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´╗┐Title: Literary and General Lectures and Essays
Author: Kingsley, Charles, 1819-1875
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ESSAYS***



LITERARY AND GENERAL ESSAYS



Contents:  {0}
   The Stage as it was Once
   Thoughts on Shelley and Byron
   Alexander Smith and Alexander Pope
   Tennyson
   Burns and his School
   The Poetry of Sacred and Legendary Art
   On English Composition
   On English Literature
   Grots and Groves
   Hours with the Mystics
   Frederick Denison Maurice:  In Memoriam



THE STAGE AS IT WAS ONCE {1}



Let us think for a while upon what the Stage was once, in a republic
of the past--what it may be again, I sometimes dream, in some
republic of the future.  In order to do this, let me take you back in
fancy some 2314 years--440 years before the Christian era, and try to
sketch for you--alas! how clumsily--a great, though tiny people, in
one of their greatest moments--in one of the greatest moments, it may
be, of the human race.  For surely it is a great and a rare moment
for humanity, when all that is loftiest in it--when reverence for the
Unseen powers, reverence for the heroic dead, reverence for the
fatherland, and that reverence, too, for self, which is expressed in
stateliness and self-restraint, in grace and courtesy; when all
these, I say, can lend themselves, even for a day, to the richest
enjoyment of life--to the enjoyment of beauty in form and sound, and
of relaxation, not brutalising, but ennobling.

Rare, alas! have such seasons been in the history of poor humanity.
But when they have come, they have lifted it up one stage higher
thenceforth.  Men, having been such once, may become such again; and
the work which such times have left behind them becomes immortal.


A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.


Let me take you to the then still unfurnished theatre of Athens, hewn
out of the limestone rock on the south-east slope of the Acropolis.

Above are the new marble buildings of the Parthenon, rich with the
statues and bas-reliefs of Phidias and his scholars, gleaming white
against the blue sky, with the huge bronze statue of Athene
Promachos, fifty feet in height, towering up among the temples and
colonnades.  In front, and far below, gleams the blue sea, and
Salamis beyond.

And there are gathered the people of Athens--fifty thousand of them,
possibly, when the theatre was complete and full.  If it be fine,
they all wear garlands on their heads.  If the sun be too hot, they
wear wide-brimmed straw hats.  And if a storm comes on, they will
take refuge in the porticoes beneath; not without wine and cakes, for
what they have come to see will last for many an hour, and they
intend to feast their eyes and ears from sunrise to sunset.  On the
highest seats are slaves and freedmen, below them the free citizens;
and on the lowest seats of all are the dignitaries of the republic--
the priests, the magistrates, and the other [Greek]--the fair and
good men--as the citizens of the highest rank were called, and with
them foreign ambassadors and distinguished strangers.  What an
audience! the rapidest, subtlest, wittiest, down to the very cobblers
and tinkers, the world has ever seen.  And what noble figures on
those front seats; Pericles, with Aspasia beside him, and all his
friends--Anaxagoras the sage, Phidias the sculptor, and many another
immortal artist; and somewhere among the free citizens, perhaps
beside his father Sophroniscus the sculptor, a short, square, pug-
nosed boy of ten years old, looking at it all with strange eyes--"who
will be one day," so said the Pythoness at Delphi, "the wisest man in
Greece"--sage, metaphysician, humorist, warrior, patriot, martyr--for
his name is Socrates.

All are in their dresses of office; for this is not merely a day of
amusement, but of religions ceremony; sacred to Dionysos--Bacchus,
the inspiring god, who raises men above themselves, for good--or for
evil.

The evil, or at least the mere animal aspect of that inspiration, was
to be seen in forms grotesque and sensuous enough in those very
festivals, when the gayer and coarser part of the population, in town
and country, broke out into frantic masquerade--of which the silly
carnival of Rome is perhaps the last paltry and unmeaning relic--
"when," as the learned O. Muller says, "the desire of escaping from
self into something new and strange, of living in an imaginary world,
broke forth in a thousand ways; not merely in revelry and solemn
though fantastic songs, but in a hundred disguises, imitating the
subordinate beings--satyrs, pans, and nymphs, by whom the god was
surrounded, and through whom life seemed to pass from him into
vegetation, and branch off into a variety of beautiful or grotesque
forms--beings who were ever present to the fancy of the Greeks, as a
convenient step by which they could approach more nearly to the
presence of the Divinity."  But even out of that seemingly bare
chaos, Athenian genius was learning how to construct, under Eupolis,
Cratinus, and Aristophanes, that elder school of comedy, which
remains not only unsurpassed, but unapproachable, save by Rabelais
alone, as the ideal cloudland of masquerading wisdom, in which the
whole universe goes mad--but with a subtle method in its madness.

Yes, so it has been, under some form or other, in every race and
clime--ever since Eve ate of the magic fruit, that she might be as a
god, knowing good and evil, and found, poor thing, as most have
since, that it was far easier and more pleasant to know the evil than
to know the good.  But that theatre was built that men might know
therein the good as well as the evil.  To learn the evil, indeed,
according to their light, and the sure vengeance of Ate and the
Furies which tracks up the evil-doer.  But to learn also the good--
lessons of piety, patriotism, heroism, justice, mercy, self-
sacrifice, and all that comes out of the hearts of men and women not
dragged _below_, but raised _above_ themselves; and behind all--at
least in the nobler and earlier tragedies of AEschylus and Sophocles,
before Euripides had introduced the tragedy of mere human passion;
that sensation tragedy, which is the only one the world knows now,
and of which the world is growing rapidly tired--behind all, I say,
lessons of the awful and unfathomable mystery of human existence--of
unseen destiny; of that seemingly capricious distribution of weal and
woe, to which we can find no solution on this side the grave, for
which the old Greek could find no solution whatsoever.

Therefore there was a central object in the old Greek theatre, most
important to it, but which did not exist in the old Roman, and does
not exist in our theatres, because our tragedies, like the Roman, are
mere plays concerning love, murder, and so forth, while the Greek
were concerning the deepest relations of man to the Unseen.

The almost circular orchestra, or pit, between the benches and the
stage, was empty of what we call spectators--because it was destined
for the true and ideal spectators--the representatives of humanity;
in its centre was a round platform, the [Greek]--originally the altar
of Bacchus--from which the leader of these representatives, the
leader of the Chorus, could converse with the actors on the stage and
take his part in the drama; and round this thymele the Chorus ranged
with measured dance and song, chanting, to the sound of a simple
flute, odes such as the world had never heard before or since, save
perhaps in the temple-worship at Jerusalem.  A chorus now, as you
know, merely any number of persons singing in full harmony on any
subject.  The Chorus was then in tragedy, and indeed in the higher
comedy, what Schlegel well calls "the ideal spectator"--a personified
reflection on the action going on, the incorporation into the
representation itself of the sentiments of the poet, as the spokesman
of the whole human race.  He goes on to say (and I think truly),
"that the Chorus always retained among the Greeks a peculiar national
signification, publicity being, according to their republican
notions, essential to the completeness of every important
transaction."  Thus the Chorus represented idealised public opinion;
not, of course, the shifting hasty public opinion of the moment--to
that it was a conservative check, and it calmed it to soberness and
charity--for it was the matured public opinion of centuries; the
experience, and usually the sad experience, of many generations; the
very spirit of the Greek race.

The Chorus might be composed of what the poet would.  Of ancient
citizens, waiting for their sons to come back from the war, as in the
"Agamemnon" of AEschylus; of sea-nymphs, as in his "Prometheus
Bound;" even of the very Furies who hunt the matricide, as in his
"Eumenides;" of senators, as in the "Antigone" of Sophocles; or of
village farmers, as in his "OEdipus at Colonos"--and now I have named
five of the greatest poems, as I hold, written by mortal man till
Dante rose.  Or it may be the Chorus was composed--as in the comedies
of Aristophanes, the greatest humorist the world has ever seen--of
birds, or of frogs, or even of clouds.  It may rise to the level of
Don Quixote, or sink to that of Sancho Panza; for it is always the
incarnation of such wisdom, heavenly or earthly, as the poet wishes
the people to bring to bear on the subject-matter.

But let the poets themselves, rather than me, speak awhile.  Allow me
to give you a few specimens of these choruses--the first as an
example of that practical and yet surely not un-divine wisdom, by
which they supplied the place of our modern preacher, or essayist, or
didactic poet.

Listen to this of the old men's chorus in the "Agamemnon," in the
spirited translation of my friend Professor Blackie:


   'Twas said of old, and 'tis said to-day,
   That wealth to prosperous stature grown
      Begets a birth of its own:
   That a surfeit of evil by good is prepared,
   And sons must bear what allotment of woe
      Their sires were spared.
   But this I refuse to believe:  I know
      That impious deeds conspire
   To beget an offspring of impious deeds
      Too like their ugly sire.
But whoso is just, though his wealth like a river
Flow down, shall be scathless:  his house shall rejoice
   In an offspring of beauty for ever.

   The heart of the haughty delights to beget
   A haughty heart.  From time to time
   In children's children recurrent appears
      The ancestral crime.
When the dark hour comes that the gods have decreed
And the Fury burns with wrathful fires,
   A demon unholy, with ire unabated,
   Lies like black night on the halls of the fated;
   And the recreant Son plunges guiltily on
      To perfect the guilt of his Sires.

But Justice shines in a lowly cell;
In the homes of poverty, smoke-begrimed,
With the sober-minded she loves to dwell.
   But she turns aside
From the rich man's house with averted eye,
The golden-fretted halls of pride
Where hands with lucre are foul, and the praise
Of counterfeit goodness smoothly sways;
And wisely she guides in the strong man's despite
   All things to an issue of RIGHT.


Let me now give you another passage from the "Eumenides"--or
"Furies"--of AEschylus.

Orestes, Prince of Argos, you must remember, has avenged on his
mother Clytemnestra the murder of his father, King Agamemnon, on his
return from Troy.  Pursued by the Furies, he takes refuge in the
temple of Apollo at Delphi, and then, still Fury-haunted, goes to
Athens, where Pallas Athene, the warrior-maiden, the tutelary goddess
of Athens, bids him refer his cause to the Areopagus, the highest
court of Athens, Apollo acting as his advocate, and she sitting as
umpire in the midst.  The white and black balls are thrown into the
urn, and are equal; and Orestes is only delivered by the decision of
Athene--as the representative of the nearer race of gods, the
Olympians, the friends of man, in whose likeness man is made.  The
Furies are the representatives of the older and darker creed--which
yet has a depth of truth in it--of the irreversible dooms which
underlie all nature; and which represent the Law, and not the Gospel,
the consequence of the mere act, independent of the spirit which has
prompted it.

They break out in fury against the overbearing arrogance of these
younger gods.  Athene bears their rage with equanimity, addresses
them in the language of kindness, even of veneration, till these so
indomitable beings are unable to withstand the charm of her mild
eloquence.  They are to have a sanctuary in the Athenian land, and to
be called no more Furies (Erinnys), but Eumenides--the _well-
conditioned_--the kindly goddesses.  And all ends with a solemn
precession round the orchestra, with hymns of blessing, while the
terrible Chorus of the Furies, clothed in black, with blood-stained
girdles, and serpents in their hair, in masks having perhaps somewhat
of the terrific beauty of Medusa-masks, are convoyed to their new
sanctuary by a procession of children, women, and old men in purple
robes with torches in their hands, after Athene and the Furies have
sung, in response to each other, a chorus from which I must beg leave
to give you an extract or two:


Eldest Fury (Leader of the Chorus).

Far from thy dwelling, and far from thy border,
By the grace of my godhead benignant I order
The blight which may blacken the bloom of the trees.
Far from thy border, and far from thy dwelling,
Be the hot blast which shrivels the bud in its swelling,
The seed-rotting taint, and the creeping disease.
Thy flocks be still doubled, thy seasons be steady,
And when Hermes is near thee, thy hand be still ready
   The Heaven-dropt bounty to seize.

Athene.

Hear her words, my city's warders--
Fraught with blessings, she prevaileth
With Olympians and Infernals,
Dread Erinnys much revered.
Mortal faith she guideth plainly
To what goal she pleaseth, sending
Songs to some, to others days
With tearful sorrows dulled.

Furies.

   Far from thy border
   The lawless disorder
That sateless of evil shall reign;
   Far from thy dwelling,
   The dear blood welling,
That taints thine own hearth with the slain.
   When slaughter from slaughter
   Shall flow like the water,
And rancour from rancour shall grow
   But joy with joy blending,
   Live, each to all lending;
And hating one-hearted the foe.
   When bliss hath departed;
   From love single-hearted,
A fountain of healing shall flow.

Athene.

Wisely now the tongue of kindness
Thou hast found, the way of love.
And these terror-speaking faces
Now look wealth to me and mine.
Her so willing, ye more willing,
Now receive.  This land and city,
On ancient right securely throned,
Shall shine for evermore.

Furies.

Hail, and all hail, mighty people, be greeted,
On the sons of Athena shines sunshine the clearest.
Blest people, near Jove the Olympian seated.
And dear to the maiden his daughter the dearest.
Timely wise 'neath the wings of the daughter ye gather,
And mildly looks down on her children the Father.


Those of you here who love your country as well as the old Athenians
loved theirs, will feel at once the grand political significance of
such a scene, in which patriotism and religion become one--and feel,
too, the exquisite dramatic effect of the innocent, the weak, the
unwarlike, welcoming among them, without fear, because without guilt,
those ancient snaky-haired sisters, emblems of all that is most
terrible and most inscrutable, in the destiny of nations, of
families, and of men:


To their hallowed habitations
'Neath Ogygian earth's foundations
In that darksome hall
Sacrifice and supplication
Shall not fail.  In adoration
Silent worship all.


Listen again, to the gentler patriotism of a gentler poet, Sophocles
himself.  The village of Colonos, a mile from Athens, was his
birthplace; and in his "OEdipus Coloneus," he makes his Chorus of
village officials sing thus of their consecrated olive grove:


   In good hap, stranger, to these rural seats
   Thou comest, to this region's blest retreats,
   Where white Colonos lifts his head,
   And glories in the bounding steed.
Where sadly sweet the frequent nightingale
   Impassioned pours his evening song,
And charms with varied notes each verdant vale,
   The ivy's dark-green boughs among,
   Or sheltered 'neath the clustering vine
   Which, high above him forms a bower,
   Safe from the sun or stormy shower,
   Where frolic Bacchus often roves,
And visits with his fostering nymphs the groves,
   Bathed in the dew of heaven each morn,
   Fresh is the fair Narcissus born,
   Of those great gods the crown of old;
   The crocus glitters, robed in gold.
Here restless fountains ever murmuring glide,
   And as their crisped streamlets play,
To feed, Cephisus, thine unfailing tide,
   Fresh verdure marks their winding way.
   Here oft to raise the tuneful song
   The virgin band of Muses deigns,
And car-borne Aphrodite guides her golden reins.


Then they go on, this band of village elders, to praise the gods for
their special gifts to that small Athenian land.  They praise Pallas
Athene, who gave their forefathers the olive; then Poseidon--Neptune,
as the Romans call him--who gave their forefathers the horse; and
something more--the ship--the horse of the sea, as they, like the old
Norse Vikings after them, delighted to call it


Our highest vaunt is this--Thy grace,
   Poseidon, we behold,
The ruling curb, embossed with gold,
Controls the courser's managed pace,
Though loud, oh king, thy billows roar,
Our strong hands grasp the labouring oar,
And while the Nereids round it play,
Light cuts our bounding bark its way.


What a combination of fine humanities!  Dance and song, patriotism
and religion, so often parted among us, have flowed together into one
in these stately villagers; each a small farmer; each a trained
soldier, and probably a trained seaman also; each a self-governed
citizen; and each a cultured gentleman, if ever there were gentlemen
on earth.

But what drama, doing, or action--for such is the meaning of the
word--is going on upon the stage, to be commented on by the
sympathising Chorus?

