Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword or section
Like this
7Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Bliss Perry-The American Spirit in Literature

Bliss Perry-The American Spirit in Literature

Ratings: (0)|Views: 89 |Likes:
Published by kiquemachado

More info:

Published by: kiquemachado on Nov 24, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

01/10/2013

pdf

text

original

 
THE AMERICAN SPIRIT IN LITERATURE -
BLISS PERRY
CONTENTS
I. THE PIONEERSII. THE FIRST COLONIAL LITERATUREIII. THE THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATIONIV. THE REVOLUTIONV. THE KNICKERBOCKER GROUPVI. THE TRANSCENDENTALISTSVII. ROMANCE, POETRY, AND HISTORYVIII. POE AND WHITMANIX. UNION AND LIBERTYX. A NEW NATIONBIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTETHE AMERICAN SPIRIT IN LITERATURE
CHAPTER I. THE PIONEERS
The United States of America has been from the beginning in aperpetual change. The physical and mental restlessness of theAmerican and the temporary nature of many of his arrangementsare largely due to the experimental character of the explorationand development of this continent. The new energies released by
PDF created by pdfbooks.co.za
1
 
the settlement of the colonies were indeed guided by sterndetermination, wise forethought, and inventive skill; but no onehas ever really known the outcome of the experiment. It is astory of faith, of Effort, and expectation, and desire,And something evermore about to be.An Alexander Hamilton may urge with passionate force the adoptionof the Constitution, without any firm conviction as to itspermanence. The most clear-sighted American of the Civil Warperiod recognized this element of uncertainty in our Americanadventure when he declared: ”We are now testing whether thisnation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can longendure.” More than fifty years have passed since that war rearmedthe binding force of the Constitution and apparently sealed theperpetuity of the Union. Yet the gigantic economic and socialchanges now in progress are serving to show that the UnitedStates has its full share of the anxieties which beset all humaninstitutions in this daily altering world.”We are but strangers in an inn, but passengers in a ship,” saidRoger Williams. This sense of the transiency of human effort, theperishable nature of human institutions, was quick in theconsciousness of the gentleman adventurers and sober Puritancitizens who emigrated from England to the New World. It had beena familiar note in the poetry of that Elizabethan period whichhad followed with such breathless interest the exploration of America. It was a conception which could be shared alike by asaint like John Cotton or a soldier of fortune like John Smith.Men are tent-dwellers. Today they settle here, and tomorrow theyhave struck camp and are gone. We are strangers and sojourners,as all our fathers were.This instinct of the camper has stamped itself upon American lifeand thought. Venturesomeness, physical and moral daring,resourcefulness in emergencies, indifference to negligibledetails, wastefulness of materials, boundless hope and confidencein the morrow, are characteristics of the American. It isscarcely an exaggeration to say that the ”good American” has beenhe who has most resembled a good camper. He has had robusthealth–unless or until he has abused it,–a tolerantdisposition, and an ability to apply his fingers or his brain tomany unrelated and unexpected tasks. He is disposed to blaze hisown trail. He has a touch of prodigality, and, withal, a knack of keeping his tent or his affairs in better order than they seem.Above all, he has been ever ready to break camp when he feels theimpulse to wander. He likes to be ”foot-loose.” If he does notbuild his roads as solidly as the Roman roads were built, nor hishouses like the English houses, it is because he feels that he is2
 
here today and gone tomorrow. If he has squandered the physicalresources of his neighborhood, cutting the forests recklessly,exhausting the soil, surrendering water power and minerals into afew far-clutching fingers, he has done it because he expects,like Voltaire’s Signor Pococurante, ”to have a new gardentomorrow, built on a nobler plan.” When New York State grew toocrowded for Cooper’s Leather-Stocking, he shouldered his pack,whistled to his dog, glanced at the sun, and struck a bee-linefor the Mississippi. Nothing could be more typical of the firstthree hundred years of American history.The traits of the pioneer have thus been the characteristictraits of the American in action. The memories of successivegenerations have tended to stress these qualities to the neglectof others. Everyone who has enjoyed the free life of the woodswill confess that his own judgment upon his casual summerassociates turns, quite naturally and almost exclusively, upontheir characteristics as woodsmen. Out of the woods, thesegentlemen may be more or less admirable divines, pedants, men of affairs; but the verdict of their companions in the forest isbased chiefly upon the single question of their adaptability tothe environment of the camp. Are they quick of eye and foot,skillful with rod and gun, cheerful on rainy days, ready to do alittle more than their share of drudgery? If so, memory holdsthem.Some such unconscious selection as this has been at work in theclassification of our representative men. The building of thenation and the literary expression of its purpose and ideals aretasks which have called forth the strength of a great variety of individuals. Some of these men have proved to be peculiarlyfitted for a specific service, irrespective of the question of their general intellectual powers, or their rank as judged by thestandard of European performance in the same field. Thus thebattle of New Orleans, in European eyes a mere bit of frontierfighting, made Andrew Jackson a ”hero” as indubitably as if hehad defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. It gave him the Presidency.The analogy holds in literature. Certain expressions of Americansentiment or conviction have served to summarize or to clarifythe spirit of the nation. The authors of these productions havefrequently won the recognition and affection of theircontemporaries by means of prose and verse quite unsuited tosustain the test of severe critical standards. NeitherLongfellow’s ”Excelsior” nor Poe’s ”Bells” nor Whittier’s ”MaudMuller” is among the best poems of the three writers in question,yet there was something in each of these productions which caughtthe fancy of a whole American generation. It expressed one phaseof the national mind in a given historical period.3

Activity (7)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 hundred reads
1 thousand reads
Hurricane210 liked this
usermyself liked this
Pawsone liked this
damiooo liked this
yubarajsharma liked this

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->