John Greenleaf Whittier: Contribution as American Poet

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      John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), the most active poet of the era. Born and raised on a modest Quaker farm in Massachusetts, he had little formal education and worked for a considerable time, as a journalist. The influence of Carrison on him brought him into politics. He became involved in anti-slavery cause and was elected to the Massachuse - Legislature in 1835. He edited ‘Pennsylvania Freeman’; from 1838 to 1840 and He published his first collection ‘Poems Written During the Progress of the Abolition Question’ in 1838. His second collection was Lays of My Home and Other Ports (1843) and ‘Voices of Freedom’ in 1846. His Collected Poems published in 1849 testify eloquently to his hatred tyranny and his unshakable concern for the suffering of others. His other works are - The Chapel of the Hermits (1853), The Panorama and other Poems (1856) and Home Ballads and Poems (1860). For decades before it became popular, he was an ardent abolitionist.

      Snowbound (1866) is the best of his best works. The Tent on the Beach (1867) Among the Hills (1869) Miriam and other Poems (1871), Hazel Blossoms (1875) The Vision of Echard (1878) St Gregory’s Guest (1886) followed. At Sundown (1890) is respected for anti-slavery poems such as “Ichabod”. The critics sometimes view his poetry as an early example of regional realism. Whittier’s images-sharp and simple constructions, and balled-like tetrameter couples have the simple earthy texture of Robert Burns. His best imaginative work, the long poem “Snowbound,” vividly recreates the poet’s deceased family members and dear friends as he remembers them from childhood, huddled cozily around the blazing hearth during one of New England’s blustering snowstorms. This simple, religious, intensely personal poem, coming after the long nightmare of the Civil War, is an elegy for the departed dead and a healing hymn. It affirms the eternity of the spirit, the timeless power of love in the memory, and the undiminished beauty of nature, despite violent outer political storms.

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