One drama, at least, was acted in Athens in that year--440 B.C.--
which you, I doubt not, know well--"Antigone," that of Sophocles,
which Mendelssohn has resuscitated in our own generation, by setting
it to music, divine indeed, though very different from the music to
which it was set, probably by Sophocles himself, at its first, and
for aught we know, its only representation; for pieces had not then,
as now, a run of a hundred nights and more.  The Athenian genius was
so fertile, and the Athenian audience so eager for novelty, that new
pieces were demanded, and were forthcoming, for each of the great
festivals, and if a piece was represented a second time it was
usually after an interval of some years.  They did not, moreover,
like the moderns, run every night to some theatre or other, as a part
of the day's amusement.  Tragedy, and even comedy, were serious
subjects, calling out, not a passing sigh, or passing laugh, but all
the higher faculties and emotions.  And as serious subjects were to
be expressed in verse and music, which gave stateliness, doubtless,
even to the richest burlesques of Aristophanes, and lifted them out
of mere street-buffoonery into an ideal fairyland of the grotesque,
how much more stateliness must verse and music have added to their
tragedy!  And how much have we lost, toward a true appreciation of
their dramatic art, by losing almost utterly not only the laws of
their melody and harmony, but even the true metric time of their
odes!--music and metre, which must have surely been as noble as their
poetry, their sculpture, their architecture, possessed by the same
exquisite sense of form and of proportion.  One thing we can
understand--how this musical form of the drama, which still remains
to us in lower shapes, in the oratorio, in the opera, must have
helped to raise their tragedies into that ideal sphere in which they
all, like the "Antigone," live and move.  So ideal and yet so human;
nay rather, truly ideal, because truly human.  The gods, the heroes,
the kings, the princesses of Greek tragedy were dear to the hearts of
Greek republicans, not merely as the founders of their states, not
merely as the tutelary deities, many of them, of their country:  but
as men and women like themselves, only more vast; with mightier
wills, mightier virtues, mightier sorrows, and often mightier crimes;
their inward free-will battling, as Schlegel has well seen, against
outward circumstance and overruling fate, as every man should battle,
unless he sink to be a brute.  "In tragedy," says Schlegel--uttering
thus a deep and momentous truth--"the gods themselves either come
forward as the servants of destiny and mediate executors of its
decrees, or approve themselves godlike only by asserting their
liberty of action and entering upon the same struggles with fate
which man himself has to encounter."  And I believe this, that this
Greek tragedy, with its godlike men and manlike gods, and heroes who
had become gods by the very vastness of their humanity, was a
preparation, and it may be a necessary preparation, for the true
Christian faith in a Son of Man, who is at once utterly human and
utterly divine.  That man is made in the likeness of God--is the root
idea, only half-conscious, only half-expressed, but instinctive,
without which neither the Greek Tragedies nor the Homeric Poems, six
hundred years before them, could have been composed.  Doubtless the
idea that man was like a god degenerated too often into the idea that
the gods were like men, and as wicked.  But that travestie of a great
truth is not confined to those old Greeks.  Some so-called Christian
theories--as I hold--have sinned in that direction as deeply as the
Athenians of old.

Meanwhile, I say, that this long acquiescence in the conception of
godlike struggle, godlike daring, godlike suffering, godlike
martyrdom; the very conception which was so foreign to the
mythologies of any other race--save that of the Jews, and perhaps of
our own Teutonic forefathers--did prepare, must have prepared men to
receive as most rational and probable, as the satisfaction of their
highest instincts, the idea of a Being in whom all those partial rays
culminated in clear, pure light; of a Being at once utterly human and
utterly divine; who by struggle, suffering, self-sacrifice, without a
parallel, achieved a victory over circumstance and all the dark
powers which beleaguer main without a parallel likewise.

Take, as an example, the figure which you know best--the figure of
Antigone herself--devoting herself to be entombed alive, for the sake
of love and duty.  Love of a brother, which she can only prove, alas!
by burying his corpse.  Duty to the dead, an instinct depending on no
written law, but springing out of the very depth of those blind and
yet sacred monitions which prove that the true man is not an animal,
but a spirit; fulfilling her holy purpose, unchecked by fear,
unswayed by her sisters' entreaties.  Hardening her heart
magnificently till her fate is sealed; and then after proving her
godlike courage, proving the tenderness of her womanhood by that
melodious wail over her own untimely death and the loss of marriage
joys, which some of you must know from the music of Mendelssohn, and
which the late Dean Milman has put into English thus:


Come, fellow-citizens, and see
The desolate Antigone.
On the last path her steps shall treed,
Set forth, the journey of the dead,
Watching, with vainly lingering gaze,
Her last, last sun's expiring rays.

Never to see it, never more,
For down to Acheron's dread shore,
A living victim am I led
To Hades' universal bed.
To my dark lot no bridal joys
Belong, nor o'er the jocund noise
Of hymeneal chant shall sound for me,
But death, cold death, my only spouse shall be.

Oh tomb!  Oh bridal chamber!  Oh deep-delved
And strongly-guarded mansion!  I descend
To meet in your dread chambers all my kindred,
Who in dark multitudes have crowded down
Where Proserpine received the dead.  But I,
The last--and oh how few more miserable!--
Go down, or ere my sands of life are run.


And let me ask you whether the contemplation of such a self-sacrifice
should draw you, should have drawn those who heard the tale nearer
to, or farther from, a certain cross which stood on Calvary some 1800
years ago?  May not the tale of Antigone heard from mother or from
nurse have nerved ere now some martyr-maiden to dare and suffer in an
even holier cause?

But to return.  This set purpose of the Athenian dramatists of the
best school to set before men a magnified humanity, explains much in
their dramas which seems to us at first not only strange but faulty.
The masks which gave one grand but unvarying type of countenance to
each well-known historic personage, and thus excluded the play of
feature, animated gesture, and almost all which we now consider as
"acting" proper; the thick-soled cothurni which gave the actor a more
than human stature; the poverty (according to our notions) of the
scenery, which usually represented merely the front of a palace or
other public place, and was often though not always unchanged during
the whole performance; the total absence, in fact, of anything like
that scenic illusion which most managers of theatres seem now to
consider as their highest achievement; the small number of the
actors, two, or at most three only, being present on the stage at
once,--the simplicity of the action, in which intrigue (in the
playhouse sense) and any complication of plot are utterly absent; all
this must have concentrated not the eye of the spectator on the
scene, but his ear upon the voice, and his emotions on the personages
who stood out before him without a background, sharp-cut and clear as
a group of statuary, which is the same, place it where you will,
complete in itself--a world of beauty, independent of all other
things and beings save on the ground on which it needs must stand.
It was the personage rather than his surroundings, which was to be
impressed by every word on the spectator's heart and intellect; and
the very essence of Greek tragedy is expressed in the still famous
words of Medea:


Che resta?  Io.


Contrast this with the European drama--especially with the highest
form of it--our own Elizabethan.  It resembles, as has been often
said in better words than mine, not statuary but painting.  These
dramas affect colour, light, and shadow, background whether of town
or country, description of scenery where scenic machinery is
inadequate, all, in fact, which can blend the action and the actors
with the surrounding circumstances, without letting them altogether
melt into the circumstances; which can show them a part of the great
whole, by harmony or discord with the whole universe, down to the
flowers beneath their feet.  This, too, had to be done:  how it
became possible for even the genius of a Shakespeare to get it done,
I may with your leave hint to you hereafter.  Why it was not given to
the Greeks to do it, I know not.

Let us at least thank them for what they did.  One work was given
them, and that one they fulfilled as it had never been fulfilled
before; as it will never need to be fulfilled again; for the Greeks'
work was done not for themselves alone but for all races in all
times; and Greek Art is the heirloom of the whole human race; and
that work was to assert in drama, lyric, sculpture, music, gymnastic,
the dignity of man--the dignity of man which they perceived for the
most part with their intense aesthetic sense, through the beautiful
in man.  Man with them was divine, inasmuch as he could perceive
beauty and be beautiful himself.  Beauty might be physical,
aesthetic, intellectual, moral.  But in proportion as a thing was
perfect it revealed its own perfection by its beauty.  Goodness
itself was a form--though the highest form--of beauty.  [Greek] meant
both the physically beautiful and the morally good; [Greek] both the
ugly and the bad.

Out of this root-idea sprang the whole of that Greek sculpture, which
is still, and perhaps ever will be, one of the unrivalled wonders of
the world.

Their first statues, remember, were statues of the gods.  This is an
historic fact.  Before B.C. 580 there were probably no statues in
Greece save those of deities.  But of what form?  We all know that
the usual tendency of man has been to represent his gods as more or
less monstrous.  Their monstrosity may have been meant, as it was
certainly with the Mexican idols, and probably those of the Semitic
races of Syria and Palestine, to symbolise the ferocious passions
which they attributed to those objects of their dread, appeasable
alone by human sacrifice.  Or the monstrosity, as with the hawk-
headed or cat-headed Egyptian idols, the winged bulls of Nineveh and
Babylon, the many-handed deities of Hindostan--merely symbolised
powers which could not, so the priest and the sculptor held, belong
to mere humanity.  Now, of such monstrous forms of idols, the records
in Greece are very few and very ancient--relics of an older worship,
and most probably of an older race.  From the earliest historic
period, the Greek was discerning more and more that the divine could
be best represented by the human; the tendency of his statuary was
more and more to honour that divine, by embodying it in the highest
human beauty.

In lonely mountain shrines there still might linger, feared and
honoured, dolls like those black virgins, of unknown antiquity, which
still work wonders on the European continent.  In the mysterious
cavern of Phigalia, for instance, on the Eleatic shore of
Peloponnese, there may have been in remote times--so the legend ran--
an old black wooden image, a woman with a horse's head and mane, and
serpents growing round her head, who held a dolphin in one hand and a
dove in the other.  And this image may have been connected with old
nature-myths about the marriage of Demeter and Poseidon--that is, of
encroachments of the sea upon the land; and the other myths of
Demeter, the earth-mother, may have clustered round the place, till
the Phigalians were glad--for it was profitable as well as
honourable--to believe that in their cavern Demeter sat mourning for
the loss of Proserpine, whom Pluto had carried down to Hades, and all
the earth was barren till Zeus sent the Fates, or Iris, to call her
forth, and restore fertility to the world.  And it may be true--the
legend as Pausanias tells it 600 years after--that the old wooden
idol having been burnt, and the worship of Demeter neglected till a
famine ensued, the Phigalians, warned by the Oracle of Delphi, hired
Onatas, a contemporary of Polygnotus and Phidias, to make them a
bronze replica of the old idol, from some old copy and from a drama
of his own.  The story may be true.  When Pausanias went thither, in
the second century after Christ, the cave and the fountain, and the
sacred grove of oaks, and the altar outside, which was to be polluted
with the blood of no victim--the only offerings being fruits and
honey, and undressed wool--were still there.  The statue was gone.
Some said it had been destroyed by the fall of the cliff; some were
not sure that it had ever been there at all.  And meanwhile
Praxiteles had already brought to perfection (Paus. 1, 2, sec. 4) the
ideal of Demeter, mother-like, as Here--whom we still call Juno now--
but softer-featured, and her eyes more closed.

And so for mother earth, as for the rest, the best representation of
the divine was the human.  Now, conceive such an idea taking hold,
however slowly, of a people of rare physical beauty, of acutest eye
for proportion and grace, with opportunities of studying the human
figure such as exist nowhere now, save among tropic savages, and
gifted, moreover, in that as in all other matters, with that inmate
diligence, of which Mr. Carlyle has said, "that genius is only an
infinite capacity of taking pains," and we can understand somewhat of
the causes which produced those statues, human and divine, which awe
and shame the artificiality and degeneracy of our modern so-called
civilisation--we can understand somewhat of the reverence for the
human form, of the careful study of every line, the storing up for
use each scattered fragment of beauty of which the artist caught
sight, even in his daily walks, and consecrating it in his memory to
the service of him or her whom he was trying to embody in marble or
in bronze.  And when the fashion came in of making statues of victors
in the games, and other distinguished persons, a new element was
introduced, which had large social as well as artistic results.  The
sculptor carried his usual reverence into his careful delineation of
the victor's form, while he obtained in him a model, usually of the
very highest type, for perfecting his idea of some divinity.  The
possibility of gaining the right to a statue gave a fresh impulse to
all competitors in the public games, and through them to the
gymnastic training throughout all the states of Greece, which made
the Greeks the most physically able and graceful, as well as the most
beautiful people known to the history of the human race,--a people
who, reverencing beauty, reverenced likewise grace or acted beauty,
so utterly and honestly, that nothing was too humble for a free man
to do, if it were not done awkwardly and ill.  As an instance,
Sophocles himself--over and above his poetic genius, one of the most
cultivated gentlemen, as well as one of the most exquisite musicians,
dancers, and gymnasts, and one of the most just, pious, and gentle of
all Greece--could not, by reason of the weakness of his voice, act in
his own plays, as poets were wont to do, and had to perform only the
office of stage-manager.  Twice he took part in the action, once as
the blind old Thamyris playing on the harp, and once in his own lost
tragedy, the "Nausicaa."  There in the scene in which the Princess,
as she does in Homer's "Odyssey," comes down to the sea-shore with
her maidens to wash the household clothes, and then to play at ball--
Sophocles himself, a man then of middle age, did the one thing he
could do better than any there--and, dressed in women's clothes,
among the lads who represented the maidens, played at ball before the
Athenian people.

Just sixty years after the representation of the "Antigone," 10,000
Greeks, far on the plains of Babylon, cut through the whole Persian
army, as the railway train cuts through a herd of buffalo, and then
losing all their generals by treacherous warfare, fought their way
north from Babylon to Trebizond on the Black Sea, under the guidance
of a young Athenian, a pupil of Socrates, who had never served in the
army before.  The retreat of Xenophon and his 10,000 will remain for
ever as one of the grandest triumphs of civilisation over brute
force:  but what made it possible?  That these men, and their
ancestors before them, had been for at least 100 years in _training_,
physical, intellectual, and moral, which made their bodies and their
minds able to dare and suffer like those old heroes of whom their
tragedy had taught them, and whose spirits they still believed would
help the valiant Greek.  And yet that feat, which looks to us so
splendid, attracted, as far as I am aware, no special admiration at
the time.  So was the cultivated Greek expected to behave whenever he
came in contact with the uncultivated barbarian.

But from what had sprung in that little state, this exuberance of
splendid life, physical, aesthetic, intellectual, which made, and
will make the name of Athens and of the whole cluster of Greek
republics for ever admirable to civilised man?  Had it sprung from
long years of peaceful prosperity?  From infinite making of money and
comfort, according to the laws of so-called political economy, and
the dictates of enlightened selfishness?  Not so.  But rather out of
terror and agony, and all but utter ruin--and out of a magnificent
want of economy, and the divine daring and folly of self-sacrifice.

