Metropolitan Group Poets: Contribution to American Poetry

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      In the metropolitan group of the latter half of the nineteenth century Bryant was dominant until his death in 1878. Other conspicuous representatives were Bayard Taylor (1825–1878), Richard Henry Stoddard (1825–1903), Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908), Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907) in his early career, and—with a difference—Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909). None of these men was born and brought up in New York, and none but Gilder partook of the nature of the town as Irving and even Bryant and Halleck had been able to do in the preceding generation when it was more compact and unified. Taylor clung to the idea of establishing a manorial estate at Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, but lived more or less in New York and buzzed restlessly about the literary market until he died a victim of overwork in 1878. Stoddard, more stable and unexcited than Taylor or than Stedman, was occupied in a succession of uninspired literary ventures. Aldrich, after a few years, returned to Boston, where he was happier, although always consciously a newcomer. Stedman devoted as much time and energy to poetry as his unsuccessful efforts to become independently rich would allow him. These men were in a way the first American literary victims to “Newyorkitis.” Only Richard Watson Gilder succeeded in coping with the great city. The others were not only unable to impress their stamp on the city of their adoption but were engulfed by it. In the midst of the turmoil they could not enjoy the serenity which prevailed in those same days in the Boston or the Charleston where cultural pursuits were held in higher esteem than commercial activity.

The Metropolitan group were in the midst of a different cultural atmosphere. Bryant, Irving, Halleck, and Greeley led the way for a succeeding group of self-educated men. The New England writers of the day had been schooled at Harvard and Bowdoin and certain German universities, and the cultured men of Charleston were going abroad for study and travel in increasing numbers.
The Metropolitan Group

      The Metropolitan group were in the midst of a different cultural atmosphere. Bryant, Irving, Halleck, and Greeley led the way for a succeeding group of self-educated men. The New England writers of the day had been schooled at Harvard and Bowdoin and certain German universities, and the cultured men of Charleston were going abroad for study and travel in increasing numbers. In the midst of all the hurly-burly of New York there was no dominant circle who were disposed to take time for the leisurely contemplation of the finer things in art and life, and the art and life of New York suffered in consequence. In spite of all that had been said for generations about the employment of American subject matter, these men turned away from either the romance or the realities of the town. Except in rare instances they did not even satirize it. Instead they took refuge in sentimentalism and in remote times and places. “The Ballad of Babie Bell,” “Ximen, or the Battle of the Sierra Morena, and Other Poems,” “Poems of the Orient,” “The Blameless Prince,” “Poems Lyric and Idyllic,” “Königsmark, and Other Poems,” “The King’s Bell,” and “The Book of the East” were the natural output of such a group. Moreover, the plays were of the same sort. “Tortesa the Usurer,” “The Merchant of Bogota,” “Francesca da Rimini,” and “Leonora, or the World’s Own” represented the majority. “Fashion” and “Rip Van Winkle” were quite the exceptions.

      Of his generation Stoddard was perhaps more devoted than any other in his worship of a fanciful and unvitalized Muse. The criticisms of Lowell and Holmes served as correctives for the artificialities of Stedman and Aldrich, but Stoddard made no poetic response either to the Civil War or to the march of science or to the religious changes that attended it. To the end of his career he was the complete product of the influences surrounding his youth. He had been brought to New York at the age of ten by his widowed mother and kept in school only until he was fifteen. For nine years he worked as an artisan, cultivating literature and literary people in his leisure hours. From 1853 to 1870 he held a post in the New York Customhouse, and from 1860 on, literary editorships with the New York World, the Aldine and the New York Mail and Express.

      Stoddard’s poetry is altogether detached from this life, ignoring or avoiding the facts of daily existence; and even in the little lyrics of pleasure there is the lovely detachment of the orchid. Though now and again they show signs of becoming mildly erotic, they have no passion in them. Rather they exhibit the chaste delights of the virtuoso, who takes up one object after another from the glass-covered cabinets in the museum which his fancy has furnished, looks it over fondly, admires its form and color, and sets it back with even pulse until such time as he shall choose to gaze on it again. These lyrics are sometimes nature descriptions and sometimes nature fantasies. Often they are about the idea of love—rather than about love itself—and about wine—but not about conviviality. In the philosophical ones there is a negative tone, as in

 Man loses but the life he lives
 And only lives the life he loses.

 or in

 There is no life on land or sea
 Save in the quiet moon and me;
 Nor ours is true, but only seems
 Within some dead old World of Dreams.

