« AnkstesnisTęsti »
Regained" might well give place to the invocation | to light which opens the third book of "Paradise Lost," the noblest single passage in Milton. Altogether too much space is given to Cowley's tedious affectations. Professor Goldwin Smith is to be com. mended for sparing us Marvell's satires, but "The Nymph's Complaint on the Death of Her Fawn" would have been much better than "Young Love," or the labored conceits of "A Drop of Dew." Roscommon and Mrs. Behn occupy little space, but we fail to see why they should occupy any. Mr. E. W. Gosse's selections from Herrick are about perfect, and his introduction to that charming lyrist is a masterly piece of criticism. Indeed, all of Mr. Gosse's contributions are of the highest value.
In the third volume (Addison to Blake) and the fourth (Wordsworth to Sydney Dobell), there is less to criticise. It was probably from a regard to symmetry in the make-up of the series that, by a "Procrustean system of lopping and stretching," the eighteenth century is made to fill one of these vol. umes, and the nineteenth is crowded into the other. Were there really forty-four poets in the last century and only thirty-five in this? The selections in the third volume from Walsh, Garth, Philips, Armstrong, Somerville, Green, Blair, Byrom, Glover, Whitehead, Smart, and Churchill, are padding. The only poem of Byrom's by which he is knownthe fable of "The Three Black Crows"-is omitted. If anything of Akenside's had to be given it should have been his "Ode to Ambition,"-much the best thing he ever wrote. Prior and Gay are appropri ately given to Mr. Austin Dobson, as are also Hood and Praed in volume iv., and he writes of them with the sympathy of a critic who is likewise himself the author of charming society verses. The Rev. Mark Pattison says the orthodox things about Pope. Mr. Gosse performs a piece of literary restoration in his appreciative notice of Lady Winchelsea, concerning whom our curiosity was long ago aroused by Wordsworth's mention of her "Nocturnal Reverie" in the famous preface to the "Lyrical Ballads." Mr. Gosse may also be said to have rediscovered Parnell, the Irish poet, whose ballad, "The Hermit," was already familiar, but whose less-known "Hymn to Contentment" and "Night-Piece on Death" his critic judges to have more of real inspiration.
The reader will turn most expectantly, however, to Mr. Swinburne's introduction to Collins, and the article following, on Gray, by Mr. Matthew Arnold. Mr. Arnold's little essay on Gray is written in his usual style of grave, chaste thoughtfulness, and is—as anything of the kind from his pen is sure to be-a delightful addition to our critical literature. Mr. Swinburne, on the other hand, expresses himself in that hysterical prose of his which is so offensive to a manly taste. And yet, in this instance, his instincts seem to us truer than Mr. Arnold's critical tests. We join with the former in thinking Collins greatly superior as a lyrist to Gray, and in setting Gray's "Elegy" far above his odes. Mr. Arnold, on the contrary, agrees with the poet's own opinion, that the Elegy" was inferior to some of his other poems. But, pace Mr. Arnold, Mr. Swinburne is certainly
right in his judgment that Gray's genius was nat urally of elegiac, rather than lyric, quality. We believe that most readers have long felt a sneaking sympathy with Dr. Johnson's dislike for the frigid, artificial devices of "The Bard," and "The Progress of Poesy." The Pindaric ode in English is a very sickly exotic at best, and barely tolerable in Dryden's "Alexander's Feast," or Collins's "Passions." The editor takes Cowper, and writes of him with discrimination; but, in fifty pages of selections, room might have surely been found for "John Gilpin's Ride." Dr. Service's somewhat heavy article on Burns reminds one that, in spite of the poet's dying request, the awkward squad are not yet done firing over him. It reminds one, too, by its plea for a cosmopolitan standing for Burns among the "world-poets," that the great Scotchman still remains, as an English poet, undoubtedly provincial. Whether this is due to the laziness of the general reader, to whom the dialect offers a barrier, or to the lack of the highest intellectual element in his poetry, the fact exists that in most expressions of admiration for Burns by Englishmen, there is a grain of hypocrisy. Among the extracts from William Blake,-who, with all his force and imag. ination, is sometimes insipid and sometimes incomprehensible,—we should have been glad to see the sweet little poem beginning
"My mother bore me in the southern wild," etc. Mr. W. Theodore Watts is permitted to cover a dozen pages with specimens of Chatterton's forgeries, and to occupy nearly as many more with an essay on Chatterton which we cannot help calling sheer nonsense. He pronounces, . g., the very valueless "Ballad of Charity" "the most purely artistic work perhaps of his time."
