From Whitman to Sandburg in American Poetry: A Critical Survey

From Whitman to Sandburg in American Poetry: A Critical Survey

From Whitman to Sandburg in American Poetry: A Critical Survey

From Whitman to Sandburg in American Poetry: A Critical Survey

Excerpt

This book attempts to do two things: to give a critical estimate of the American poetry of the last fifty years; and to supply at the same time the setting, national and cultural, without which such an estimate must necessarily be thin or meaningless. It is, therefore, a discussion of the American imagination, or as Henry James would say, of the American scene, as it reveals itself in our modern poetry. The results will be a surprise to many. They have surprised me. The edifice has assumed proportions so impressive that one needs a little perspective to glimpse its outlines. That perspective is what one misses in a casual reading, and the result is too often patronage or contempt. A study of the entire field should go far toward removing such feelings.

Ignorance of Walt Whitman is, of course, no longer excusable. He is our greatest poet, and does indeed bestride this narrow world like a Colossus. His shadow is everywhere on our modern literature, and his importance is vaster than even the egotism which some of his critics ascribe to him could have foreseen. Much of this book, therefore, is concerned with his influence, and his point of view as democrat, mystic, and poet.

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