Page:1902 Encyclopædia Britannica - Volume 26 - AUS-CHI.pdf/469

This page needs to be proofread.


BRYNMAWR- -BRYOPHYTA double impulse toward scholarship and citizenship showed its ruling influence with a precocity and an ardour which gave every day of systematic schooling many times its ordinary value. It is his own word that, two months after beginning with the Greek alphabet, he had read the New Testament through. On abandoning his hope to enter Yale, the poet turned to and pursued, under private guidance at Worthington and at Bridgewater, the study of law. At twenty-one he was admitted to the bar, opened an office in Plainfield, presently withdrew from there, and at Great Barrington settled for nine years in the attorney’s calling, with an aversion for it which he never lost. His first book of verse, Thanatopsis, appeared in 1817. At the age of twenty-six Bryant married, at Great Barrington, Miss Frances Fairchild, with whom he enjoyed a happy union until her death nearly half a century later. In the year of his marriage he suffered the bereavement of his father’s death. In 1825 he ventured to lay aside the practice of law, and removed to New York city to assume a literary editorship. Here for some months his fortunes were precarious, until in the next year he became one of the editors of the Evening Post. In the third year following, 1829, he came into undivided editorial control, and became also chief owner. He enjoyed his occupation, fulfilling its duties with an unflagging devotion to every worthy public interest till the end of his life, which came in 1878, in the month of his choice, as indicated in his beautiful poem entitled “ June.” Though Bryant’s retiring and contemplative nature could not overpower his warm human sympathies, it yet dominated them to an extent that made him always, even in his journalistic capacity and in the strenuous prose of daily debate, a councillor rather than a leader. It was after the manner of the poet, the seer, that he was a patriot, standing for principles much more than for measures, and, with an exquisite correctness which belonged to every phase of his being, never prevailing by the accommodation of himself to inferiors in foresight, insight, or rectitude. His vigorous and stately mind found voice in one of the most admirable models of journalistic style known in America. He was founder of a distinct school of American journalism, characterized by an equal fidelity and temperance, energy and dignity. Though it is as a poet that he most emphatically belongs to history, his verse was the expression of only the gentler motions of his mind; and it gathers influence, if not lustre, when behind it is seen a life intrepid, upright, glad, and ever potent for the nobler choice in all the largest affairs of his time. His renown as a poet antedated the appearance of his first volume by some four or five years. “American poetry,” says Richard Henry Stoddard, “may be said to have commenced in 1817 with . . . (Bryant’s) ‘Thanatopsis’ and ‘Inscription for the entrance of a wood.’” The solemn chords of “ Thanatopsis,” revealing a voice at once as new and as old as the wilderness out of which they reverberated, had been written at Cummington in the poet’s eighteenth yeai', the “ Inscription ” in his nineteenth, and in his twenty-first, while a student of law at Bridgewater, he had composed his lines “To a Waterfowl,” whose exquisite beauty and exalted faith his own pen rarely, if ever surpassed. The poet’s gift for language made him a frequent translator, and among his works of this sort his rendering of Homer is the most noted and most valuable. But the muse of Bryant, at her very best, is always brief-spoken and an interpreter initially of his own spirit. Much of the charm of his poems lies in the equal purity of their artistic and their moral beauty. On the ethical side they are more than pure, they are—it may be said without derogation—-Puritan. He never commerces

423

with unloveliness for any loveliness that may be plucked out of it, and rarely or never discovers moral beauty under any sort of mask. As free from effeminacy as from indelicacy, his highest and his deepest emotions are so dominated by a perfect self-restraint that they never rise (or stoop) to transports. There is scarcely a distempered utterance in the whole body of his poetical works, scarcely one passionate exaggeration. He faces life with an invincible courage, an inextinguishable hope and heavenward trust, and the dignity of a benevolent will which no compulsion can break or bend. The billows of his soul are not waves, but hills which tempests ruffle but can never heave. Even when he essays to speak for spirits unlike his own—characters of history or conceptions of his own imagination—he never with signal success portrays them in the bonds, however transient, of any overmastering passion. For merriment he has a generous smile, for sorrow a royal one; but the nearest he ever comes to mirth is in his dainty rhyme, “ Robert of Lincoln,” and the nearest to a wail in those exquisite notes of grief for the loss of his young sister, “ The Death of the Flowers,” which only draw the tear to fill it with the light of a perfect resignation. As a seer of large and noble contemplation, in whose pictures of earth and sky the presence and care of the Divine mind, and every tender and beautiful relation of man to his Creator and to his fellow, are melodiously celebrated, his rank is among the master poets of America, of whom he is historically the first. (g. w. ca.) Brynmawr, a market town of South Wales, in the county of Brecknock, 14| miles S.E. of Brecknock, with a station on the London and North-Western railway. Since 1894 it has been governed by an urban district council. Population of the urban district (1891), 6413; (1901), 6833. Bryophyta.—This great subdivision of the vegetable kingdom was treated so fully in the article Muscine.p (see Ency. Brit. vol. xvii.), that only a brief supplementary note is necessary to indicate the nature of the extension of our knowledge of the Mosses and Liverworts since the date of its publication. The more recent work has shown that in the Bryophyta we have a group of plants, the evolution of which has proceeded on somewhat similar lines to that of the higher plants as regards the adaptation of the organism to the conditions under which it lives. The important distinction for morphological purposes, that in the Bryophyta the leafy plant is the sexual generation, while the corresponding modifications are found in the sporophyte of the higher plants, only gives a special value to the comparison of the two groups, since the adaptations can be seen to have arisen independently. It will be sufficient here to point out some of the characters of Liverworts and Mosses which receive their explanation in this way, and to refer for details to the works cited at the end of this article. Starting from the structure found in the simpler thalloid forms, the development of more or less specialized leaves to meet the requirements of assimilation can be seen. A series illustrating the passage from the frondose to the foliose condition is afforded by the anacrogynous Jungermanniacece, several interesting new forms of which have been discovered. In some of the acrogynous Jungermanniacece also the main assimilating surface is a flat thallus, only the branches which bear the reproductive organs being leafy. On the other hand, a specialization of the upper surface of a thallus for this purpose can be traced in a series of forms from the Ricciacece to the Marchantiacece, culminating in the structure found in such a liverwort as Marchantia. The leafy shoot of the sexual generation of the Mosses may be cited