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soared upon the philosophy of Epicurus to proclaim the very nature of things; meditating which, as he declared, the terrors of the mind were dispelled, the walls of the world parted asunder, and he saw things "in operation throughout the whole void." What shall we do with Omar Khayyám, at least with that unique paraphrase of his " Rubáiyát" which has impressed the rarest spirits of our day, and has so inspired the wondrous pencil of Elihu Vedder, our American Blake? And what of "In Memoriam"? The flower of Tennyson's prime is distinctly also the representative Victorian poem. It transmits the most characteristic religious thought of our intellectual leaders at the date of its production. We have no modern work more profound in feeling, more chaste in beauty, and none so rich with the imaginative philosophy of the higher didacticism. Browning's precepts, ratiocination, morals, are usually the weightier matters of his law. Take from Emerson and Lowell their sage distinctions, their woof of shrewdest wisdom, and you find these so closely interwoven with their warp of beauty that the cloth of gold will be ruined. Like Pope and Tennyson, they have the gift of "saying things," and in such wise that they add to the precious currency of English discourse.
The mention of Pope reminds me that he is the traditional exemplar of the didactic heresy, so much so that the question is still mooted whether he was a poet at all. As to this, one can give only his own impression, and my adverse view has somewhat changed-possibly because we grow more sententious with advancing years. Considering the man with his time, I think Pope was a poet: one whose wit and reason exceeded his lyrical feeling, but still a poet of no mean degree. Assuredly he was a force in his century, and one not even then wholly spent. It seems to me that his didacticism was inherent in the stiff, vicious, Gallic drum-beat of his artificial style-so falsely called "classical," so opposed to the true and live method of the antique- rather than in his genius and quality. Looking at the man, Pope, that fiery, heroic little figure, that vital, electric spirit pitiably encaged,-defying and conquering his foes, loving, hating, questioning, worshiping,- I see the poet. I had hoped to say more of him while upon this subject of the didactic, but, fortunately for your patience, the limits of a lecture are inexorable. However, if you care to see how much more difference there is in the methods than in the poetic gifts of certain bards, amuse yourselves by translating Pope, Tennyson, Emerson, Browning, into one another's measures and styles, and you will find the result suggestive. Three, at least, of these poets have at times
a delicious humor and fancy, as in "The Rape of the Lock," "The Talking Oak," "Will Waterproof's Lyrical Monologue," "The Pied Piper," etc. Humor, in the sense of fun, is doubtless another lyrical heresy. But humor is the overflow of genius,-the humor compounded of mirth and pathos, of smiles and tears, and in the poems cited, and in Thackeray's ballads, it speaks for the universality of the poet's range. While certain notes in excess are fatal to song, in due subordination they supply a needful relief, and act as a fillip to the zest of the listener.
THE highest wisdom-that of ethics-seems closely affiliated with poetic truth. A prosaic moral is injurious to virtue, by making it repulsive. The moment goodness becomes tedious and unideal in a work of art, it is not real goodness; the would-be artist, though a very saint, has mistaken his form of expression. On the other hand, extreme beauty and power in a poem or picture always carry a moral: they are inseparable from a certain ethical standard; while vice suggests a depravity. Affected conviction, affection of any kind, and even sincere conviction inartistically set forth, are vices in themselves-are antagonistic to truth. But the cleverest work, if openly vicious, has no lasting force. A meretricious play, after the first rush of the baser sort, is soon performed to empty boxes. Managers know this to be so, and what is the secret of it? Simply, that to cater to a sensual taste incessant novelty is required. Vice admits of no repose; its votary goes restlessly from one pleasure to another. Thus no form of vicious art bears much repetition: it satiates without satisfying; besides, any one who cares for art at all has some sort of a moral standard. He violates it himself, but does not care to see it violated in art as if upon principle.
