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literary interests, and whose lives : levoted to its production. Yet there was an innocent tyranny in the extension : the prerogative accorded to the “elder poets” throughout the best days of a worshipful younger generation. The genius of new-comers might have been more compulsive if less overshadowed, and if less subject to the restrictions of an inauspicious period - that of the years immediately before and after the Civil War. Their output I have exhibited somewhat freely, as seemed the due of both the living and the dead. To the latter it may be the last tribute by one of their own kith and kin ; to all, a tribute justly theirs whose choice it was to pursue an art upon which they had been bred and from its chiefs had learned beauty, reverence, aspiration, - but which they practised almost to alien ears. Not only their colleagues, but those that should have been their listeners, had perished, North and South. To the older members of this circle, – those born in the twenties, and thus falling within the closing division of the First Period, even too little space has been allotted : the facts being that not until the Second Period was reached could an estimate be formed of the paging required for the entire book, and that then the selections already in type could not be readjusted.
A veteran author, Dr. English, recalls an assurance to the editor of American compilations famous in the day of Poe and the “Literati,” that “ his sins," much as he had incurred the wrath of the excluded,“ were not of omission but of commission.”. Dr. Griswold performed an historical if not a critical service; he had a measure of conscience withal, else Poe would not have chosen him for a literary executor. But if this anthology were modelled upon his “ Poets and Poetry of America” it would occupy a shelf of volumes. I have not hesitated to use any fortunate poem, howsoever unpromising its source. A ruby is a ruby, on the forehead of a Joss or found in the garment of a pilgrim. Here and there are included verses by masterful personages not writers by profession, and the texts of hymns, patriotic lyrics, and other memorabilia that have quality. As befits an anthology, selections mostly are confined to poems in their entirety, but the aim is to represent a poet variously and at his best ; sometimes this cannot be achieved otherwise than by extracts from long poems, — by episodes, or other passages effective in themselves. The reader will find but a few extended Odes other than Lowell's Commemoration Ode and Stoddard's majestic monody on Lincoln, either of which it would be criminal here to truncate. In the foreign compendium there was little to present in the dramatic form, and that not often of a high order ; from this
volume dramatic dialogue — regretfully in cases like those of Boker and Taylor - is excluded altogether, with the exception of an essential specimen in the prefatory division ; but lyrical interludes from dramas are not infrequent. As to sonnets, one often finds them the most serviceable expression of a minor poet. The sonnets of two or three Americans take rank with the best of their time, but I have tried to avoid those of the everyday grade. Finally, whatsoever a poet's standing or the class of selections, my tests are those of merit and anthological value, and the result should be judged accordingly. There is no reception more distrustful, not to say cynical, than that awarded nowadays to a presentment of the artistic effort of one's own time and people. An editor must look upon in the nature of things, happy if he can persuade his readers to use their own glasses somewhat objectively. With regard to a foreign field personal and local equations have less force, and to this no doubt I owe the good fortune that thus far little exception has been taken to the selection and range of material used for “ A Victorian Anthology."
This brings to mind a departure in the following pages from the divisional arrangement of the last-named compilation. Essaying almost every method of setting forth our own poets, I found it impossible to follow the one which before had worked so aptly. A chronological system proved to be not merely the best, but seemingly the only one, applicable to my new needs.
The ease wherewith the British record permitted a classified arrangement was a pleasure to the orderly mind. It crystallized into groups, each animated by a master, or made distinct by the fraternization of poets with tastes in common. Whether this betokened an advanced or a provincial condition may be debatable, and the test of any
“set” doubtless involves the measure of self-consciousness. Surveying the formative portion of the Victorian era it was easy to find the Roisterers, the Poets of Quality, the several flocks of English, Scottish, and Irish minstrels, the Rhapsodists, the Humanitarians, all preceding the composite idyllic school that with Tennyson at its head. With and after Tennyson came the renaissance of the Preraphaelites, and also new balladists, song-writers, a few dramatists, the makers of verse-a-la-mode, and so on to the time's end. From all this, distinct in the receding past, it was possible to map out a cartograph as logical as the prose survey which it illustrates. But when the latter-day versemakers were reached, an effort to assort them had to be foregone, and not so
much from lack of perspective as because, with few exceptions, they revealed more traits in common than in differentiation. It would be too much to expect that subsequent to the Victorian prime and the going out of its chief luminaries there should not be an interval of twilight — with its scattered stars, the Hespers of the past, the Phosphors of a day to come. The earlier groups were discernible, and reviewed by me, in their full activity ; at present, when prose fiction, instead of verse, is the characteristic imaginative product, it is not hard to point out its various orders and working-guilds.
A derogatory inference need not be drawn from the failure of attempts to classify the early and later singers of our own land. Poetry led other forms of our literature during at least forty years, say from 1835 to 1875. Nevertheless, like many observers, I found scarcely a group, except that inspired by the Transcendental movement, of more import than an occasional band such as the little set of " Croakers ” when New York was in its 'teens. With the exception of Poe, the dii majores, as they have been termed, alike were interpreters of nature, sentiment, patriotism, religion, conviction, though each obtained mark by giving accentuated expression to one or two of these fundamental American notes. With the added exceptions of Whitman and Lanier, and of Lowell in his dialect satire, the leaders' methods and motives have had much in common, and the names excepted were not initiative of “schools.” There were a few exemplars, chiefly outside of New England, of the instinct for poetry as an expression of beauty, and of feeling rather than of the convictions which so readily begat didacticism; yet for decades the choir of minor poets have pursued their art in the spirit of the leaders and have availed themselves of the same measures and diction.