In Salamis across the strait a trophy stood, and round that trophy,
forty years before, Sophocles, the author of "Antigone," then sixteen
years of age, the loveliest and most cultivated lad in Athens,
undraped like a faun, with lyre in hand, was leading the Chorus of
Athenian youths, and singing to Athene, the tutelary goddess, a hymn
of triumph for a glorious victory--the very symbol of Greece and
Athens, springing up into a joyous second youth after invasion and
desolation, as the grass springs up after the prairie fire has
passed.  But the fire had been terrible.  It had burnt Athens at
least, down to the very roots.  True, while Sophocles was dancing,
Xerxes, the great king of the East, foiled at Salamis, as his father
Darius had been foiled at Marathon ten years before, was fleeing back
to Persia, leaving his innumerable hosts of slaves and mercenaries to
be destroyed piecemeal, by land at Platea, by sea at Mycale.  The
bold hope was over, in which the Persian, ever since the days of
Cyrus, had indulged--that he, the despot of the East, should be the
despot of the West likewise.  It seemed to them as possible, though
not as easy, to subdue the Aryan Greek, as it had been to subdue the
Semite and the Turanian, the Babylonian and the Syrian; to riffle his
temples, to destroy his idols, carry off his women and children as
colonists into distant lands, as they had been doing with all the
nations of the East.  And they had succeeded with isolated colonies,
isolated islands of Greeks, and the shores of Asia Minor.  But when
they dared, at last, to attack the Greek in his own sacred land of
Hellas, they found they had bearded a lion in his den.  Nay rather--
as those old Greeks would have said--they had dared to attack Pallas
Athene, the eldest daughter of Zeus--emblem of that serene and pure
divine wisdom, of whom Solomon sang of old:  "The Lord possessed me
in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.  When He
prepared the heavens, I was there, when He appointed the foundation
of the earth, then was I by him, as one brought up with Him, and I
was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him:  rejoicing in the
habitable part of His earth; _and_ my _delight was with the sons of
men_"--to attack Athene and her brother Apollo, Lord of light, and
beauty, and culture, and grace, and inspiration--to attack them, not
in the name of Ormuzd, nor of any other deity, but in the name of
mere brute force and lust of conquest.  The old Persian spirit was
gone out of them.  They were the symbols now of nothing save
despotism and self-will, wealth and self-indulgence.  They, once the
children of Ormuzd or light, had become the children of Ahriman or
darkness; and therefore it was, as I believe, that Xerxes' 1000
ships, and the two million (or, as some have it, five million) human
beings availed naught against the little fleets and little battalions
of men who believed with a living belief in Athene and Apollo, and
therefore--ponder it well, for it is true--with a living belief,
under whatsoever confusions and divisions of personality, in a God
who loved, taught, inspired men, a just God who befriended the
righteous cause, the cause of freedom and patriotism, a Deity, the
echo of whose mind and will to man was the song of Athene on Olympus,
when she


Chanted of order and right, and of foresight, and order of peoples;
Chanted of labour and craft, wealth in the port and the garner;
Chanted of valour and fame, and the man who can fall with the
foremost,
Fighting for children and wife, and the field which his father
bequeathed him.
Sweetly and cunningly sang she, and planned new lessons for mortals.
Happy who hearing obey her, the wise unsullied Athene.


Ah, that they had always obeyed her, those old Greeks.  But
meanwhile, as I said, the agony had been extreme.  If Athens had
sinned, she had been purged as by fire; and the fire--surely of God--
had been terrible.  Northern Greece had either been laid waste with
fire and sword, or had gone over to the Persian, traitors in their
despair.  Attica, almost the only loyal state, had been overrun; the
old men, women, and children had fled to the neighbouring islands, or
to the Peloponnese.  Athens itself had been destroyed; and while
young Sophocles was dancing round the trophy at Salamis, the
Acropolis was still a heap of blackened ruins.

But over and above their valour, over and above their loyalty, over
and above their exquisite aesthetic faculty, these Athenians had a
resilience of self-reliant energy, like that of the French--like that
of the American people after the fire of Chicago; and Athens rose
from her ashes to be awhile, not only, as she had nobly earned by
suffering and endurance, the leading state in Greece, but a mighty
fortress, a rich commercial port, a living centre of art, poetry,
philosophy, such as this earth has never seen before or since.

On the plateau of that little crag of the Acropolis some eight
hundred feet in length, by four hundred in breadth--about the size
and shape of the Castle Rock at Edinburgh--was gathered, within forty
years of the battle of Salamis, more and more noble beauty than ever
stood together on any other spot of like size.

The sudden relief from crushing pressure, and the joyous
consciousness of well-earned honours, made the whole spirit-nature of
the people blossom out, as it were, into manifold forms of activity,
beauty, research, and raised, in raising Greece, the whole human race
thenceforth.

What might they not have done--looking at what they actually did--for
the whole race of man?

But no--they fell, even more rapidly than they rose, till their grace
and their cultivation, for them they could not lose, made them the
willing ministers to the luxury, the frivolity, the sentimentality,
the vice of the whole old world--the Scapia or Figaro of the old
world--infinitely able, but with all his ability consecrated to the
service of his own base self.  The Greekling--as Juvenal has it--in
want of a dinner, would climb somehow to heaven itself, at the
bidding of his Roman master.

Ah what a fall!  And what was the inherent weakness which caused that
fall?

I say at once--want of honesty.  The Greek was not to be depended on;
if it suited him, he would lie, betray, overreach, change sides, and
think it no sin.  He was the sharpest of men.  Sharp practice, in our
modern sense of the word, was the very element in which he floated.
Any scholar knows it.  In the grand times of Marathon and Salamis,
down to the disastrous times of the Peloponnesian War and the thirty
tyrants, no public man's hands were clean, with the exception,
perhaps, of Aristides, who was banished because men were tired of
hearing him called the Just.  The exciting cause of the Peloponnesian
war, and the consequent downfall of Athens, was not merely the
tyranny she exercised over the states allied to her, it was the sharp
practice of the Athenians, in misappropriating the tribute paid by
the allies to the decoration of Athens.  And in laying the
foundations of the Parthenon was sown, by a just judgment, the seed
of ruin for the state which gloried in it.  And if the rulers were
such, what were the people?  If the free were such, what were the
slaves?

Hence, weakness at home and abroad, mistrust of generals and
admirals, paralysing all bold and clear action, peculations and
corruptions at home, internecine wars between factions inside states,
and between states or groups of states, revolutions followed by
despotism, and final exhaustion and slavery--slavery to a people who
were coming across the western sea, hard-headed, hard-hearted, caring
nothing for art, or science, whose pleasures were coarse and cruel,
but with a certain rough honesty, reverence for country, for law, and
for the ties of a family--men of a somewhat old English type, who had
over and above, like the English, the inspiring belief that they
could conquer the whole world, and who very nearly succeeded in that-
-as we have, to our great blessing, not succeeded--I mean, of course,
the Romans.



THOUGHTS ON SHELLEY AND BYRON {35}



The poets, who forty years ago proclaimed their intention of working
a revolution in English literature, and who have succeeded in their
purpose, recommended especially a more simple and truthful view of
nature.  The established canons of poetry were to be discarded as
artificial; as to the matter, the poet was to represent mere nature
as he saw her; as to form, he was to be his own law.  Freedom and
nature were to be his watchwords.

No theory could be more in harmony with the spirit of the age, and
the impulse which had been given to it by the burning words of Jean
Jacques Rousseau.  The school which arose expressed fairly the unrest
and unruliness of the time, its weariness of artificial restraint and
unmeaning laws, its craving after a nobler and a more earnest life,
its sense of a glory and mystery in the physical universe, hidden
from the poets of the two preceding centuries, and now revealed by
science.  So far all was hopeful.  But it soon became apparent, that
each poet's practical success in carrying out the theory was,
paradoxically enough, in inverse proportion to his belief in it; that
those who like Wordsworth, Southey, and Keats, talked most about
naturalness and freedom, and most openly reprobated the school of
Pope, were, after all, least natural and least free; that the balance
of those excellences inclined much more to those who, like Campbell,
Rogers, Crabbe, and Moore, troubled their heads with no theories, but
followed the best old models which they knew; and that the rightful
sovereign of the new Parnassus, Lord Byron, protested against the new
movement, while he followed it; upheld to the last the models which
it was the fashion to decry, confessed to the last, in poetry as in
morals, "Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor," and uttered again
and again prophecies of the downfall of English poetry and English
taste, which seem to be on the eve of realisation.

Now no one will, we presume, be silly enough to say that humanity has
gained nothing by all the very beautiful poetry which has been poured
out on it during the last thirty years in England.  Nevertheless,
when we see poetry dying down among us year by year, although the age
is becoming year by year more marvellous and inspiring, we have a
right to look for some false principle in a school which has had so
little enduring vitality, which seems now to be able to perpetuate
nothing of itself but its vices.

The answer so easy twenty years ago, that the new poetry was spoiled
by an influx of German bad taste, will hardly hold good now, except
with a very few very ignorant people.  It is now known, of course,
that whatsoever quarrel Lessing, Schiller, and Goethe may have had
with Pope, it was not on account of his being too severe an artist,
but too loose a one; not for being too classical, but not classical
enough; that English poets borrowed from them nothing but their most
boyish and immature types of thought, and that these were reproduced,
and laughed at here, while the men themselves were writing works of a
purity, and loftiness, and completeness, unknown to the world--except
in the writings of Milton--for nearly two centuries.  This feature,
however, of the new German poetry, was exactly the one which no
English poet deigned to imitate, save Byron alone; on whom,
accordingly, Goethe always looked with admiration and affection.  But
the rest went their way unheeding; and if they have defects, those
defects are their own; for when they did copy the German taste, they,
for the most part, deliberately chose the evil, and refused the good;
and have their reward in a fame which we believe will prove itself a
very short-lived one.

We cannot deny, however, that, in spite of all faults, these men had
a strength.  They have exercised an influence.  And they have done so
by virtue of seeing a fact which more complete, and in some cases
more manly poets, did not see.  Strangely enough, Shelley, the man
who was the greatest sinner of them all against the canons of good
taste, was the man who saw that new fact, if not most clearly, still
most intensely, and who proclaimed it most boldly.  His influence,
therefore, is outliving that of his compeers, and growing and
spreading, for good and for evil; and will grow and spread for years
to come, as long as the present great unrest goes on smouldering in
men's hearts, till the hollow settlement of 1815 is burst asunder
anew, and men feel that they are no longer in the beginning of the
end, but in the end itself, and that this long thirty years' prologue
to the reconstruction of rotten Europe is played out at last, and the
drama itself begun.

Such is the way of Providence; the race is not to the swift, nor the
battle to the strong, nor the prophecy to the wise.  The Spirit
bloweth where He listeth, and sends on his errands--those who deny
Him, rebel against Him--profligates, madmen, and hysterical
Rousseaus, hysterical Shelleys, uttering words like the east wind.
He uses strange tools in His cosmogony:  but He does not use them in
vain.  By bad men if not by good, by fools if not by wise, God's work
is done, and done right well.

There was, then, a strength and a truth in all these men; and it was
this--that more or less clearly, they all felt that they were
standing between two worlds; and the ruins of an older age; upon the
threshold of a new one.  To Byron's mind, the decay and rottenness of
the old was, perhaps, the most palpable; to Shelley's, the possible
glory of the new.  Wordsworth declared--a little too noisily, we
think, as if he had been the first to discover the truth--the dignity
and divineness of the most simple human facts and relationships.
Coleridge declares that the new can only assume living form by
growing organically out of the old institutions.  Keats gives a sad
and yet a wholesome answer to them both, as, young and passionate, he
goes down with Faust "to the Mothers"--


   To the rich warm youth of the nations,
Childlike in virtue and faith, though childlike in passion and
pleasure,
Childlike still, still near to the gods, while the sunset of Eden
Lingered in rose-red rays on the peaks of Ionian mountains.


And there, amid the old classic forms, he cries:  "These things, too,
are eternal--


A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.


These, or things even fairer than they, must have their place in the
new world, if it is to be really a home for the human race."  So he
sings, as best he can, the half-educated and consumptive stable-
keeper's son, from his prison-house of London brick, and in one
mighty yearn after that beauty from which he is debarred, breaks his
young heart, and dies, leaving a name not "writ in water," as he
dreamed, but on all fair things, all lovers' hearts, for evermore.

Here, then, to return, is the reason why the hearts of the present
generation have been influenced so mightily by these men, rather than
by those of whom Byron wrote, with perfect sincerity:


Scott, Rogers, Campbell, Moore, and Crabbe will try
'Gainst you the question with posterity.


These lines, written in 1818, were meant to apply only to Coleridge,
Wordsworth, and Southey.  Whether they be altogether just or unjust
is not now the question.  It must seem somewhat strange to our young
poets that Shelley's name is not among those who are to try the
question of immortality against the Lake School; and yet many of his
most beautiful poems had been already written.  Were, then, "The
Revolt of Islam" and "Alastor" not destined, it seems, in Byron's
opinion, to live as long as the "Lady of the Lake" and the "Mariners
of England?"  Perhaps not.  At least the omission of Shelley's name
is noteworthy.  But still more noteworthy are these words of his to
Mr. Murray, dated January 23, 1819:

"Read Pope--most of you don't--but do . . . and the inevitable
consequence would be, that you would burn all that I have ever
written, and all your other wretched Claudians of the day (except
Scott and Crabbe) into the bargain."

And here arises a new question--Is Shelley, then, among the
Claudians?  It is a hard saying.  The present generation will receive
it with shouts of laughter.  Some future one, which studies and
imitates Shakespeare instead of anatomising him, and which gradually
awakens to the now forgotten fact, that a certain man named Edmund
Spenser once wrote a poem, the like of which the earth never saw
before, and perhaps may never see again, may be inclined to acquiesce
in the verdict, and believe that Byron had a discrimination in this
matter, as in a hundred more, far more acute than any of his
compeers, and had not eaten in vain, poor fellow, of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil.  In the meanwhile, we may perceive in the
poetry of the two men deep and radical differences, indicating a
spiritual difference between them even more deep, which may explain
the little notice which Byron takes of Shelley's poetry, and the fact
that the two men had no deep sympathy for each other, and could not
in any wise "pull together" during the sojourn in Italy.  Doubtless,
there were plain outward faults of temper and character on both
sides; neither was in a state of mind which could trust itself, or be
trusted by those who loved them best.  Friendship can only consist
with the calm and self-restraint and self-respect of moral and
intellectual health; and both were diseased, fevered, ready to take
offence, ready, unwittingly, to give it.  But the diseases of the two
were different, as their natures were; and Shelley's fever was not
Byron's.

Now it is worth remarking, that it is Shelley's form of fever, rather
than Byron's, which has been of late years the prevailing epidemic.
Since Shelley's poems have become known in England, and a timid
public, after approaching in fear and trembling the fountain which
was understood to be poisoned, has begun first to sip, and then,
finding the magic water at all events sweet enough, to quench its
thirst with unlimited draughts, Byron's fiercer wine has lost favour.
Well--at least the taste of the age is more refined, if that be
matter of congratulation.  And there is an excuse for preferring
champagne to waterside porter, heady with grains of paradise and
quassia, salt and cocculus indicus.  Nevertheless, worse ingredients
than oenanthic acid may lurk in the delicate draught, and the Devil's
Elixir may be made fragrant, and sweet, and transparent enough, as
French moralists well know, for the most fastidious palate.  The
private sipping of eua-de-cologne, say the London physicians, has
increased mightily of late; and so has the reading of Shelley.  It is
not surprising.  Byron's Corsairs and Laras have been, on the whole,
impossible during the thirty years' peace! and piracy and profligacy
are at all times, and especially nowadays, expensive amusements, and
often require a good private fortune--rare among poets.  They have,
therefore, been wisely abandoned as ideals, except among a few young
persons, who used to wear turn-down collars, and are now attempting
moustaches and Mazzini hats.  But even among them, and among their
betters--rather their more-respectables--nine-tenths of the bad
influence which is laid at Byron's door really is owing to Shelley.
Among the many good-going gentlemen and ladies, Byron is generally
spoken of with horror--he is "so wicked," forsooth; while poor
Shelley, "poor dear Shelley," is "very wrong, of course," but "so
refined," "so beautiful," "so tender"--a fallen angel, while Byron is
a satyr and a devil.  We boldly deny the verdict.  Neither of the two
are devils; as for angels, when we have seen one, we shall be better
able to give an opinion; at present, Shelley is in our eyes far less
like one of those old Hebrew and Miltonic angels, fallen or unfallen,
than Byron is.  And as for the satyr; the less that is said for
Shelley, on that point, the better.  If Byron sinned more desperately
and flagrantly than he, it was done under the temptations of rank,
wealth, disappointed love, and under the impulses of an animal
nature, to which Shelley's passions were


As moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine.


At all events, Byron never set to work to consecrate his own sin into
a religion and proclaim the worship of uncleanness as the last and
highest ethical development of "pure" humanity.  No--Byron may be
brutal; but he never cants.  If at moments he finds himself in hell,
he never turns round to the world and melodiously informs them that
it is heaven, if they could but see it in its true light.

