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the “ Faërie Queene" of our courtly Spenser, that of any young English poet then or nowthe poet's poet, yet one who never reached the his pupil Keats excepted. Had he died after “Il mountain-top of absolute ethics. The tinker Penseroso,” “L'Allegro,” and “Lycidas,” he Bunyan's similitudes—and he was essentially a would have been mourned like Keats; for their poet, writing in English beyond a mere scholar's perfection is to-day the model (though usually mastery—are more intrinsically dramatic. But at second hand) of artists in English verse. In they illustrate a rigid creed, and are below the “Lycidas” he freed our rhythm from its first imagery that sets forth equally human crime and enslavement: its second lasted from Pope's time nobleness, the vision that illumines life, church- until the Georgian revival. One mark of the craft, statecraft, nationality, art, and religion. subjectivity of his early poems often has been Within the eternal blazon of that saturnine bard noted - they are none too realistic in their tranwhose
scripts of nature. Milton, as in his greater work,
Rugged face looked inward, and drew his landscape from Betrays no spirit of repose,
the Arcadian vistas thus beheld. Besides, he The sullen warrior sole we trace,
was such a master of the Greek, Latin, and ItalThe marble man of many woes.
ian literatures as to be native to their idioms Such was his mien when first arose The thought of that strange tale divine,
and spirit. His more resolute self-assertion came When hell he peopled with his foes,
in argument and song after experience of imDread scourge of many a guilty line.
posing national events and sore private calam
ities, when the man was ripe in thought, faith, War to the last he waged with all suffering, and all that makes for character and The tyrant canker-worms of Earth ;
exaltation. The universe, as he conceived it, Baron and duke, in hold and hall, Cursed the dark hour that gave him birth; his own creation, outvies the Æschylean demi
was his theme. His hero, the majestic Satan of He used Rome's harlot for his mirth ; Plucked bare hypocrisy and crime ;
god. The Puritan bard, like Dante, idealized But valiant souls of knightly worth
an era and a religion. In the matter and style • Transmitted to the rolls of Time. of the sublimest epic of Christendom its maker's
individuality everywhere is felt. The blind seer The antique charm, meanwhile, had fled to seems dictating it throughout. We see his head England, ever attaching itself to the youth of bowed upon his breast; we hear the prophetic poesy in each new land. The English spring- voice rehearsing its organ-tones; and thus we time! — to be young in it is very heaven, since it should see and hear, even if we could forget is the fairest of all such seasons in all climes. that outburst at the opening of the Third Book, It gladdens the meadows and purling streams wherein, after the radiant conception of the of Dan Chaucer's Tales and Romaunts, and “ Eternal coeternal beam,” the sonorous decin their minstrelsy he forgot himself, like a child laration of his purposed higher flight, and the that roams afield in May. With Spenser, and the pathetic references to his blindness, his final Tudor sonneteers, the self-expressive poetry of invocation enables all after-time to recognize England fairly begins. They, and their com- the inward light from which his imagination mon antique and Italian models, were the teach- drew its splendor. ers of Milton in his youth. The scholar gave us what is still in the front rank of our English Shine inward, and the 'mind through all her
So much the rather thou, celestial Light, masterpieces and, with one exception, the latest
powers of those rhythmical creations which belong to Irradiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence the world at large.
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell Milton in his epic appears less determinedly of things invisible to mortal sight. as the rhapsodist in person than Dante in the “ Divine Comedy.” He sees his vision by in- Milton's eventide sonnets, incomparable for vocation of the Muse, while the Florentine is virility and eloquence, are also nobly pathetic ; " personally conducted,” one may say, on his there are no personal strains more full of heroic tour through the three phantasmal abodes. endurance. Not again was there a minstrel so Doubtless “ Paradise Lost” is the more objec- resolved on personal expression, yet so creative, tive work; but with the unparalleled Miltonic so full of conviction that often begat didactiutterance, its author's polemic creeds of liberty cism, yet so sensitive to impressions of beauty, and religion are conveyed throughout. He also until we come to Shelley — and his flight, alas ! stands foremost among the bards of qualified was ended, while as Arnold says, he was still vision, by virtue of “Samson Agonistes,” a clas-“ beating in the void his luminous wings in sical drama in which he himself indubitably vain.” towers as the blind and fettered protagonist.
