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1821-1825: GREAT BARRINGTON-HIS MARRIAGE-THE AGESVOLUME PUBLISHED-OTHER POEMS-ABANDONS LAW.
Marriage and Happy Home Life-Recites The Ages at Harvard-Selections from that Poem-Publishes a Volume-The Yellow Violet-Walk at Sunset-The West Wind-The Massacre at Scio-The Indian Girl's Lament -An Indian at the Burial-place of his Fathers-Monument Mountain— After a Tempest - A Forest Hymn - The Old Man's Funeral — The Murdered Traveller-March-Autumn Woods-Hymn to the North Star -Lapse of Time-Verplanck and the Sedgwicks-Visits New York City -Leaves Great Barrington and the Law-His disgust at Legal Chicanery -June.
In January, 1821, at Great Barrington, Miss Frances Fairchild became Mr. Bryant's wife; and, for six-andforty years thereafter, she was the good angel of his life. A woman of rare excellence, naturally sympathetic, gentle and prepossessing, she was kind, hospitable, greatly beloved, and universally respected by friends and acquaintances. Thoroughly ingenuous, she yet possessed great practical sagacity and tact, while "her whole life," we are told by Dr. Ray Palmer, "was pervaded by a tranquil religious spirit." Mr. Bryant's domestic life in all respects was an eminently happy one. During the whole period they lived together "his wife was his only really intimate friend, and when she died he had no other. He was young, his fame was growing, and with domestic duties, with literary studies and work, and professional and public activities, his tranquil days passed in the happy valley of the Housatonic." Always trustful and helpful, the memory of her purity, devotion, and piety is embalmed in many of the poet's stanzas, to some of which we shall afterwards have occasion to refer.
The great interest awakened by his published poems
now led the students of Harvard College, Cambridge, to ask Bryant to recite a poem before them during Commencement week. This was in the summer of 1821, the year of his marriage, and when he was in his twentyseventh year.
In response, the young lawyer prepared "The Ages," a didactic poem, the longest and most elaborate he ever wrote. Thoughtful and suggestive, it stands first in all the complete editions of Bryant's collected works, forming a fitting introduction to the other poems. General James Grant Wilson aptly characterizes it as "A comprehensive poetical essay, reviewing the world's progress, in a panoramic view of the ages, and glowing with a prophetic vision of the future of America."
George William Curtis says, "It is a simple, serious, and thoughtful survey of history, tracing a general law of progress; and the stately Spenserian measure is marked by the moderation, the sinewy simplicity, the maturity and freedom from mannerism, which are Bryant's signmanual. The last stanza of this poem breathes in majestic music that pure passion for America, and that strong and sublime faith in her destiny, which constantly appears in his verse and never wavered in his heart."
Richard Henry Stoddard describes it, as a rapid, comprehensive, philosophic, and picturesque summary of the history of mankind from the earliest periods, a shifting panorama of good and evil figures and deeds, the rising and falling of religions, kingdoms, empires, and the great shapes of Greece and Rome. "The twentieth stanza, which describes the lazy convent life of the Romish orders," says he, "is a masterpiece of quiet sarcasm; and the lines which convey profoundly the influences of the Romish Church are so matchless that I must quote them:
"The throne, whose roots are in another world,
And whose far-reaching shadow awed our own.'
"The pictures of the landscapes of this western world, beautiful, grand, animated, many-watered and sailthronged, the glimpses of Indian life, the appearance of the white race, the receding of forests and the rising of towns-all form a magnificent gallery of life and action and emotion. The young gentlemen of Harvard were wiser than they knew when they invited Bryant to write a poem for them; for their invitation resulted in the best college poem that ever was written."
The following stanzas of the poem precede his survey of the great empires of the old world:
"Look on this beautiful world, and read the truth
With his own image, and who gave them sway
Are spread, where'er the moist earth drinks the day,
66 Oh, no! a thousand cheerful omens give
Hope of yet happier days, whose dawn is nigh.
The slave of his own passions; he whose eye
In God's magnificent works his wiii shall scan
And love and peace shall make their paradise with man.”
How fresh and beautiful is his picture of the American continent!
Late, from this Western shore, that morning chased
Fled at the glancing plume, and the gaunt wolf yelled near.
And where his willing waves yon bright blue bay
Sends up, to kiss his decorated brim,
And cradles, in his soft embrace, the gay
The savage urged his skiff like wild bird on the wing.
Then all this youthful paradise around,
And all the broad and boundless mainland, lay
There stood the Indian hamlet, there the lake
And peace was on the earth and in the air,
We also present the closing stanza of the poem-that to which Curtis refers:
But thou, my country, thou shalt never fall,