An obtrusive moral in poetic form is a fraud on its face, and outlawed of art. But that all great poetry is essentially ethical is plain from any consideration of Homer, Dante, and the best dramatists and lyrists, old and new. Even Omar, in proud recognition of the immutability of the higher powers, chants a song without fear if without hope. The pagan Lucretius, confronting sublimity, found no cause to fear either the gods or the death that waits for all things. A glimpse of the knowledge which is divine, an approach to the infinite which makes us confess that "an undevout astronomer is mad," inspire the "De Rerum Natura." The poet sat in the darkness before dawn. He would report no vision which he did not see. Like Fitzgerald's Omar he seems to confess, with the epicureanism that after all is but inverted stoicism, and with unfaltering truth:
Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh new face. A fashionable diction, tact, taste, the Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,
And many a Knot unravell'd by the Road; And not the Master-knot of Human Fate.
Poetry, in short, as an ethical force, may be either iconoclastic or constructive, nor dare I say that the latter attribute is the greater, for the site must be cleared before a new edifice can be raised. Herein consists the moral integrity of Lucretius and Omar. They rebelled against the superstitions of their periods. Better a self-respecting confession of ignorance, a waiting for some voice from out the void, than a bowing down to stone images or reverence for a false prophet. Critics are still to be found who look upon a modern poet-in his lifetime almost an outlaw —as a splendid lyrical genius gone far astray. Of course I refer to Shelley. The world is slowly learning that Shelley's of fice was ethical. As an iconoclast, he rebelled against tyranny and dogma. His mistakes were those of poetic youth and temperament, and he grew in love, justice, pity, according to his light. He groped in search of some basis for construction, but died in what was still his formative period. Yet we see sage and elderly moralists applying to Shelley the tests of their own mature years and modern enlightenment, and holding a sensitive and passionate youth to account as if he were an aged philosopher. Even Matthew Arnold, despite his fine recognition of that transcendent lyrist, did not quite avoid this attitude. Professor Shairp assumed it altogether. With respect to the poetry of nature, I can refer you to no more suggestive critic, for he was a Wordsworthian, and all his discourse leads up to Wordsworth as the greatest, because the most contemplative, of nineteenth-century poets. Otherwise he was an extreme type of the class which Arnold had in mind when he said, "We must be on our guard against the Wordsworthians, if we want to secure for Wordsworth his due rank as a poet." His utter failure to see the force of a blind revolt like Shelley's, in the evolution of an ultimately high morality, was inexcusable. A more striking example of faulty criticism could hardly be given. Shelley is not to be measured by his conduct of life nor by his experimental theories, but rather, as Browning estimates him, with every allowance for his conditions and by his highest faculty and attainment.
BUT the most thoughtful and extended of rhythmical productions in the purely didactic method is of less worth, taken as poetry, than any lyrical trifle-an English song or Irish lilt, it may be that is spontaneous and has quality. The disguises of the commonplace are endless; we are always meeting the old foe with a
thought and manner of the season, set them off bravely; but they soon will be flown with the birds of last year's nests. Of such are not the works whose wisdom is imaginative, whether the result of intuition or reflection or of both combined. These "large utterances" of intellectual and moral truth show that nothing is impossible, no domain is forbidden, to the poet, that no thought or fact is incapable of ideal treatment. The bard may proudly forego the office of the lecturer, such as that exercised in this discourse, which is by intention didactic and plainly inferior to any fine example of the art to which its comment is devoted. Yet the new learning doubtless will inspire more of our expression in the near future, since never was man so apt in translation of nature's oracles, and so royally vouchsafed the freedom of her laboratory, as in this age of physical investigation. Accepting the omen, we make, I say, another claim for the absolute liberty of art. Like Gaspar Becerra, the artist must work out his vision in the fabric nearest at hand. His theme, his method, shall be his own: always with the passion for beauty, always with an instinct for right. No effort to change the natural bent of genius was ever quite successful, though such an effort often has spoiled a poet altogether.
