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soared upon the philosophy of Epicurus to a delicious humor and fancy, as in “ The Rape proclaim the very nature of things; meditat- of the Lock,” “The Talking Oak,” “Will ing which, as he declared, the terrors of the Waterproof's Lyrical Monologue,” “The Pied mind were dispelled, the walls of the world Piper,” etc. Humor, in the sense of fun, is parted asunder, and he saw things “ in opera- doubtless another lyrical heresy. But humor tion throughout the whole void.” What shall is the overflow of genius,—the humor comwe do with Omar Khayyám, at least with that pounded of mirth and pathos, of smiles and unique paraphrase of his“ Rubaiyát” which has tears,- and in the poems cited, and in Thackimpressed the rarest spirits of our day, and has eray's ballads, it speaks for the universality of so inspired the wondrous pencil of Elihu Ved- the poet's range. While certain notes in excess der, our American Blake? And what of “In are fatal to song, in due subordination they Memoriam"? The flower of Tennyson's prime supply a needful relief, and act as a fillip to the is distinctly also the representative Victorian zest of the listener. poem. It transmits the most characteristic religious thought of our intellectual leaders at The highest wisdom— that of ethics—seems the date of its production. We have no modern closely affiliated with poetic truth. A prosaic work more profound in feeling, more chaste moral is injurious to virtue, by making it rein beauty, and none so rich with the imagi- pulsive. The moment goodness becomes tedi. native philosophy of the higher didacticism. ous and unideal in a work of art, it is not real Browning's precepts, ratiocination, morals, are goodness; the would-be artist, though a very usually the weightier matters of his law. Take saint, has mistaken his form of expression. On from Emerson and Lowell their sage distinc- the other hand, extreme beauty and power in tions, their woof of shrewdest wisdom, and a poem or picture always carry a moral: they you find these so closely interwoven with their are inseparable from a certain ethical standard; warp of beauty that the cloth of gold will be while vice suggests a depravity. Affected conruined. Like Pope and Tennyson, they have viction, affection of any kind, and even sincere the gift of “saying things," and in such wise conviction inartistically set forth, are vices in that they add to the precious currency of themselves—are antagonistic to truth. But the English discourse.
cleverest work, if openly vicious, has no lasting The mention of Pope reminds me that he is force. A meretricious play, after the first rush the traditional exemplar of the didactic heresy, of the baser sort, is soon performed to empty so much so that the question is still mooted boxes. Managers know this to be so, and what whether he was a poet at all. As to this, one is the secret of it? Simply, that to cater to a can give only his own impression, and my ad- sensual taste incessant novelty is required. verse view has somewhat changed - possibly Vice admits of no repose; its votary goes restbecause we grow more sententious with ad- lessly from one pleasure to another. Thus no vancing years. Considering the man with his form of vicious art bears much repetition: it time, I think Pope was a poet: one whose wit satiates without satisfying; besides, any one and reason exceeded his lyrical feeling, but who cares for art at all has some sort of a still a poet of no mean degree. Assuredly he moral standard. He violates it himself, but was a force in his century, and one not even does not care to see it violated in art as if upon then wholly spent. It seems to me that his principle. didacticism was inherent in the stiff, vicious, Anobtrusive moral in poetic form is a fraudon Gallic drum-beat of his artificial style — so its face, and outlawed of art. But that all great falsely called “classical,” so opposed to the poetry is essentially ethical is plain from any true and live method of the antique — rather consideration of Homer, Dante, and the best than in his genius and quality. Looking at the dramatists and lyrists, old and new. Even man, Pope, that fiery, heroic little figure, that Omar, in proud recognition of the immutabil. vital, electric spirit pitiably encaged, - defying ity of the higher powers, chants a song without and conquering his foes, loving, hating, ques- fear if without hope. The pagan Lucretius, tioning, worshiping - I see the poet. I had confronting sublimity, found no cause to fear hoped to say more of him while upon this sub- either the gods or the death that waits for all ject of the didactic, but, fortunately for your things. A glimpse of the knowledge which patience, the limits of a lecture are inexorable. is divine, an approach to the infinite which However, if you care to see how much more makes us confess that “an undevout astrondifference there is in the methods than in the omer is mad,” inspire the “ De Rerum Natura." poetic gifts of certain bards, amuse yourselves The poet sat in the darkness before dawn. by translating Pope, Tennyson, Emerson, He would report no vision which he did not Browning, into one another's measures and see. Like Fitzgerald's Omar he seems to constyles, and you will find the result suggestive. fess, with the epicureanism that after all is but
Three, at least, of these poets have at times inverted stoicism, and with unfaltering truth:
Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh new face. A fashionable diction, tact, taste, the Gate
thought and manner of the season, set them off I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate, bravely; but they soon will be flown with the And many a Knot unravellid by the Road;
birds of last year's nests. Of such are not the And not the Master-knot of Human Fate.
