Puslapio vaizdai

lowed up in splendour; while the devoted isolation of the Hall-Sun, whose influence brings all this to pass, makes her continued existence more tragic than her father's death. The book has little in common with anything more modern than the great Icelandic sagas, most of which it excels in grandeur of conception, in beauty of form, and in subtlety of transition from prose to verse. The metrical passages in

which the book abounds are reserved for the more exalted and emotional phases of the dialogue, and reach the highest level of "Sigurd the Volsung."

This great work was followed late in the same year by "The Roots of the Mountains, wherein is told somewhat of the Lives of the Men of Burgdale, their Friends, their Neighbours, their Foemen and their Fellows in Arms." The subject is akin to that of "The House of the Wolfings;" but the period is considerably later, the Goths having passed from the tribal state to that of village communities, though retaining some of the noble primitive institutions of the tribal state as described by the poet. Here again the motive is defence of the land against invasion; but in this case, the "dusky men," whom the Burgdalers combine with a remnant of the Wolfings to overthrow, may be taken to be of Hunnish race. Their anti-human institutions leave but little room for horror at their extermination like vermin. In laying out, "The Roots of the Mountains "is no whit inferior to "The House of the Wolfings." It is, naturally, less poetically exalted, the epoch being too late for fact longer to mingle with myth. On the other hand, there is the compensating advantage of a very human love-motive treated with perfect sympathy and masculine vigour, while the numerous

characters are the more lifelike for their less remoteness. For consistency of delineation these men and women leave nothing to desire; for realization of place, personality, costume, and institution, the work is unsurpassed; and in the one matter which in this case is very important, the invention of battle incident, Homer himself could not afford to give the modern poet points.

Since these two books were issued, Morris has published a Socialist pamphlet called "Monopoly " (1890), and, in The English Illustrated Magazine, another prose romance of a legendary character called "The Glittering Plain; or, the Land of Living Men." Though characterized by all the force of handling of Morris's later years, this piece, by treating of the renewal of youth without death, as a thing actually accomplished in the tale, recalls to the mind the dreamy period of Morris's own poetic youth. He has also, in conjunction with Mr. Magnússon, entered upon a great undertaking in the way of translation from the Icelandic: of "The Saga Library" one volume is already published (1891): it contains three sagas, "The Story of Howard the Halt," "The Story of the Banded Men," and "The Story of Hen Thorir ;" and these are to be followed by most of the great Icelandic sagas, including those of which the translations have been already mentioned. In an original work published in The Commonweal, but not yet issued with the author's final revisions, Morris has shown how an artist would have dealt with a theme cognate to that of Mr. Bellamy's "Looking Backward." "News from Nowhere; or, an Epoch of Rest, being some Chapters from an Utopian Romance," gives us a picture of English society as it might be after the

Socialist revolution to which the propaganda tends. The account given by an antiquary of the way in which the revolution came about is admirable; but finer still is the description of the renovated Thames country from Hammersmith to Kelmscott; and perhaps most precious of all the portrait of the ideal woman Ellen, who joins the poet and his companions on the dream-journey at Runnymede, and fades so cruelly out of our sight with the rest of the splendid vision when he awakes in "dingy Hammersmith," and realizes that he has dreamed.

This last romance has the same superlative merit as Morris's other mature works whether in verse or in prose. He sees things with absolute clearness, and has power to make others see them also. In a large proportion of his work the wider life of old times drew his gaze irresistibly; and the contemplation made him somewhat sorrowful. He has mixed for many years now in the affairs of modern life, and has realized more than ever the awful contrast ber tween misery and happiness.

But his writing is no longer that of one without hope for his fellows; and reasonable hope begets tenfold desire. His latter books depict states of society in which happiness is possible to every man, even though the happiness be but that of dying for the general good. The worst his enemies can say of him is that he has passed from one beautiful dream to another-from a dream of the golden mythical past to a dream of the golden possible future.


William Morris died on the 3rd of October, 1896



THERE were four of us about that bed;
The mass-priest knelt at the side,

I and his mother stood at the head,
Over his feet lay the bride;
We were quite sure that he was dead,
Though his eyes were open wide.

He did not die in the night,

He did not die in the day,

But in the morning twilight

His spirit pass'd away,

When neither sun nor moon was bright, And the trees were merely grey.

He was not slain with the sword,

Knight's axe, or the knightly spear,

Yet spoke he never a word

After he came in here;

I cut away the cord

From the neck of my brother dear.

He did not strike one blow,

For the recreants came behind,

In a place where the hornbeams grow,
A path right hard to find,

For the hornbeam boughs swing so,
That the twilight makes it blind.

They lighted a great torch then,
When his arms were pinion'd fast,
Sir John the knight of the Fen,

Sir Guy of the Dolorous Blast,
With knights threescore and ten,
Hung brave Lord Hugh at last.

I am threescore and ten,

And my hair is all turn'd grey,
But I met Sir John of the Fen
Long ago on a summer day,

And am glad to think of the moment when
I took his life away.

I am threescore and ten,

And my strength is mostly pass'd,

But long ago I and my men,

When the sky was overcast,

And the smoke roll'd over the reeds of the fen, Slew Guy of the Dolorous Blast.

And now, knights all of you,

I pray you pray for Sir Hugh, A good knight and a true,

And for Alice, his wife, pray too.

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