The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.


§ 3. Early Poems

Lowell’s early poems do not show much novelty of theme or manner. They are on about the same subjects that all men were writing verse upon in the forties, and written with the same vocabulary, images, and rhythms. Love, nature, liberty, idealism, classic story, personal moods are the themes, but there is some novelty in the ingenuity of the phrases and in the new fauna and flora. If he was following the English romanticists he was transferring their worship of beauty to a New England landscape and their religious musings to the turmoil of idealism that stirred the youth of Massachusetts. He writes of the dandelion and the pine-tree, and his seasons are the riotous June or the Indian summer of Cambridge, his landscape that of Beaver Brook. All is descriptive or reflective; there is no narrative except when it is the mere text for sentiment and moral.