      And this dream world was an abandoned unreality and not a hope for something better.

      Taken at its best, his verse is chiefly excellent for its form. As it does not spring from any vivid experiencing of life, it is conventional and reminiscent rather than spontaneous and original. It suggests many measures from many periods. In only a few poems, which purport to be themselves imitations from the East, he writes what seems fresh and new. His real gift was in the composition of little poetic cameos, bits of from four to a dozen lines, the dainty ornaments of literature.

      The career of Thomas Bailey Aldrich was closely interwoven with the whole fabric of professional authorship in America. Like Bryant and Willis before him, and like Stedman, Stoddard, and Winter of his own generation, he established himself in New York, although he was a New England boy; but unlike all the others he fulfilled his career in Boston. It was an accident of dollars and cents that kept him out of Harvard and put him into a New York office. A love of literature led him then successively into the adventurous byways of Bohemian New York, the secure dignity of magazine editorship in Boston, and the fair prospects of independent literary success as enjoyed on Beacon Hill.

      To be explicit, he was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1836. His father’s pursuit of fortune took Aldrich as a child to many parts of the country, but brought him back to Portsmouth at the age of thirteen. For the next three years he lived there the life which provided the basic facts for “The Story of a Bad Boy.” Lack of funds prevented his entering Harvard, and in 1852 he undertook a clerkship in the office of a New York uncle. In 1855, when he was still only nineteen, he published his first volume of poetry and became junior literary critic on the Evening Mirror. In the next several years he held a sub-editorship in New York on the Home Journal and the Saturday Press and literary adviserships to several minor publishing houses, capping off with the editorship of the Illustrated News, which had become a thing of the past when, in 1866, he was called to Boston to become editor of Every Saturday. This post he held for nine years. For the six years up to 1881 he was an abundant contributor to the Atlantic Monthly and for the next nine, 1881–1890, he was the editor.

      During the remainder of his life he held no literary position. During his fifteen years in New York, Greeley and Bryant, two newspaper editors, were perhaps the dominant figures in the literary and intellectual stratum, Willis and Halleck the most popular, Henry Clapp, Jr., and Charles T. Congdon the cleverest, and “Bohemia,” with its rallying point at Pfaff’s restaurant, the visible rallying place for the authors. Aldrich gravitated toward this group, but never really belonged to it. Just why he did not can be inferred from a sentence by Howells, whose nature was very like his own: “I remember that, as I sat at that table, under the pavement, in Pfaff’s beer-cellar, and listened to the wit that did not seem very funny, I thought of the dinner with Lowell, the breakfast with Fields, the supper at the Autocrat’s, and felt that I had fallen very far.”

      The men who gathered at Pfaff’s were very conscious of Boston, though their consciousness came out in various ways. The most violent said that the thought of it made them as ugly as sin; others loved it though they left it, as Whitman did “the open road”; and some, on the outskirts of “Bohemia,” were not too aggressively like Stedman, who admitted much later, “I was very anxious to bring out my first book in New York in Boston style, having a reverence for Boston, which I continued to have.” Aldrich was of like mind, and readily accepted Osgood’s invitation to “the Hub” and to the editorship of Every Saturday. Years after he wrote to Bayard Taylor, who could understand: “I miss my few dear friends in New York—but that is all. There is a finer intellectual atmosphere here than in our city. … The people of Boston are full-blooded readers, appreciative, trained.” And later, to Stedman: “In the six years I have been here, I have found seven or eight hearts so full of noble things that there is no room in them for such trifles as envy and conceit and insincerity. I didn’t find more than two or three such in New York, and I lived there fifteen years. It was an excellent school for me—to get out of!” Boston was his native heath, in spite of his own saying: “Though I am not genuine Boston, I am Boston-plated.”

      Aldrich’s literary career began and ended with the writing of poetry, but what he did in the interims of poetical silence contributed to the peculiar character of his work even though it was a source of distraction and sometimes of prolonged interruption. As a reader and editor he was schooled from very young manhood in the exercise of a peculiarly fine artistic taste, a taste so exacting in detail that the Atlantic under his direction was described by a foreign critic as “the best edited magazine in the English language.” He did not reserve the exercise of this rectitude of judgment for the work of others, but applied it with perhaps increased austerity to himself. His verse will consequently endure close examination, and the later collections will show the virtues and defects of scrupulous rejection and of the revision in each succeeding publication of the work which he chose to preserve.