Milton's early verse is the flower of his passion But the nineteenth century,complex through for beauty and learning, and exquisite beyond its interfusion of peoples and literatures, and
with all history behind it, has developed the and he brought France out of her frigid classitypical poetry of self-expression, and withal a cism into line with the Northern world. Then new interpretation of life and landscape through came Lamartine, with his sentiment, and Musthe impressionism of its artists and poets. All set and Gautier - children of Paris and Helen, this began with the so-called romantic more- consecrate from birth to the abandon of emoment.
tion and beauty, and equally with Lamartine Kingsley, in his “ Hypatia," brings the pa- to the poetry of self-expression. gan Goths of the North, fair-haired worshipers Long before, in Scotland, a more spontaneof Odin, giants in their barbaric strength, to ous minstrel also had sung out of the fullness Christian Alexandria, where they loom above of the music born within him, but with a tone the Greek, the Roman, and the Jew. In time that separated him from the choir of purely subthey overran and to some extent blended with jective poets. Burns was altruistic, because his the outer world. It is strange how little they songs were those of his people. In his notes affected its art and letters. Not until after the amid the heather Scotia's lowly, independent solvent force of Christianity had done its work, children found a voice. It was his own, and it could the Northern heart and imagination suf- was theirs; he looked out and not in, or, if in, fuse the stream of classicism with the warm yet upon himself as the symbol of his kind. Of all beclouded quality of their own tide. Passion our poets, lyric and idyllic, he is most truly naand understanding, as Menzel has declared, ture's darling; his pictures were life, his voice represent the antique; the romantic— the word was freedom, his heart was strength and tenbeing Latin, the quality German-is all depth derness. Yet Burns, and tenderness. To comprehend the modern
Who walked in glory and in joy, movement,
— vague, emotional, transcenden. Following his plough, along the mountain-side, tal,- which really began in Germany, read Heine on “ The Romantic School,” of which is not a child of the introspective Muse. Relahe himself, younger than Arnim and Goethe, tively late as was his song, he stands glad and was a luxuriant offshoot. It came into England brave among the simple, primitive, and therewith Coleridge, with Leigh Hunt and Keats, fore universal minstrels. and found its extreme in Byron. Later still, it No; it is in Byron, with his loftier genius and fought a victorious campaign in France, under more self-centered emotions, that we find our the young Hugo and his comrades. In fine, main example of voice and vision conditioned with color, warmth, feeling, picturesqueness, by the temperament of their possessor. Obthe iridescent wave swept over Europe, and to jective poetry, being native to the youth of a the Western World — affecting our own poetry race before self-torturing sophistry has wrought and fiction since the true rise of American ideal- bewilderment, seemingly should appeal to the ity. Upon its German starting-ground the im- youth of an individual. And thus it does, but perial Goethe was enthroned, but he has been to the youngest youth — that of a wonder-lovalmost the only universalist and world-poet of ing child, whom the “Iliad” and “Odyssey," its begetting. For he not only produced with or Scott's epical romances, delight, and who ease the lyrics that made all younger minstrels can make little of metrical sentimentalism. The his votaries, but was fertile in massive and pur- world-weary veteran also finds it a refreshment; posely objective work. The drama was his his arrogance has been lessened, and he has life-study, and he sought to be, like Shakspere, been taught that his griefs and dreams are but dramatist and manager in one. “ Faust,” the the common lot. master-work of our century, is an epochal crea- Yet it is plain that subjective poetry, if sention. Yet even “ Faust” is the reflection of suous and passionate, strongly affects suscepGoethe's experience as the self-elected arche- tible natures at a certain stage of immaturity. type of Man, and is subjective in its ethical Now that town life is everywhere, we see the intent and individuality. Still, the master's Wertherism of former days replaced by a kind tranquil, almost Jovian, nature enabled him of jejune estheticism, with its own peculiar afoften to separate his personality from his inven- fectation of wit and indifference. But to the tions. This more rarely is the case with the only secluded youth, not yet concerned with action Frenchman comparable to him in scope and and civic life, subjective poetry still makes a dramatic fertility — superior to him in energy mysterious appeal. Sixty years ago the young of lyrical splendor. Melodramatic power and poet of the period, consciously or otherwise, imagination are the twin genii of Hugo, and became a Childe Harold, among men“ but not his human passion is intense; but his own stren- of them,” one who had “not loved the world, uous, untamed temperament compels us every- nor the world” him. He found a mild dissiwhere, even in his romantic and historic plays. pation in contemplating his fancied miseries, He war hetrue creator of modern French litera- and was a tragic personage in his own eyes, and
ich he furnished a new vocabulary, usually a coxcomb in those of the unfeeling
neighborhood. This mock-heroic pose, so often which his nature protested, and that the prowithout a compensating gift, was and is due to test was continued because the fortress did not the novel consciousness of individuality that yield to assault. And he had no Byron for a comes to each and all — to the over-conscious- predecessor, as an object-lesson in behalf of ness of it which many sentimentalists, against naturalness and common sense. a thousand slights and failures, retain by ar- Shelley, who came and went like a spirit, and rested development to the end of their days. whose poetry seemed the aureole of a strayed At its best, we have poetic sensibility intensi- visitor from some translunary sphere, is even fied by egotism. Keats understood this clearly, more present to us than Byron, with whom, by even when experiencing it. In spite of the real the law that brings the wandering moths of tragedy of his career, he manfully outgrew it; nightfall together, his life touched closely durhis poetry swiftly advanced to the robust and ing its later years. His self-portrayal is as much creative type, as he wasted under a fatal illness more beautiful and poetic than Byron's as it is and even in his heart's despair. And what bet- more truthful, unaffected— drawn wholly for ter diagnosis of a young poet's greensickness self-relief. That it had no theatrical motive is than these words from the touching preface to clear from internal evidence, and from his biog“Endymion "?
