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

§ 39. The Voice of the New South

Though his abiding interests were Southern, he was not narrowly Southern in his outlook. On the contrary, it has already been indicated that much of Lanier’s distinction among Reconstruction poets lies not only in his interest in the problems of his own time but likewise his sympathy and comprehension in voicing the new idea of nationality. The freedom from prejudice which led him to resume relations with a Northern friend at the close of the war, fitted him to sing the meditations of Columbia at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876. There was nothing mean or narrow in his make-up. The breadth of his own soul and the exalted purpose of his life responded quickly to the new outlook before the nation. He leaped far ahead of his section in grasping and appropriating what he might of the new quickening spirit, but he was largely influential, with Lamar and Grady, in bringing the South to share in that quickening influence. He likewise revealed to the North, even before Grady, the possibilities of the recently vanquished section, and thereby hastened that spiritual rapprochement which went on steadily increasing to the end of the century, as we have seen in the patriotic glow of Wilson’s poems. If Lanier had only had for poetic expression that genius which he apparently possessed for music, what position might he not have attained? With what full-throated ease then would the South at the Reconstruction period have sung out its inmost heart!