The title is a quote from Jefferson, when speaking, in 1820, of the ""momentous question"" of slavery, which he also compared to a wolf held ""by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go."" The reference is very much a propos in Mr. Handlin's assessment of the current ""Crisis in Civil Rights."" While the main area investigated here is the past decade, this slim book is not -- as Benjamin Muse's Years of Prelude most definitely is -- an attempt at anything like a complete record of pertinent events in those years. Rather, it is a very personal ""effort at stocktaking"" by an eminent scholar who modestly states that ""it contains, simply, the reflections of an observer who hopes that a reasoned analysis will help his countrymen to solve one of the great problems of their time."" Further distinctions could be made between Mr. Muse's quiet, thorough piece of work and this author's quickly written but deeply felt investigation of the factors behind the immediate problem, but would not tell much of the worth of either book. The fact is that both are invaluable contributions to the subject. Mr. Handlin has written many bigger, perhaps better works, but none more timely or helpful. The struggle for the Negro's equality, as he sees it, ""may prove the crucial test of American society.