — first the soul, then the body. His voice, as such, has little range, nor is it any marvel of organic perfection ; on the contrary, there is many a voice with nothing at all in it which far surpasses his in mere vocal excellence; only in this you can hear the deep refrain of Nature, and of Nature chanting her moral ideal.

We shall consider Whittier’s poetry in this light,—as a vital effluence, as a product of his being; and citations will be made, not by way of celling “ beauties,”

— a mode of criticism to which there are grave objections, — but of illustrating total growth, quality, and power. Our endeavor will be to get at, so far as possible, the processes of vital action, of spiritual assimilation, which go on in the poet, and then to trace these in his poetry.

God gave Whittier a deep, hot, simple, strenuous, and yet ripe and spherical, nature, whose twin necessities were, first, that it must lay an intense grasp upon the elements of its experience, and, secondly, that it must work these up into some form of melodious completeness. History and the world gave him Quakerism, America, and Rural Solitude ; and through this solitude went winding the sweet, old Merrimac stream, the river that we would not wish to forget, even by the waters of the river of life! And it is into these elements that his genius, with its peculiar vital simplicity and intensity, strikes root. Historic reality, the great facts of his time, are the soil in which he grows, as they are with all natures of depth and energy. “ We did not wish,” said Goethe, “ to learn, but to live.”

Quakerism and America — America ideally true to herself — quickly became, in his mind, one and the same. Quakerism means divine democracy. George Fox was the first forerunner, the John Baptist, of the new time,

— leather - aproned in the British wilderness. Seeing the whole world dissolving into individualism, he did not try to tie it together, after the fashion of great old Hooker, with new cords of ecclesiasticism ; but he did this, — he affirmed a Mount Sinai in the heart of the individual, and gave to the word person an INFINITE depth. To sound that word thus was his function in history. No wonder that England trembled with terror, and then blazed with rage. No wonder that many an ardent James Naylor was crazed with the new wine.

Puritanism meant the same thing at bottom ; but, accepting the more legal and learned interpretations of Calvin, it was, to a great degree, involved in the past, and also turned its eye more to political mechanisms. For this very reason it kept up more of fellowship with the broad world, and had the benefit of this in a larger measure of social fructification. Whatever is separated dies. Quakerism uttered a word so profound that the utterance made it insular ; and, left to itself, it began to be lost in itself. Nevertheless, Quakerism and Puritanism are the two richest historic soils of modern time.

Our young poet got at the heart of the matter, He learned to utter the word Man so believingly that it sounded down into depths of the divine and infinite, He learned to say, with Novalis, “ He touches heaven who touches a human body.” And when he uttered this word, “Man,” in full, social breadth, lo ! it changed, and became AMERICA.

There begins the genesis of the conscious poet. All the depths of his heart rang with the resonance of these imaginations,— Man, America; meaning divine depth of manhood, divine spontaneity and rectitude of social relationship.

But what! what is this ? Just as he would raise his voice to chant the new destinies of man, a harsh, heartless, human bark, and therewith a low, despairing stifle of sobbing, came to his ear! It is the bark of the auctioneer, “ Going ! going!” — it is the sobbing of the slave on the auction-block ! And this, too, O Poet, this, too, is America ! So you are not secure of your grand believing imaginations yet, but must fight for them. The faith of your heart would perish, if it did not put on armor.

Whittier’s poetic life has three principal epochs. The first opens and closes with the “ Voices of Freedom.” We may use Darwin’s phrase, and call it the period of Struggle for Life. His ideal itself is endangered; the atmosphere he would inhale is filled with poison ; a desolating moral prosaicism springs up to justify a great social ugliness, and spreads in the air where his young hopes would try their wings; and in the imperfect strength of youth he has so much of dependence upon actual surroundings, that he must either war with their evil or succumb to it. Of surrender his daring and unselfish soul never for a moment thought. Never did a trained falcon stoop upon her quarry with more fearlessness, or a spirit of less question, than that which bore our young hero to the moral fray; yet the choice was such as we have indicated.

The faith for which he fought is uttered with spirit in a stanza from “ The Branded Hand.”

“In thy lone and long night-watches, sky above and wave below,
Thou didst learn a higher wisdom than the babbling schoolmen know:
God’s stars and silence taught thee, as His angels only can,
That the one, sole sacred thing beneath the cope of heaven is Man.”

