American Poets and Their Theology

American Poets and Their Theology

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American Poets and Their Theology

American Poets and Their Theology

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Excerpt

Some years ago I printed a volume entitled "The Great Poets and Their Theology." I gave account of Homer, Vergil, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe, Wordsworth, Browning, and Tennyson. The volume had some currency, and I was asked by the publishers to prepare another book on "American Poets and Their Theology." After a little consideration I declined, upon the ground that American poets had no theology. Most of them being spokes of "The Hub," Harvard men, and Unitarians, I unwisely took it for granted that their theology was either nebulous or nil. When I demitted my office as president of a seminary and professor of theology, this old proposition recurred to me, and I considered the question anew. I concluded to make trial of Bryant, since he was the real founder of our poetic line. To my surprise and gratification I found that his poems contained a large amount of theology, and that of a very respectable sort--for he never wholly escaped the influence of his early Calvinistic training. This discovery emboldened me to go on to Emerson, in whom I encountered a teacher of a very different type, whom I was obliged severely to criticize. But when I came to Whittier, I was again encouraged; and I did not stop my work until Poe, Longfellow, Lowell, Holmes, Lanier, and Whitman had come under review. These poets represent various . . .

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