Lowell, Amy
Poetry and Poets.
Boston: Houghton, 1930.
p. [111]


Some fifty years ago, more or less, a handful of unrelated men and women took to being born up and down these United States.  What impulse was responsible for them, what submerged law of change and contradiction settled upon them as its tools, it is a little hard to say--at least, to say in any sort of reasonable compass. They appear to have been sporadic efforts of some force or other, operating over a period of nearly fifteen years; but so disconnected were they, geographically, socially, and atavistically, that one thing is certain: however they may have derived from a central urge, they did not derive in the least from one another. This little handful of disconnected souls, all unobtrusively born into that America which sighed with Richard Watson Gilder, wept with Ella Wheeler Wilcox, permitted itself to dance delicately with Celia Thaxter, and occasionally to blow a graceful blast on the beribboned trumpet of Louise Imogen Guiney, was destined to startle its progenitors. This was a world of sweet appreciation, a devotee of caged warblers, which species of gentle music-makers solaced it monthly from the pages of the 'Century' or the 'Atlantic Monthly.'  How pleasant to turn away for a moment from the rattle of drays and horse-cars and listen to the woodland strain repeated in a familiar and well-loved cadence!  That these robins of ours were doing their best to imitate the notes of English blackbirds and nightingales only made their efforts the more precious, and, to be sure, their imitations were done with a modesty worthy of all admiration.  They knew their place in the world's harmony and saw to it that they did not overstep it.  This was expected and loyally adhered to.  What of America had time for these not too exciting titivations of the emotions harkened and was pleased; the busy rest of the populace heeded not at all and missed very little.
   Now, how it was that a handful of young persons, growing up in the seventies and eighties (for the widely spaced arrivals lasted so long), found themselves, one and all, so out of sympathy with the chaste and saccharine music wandering through the ambient air of current periodicals, is one of the wonders of psychological phenomena.  It is a fact, nevertheless, that with no one to talk to or compare notes with, each as separate as conditions could well make him, one and all they revolted against the taste of their acquaintances, and launched, the whole flotilla of them, out into the turbulent sea of experiment and personal expression.