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O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my captain lies,
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turn-
Here, Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
My captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won ;
Walk the deck my captain lies on,
In the department of history four writers have done excellent work. Bancroft, Prescott, Motley, and Parkman represent the American historical achievement and do honor to the land from which they sprang. GEORGE BANCROFT (1800-1891) devoted the bulk of his long life to writing a History of the United States, which, though never completed, is
still regarded as the standard work for the period it covers. It was the first systematic work upon the subject. Bancroft studied at Harvard University and at Göttingen in Germany. After having been Collector of Customs at Boston, and Secretary of the Navy, he was ambassador to Great Britain from 1846 to 1849. In the meantime his attention had been turned to history, and the first volume of his great work appeared in 1834. During nearly fifty years this was his chief employment. The twelfth and last volume came out in 1882. The History was planned on a large scale, as may be inferred from the fact that, beginning with Columbus, it comes down no later than 1789. In 1883-5 he prepared a revised edition. Bancroft's style is generally vigorous, but at times lacks flexibility. He is usually fair, though sometimes his strong political feeling colors his conclusions. But his industry and research conferred a value on his History that will probably be permanent.
The most artistic and interesting of the group is WILLIAM HICKLING PRESCOTT (1796-1859) artistic by reason of the beauty of his style and the charm of his historical method, and interesting because he wrote under such peculiar difficulties. In 1812, while attending Harvard, he received an injury to the left eye which resulted seriously, and for the remainder of his life he was almost totally blind. Fortunately he had plenty of money and was able to continue his studies. He travelled for a few
years in Europe. His literary enthusiasm was very great, and when he settled upon the subject of his work no difficulty deterred him from its completion. He wrote by the aid of a writing case for the blind, and an assistant read to him his foreign authorities. And in eleven years he finished his famous History of Ferdinand and Isabella, published 1838. It is the most comprehensive history of Spain at the height of her power. The history at once became popular, and was translated into five European languages. Dealing with a fascinating subject, it is written in a manner that captivates. Prescott followed out the vein that he had struck. The Conquest of Mexico (1843) and The Conquest of Peru (1847) are equally valuable as histories and even more popular than the first work. They reveal a forgotten world of wonder and romance, as real as life and as strange as fairy-land. All the histories abound with picturesque descriptions of bygone scenes and races. Prescott's style is very graceful and varied. The following passage gives a fair sample. It refers to the passing away of some great Mexican race:
"What thoughts must crowd the mind of the traveller as he wanders amidst these memorials of the past; as he treads over the ashes of the generations who reared these colossal fabrics, which take us from the present into the very depths of time! But who were their builders? Was it the shadowy Olmecs, whose history, like that of the ancient Titans, is lost in the mists of fable? or, as commonly reported,
the peaceful and industrious Toltecs, of whom all that we can glean rests on traditions hardly more secure? What has become of the races who built them? Did they remain on the soil and mingle and become incorporated with the fierce Aztecs who succeeded them? or did they pass on to the South, and find a wider field for the expansion of their civilization, as shown by the higher character of the architectural remains in the distant regions of Central America and Yucatan? It is all a mystery, over which Time has thrown an impenetrable veil, that no mortal hand may raise. A nation has passed away-powerful, populous, and well-advanced in refinement, as attested by their_monuments,—but it has perished without a name. It has died and made no sign!"
Prescott's last work was Philip the Second (1855-8), written in somewhat more weighty manner. It was never carried to the conclusion which its author planned. He has combined through all his writings the charm of fiction with the value and solidity of fact; few men have succeeded so well in throwing over a past epoch the glamour of romance.
The name of JOHN LOTHROP MOTLEY (1814-1877) at once suggests The Rise of the Dutch Republic. This was his first work (1856), and indicates the field which he made essentially his own. Motley was another of that numerous band of American ambassadors who have also been distinguished litterateurs. He was educated at home and abroad. He spent some years of historical research in Germany and the Netherlands. The Dutch Republic was the first outcome of this. It evidences a strong grasp of
facts and a deep research. It is systematically divided --which by no means detracts from its worth—and shows signs of the influence of Carlyle. Motley's style, however, is very clear. The History of the United Netherlands was published in 1861-8. The Life of John of Barneveld followed in 1874. The three works are related and together form a most valuable history. They cover more than the Netherlands. They touch the great issues of civilized Europe during the pregnant period at the close of the sixteenth century and the opening of the seventeenth. The pervading theme is "the rise of modern constitutional liberty as over against Spain's last angry assertion of the might of politico-religious despotism." It had been Motley's intention to follow up his last volume with a history of the Thirty Years' War. Deeply, indeed, is it to be regretted that death cut him down before this plan was accomplished. The work which he did is an abiding achievement,-the fine and just exposition of a most interesting time.
FRANCIS PARKMAN (1823-1893) is the brilliant and sympathetic historian of France and England in North America. This was the premeditated work of his life; he planned it deliberately and brought it to a rounded close. Harassed all his life by physical disabilities—he had very poor eyesight and very poor health-none the less he made the most careful studies of localities and of MSS. in the compilation of his chef d'œuvre. His system was