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Forget, forgive, and unite," were the words of wisdom written by our poet to the meeting held by his fellow townsmen to consider the outrage done to Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber of the United States. That advice represents the spirit of Whittier's life. Garrison held that "it is a waste of politeness to be courteous to the Devil." Whittier would, by fair means, make even the Evil One to serve the cause of righteousness. He was a good politician, and an expert lobbyist. His influence was both courted and feared, for he could not only warn but rebuke. Caleb Cushing met defeat when he failed to take Whittier's advice and resist the aggressions of slavery. And in all literature there is no more scathing fulmination than his "Ichabod," when Daniel Webster turned his back upon his patriotic past and strove to curry favor with the South by crowding upon the North the infamous Fugitive Slave Law:

So fallen! so lost! the light withdrawn

Which once he wore!

The glory from his gray hairs gone
Forevermore!

Revile him not, the Tempter hath

A snare for all;

And pitying tears, not scorn and wrath,
Befit his fall!

Oh, dumb be passion's stormy rage,

When he who might

Have lighted up and led his age

Falls back in night.

Scorn! would the angels laugh to mark
A bright soul driven,

Fiend-goaded, down the endless dark,
From hope and heaven!

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But when the great man strove to drown remorse in deep potations, lost his hold upon the country and upon himself, and died despondent, Whittier's heart went out toward him in compassion, and he wrote "The Lost Occasion":

Some die too late and some too soon,
At early morning, heat of noon,
Or the chill of evening twilight. Thou,
Whom the rich heavens did so endow
With eyes of power and Jove's own brow,
With all the massive strength that fills
Thy home-horizon's granite hills,

EARLY FAULTS OF WHITTIER'S VERSE

127

Thou, foiled in aim and hope, bereaved
Of old friends, by the new deceived,
Too soon for us, too soon for thee,
Beside thy lonely Northern sea,

Where long and low the marsh-lands spread,
Laid wearily down thy august head.

Thou shouldst have lived to feel below
Thy feet Disunion's fierce upthrow;
The late-sprung mine that underlaid
Thy sad concessions vainly made.

No stronger voice than thine had then
Called out the utmost might of men,
To make the Union's charter free
And strengthen law by liberty.

Ah, cruel fate, that closed to thee

The gates of opportunity!

Poe and Lanier devoted themselves to the mechanism of verse. Art did more for them than nature. Whittier thought more of substance than of form. He had many defects of ear and of training. His hearing was imperfect, and he was color-blind. His early poems were little more than jingling commonplace. He became conscious of their imperfections. He said facetiously that he would like to drown many of them like so many unlikely kittens, and as for "Mogg Megone,” he would like to kill him over again, for he now suggested to him "a big Indian in his war-paint, strutting about in Sir Walter Scott's plaid." This judgment was very just. Stedman says well that only what was written after the year 1860 has won a

128

WHITTIER'S FINANCIAL SUCCESS

national reputation. Before that time his writing was hasty and aimed at immediate effect. Faults of rhyme were frequent and glaring. But practice and reading proved to be an education. After the stress of antislavery agitation was over, he became connected with the "Atlantic Monthly," and accepted the criticisms of its editors. "I hope," he writes to them, "I am correcting a little of the bad grammar and rhythmical blunders which have so long annoyed Harvard graduates." And the quality of his verse greatly improved in his later years. Its simplicity and intensity commended it to common people. "Snow-Bound" and "The Tent on the Beach" were accepted by thousands as the most characteristic poems that our country had yet produced. And from the time of their publication Whittier was free from financial care. SnowBound" gave him ten thousand dollars for its first edition. Of "The Tent on the Beach" twenty thousand copies were sold. The poet could not understand his own success. "The swindle is awful," he writes; 66 Barnum is a saint to me. I am bowed down with a sense of guilt, ashamed to look an honest man in the face." But the "Proem," which he wrote to introduce the first general collection of his poems, expresses more seriously and faultlessly the feeling with which he welcomed the first signs of public favor and the first evidence that his work had real value:

I love the old melodious lays

Which softly melt the ages through,
The songs of Spenser's golden days,
Arcadian Sidney's silvery phrase,
Sprinkling our noon of time with freshest
morning dew.

66

ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PUBLIC ESTEEM

Yet, vainly in my quiet hours
To breathe their marvelous notes I try;

I feel them, as the leaves and flowers
In silence feel the dewy showers,

And drink with glad, still lips the blessing of
the sky.

The rigor of a frozen clime,

The harshness of an untaught ear,

The jarring words of one whose rhyme
Beat often Labor's hurried time,

Or Duty's rugged march through storm and
strife, are here.

Yet here at least an earnest sense
Of human right and weal is shown;
A hate of tyranny intense,

And hearty in its vehemence,

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As if my brother's pain and sorrow were my own.

O Freedom! if to me belong

Nor mighty Milton's gift divine,

Nor Marvell's wit and graceful song,
Still with a love as deep and strong

As theirs, I lay, like them, my best gifts on
thy shrine!

"Upon the occasion of my seventieth birthday, in 1877," he writes:

I was the recipient of many tokens of esteem. The publishers of the "Atlantic Monthly" gave a dinner in my name, and the editor of "The Literary World" gathered in his paper many affectionate messages from my associates in literature and the cause of human progress. The lines which follow were written in acknowledgment.

Beside that milestone where the level sun,

Nigh unto setting, sheds his last, low rays
On word and work irrevocably done,
Life's blending threads of good and ill outspun,

I hear, O friends! your words of cheer and praise,

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