Puslapio vaizdai

physical or merely intellectual. And he gives his brave attempt at an answer: an answer ultimately, of course, of faith; one, that is, which interprets the facts by transcending them. No one can miss the courage of it, its force and sanity, and its life. But, if poetry must deal with ideas, it remains true that it does so at its peril. For, as we know, its essence is to be "simple, sensuous, passionate"; and it is not easy to be any of the three when handling pure ideas. So in Meredith. His finest passages are full of an energy of fire that sets the thought aglow and kindles the heart of the coldest reader. But his inveterate intellectualism sometimes asserts itself over-much. And then, when we are left with the thought alone, we remember the say. ing that philosophy without poetry is an illusion. At any rate for poetry the pure idea, untouched by emotion, uncolored by imagination, is nothing. If In a queer sort of meditative mirth; poetry cannot move us, it cannot do anything for us. And many readers, who yet bear a grateful heart for the gifts of Meredith's untiring will and unresting brain, will turn from the moral and intellectual gymnastics of the argumentative poems to such a little meditation as the Dirge in the Woods, which has no faith or philosophy in it but only pure poetry, such poetry as Goethe's Warte nur, balde Ruhest du auch


Still rubs his hands before him, like a fly,

A wind sways the pines,
And below
Not a breath of wild air:
Still as the mosses that glow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine-tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Overhead, overhead

Rushes life in a race,

As the clouds the clouds chase;
And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
Even we,
Even so.

But Meredith, as befits the author of the novels, is far from being only a poet of the great problems of life and death. He is also, for instance, what scarcely any of the great nineteenthcentury poets have been, a poet of the comedy of manners. There is no poetic drama of contemporary life that can be compared with Modern Love. It is tragedy and comedy in one, the eternal tragedy seen from within of the eternal comedy seen from without. The poet has the Shakespearean power of getting up to those heights of being from which human things are seen in all their petty, almost squalid, insignificance, the point of view from which, as he says:

If any state be enviable on earth,
'Tis yon born idiot's, who, as days go

the same as that which gives the Fool the final word in some of Shakespeare's tragedies. But like Shakespeare again, Meredith is too profoundly human to rest long content in any Greek god's attitude of half-contemptuous contemplation of man. "We are the lords of life, and life is warm"; and the poet is soon back to the struggle, with all his heart in it, feeling that its noise and dust are only what must be looked for from a mint that is always at work coining its copper, and silver, and gold. Modern Love is not easy reading, of course; very little that Meredith wrote is. But its difficulty has been greatly exaggerated; and those who will take the trouble to give it two or three readings will find nearly all the clouds lift and the road shine out plain before them. This is not the place to analyze the often analyzed drama. But it may be the place to say a word of the Meredithian gift of which it provides perhaps

the supreme exhibition. In poetry as in prose, Meredith was a born maker of memorable phrases. No poet so little read was ever so much quoted. His striking lines are, no doubt, far from common property yet; but their few readers remember them, use them, and spread them. And the particular reason why they are remembered is, I think, plain. It is seldom their purely poetic quality, seldom any haunting melody of sounds, seldom any of these master-strokes of the poetic pencil which leave the eye for ever full of a vision which it can neither penetrate nor forget. We can all remember lines of Keats, or Wordsworth, or Shelley, that we sang over and over with delight long before we had even asked ourselves exactly what they meant. Nobody ever did that with the poetry of Meredith, except in the case of some half-dozen or dozen poems of the Love in the Valley order. Mr. Trevelyan, indeed, talks frequently of the "haunting quality" of his verse. But this, with those exceptions, appears to me a complete mistake. When we speak of that supreme quality we are thinking, it seems to me, or ought to be thinking, of such things as

And Tiresias and Phineus, prophets old;


The river glideth at his own sweet will;


Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

not of such things as the passage he quotes from The Empty Purse, which has "By my faith there is feasting to come," for its first line, and "A cry of the metally gnome" for its last. Such passages may ring with meaning and stimulus and good cheer; but to talk of their "haunting quality" is to misuse words. No; it is not in that di

rection that we must look for the cause of Meredith's lines so often remaining in the memory. They are remembered and quoted, not for their manner, but for their matter. The two are, no doubt, inseparable-the form can only be the form of the matter, and the matter only the matter of the form; but still we can and do distinguish some poets who, like Browning, are strongest in matter, and others who, like Swinburne, are strongest in form. And Meredith belongs emphatically to the first class. He is full of the stuff of brain and character, and we wish to remember him because we know that we get from him an increase of our stock of truth and will and power. And the style-not a purely poetic, not a "haunting" style-fits its object; it is tense and terse, of twisted and concentrated strength, of a Tacitean disdain of superfluities. The result is phrases that are sometimes, though not always, hard to grasp at first, but when once grasped, are held firm; such phrases as

Their sense is with their senses all mixed in, Destroyed by subtleties these women


More brain, O Lord, more brain!


This truth is little known to human shades,

How rare from their own instinct 'tis to feel!


And life, some think, is worthy of the Muse;

or, the final words of all, where we do at last get something of Mr. Trevelyan's "haunting quality"

Ah, what a dusty answer gets the soul When hot for certainties in this our life!

In tragic hints here see what ever.


Moves dark as yonder midnight ocean's force,

Thundering like ramping hosts of warrior horse,

To throw that faint thin line upon the shore!

There are many other aspects of Meredith as a poet which might be mentioned if space were unlimited. One might speak of his beautiful rehandling, so entirely and characteristically his own, of some of the Greek myths, as in Phoebus with Admetus, and The Day of the Daughter of Hades. Or one might speak of his astonishing and equally original power of observing and interpreting landscape; the power which, to some of his readers, provides the most unalloyed of all the pleasures to be found in his novels. Some instances of its presence in the poems have already been quoted; it would be easy to add to them. But perhaps it is better to devote the space that remains to a characteristic in which Meredith stands alone. No English poet, perhaps no poet of any time or country, has produced a volume that can be fitly placed by the side of the Odes in Contribution to the Song of French History. We have had great writers of the poetry of history in England. The ideas which give history its life, the eternal ideas of liberty, and justice and wisdom, could not have found nobler voices than England found for them in Milton and Wordsworth and Shelley and Swinburne. But whether they approach these great themes mainly as lovers of their country, like Milton and Wordsworth, or mainly as seers of a universal vision, like Shelley, they have made little or no pretence of rivalling the historians on their own ground. But that is what Meredith has done in these spendid Odes, which take us through every phase of the mind of France, from the last years of the old monarchy to the catastrophe of

1870. Mr. Hardy has lately tried his hand at part of the same great story; but The Dynasts is a series of scenes, not a great poem. Its poetry is rather its weakness than its strength, and its externality, if there were nothing else, would prevent it from being any rival to these burning lyrics in which the very soul of France makes the confession of a century. All she felt before and through the hurrying stages of the Revolution is in the first of them: the high dreams drowned in blood, till drunk with victory she throws herself into the arms of

Earth's chosen crowned unchallengeable upstart.

And the second follows her through all the twenty years of Napoleon, all she felt of bedazzlement, of disillusion, of urgent memories drugged to silence by the victorious roar of cannon, by the insolent intoxication of prosperity and power. Is there any book in any language, even in French, which tells that tremendous story as it is told here? Is there any other place where thirty pages will give us the whole of Napoleon as it is given in this wonderful Ode? It is not only that the burning fire of poetry, illuminating all dark places, consuming all pretence, is in every line of it; it is also that the knowledge and truth, the imaginative insight, the just and merciful judgment, of the great historian are there too. Wordsworth, and Victor Hugo, and Carducci can give us the poetry; but Wordsworth is always an Englishman, Hugo a Frenchman, Carducci an Italian, and all are in some sense partisans. But Meredith's voice is never that of a partisan, never in these poems even that of an Englishman. We seem, as we read, to hear in it the very voice of History herself pronouncing the ultimate judgment of the supreme and inviolate Justice.

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The Welsh national fête has this Sumer come to London, the first time for twenty-two years, and the event counts for much more than one among the usual June sensations. Strange to walk across the grass in Kensington Gardens while the half of London was still at breakfast, and hear the tinkle

Of Glory, she condemned to crown with bays

Her victor, and be fountain of his praise.