      The virtues of work so carefully perfected are evident. His effects are, in the end, all calculated, for he gave no quarter to what he had produced with zest if it did not ring true to his critical ear. His poetic machinery is therefore well oiled and articulated. His metaphors are sound and his diction happily adjusted. “The vanilla-flavored adjectives and the patchouli-scented participles” criticized by his kindly senior, Dr. Holmes, are pared away. So in the little steel engravings that are the best expressions of his peculiar talent there is a fine simplicity, but it is the simplicity of an accomplished woman of the world rather than of a village maid. And herein lie the shortcomings of Aldrich’s poetry—that it is the poetry of accomplishment. As a youth in New York, writing while Halleck’s popularity was at its height, he was not independent enough to be more original than his most admired townsman. The verses in “The Bells: a Collection of Chimes” are most of them clearly imitative; and from the day of “Babie Bell” on, whatever of originality was Aldrich’s belonged to the library and the drawing-room and the literary club rather than to the seas, woods, and mountains.

      It is logical, then, that his longer narrative poems have least of his own stamp in them. From a literary point of view they are well enough, but they are literary grass of the field and have no more claim on the primary attention of a modern reader than do the bulk of prose short stories written in the same years by Aldrich and his fellows. The only one that stands out is “Pauline Pavlovna,” and that because it has the dramatic vigor and the startling unexpectedness of conclusion which mark the best of his prose tales. It is logical, too, that in his more ambitious odes—such as “Spring in New England” and the “Shaw Memorial Ode,” which open and close the second volume of his poems—he did not appear to the best advantage. Memorials of the Civil War are adequate only if written with epic vision, but the best that Aldrich did with such material was to make it the ground for heartfelt tributes to the nobility of his fallen friends. Read Moody’s “Ode in Time of Hesitation” beside Aldrich’s slender lyric based on the same man and the same memorial, and the difference is self-evident. Aldrich’s biographer has commented on the rarity of his æsthetic sense, “among modern poets with their preoccupations, philosophical, religious and political.” In this not unjust criticism of Aldrich—which marks a distinction rather than a superiority—lies the reason why he should have left the writing of national odes to poets who were sometimes capable of such preoccupation.

      In writing on personal and local and occasional themes Aldrich dealt with more congenial material. When celebrating his fellow-authors and the places he loved he could invoke beauty with an unpreoccupied mind; and he did so with unvarying success, addressing the choicest of the limited public in which he was really interested. The kind of folk he cared for “Drank deep of life, new books and hearts of men,” like Henry Howard Brownell. As a youth he wrote delightedly of a certain month when he could see “her” every day and browse in a library of ten thousand volumes. He was a literary poet for literary people. As such he was most successful in poems which ranged in length from the sonnet to the quatrain. In the tiny bits like “Destiny,” “Heredity,” “Identity,” “Memory,” “I’ll not confer with Sorrow,” “Pillared Arch and Sculptured Tower,” he achieved works as real as Benvenuto’s jewel settings. It was a fulfillment of the wish recorded in his “Lyrics and Epics”:

      I would be the lyric Ever on the lip, Rather than the epic Memory lets slip. I would be the diamond At my lady’s ear Rather than a June rose Worn but once a year.

      No more charming tribute was ever paid Aldrich than this of Whittier’s narrated by a friend who had been visiting for a week with the poet in his old age: “Every evening he asked me to repeat to him certain short poems, often ‘Destiny,’ and once even ‘that audacious “Identity,” ’ as he called it; but at the end he invariably said, ‘Now thee knows without my saying so that I want “Memory,” ’ and with his wonderful far-off gaze he always repeated after me: ‘Two petals from that wild-rose tree.’ ”

      In his address at a meeting held in memory of Edmund Clarence Stedman in January, 1909, Hamilton Mabie struck the main note in two complementary statements: “Mr. Stedman belongs with those who have not only enriched literature with works of quality and substance, but who have represented it in its public relationships,” and, “Stedman was by instinct and temperament a man of the town.” He elected to live in Manhattan just as deliberately as Aldrich elected to live in Boston; and in this distinction lies something much broader than the mere difference between the two men.