Our poet, too, conversing with God’s stars and silence, has come to an understanding with himself, and made up his mind. That Man’s being has an ideal or infinite .value, and that all consecrated institutions are shams, and their formal consecration a blasphemous mockery, save as they look to that fact, — this in his Merrimac solitudes has come forth clearly to his soul, and, like old Hebrew David, be has said, “My heart is fixed.” Make other selections who will, he has concluded to face life and death on this basis.

Did he not choose as a poet MUST ? Between a low moral prosaicism and a generous moral ideal was it possible for him to hesitate ? Are there those whose real thought is, that man, beyond his estimation as an animal, represents only a civil value, — that he is but the tailor’s “dummy” and clothes-horse of institutions ? Do they tell our poet that his notion of man as a divine revelation, as a pure spiritual or absolute value, is a mere dream, discountenanced by the truth of the universe ? He might answer, “ Let the universe look to it, then ! In that case, I stand upon my dream as the only worthy reality.” What were a mere pot-and-pudding universe to him? Does Mr. Holyoke complain that these hot idealisms make the enlinary kettles of the world boil over? Kitchen-prudences are good for kitchens; but the sun kindles his great heart without special regard to them.

These “ Voices of Freedom ” are no bad reading at the present day. They are of that strenuous quality, that the light of battle brings to view a finer print, which lay unseen between the lines. They are themselves battles, and stir the blood like the blast of a trumpet. What a beat in them of fiery pulses ! What a heat, as of molten metal, or coalmines burning underground ! What anger ! What desire ! And yet we have in vain searched these poems to find one trace of base wrath, or of any degenerate and selfish passion. He is angry, and sins not. The sun goes down and again rises upon his wrath; and neither sets nor rises upon aught freer from meanness and egoism. All the fires of his heart burn for justice and mercy, for God and humanity; and they who are most scathed by them owe him no hatred in return, whether they pay him any or not.

Not a few of these verses seem written for the present day. Take the following from the poem entitled, “ Texas” ; they might be deemed a call for volunteers.

“Up the hill-side, down the glen,
Rouse the sleeping citizen,
Summon forth the might of men!
“ Oh ! for God and duty stand,
Heart to heart and hand to hand,
Round the old graves of the land.
“ Whoso shrinks or falters now,
Whoso to the yoke would bow, —
Brand the craven on his brow!
“ Perish party, perish clan!
Strike together, while ye can,
Like the arm of one strong man.”

The Administration might have gone to these poems for a policy : he had fought the battle before them.

“Have they wronged us? Let us, then, Render back nor threats nor prayers;

Have they chained our freeborn men?

LET US UNCHAIN THEIRS ! ”

Or look at these concluding stanzas of “ The Crisis,” which is the last of the “ Voices.” Has not our prophet written them for this very day ?

“ The crisis presses on us: face to face with us it stands,
With solemn lips of question, like the Sphinx in Egypt’s sands!
This day we fashion Destiny, our web of Fate we spin;
This day for all hereafter choose we holiness or sin;
Even now from starry Gerizim, or Ebal’s cloudy crown,
We call the dews of blessing or the bolts of cursing down.
“ By all for which the Martyrs bore their agony and shame,
By all the warning words of truth with which the Prophets came,
By the Future which awaits us, by all the hopes which cast
Their faint and trembling beams across the darkness of the Past,
And by the blessed thought of Him who for Earth’s freedom died,
O my people! O my brothers! let us choose the righteous side.
“ So shall the Northern pioneer go joyful on his way,
To wed Penobscot’s waters to San Francisco’s bay,
To make the rugged places smooth, and sow the vales with grain,
And bear, with Liberty and Law, the Bible in his train;
The mighty West shall bless the East, and sea shall answer sea,
And mountain unto mountain call, ‘ PRAISE GOD, FOR WE ARE FREE! ’ ”

These are less to be named poems than pieces of rhythmic oratory, — oratory crystallized into poetic form, and carrying that deeper significance and force which from all vitalized form are inseparable. A poem, every work of Art, must rest in itself; oratory is a means toward a specific effect. The man who writes poems may have aims which underlie and suffuse his work; but they must not be partial, they must be coextensive with the whole spirit of man, and must enter his work as the air enters his nostrils. The moment a definite, partial effect is sought, the attitude of poetry begins to be lost. These battle-pieces are therefore a warfare for the possession of the poet’s ideal, not the joyous life-breath of that ideal already victorious in him. And the other poems of this first great epoch in his poetical life, though always powerful, often beautiful, yet never, we think, show a perfect resting upon his own poetic heart.