The grass has grown again, and the crops wave in the wind where, all over Europe, her sons of old carried havoc and ruin and blood. But if earth forgets there are still Powers that remember.

Green earth forgets. The gay young generations mask her grief; Where bled her children hangs the loaded sheaf.

Nobler still perhaps, great in its awful severity, even greater in its tenderness, is the third of the Odes, France, 1870. There is nothing in all his poetry to which we could go for a finer and truer last impression of Forgetful is green earth; the gods that great soul and mind who Was Remember everlastingly: they strike George Meredith. Remorselessly, and ever like for like. Ever invoking fire from Heaven, the By their great memories the gods are known. John Bailey.



The Fortnightly Review.


of a harp and come upon a circle of Welsh druids, attended by a crowd of onlookers, among the trees. Kensing ton Gardens makes one think of Thackeray and Becky Sharp; this scene recalled a page of the Mabinogion, in which the "Emperor Arthur" is seen having an Eisteddfod of his own, with

a diapered satin carpet and a golden chair, brought by a sumpter-horse, set in state on the grass for him. To have risked the fantasy of a bardic "Gorsedd" within sound of the wheels of Knightsbridge; still more, to have exchanged the light and bright timber pavilions of the Eisteddfod at home for the sepulchral splendors of the Albert Hall, and to have maintained the thing there in its colors, says a great deal for the spirit of the men and women who did it.

The open-air part of the fête, the Gorsedd or high session of the bards, is now one of the most effective items in the whole programme. With a little addition, a little of the art of spectacle practised at every town pageant new style, a little sharp stage-management, it could be made more effective still. In Kensington Gardens it was no worse than it has been in Welsh surroundings; but the intrusion of tophats and London frock-coats, and of photographers who set up a scaffold over against the Maen Llôg, or loganstone, quite spoilt the picture. There ought to be a tyrannous master of the ceremonies, a keeper of the ring, chosen from among the bards, who should have as strict a conscience as Mr. Louis Parker in his pageantry. The "Gorsedd," to be seen at its best, should be seen in surroundings like those of Carnarvon Castle, or with a typical hill background, where a six or seven-centuried antiquity conspires with the neodruidic illusion. It is usual for it to take place on three mornings of the National Eisteddfod, when the Archdruid leads out his bardic college to the allotted stone circle, in white, blue and green robes, carrying with them harpers and pennillion-singers, a blazoned banner, a long sword, and a gorgeous Hirlas Horn, which ought to be full of mead. There, when the Gorsedd has been declared open, the prayer is said, one

of a very remarkable nobility of idea and phrase; addresses by the Archdruid and others on Cymric affairs and Cymric ideals are delivered from the Maen Llôg, or logan-stone, englyns are recited, and stanzas improvised to the harp. The other rites include the initiation of the new young poets and graduates who have passed the Gorsedd examination during the year, and the granting of some honorary degrees.

The late Archdruid, Hwfa Mon, was a man of extraordinary powers,— humorous, histrionic, eloquent, who entered with gusto into the make-believe of the part, and wore his white robe and golden torque with an inimitable air of conscious magnificence. The Gorsedd, as it now appears, with its colors and splendors and paraphernalia, may be said to have grown out of his dramatic personality, aided by Sir Hubert Herkomer and a Welsh artist of fine instinct, known in the bardic ring as Arlunydd Penygarn. The present Archdruid, Dyved, is a more serious bard, who is determined to raise the standard of his bardic college, and has just succeeded in carrying a reform bill to that end. He has none of the histrionic faculty of his predecessor; but at the present time, when the Eisteddfod is making more and more of its intellectual side, he is a right good chief to have.

The antiquity of all this bardic business has been hotly disputed within the last ten years. Professor J. Morris Jones, a poet himself, and one of the chosen adjudicators for the Chair Poem at this year's Eisteddfod, has argued that the "Gorsedd" did not exist in the older celebrations. I suspect it owes something of its present pretty symbolism to the genius of a man of real imagination, Edward Wi!liams, otherwise "Iolo Morganwg," who came to London in the eighteenth century. A passage in the Gentleman's

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