      Stedman was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1833. After the death of his father and the remarriage of his mother, he was brought up from 1839 to 1850 under charge of an uncle. A member of the class of 1853 at Yale, he was “rusticated” (see p. 282) and then expelled for persistent misbehavior. Until 1863 he was in journalism, as petty proprietor in two Connecticut towns, and later as member of the New York Tribune staff, ending with two years as war correspondent. In 1863 he went into Wall Street, and in 1869 became a member of the New York Stock Exchange. From this date to the end of his life in 1908 he knew little real repose, oscillating from over-exertion in business to over-exertion in writing, with occasional enforced vacations. His work as poet was inseparable from his labors as editor and critic. In this field he wrote “Victorian Poets,” 1875, “Poets of America,” 1885, and “The Nature and Elements of Poetry,” 1892; and edited the “Library of American Literature” (with Ellen Hutchinson) 1888–1889, “A Victorian Anthology,” 1895, and “An American Anthology,” 1900. Stedman took the consequences of settling in the commercial capital of the United States. While the members of the Saturday Club were lending distinction to Boston, the members of the Ornithorhyncus Club and the Bohemians were receiving the impress of New York. Men came to the Saturday luncheons from Salem and Haverhill, Concord, and Cambridge as well as near-by Brookline and Boston itself, but the New York groups congregated into literary neighborhoods in the “Unitary Home” or “on the south side of Tenth Street.” Thus it came about that Aldrich contributed to Boston what he brought there, but that Stedman was “made in New York.” As a result Aldrich was more frankly absorbed in the concerns of the enlightened reader, and Stedman relatively more interested in a broader society. Both were war correspondents, but Aldrich admitted the war into his poetry only rarely, and then without much success. On the other hand, the first eighth of Stedman’s collected poems are entitled “In War Time,” and with the poems of Manhattan, of New England, and of special occasions amount to nearly one half the volume. Moreover, of the poems by Stedman which are generally known and quoted, quite the larger portion are included in utterances which are representative of literature “in its public relationships.”

      A timely admonition from Lowell, as valuable as the one from Holmes to Aldrich, helped keep him out of the byways in which he was inclined to stray. In 1866 Stedman was proud of his “Alectryon,” a blank-verse poem on a classic theme which had appeared in one of his books three years before.

      When Mr. Lowell praised the volume in The North American Review I was chagrined that he did not allude to my pièce de résistance, and finally hinted as much to him. He at once said that it was my “best piece of work,” but “no addition to poetic literature,” since we already have enough masterpieces of that kind—from Landor’s “Hamadryad” and Tennyson’s “Œnone” down to the latest effort by Swinburne or Mr. Fields. So I have never written since upon an antique theme. Upon reflection, I thought Lowell right. A new land calls for new song.

      The best of Stedman’s nature poems are directly drawn from boyhood reminiscence or from a voyage and vacation in the West Indies, and many of his songs and ballads are derived from contemporary backgrounds and episodes.

      Stedman did his work as a poet, however, in full consciousness of all the wealth of continental literature and the splendors of Old World tradition. Perhaps there was no single work into which he put more ambition than into his uncompleted metrical version from the Greek of the Sicilian Idyllists. His “Victorian Poets” and the anthology which followed were undertaken by way of making a workmanlike approach to the poetry of his own countrymen. As a reader he had the scholar’s attitude toward literature; as a poet he felt a respect approaching reverence for the established traditions of his art. And yet—and in this respect Stedman is lamentably rare among critics and artists—his conviction that the centuries had achieved permanent canons for the poetic art did not lead him into slashing abuse of those who dissented from his views. He wrote no single essay which better demonstrated his wisdom, his sanity, and his charming suavity of mind and manner than his discussion of Walt Whitman. Although he felt a native distaste for much of Whitman’s writing and for the way most of it was done, he succeeded in applying a fair mode of criticism, and he did it in the manner of an artist and not as a counsel for the plaintiff. Instead of beginning with cleverness and ending with truculence Stedman did himself the honor of coming out magnanimously with “… there is something of the Greek in Whitman, and his lovers call him Homeric, but to me he shall be our old American Hesiod, teaching us works and days.” The measure of Stedman’s poetry should therefore be made in the light of two characteristics: his instinctive and temperamental love of the town, as this determined his choice of subject matter, and his widely read appreciation of the older poets, as this affected his sense of artistic form.