The truth is, that what has put Byron out of favour with the public
of late has been not his faults but his excellences.  His artistic
good taste, his classical polish, his sound shrewd sense, his hatred
of cant, his insight into humbug above all, his shallow, pitiable
habit of being always intelligible--these are the sins which condemn
him in the eyes of a mesmerising, table-turning, spirit-rapping,
spiritualising, Romanising generation, who read Shelley in secret,
and delight in his bad taste, mysticism, extravagance, and vague and
pompous sentimentalism.  The age is an effeminate one, and it can
well afford to pardon the lewdness of the gentle and sensitive
vegetarian, while it has no mercy for that of the sturdy peer proud
of his bull neck and his boxing, who kept bears and bull-dogs,
drilled Greek ruffians at Missoloughi, and "had no objection to a pot
of beer;" and who might, if he had reformed, have made a gallant
English gentleman; while Shelley, if once his intense self-opinion
had deserted him, would have probably ended in Rome as an Oratorian
or a Passionist.

We would that it were only for this count that Byron has had to make
way for Shelley.  There is, as we said before, a deeper moral
difference between the men, which makes the weaker, rather than the
stronger, find favour in young men's eyes.  For Byron has the most
intense and awful sense of moral law--of law external to himself.
Shelley has little or none; less, perhaps, than any known writer who
has ever meddled with moral questions.  Byron's cry is, I am
miserable because law exists; and I have broken it, broken it so
habitually, that now I cannot help breaking it.  I have tried to
eradicate the sense of it by speculation, by action; but I cannot--


The tree of knowledge is not the tree of life.


There is a moral law independent of us, and yet the very marrow of
our life, which punishes and rewards us by no arbitrary external
penalties, but by our own consciousness of being what we are:


The mind which is immortal, makes itself
Requital for its good or evil thoughts;
Is its own origin of ill, and end--
And its own place and time--its innate sense
When stript of this mortality derives
No colour from the fleeting things about,
But is absorbed in sufferance or in joy,
Born from the knowledge of its own desert.


This idea, confused, intermitted, obscured by all forms of evil--for
it was not discovered, but only in the process of discovery--is the
one which comes out with greater and greater strength, through all
Corsairs, Laras, and Parasinas, till it reaches its completion in
"Cain" and in "Manfred," of both of which we do boldly say, that if
any sceptical poetry at all be right, which we often question, they
are right and not wrong; that in "Cain," as in "Manfred," the awful
problem which, perhaps, had better not have been put at all, is
nevertheless fairly put, and the solution, as far as it is seen,
fairly confessed; namely, that there is an absolute and eternal law
in the heart of man which sophistries of his own or of other beings
may make him forget, deny, blaspheme; but which exists eternally, and
will assert itself.  If this be not the meaning of "Manfred,"
especially of that great scene in the chamois hunter's cottage, what
is?--If this be not the meaning of "Cain," and his awful awakening
after the murder, not to any mere dread of external punishment, but
to an overwhelming, instinctive, inarticulate sense of having done
wrong, what is?

Yes; that law exists, let it never be forgotten, is the real meaning
of Byron, down to that last terrible "Don Juan," in which he sits
himself down, in artificial calm, to trace the gradual rotting and
degradation of a man without law, the slave of his own pleasures; a
picture happily never finished, because he who painted it was taken
away before he had learnt, perhaps when he was beginning to turn back
from--the lower depth within the lowest deep.

Now to this whole form of consciousness, poor Shelley's mind is
altogether antipodal.  His whole life through was a denial of
external law, and a substitution in its place of internal sentiment.
Byron's cry is:  There is a law, and therefore I am miserable.  Why
cannot I keep the law?  Shelley's is:  There is a law, and therefore
I am miserable.  Why should not the law be abolished?--Away with it,
for it interferes with my sentiments--Away with marriage, "custom and
faith, the foulest birth of time."--We do not wish to follow him down
into the fearful sins which he defended with the small powers of
reasoning--and they were peculiarly small--which he possessed.  Let
any one who wishes to satisfy himself of the real difference between
Byron's mind and Shelley's, compare the writings in which each of
them treats the same subject--namely, that frightful question about
the relation of the sexes, which forms, evidently, Manfred's crime;
and see if the result is not simply this, that Shelley glorifies what
Byron damns.  "Lawless love" is Shelley's expressed ideal of the
relation of the sexes; and his justice, his benevolence, his pity,
are all equally lawless.  "Follow your instincts," is his one moral
rule, confounding the very lowest animal instincts with those lofty
ideas of might, which it was the will of Heaven that he should
retain, ay, and love, to the very last, and so reducing them all to
the level of sentiments.  "Follow your instincts"--But what if our
instincts lead us to eat animal food?  "Then you must follow the
instincts of me, Percy Bysshe Shelley.  I think it horrible, cruel;
it offends my taste."  What if our instincts lead us to tyrannise
over our fellow-men?  "Then you must repress those instincts.  I,
Shelley, think that, too, horrible and cruel."  Whether it be
vegetarianism or liberty, the rule is practically the same--sentiment
which, in his case, as in the case of all sentimentalists, turns out
to mean at last, not the sentiments of mankind in general, but the
private sentiments of the writer.  This is Shelley; a sentimentalist
pure and simple; incapable of anything like inductive reasoning;
unable to take cognisance of any facts but those which please his
taste, or to draw any conclusion from them but such as also pleases
his taste; as, for example, in that eighth stanza of the "Ode to
Liberty," which, had it been written by any other man but Shelley,
possessing the same knowledge as he, one would have called a wicked
and deliberate lie--but in his case, is to be simply passed over with
a sigh, like a young lady's proofs of table-turning and rapping
spirits.  She wished to see it so--and therefore so she saw it.

For Shelley's nature is utterly womanish.  Not merely his weak
points, but his strong ones, are those of a woman.  Tender and
pitiful as a woman; and yet, when angry, shrieking, railing,
hysterical as a woman.  The physical distaste for meat and fermented
liquors, coupled with the hankering after physical horrors, are
especially feminine.  The nature of a woman looks out of that wild,
beautiful, girlish face--the nature:  but not the spirit; not


The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength and skill.


The lawlessness of the man, with the sensibility of the woman. . . .
Alas for him!  He, too, might have discovered what Byron did; for
were not his errors avenged upon him within, more terribly even than
without?  His cries are like the wails of a child, inarticulate,
peevish, irrational; and yet his pain fills his whole being, blackens
the very face of nature to him:  but he will not confess himself in
the wrong.  Once only, if we recollect rightly, the truth flashes
across him for a moment, and the clouds of selfish sorrow:


Alas, I have nor hope nor health,
   Nor peace within, nor calm around;
Nor that content surpassing wealth
   The sage in meditation found,
And walked with inward glory crowned.


"Nor"--alas for the spiritual bathos, which follows that short gleam
of healthy feeling, and coming to himself--


   --fame nor power, nor love, nor leisure,
   Others I see whom these surround,
   Smiling they live and call life pleasure,
To me that cup has been dealt in another measure!


Poor Shelley!  As if the peace within, and the calm around, and the
content surpassing wealth, were things which were to be put in the
same category with fame, and power, and love, and leisure.  As if
they were things which could be "dealt" to any man; instead of
depending (as Byron, who, amid all his fearful sins, was a man, knew
well enough) upon a man's self, a man's own will, and that will
exerted to do a will exterior to itself, to know and to obey a law.
But no, the cloud of sentiment must close over again, and


Yet now despair itself is mild
   Even as the winds and waters are;
I could lie down like a tired child,
   And weep away this life of care,
Which I have borne, and still must bear,
   Till death like sleep might seize on me,
And I might feel in the warm air,
   My cheek grow cold, and hear the sea
Breathe o'er my dying brain its last monotony!


Too beautiful to laugh at, however empty and sentimental.  True:  but
why beautiful?  Because there is a certain sincerity in it, which
breeds coherence and melody, which, in short, makes it poetry.  But
what if such a tone of mind be consciously encouraged, even
insincerely affected as the ideal state for a poet's mind, as his
followers have done?

The mischief which such a man would do is conceivable enough.  He
stands out, both by his excellences and his defects, as the spokesman
and ideal of all the unrest and unhealth of sensitive young men for
many a year after.  His unfulfilled prophecies only help to increase
that unrest.  Who shall blame either him for uttering those
prophecies, or them for longing for their fulfilment?  Must we not
thank the man who gives us fresh hope that this earth will not be
always as it is now?  His notion of what it will be may be, as
Shelley's was, vague, even in some things wrong and undesirable.
Still, we must accept his hope and faith in the spirit, not in the
letter.  So have thousands of young men felt, who would have shrunk
with disgust from some of poor Shelley's details of the "good time
coming."  And shame on him who should wish to rob them of such a
hope, even if it interfered with his favourite "scheme of unfulfilled
prophecy."  So men have felt Shelley's spell a wondrous one--perhaps,
they think, a life-giving regenerative one.  And yet what dream at
once more shallow and more impossible?  Get rid of kings and priests;
marriage may stay, pending discussions on the rights of women.  Let
the poet speak--what he is to say being, of course, a matter of
utterly secondary import, provided only that he be a poet; and then
the millennium will appear of itself, and the devil be exorcised with
a kiss from all hearts--except, of course, these of "pale priests"
and "tyrants with their sneer of cold command" (who, it seems, have
not been got rid of after all), and the Cossacks and Croats whom they
may choose to call to their rescue.  And on the appearance of the
said Cossacks and Croats, the poet's vision stops short, and all is
blank beyond.  A recipe for the production of millenniums which has
this one advantage, that it is small enough to be comprehended by the
very smallest minds, and reproduced thereby, with a difference, in
such spasmodic melodies as seem to those small minds to be imitations
of Shelley's nightingale notes.

For nightingale notes they truly are.  In spite of all his faults--
and there are few poetic faults in which he does not indulge, to
their very highest power--in spite of his "interfluous" and
"innumerous," and the rest of his bad English--in spite of bombast,
horrors, maundering, sheer stuff and nonsense of all kinds, there is
a plaintive natural melody about this man, such as no other English
poet has ever uttered, except Shakespeare in some few immortal songs.
Who that has read Shelley does not recollect scraps worthy to stand
by Ariel's song--chaste, simple, unutterably musical?  Yes, when he
will be himself--Shelley the scholar and the gentleman and the
singer--and leave philosophy and politics, which he does not
understand, and shriekings and cursings, which are unfit for any
civilised and self-respecting man, he is perfect.  Like the American
mocking-bird, he is harsh only when aping other men's tunes--his true
power lies in his own "native wood-notes wild."

But it is not this faculty of his which has been imitated by his
scholars; for it is not this faculty which made him their ideal,
however it may have attracted them.  All which sensible men deplore
in him is that which poetasters have exalted in him.  His morbidity
and his doubt have become in their eyes his differential energy,
because too often, it was all in him with which they had wit to
sympathise.  They found it easy to curse and complain, instead of
helping to mend.  So had he.  They found it pleasant to confound
institutions with the abuses which defaced them.  So had he.  They
found it pleasant to give way to their spleen.  So had he.  They
found it pleasant to believe that the poet was to regenerate the
world, without having settled with what he was to regenerate it.  So
had he.  They found it more pleasant to obey sentiment than inductive
laws.  So had he.  They found it more pleasant to hurl about enormous
words and startling figures than to examine reverently the awful
depths of beauty which lie in the simplest words and the severest
figures.  So had he.

And thus arose a spasmodic, vague, extravagant, effeminate, school of
poetry, which has been too often hastily and unfairly fathered upon
Byron.  Doubtless Byron has helped to its formation; but only in as
far as his poems possess, or rather seem to possess, elements in
common with Shelley's.  For that conscious struggle against law, by
which law is discovered, may easily enough be confounded with the
utter repudiation of it.  Both forms of mind will discuss the same
questions; both will discuss them freely, with a certain plainness
and daring, which may range through all grades, from the bluntness of
Socrates down to reckless immodesty and profaneness.  The world will
hardly distinguish between the two; it did not in Socrates' case,
mistaking his reverent irreverence for Atheism, and martyred him
accordingly, as it has since martyred Luther's memory.  Probably,
too, if a living struggle is going on in the writer's mind, he will
not have distinguished the two elements in himself; he will be
profane when he fancies himself only arguing for truth; he will be
only arguing for truth, where he seems to the respectable undoubting
to be profane.  And in the meanwhile, whether the respectable
understand him or not, the young and the inquiring, much more the
distempered, who would be glad to throw off moral law, will
sympathise with him often more than he sympathises with himself.
Words thrown off in the heat of passion; shameful self-revealings
which he has written with his very heart's blood:  ay, even fallacies
which he has put into the mouths of dramatic characters for the very
purpose of refuting them, or at least of calling on all who read to
help him to refute them, and to deliver him from the ugly dream--all
these will, by the lazy, the frivolous, the feverish, the
discontented, be taken for integral parts and noble traits of the man
to whom they are attracted, by finding that he, too, has the same
doubts and struggles as themselves, that he has a voice and art to be
their spokesman.  And hence arises confusion on confusion,
misconception on misconception.  The man is honoured for his
dishonour.  Chronic disease is taken for a new type of health; and
Byron is admired and imitated for that which Byron is trying to tear
out of his own heart, and trample under foot as his curse and bane,
something which is not Byron's self, but Byron's house-fiend, and
tyrant, and shame.  And in the meanwhile that which calls itself
respectability and orthodoxy, and is--unless Augustine lied--neither
of them, stands by; and instead of echoing the voice of Him who said:
"Come to me ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you
rest," mumbles proudly to itself, with the Pharisees of old:  "This
people, which knoweth not the law, is accursed."

We do not seek to excuse Byron any more than we do Shelley.  They
both sinned.  They both paid bitter penalty for their sin.  How far
they were guilty, or which of them was the more guilty, we know not.
We can judge no man.  It is as poets and teachers, not as men and
responsible spirits; not in their inward beings, known only to Him
who made them, not even to themselves, but in their outward
utterance, that we have a right to compare them.  Both have done
harm.  Neither have, we firmly believe, harmed any human being who
had not already the harm within himself.  It is not by introducing
evil, but by calling into consciousness and more active life evil
which was already lurking in the heart, that any writer makes men
worse.  Thousands doubtless have read Byron and Shelley, and worse
books, and have risen from them as pure as when they sat down.  In
evil as well as in good, the eye only sees that which it brings with
it the power of seeing--say rather, the wish to see.  But it is
because, in spite of all our self-glorifying paeans, our taste has
become worse and not better, that Shelley, the man who conceitedly
despises and denies law, is taking the place of Byron, the man who
only struggles against it, and who shows his honesty and his
greatness most by confessing that his struggles are ineffectual;
that, Titan as he may look to the world, his strength is misdirected,
a mere furious weakness, which proclaims him a slave in fetters,
while prurient young gentlemen are fancying him heaping hills on
hills, and scaling Olympus itself.  They are tired of that notion,
however, now.  They have begun to suspect that Byron did not scale
Olympus after all.  How much more pleasant a leader, then, must
Shelley be, who unquestionably did scale his little Olympus--having
made it himself first to fit his own stature.  The man who has built
the hay-rick will doubtless climb it again, if need be, as often as
desired, and whistle on the top, after the fashion of the rick-
building guild, triumphantly enough.  For after all Shelley's range
of vision is very narrow, his subjects few, his reflections still
fewer, when compared, not only with such a poet as Spenser, but with
his own contemporaries; above all with Byron.  He has a deep heart,
but not a wide one; an intense eye, but not a catholic one.  And,
therefore, he never wrote a real drama; for in spite of all that has
been said to the contrary, Beatrice Cenci is really none other than
Percy Bysshe Shelley himself in petticoats.

But we will let them both be.  Perhaps they know better now.