Variances of the kind arising from conditions of locality and atmosphere have always been apparent. An approach can be made to a natural arrangement by geographical division somewhat upon the lines of Mr. Piatt's illustrated quarto, in which the lyrics and idylls of the Eastern States, the Middle, the Southern, the regions of the Middle West and the Pacific Slope, are successively exhibited. Until of late, however, the population and literature of the country were so restricted to the Atlantic seaboard that this method excites a sense of disproportion none the less unpleasing for its fidelity to the record. Thus by a process of exclusion the one satisfactory order proved to be the chronological ; this being of the greater value since national evolution is more fully reflected in the poetry of
America than in that of countries, further advanced in the arts, wherein lyrical expression has derived importance from its literary worth rather than from its might as the voice of the people. If it is difficult to assort our poets of any one time into classes it chances that they are significantly classified by generations. The arrangement of this volume thus depends upon its time-divisions, of which the sequence can be traced by a glance at the preliminary Table of Contents.
Colonial verse, howsoever witty, learned, and godly, is beyond the purview ; and well it may be, if only in obeisance to the distich of that rare old colonist, Nathaniel Ward, who tells us in “The Simple Cobbler of Agawam,” that
“Poetry 's a gift wherein but few excel;
He doth very ill that doth not passing well." Those who wish glimpses of life in New England after the forefathers were measurably adjusted to new conditions, may acquaint themselves with the lively eclogues of our first native poet, Ben Tompson. They will find nothing else so clever until hundred
years later - they come upon the verse of Mistress Warren, the measures grave and gay of Francis Hopkinson, the sturdy humor of Trumbull and his fellow-wits. Barlow's “ Columbiad " certainly belonged to neither an Homeric nor an Augustan age. Contemporary with its begetter was a true poet, one of nature's lyrists, who had the temperament of a Landor and was much what the Warwick classicist might have been if bred, afar from Oxford, to the life of a pioneer and revolutionist, spending his vital surplusage in action, bellicose journalism, and new-world verse. A few of Freneau's selecter songs and ballads long have been a part of literature, and with additions constitute my first gleanings of what was genuinely poetic in the years before Bryant earned his title as the father of American song. In that preliminary stage, an acting-drama began with Tyler and Dunlap and should have made better progress in the halfcentury ensuing. A dialect-ballad of the time, “ The Country-Lovers," by Fessenden of New Hampshire, though unsuited to this Anthology, is a composition from which Lowell seems to have precipitated the native gold of “ The Courtin'.” Apart from these I think that sufficient, if not all, of what the opening years have to show of poetic value or association may be found in the selections from Freneau and others earlier than the First Lyrical Period, - a period which Pierpont, despite his birth-record, is entitled to lead off, considering the date of his first publications and the relation of his muse to an heroic future.
Accepting the advent of Bryant and Pierpont as the outset of a home minstrelsy which never since has failed of maintenance, our course hitherto divides itself readily into two periods, with the Civil War as a transitional rest between. The First ends with that national metamorphosis of which the impassioned verse of a few writers, giving no uncertain sound, was the prophecy and inspiration. The antecedent struggle was so absorbing that any conception of poetry as an art to be pursued for its own sake was at best not current; yet beauty was not infrequent in the strain of even the anti-slavery bards, and meanwhile one American singer was giving it his entire allegiance. Before reverting to these antebellum conditions, it should be noted that a Second Period began with the war olympiad, lasting to a date that enables a compiler to distinguish its stronger representatives until the beginning of the century's final decade. To complete the survey I add a liberal aftermath of verse produced in these last ten years ; for it seems worth while to favor a rather inclusive chartage of the tendencies, even the minor currents and eddies, which the poetry of our younger writers reveals to those who care for it.
As to omitted names, I reflect that their bearers well may trust to anthologists of the future, rather than to have lines embalmed here for which in later days they may not care to be held to account.
The' sub-divisions of each of the lyrical periods, - covering, as to the First Period, three terms of about fifteen years each, and as to the Second, three of ten years each, represent literary generations, some of which so overlap one another as to be in a sense contemporary. Finally, the “ Additional Selections” at the end of every sub-division, and succeeding the preliminary and supplementary pages, are for the most part chronologically ordered as concerns any specific group of poems. These addenda have afforded a serviceable means of preserving notable “single poems," and of paying attention to not a few unpretentious writers who, while uttering true notes, have obeyed Wordsworth's injunction to shine in their places and “ be content.”
Here I wish to set down a few conclusions, not so much in regard to the interest of the whole compilation as to its value in any summary of the later poetry of our English tongue.
When I told a New York publisher - a University man, whose judgment is well entitled to respect - that I had this book in mind as the final number of a series and as a companion to the British volume, he replied off-hand : “You