Whereto answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whisper’d me through the night and very plainly before day-break,
Lisp’d to me the low and delicious word death.
This theme, it will be remembered, is worked out more fully in the Lincoln poem, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” with the “Song of Death,” too long, alas, to quote here—it would be delightful even to inscribe the words—which seems to me for splendour of language, sweetness of rhythm, and stateliness of cadence—to say nothing of the magnificence of the thought—to be incontestably among the very greatest poems of the world.
If Whitman could always have written so! Then he need hardly have said that the strongest and sweetest songs remained to be sung; but this, and many other gems of poetry, lie in radiant fragments among the turbid and weltering rush of his strange verse; and thus one sees that if there is indeed a law of art, it lies close to the instinct of suppression and omission. One may think anything; one may say most things; but if one means to sway the human heart by that one particular gift of words, ordered and melodiously intertwined, one must heed what experience tells the aspirant—that no fervour of thought, or exuberance of utterance, can make up for the harmony of the firmly touched lyre, and the music of the unuttered word.
There is a little village here near Cambridge the homely, summer-sounding name of which is Haslingfield. It is a straggling hamlet of white-walled, straw-thatched cottages, among orchards and old elms, full of closes of meadow-grass, and farmsteads with ricks and big-timbered barns. It has a solid, upstanding Tudor church, with rather a grand tower, and four solid corner turrets; and it has, too, its little bit of history in the manor-house, of which only one high-shouldered wing remains, with tall brick chimneys. It stands up above some mellow old walls, a big dove-cote, and a row of ancient fish-ponds. Here Queen Elizabeth once spent a night upon the wing. Close behind the village, a low wold, bare and calm, with a belt or two of trees, runs steeply up.
The simplest and quietest place imaginable, with a simple and remote life, hardly aware of itself, flowing tranquilly through it; yet this little village, by some felicity of grouping and gathering, has the rare and incomparable gift of charm. I cannot analyse it, I cannot explain it, yet at all times and in all lights, whether its orchards are full of bloom and scent, and the cuckoo flutes from the holt down the soft breeze, or in the bare and leafless winter, when the pale sunset glows beyond the wold among the rifted cloud-banks, it has the wonderful appeal of beauty, a quality which cannot be schemed for or designed, but which a very little mishandling can sweep away. The whole place has grown up out of common use, trees