One very ugly superstition, nevertheless, we must mention, of which
these two men have been, in England at least, the great hierophants;
namely, the right of "genius" to be "eccentric."  Doubtless there are
excuses for such a notion; but it is one against which every wise man
must set his face like a flint; and at the risk of being called a
"Philister" and a "flunky," take part boldly with respectability and
this wicked world, and declare them to be for once utterly in the
right.  Still there are excuses for it.  A poet, especially one who
wishes to be not merely a describer of pretty things, but a "Vates"
and seer of new truth, must often say things which other people do
not like to say, and do things which others do not like to do.  And,
moreover, he will be generally gifted, for the very purpose of
enabling him to say and do these strange things, with a sensibility
more delicate than common, often painful enough to himself.  How easy
for such a man to think that he has a right not to be as other men
are; to despise little conventionalities, courtesies, even decencies;
to offend boldly and carelessly, conscious that he has something
right and valuable within himself which not only atones for such
defects, but allows him to indulge in them, as badges of his own
superiority!  This has been the notion of artistic genius which has
spread among us of late years, just in proportion as the real amount
of artistic genius has diminished; till we see men, on the mere
ground of being literary men, too refined to keep accounts, or pay
their butchers' bills; affecting the pettiest absurdities in dress,
in manner, in food; giving themselves credit for being unable to bear
a noise, keep their temper, educate their own children, associate
with their fellow-men; and a thousand other paltry weaknesses,
morosenesses, self-indulgences, fastidiousnesses, vulgarities--for
all this is essentially vulgar, and demands, not honour and sympathy,
but a chapter in Mr. Thackeray's "Book of Snobs."  Non sic itur ad
astra.  Self-indulgence and exclusiveness can only be a proof of
weakness.  It may accompany talent, but it proves that talent to be
partial and defective.  The brain may be large, but the manhood, the
"virtus," is small, where such things are allowed, much more where
they are gloried in.  A poet such a man may be, but a world poet
never.  He is sectarian, a poetical Quaker, a Puritan, who,
forgetting that the truth which he possesses is equally the right and
inheritance of every man he meets, takes up a peculiar dress or
phraseology, as symbols of his fancied difference from his human
brothers.  All great poets, till Shelley and Byron, as far as we can
discern, have been men especially free from eccentricities; careful
not merely of the chivalries and the respectabilities, but also of
the courtesies and the petty conventionalities, of the age in which
they lived; altogether well-bred men of the world.  The answer, that
they learnt the ways of courts, does not avail; for if they had had
no innate good-breeding, reticence, respect for forms and customs,
they would never have come near courts at all.  It is not a question
of rank and fashion, but of good feeling, common sense,
unselfishness.  Goethe, Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, Rabelais,
Ariosto, were none of them high-born men; several of them low-born;
who only rose to the society of high-horn men because they were
themselves innately high-bred, polished, complete, without
exaggerations, affectations, deformities, weaknesses of mind and
taste, whatever may have been their weaknesses on certain points of
morals.  The man of all men most bepraised by the present generation
of poets, is perhaps Wolfgang von Goethe.  Why is it, then, that of
all men he is the one whom they strive to be most unlike?

And if this be good counsel for the man who merely wishes--and no
blame to him--to sing about beautiful things in a beautiful way, it
applies with tenfold force to the poet who desires honestly to
proclaim great truths.  If he has to offend the prejudices of the
world in important things, that is all the more reason for his bowing
to those prejudices in little things, and being content to be like
his neighbours in outward matters, in order that he may make them
like himself in inward ones.  Shall such a man dare to hinder his own
message, to drive away the very hearers to whom he believes himself
to be sent, for the sake of his own nerves, laziness, antipathies,
much more of his own vanity and pride?  If he does so, he is
unfaithful to that very genius on which he prides himself.  He denies
its divinity, by treating it as his own possession, to be displayed
or hidden as he chooses, for his own enjoyment, his own self-
glorification.  Well for such a man if a day comes to him in which he
will look back with shame and self-reproach, not merely on every
scandal which he may have caused by breaking the moral and social
laws of humanity, by neglecting to restrain his appetites, pay his
bills, and keep his engagements; but also on every conceited word and
look, every gaucherie and rudeness, every self-indulgent moroseness
and fastidiousness, as sins against the sacred charge which has been
committed to him; and determine with that Jew of old, who, to judge
from his letter to Philemon, was one of the most perfect gentlemen of
God's making who ever walked this earth, to become "all things to all
men, if by any means he may save some."



ALEXANDER SMITH AND ALEXANDER POPE



On reading this little book, {61} and considering all the exaggerated
praise and exaggerated blame which have been lavished on it, we could
not help falling into many thoughts about the history of English
poetry for the last forty years, and about its future destiny.  Great
poets, even true poets, are becoming more and more rare among us.
There are those even who say that we have none; an assertion which,
as long as Mr. Tennyson lives, we shall take the liberty of denying.
But were he, which Heaven forbid, taken from us, whom have we to
succeed him?  And he, too, is rather a poet of the sunset than of the
dawn--of the autumn than of the spring.  His gorgeousness is that of
the solemn and fading year; not of its youth, full of hope,
freshness, gay and unconscious life.  Like some stately hollyhock or
dahlia of this month's gardens, he endures while all other flowers
are dying; but all around is winter--a mild one, perhaps, wherein a
few annuals or pretty field weeds still linger on; but, like all mild
winters, especially prolific in fungi, which, too, are not without
their gaudiness, even their beauty, although bred only from the decay
of higher organisms, the plagiarists of the vegetable world.  Such is
poetry in England; while in America the case is not much better.
What more enormous scope for new poetic thought than that which the
New World gives?  Yet the American poets, even the best of them, look
lingeringly and longingly back to Europe and her legends; to her
models, and not to the best of them--to her criticism, and not to the
best of that--and bestow but a very small portion of such genius as
they have on America and her new forms of life.  If they be nearer to
the spring than we, they are still deep enough in the winter.  A few
early flowers may be budding among them, but the autumn crop is still
in somewhat shabby and rain-bedrabbled bloom.  And for us, where are
our spring flowers?  What sign of a new poetic school?  Still more,
what sign of the healthy resuscitation of any old one?

"What matter, after all?" one says to oneself in despair, re-echoing
Mr. Carlyle.  "Man was not sent into the world to write poetry.  What
we want is truth.  Of the former we have enough in all conscience
just now.  Let the latter need be provided for by honest and
righteous history, and as for poets, let the dead bury their dead."
And yet, after all, man will write poetry, in spite of Mr. Carlyle:
nay, beings who are not men, but mere forked radishes, will write it.
Man is a poetry-writing animal.  Perhaps he was meant to be one.  At
all events, he can no more be kept from it than from eating.  It is
better, with Mr. Carlyle's leave, to believe that the existence of
poetry indicates some universal human hunger, whether after "the
beautiful," or after "fame," or after the means of paying butchers'
bills; and accepting it as a necessary evil which must be committed,
to see that it be committed as well, or at least as little ill, as
possible.  In excuse of which we may quote Mr. Carlyle against
himself, reminding him of a saying of Goethe once bepraised by him in
print:  "We must take care of the beautiful, for the useful will take
care of itself."

And never, certainly, since Pope wrote his Dunciad, did the beautiful
require more taking care of, or evince less capacity for taking care
of itself; and never, we must add, was less capacity for taking care
of it evinced by its accredited guardians of the press than at this
present time, if the reception given to Mr. Smith's poems is to be
taken as a fair expression of "the public taste."

Now, let it be fairly understood, Mr. Alexander Smith is not the
object of our reproaches:  but Mr. Alexander Smith's models and
flatterers.  Against him we have nothing whatsoever to say; for him,
very much indeed.

Very young, as is said, self-educated, drudging for his daily bread
in some dreary Glasgow prison-house of brick and mortar, he has seen
the sky, the sun and moon--and, moreover, the sea, report says, for
one day in his whole life; and this is nearly the whole of his
experience in natural objects.  And he has felt, too painfully for
his peace of mind, the contrast between his environment and that of
others--his means of culture and that of others--and, still more
painfully, the contrast between his environment and culture, and that
sense of beauty and power of melody which he does not deny that he
has found in himself, and which no one can deny who reads his poems
fairly; who reads even merely the opening page and key-note of the
whole:


For as a torrid sunset burns with gold
Up to the zenith, fierce within my soul
A passion burns from basement unto cope.
Poesy, poesy, I'd give to thee
As passionately my rich laden years,
My bubble pleasures, and my awful joys,
_As Hero gave her trembling sighs to find
Delicious death on wet Leander's lip_.
Bare, bald, and tawdry, as a fingered moth
Is my poor life; but with one smile thou canst
Clothe me with kingdoms.  Wilt thou smile on me?
Wilt bid me die for thee?  Oh fair and cold!
As well may some wild maiden waste her love
Upon the calm front of a marble Jove.


Now this scrap is by no menus a fair average specimen of Mr. Smith's
verse.  But is not the self-educated man who could teach himself,
amid Glasgow smoke and noise, to write such a distich as that
exquisite one which we have given in italics, to be judged lovingly
and hopefully?

What if he has often copied?  What if, in this very scrap, chosen
almost at random, there should be a touch from Tennyson's "Two
Voices?"  And what if imitations, nay, caricatures, be found in
almost every page?  Is not the explanation simple enough, and rather
creditable than discreditable to Mr. Smith?  He takes as his models
Shelley, Keats, and their followers.  Who is to blame for that?  The
Glasgow youth, or the public taste, which has been exalting these
authors more and more for the last twenty years as the great poets of
the nineteenth century?  If they are the proper ideals of the day,
who will blame him for following them as closely as possible--for
saturating his memory so thoroughly with their words and thoughts
that he reproduces them unconsciously to himself?  Who will blame him
for even consciously copying their images, if they have said better
than he the thing which he wants to say, in the only poetical dialect
which he knows?  He does no more than all schools have done, copy
their own masters; as the Greek epicists and Virgil copied Homer; as
all succeeding Latin epicists copied Virgil; as Italians copied
Ariosto and Tasso; as every one who can copies Shakespeare; as the
French school copied, or thought they copied, "The Classics," and as
a matter of duty used to justify any bold image in their notes, not
by its originality, but by its being already in Claudian, or Lucan,
or Virgil, or Ovid; as every poetaster, and a great many who were
more than poetasters, twenty years ago, used to copy Scott and Byron,
and as all poetasters now are copying the very same models as Mr.
Smith, and failing while he succeeds.

We by no means agree in the modern outcry for "originality."  Is it
absolutely demanded that no poet shall say anything whatsoever that
any other poet has said?  If so, Mr. Smith may well submit to a blame
which he will bear in common with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Pope, and
many another great name; and especially with Raphael himself, who
made no scruple of adopting not merely points of style, but single
motives and incidents, from contemporaries and predecessors.  Who can
look at any of his earlier pictures, the Crucifixion for instance, at
present in Lord Ward's gallery at the Egyptian Hall, without seeing
that he has not merely felt the influence of Perugino, but copied
him; tried deliberately to be as like his master as he could?  Was
this plagiarism?  If so, all education, it would seem, must be a mere
training in plagiarism.  For how is the student to learn, except by
copying his master's models?  Is the young painter or sculptor a
plagiarist because he spends the first, often the best, years of his
life in copying Greek statues; or the schoolboy, for toiling at the
reproduction of Latin metres and images, in what are honestly and
fittingly called "copies" of verses.  And what if the young artist
shall choose, as Mr. Smith has done, to put a few drawings into the
exhibition, or to carve and sell a few statuettes?  What if the
schoolboy, grown into a gownsman, shall contribute his share to a set
of "Arundines Cami" or "Prolusiones Etonienses?"  Will any one who
really knows what art or education means complain of them for having
imitated their models, however servilely?  Will he not rather hail
such an imitation as a fair proof, first of the student's reverence
for authority--a more important element of "genius" than most young
folks fancy--and next, of his possessing any artistic power
whatsoever?  For, surely, if the greater contains the less, the power
of creating must contain that of imitating.  A young author's power
of accurate imitation is, after all, the primary and indispensable
test of his having even the capability of becoming a poet.  He who
cannot write in a style which he does know, will certainly not be
able to invent a new style for himself.  The first and simplest form
in which any metrical ear, or fancy, or imagination, can show itself,
must needs be in imitating existing models.  Innate good taste--that
is, true poetic genius--will of course choose the best models in the
long run.  But not necessarily at first.  What shall be the student's
earliest ideal must needs be determined for him by circumstance, by
the books to which he has access, by the public opinion which he
hears expressed.  Enough if he chooses, as Raphael did, the best
models which he knows, and tries to exhaust them, and learn all he
can from them, ready to quit them hereafter when he comes across
better ones, yet without throwing away what he has learnt.  "Be
faithful in a few things, and thou shalt become ruler over many
things," is one of those eternal moral laws which, like many others,
holds as true of art as it does of virtue.

And on the whole, judging Mr. Alexander Smith by this rule, he has
been faithful over a few things, and therefore we have fair hope of
him for the future.  For Mr. Smith does succeed, not in copying one
poet, but in copying all, and very often in improving on his models.
Of the many conceits which he has borrowed from Mr. Bailey, there is
hardly one which he has not made more true, more pointed and more
sweet; nay, in one or two places, he has dared to mend John Keats
himself.  But his whole merit is by no means confined to the faculty
of imitation.  Though the "Life Drama" itself is the merest cento of
reflections and images, without coherence or organisation, dramatic
or logical, yet single scenes, like that with the peasant and that
with the fallen outcast, have firm self-consistency and clearness of
conception; and these, as a natural consequence, are comparatively
free from those tawdry spangles which deface the greater part of the
poem.  And, moreover, in the episode of "The Indian and the Lady,"
there is throughout a "keeping in the tone," as painters say, sultry
and languid, yet rich and full of life, like a gorgeous Venetian
picture, which augurs even better for Mr. Smith's future success than
the two scenes just mentioned; for consistency of thought may come
with time and training; but clearness of inward vision, the faculty
of imagination, can be no more learnt than it can be dispensed with.
In this, and this only it is true that poeta nascitur non fit; just
as no musical learning or practice can make a composer, unless he
first possess an innate ear for harmony and melody.  And it must be
said that it is just in the passages where Mr. Smith is not copying,
where he forgets for awhile Shelley, Keats, and the rest, and is
content to be simply himself, that he is best; terse, vivid, sound,
manly, simple.  May he turn round some day, and deliberately pulling
out all borrowed feathers, look at himself honestly and boldly in the
glass, and we will warrant him, on the strength of the least gaudy,
and as yet unpraised passages in his poems, that he will find himself
after all more eagle than daw, and quite well plumed enough by nature
to fly at a higher, because for him a more natural, pitch than he has
yet done.

True, he has written a great deal of nonsense; nonsense in matter as
well as in manner.  But therein, too, he has only followed the
reigning school.  As for manner, he does sometimes, in imitating his
models, out-Herod Herod.  But why not?  If Herod be a worthy king,
let him be by all means out-Heroded, if any man can do it.  One
cannot have too much of a good thing.  If it be right to bedizen
verses with metaphors and similes which have no reference, either in
tone or in subject, to the matter in hand, let there be as many of
them as possible.  If a saddle is a proper place for jewels, then let
the seat be paved with diamonds and emeralds, and Runjeet Singh's
harness-maker be considered as a lofty artist, for whose barbaric
splendour Mr. Peat and his Melton customers are to forswear pigskin
and severe simplicity--not to say utility and comfort.  If poetic
diction be different in species from plain English, then let us have
it as poetical as possible, and as unlike English; as ungrammatical,
abrupt, involved, transposed, as the clumsiness, carelessness, or
caprice of man can make it.  If it be correct to express human
thought by writing whole pages of vague and bald abstract metaphysic,
and then trying to explain them by concrete concetti, which bear an
entirely accidental and mystical likeness to the notion which they
are to illustrate, then let the metaphysic be as abstract as
possible, the concetti as fanciful and far-fetched as possible.  If
Marino and Cowley be greater poets than Ariosto and Milton, let young
poets imitate the former with might and main, and avoid spoiling
their style by any perusal of the too-intelligible common sense of
the latter.  If Byron's moral (which used to be thought execrable) be
really his great excellence, and his style (which used to be thought
almost perfect) unworthy of this age of progress, then let us have
his moral without his style, his matter without his form; or--that we
may be sure of never falling for a moment into his besetting sins of
terseness, grace, and completeness--without any form at all.  If
poetry, in order to be worthy of the nineteenth century, ought to be
as unlike as possible to Homer or Sophocles, Virgil or Horace,
Shakespeare or Spenser, Dante or Tasso, let those too-idolised names
be erased henceforth from the calendar; let the "Ars Poetica" be
consigned to flames, and Martinus Scriblerus's "Art of Sinking"
placed forthwith on the list of the Committee of Council for
Education, that not a working man in England may he ignorant that,
whatsoever superstitions about art may have haunted the benighted
heathens who built the Parthenon, nous avons change tout cela.  In
one word, if it be best and most fitting to write poetry in the style
in which almost every one has been trying to write it since Pope and
plain sense went out, and Shelley and the seventh heaven came in, let
it be so written; and let him who most perfectly so "sets the age to
music," he presented by the assembled guild of critics, not with the
obsolete and too classic laurel, but with an electro-plated brass
medal, bearing the due inscription, "Ars est nescire artem."  And
when, in twelve months' time, he finds himself forgotten, perhaps
decried, for the sake of the next aspirant, let him reconsider
himself, try whether, after all, the common sense of the many will
not prove a juster and a firmer standing-ground than the
sentimentality and bad taste of the few, and read Alexander Pope.