In the fourth volume, the place of honor is rightly given to Wordsworth, to whom the Dean of St.
Paul's contributes an excellent introduction. Selection here becomes difficult, of course, from the abundance of material. Dean Church might, however, have strained a point to admit "The LeechGatherer," and the powerful ballad of "The Thorn," and among the sonnets the favorite one on Venice:
"Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee," etc,
Mr. Pater's subtle analysis of the characteristics of Coleridge's genius could hardly be bettered; nor could his selections, unless, perhaps, by the addition of "Youth and Age." Sir Henry Taylor writes affectionately, but most mistakenly, of Southey, and says of him, inter alia, that, " of all his contemporaries, he was the greatest man! "He pestered me with Southey," says Mr. Emerson of Wordsworth, "but who is Southey?" And, in truth, Southey, as a poet, is already the deadest of things dead. Nothing can be more mechanical, factitious, every way uninspired than his big Thalabas and Curse-of-Kehamas, and the wonder is that he was ever taken for a poet by his contemporaries. The selections from Walter Scott are not altogether such as we would have made. We would have included,
in place of some of those given, "The Pibroch of Donald Dhu," "Proud Maisie is in the Wood," "Jock, of Hazeldean," and “ 'Helvellyn "; which last contained, said Wordsworth and Landor, the only imaginative line that Scott ever wrote, viz.:
"When the wind waved his garment, how oft didst thou start."
The selections from Moore should by all means have included "The Harp that once through Tara's Hall." American readers would add to the pieces from Mrs. Hemans, "The Landing of the Pilgrims," and we would further add "The Adopted Child." Place might have been made for Shelley's "Lines to an Indian Air," and "Lines written near the Euganean Hills,"-possibly by omitting some of the superfluities from Beddoes and Peacock. Thomas Hood and Macaulay are too slenderly represented. Praed's "Twenty-eight and Twenty-nine," which is, perhaps, his best thing, is missing, and so is Mrs. Browning's "Cowper's Grave." If the spasmodic school was to be represented, why not Alexander Smith rather than Sydney Dobell?
A number of names are simply crowded out. Thackeray and James and Horace Smith were worthy to figure beside Hood and Praed. Thomas Pringle's splendid poem:
"Afar in the desert I love to ride,"
has a clear title to a place in any English anthology. And many others might be mentioned. Indeed, the third volume might well have been cut down by half and filled in with names from our own century. But, with all its faults, this collection is, upon the whole, an admirable one,-by far the best that has yet been made, and an imposing monument to our poetical literature. No other modern language could make such a showing. It is a library in itself.
Henry George's "Progress and Poverty," and "The Irish Land Question." 11*
IT has been declared several times, in regard to Mr. George's "Progress and Poverty," and by various reviewers, that its appearance marks an epoch or constitutes an event. We are cordially of the same opinion, although for a somewhat different reason. Nothing could more distinctly mark the absence of any true body of criticism in social science and political economy than the respectful consideration which has been given to this book. It now appears in paper covers in a popular edition, and is going on its way to propagate still more social folly and prejudice where already there is so much that common sense scarcely has a chance.
If a competent student of sociology should undertake to review this book, to expose its fallacies and
he would have to take it to pieces page by page. It would be necessary to follow the author through his entire field of observation and philosophy, to show him what he has misunderstood, what he has misinterpreted, what he has left out, what he has brought into wrong relations, where he has mixed his definitions, where he has altered the contents of phrases, where he has picked up bits of philosophy which he has failed to comprehend. It is evident that to do all this would be at once to write a correct treatise on sociology from the first principles up to some of the most refined applications, and to refute a whole series of the most common fallacies in social science. It must suffice to say
that the author has not fitted himself for the task which he has undertaken by any correct study of sociology. The title to his book is a paradox resting on two false definitions. He has been struck by some social phenomena produced by bad land laws and disputed land titles in California. These phenomena are significant of very defective institutions and very bad legislation. They call for some sound statesmanship and some thorough application of sound principles of jurisprudence, as that is now understood by all civilized nations. Mr. George, however, goes to work to recreate society. After the manner of the same kind of students in physics, mathematics, and other sciences, nothing will satisfy his ambition but the highest task and the greatest revolution. He brushes aside the law of population in passing only to get at the institution of private property in land. Having got "Malthusianism" out of the way, he is not troubled by the obvious fact, to those who know the law of population, that to exchange private property in land for any other tenure of land yet known to us would reduce the population of any country in Western Europe by from twenty-five to fifty per cent.
