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came to the town is in no way better typified than by the fact that literary work so inconsiderable as Halleck's has been deemed worthy of a bronze statue, still sitting cross-legged in the Grand Alley of Central Park.

Compared with such work as this, there is no wonder that poems like “ Thanatopsis ” and “ The Waterfowl” seemed to the early editors of the “ North American Review” too good to be native; and, as we have seen, Bryant's life and activity were so prolonged that it is hard to remember how nearly his poetical work was accomplished at the beginning of his career. It was not all produced at once, of course; but, as is often the case with precocious excellence, — with men, for example,

like his contemporaries, Landor and Whittier, - even though he rarely fell below his own first level, he hardly ever surpassed it. This is clearly seen if we compare the familiar concluding lines of “ Thanatopsis," written before he was twenty-seven, with a passage of about equal length from

Among the Trees,” published after he was seventy. The former lines run thus :

“So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."

The latter lines are these :

“Ye have no history. I ask in vain

Who planted on the slope this lofty group
Of ancient pear-trees that with spring-time burst
Into such breadth of bloom. One bears a scar
Where the quick lightning scorched its trunk, yet still
It feels the breath of Spring, and every May
Is white with blossoms. Who it was that laid
Their infant roots in earth, and tenderly

Cherished the delicate sprays, I ask in vain,
Yet bless the unknown hand to which I owe
The annual festival of bees, these songs
Of birds within their leafy screen, these shouts
Of joy from children gathering up the fruit

Shaken in August from the willing boughs.” The former of these passages is the work of an inexperienced country boy; the latter, by the same hand, is the work of an old man who had made a fortune as the most successful journalist in New York; but, so far as internal evidence goes, the latter might almost have been written first. Beyond doubt, as an American poet Bryant really belongs to the generation contemporary with Sir Walter Scott.

In the year of Scott's death, indeed, the same 1832 which saw in England the passage of the Reform Bill and in America the Nullification Act of South Carolina and President Jackson's Bank Veto, Bryant had already been for four years at the head of the “ Evening Post," and the first considerable edition of his poems appeared both in England and in America. Nothing which he wrote later, except perhaps his translations, - some admirable versions of Spanish lyrics, which are said to have attracted many young eyes to fascinating romantic vistas, and far later his well-known rendering of Homer will much alter the impression produced by this early volume. The lifelong evenness of his work seems to justify reference at this point to what he wrote about poetry many years later. In 1871 he became editor of a “Library of Poetry and Song,” – one of those innumerable anthologies

” which are from time to time inflicted on the public, either for sale by country book agents or for unacceptable Christmas presents. To this “ library ” Bryant contributed an introduction in which he stated at considerable length what he conceived to be the most important qualities of lasting poetry. The trait which on the whole he most valued appears to be luminosity : “ The best poetry," he says, — “ that which

, takes the strongest hold on the general mind, not in one age

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only but in all ages, - is that which is always simple and

always luminous."

Simple and luminous Bryant was from beginning to end. For this simple luminosity he paid the price of that deliberate coolness which Lowell so pitilessly satirised in the « Fable for Critics,” of 1848:

“There is Bryant, as quiet, as cool, and as dignified,
As a smooth, silent iceberg, that never is ignified,
Save when by reflection 't is kindled o' nights
With a semblance of flame by the chill Northern Lights.
He may rank (Griswold says so) first bard of your nation
(There's no doubt he stands in supreme iceolation),
Your topmost Parnassus he may set his heel on,
But no warm applauses come, peal following peal on,
He's too smooth and too polished to hang any zeal on;
Unqualified merits, I 'll grant, if you choose, he has 'em,
But he lacks the one merit of kindling enthusiasm ;
If he stir you at all, it is just, on my soul,
Like being stirred up with the very North Pole."

If Bryant's careful attention to luminosity, however, prevented him from ever being passionate, and gave his work the character so often mistaken for commonplace, it never deprived him of tender delicacy. Take, for example, “The Death of the Flowers,” of which the opening line —

“ The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year'

The last two stanzas run as

is among his most familiar. follows:

“And now, when comes the calm mild day, as still such days will “ And then I think of one who in her youthful beauty died,

come, To call the squirrel and the bee from out their winter home; When the sound of dropping nuts is heard, though all the trees

are still, And twinkle in the smoky light the waters of the rill, The south wind searches for the flowers whose fragrance late he

bore, And sighs to find them in the wood and by the stream no more.

The fair meek blossom that grew up and faded by my side.
In the cold moist earth we laid her, when the forests cast the leaf,
And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief;
Yet not unmeet it was that one, like that young friend of ours,
So gentle and so beautiful, should perish with the flowers."

To a generation familiar with all the extravagances of nineteenth-century romanticism, a feeling so restrained, su close to sentimentality, as this — expressed, too, with such deliberate luminosity, - may well seem unimpassioned. But one cannot dwell on these lines without feeling genuine sweetness of temper, or without finally discerning, in what at first seems chilly deliberation of phrase, what is rather a loving care for every syllable.

The allusion in the last stanza is to the early death from consumption of Bryant's sister. Only a few years before, his father had died of the same disease. So he had personal reason for melancholy. As one looks through his work, however, one is apt to wonder whether, even if his life had been destitute of personal bereavement, his verse might not still have hovered sentimentally about the dead.

His most successful poem,

“ Thanatopsis," was apparently written before death had often come near him ; and it is hardly excessive to say that if a single name were sought for his collected works, from beginning to end, a version of that barbarous Greek title might be found suitable, and the whole volume fairly entitled “ Glimpses of the Grave.” Of course he touched on other things; but he touched on mortality so constantly as to make one feel regretfully sure that whenever he felt stirred to poetry his fancy started for the Valley of the Shadow of Death. In this, of course, he was not peculiar. The subject had such fascination for eighteenth-century versifiers that in 1751 Gray's “ Elegy” made of it a masterpiece; and we need only remember those mortuary memorials wherein the hair of the departed is woven into the weeping willows of widowed brooches; to be reminded how general this kind of sentimentality has been. This underlying impulse of Bryant's poetry, however, was most general in the eighteenth century; and Bryant's style — distinctly affected by that of Cowper, and still more by that of Wordsworth — belongs rather to the nineteenth. A contemporary of Irving, then, he reverses the relation of substance to style which we remarked in Irving's prose. Irving, imbued with nineteenthcentury romantic temper, wrote in the classical style of the century before; Bryant, writing in the simply luminous style of his own century, expressed a somewhat formal sentimentality which had hardly characterised vital work in England for fifty years.

Always simple and always luminous, then, tenderly sentimental, melancholy and sweet, given to commonplace didactic moralising and coolly careful metre and rhyme, Bryant, a far from prolific poet, had done, when he came to New York at the age of thirty-one, as good work as he was ever destined to do. In New York he lived for fifty-three years; and during those years most of what is now called American literature came into existence. His life, indeed, is really coeval with the letters of his country. As a matter of fact, the chief development of these letters centred in Boston.

Had Bryant yielded to his first impulse, and gone not to New York, but to the chief city of his native New England, the chances are that his eminence would have suffered. In New York, however, throughout his residence there, it became clearer and clearer that he was not only the most eminent of local journalists, but also the only resident poet of distinction. That accidental word calls to mind a trait which any one who ever saw Bryant must remember. Whatever one thought of his literary merit, - and the great changes in literary fashion which occurred during his lifetime often made his younger contemporaries deem him less of a poet than calm reflection makes him seem now, – there can be no question that his aspect was remarkably distinguished.

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