1868 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Fitz-Greene Halleck

William Cullen Bryant, in "Fitz-Greene Halleck" (1868); Prose Works (1884) 1:391-92.



I have my own way of accounting for his literary silence in the latter part of his life. One of the resemblances which he bore to Horace consisted in the length of time in which he kept his poems by him that he might give them the last and happiest touches. Having composed his poems without committing them to paper, and retaining them in his faithful memory, he revised them in the same manner, murmuring them to himself in his solitary moments, recovering the state of enthusiasm with which they were first conceived, and in this state of mind heightening the beauty of the thought or the expression. I remember that once, in crossing Washington Park, I saw Halleck before me, and quickened my pace to overtake him. As I drew near, I heard him crooning to himself what seemed to be lines of verse, and, as he threw back his hands in walking, I perceived that they quivered with the feeling of the passage he was reciting. I instantly checked my pace and fell back, out of reverence for the mood of inspiration which seemed to be upon him, and fearful lest I should intercept the birth of a poem destined to be the delight of thousands of readers.