In Pope's writings, whatsoever he may not find, he will find the very
excellences after which our young poets strive in vain, produced by
their seeming opposites, which are now despised and discarded;
naturalness produced by studious art; sublimity by strict self-
restraint; depth by clear simplicity; pathos by easy grace; and a
morality infinitely more merciful, as well as more righteous, than
the one now in vogue among the poetasters, by honest faith in God.
If he be shocked by certain peculiarities of diction, and by the
fondness for perpetual antitheses, let him remember, that what seems
strange to our day was natural and habitual in Pope's; and that, in
the eyes of our grandchildren, Keats's and Shelley's peculiarities
will seem as monstrous as Pope's or Johnson's do in ours.  But if,
misled by the popular contempt for Pope, be should he inclined to
answer this advice with a shrug and a smile, we entreat him and all
young poets, to consider, line by line, word by word, sound by sound,
only those once well-known lines, which many a brave and wise man of
fifty years ago would have been unable to read without honourable
tears:


In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half-hung,
The floor of plaster, and the walls of dung,
On once a flock-bed, but repaired with straw,
With tape-tied curtains never meant to draw,
The George and Garter, dangling from that bed,
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies.  Alas! how changed from him,
That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim!
Gallant and gay, in Cliveden's proud alcove,
The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love;
Or just as gay, at Council, in a ring
Of mimic statesmen, and their merry king,
No wit to flatter, left of all his store!
No fool to laugh at, which he valued more.
There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,
And fame, this lord of useless thousands ends.


Yes; Pope knew, as well as Wordsworth and our "Naturalisti," that no
physical fact was so mean or coarse as to be below the dignity of
poetry--when in its right place.  He could draw a pathos and
sublimity out of the dirty inn chamber, such as Wordsworth never
elicited from tubs and daffodils--because he could use them according
to the rules of art, which are the rules of sound reason and of true
taste.

The answer to all this is ready nowadays.  We are told that Pope
could easily be great in what he attempted, because he never
attempted any but small matters; easily self-restraining, because his
paces were naturally so slow; above all, easily clear, because he is
always shallow; easily full of faith in what he did believe, because
he believed so very little.  On the two former counts we may have
something to say hereafter.  On the two latter, we will say at once,
that if it be argued, as it often is, that the reason of our modern
poetical obscurity and vagueness lies in the greater depth of the
questions which are now agitating thoughtful minds, we do utterly
deny it.  Human nature, human temptations, human problems, are
radically the same in every age, by whatsoever outward difference of
words they may seem distinguished.  Where is deeper philosophic
thought, true or false, expressed in verse, than in Dante, or in
Spenser's two cantos of "Mutabilities"?  Yet if they are difficult to
understand, their darkness is that of the deep blue sea.  Vague they
never are, obscure they never are, because they see clearly what they
want to say, and how to say it.  There is always a sound and coherent
meaning in them, to be found if it be searched for.

The real cause of this modern vagueness is rather to be found in
shallow and unsound culture, and in that inability, or carelessness
about seeing any object clearly, which besets our poets just now; as
the cause of antique clearness lies in the nobler and healthier
manhood, in the severer and more methodic habits of thought, the
sounder philosophic and critical training, which enabled Spenser and
Milton to draw up a state paper, or to discourse deep metaphysics,
with the same manful possession of their subject which gives grace
and completeness to the "Penseroso" or the "Epithalamion."  And if
our poets have their doubts, they should remember, that those to whom
doubt and inquiry are real and stern, are not inclined to sing about
them till they can sing poems of triumph over them.  There has no
temptation taken our modern poets save that which is common to man--
the temptation of wishing to make the laws of the universe and of art
fit them, as they do not feel inclined to make themselves fit the
laws, or care to find them out.

What!  Do you wish, asks some one, a little contemptuously, to
measure the great growing nineteenth century by the thumb-rule of
Alexander Pope?  No.  But to measure the men who write in the
nineteenth century by a man who wrote in the eighteenth; to compare
their advantages with his, their circumstances with his:  and then,
if possible, to make them ashamed of their unmanliness.  Have you
young poets of this day, your struggles, your chagrins?  Do you think
the hump-backed dwarf, every moment conscious at once of his
deformity and his genius--conscious, probably, of far worse physical
shame than any deformity can bring, "sewed up in buckram every
morning, and requiring a nurse like a child"--caricatured, lampooned,
slandered, utterly without fault of his own--insulted and rejected by
the fine lady whom he had dared to court in reality, after being
allowed and allured to flirt with her in rhyme--do you suppose that
this man had nothing to madden him--to convert him into a sneering
snarling misanthrope?  Yet was there one noble soul who met him who
did not love him, or whom he did not love?  Have you your doubts?  Do
you find it difficult to make your own speculations, even your own
honest convictions, square with the popular superstitions?  What were
your doubts, your inward contradictions, to those of a man who, bred
a Papist, and yet burning with the most intense scorn and hatred of
lies and shams, bigotries and priestcrafts, could write that "Essay
on Man"?  Read that, young gentlemen of the Job's-wife school, who
fancy it a fine thing to tell your readers to curse God and die, or,
at least, to show the world in print how you could curse God by
divine right of genius, if you chose, and be ashamed of your cowardly
wailings.

Alexander Pope went through doubt, contradiction, confusion, to which
yours are simple and light; and conquered.  He was a man of like
passions with yourselves; infected with the peculiar vices of his
day; narrow, for his age was narrow; shallow, for his age was
shallow; a bon-vivant, for his age was a gluttonous and drunken one;
bitter, furious, and personal, for men round him were such; foul-
mouthed often, and indecent, as the rest were.  Nay, his very power,
when he abuses it for his own ends of selfish spite and injured
vanity, makes him, as all great men can be (in words at least, for in
life he was far better than the men around him), worse than his age.
He can out-rival Dennis in ferocity, and Congreve in filth.  So much
the worse for him in that account which he has long ago rendered up.
But in all times and places, as far as we can judge, the man was
heart-whole, more and not less righteous than his fellows.  With his
whole soul he hates what is evil, as far as he can recognise it.
With his whole soul he loves what is good, as far as he can recognise
that.  With his soul believes that there is a righteous and good God,
whose order no human folly or crime can destroy; and he will say so;
and does say it, clearly, simply, valiantly, reverently, in his
"Essay on Man."  His theodicy is narrow; shallow, as was the
philosophy of his age.  But as far as it goes, it is sound--faithful
to God, and to what he sees and knows.  Man is made in God's image.
Man's justice is God's justice; man's mercy is God's mercy; man's
science, man's critic taste, are insights into the laws of God
himself.  He does not pretend to solve the great problem.  But he
believes that it is solved from all eternity; that God knows, God
loves, and God rules; that the righteous and faithful man may know
enough of the solution to know his duty, to see his way, to justify
God; and as much as he knows he tells.  There were in that diseased
sensitive cripple no vain repinings, no moon-struck howls, no impious
cries against God:  "Why hast thou made me thus?"  To him God is a
righteous God, a God of order.  Science, philosophy, politics,
criticism, poetry, are parts of His order--they are parts of the
appointed onward path for mankind; there are eternal laws for them.
There is a beautiful and fit order, in poetry, which is part of God's
order, which men have learnt ages ago, for they, too, had their
teaching from above; to offend against which is absolutely wrong, an
offence to be put down mildly in those who offend ignorantly; but
those who offend from dulness, from the incapacity to see the
beautiful, or from carelessness about it, when praise or gain tempts
them the other way, have some moral defect in them; they are what
Solomon calls fools:  they are the enemies of man; and he will "hate
them right sore, even as though they were his own enemies"--which
indeed they were.  He knows by painful experience that they deserve
no quarter; that there is no use giving them any; to spare them is to
make them insolent; to fondle the reptile is to be bitten by it.
True poetry, as the messenger of heavenly beauty, is decaying; true
refinement, true loftiness of thought, even true morality, are at
stake.  And so he writes his "Dunciad."  And would that he were here,
to write it over again, and write it better!

For write it again he surely would.  And write it better he would
also.  With the greater cleanliness of our time, with all the
additional experience of history, with the greater classical,
aesthetic, and theological knowledge of our day, the sins of our
poets are as much less excusable than those of Eusden, Blackmore,
Cibber, and the rest, as Pope's "Dunciad" on them would be more
righteously severe.  What, for instance, would the author of the
"Essay on Man" say to anyone who now wrote p. 137 (for it really is
not to be quoted) of the "Life Drama" as the thoughts of his hero,
without any after atonement for the wanton insult it conveys toward
him whom he dares in the same breath to call "Father," simply because
he wants to be something very fine and famous and self-glorifying,
and Providence keeps him waiting awhile?  Has Pope not said it
already?


Persist, by all divine in man unawed,
But learn, ye dunces, not to scorn your God!


And yet no; the gentle goddess would now lay no such restriction on
her children, for in Pope's day no man had discovered the new poetic
plan for making the divine in man an excuse for scorning God, and
finding in the dignity of "heaven-born genius" free licence to
upbraid, on the very slightest grounds, the Being from whom the said
genius pretends to derive his dignity.  In one of his immortal saws
he has cautioned us against "making God in man's image."  But it
never entered into his simple head that man would complain of God for
being made in a lower image than even his own.  Atheism he could
conceive of; the deeper absurdity of Authotheism was left for our
more enlightened times and more spiritual muses.

It will be answered that all this blasphemy is not to be attributed
to the author, but to the man whose spiritual development he intends
to sketch.  To which we reply that no man has a right to bring his
hero through such a state without showing how he came out of the
slough as carefully as how he came into it, especially when the said
hero is set forth as a marvellously clever person; and the last
scene, though full of beautiful womanly touches, and of a higher
morality than the rest of the book, contains no amende honorable, not
even an explanation of the abominable stuff which the hero has been
talking a few pages back.  He leaps from the abyss to the seventh
heaven; but, unfortunately for the spectators, he leaps behind the
scenes, and they are none the wiser.  And next; people have no more
right even for dramatic purposes, to put such language into print for
any purpose whatsoever, than they have to print the grossest
indecencies, or the most disgusting details of torture and cruelty.
No one can accuse this magazine of any fondness for sanctimonious
cant or lip-reverence; but if there be a "Father in Heaven," as Mr.
Smith confesses that there is, or even merely a personal Deity at
all, some sort of common decency in speaking of Him should surely be
preserved.  No one would print pages of silly calumny and vulgar
insult against his earthly father, or even against a person for whom
he had no special dislike, and then excuse it by, "Of course, I don't
think so:  but if anyone did think so, this would be a very smart way
of saying what he thought."  Old Aristotle would call such an act
"banauson"--in plain English, blackguard; and we do not see how it
can be called anything else, unless in the case of some utter brute
in human form, to whom "there is no coenum, and therefore no
obscoenum; no fanum, and therefore no profanum."  The common sense of
mankind in all ages has condemned this sort of shamelessness, even
more than it has insults to parental and social ties, and to all
which raises man above the brute.  Let Mr. Smith take note of this,
and let him, if he loves himself, mend speedily; for of all styles
wherein to become stereotyped the one which he has chosen is the
worst, because in it the greatest amount of insincerity is possible.
There is a Tartarus in front of him as well as an Olympus; a hideous
possibility very near him of insincere impiety merely for the purpose
of startling; of lawless fancy merely for the purpose of glittering;
and a still more hideous possibility of a revulsion to insincere
cant, combined with the same lawless fancy, for the purpose of
keeping well with the public, in which to all appearances one of our
most popular novelists, not to mention the poet whose writings are
most analogous to Mr. Smith's, now lies wallowing.

Whether he shall hereafter obey his evil angel, and follow him, or
his good angel, and become a great poet, depends upon himself; and
above all upon his having courage to be himself, and to forget
himself, two virtues which, paradoxical as it may seem, are
correlatives.  For the "subjective" poet--in plain words, the
egotist--is always comparing himself with every man he meets, and
therefore momentarily tempted to steal bits of their finery wherewith
to patch his own rents; while the man who is content to be simply
what God has made him, goes on from strength to strength developing
almost unconsciously under a divine education, by which his real
personality and the salient points by which he is distinguished from
his fellows, become apparent with more and more distinctness of form,
and brilliance of light and shadow, as those well know who have
watched human character attain its clearest and grandest as well as
its loveliest outlines, not among hankerers after fame and power, but
on lonely sickbeds, and during long unknown martyrdoms of humble
self-sacrifice and loving drudgery.

But whether or not Mr. Smith shall purify himself--and he can do so,
if he will, right nobly--the world must be purified of his style of
poetry, if men are ever, as he hopes, to "set his age to music;" much
more if they are once more to stir the hearts of the many by Tyrtaean
strains, such as may be needed before our hairs are gray.  The
"poetry of doubt," however pretty, would stand us in little stead if
we were threatened with a second Armada.  It will conduce little to
the valour, "virtus," manhood of any Englishman to be informed by any
poet, even in the most melodious verse, illustrated by the most
startling and pan cosmic metaphors.  "See what a highly-organised and
peculiar stomach-ache I have had!  Does it not prove indisputably
that I am not as other men are?"  What gospel there can be in such a
message to any honest man who has either to till the earth, plan a
railroad, colonise Australia, or fight his country's enemies, is hard
to discover.  Hard indeed to discover how this most practical, and
therefore most poetical, of ages, is to be "set to music," when all
those who talk about so doing persist obstinately in poring, with
introverted eyes, over the state of their own digestion--or creed.

What man wants, what art wants, perhaps what the Maker of them both
wants, is a poet who shall begin by confessing that he is as other
men are, and sing about things which concern all men, in language
which all men can understand.  This is the only road to that gift of
prophecy which most young poets are nowadays in such a hurry to
arrogate to themselves.  We can only tell what man will be by fair
induction, by knowing what he is, what he has been.

And it is most noteworthy that in this age, in which there is more
knowledge than there ever was of what man has been, and more
knowledge, through innumerable novelists, and those most subtle and
finished ones, of what man is, that poetry should so carefully avoid
drawing from this fresh stock of information in her so-confident
horoscopes of what man will be.

There is just now as wide a divorce between poetry and the common-
sense of all time, as there is between poetry and modern knowledge.
Our poets are not merely vague and confused, they are altogether
fragmentary--disjecta membra poetarum; they need some uniting idea.
And what idea?

Our answer will probably be greeted with a laugh.  Nevertheless we
answer simply, What our poets want is faith.

There is little or no faith nowadays.  And without faith there can be
no real art, for art is the outward expression of firm coherent
belief.  And a poetry of doubt, even a sceptical poetry, in its true
sense, can never possess clear and sound form, even organic form at
all.  How can you put into form that thought which is by its very
nature formless?  How can you group words round a central idea when
you do not possess a central idea?  Shakespeare in his one sceptic
tragedy has to desert the pure tragic form, and Hamlet remains the
beau-ideal of "the poetry of doubt."  But what would a tragedy be in
which the actors were all Hamlets, or rather scraps of Hamlets?  A
drama of Hamlet is only possible because the one sceptic is
surrounded by characters who have some positive faith, who do their
work for good or evil undoubtingly while he is speculating about his.
And both Ophelia, and Laertes, Fortinbras, the king, yea the very
grave-digger, know well enough what they want, whether Hamlet does or
not.  The whole play is, in fact, Shakespeare's subtle reductio ad
absurdum of that very diseased type of mind which has been for the
last forty years identified with "genius"--with one difference,
namely, that Shakespeare, with his usual clearness of conception,
exhibits the said intellectual type pure and simple, while modern
poets degrade and confuse it, and all the questions dependent on it,
by mixing it up unnecessarily with all manner of moral weaknesses,
and very often moral crimes.