In the year 1850 appeared the “ Songs of Labor, and other Poems”; and in these we reach the transition to his second epoch. Here he has already recognized the pure ground of the poem, —

“ Art’s perfect forms no moral need,
And beauty is its own excuse,” —

but his modesty declines attempting that perfection, and assigns him a lower place. He must still seek definite uses, though this use be to lend imagination or poetic depth to daily labor: —

“ But for the dull and flowerless weed
Some healing virtue still must plead,
And the rough ore must find its honors in its use.
“ So haply these my simple lays
Of homely toil may serve to show
The orchard-bloom and lasselled maize
That skirt and gladden duty’s ways,
The unsung beauty hid life’s common things
below.”

Not pure gold as yet, but genuine silver. The aim at a definite use is still apparent, as he himself perceives; but there is nevertheless a constant native play into them of ideal feeling. It is no longer a struggle for room to draw poetic breath in, but only the absence of a perfectly free and unconscious poetic respiration. Yet they are sterling poems, with the stamp of the mint upon them. And some of the strains are such as no living man but Whittier has proven his power to produce. “ Ichabod,” for example, is the purest and profoundest moral lament, to the best of our knowledge, in modern literature, whether American or European. It is the grief of angels in arms over a traitor brother slain on the battle-fields of heaven.

Two years later comes the “ Chapel of the Hermits,” and with it the second epoch in Whittier’s poetic career. The epoch of Culture we name it. The poet has now passed the period of outward warfare. All the arrows in the quiver of his noble wrath are spent. Now on the wrong and shame of the land he looks down with deep, calm, superior eyes, sorrowful, indeed, and reproving, but no longer perturbed. His hot, eloquent, prophetic spirit now breathes freely, lurk in the winds of the moment what poison may; for he has attained to those finer airs of eternity which hide ever, like the luminiferous ether, in this atmosphere of time ; so that, like the scholarhero of Schiller, he is indeed “ in the time, but not of it.” Still his chant of high encouragement shall fly forth on wings of music to foster the nobilities of the land; still over the graves of the faithful dead he shall murmur a requiem, whose chastened depth and truth relate it to other and better worlds than this; still his lips utter brave rebuke, but it is a rebuke that falls, like the song of an unseen bird, out of the sky, so purely moral, so remote from earthly and egoistic passion, so sure and reposeful, that verse is its natural embodiment. The home-elements of his intellectual and moral life he has fairly assimilated ; and his verse in its mellowness and rhythmical excellence reflects this achievement of his spirit.

But now, after the warfare, begins questioning. For modern culture has come to him, as it comes to all, with its criticism, its science, its wide conversation through books, its intellectual unrest; it has looked him in the eye, and said, “ Are you sure ? The dear old traditions,—they are indeed traditions. The sweet customs which have housed our spiritual and social life,—these are customs. Of what are you SURE ? Matthew Arnold has recently said well (we cannot quote the words) that the opening of the. modern epoch consists in the discovery that institutions and habitudes of the earlier centuries, in which we have grown, are not absolute, and do not adjust themselves perfectly to our mental wants. Thus are we thrown back upon our own souls. We have to ask the first questions, and get such answer as we may. The meaning of the modern world is this, — an epoch which, in the midst of established institutions, of old consecrated habitudes of thought and feeling, of populous nations which cannot cast loose from ancient anchorage without peril of horrible wreck and disaster, has got to take up man’s life again from the beginning. Of modern life this is the immediate key.

Our poet’s is one of those deep and clinging natures which hold hard by the heart of bygone times ; but also he is of a nature so deep and sensitive that the spiritual endeavor of the period must needs utter itself in him. “ART THOU SURE?” — the voice went sounding keenly, terribly, through the profound of his soul. And to this his spirit, not without struggle and agony, but. at length clearly, made the faithful Hebrew response, “ I TRUST.” Bravely said, O deep-hearted poet! Rest there ! Rest there and thus on your own believing filial heart, and on the Eternal, who in it accomplishes the miracle of that confiding!