works whose wisdom is imaginative, whether Poetry, in short, as an ethical force, may be the result of intuition or reflection or of both either iconoclastic or constructive, nor dare I combined. These “large utterances" of intelsay that the latter attribute is the greater, for lectual and moral truth show that nothing is imthe site must be cleared before a new edifice possible, no domain is forbidden, to the poet, can be raised. Herein consists the moral in- that no thought or fact is incapable of ideal tegrity of Lucretius and Omar. They rebelled treatment. The bard may proudly forego the against the superstitions of their periods. Bet- office of the lecturer, such as that exercised in ter a self-respecting confession of ignorance, a this discourse, which is by intention didactic waiting for some voice from out the void, than and plainly inferior to any fine example of the a bowing down to stone images or reverence art to which its comment is devoted. Yet the for a false prophet. Critics are still to be found new learning doubtless will inspire more of our who look upon a modern poet—in his lifetime expression in the near future, since never was almost an outlaw - as a splendid lyrical genius man so apt in translation of nature's oracles, gone far astray. Of course I refer to Shelley. and so royally vouchsafed the freedom of her The world is slowly learning that Shelley's of- laboratory, as in this age of physical investigafice was ethical. As an iconoclast, he rebelled tion. Accepting the omen, we make, I say, anagainst tyranny and dogma. His mistakes other claim for the absolute liberty of art. Like were those of poetic youth and temperament, Gaspar Becerra, the artist must work out his and he grew in love, justice, pity, according to vision in the fabric nearest at hand. His theme, his light. He groped in search of some basis his method, shall be his own: always with the for construction, but died in what was still his passion for beauty, always with an instinct for formative period. Yet we see sage and elderly right. No effort to change the natural bent of moralists applying to Shelley the tests of their genius was ever quite successful, though such own mature years and modern enlightenment, an effort often has spoiled a poet altogether. and holding a sensitive and passionate youth This brave freedom alone can breed in a to account as if he were an aged philosopher. poet the catholicity which justifies Keats's Even Matthew Arnold, despite his fine recog- phrase, and insures for his work the fitcoherence nition of that transcendent lyrist, did not quite of beauty and truth. The lover of beauty, in avoid this attitude. Professor Shairp assumed Emerson's “ Each and All,” marvels at the deit altogether. With respect to the poetry of licate shells upon the shore: nature, I can refer you to no more suggestive The bubbles of the latest wave critic, for he was a Wordsworthian, and all his Fresh pearls to their enamel gave; discourse leads up to Wordsworth as the greatest, because the most contemplative, of nine- I wiped away the weeds and foam, teenth-century poets. Otherwise he was an 1 fetched my sea-born treasures home; extreme type of the class which Arnold had in But the poor, unsightly, noisome things mind when he said, “ We must be on our guard Had left their beauty on the shore, against the Wordsworthians, if we want to se
With the sun, and the sand, and the wild uproar. cure for Wordsworth his due rank as a poet." His utter failure to see the force of a blind re
Disappointed, he forswears the pursuit of volt like Shelley's, in the evolution of an ulti: beauty, and declares : mately high morality, was inexcusable. A more
- I covet truth; striking example of faulty criticism could hardly
Beauty is unripe childhood's cheat; be given. Shelley is not to be measured by his
I leave it behind with the games of youth. conduct of life nor by his experimental theories, But, even as he speaks, the ground-pine curls but rather, as Browning estimates him, with its pretty wreath beneath his feet, “ running every allowance for his conditions and by his
over the club-moss burrs ”; he scents the viohighest faculty and attainment.
