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trained and cultured, without losing its original raciness and simplicity. Nothing less than the widest and deepest study of poetry, in all literatures, young and old, in all languages and schools, could have enabled him to keep his verse in such perfect finish for sixty successive years. He knew all the wiles of the poet, some of which he disdained to practise but of no man in his time was it less safe to assume ignorance or neglect of anything that belonged to the poet's art. His knowledge of poetry was prodigious, his memory of it precise and inexhaustible. He had considered all the masters, and knew their quality and characteristics.
But marked as his own style is, it is marked only with its native hues. There is no trick in his adroitness, no artifice in his art; nothing that tires, except it be the uniformity of its excellence. Considering how long his genius has been known and acknowledged, and how thoroughly he represents the old school of Dryden in his purity and fastidiousness of language, it is, perhaps, not to be wondered at that his popularity, as a citizen and a man, has even somewhat eclipsed his immediate popularity as a poet. I think him fortunate in not having the popularity of novelty, of fashion, of sing-song verse, of morbid sentiment, of mere ingenious thinking, or some temporary adaptation to passing moods of popular feeling, whether in universities or in social circles.
He curiously escaped, if indeed his truthful genuineness of nature did not give him an original defence against it, from the introversive, self-considering, and individualistic temper which has characterized much of the poetry of the highest academic culture in our time. Either he was born too early, or he emigrated from New England too early, to fall under the influence of this morbid subjectiveness; or his active and practical pursuits kept him in the current of real
life, and near to the universal feeling of men. rate,- free, rational, as his genius ever was,- there is not a suspicion of the sceptical or denying element in his works. He is not sick or morbid, or melancholy, or discouraged.
Sentiment enough he has, but no sentimentality; awe of the Infinite, but no agnosticism; a recognition of all human sorrows and sins, but no querulousness, much less any despair. He loved and honored human nature; he feared and reverenced his Maker; he accepted Christianity in its historic character; he believed in American institutions; he believed in the Church and its permanency, in its ordinances and its min. istry; and he was no backward-looking praiser of the times that had been and a mere accuser and defamer of the times
This made his poetry, as it made his prose and his whole influence, wholesome, hopeful, nutritious; young, without being inexperienced; ripe, without tending to decay. The very absence of those false colors which give immediate attractiveness to the clothing of some contemporary poetry, gives his undyed and natural robes a fadeless charm which future generations will not forget to honor. Every one must notice that great immediate popularity is not a good augury for enduring fame; and further, that poetry, like all the products of the fine arts, must have not only positive quality, power and harmony, but must add to these freedom from defects.
It is strange what an embalming power lies in purity of style to preserve thoughts that would perish, even though greater and more original if wrapped in a less perfect vesture. What element of decay is there in Bryant's verse? How universal his themes; how intelligible and level to the com
mon heart; how little ingenious, vague or technical; how free from what is provincial, temporary, capricious; how unflawed with doubtful figures or strained comparisons or new and strange words; how unmarred by a forced order or weary mannerisms!
He is a rigid Puritan, alike in his morals and his vocabulary; there is scarcely a false foot, a doubtful rhyme, a luckless epithet, a dubious sentiment anywhere to be found in his works. And, perhaps nature withheld from him what is called an ear for music only to emphasize his ear for rhythm and save him from the danger of a clogging sweetness and a fatiguing sing-song.
It is the glory of this man that his character outshone even his great talent and his large fame. Distinguished equally for his native gifts and consummate culture, his poetic inspiration and his exquisite art, he is honored and loved to-day, even more for his stainless purity of life, his unswerving rectitude of will, his devotion to the higher interests of humanity, his unfeigned patriotism and his broad humanity. It is remarkable that with none of the arts of popularity a man so little dependent on others' appreciation, so self-subsistent and so retiring, who never sought or accepted office, who had little taste for co-operation, and no bustling zeal in ordinary philanthropy, should have drawn to himself the confidence, the honor and reverence of a great metropolis, and become, perhaps, it is not too much to say, our first citizen.
It was, in spite of a constitutional reserve, a natural distaste for crowds and public occasions, and a somewhat chilled bearing toward his kind, that he achieved, by the force of his great merit and solid worth, this triumph over the heart of his generation. The purity of the snow that enveloped him was more observed than its coldness, and his fellow citizens
believed that a fire of zeal for truth, justice, and human rights burned steadily at the heart of this lofty personality, though it never flamed or smoked.
And they were right! Beyond all thirst for fame or poetic honor lay in Bryant the ambition of virtue. Reputation he did not despise, but virtue he revered and sought with all his heart. He had an intense self-reverence, that made his own good opinion of his own motives and actions abso lutely essential. And though little tempted by covetousness, envy, worldliness or love of power, he had his own conscious difficulties to contend with, a temper not without turbulence, a susceptibility to injuries, a contempt for the moral weaknesses of others.
But he labored incessantly at self-knowledge and self-control, and attained equanimity and gentleness to a marked) degree. Let none suppose that the persistent force of his will, his incessant industry, his perfect consistency and coherency
of life and character, were not backed by strong passions. With a less consecrated purpose, a less reverent love of truth and goodness, he might easily have become acrid, vindictive, or selfishly ambitious. But he kept his body under, and, a far more difficult task for him, his spirit in subjection.
God had given him a wonderful balance of faculties in a marvellously harmonious frame. His spirit wore a light and lithe vesture of clay—that never burdened him. His senses were perfect at fourscore. His eyes needed no glasses; his hearing was exquisitely fine. His alertness was the wonder of his contemporaries. He outwalked men of middle age. His tastes were so simple as to be almost ascetic. Milk and cereals and fruits were his chosen diet. He had no vices, and no approach to them, and he avoided any and everything
that could ever threaten him with the tyranny of the senses or of habit.
Regular in all his habits, he retained his youth almost to the last. His power of work never abated, and the herculean translation of Homer, which was the amusement of the last lustre of his long and busy life, showed not only no senility or decline in artistic skill, but no decrease of intellectual or physical endurance.
Perhaps the last ten years of his life have made him nearer and dearer to his fellow citizens than any previous decade; for he had become at last not only resigned to public honors, but had even acquired a late and tardy taste for social and public gatherings. Who so often called to preside in your public meetings or to speak at your literary or social festivals ? who has pronounced as many hearty welcomes to honored strangers, unveiled as many statues, graced as many occasious of public sympathy? who so ready to appear at the call of your public charities, or more affectionately welcomed and honored on your platforms? All this, coming late in life, was a grateful, I might almost say a fond surprise.
He had wrapped himself in his cloak to contend with the winter wind of his earlier fortunes, and the harder it blew (and it was very rough in his middle life) the closer he drew it about him. But the sun of prosperity and honor and con- ; fidence that warmed and brightened the two closing decades of his life fairly melted away his proud reserve toward the public, and he lay himself open to the warm and fragrant breeze of universal favor. He was careful, however, to say that he did not hold himself at the public's high estimate.
In a long conversation I had with him at Roslyn, two years ago, he showed such a surprising self-knowledge and such a just appreciation of popular suffrages, that it was