This brave freedom alone can breed in a poet the catholicity which justifies Keats's phrase, and insures for his work the fit coherence of beauty and truth. The lover of beauty, in Emerson's" Each and All," marvels at the delicate shells upon the shore: The bubbles of the latest wave Fresh pearls to their enamel gave;
I wiped away the weeds and foam,
Disappointed, he forswears the pursuit of beauty, and declares:
I covet truth;
I leave it behind with the games of youth. But, even as he speaks, the ground-pine curls its pretty wreath beneath his feet, "running over the club-moss burrs"; he scents the violet's breath, and therewithal
Over me soared the eternal sky,
is a kind of natural piety, and renders the labor of the poet or other "artist of the beautiful" a proper form of worship. His heart tells him that this is so it is lightest when he has worked at his craft with diligence and accomplishment; it is light with a happiness which the religious say one can know only by experience. The piety of his labor is not yet sufficiently comprehended; even the poet, having listened all his life to other tests of sanctification, often mistrusts his own conscience, looks upon himself as out of the fold, and is sure only that he must "gang his ain gait," however much he suffers for it in this world or some other.
Thus a dividing line has been drawn from time immemorial betwixt the conventional and the natural worshipers, betwixt the stately kingdom of Philistia and the wilding vales and copses of that Arcadia which some geographers have named Bohemia. The mistake of the Arcadian is that he virtually accepts a standard not of his own establishment; he is impressed by a traditional conception of his Maker, regards it as fixed, will have none of it, and sheers off defiantly. If rich and his own master, he becomes a pagan virtuoso. If one of the struggling children of art and toil, then,
Loving Beauty, and by chance
This is the way in Arcadia, and it has its pains and charm-as I well know, having journeyed many seasons in that happy-go-lucky land of sun and shower, and still holding a key to one of its entrance-gates. Its citizenship is not to be shaken off, even though one becomes naturalized elsewhere.
Now the artist not only has a right, but it is his duty, to indulge an anthropomorphism of his own. In his conception the divine power must be the supreme poet, the matchless artist, not only the transcendency but the immanence of all that is adorable in thought, feeling, and appearance. Grant that the Creator is the founder of rites and institutes and dignities; yet for the idealist he conceived the sunrise and moonrise, the sounds that ravish, the outlines that enchant and sway. He sets the colors upon the easel, the harp and viol are his invention, he is the model and the clay, his voice is in the story and the song. The love and the beauty of woman, the comradeship of man, the joy of student-life, the mimic life of the drama as much as the tragedy and comedy of the living world, have their sources in his nature; nor only gravity and knowledge, but also irony and wit and mirth. Arcady is a garden of his devising. As far as the poet, the artist, is creative, he becomes a sharer of the divine imagination and power, and even of the divine responsibility.
Edmund Clarence Stedman.
HE centenary of Shelley's birth will be duly observed with public ceremonies in England and Italy-the land that bore him and drove him forth, and the land that sheltered him and now guards his grave, both equally his home in the eyes of the world; but in the private thoughts of many single lives the day of his birth will be silently remembered with tenderness, with gratitude, and with a renewal of faith in the things in which he believed. Personal devotion must naturally enter into these feelings, for such days are to commemorate a life, and they bring the man back with peculiar power. To win unknown friends, age after age, is a privilege of the poet; it is his reward-the greater because it can touch him no more-for the open trust in mankind with which he confides, to whosoever will, the secret things of his spirit. Yet, to make a poet's personality the main element in his memory, if he be really great, confines his fame too narrowly. Attractive as Shelley was,
his worth did not lie wholly in his charm. Interest in his life may become degraded into ignoble curiosity, and, at the best, love's gift is less weighty than reason's award.
Recognition of noble human traits is an important part of justice done to the dead; but it is not thus that Shelley would wish to be judged. Chaucer's question, "How shall the world be served?" was the alpha and omega of his life. It inspired his youthful prose; as his faculties grew and the poet emerged from the thinker, it governed the most intense expression of his soul in manhood; it absorbed him, as he him. self said, with that passion for reforming the world which was elemental in his genius. It is true that the artistic and the practical instincts in him worked together imperfectly, and that at times of despair he fell back upon himself, pure poet, pouring his heart out in lyrical effusion, with cadences of pain that fill our eyes with tears-the "idle tears," too often, of self-pity. But he took heart again, and returned, though always more wearied, to the large interests of
the race. He believed that man is the poet's muse; at the height of his aspiration, singing with the skylark, he still remembered that the poet's "unbidden hymns" are the means by which the world shall be wrought to sympathies with unheeded hopes and fears; in the depth of his dejection he still prayed that the wind might blow abroad the poet's words, " as from an unextinguished hearth ashes and sparks," to be an enkindling prophecy throughout the world"my words among mankind." What he believed true poets are he told in a familiar passage of his prose-"the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets that sing to battle and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves."