let's breath, and therewithal But the most thoughtful and extended of Over me soared the eternal sky, rhythmical productions in the purely didactic
Full of light and deity; method is of less worth, taken as poetry, than any lyrical trifle - an English song or Irish lilt,
Beauty through my senses stole ; it may be — that is spontaneous and has qual
I yielded myself to the perfect whole. ity. The disguises of the commonplace are end- This recognition, at which the idealist arrives, less; we are always meeting the old foe with a of the intertransmutations of beauty and truth,
is a kind of natural piety, and renders the la- This is the way in Arcadia, and it has its pains bor of the poet or other“ artist of the beauti. and charm - as I well know, having journeyed ful” a proper form of worship. His heart tells many seasons in that happy-go-lucky land of him that this is so: it is lightest when he has sun and shower, and still holding a key to one worked at his craft with diligence and accom- of its entrance-gates. Its citizenship is not to plishment; it is light with a happiness which be shaken off, even though one becomes natthe religious say one can know only by expe- uralized elsewhere. rience. The piety of his labor is not yet suffi- Now the artist not only has a right, but it ciently comprehended; even the poet, having is his duty, to indulge an anthropomorphism listened all his life to other tests of sanctifica- of his own. In his conception the divine power tion, often mistrusts his own conscience, looks must be the supreme poet, the matchless arupon himself as out of the fold, and is sure only tist, not only the transcendency but the immathat he must“gang his ain gait,” however much nence of all that is adorable in thought, feeling, he suffers for it in this world or some other. and appearance. Grant that the Creator is the
Thus a dividing line has been drawn from founder of rites and institutes and dignities; time immemorial betwixt the conventional and yet for the idealist he conceived the sunrise the natural worshipers, betwixt the stately king- and moonrise, the sounds that ravish, the outdom of Philistia and the wilding vales and lines that enchant and sway. He sets the colcopses of that Arcadia which some geographers ors upon the easel, the harp and viol are his have named Bohemia. The mistake of the Ar- invention, he is the model and the clay, his cadian is that he virtually accepts a standard voice is in the story and the song. The love not of his own establishment; he is impressed and the beauty of woman, the comradeship of by a traditional conception of his Maker, re- man, the joy of student-life, the mimic life of gards it as fixed, will have none of it, and the drama as much as the tragedy and comedy sheers off defiantly. If rich and his own mas- of the living world, have their sources in his ter, he becomes a pagan virtuoso. If one of the nature; nor only gravity and knowledge, but struggling children of art and toil, then, also irony and wit and mirth. Arcady is a garLoving Beauty, and by chance
den of his devising. As far as the poet, the Too poor to make her all in all,
artist, is creative, he becomes a sharer of the He spurns her half-way maintenance, divine imagination and power, and even of And lets things mingle as they fall.
the divine responsibility.
Edmund Clarence Stedman,
HE centenary of Shelley's birth his worth did not lie wholly in his charm. In
will be duly observed with pub- terest in his life may become degraded into ig-
that sheltered him and now portant part of justice done to the dead; but it is guards his grave, both equally his home in the not thus that Shelley would wish to be judged. eyes of the world; but in the private thoughts Chaucer's question, “ How shall the world be of many single lives the day of his birth will be served ? ” was the alpha and omega of his life. silently remembered with tenderness, with grati. It inspired his youthful prose; as his faculties tude, and with a renewal of faith in the things grew and the poet emerged from the thinker, in which he believed. Personal devotion must it governed the most intense expression of his naturally enter into these feelings, for such days soul in manhood; it absorbed him, as he him. are to commemorate a life, and they bring the self said, with that passion for reforming the man back with peculiar power. To win un- world which was elemental in his genius. It is known friends, age after age, is a privilege of true that the artistic and the practical instincts the poet; it is his reward — the greater because in him worked together imperfectly, and that at it can touch him no more — for the open trust times of despair he fell back upon himself
, pure in mankind with which he confides, to whoso- poet, pouring his heart out in lyrical effusion, ever will, the secret things of his spirit. Yet, to with cadences of pain that fill our eyes with make a poet's personality the main element in tears — the “ idle tears,” too often, of self-pity. his memory, if he be really great, confines his But he took heart again, and returned, though fame too narrowly. Attractive as Shelley was, always more wearied, to the large interests of the race. He believed that man is the poet's far was Shelley prophetic of the time to come, muse; at the height of his aspiration, singing and an element in its coming ? with the skylark, he still remembered that the poet's “unbidden hymns” are the means by The spirit of discontent has been a presidwhich the world shall be wrought to sympathies ing genius in literature since the reflective life with unheeded hopes and fears; in the depth of of man began. The imaginative creation of his dejection he still prayed that the wind might ideal commonwealths marks its conquest of blow abroad the poet's words, “as from an un- political thought, and the dream of the golden extinguished hearth ashes and sparks,” to be an age its victory in poetry. So long is it since the enkindling prophecy throughout the world - inspiration that governed Shelley has been ac“my words among mankind.” What he believed tive in minds like his own. The “ Republic” true poets are he told in a familiar passage of of Plato, however, and that eclogue of the his prose—“the hierophants of an unappre- young Virgil which won for him a place among hended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic the prophets of Christ, though they are the shadows which futurity casts upon the present; highest reach of literature in such expression, the words which express what they understand are negative; they condemn what is, by a ponot; the trumpets that sing to battle and feel not etic escape into a world that should be. With what they inspire; the influence which is moved the rise of democracy the positive expression of not, but moves.