But the poet is to have a faith nowadays of course--a "faith in
nature."  This article of Wordsworth's poetical creed is to be
assumed as the only necessary one, and we are to ignore altogether
the somewhat important fact that he had faith in a great deal besides
nature, and to make that faith in nature his sole differentia and
source of inspiration.  Now we beg leave to express not merely our
want of faith in this same "faith in nature," but even our ignorance
of what it means.  Nature is certain phenomena, appearances.  Faith
in them is simply to believe that a red thing is red, and a square
thing square; a sine qua non doubtless in poetry, as in carpentry,
but which will produce no poetry, but only Dutch painting and
gardeners' catalogues--in a word, that lowest form of art, the merely
descriptive; and into this very style the modern naturalist poets,
from the times of Southey and Wordsworth, have been continually
falling, and falling therefore into baldness and vulgarity.  For mere
description cannot represent even the outlines of a whole scene at
once, as the daguerreotype does; they must describe it piecemeal.
Much less can it represent that whole scene at once in all its
glories of colour, glow, fragrance, life, motion.  In short, it
cannot give life and spirit.  All merely descriptive poetry can do is
to give a dead catalogue--to kill the butterfly, and then write a
monograph on it.  And, therefore, there comes a natural revulsion
from the baldness and puerility into which Wordsworth too often fell
by indulging his false theories on these matters.

But a revulsion to what?  To the laws of course which underlie the
phenomena.  But again--to which laws?  Not merely to the physical
ones, else Turner's "Chemistry" and Watson's "Practice of Medicine"
are great poems.

True, we have heard Professor Forbes's book on Glaciers called an
epic poem, and not without reason:  but what gives that noble book
its epic character is neither the glaciers nor the laws of them, but
the discovery of those laws:  the methodic, truthful, valiant,
patient battle between man and nature, his final victory, his
wresting from her the secret which had been locked for ages in the
ice-caves of the Alps, guarded by cold and fatigue, danger and
superstitious dread.  For Nature will be permanently interesting to
the poet, and appear to him in a truly poetic aspect, only in as far
as she is connected by him with spiritual and personal beings, and
becomes in his eyes either a person herself, or the dwelling and
organ of persons.  The shortest scrap of word-painting, as Thomson's
"Seasons" will sufficiently prove, is wearisome and dead, unless
there be a living figure in the landscape, or unless, failing a
living figure, the scene is deliberately described with reference to
the poet or the reader, not as something in itself, but as something
seen by him, and grouped and subordinated exactly as it would strike
his eye and mind.  But even this is insufficient.  The heart of man
demands more, and so arises a craving after the old nature-mythology
of Greece, the old fairy legends of the Middle Age.  The great poets
of the Renaissance both in England and in Italy had a similar
craving.  But the aspect under which these ancient dreams are
regarded by them is most significantly different.  With Spenser and
Ariosto, fairies and elves, gods and demons, are regarded in their
fancied connection with man.  Even in the age of Pope, when the gods
and the Rosicrucian Sylphs have become alike "poetical machinery,"
this is their work.  But among the moderns it is as connected with
Nature, and giving a soul and a personality to her, that they are
most valued.  The most pure utterance of this feeling is perhaps
Schiller's "Gods of Greece," where the loss of the Olympians is
distinctly deplored, because it has unpeopled, not heaven, but earth.
But the same tone runs through Goethe's classical "Walpurgis Night,"
where the old human "twelve gods," the antitypes and the friends of
men, in whom our forefathers delighted, have vanished utterly, and
given place to semi-physical Nereides, Tritons, Telchines, Psylli,
and Seismos himself.

Keats, in his wonderful "Endymion," contrived to unite the two
aspects of Greek mythology as they never had been united before,
except by Spenser in his "Garden of Adonis."  But the pantheistic
notion, as he himself says in "Lamia," was the one which lay nearest
his heart; and in his "Hyperion" he begins to deal wholly with the
Nature gods, and after magnificent success, leaves the poem
unfinished, most probably because he had become, as his readers must,
weary of its utter want of human interest.  For that, after all, is
what is wanted in a poetical view of Nature; and that is what the
poet, in proportion to his want of dramatic faculty, must draw from
himself.  He must--he does in these days--colour Nature with the
records of his own mind, and bestow a factitious life and interest on
her by making her reflect his own joy or sorrow.  If he be out of
humour, she must frown; if he sigh, she must roar; if he be--what he
very seldom is--tolerably comfortable, the birds have liberty to
sing, and the sun to shine.  But by the time that he has arrived at
this stage of his development, or degradation, the poet is hardly to
be called a strong man, he who is so munch the slave of his own moods
that he must needs see no object save through them, is not very
likely to be able to resist the awe which nature's grandeur and
inscrutability brings with it, and to say firmly, and yet reverently:


Si fractus illibatur orbis,
Impavidum ferient ruinae.


He feels, in spite of his conceit, that nature is not going his way,
or looking his looks, but going what he calls her own way, what we
call God's way.  At all events, he feels that he is lying, when he
represents the great universe as turned to his small set of Pan's
pipes and all the more because he feels that, conceal it as he will,
those same Pan's pipes are out of tune with each other.  And so
arises the habit of impersonating nature, not after the manner of
Spenser (whose purity of metaphor and philosophic method, when he
deals with nature, is generally even more marvellous than the
richness of his fancy), as an organic whole, but in her single and
accidental phenomena; and of ascribing not merely animal passions or
animal enjoyment, but human discursive intellect and moral sense, to
inanimate objects, and talking as if a stick or a stone were more of
a man than the poet is--as indeed they very often may be.

These, like everything else, are perfectly right in their own place--
where they express passion, either pleasurable or painful, passion,
that is, not so intense as to sink into exhaustion, or to be
compelled to self-control by the fear of madness.  In these two
cases, as great dramatists know well enough, the very violence of the
emotion produces perfect simplicity, as the hurricane blows the sea
smooth.  But where fanciful language is employed to express the
extreme of passion, it is felt to be absurd, and is accordingly
called rant and bombast:  and where it is not used to express passion
at all, but merely the quiet and normal state of the poet's mind, or
of his characters, with regard to external nature; when it is
considered, as it is by most of our modern poets, the staple of
poetry, indeed poetic diction itself, so that the more numerous and
the stranger conceits an author can cram into his verses, the finer
poet he is; then, also, it is called rant and bombast, but of the
most artificial, insincere, and (in every sense of the word)
monstrous kind; the offspring of an effeminate nature-worship,
without self-respect, without true manhood, because it exhibits the
poet as the puppet of his own momentary sensations, and not as a man
superior to nature, claiming his likeness to the Author of nature, by
confessing and expressing the permanent laws of Nature, undisturbed
by fleeting appearances without, or fleeting tempers within.  Hence
it is that, as in all insincere and effete times, the poetry of the
day deals more and more with conceits, and less and less with true
metaphors.  In fact, hinc illae lachrymae.  This is, after all, the
primary symptom of disease in the public taste, which has set us on
writing this review--that critics all round are crying:  "An ill-
constructed whole, no doubt; but full of beautiful passages"--the
word "passages" turning out to mean, in plain English, conceits.  The
simplest distinction, perhaps, between an image and a conceit is
this--that while both are analogies, the image is founded on an
analogy between the essential properties of two things--the conceit
on an analogy between its accidents.  Images, therefore, whether
metaphors or similes, deal with laws; conceits with private
judgments.  Images belong to the imagination, the power which sees
things according to their real essence and inward life, and conceits
to the fancy or phantasy, which only see things as they appear.

To give an example or two from the "Life Drama:"


   His heart holds a deep hope,
As holds the wretched West the sunset's corse--
Spit on, insulted by the brutal rains.

   The passion-panting sea
Watches the unveiled beauty of the stars
Like a great hungry soul.

   Great spirits,
Who left upon the mountain-tops of Death
A light that made them lovely.

   The moon,
Arising from dark waves which plucked at her.


And hundreds, nay, thousands more in this book, whereof it must be
said, that beautiful or not, in the eyes of the present generation--
and many of them are put into very beautiful language, and refer to
very beautiful natural objects--they are not beautiful really and in
themselves, because they are mere conceits; the analogies in them are
fortuitous, depending not on the nature of the things themselves, but
on the private fancy of the writer, having no more real and logical
coherence than a conundrum or a pun; in plain English, untrue, only
allowable to Juliets or Othellos; while their self-possession, almost
their reason, is in temporary abeyance under the influence of joy or
sorrow.  Every one must feel the exquisite fitness of Juliet's
"Gallop apace, ye fiery-footed steeds," etc., for one of her
character, in her circumstances:  every one, we trust, and Mr. Smith
among the number, will some day feel the exquisite unfitness of using
such conceits as we have just quoted, or any other, page after page,
for all characters and chances.  For the West is not wretched; the
rains never were brutal yet, and do not insult the sun's corpse,
being some millions of miles nearer us than the sun, but only have
happened once to seem to do so in the poet's eyes.  The sea does not
pant with passion, does not hunger after the beauty of the stars;
Death has no mountain-tops, or any property which can be compared
thereto; and "the dark waves"--in that most beautiful conceit which
follows, and which Mr. Smith has borrowed from Mr. Bailey, improving
it marvellously nevertheless--do not "pluck at the moon," but only
seem to do so.  And what constitutes the beauty of this very conceit-
-far the best of those we have chosen--but that it looks so very like
an image, so very like a law, from being so very common and customary
an ocular deception to one standing on a low shore at night?

Or, again, in a passage which has been already often quoted as
exquisite, and in its way is so:


   The bridegroom sea
Is toying with the shore, his wedded bride;
And in the fulness of his marriage joy
He decorates her tawny brow with shells,
Retires a pace, to see how fair she looks,
Then proud, runs up to kiss her.


Exquisite?  Yes; but only exquisitely pretty.  It is untrue--a false
explanation of the rush and recoil of the waves.  We learn nothing by
these lines; we gain no fresh analogy between the physical and the
spiritual world, not even between two different parts of the physical
world.  If the poetry of this age has a peculiar mission, it is to
declare that such an analogy exists throughout the two worlds; then
let poetry declare it.  Let it set forth a real intercommunion
between man and nature, grounded on a communion between man and God,
who made nature.  Let it accept nature's laws as the laws of God.
Truth, scientific truth, is the only real beauty.  "Let God be true,
and every man a liar."

Now, be it remembered that by far the greater proportion of this book
consists of such thoughts as these; and that these are what are
called its beauties; these are what young poets try more and more
daily to invent--conceits, false analogies.  Be it remembered, that
the affectation of such conceits has always marked the decay and
approaching death of a reigning school of poetry; that when, for
instance, the primeval forest of the Elizabethan poets dwindled down
into a barren scrub of Vaughans, and Cowleys, and Herberts, and
Crashawes, this was the very form in which the deadly blight
appeared.  In vain did the poetasters, frightened now and then at
their own nonsense, try to keep up the decaying dignity of poetry by
drawing their conceits, as poetasters do now, from suns and galaxies,
earthquakes, eclipses, and the portentous, and huge and gaudy in
Nature; the lawlessness and irreverence for Nature, involved in the
very worship of conceits, went on degrading the tone of the conceits
themselves, till the very sense of true beauty and fitness seemed
lost; and a pious and refined gentleman like George Herbert could
actually dare to indite solemn conundrums to the Supreme Being, and
believe that he was writing devout poetry, and "looking through
nature up to nature's God," when he delivered himself thus in one of
his least offensive poems (for the most sacred and most offensive of
them we dare not quote, lest we incur the same blame which we have
bestowed on Mr. Smith, and sing of Church festivals as--)


Marrow of time, eternity in brief,
Compendiums epitomised, the chief
Contents, the indices, the title-pages
Of all past, present, and succeeding ages,
Sublimate graces, antedated glories;
   The cream of holiness.
      The inventories
   Of future blessedness,
The florilegia of celestial stories,
Spirit of Joys, the relishes and closes
Of angels' music, pearls dissolved, roses
Perfumed, sugar'd honeycombs.


That manner, happily for art, was silenced by the stern truth-loving
common sense of the Puritans.  Whatsoever else, in their crusade
against shams, they were too hasty in sweeping away, they were right,
at least, in sweeping away such a sham as that.  And now, when a
school has betaken itself to use the very same method in the cause of
blasphemy, instead of in that of cant, the Pope himself, with his
Index Prohibitus, might be a welcome guest, if he would but stop the
noise, and compel our doting Muses to sit awhile in silence, and
reconsider themselves.

In the meanwhile, poets write about poets, and poetry, and guiding
the age, and curbing the world, and waking it, and thrilling it, and
making it start, and weep, and tremble, and self-conceit only knows
what else; and yet the age is not guided, or the world curbed, or
thrilled, or waked, or anything else, by them.  Why should it be?
Curb and thrill the world?  The world is just now a most practical
world; and these men are utterly unpractical.  The age is given up to
physical science; these men disregard and outrage it in every page by
their false analogies.  If they intend, as they say, to link heaven
and earth by preaching the analogy of matter and spirit, let them, in
the name of common prudence, observe the laws of matter, about which
the world does know something, and show their coincidence with the
laws of spirit--if indeed they know anything about the said laws.
Loose conceits, fancies of the private judgment, were excusable
enough in the Elizabethan poets.  In their day, nature was still
unconquered by science; medieval superstitions still lingered in the
minds of men and the magical notions of nature which they had
inherited from the Middle Age received a corroboration from those
neoplatonist dreamers, whom they confounded with the true Greek
philosophers.  But, now that Bacon has spoken, and that Europe has
obeyed him, surely, among the most practical, common sense, and
scientific nation of the earth, severely scientific imagery, imagery
drawn from the inner laws of nature, is necessary to touch the hearts
of men.  They know that the universe is not such as poets paint it;
they know that these pretty thoughts are only pretty thoughts,
springing from the caprice, the vanity, very often from the
indigestion of the gentlemen who take the trouble to sing to them;
and they listen, as they would to a band of street musicians, and
give them sixpence for their tune, and go on with their work.  The
tune outside has nothing to do with the work inside.  It will not
help them to be wiser, abler, more valiant--certainly not more
cheerful and hopeful men, and therefore they care no more for it than
they do for an opera or a pantomime, if as much.  Whereupon the poets
get disgusted with the same hard-hearted prosaic world--which is
trying to get its living like an industrious animal as it is--and
demand homage--for what?  For making a noise, pleasant or otherwise?
For not being as other men are?  For pleading "the eccentricities of
genius" as an excuse for sitting like naughty children in the middle
of the schoolroom floor, in everybody's way, shouting and playing on
penny trumpets, and when begged to be quiet, that other people may
learn their lessons, considering themselves insulted, and pleading
"genius"?  Genius!--hapless byword, which, like charity, covers
nowadays the multitude of sins, all the seven deadly ones included!
Is there any form of human folly which one has not heard excused by
"He is a genius, you know--one must not judge him by common rules."
Poor genius, to have come to this!  To be, when confessed, not a
reason for being more of a man than others, but an excuse for being
less of a man, less amenable than the herd to the common laws of
humanity, and therefore less able than they to comprehend its common
duties, common temptations, common sins, common virtues, common
destinies.  Of old the wise singer did by virtue of feeling with all,
and obeying with all, learn to see for all, to see eternal laws,
eternal analogies, eternal consequences, and so became a seer, vates,
prophet; but now he is become a genius, a poetical pharisee, a
reviler of common laws and duties, the slave of his own private
judgment, who prophesies out of his own heart, and hath seen nothing
but only the appearances of things distorted and coloured by
"genius."  Heaven send the word, with many more, a speedy burial!