One hundred years have passed since he was born, and two generations have been buried since his ashes were laid by the Roman wall. It is reasonable to ask whether he had any share in this prophetic power, brooding on things to come, which is the mystical endowment of poetic genius; whether he anticipated time in those far thoughts forecasting hope, which he declared to be the substance of poetic intuition; whether he be one of those who, in his own phrase, rule our spirits from their urns, with power still vital in the chaotic thought and striving of mankind. "Poets," he said, concluding the impassioned words just quoted, "are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." If the phrase seems the mere enthusiasm of eloquence, yet so opposite a mind as Johnson's ratifies it. "He," said the old doctor concerning the poet, "must write as the interpreter of nature and the legislator of mankind, and consider himself as presiding over the thoughts and manners of future generations." To leave, then, Shelley's charm, his character, and all his private life, which the world well knows; to leave analysis and criticism, since any occasion will serve for such examination of the propriety of his moral method in poetry, and its beneficial or injurious effects upon his work, of the truth of his imagination and of its nearness or remoteness in human interest and reality, of his art, the speed and exaltation of his luminous eloquence, the piercing tone of his lyrical song-to leave such matters, I say, of merely personal or literary concern, what has the century past disclosed in regard to Shelley's sympathies with the next ages, and the vitality of his energy in the forces that advance mankind? The influences that blend in progress are many and various; the foreknowledge of the most clearsighted is vague and doubtful, and the wisest contributes only his portion to the great result. But, this being allowed. in what sense and how
far was Shelley prophetic of the time to come, and an element in its coming?
THE spirit of discontent has been a presiding genius in literature since the reflective life of man began. The imaginative creation of ideal commonwealths marks its conquest of political thought, and the dream of the golden age its victory in poetry. So long is it since the inspiration that governed Shelley has been active in minds like his own. The "Republic" of Plato, however, and that eclogue of the young Virgil which won for him a place among the prophets of Christ, though they are the highest reach of literature in such expression, are negative; they condemn what is, by a poetic escape into a world that should be. With the rise of democracy the positive expression of discontent, in those parts of literature which reflect the life of society as distinguished from individual life, has become more direct, comprehensive, and telling. In the last century, in particular, the world was coming to a consciousness of its own misery. The state of man was never more bitterly set forth than by Swift, nor more drearily than by Johnson. Comfortable and self-satisfied as that century is often described, it was the dark soil in which the seeds of time were germinating. It ended in dry skepticism, cold rationalism, and finally in that utilitarian preoccupation of the mind which was a European mood.
The first effort toward better things, as is apt to be the case, was political. The Revolution broke. The hopefulness of that time, when in the year of Shelley's birth Wordsworth said, ""T was bliss to be alive, but to be young was very heaven," is perhaps that one of its phases which is now realized with most difficulty. It reminds one of the faith of the early Church in the immediate coming of the reign of Christ on earth. When Shelley began to think and feel, and became a living soul, the first flush of dawn had gone by; but the same hopefulness sprang up in him, it was invincible, and it made him the poet of the Revolution, of which he was the child. So far as the Revolution was speculative or moral, he reflected it completely. Its commonplaces were burning truths in his heart; its ferment was his own intellectual life; its confusions, its simplicities, its misapprehensions of the laws of social change, were a part of himself. It would be wrong to ascribe the crudities of Shelley's thought merely to his immature and boyish development: they belonged quite as much to the youth of the cause; he received what he was taught in the form in which his masters held it. The ease with which genius thrives upon any food, and turns all to use, might be astonishing were it not so commonly to be observed; but its transformations
are sometimes bewildering. Like fire from heaven Shelley's genius fell upon the dry bones of rationalism, and they rose up, a spirit of beauty and of power. It was the same change that took place when philosophy went out into the streets of Paris, and in the twinkling of an eye was made a flaming mænad. It was the wand of the Revolution touching the soul of man. Shelley was, in truth, in the whirl of forces which he only half understood, vaster than he knew, with destinies dimly adumbrated in his own spirit, like the poet of his own eloquent description. The Revolution was, in Gray's phrase, "the Mighty Mother" of this child; she showed him the world-old vision of the Saturnian reign that has ever hung over Italy, yet more fair than the fairest of all our lands; she set him in the footprints of Plato; and she filled his heart with many hatreds.