rapher's avowal that he had gained scarcely
fifty readers when he died. Byron was conThe imagination of a boy is healthy, and the sciously a soliloquist on the stage, with the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there whole reading world to applaud him from the is a space of life between, in which the soul is in auditorium. Again, while nothing can be more a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted: thence poignantly, intense than Shelley's self-delineproceed mawkishness, and all the thousand bit- ation in certain stanzas of the “Adonais,” and ters which those men I speak of must necessarily throughout “Alastor,” selfishness and egotaste in going over the following pages.
tism had no foothold in his nature. He was
altruism incarnate. His personal sufferings It was preordained that even this limbo of were emblematic of wronged and baffled hulife should have an immortal voice, and that manity. Thus it was that when removed somevoice was Byron. Until his time the sturdy what from the battle-field, and in the golden English folk had escaped the need of it. This Italian clime of beauty and song, his art incame with a peculiar agitation of the national stinct asserted itself; his poetic faculty at once sentiment. That Byron found his fame, and the became more absolute, and he produced “ The instant power to create an audience for his cap- Cenci,” “ Prometheus Unbound,” and shorter tivating monodrama, restricted him to a single lyrical pieces more than sufficient to prove his and almost lifelong mood. This was the more greatness in essentially creative work. And prolonged since it was thoroughly in temper thus it was, as we have seen, with Keats, who with an eager generation. The French Revo- caught by turns the spirits of Greece, of Italy, lution led to a perception of the insufficiency of the North. Landor did the same, with his and brutalism of contemporary systems. Re- “Hellenics,” with his “Pericles and Aspasia,” bellion was in the air, and a craving for some " Pentameron,” and “Citation of Shakspere.” escape to political, spiritual, and social freedom. But Landor, with the fieriest personal temper Byron pointed out the paths by land and sea conceivable, was, like Alfieri, though of a toto a proud solitude, to a refuge with nature tally different school, another being when at and art which the blunted public taste had long work, an artist to his fingers' ends. So was forgotten, and he sang so eloquently withal that Coleridge at times, when he shook himself like he drew more than a third part of the rising Samson: not the subjective brother-in-arms of stars of Europe after him. Their leader is the Wordsworth, but the Coleridge of the imaginatypical bard of self-expression, not only for the tion and haunting melody and sovereign judgsuperb natural strength, and directness, and ment unparalleled in his time — Coleridge of passion of a lyrical genius that forces us to “ The Ancient Mariner,” and “ Christabel,” bear with its barbaric ignorance of both art and“ Kubla Khan,” whose loss to the highest and realism, but because he sustained it to the field of poetic design is something for which end of his career in a purely romantic atmo- one never can quite forgive theology and metasphere. This pervades even the kaleidoscopic physics. Of Wordsworth, the real master of "Don Juan," the main achievement of his the Victorian self-absorption, I shall speak at npest years, strengthened as it is by the vigor another time with respect to our modern conof which humor is the surplusage and an easy- ception of the sympathetic quality of nature. going tolerance the disposition. It must al. To conclude, the prodigal Georgian school, ways be considered, in so far as his develop- springing from a soil that had lain fallow for ment was arrested, that Byron was a lord, born a hundred years, was devoted as a whole to and bred in the British Philistinism against self-utterance, but magnificently so. Of course
a reaction set in, and we now complete the I THINK that the impersonal element in art more restrained, scholarly, analytic, artistic, may be termed masculine, and that there is Victorun period -a time, I fully believe, of something feminine in a controlling impulse to equally imaginative etiort, yet of an effort
, as lay bare one's own heart and experience. This We shall sce, that usually has taken, so far as is as it should be: certainly a man's attributes Colemas dramatic invention, a direction other are pride and strength, strength to wrestle, upon than rhythmic.
