The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 11. His Artistry
Of his artistry this study has scarcely spoken; yet it has been throughtout implied. His qualities of thought, feeling, imagination, were communicated, were indeed only communicable, because so wrought into his diction, his rhymes, cadences, and stanzas. Indeed, there is no separating a poet’s feeling, say, for a beautiful flower from his manner of expressing it—for all we know about his feeling for the flower is what he succeeds in communicating by speech. It is tautology to say that a poet treats a sublime idea sublimely—for it is the sublimity in the treatment that makes us realize the sublimity of the idea. We can at most conceive a poet’s “style” as a whole; as, along with his individual world of meditation and vision, another phase of his creative power—as his creation of music. Possibly it is the deepest and most wonderful of the poet’s creations, transcending its manifestation in connection with any single poem. Perhaps, for instance, Milton’s greatest creative act was not Lycidas, or the Sonnets, or Paradise Lost, but that music we call Miltonic. Certainly this is the more true the more organic the style is; and, as said before, Bryant’s style was highly organic.