Modern American Poetry

Modern American Poetry

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Modern American Poetry

Modern American Poetry

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Excerpt

The end of the Civil War marked the end of a literary epoch. The New England group, containing (if Poe could be added) all the great names of the antebellum period, began to disintegrate. The poets had outsung themselves; it was a time of surrender and swansongs. Unable to respond to the new forces of political nationalism and industrial reconstruction, the Brahmins (that famous group of intellectuals who dominated literary America) withdrew into their libraries. Poets like Longfellow, Bryant, Taylor, turned their eyes away from the native scene, rhapsodized endlessly about Europe, echoed the "parlor poetry" of England, or left creative writing altogether and occupied themselves with translations. "They had been borne into an era in which they had no part," writes Fred Lewis Pattee (A History of American Literature Since 1870), "and they contented themselves with reëchoings of the old music." . . . Within a single period of six years, from 1867 to 1872, there appeared Longfellow's Divina Commedia, C. E. Norton's Vita Nuova, T. W. Parson's Inferno, William Cullen Bryant 's Iliad and Odyssey, and Bayard Taylor's Faust.

Suddenly the break came. America developed a na-

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