occasion, without speech until the daybreak. Meanwhile; Heinrich Heine, of the inter- The fire of the absolutely virile workman conmediante generation, and the countryman of sumes its own smoke. But the artistic temperaCinthe began, one might say, where Byron ment is, after all, androgynous. The woman's int out this whole song is the legacy of his intuition, sensitiveness, nervous refinement join *ond mood, but that was full of restless with the reserved power and creative vigor of in one from tears and laughter, from melody the man to form the poet. As those or these Amcilove and tenderness, to scorn and cynicism, predominate, we have the major strain, or the 400 min trom agnosticism to faith. In youth, minor appeal for human sympathy and the profAnd at intervals until his death, his dominant fer of it. A man must have a notable gift or a hry with like Byron's — dissatisfaction, long- very exalted nature to make people grateful then the pursuit of an illusive ideal, the love of for his confessions. The revelations of the femidurand tame. There was an apparent decline, nine heart are the more beautiful and welcome, att skisordered years, in Byron's powers both because the typical woman is purer, more unhaul and mental. Yet his Greek campaign selfish, more consecrated, than the typical man.
hadde tair to bring him to something better than Through her ardent self-revelations our ideals these toest. He had the soldier's temperament. of sanctity are maintained. She may even, like Hition of the heroic kind was what he needed, a child, be least self-conscious when most unand might have led to the “ sudden making" restrained in self-expression. Assuredly this
mill more splendid name. Heine was was so in the case of the greatest woman-poet many beings in one, a Jew by race, a German the modern world has known. Mrs. Browning's 1 birth, a Parisian by adoption, taste, and in- lyrics, every verse sealed with her individuality, maliniat for the beautiful. His outlook, then, was glowing with sympathy, and so unconsciously toaster than that of the English poet. His and unselfishly displaying the nobility of her willing was also a revolt, but against the age heart and intellect, have made the earth she
that of a Jew, and against contemporary trod sacred, and her resting-place a shrine. l'hilistinism as that of an Arcadian. Byron be- Her impassioned numbers are her most artiscame a cosmopolite; Heine was born one. In tic. The “Sonnets from the Portuguese,” at the world's theater he stood behind the scenes the extreme of proud self-avowal, are equal in of the motley human drama. He wrought its beauty, feeling, and psychical analysis to any plaint and laughter into a fantastic music of his series of sonnets in any tongue - Shakspere's own, with a genius both sorrowful and sardonic; not excepted. always like one enduring life as a penance, and I have alluded to Alfieri. The poets of modbuttering from the acute consciousness of some ern Italy, romantic as they are, still derive tiner existence the clue to which was denied closely from the antique, and they have applied
themselves considerably to the drama and to
the higher lyrical forms of verse. Chafing as In every clime and country
they did so long under the Austrian sway, their There lives a Man of Pain,
more elevated odes, as you will see in Mr. HowWhose nerves, like chords of lightning,
ells's treatise, have been charged with the longBring fire into his brain : To him a whisper is a wound,
ing for freedom, the same impulse toward unity, A look or sneer a blow;
toward nationality, toward Italy.” Poetry that More pangs he feels in years or months
has been the voice and force of a nation occuThan dunce-throng'd ages know. pies, as I have said, a middle ground between
our two extremes. It has an altruistic quality.
The same generous fervor preëminently distinHeine felt, and avowed, that the actual song- guished the trumpet-tongued lyrics of our Hemotive is a heart-wound, without which "the braic Whittier, and the unique outgivings of true poet cannot sing sweetliest.” His mock- Lowell's various muse, in behalf of liberty and ing note, which from its nature was not the right. Those were “ Noble Numbers”; and, in sanest art, was quickly caught by younger poets, truth, the representative national sentiment and repeated as if they too meant it and for its of which ideas of liberty, domesticity, and reliair of experience and maturity. With real ma- gion are chief components — pervades the lyrturity they usually hastened to escape from it ics of our elder American poets from Bryant altogether.