Not eminently endowed with discursive intellect,—not gifted with that power, Homeric in kind and more than Homeric in degree, which might meet the old mythic imaginations on, or rather above, their own level, and out of them, together with the material which modern time supplies, build in the skies new architectures, wherein not only the feeling, but the imagination also, of future ages might house,—our poet comes with Semitic directness to the heart of the matter : he takes the divine Yea, though it be but a simple Yea, and no syllable more, in his own soul, and holds childlike by that. And he who has asked the questions of the time and reached this conclusion,—he who has stood alone with his unclothed soul, and out of that nakedness before the Eternities said, “I trust” — he is victorious; he has entered the modern epoch, and has not lost the spiritual crown from his brows.

The central poem of this epoch is “ Questions of Life.”

“ I am : how little more I know !
Whence came I ? Whither do I go ?
A centred self, which feels and is;
A cry between the silences;
A shadow-birth of clouds at strife
With sunshine on the hills of life;
A shaft from Nature’s quiver cast
Into the Future front the Past;
Between the cradle and the shroud
A meteor’s flight from cloud to cloud.”

Then to outward Nature, to mythic tradition, to the thought, faith, sanctity of old time he goes in quest of certitude, but returns to God in the heart, and to the simple heroic act by which he that believes BELIEVES.

“ To Him, from wanderings long and wild,
I come, an over-wearied child,
In cool and shade His peace to find,
Like dew-fall settling on the mind.
Assured that all I know is best,
And humbly trusting for the rest,
I turn . . . .
From Nature and her mockery, Art,
And book and speech of men apart,
To the still witness in my heart;
With reverence waiting to behold
His Avatar of love unfold,
The Eternal Beauty new and old! ”

“ The Panorama and other Poems,” together with “Later Poems,”1 having the dates of 1856 and 1857, constitute the transition to his third and consummate epoch. Much in them deserves notice, but we must hasten. And yet, instead of hastening, we will pause, and take this opportunity to pick a small critical quarrel with Mr. Whittier. We charge him, in the first place, with sundry felonious assaults upon the good letter r. In the “ Panorama,” for example, we find law rhyming with for! You, Mr. Poet, you, who indulge fastidious objections to the whipping of women, to outrage that innocent preposition thus! And to select the word law itself", with which to force it into this lawless connection ! Secondly, romance and allies are constantly written by him with the accent on the first syllable. These be heinous offences! A poet, of all men, should cherish the liquid consonants, and should resist the tendency of the populace to make trochees of all dissyllables. In a graver tone we might complain that he sometimes — rarely — writes, not by vocation of the ancient Muses, who were daughters of Memory and immortal Zeus, but of those Muses in drab and scoop-bonnets who are daughters of Memory and George Fox. Some lines of the “ Brown of Ossawatomie ” we are thinking of now. We can regard them only as a reminiscence of his special Quaker culture.

With the “ Home Ballads,” published in 1863, dawns fully his final period,— long may it last! This is the epoch of Poetic Realism. Not that he abandons or falls away from his moral ideal. The fact is quite contrary. He has so entirely established himself in that ideal that he no longer needs strivingly to assert it, — any more than Nature needs to pin upon oak-trees an affirmation that the idea of an oak dwells in her formative thought. Nature affirms the oak-idea by oaks; the consummate poet exhibits the same realism. He embodies. He lends a soul to forms. The real and ideal in Art are indeed often opposed to each other as contraries, but it is a false opposition. Let the artist represent reality, and all that is in him, though it were the faith of seraphs, will go into the representation. The sole condition is that he shall select his subject from native, spontaneous choice, — that is, leave his genius to make its own elections. Let one, whose genius so invites him, paint but a thistle, and paint it as faithfully as Nature grows it; yet, if the Ten Commandments are meantime uttering themselves in his thought, he will make the thistle - top a Sinai.

It is this poetic realism that Whittier has now, in a high degree, attained. Calm and sure, lofty in humility, strong in childlikeness, — renewing the play-instinct of the true poet in his heart,—younger now than when he sat on his mother’s knee,—chastened, not darkened, by trial, and toil, and time, — illumined, poet-like, even by sorrow,—he lives and loves, and chants the deep, homely beauty of his lays. He is as genuine, as wholesome and real as sweet-flag and clover. Even when he utters pure sentiment, as in that perfect lyric, “ My Psalm,” or in the intrepid, exquisite humility — healthful and sound as the odor of new - mown hay or balsam-firs — of “Andrew Rykman’s Prayer,” he maintains the same attitude of realism, He states God and inward experience as he would state sunshine and the growth of grass. This, with the devout depth of his nature, makes the rare beauty of his hymns and poems of piety and trust. He does not try to make the facts by stating them ; he does not fry to embellish them ; he only seeks to utter, to state them; and even in his most perfect verse they are not half so melodious as they were in his soul.

