That he was intensely, grandly, sometimes fiercely patriotic, is also due, in a great measure, to the surrounding influences of his young life.
The struggle for American independence was at last over, and the lusty young Republic, springing, Minerva-like, from the mighty brain of a no longer imperilled freedom, was ready to throw down the gauntlet of defiance to all the world, and assert her rights as queen regnant of the great Western World.
The armies had been disbanded, and the war-scarred veterans had joyfully returned to their farms and workshops, ready to put their willing hands again to the plough and the plane, and help to restore, by patient toil and honest legislation, prosperity and peace to the land so long distracted by the commotions and uncertainties of war.
Later, his days of toil over, the old soldier sat him down, in restful content, by his own peaceful fireside, while, with the old musket in its honored place above the tall wooden mantle, he fought over again, in memory, his old-time battles, and to sons and grandsons taught, in thrilling, patriotic words, the great lesson to love and revere their country next to their God.
As a boy, no doubt, young Bryant had listened to many of the tales of these honored veterans, and had drank in, with the air of his own native village, long draughts of their fervid patriotism, that animated his writings down to the latest years of his life. That he had seen with his own eyes some of the leading spirits in that great national struggle, who still lived to honor and be honored by the nation that they had fought so bravely to free from a foreign yoke, is shown by an extract from one of his few humorous poems, in which he says:—
"I pause to state
Patriotic, religious, philosophical, and a true lover of nature, yet Bryant cannot, in any mood, be styled one of our fireside poets, like Longfellow, Whittier, and Lowell.
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