Mr. George simply shows that he has not mastered the elementary principles of sociology. His criticisms on the received doctrines of population, wages, rent, etc., show that he does not understand them at all. His discussion of social problems proves that he does not understand the conditions of the problems. Similar books are printed occasionally about topics in physiology, hygiene, or therapeutics. They no doubt win a certain currency, and are taken up by some people as sources of correct knowledge, but, in general, there exists such a body of sound criticism in those sciences that such books are usually rated at their true value. Sociology, however is yet the free arena for all the people with hobbies, crude notions, world philosophies, and "schemes." It is as yet so little understood that there is any science of society-any tests and guarantees of social dogmas-that as respectful attention is given to a book like this as to the most careful work of a highly trained and scientific observer. The unkindest cut of all was that Professor Cliffe Leslie should take notice of this book as a special and representative product of American political economy. Suppose somebody should criticise Joseph Cook's lectures as representative products of American biology!
Mr. George's second book may perhaps do something to open the eyes of people who thought they found a mine of wisdom in his first one. Standing on the experience of California and armed with the scientific conclusions of his first treatise, he apparently looks about for a practical problem grand enough to be a fit opportunity for testing his remedy for "industrial depressions" and the "increase of want." He finds it in the hardest political problem now existing in the civilized world-the Irish question. Those who are nearest to the Irish question and know most about it are in despair over it. Rights and interests are entangled with the fruits of old error and folly and the inheritance of improvidence and ignorance. To Mr. George, however, the solution is easy: Abolish private property in land; that is all. It would, of course, be as foolish to discuss this proposition in detail as it is to make it soberly in the first place. It is not a contribution to the solution of the Irish question; it is only a gauge of the philosopher who made it.
Charles de Kay's "The Vision of Nimrod." * THIS is a poem of some two hundred and sixty pages. It breaks off, rather than finishes, and the epilogue seems to promise a second part. To come forward with a poem of almost epic dimensions, and on a theme apparently so remote from the currents of modern life, is a challenge to the public requiring a degree of self-confidence. In the present instance, however, we incline to think the confidence justified by the event.
Mr. de Kay will be recognized by lovers of poetry as the author of Hesperus, and Other Poems," published about a year ago—a volume in which, along with much that was trivial or distorted, were many poems marked by a quite unusual quality. There was, for instance, an unmistakable originality about them. Whatever else might be said of this poet, it was at least evident that he spoke with a strong accent of his own. In some of themnotably in the poem entitled "Invocation "-there was an old Greek joy in the presence of nature; and everywhere an absence of that "plaintive minor" which sounds through the music of so many singers of low vitality. "Let the songs be loud and cheerful, and not chirpings or pulings," says Lord Bacon. In "Little People," "Arcana Sylvarum," "The Sea-Sprite," and some other pieces, there was a delicate, imaginative treatment of the preternatural-wild hints-glimpses hardly shown and quickly withdrawn of those thin shadows from a realm just beyond the grasp of sense, which seem to pass over the sunny face of nature. And finally, in "Hesperus" itself, there was a sustained majesty of diction and thought most promising for the future of its author. We recall this here in order to empha. size what we have to say about Mr. de Kay's new book.
The poem opens with a description of night-fall
The Vision of Nimrod. By Charles de Kay. New York: D. Appleton & Co.
on the desert plains of ancient Babylon. On one of the tumuli of potsherds and crumbling masonry which strew the grim waste are seated the figures of the Persian reformer, Ali, and his wife and disciple, Gourred (“Consolation-of-the-eyes "), who are gloomily awaiting arrest on the morrow by the messengers of Moslem orthodoxy. There follows a dialogue full of tenderness between the dejected prophet and his consoler; and then suddenly “the even dusk of night rolls to a shape," which takes form first as a lion, then as a bull, and finally, as the gigantic figure of Nimrod, who relates to the awe-struck lovers the tale which forms the real subject of the poem.