The principles and remedies which Shelley adopted were of the utmost simplicity. Principles and remedies must be simple in order to be capable of wide application in the reform of society. He was not an original thinker. He had the enormous receptive and assimilative power which characterizes high genius, and he made it his function to give lofty and winning expression to the ideas that he felt to be of ennobling and beneficent power over men. He had also a strongly practical temperament; he wished to apply ideas as well as to express them, and in his own life he was always restlessly doing what he thought, linking the word with an act, carrying conviction to the extreme issue of duty performed. It was this union of the practical and speculative instincts, each highly developed, which, under the breath of his poetic nature, made his sympathies with reform so intense that he might well describe them as a passion. Yet his political, social, and religious beliefs were nothing unusual. They have been called superficial; but they were so, in the main, in no other sense than are the principles of democracy, philanthropy, and intellectual liberty. They were the simple truths whose acceptance by the world goes on so slowly. He adopted the right of private judgment, and with it the right of the individual to put his beliefs in action; the first discredited for him the excellence of the existing order, and brought him quickly into conflict with prevailing opinion; the second, in its turn, occasioned a more serious collision with that existing order itself, which met him in the form of custom, intolerance, and force. These three things he hated, because he hated most of all injustice, of which they were the triple heads. In all this he had the ordinary fortune of the revolutionist. He was face to face with the enemy. The power of custom in society, which Wordsworth had de
scribed, "heavy as frost and deep almost as life"; the venom of intolerance, the foe against which Locke had armed him; the supremacy of force, if it be invoked, in which the long history of tyranny had instructed him- these stood in his way, and only his own indignant verse can express the violence of the hatred and contempt they excited in his breast.
What were the tenets that had so involved him in opposition to the social opinion of his own country that he went into voluntary exile? His atheism stands first because it caused his expulsion from Oxford. What was this atheism in substance? He had conceived the divine power in terms of the historic Jehovah, and its relation to man under the Christian dispensation in terms of the legal definitions of an obsolescent theology; nor can it be gainsaid that these notions coincided with the ideas then prevalent, but not realized with the same distinctness in the moral consciousness of those who held them as in Shelley's. When he began to think, this conception was antagonized in two ways. In the first instance he acquired some rudimentary metaphysics, and it became necessary to reconcile an anthropomorphic conception of deity with a philosophical definition. In the second instance he developed an ideal of goodness, and it became necessary to reconcile the divine virtue, as shown in the same historic conception of deity, with the voice of his own conscience. He took the short and easy, but natural method, and denied the truth of the original conception. The metaphysical difficulty, however little it may vex mature minds, was a real one to him; and in connection with it Newman's statement may profitably be recalled, that no question is hedged about with more difficulties than the being of God. The moral difficulty, also, was a real one; and Robertson, whose Christian faith and sincerity none can doubt, was right in defending Shelley's decision and saying, "Change the name, and I will bid that character defiance with you." This was Shelley's atheism-on the one hand, a philosophical definition, and, on the other, the humanizing of a pre-Christian and medieval idea of God in accordance with that moral enlightenment which Christianity itself has spread through the world. Shelley expressed his denial in terms of blasphemy, as the words were then understood; but the "almighty fiend" whom he denounced was as much an idol as Dagon or Moloch.
What has the issue been? The conception which Shelley attacked with such vehemence no longer finds a voice in public discussion. It is as dumb as the ideas which once suggested such picturesquely lurid titles to the sermons under which our fathers trembled and transgressed. To-day the philosophical defini