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Outlines of English and American Literature
An Age of Poetry
by Long, William J.

Finally, this period of conflict was governed more largely than usual by ideals, by sentiment, by intense feeling. Witness the war, with the heroic sentiments which it summoned up south and north. As the deepest human feeling cannot be voiced in prose, we confront the strange phenomenon of an American age of poetry. This would be remarkable Poetry enough to one who remembers that the genius of America had hitherto appeared practical and prosaic, given to action rather than speech, more concerned to "get on" in life than to tell what life means; but it is even more remarkable in view of the war, which covers the age with its frightful shadow. As Lincoln, sad and overburdened, found the relief of tears in the beautiful ending of Longfellow's "Building of the Ship," so, it seems, the heart of America, torn by the sight of her sons in conflict, found blessed relief in songs of love, of peace, of home, of beauty,--of all the lovely and immortal ideals to which every war offers violent but impotent contradiction. And this may be the simple explanation of the fact that the most cherished poems produced by any period of war are almost invariably its songs of peace.


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