discontent, in those parts of literature which One hundred years have passed since he was reflect the life of society as distinguished from born, and two generations have been buried individual life, has become more direct, comsince his ashes were laid by the Roman wall. prehensive, and telling. In the last century, in It is reasonable to ask whether he had any particular, the world was coming to a consciousshare in this prophetic power, brooding on ness of its own misery. The state of man was things to come, which is the mystical endow- never more bitterly set forth than by Swift, nor ment of poetic genius; whether he anticipated more drearily than by Johnson. Comfortable time in those far thoughts forecasting hope, and self-satisfied as that century is often dewhich he declared to be the substance of poetic scribed, it was the dark soil in which the seeds intuition; whether he be one of those who, in of time were germinating. It ended in dry skephis own phrase, rule our spirits from their urns, ticism, cold rationalism, and finally in that utiliwith power still vital in the chaotic thought and tarian preoccupation of the mind which was a striving of mankind. “Poets,” he said, conclud- European mood. ing the impassioned words just quoted,“ are the The first effort toward better things, as is apt unacknowledged legislators of the world." If to be the case, was political. The Revolution the phrase seems the mere enthusiasm of elo- broke. The hopefulness of that time, when in quence, yet so opposite a mind as Johnson's the year of Shelley's birth Wordsworth said, ratifies it. “ He," said the old doctor concern-“'T was bliss to be alive, but to be young was ing the poet,“ must write as the interpreter of very heaven," is perhaps that one of its phases nature and the legislator of mankind, and con- which is now realized with most difficulty. It sider himself as presiding over the thoughts and reminds one of the faith of the early Church in manners of future generations.” To leave, then, the immediate coming of the reign of Christ Shelley's charm, his character, and all his pri- on earth. When Shelley began to think and vate life, which the world well knows; to leave feel, and became a living soul, the first flush of analysis and criticism, since any occasion will dawn had gone by; but the same hopefulness serve for such examination of the propriety of sprang up in him, it was invincible, and it his moral method in poetry, and its beneficial or made him the poet of the Revolution, of which injurious effects upon his work, of the truth of he was the child. So far as the Revolution was his imagination and of its nearness or remote- speculative or moral, he reflected it completely. ness in human interest and reality, of his art, the Its commonplaces were burning truths in his speed and exaltation of his luminous eloquence, heart; its ferment was his own intellectual life; the piercing tone of his lyrical song — to leave its confusions, its simplicities, its misapprehensuch matters, I say, of merely personal or lit- sions of the laws of social change, were a part erary concern, what has the century past dis- of himself. It would be wrong to ascribe the closed in regard to Shelley's sympathies with crudities of Shelley's thought merely to his imthe next ages, and the vitality of his energy in mature and boyish development: they belonged the forces that advance mankind ? The in- quite as much to the youth of the cause; he fluences that blend in progress are many and received what he was taught in the form in various; the foreknowledge of the most clear- which his masters held it. The ease with which sighted is vague and doubtful, and the wisest genius thrives upon any food, and turns all to contributes only his portion to the great result. use, might be astonishing were it not so comBut, this being allowed. in what sense and how monly to be observed; but its transformations
are sometimes bewildering. Like fire from hea- scribed, “ heavy as frost and deep almost as ven Shelley's genius fell upon the dry bones of life”; the venom of intolerance, the foe against rationalism, and they rose up, a spirit of beauty which Locke had armed him; the supremacy of and of power. It was the same change that force, if it be invoked, in which the long history took place when philosophy went out into the of tyranny had instructed him- these stood in streets of Paris, and in the twinkling of an eye his way, and only his own indignant verse can was made a flaming mænad. It was the wand express the violence of the hatred and conof the Revolution touching the soul of man. tempt they excited in his breast. Shelley was, in truth, in the whirl of forces which What were