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HORACE AND GRAY.
soothing of the sense, becomes a charming of the intellect and soul, to which the sensuous enjoyment is subordinate, though still felt. But I say that all lyrical poetry originally springs from some strong passion of the mind, because there are periods in the history of literature in which it is chosen by the elegant and cultivated studenta Horace or a Gray-as the vehicle best fitted for the expression of tastes and sentiments derived rather from books than from life: but even the most superficial examination of their odes will show that they carefully preserve the form if not the reality of passion, that they always assume a struggle and a conflict, and a bringing of these into harmony, and that all our pleasure in reading them is derived from the illusion that the conflict and the calm are real, so beautifully are they painted: though the horse is bronze, we say to it, cammina,' with Michael Angelo; though the form of St. Bruno is cut in the lifeless marble, we say with Clement, he would speak, did not the rule of his order enjoin silence :'—
Dinanzi a noi pareva si verace,
Quivi intagliato in un atto soave
The earliest specimens of poetry are of course those in the book of Genesis: when Lamech would allay his wife's and his own fears for the consequences of some bloody quarrel, his excited feelings find vent in verse: when Rebecca enquires of the oracle of God what is meant by the portentous circumstances connected with the birth of Esau and Jacob, it is in verse that the prophetic response is given*: and when some of the deepest and liveliest emotions which can stir the human soul are
* Schumann, whose style is as terse as his scepticism is reckless, thus renders the Oracle :
Duas Gentes in utero gestas,
NATIONAL SONGS AND ODES.
roused in the patriarchs Isaac and Jacob, while they prepare to bless their sons with a blessing which is to cleave to them and their children for a thousand generations, and when these tumultuously rushing thoughts and feelings are calmed by faith in the promises of God to their race-then the blessing is given in verse, as the fit way of expressing the deep harmony of things which spreads over the future, like the sunshine over some wide prospect of hill and valley, of cultivated field, and populous city, and navigable river. Then comes the age of patriotism, when the song of victory gives harmony and peace to another set of feelings, which the violent struggle of battles for national freedom or national glory has called into action, and which, if not deeper than the former ones, are more excited, and more in need of some charm to quiet them, if they are not to become painful from excess of joy. And if, not victory, but defeat, has ended the conflict of heart and hand, then the bard's voice is pitched in another key, which first soothes the vanquished by its plaintive lament, and then tells of that triumph of the unconquerable soul which even defeat cannot take away, and so brings in harmony into this state of life also. Of this kind of lyrical poetry, connected with national life and history, the literature of every nation that deserves the name, is full: I need not refer to the songs of Moses, and Deborah, and David, nor the lays of Rome and Greece, nor any of our own national songs and odes, of which Mr. Wordsworth's Thanksgiving Ode may be called the last, not least,-for these all lie open to the reader for his own choice, and the bearing upon them of the view here taken, is too plain to need further comment or illustration. The Odes of Pindar have for their end the same harmony, rising out of conflict, like Venus from the sea; so have the homely ballads of Robin Hood. I might analyse, in support of my position, Luther's famous hymn, 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,' taking it as a sample of
RELATION OF THE SONG AND THE DRAMA.
the hymns and psalms of the church militant; or any of the home-songs of Burns, whether the lonely wife seeks to console herself by her plaintive strains, while her 'Willie's far from Logan braes,' or the aged matron calmly rejoices in that undying bond which unites her with her ‘John Anderson,' amidst the decay and death of all else that belongs to them; or I might speak of lovesongs, drinking-songs,* or any other of the various forms of lyrical poetry, and show that there is not any of these which will not be found an endeavour to infuse harmony into that mode of life to which it relates.
But lyrical poetry, though the simplest and most essentially poetical form of poetry, where it is found freest from all other elements, is not therefore its highest kind: the pure gold of passion must be somewhat alloyed with the harder metal of prosaic reason and argument, before it is fitted for working up into the moulded and chased vase which is rightly counted more precious than the roses and violets which it holds. Let us examine a little the new element which is added to effect the transmutation of lyrical into dramatic poetry, which we shall do most easily by referring to the account of the origin of the Drama in Greece. This tells us that the Thespian entertainment was at first only a song, and that afterwards two persons were introduced, who held a dialogue in the intervals of the song. The feeling, unconscious no doubt, that this song, with its harmonious thoughts and words, implied the existence of a conflict which it was to calm, led to the representation of the conflict itself by the dialogue, and the story which its speakers carried on thereby. The dialogue became the Drama, or ACTION, in which men and women actually suffering the deepest woes, and struggling in the fiercest agony, of human life, were
SAMSON AGONISTES: FATE AND FREE-WILL.
brought before the spectator; while, at intervals, the song, now become the chorus, but still retaining its original character, came in to soothe and to sustain the personages of the drama, by sharing and sympathizing in their sufferings, awakening and encouraging their hopes, and leading them, after both sympathy and hope were of no avail, to seek a better consolation than either in resignation to their inevitable lot. This was the office of the chorus, considered as a part of the representation; while, as regards its bearing on the spectators, it poured on their senses and minds a flood of melody, in thought, word, sound, and movement, reducing into unity and harmony all those fearful pictures of human guilt and human misery, till all were felt to be 'nothing but good and fair,' a perfect work of art, a POEM, of which the primary aim and effect is to give pleasure, though a pleasure which contains in itself the germs of the highest moral and intellectual life.
Nothing but good and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble:
These are the words in which Milton sums up the catastrophe of the Samson Agonistes, the drama in which the characteristics of all dramas may perhaps best be studied. It has the naked simplicity of the Greek, or Classic, drama, which differs from the Gothic, or Romantic, drama of Shakspeare as the single naked figure of the Apollo does from some numerous group of draped and intermingled figures, say in one of Raphael's master-pieces,—which though at least equally fine in their kind, cannot be so instructive-so explanatory—a study to the young artist : and at the same time the Christian poet has been able in his work to bring into clear light those mysteries of Fate and Freewill, which necessarily form the foundations of every drama, but which the wisest heathen could only apprehend and set forth imperfectly and obscurely. For
MAN'S WILL AND HIS CIRCUMSTANCES.
the great battle of human life, though it is a contest between man's will and his circumstances, is not merely this. The man whose lot it is, easily to find and to preserve peace and quiet amid the world of circumstances which surrounds him, does still, if he be not quite thoughtless, not only recognize the hand of a Providence mightier than his own, in the arrangements of his life, but also that of an Absolute Power which gives no account of its doings, and which can neither be resisted nor appealed from,-which sent him into this world and will take him out of it again, rounding and limiting his little sphere of free-will with the utter helplessness, the necessities, of birth and death. And still more do these thoughts, these solemn realities, press upon him who, instead of enjoying ease has to carry on a hard fight with the world; and most of all upon him who fights without victory or hope of victory, who not only is ready like the great Prince of Orange, to die in the last ditch,' but knows that such is actually to be his lot. The first man, though a heathen, might acknowledge that the light which, with more or less of transient cloud, was shining on him through the day, came from heaven: the second, though he often felt that the dark night when he could lay his tired limbs to rest, must be from heaven also, could only feel this in the midst of the greatest doubt and confusion, before the times when Christianity revealed clearly the fact of another day after the night.
The Drama, then, is a Poem, or work of Art, in which men are exhibited as actually engaged in this struggle of life. The man, with his free-will, stands in the midst of a world of circumstances more or less opposed to him, more or less difficult to be overcome. His appointed task is to subdue them and have dominion over them. As the action proceeds, we perceive that these circumstances are not heaped together at random, but created and arranged according to fixed laws, which laws are always at work to