Изображения страниц

Americans may now return from Europe,” he said, for unto us a man is born.”

In England appreciation came faster than at home—possibly because England expects the outlandish from America, and possibly because editions were published there which omitted the extreme forms of Whitman's realism.

Among his ardent admirers have been some of the most striking figures in modern times. Each year adds to the number of those who regard themselves as disciples of the Whitman gospel. This band includes most of the ardent young workers in American art, literature, and reform. Among the older and more mature admirers are John Addington Symonds, of England, and John Burroughs, of America.

scholar of most classic mold-an authority in the literature of half a score of languages; the other pre-eminently a nature lover and artist, a scientist in the realm of “whatsoever things are lovely.

Professor Symonds confesses that Whitman rescued him from the dry rot of scholastic dilettantism and negative skepticism, and brought him in touch with humanity and thrilled him with cosmic enthusiasm. "Leaves of Grass," he said, influenced him more than

One a

[ocr errors]

any book except the Bible—more than Plato; more than Goethe.

“Speaking about Whitman is like speaking about the universe," Mr. Symonds affirms, referring to the vastness of his scope and the mystery and exhaustlessness of his message.

What is more remarkable, Mr. Symonds, while deprecating some elements in Whitman's style, stakes his reputation as a literary critic upon the genuine poetical quality of most of this poet's work.

John Burroughs's study of Whitman is a poem in itself, and leaves no doubt that the critic is a poet, whether Whitman is one or not.

He regards Whitman as a prototype of a new order in literature and in human dynamics—a prophet of a new religious outlook, akin to cosmic forces. “I believe," he says, “that Whitman supplies in fuller measure that pristine element, something akin to the unbreathed air of mountain and shore, which makes the arterial blood of poetry and literature, than any other, modern writer." Burroughs asserts also that there is “a rapidly growing circle of those who are beginning to turn to Whitman as the most imposing and significant figure in our literary annals."

The present time is marked by a new outreaching in sympathy and understanding. To this generation then, whatever its verdict upon the art of Whitman, his spirit and message will appeal with ever increasing force.

Here is found that reverence for one's own nature which magnifies its divinity and unlimited potency. Here is that conscious oneness with the All of Things—the cosmic selfhood which is the blessedness of all religions, but the peculiar heritage of the modern, sciencetaught faith. Here is the confident assurance of the eternal identity of the self in an enlarging immortality. Here is patriotism, made at one with all radiant ideals of human unity and evolving harmony.

In these poems is such a conception of democracy as only the Christ-like lovers of “these my brethren, even these least can understand. In them we find the larger womanhood struck out in magnificent outlines—a challenge to undreamed power and strength.

Here we find manhood claiming its own in tenderness and gentle sympathy as well as in potency and might. Wider sympathies are here. The past is never spurned. Irony has no place. All has come by the gracious privilege of blunder and half success.

Even evil is given its beatitude in the allinclusive sympathies of this world lover.

Outer nature, of tree and bird call, as well as in star sweep and earthquake, are made part and parcel of the one beauty and order which man incarnates.

In these aspects we shall study these poems of the poet of the wider self.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »