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.

IV. The New South: Lanier

§ 35. Didacticism

Indeed, it must be confessed that Lanier’s thought is liable on analysis to be found commonplace and prosaic. This quality is partly due to a didacticism that issued from an unswerving devotion to the ideal. From his youth he cherished a longing for the very highest. How amid the uninspiring surroundings of his boyhood he should have developed this allegiance to the “sweet, living lands of Art” is another of those mysteries with which the history of literature abounds. Yet there is no mystery about the moral purpose which led him to employ poetry to combat intolerance, brutality, and commercialism. It was bred into him at his mother’s knee. There is no cynicism in his verse. There is a very strong religious strain. Not only does he curiously eschew all mythological allusions as being pagan in spirit, but he expresses a deeply religious view of life in many poems, as in The Crystal and that quaint but unsurpassed Ballad of Trees and the Master.