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26 June, 2013
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.|