      Although some of it was very popular at the moment and not altogether negligible to-day, his less important work was the succession of verses which were written in the spirit and, in some cases, at the speed of the journalist. “The Diamond Wedding,” for example, was done in an evening and was the talk of the town thirty-six hours later. But, more than that, it was actually good satire—as good a piece of its kind as had appeared in New York since Halleck’s “Fanny.” So, too, “Israel Freyer’s Bid for Gold” was published three days after the idea had first occurred to him. These, like the “Ballad of Lager Bier” and “The Prince’s Ball” and even “How Old Brown Took Harper’s Ferry” represented the high spirit of youth rollicking on paper in the fashion of the young authors of the “Salmagundi” and “Croaker” satires.

      “Bohemia” and “Pan in Wall Street,” though composed in this same general period, are far more sober, deliberate, and genuinely poetical. In both Stedman dealt with the romantic rather than with the ridiculous or contemptible in city life. From the years of his work on “The Victorian Poets” to the end two developments took place. He inclined more to refine on the form of his poems, giving over at last all fluent satire, and he progressed in subject matter, first to what literature and the past suggested and then, with advancing years, to considerations of age and death. The changes are not abrupt, but they are pervasive and evident.

      During the last dozen years of his life poetry could not be his natural form of expression, for the world was too much with him. A great deal of the time when he was not getting or losing on Change (he seems to have lost rather more than he spent) he devoted to service on all sorts of boards and councils of good works, speaking and versifying for special occasions, editing miscellaneously—even a “Pocket Guide to Europe,”—and giving advice and encouragement to younger poets. He was admirably representing literature in its public relationships and paying the price which is always exacted of an ambassador of any sort in the complete sacrifice of independent leisure. There is something pathetic in his oft-repeated protests in these latter years at being called a “banker-poet” or “broker-poet,” for he had failed to become rich as he had hoped, and he had enjoyed on the whole less security than many of his acquaintances who had attached themselves to literature in some professional way. This, however, had been a mistake not so much of judgment as of temperament. Unless his voluminous biography utterly misrepresents him he had no true capacity for leisure. He was an intellectual flagellant; and his poetry, although he was in theory devoted to it, was in reality a proof of the love of art which continually tantalized and distracted him but never won his complete allegiance.

      Richard Watson Gilder was born in Bordentown, New Jersey, in 1844. He studied there in Bellevue Seminary, founded by his father, intending to practice law. He was in brief active service during the war when Pennsylvania was invaded. On his father’s death he entered journalistic work, first with two Newark newspapers and then with Hours at Home in New York. From its founding in 1870 he was associate editor of the old Scribner’s Monthly (since 1881 The Century) and from 1881 was its editor in chief. He became increasingly important in New York as contributor to civic welfare, and at the same time held his own as editor and poet. Thus he was first president of the Kindergarten Association of New York and a founder of the Authors’ Club. He was identified with the leading agencies for cultural and humanitarian ends, was in demand as laureate on special occasions, and was recipient of many honorary degrees.

     Gilder was almost exclusively a lyric poet. His units are very brief—there are more than five hundred in the one-volume “Complete” edition—very few extending to the one hundred lines ordained by Poe. Even among lyrics, moreover, he set distinct boundaries to his field. Among his metropolitan fellows—Taylor, Stoddard, Aldrich, Stedman, and the others—he was notable in not writing imitative and reminiscent poetry. These men must have been rather definitely in the back of his mind when he wrote:

 Some from books resound their rhymes—
 Set them ringing with a faint,
 Sorrowful, and sweet, and quaint
 Memory of the olden times,
 Like the sound of evening chimes.

      And too many of his contemporaries did not follow as well as he the admonition,

 Tell to the wind
 Thy private woes, but not to human ear.

      There was still a world of beauty left for him, first of all in songs of love. It is a chaste and disembodied passion that he celebrated in frequent groups of song. The lady is a delight to the eye, modest, timid, and yet all-generous; the lover eager, gentle, adoring, and inspired to nobility. What Gilder recorded in one of the earliest of these lyrics seems in large measure to hold true of them all. After an enumeration of the lady’s charms and the charm she bestowed upon earth and sky, he continued:

 I love her doubting and anguish;
 I love the love she withholds;
 I love my love that loveth her
 And anew her being molds.

      A poet of so rarefied a sentiment as this hangs on the brink of sentimentalism, but Gilder seldom fell over, for his nicety of feeling could not easily be led into mawkishness.