Among a tribe of shepherds in the hill country of Ararat, conquered by Nimrod and transported bodily to Babylonia, was the wise and noble Ahram, a sage who had explored the secrets of the stars and the mystery of the earth's creation. Him Nimrod took into his confidence and made him second in power to himself. The fourth division of the poem, "The Tarn of Kaf," is a remarkable episode in which Ahram describes to Nimrod how, in an enchanted valley of the Himalayas, there was revealed to him the origin and succession of all life. From the profound recesses of the mere arose a mound out of which sprang, one after another, the members of that procession of living creatures known to modern evolution-the polyp, the fish, the saurian, etc., up to man and the disembodied spirit that issued from his mouth at death. The strange transformation scenes of this part are managed with much power and ingenuity. Mr. de Kay excels in devices whereby from chaotic, dim masses and vapors in perpetual flux, shapes start out, define, and condense themselves into clearly seen bodies, and then melt away again. The reader may, perhaps, recall a similar passage in " Indian Clove," one of the "Hesperus " poems, and the machinery to this end in "The Vision of Nimrod" has almost endless variety. "The Tarn of Kaf" reminds one somewhat of Milton's account of the creation, but still more of portions of that curious poem "La Semaine," of the "divine" Du Bartas. We quote three stanzas:
"But from the crest of that submergèd crater
That tongue may not its filthiness relate:
A wreath of worm-like arms; two dull, perfidious, Blue, glaring eyes; a form swelled up with hate; A hide that hardly feels
Its cancerous weals.
After the striking episode of "The Tarn of Kaf," the story goes on to tell how Nimrod, to avert another deluge and to appease the gods, builds by Ahram's advice the great Tower of Babel, on the plains of Shinar. This is described with great elaboration, and the mystical and astronomical meaning of the seven stages of the wonderful pyramid is explained. For the topmost fane, sacred to the sun, a priestess is sought, and is found in Esther, a beautiful virgin of Ahram's tribe. Ahram had been her lover, but with lofty renunciation he dedicates her to the service of the gods. She becomes the sun's bride, and is destined to a life of lonely though glorious ministration on the summit of the tower. But Esther remains a woman, and when, after the completion of the structure, Nimrod ascends to the temple of the sun to greet the priestess, she utters this beautiful complaint:
This confession of womanly weakness and loveyearning awakens once more in the king the passion which he had conceived at his first sight of Esther, but which he had solemnly forsworn. An interview which he afterward overhears between Ahram and the priestess informs him of their former betrothal, and Esther's soliloquy after the close of the interview suggests to Nimrod the means of attaining his desires. A few ambiguous words of warning, dropped by the prophet in the anguish of his heart at finding Esther unwilling to abjure her earthly love and enter with him into his somewhat dimly indicated schemes for the future of the race, these words she takes as a promise by Ahram to visit her couch at night and partake her love. The king, lashed by desperate passions, seeks counsel of the eunuch Bitsu, the cunning and malignant enemy of Ahram and the representative of the old priestly faction, whose influence with Nimrod had been overthrown by the prophet. By the advice of the eunuch he resolves himself to visit Esther, who will take him in the darkness for her expected lover. The scene that follows-" The Deed of Nimrod"
is the climax of the poem and is very finely imagined. The sights and sounds of the night are described as story of the vast temple, drawing slowly nearer to the king, with beating heart, ascends from story to his guilty purpose:
"Far to the south the royal stars, the Crown
And with a whisper through the tower ever Lapsed the sweet waters where with silvery noise They purged each story ere they found the river, Whenceforward sevenfold
"The Vision of Nimrod" is in many respects a noble poem. It is broadly conceived, and executed with vigor and with a wealth of detail. The poet has steeped his imagination in the scenery of the East -the stony hills, the sandy deserts, the fens and jungles of the great rivers. The imagery is all oriental and in strict keeping: the potter's art, the camels of the caravan, the windfall figs trampled in the mire, the wild oxen in the marsh-grass, furnish him with terms of comparison. In style, the book is a distinct advance upon the average of Mr. de Kay's earlier volume. It has a more even dignity, though it admits that intrusion now and then of the outré and the disagreeable which marred some of the work in "Hesperus and Other Poems."
