Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/400

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acter, melodious, impressive, nevertheless it had not that sublimation of all these, and with that the power to awaken the imagination which, in argumentative prose, is beauty.

Lincoln had apparently passed through one of those indescribable inward experiences—always, it seems, accompanied by deep gloom—which in mystical natures so often precede a rebirth of the mind. Psychology has not yet analyzed and classified them. But history is familiar with a sufficient number to be sure of their reality. From Saul agonizing in his tent to Luther throwing his inkpot at the devil; from Cromwell wrestling with the Lord to Lincoln striving to be vocal when his mind was dumb in a hundred instances there is the same range of phenomena, the same spiritual night, the same amazing dawn.

And now the most interesting of the literary questions concerning Lincoln presents itself. It is to be borne in mind that he was essentially non-rhetorical. He towers out of the literary murk of his day through his freedom from rhetoric. And yet, pernicious as it is, mere rhetoricity has its base in genuine artistic impulse. It is art perverted and made unreal, just as sentimentality is sentiment perverted and made unreal. And just as the vision of conduct which sentimentality perceives and spoils is an essential to noble living, so the vision of word-use which rhetoric perceives and spoils is essential to literature. Hitherto Lincoln had been ultra-sensitive to the spoiling done by rhetoricality. Had he been duly sensitive to the vision which the word-jobbers of his day had degraded to their own measure? It may be fairly doubted. But hereafter, in the literary richness of the final manner, no one can doubt the fulness and the range of his vision as an imaginative artificer in words. Had any new influence, purely literary entered into his life? One hesitates to say, and yet there is the following to consider. Lincoln submitted his First Inaugural to Seward. Several of Seward s criticisms he accepted. But Seward, never doubting that he was worth a dozen of the President in a literary way, did not confine himself to criticism. He graciously submitted a wholly new paragraph which Mr. Lincoln might, if he cared to, use as peroration. It read:

I close. We are not, we must not be, aliens or enemies, but fellow countrymen and brethren. Although passion has strained our bonds