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Lift their blue woods in broken chain
A good collection of short poems was Under the Willows (1869). And if we compare these with the communications of Mr. Hosea Biglow we shall find a range that will give a surprising idea of Lowell's power and grasp.
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES was a versatile man. As poet and novelist he won wide renown, while his medical reputation was no mean one. It was as a poet, however, that he first became known. He was born in 1809, studied at Harvard and graduated in a class that contributed several valuable men to the country. He studied law for a time, but abandoned it for medicine. From 1838 till 1882 he held a professorship of anatomy and physiology, first at Dartmouth College and afterwards at the Massachusetts Medical School in Boston. In 1886 Holmes visited Europe, and was received in England with most pleasant cordiality. His last work appeared in 1890 and he died four years later. The reputation of Holmes is almost entirely due to the quality of wit that is seen in all his writings. He is uniformly at his best in vers de société, vers d'occasion, the lighter type of poetry. And in his manner of handling it he is a lineal descendant of the Priors and Gays of a century back. In this difficult field
he acquits himself with honor sufficient to give him a high place among the poets.
A singular buoyancy of manner characterizes all his work. In prose this includes the famous Breakfast Table series, some quasi-scientific essays, and several novels that are touched throughout by a medical point of view. Undoubtedly the Breakfast Table trio deserve most praise. The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table appeared in The Atlantic 1857-8; The Professor at the Breakfast Table, 1860; and The Poet at the Breakfast Table in 1872. They are a series of philosophizings on things in general; a series of personal talks in which the author's odd though likeable personality, his dry and sparkling wit, have free vent. The books are absolutely unconventional and quite different from anything else; but (at least in the case of the first) very delightful. A sample of his humor may be given :
"Don't you know how hard it is for some people to get out of a room after their visit is over? We rather think we do. They want to be off, but they don't know how to manage it. One would think they had been built in your room, and were waiting to be launched. I have contrived a sort of ceremonial inclined plane for such visitors, which, being lubricated with certain smooth phrases, I back them down, metaphorically speaking, stern foremost, into their native element of out-of-doors."
Of poetry Holmes published many volumes, the first coming out in 1836. Some of the titles are Songs in Many Keys (1862); The Iron Gate and other
Poems (1880); Before the Curfew and other Poems (1888). The poems are always graceful and frequently possess an unaffected pathos. Purely humorous is The One Hoss Shay. Nearly all are short and delicately constructed. His own favorite was The Chambered Nautilus, in which the pathos is not crossed by a lighter vein:
Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed.
Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea.
It is no little added honor to Holmes that, besides his achievements in literature, he did valuable work as a teacher. His kindly, though satirical, writings, his "laughter never long nor loud," are a genial bequeathment to the world.
ENGLISH IN AMERICA: CHIEFLY PROSE.
THE THINKERS.-EMERSON AND THOREAU.-THREE STRANGE PERSONALITIES.- HAWTHORNE.- HIS VALUE.- POE.—THE "TALES."-WHITMAN.-HIS DEFICIENCIES.-THE FOUR HISTORIANS: BANCROFT, PRESCOTT, MOTLEY, Parkman.
Ir is an interesting fact in American literature that so many of its greatest exponents were born during the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Of poets, Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes, Lowell and Poe; of prose writers, Bancroft, Emerson, Hawthorne, Motley. This is a good showing—indeed, these names stand in the highest place of honor. The circumstance, of course, was fortuitous, but it enables a useful classification. The great war forms a natural division in every department of American life, and literature before the war is represented almost entirely by the writers enumerated. After the war there is a spread of ideas, an opening up of new regions, a widening of the field of literary production, so that every part of the nation makes some valuable contribution. But the men who belong essentially to this period were not so great altogether as those who went be
fore. We have grouped them in a single chapter, taking two for the consideration of the others.
Coming now to speak of what America has done in philosophy, we find two names of importanceEmerson and Thoreau, the Sage of Concord and the Hermit of Walden. Original thinkers both, Emerson is the greater-one of the most inspiring of all English writers. A philosopher first, and a poet in so far as his philosophy found poetic expression, he accepted poetry as "the expression of thought in its rare and prophetic moods." He is a poet for thinkers, but none the less a true poet with a fine ear and a keen eye. RALPH WALDO EMERSON was born in Boston in 1803. For the greater part of his life he lived at Concord, which has become a centre of literary pilgrimage. Graduating from Harvard, he worked for three years as a Unitarian minister, but resigned on account of radical change in his opinions. In 1830-32 he was abroad, and while in England met Wordsworth, Landor, Coleridge, and De Quincey, and formed a firm friendship with Carlyle-keeping up a correspondence for many years. Returning to America, he took up the varied work of a literary man. Especially was his attention directed to the need for greater breadth of thought. The necessity for liberation from outworn dogmas, and the philosophy which was to give this liberation, he made it his life's task to preach and inculcate. By lectures and by essays he tried to forward his views, to make more general plain living and high