to Taylor and Stoddard. Whitman's faith in
the common people, in democracy strong and ris, Sully Prudhomme, Banville, — often have simple, has gained him world-wide honor. Sub- seemed to compose perfunctorily, not from injective as they are, few poets, in any era or spired impulse. Read“ The Earthly Paradise," country,—and historians will come to recog- that seductive, tranquilizing, prolonged, picnize this clearly,– have been more national turesque rehearsal of the old wonder-tales. Its than our own.
phantasmagoric golden haze, so often passing
into twilight sadness, has veiled the quality of The latest school, with its motto of art for youth in those immortal legends. What is this art's sake, has industriously refined music, color, that Morris fails to capture in his forays upon design, and the invention of forms. But its po- the “ Odyssey,” the “ Decameron,” Chaucer, ets and painters show a kind of self-conscious- the “Gesta Romanorum,” the “ Edda,” the ness in the ostentatious preference of their art “Nibelungen Lied"? Can it never come again? to themselves, even in their prostration at the Has it really passed away? Did it wake for the feet of “ Our Lady of Beauty.” Their motive last time in those lusty octosyllabic romances is so intrusive that the result, although alluring, of the Wizard of the North, such as “Marmion” often smacks of artisanship rather than of free and the “ Lay of the Last Minstrel”? Careand natural art. Their early leaders, such as less, faulty, diffuse as they were, those cantos the young Tennyson and Rossetti in England, were as alive as Scotland herself, and fresh with and Gautier in France, effected a potent, a the same natural genius, disdaining to hoard charming, a sorely needed restoration of the itself, that produced the Waverley novels. If beautiful. But the Laureate has lived to see Scott has had no successor, it is doubtless beanother example of his own saying that a good cause the age has needed none. We have moved fashion may corrupt the world. The French into another plane, not necessarily a lower but Parnassiens, the English-writing Neo-Roman- certainly a different one. ticists, are more constructive than spontaneous, With respect to style, Swinburne is the most and decorative most of all. They have so dif- subjective of contemporary poets, yet he has fused the technic of finished verse that the made notablesuccesses indramaticverse-chief making of it is no more noteworthy than a cer- of all, and earliest, the “ Atalanta in Calydon," tain excellence in piano-playing. They plainly with whose auroral light a new star rose above believe, with Schopenhauer, that “Everything our horizon. Nothing had been comparable to has been sung. Everything has been cursed. its imaginative music since the “ Prometheus There is nothing left for poetry but to be the Unbound," and it surpassed even that — for its glowing forge of words.”
author had Shelley for a predecessor — in mirThis curious, seemingly impersonal poetry, acles of rhythmic melody. The “ Prometheus” composed with set purpose, finds a counterpart surges with its author's appeal from tyranny; in some of the bewildering recent architecture. “Atalanta” is a pure study in the beautiful, as How rarely can we say of the architect and statuesque as if done in Pentelican marble. Its his work,
serene verse, impressive even in the monomet
ric dialogue, its monologues and transcendent He builded better than he knew :
choruses,-conceived in the spirit of Grecian The conscious stone to beauty grew. art, but introducing cadences unknown before,
-all these areof the first order. The human feelThe artist and the builder are too seldom one. ing that we miss in “ Atalanta ” is, on the other The poet just quoted, when on a trip to New hand, a dramatic factor in Swinburne’s Trilogy Hampshire, found a large building going up in of Mary Stuart. But in his most impersopal a country town. “Who is the architect ? " he work his fiery lyrical gift and individuality will said. “Oh, there is n't any architect settled not be suppressed. The noble dramas of Henry upon as yet,” was the reply; “I'm just a-build- Taylor and Hengist Horne are more objective, ing it, you see, and there 's a chap coming but cannot vie with Swinburne's in poetic splenfrom Boston next month to put the archi- dor. Now, as you know, this unrivaled voice is tecture into it.” So it is with a good deal of instantly recognized in his narrative romances, our latter-day verse. It does not rise “like an or in any strophe or stanza of his plenteous odes exhalation.” It is merely the similitude of the and songs. The result is that his vogue has impersonal, and art for the artist's sake rather suffered. His metrical genius is too specific, than for the sake of art. Its one claim to ob- too enthralling, to be over-long endured. Thus jectivity is, in fact, the lack of any style what- the distinctive tone, however beautiful, which ever- except that derived by the rank and file soonest compels attention, as quickly satiates from their study of the chiefs
. It is all in the the public. The subjective poets who restrict fashion, and all done equally well. Even the their fertility, or who die young, are those leaders, true and individual poets as they have whom the world canonizes before their bones been,- Tennyson, Rossetti, Swinburne, Mor- are dust.