      His regard for nature was refined and sophisticated. One passes from the exquisite “Dawn” with which his first volume opened, past “Thistle-Down” and “The Violet” to the poems of Tyringham, his summer home; and then to “Home Acres” and “The Old Place,” which had no rival; and ends “In Helena’s Garden” between “The Marble Pool” and “The Sundial,” to drink tea with eleven pretty girls at a round table made from a granite millstone. The sun shines brightly, the flowers are in bloom, their odor mingling with that of the souchong, the conversation is facile, and everybody is amiable and complacent. From such a catalogue one might expect sappy and emasculated nature poems, but once again Gilder’s sanity rescues him. Even in Helena’s garden he is rather a strong man at ease than a sybarite.

      In his enjoyment of the allied arts his taste was generous. Music appealed to him most of all. He chanted the praises of Handel and Chopin, Rubinstein and Tschaikowsky, but of Beethoven still more, and of Wagner most of all. He told of the thrill he caught from the various instruments, but of the deeper thrill from the singer and from the chorus. The art of “Madame Butterfly” appealed to him, but not so deeply as the power of the drama, even if played “In a little theater, in the Jewry of the New World.” Naturally he wrote much of his own art, revealing his high seriousness in his poems about the poet. Poetry was not solely the record or the evidence of beauty for him. Although his only markedly personal allegiance in poetry was an allegiance to Keats, it was a fealty to Keats taken off before his prime. Gilder lamented the wrong fate had done the youthful genius and did not content himself with reiterating that “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

      For Gilder never, even in his most ecstatic moods, indulged in the fallacy of setting art above life. Though his work does not show the marked changes which have developed in many evolving careers, there is a clear emergence of philosophic and then social and civic interest in his progressive volumes. His sense for the need of a brave integrity comes to the surface in such poems as “Reform,” “The Prisoner’s Thought,” “The Heroic Age,” “The Demagogue,” “The Tool,” “The New Politician,” “The Whisperers,” and “In Times of Peace.” To such themes as these and to his poems of heroism and of the reunited country Gilder brought the same delicacy of touch as to his poems of love and art and nature, and he brought into view in them the latent vigor which saved the others from being merely pink and mellifluous.

      In poetry written on the scale of Gilder’s there is need of finest workmanship. There is no chance for Turneresque effects:

 The foreground golden dirt,
 The sunshine painted with a squirt.

      These paintings are like miniatures which must submit to scrutiny under the reading glass. In this connection his craftsmanship becomes interesting in the history of versification. For Gilder was at once a master of the more complex forms of traditional verse and an early experimenter in the free, rhythmic forms which are the subject of spirited controversy to-day. Some rhythmic prose appears in his earliest volume, but the sonnet prevails at the beginning of his authorship, and at the end it almost utterly disappears in favor of the freest sort of blank verse, irregular and unrimed iambic measures, poems which are suggestive of but distinct from Whitman’s, and frank prose-poetry, not even “shredded prose”—in the language of Mr. Howells—but printed in solid paragraphs. Except for the sonnet, Gilder had no favorite measure or stanza in his earlier volumes. Few poems are in exactly similar measures. There are lines of from three to seven feet, quatrains of various sorts, and rhythms from that of the heroic couplet to that of the so-called Pindaric ode. But whatever the measure he adopted, he was scrupulously consistent to it, though he employed it easily, seldom conceding an awkward or prosaic locution to the exigencies of lilt or rime. So he seems to have been equally at home in the use of sundry forms—in the antiphonal ballad like “The Voyager,” within the pale of “The Sonnet,” in the anapæstic flow of “A Song of Early Autumn,” in the swift-moving iambics of “A Woman’s Thought,” with its intricate double and triple rimes, or in the psalmlike sibilations of “The Whisperers.”

      The philosophy of Gilder was the philosophy of his most enlightened contemporaries. There is in it much of Emerson, whom he called the “shining soul” of the New World, and there is much of Whitman, though it is not clear whether their likeness does not lie in their common accord with Emerson rather than in a direct influence from “the good gray poet” to Gilder. The immanence of God in nature and in the heart of man (see “The Voice of the Pine”); the unity of all natural law (see “Destiny”); the conflict between religion and theology (see “Credo”); and a faith in the essentials of democratic life—these are the wholesome fundamentals of modern thinking shared alike by Emerson and Whitman and Gilder. Gilder is not their most impressive or prophetic expositor. He is a lesser voice in the choir. The point of real distinction for him is that he combined so finely the discriminating work of a literary editor with the unwearying life of a good and courageous citizen and still kept the current of his song serene and clear.

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