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