All perfect poetry is simple statement of facts, — facts of history or of imagination. Whoever thinks to create poetry by words, and inclose in the verse a beauty which did not exist in his consciousness, has got hopelessly astray.

This attitude of simple divine abiding in the present is beautifully expressed in the opening stanzas of “ My Psalm.”

“ I mourn no more my vanished years:
Beneath a tender rain,
An April rain of smiles and tears,
My heart is young again.
“ The west winds blow, and, singing low,
I hear the glad streams run;
The windows of my soul I throw
Wide open to the sun.
“No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope and fear;
But. grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.
“ I plough no more a desert land,
To harvest weed and tare;
The manna dropping from God’s hand
Rebukes my painful care.
“ I break my pilgrim-staff, I lay
Aside the toiling oar ;
The angel sought so far away
I welcome at the door.”

It is, however, in his ballads that Whittier exhibits, not, perhaps, a higher, yet a rarer, power than elsewhere, — a power, in truth, which is very rare indeed. Already in the “ Panorama ” volume he had brought forth three of these, — all good, and the tender pathos of that fine ballad of sentiment, “ Maud Muller,” went to the heart of the nation. In how many an imagination does the innocent maiden, with her delicate brown ankles,

“ Rake the meadow sweet with hay,” and
“ The judge ride slowly down the lane” !

But though sentiment so simple and unconscious is rare, our poet has yet better in store for us. He has developed of late years the precious power of creating homely beauty2 — one of the rarest powers shown in modern literature. Homely life-scenes, homely old sanctities and heroisms, he takes up, delineates them with intrepid fidelity to their homeliness, and, lo ! there they are, beautiful as Indian corn, or as ploughed land under an October sun ! He has thus opened an inexhaustible mine right here under our New-England feet. What will come of it no one knows.

These poems of his are natural growths; they have their own circulation of vital juices, their own peculiar properties; they smack of the soil, are racy and strong and aromatic, like ground-juniper, sweet-fern, and the arbor vitæ. Set them out in the earth, and would they not sprout and grow ? — nor would need vine-shields to shelter them from the weather ! They are living and local, and lean toward the west from the pressure of east winds that blow on our coast. “ Skipper Ireson’s Hide,”—can any one tell what makes that poetry ? This uncertainty is the highest praise. This power/hf telling a plain matter in a plain way, and leaving it there a symbol and harmony forever, —it is the power of Nature herself. And again we repeat, that almost anything may be found in literature more frequently than this pure creative simplicity. As a special instance of it, take three lines which occur in an exquisite picture of natural scenery,—and which we quote the more readily as it affords opportunity for saying that Whittier’s landscape-pictures alone make his books worthy of study, — not so much those which he sets himself deliberately to draw as those that are incidental to some other purpose, or effect.

“ I see far southward, this quiet day,
The hills of Newbury rolling away,
With the many tints of the season gay,
Dreamily blending in autumn mist
Crimson and gold and amethyst.
Long and low, with dwarf trees crowned,
Plum Island lies, like a whale aground,
A stone’s toss over the narrow sound.
Inland, as far as the eye can go,
The hills curve round, like a bended bow;
A silver arrow from out them sprung,
I see the shine of the Quasycung;
And, round and round, over valley and hill,
Old roads winding, as old roads will,
Here to a ferry, and there to a mill.”

Can any one tell what magic it is that is in these concluding lines, so that they even eclipse the rhetorical brilliancy of those immediately preceding?

Our deep-hearted poet has fairly arrived at his poetic youth. Never was he so strong, so ruddy and rich as today. Time has treated him as, according to Swedenborg, she does the angels, — chastened indeed, but vivified. Let him hold steadily to his true vocation as a poet, and never fear to be thought idle, or untrue to his land. To give imaginative and ideal depth to the life of the people, — what truer service than that ? And as for war-time, — does he know that “ Barbara Frietche ” is the true sequel to the Battle of Gettysburg, is that other victory which the nation asked of Meade the soldier and obtained from Whittier the poet?

  1. Completing the two volumes of collected poems.
  2. A taste for this had been early indicated, especially in the essays on Bunyan and Robert Dinsmore. in “ Old Portraits and Modern Sketches,” and in passages of “ Literary Recreations.” Whittier’s prose, by the way, is all worth reading.