The poem, for its proper effect, needs to be read continuously. We will give a few additional passages, however. The following stanza is full of a strong, exultant music and is fairly characteristic of the author's manner at its best.
"Know you how Spring ascends the mountain valleys
In fragrant dances on the line of snows, Enrobed in wind half-cool, half-warm, that dallies With vineyards now, and now by snow-peak blows?
When vernal hills are green with dainty guesses
We venture to quote some still briefer passages, which seem to us of peculiar force and originality:
He must be a brave critic who would pronounce at once and decisively upon the comparative merits of a poem which contains so many obvious faults, and so much of rare and high merit, as "Nimrod." It exhibits, in places, a carelessness of construction that has its good side and is, in itself, a relief to one who has been forced to read much of the niggling poetic manufacture of the day; but this carelessness, when it results in harshness and obscurity, can only be excused in works we look back upon in point of time,-works that have won their way in spite of their defects. A critic has no right to overlook the blemishes in a contemporary author, no matter how strong he may consider him to be. It seems to us that Mr. de Kay's excellences far outweigh his defects, but his final position as a poetic artist depends upon whether or not, in the future, he will value his work highly enough to be willing to bestow upon it such careful elaboration as the masters of the art in all ages have not disdained to give their own. The verbal infelicities which have attracted the attention of critics do not seem to us so serious as the willingness of the author to print passages of rather awkward statement, devoid of poetry.
We trust that the author will see his way clear to the completion of "The Vision of Nimrod," and that he will get that encouragement which he asks for in his epilogue, and which the extraordinary merits of the work richly deserve.
"A Fair Barbarian," by Mrs. Burnett.* THE caption of one of the chapters of this story"Contrast "-might, not unappropriately, have been
*A Fair Barbarian. By Frances Hodgson Burnett. Boston: James R. Osgood & Co.
adopted as the title of the whole, which from beginning to end is a series of contrasts-contrasts of character, contrasts of motive, contrasts of action. A decorative or over-literary faculty, or one less intrinsically dramatic than Mrs. Burnett's, would have found this element a burden, and worked out by such hands, it would have taken on strained or incongruous effects; her sprightly style, however, feels not a feather's weight of it, and in the whole story we failed to find a single forced situation. As to a true poet rhyme is not a clumsy contrivance of prosody, but a suggestive aid to the fancy, so to the true dramatic faculty, contrasts present helps rather than difficulties. This is evident in "A Fair Barbarian," which shows not only more palpably than any of her previous works, wherein the author's strength lies, but exhibits anew the superiority of the dramatic method, as method, over the descriptive or contemplative. Mrs. Burnett conceives her characters, not as historic facts more or less interesting because they exist in the knowledge of readers, but as related vital forces, owing their chief interest to their interdependence on and modification one of another. It is the difference between descriptive and physical geography. Add to this imaginative power an extraordinary sensibility to what is called "character," and great ingenuity in advancing the plot by most piquant and yet not unnatural situations, and the result is a story of unusual significance and fascination.
The creation of Octavia Bassett is likely to be judged by the reader according to his own experience, and consequently there will be many opinions of her faithfulness as an American type. Of the consistency of the portrait we think there can hardly be a difference of opinion: throughout a trying variety of incident, she remains the same willful, high-spirited, over-dressed, crude, good-natured, self-possessed, and altogether feminine nature with which we started. The same may be said of Lucia, the charming foil to Octavia; of the timid little aunt; of the Rev. Arthur Poppleton, the sparrowy curate, and even of Lady Theobald-perhaps the most hackneyed type in English fiction. These are all newly imagined and buoyantly sustained, and are drawn with admirable proportion and fine verbal precision. Upon Francis Barold, only, a few more words might have been bestowed with advantage-for, if we are to judge from the warm contentions of readers, the data upon which a full estimate of the relations of Octavia and Barold is to be formed, are not immediately evident, or, being evident, are not conclusive. Many of Octavia's sex regard the manner of the rejection as thoroughly justifiable, while others are inclined to quote the old rhyme:
"Perhaps it was well you rejected my love; But why did you kick me down-stairs?" Upon the one side it is pleaded that a proposition of marriage is the highest compliment a man can pay: upon the other it is retorted that it may become the deepest of insults, and resort is had anew to the proof-texts. The humiliation of Barold is of course permissible only upon the theory that earlier in the book he discovers his selfishness and snobbery not