the tenets that had so involved he only half understood, vaster than he knew, him in opposition to the social opinion of his with destinies dimly adumbrated in his own own country that he went into voluntary exspirit, like the poet of his own eloquent descrip- ile? His atheism stands first because it caused tion. The Revolution was, in Gray's phrase, his expulsion from Oxford. What was this athe“the Mighty Mother” of this child; she showed ism in substance? He had conceived the dihim the world-old vision of the Saturnian reign vine power in terms of the historic Jehovah, that has ever hung over Italy, yet more fair than and its relation to man under the Christian the fairest of all our lands; she set him in the dispensation in terms of the legal definitions of footprints of Plato; and she filled his heart with an obsolescent theology; nor can it be gainsaid many hatreds.
that these notions coincided with the ideas The principles and remedies which Shelley then prevalent, but not realized with the same adopted were of the utmost simplicity. Prin- distinctness in the moral consciousness of those ciples and remedies must be simple in order to who held them as in Shelley's. When he began be capable of wide application in the reform to think, this conception was antagonized in two of society. He was not an original thinker. ways. In the first instance he acquired some He had the enormous receptive and assimi- rudimentary metaphysics, and it became neceslative power which characterizes high geni- sary to reconcile an anthropomorphic concepus, and he made it his function to give lofty tion of deity with a philosophical definition. In and winning expression to the ideas that he the second instance he developed an ideal of felt to be of ennobling and beneficent power goodness, and it became necessary to reconcile over men. He had also a strongly practical the divine virtue, as shown in the same historic temperament; he wished to apply ideas as conception of deity, with the voice of his own well as to express them, and in his own life he conscience. He took the short and easy, but was always restlessly doing what he thought, natural method, and denied the truth of the linking the word with an act, carrying convic- original conception. The metaphysical diffition to the extreme issue of duty performed. culty, however little it may vex mature minds, It was this union of the practical and specula- was a real one to him; and in connection with tive instincts, each highly developed, which, it Newman's statement may profitably be reunder the breath of his poetic nature, made called, that no question is hedged about with his sympathies with reform so intense that he more difficulties than the being of God. The might well describe them as a passion. Yet his moral difficulty, also, was a real one; and Robpolitical, social, and religious beliefs were no- ertson, whose Christian faith and sincerity none thing unusual. They have been called super- can doubt, was right in defending Shelley's deficial; but they were so, in the main, in no cision and saying, “ Change the name, and I other sense than are the principles of democ- will bid that character defiance with you.” This racy, philanthropy, and intellectual liberty. was Shelley's atheism-on the one hand, a philThey were the simple truths whose acceptance osophical definition, and, on the other, the huby the world goes on so slowly. He adopted manizing of a pre-Christian and medieval idea the right of private judgment, and with it the of God in accordance with that moral enlightright of the individual to put his beliefs in ac- enment which Christianity itself has spread tion; the first discredited for him the excel- through the world. Shelley expressed his denial lence of the existing order, and brought him in terms of blasphemy, as the words were then quickly into conflict with prevailing opinion; understood; but the “almighty fiend” whom the second, in its turn, occasioned a more se- he denounced was as much an idol as Dagon rious collision with that existing order itself, or Moloch. which met him in the form of custom, intoler- What has the issue been? The conception ance, and force. These three things he hated, which Shelley attacked with such vehemence because he hated most of all injustice, of which no longer finds a voice in public discussion. they were the triple heads. In all this he had It is as dumb as the ideas which once sugthe ordinary fortune of the revolutionist. He gested such picturesquely lurid titles to the serwas face to face with the enemy. The power of mons under which our fathers trembled and custom in society, which Wordsworth had de- transgressed. To-day the philosophical defini