And what becomes of artistic form in the hands of such a school?
Just what was to be expected.  It is impossible to give outward form
to that which is in its very nature formless, like doubt and
discontent.  For on such subjects thought itself is not defined; it
has no limit, no self-coherence, not even method or organic law.  And
in a poem, as in all else, the body must be formed according to the
law of the inner life; the utterance must be the expression, the
outward and visible antetype of the spirit which animates it.  But
where the thought is defined by no limits, it cannot express itself
in form, for form is that which has limits.  Where it has no inward
unity it cannot have any outward one.  If the spirit be impatient of
all moral rule, its utterance will be equally impatient of all
artistic rule; and thus, as we are now beginning to discover from
experience, the poetry of doubt will find itself unable to use those
forms of verse which have been always held to be the highest--
tragedy, epic, the ballad, and lastly, even the subjective lyrical
ode.  For they, too, to judge by every great lyric which remains to
us, require a groundwork of consistent self-coherent belief; and they
require also an appreciation of melody even more delicate, and a
verbal polish even more complete than any other form of poetic
utterance.  But where there is no melody within, there will be no
melody without.  It is in vain to attempt the setting of spiritual
discords to physical music.  The mere practical patience and self-
restraint requisite to work out rhythm when fixed on, will be
wanting; nay, the fitting rhythm will never be found, the subject
itself being arhythmic; and thus we shall have, or, rather, alas! do
have, a wider and wider divorce of sound and sense, a greater and
greater carelessness for polish, and for the charm of musical
utterance, and watch the clear and spirit-stirring melodies of the
older poets swept away by a deluge of half-metrical prose-run-mad,
diffuse, unfinished, unmusical, to which any other metre than that in
which it happens to have been written would have been equally
appropriate, because all are equally inappropriate.  Where men have
nothing to sing, it is not of the slightest consequence how they sing
it.

While poets persist in thinking and writing thus, it is in vain for
them to talk loud about the poet's divine mission, as the prophet of
mankind, the swayer of the universe, and so forth.  Not that we
believe the poet simply by virtue of being a singer to have any such
power.  While young gentlemen are talking about governing heaven and
earth by verse, Wellingtons and Peels, Arkwrights and Stephensons,
Frys, and Chisholms, are doing it by plain practical prose; and even
of those who have moved and led the hearts of men by verse, every
one, as far as we know, has produced his magical effects by poetry of
the very opposite forum to that which is now in fashion.  What poet
ever had more influence than Homer?  What poet is more utterly
antipodal to our modern schools?  There are certain Hebrew psalms,
too, which will be confessed, even by those who differ most from
them, to have exercised some slight influence on human thought and
action, and to be likely to exercise the same for some time to come.
Are they any more like our modern poetic forms than they are like our
modern poetic matter?  Ay, even in our own time, what has been the
form, what the temper, of all poetry, from Korner and Heine, which
has made the German heart leap up, but simplicity, manhood,
clearness, finished melody, the very opposite, in a word, of our new
school?  And to look at home, what is the modern poetry which lives
on the lips and in the hearts of Englishmen, Scotchmen, Irishmen?  It
is not only simple in form and language, but much of it fitted, by a
severe exercise of artistic patience, to tunes already existing.  Who
does not remember how the "Marseillaise" was born, or how Burns's
"Scots wha ha' wi' Wallace bled," or the story of Moore's taking the
old "Red Fox March," and giving it a new immortality as "Let Erin
remember the days of old," while poor Emmett sprang up and cried,
"Oh, that I had twenty thousand Irishmen marching to that tune!"  So
it is, even to this day, and let those who hanker after poetic fame
take note of it; not a poem which is now really living but has gained
its immortality by virtue of simplicity and positive faith.

Let the poets of the new school consider carefully Wolfe's "Sir John
Moore," Campbell's "Hohenlinden," "Mariners of England," and "Rule
Britannia," Hood's "Song of the Shirt" and "Bridge of Sighs," and
then ask themselves, as men who would be poets:  Were it not better
to have written any one of those glorious lyrics than all which John
Keats has left behind him?  And let them be sure that, howsoever they
may answer the question to themselves, the sound heart of the English
people has already made its choice; and that when that beautiful
"Hero and Leander," in which Hood has outrivalled the conceit-mongers
at their own weapons, by virtue of the very terseness, clearness, and
manliness which they neglect, has been gathered to the limbo of the
Crashawes and Marinos, his "Song of the Shirt" and his "Bridge of
Sighs" will be esteemed by great new English nations far beyond the
seas, for what they are--two of the most noble lyric poems ever
written by an English pen.  If our poetasters talk with Wordsworth of
the dignity and pathos of the commonest human things, they will find
them there in perfection; if they talk about the cravings of the new
time, they will find them there.  If they want the truly sublime and
the awful, they will find them there also.  But they will find none
of their own favourite concetti; hardly even a metaphor; no taint of
this new poetic diction into which we have now fallen, after all our
abuse of the far more manly and sincere "poetic diction" of the
eighteenth century; they will find no loitering by the way to argue
and moralise, and grumble at Providence, and show off the author's
own genius and sensibility; they will find, in short, two real works
of art, earnest, melodious, self-forgetful, knowing clearly what they
want to say, and saying it in the shortest, the simplest, the
calmest, the most finished words.  Saying it!--rather taught to say
it.  For if that "divine inspiration of poets," of which the
poetasters make such rash and irreverent boastings, have indeed, as
all ages have held, any reality corresponding to it, it will rather
be bestowed on such works as these, appeals from unrighteous man to a
righteous God, than on men whose only claim to celestial help seems
to be that mere passionate sensibility, which our modern Draco once
described when speaking of poor John Keats, as an infinite hunger
after all manner of pleasant things, crying to the universe:  'Oh
that thou wert one great lump of sugar, that I might suck thee!'"

Our task is ended.  We have given as plainly as we can our reasons
for the opinion which this magazine has expressed several times
already, that with the exception of Mr. Allingham, our young poets
are a very hopeless generation, and will so continue unless they
utterly repent and amend.  If they do not choose to awaken themselves
from within, all that is left for us is to hope that they may be
awakened from without, or by some radical revulsion in public taste
be shown their own real value and durability, and compelled to be
true and manly under pain of being laughed at and forgotten.  A
general war might, amid all its inevitable horrors, sweep away at
once the dyspeptic unbelief, the insincere bigotry, the effeminate
frivolity which now paralyses our poetry as much as it does our
action, and strike from England's heart a lightning flash of noble
deeds, a thunder peal of noble song.  Such a case is neither an
impossible nor a far-fetched one; let us not doubt that by some other
means if not by that, the immense volume of thought and power which
is still among us will soon find its utterance, and justify itself to
after ages by showing in harmonious and self-restrained poetry its
kinship to the heroic and the beautiful of every age and clime.  And
till then, till the sunshine and the thaw shall come, and the spring
flowers burst into bud and bloom, heralding a new golden year in the
world's life, let us even be content with our pea-green and orange
fungi; nay, even admire them as not without their own tawdry beauty,
their clumsy fitness; for after all, they are products of nature,
though only of her dyspepsia; and grow and breed--as indeed cutaneous
disorders do--by an organic law of their own; fulfilling their little
destiny, and then making, according to Professor Way, by no means bad
manure.  And so we take our leave of Mr. Alexander Smith, entreating
him, if these pages meet his eye, to consider three things, namely,
that in as far as he has written poetry, he is on the road to ruin by
reason of following the worst possible models.  That in as far as the
prevailing taste has put these models before him, he is neither to
take much blame to himself, nor to be in anywise disheartened for the
future.  That in as far as he shall utterly reverse his whole poetic
method, whether in morals or in aesthetics, leave undone all that he
has done, and do all that he has not done, he will become, what he
evidently, by grace of God, can become if he will, namely, a lasting
and a good poet.



TENNYSON {103}



Critics cannot in general be too punctilious in their respect for an
incognito.  If an author intended us to know his name, he would put
it on his title-page.  If he does not choose to do that, we have no
more right to pry into his secret than we have to discuss his family
affairs or open his letters.  But every rule has its exceptional
cases; and the book which stands first upon our list is surely such.
All the world, somehow or other, knows the author.  His name has been
mentioned unhesitatingly by several reviews already, whether from
private information, or from the certainty which every well-read
person must feel that there is but one man in England possessed at
once of poetic talent and artistic experience sufficient for so noble
a creation.  We hope, therefore, that we shall not be considered
impertinent if we ignore an incognito which all England has ignored
before us, and attribute "In Memoriam" to the pen of the author of
"The Princess."

Such a course will probably be the more useful one to our readers;
for this last work of our only living great poet seems to us at once
the culmination of all his efforts and the key to many difficulties
in his former writings.  Heaven forbid that we should say that it
completes the circle of his powers.  On the contrary, it gives us
hope of broader effort in new fields of thought and forms of art.
But it brings the development of his Muse and of his Creed to a
positive and definite point.  It enables us to claim one who has been
hitherto regarded as belonging to a merely speculative and peirastic
school as the willing and deliberate champion of vital Christianity,
and of an orthodoxy the more sincere because it has worked upward
through the abyss of doubt; the more mighty for good because it
justifies and consecrates the aesthetics and the philosophy of the
present age.  We are sure, moreover, that the author, whatever right
reasons he may have had for concealing his own name, would have no
quarrel against us for alluding to it, were he aware of the idolatry
with which every utterance of his is regarded by the cultivated young
men of our day, especially at the universities, and of the infinite
service of which this "In Memoriam" may be to them, if they are
taught by it that their superiors are not ashamed of faith, and that
they will rise instead of falling, fulfil instead of denying the
cravings of their hearts and intellects, if they will pass upwards
with their teacher from the vague though noble expectations of
"Locksley Hall," to the assured and everlasting facts of the proem to
"In Memoriam"--in our eyes the noblest Christian poem which England
has produced for two centuries.

To explain our meaning, it will be necessary, perhaps, to go back to
Mr. Tennyson's earlier writings, of which he is said to be somewhat
ashamed now--a fastidiousness with which we will not quarrel; for it
should be the rule of the poet, forgetting those things which are
behind, to press on to those things which are before, and "to count
not himself to have apprehended but--" no, we will not finish the
quotation; let the readers of "In Memoriam" finish it for themselves,
and see how, after all, the poet, if he would reach perfection, must
be found by Him who found St. Paul of old.  In the meantime, as a
true poet must necessarily be in advance of his age, Mr. Tennyson's
earlier poems, rather than these latter ones, coincide with the
tastes and speculations of the young men of this day.  And in
proportion, we believe, as they thoroughly appreciate the distinctive
peculiarities of those poems, will they be able to follow the author
of them on his upward path.

Some of our readers, we would fain hope, remember as an era in their
lives the first day on which they read those earlier poems; how,
fifteen years ago, Mariana in the Moated Grange, "The Dying Swan,"
"The Lady of Shalott," came to them as revelations.  They seemed to
themselves to have found at last a poet who promised not only to
combine the cunning melody of Moore, the rich fulness of Keats, and
the simplicity of Wordsworth, but one who was introducing a method of
observing nature different from that of all the three and yet
succeeding in everything which they had attempted, often in vain.
Both Keats and Moore had an eye for the beauty which lay in trivial
and daily objects.  But in both of them, there was a want of deep
religious reverence, which kept Moore playing gracefully upon the
surface of phenomena without ever daring to dive into their laws or
inner meaning; and made poor Keats fancy that he was rather to render
nature poetical by bespangling her with florid ornament, than simply
to confess that she was already, by the grace of God, far beyond the
need of his paint and gilding.  Even Wordsworth himself had not full
faith in the great dicta which he laid down in his famous
Introductory Essay.  Deep as was his conviction that nature bore upon
her simplest forms the finger-mark of God, he did not always dare
simply to describe her as she was, and leave her to reveal her own
mystery.  We do not say this in depreciation of one who stands now
far above human praise or blame.  The wonder is, not that Wordsworth
rose no higher, but that, considering the level on which his taste
was formed, he had power to rise to the height above his age which he
did attain.  He did a mighty work.  He has left the marks of his
teaching upon every poet who has written verses worth reading for the
last twenty years.  The idea by which he conquered was, as Coleridge
well sets forth, the very one which, in its practical results on his
own poetry, procured him loud and deserved ridicule.  This, which
will be the root idea of the whole poetry of this generation, was the
dignity of nature in all her manifestations, and not merely in those
which may happen to suit the fastidiousness or Manichaeism of any
particular age.  He may have been at times fanatical on his idea, and
have misused it, till it became self-contradictory, because he could
not see the correlative truths which should have limited it.  But it
is by fanatics, by men of one great thought, that great works are
done; and it is good for the time that a man arose in it of fearless
honesty enough to write Peter Bell and the Idiot Boy, to shake all
the old methods of nature-painting to their roots, and set every man
seriously to ask himself what he meant, or whether he meant anything
real, reverent, or honest, when he talked about "poetic diction," or
"the beauties of nature."  And after all, like all fanatics,
Wordsworth was better than his own creed.  As Coleridge thoroughly
shows in the second volume of the "Biographia Literaria," and as may
be seen nowhere more strikingly than in his grand posthumous work,
his noblest poems and noblest stanzas are those in which his true
poetic genius, unconsciously to himself, sets at naught his own
pseudo-naturalist dogmas.

Now Mr. Tennyson, while fully adopting Wordsworth's principle from
the very first, seemed by instinctive taste to have escaped the
snares which had proved too subtle both for Keats and Wordsworth.
Doubtless there are slight niaiseries, after the manner of both those
poets, in the first editions of his earlier poems.  He seems, like
most other great artists, to have first tried imitations of various
styles which already existed, before he learnt the art of
incorporating them into his own, and learning from all his
predecessors, without losing his own individual peculiarities.  But
there are descriptive passages in them also which neither Keats nor
Wordsworth could have written, combining the honest sensuous
observation which is common to them both, with a self-restrained
simplicity which Keats did not live long enough to attain, and a
stately and accurate melody, an earnest songfulness (to coin a word)
which Wordsworth seldom attained, and from his inaccurate and
uncertain ear, still seldomer preserved without the occurrence of a
jar or a rattle, a false quantity, a false rapture, or a bathos.  And
above all, or rather beneath all--for we suspect that this has been
throughout the very secret of Mr. Tennyson's power--there was a hush
and a reverent awe, a sense of the mystery, the infinitude, the
awfulness, as well as of the mere beauty of wayside things, which
invested these poems as wholes with a peculiar richness, depth, and
majesty of tone, beside which both Keats's and Wordsworth's methods
of handling pastoral subjects looked like the colouring of Julio
Romano or Watteau by the side of Correggio or Titian.

This deep simple faith in the divineness of Nature as she appears,
which, in our eyes, is Mr. Tennyson's differentia, is really the
natural accompaniment of a quality at first sight its very opposite,
and for which he is often blamed by a prosaic world; namely, his
subjective and transcendental mysticism.  It is the mystic, after
all, who will describe Nature most simply, because he sees most in
her; because he is most ready to believe that she will reveal to
others the same message which she has revealed to him.  Men like
Behmen, Novalis, and Fourier, who can soar into the inner cloud-world
of man's spirit, even though they lose their way there, dazzled by
excess of wonder--men who, like Wordsworth, can give utterance to
such subtle anthropologic wisdom as the "Ode on the Intimations of
Immortality," will for that very reason most humbly and patiently
"consider the lilies of the field, how they grow."  And even so it is
just because Mr. Tennyson is, far more than Wordsworth, mystical, and
what an ignorant and money-getting generation, idolatrous of mere
sensuous activity, calls "dreamy," that he has become the greatest
naturalistic poet which England has seen for several centuries.  The
same faculty which enabled him to draw such subtle subjective
pictures of womanhood as Adeline, Isabel, and Eleanor, enabled him to
see, and therefore simply to describe, in one of the most distinctive
and successful of his earlier poems, how


The creeping mosses and clambering weeds,
   And the willow branches hoar and dank,
And the wavy swell of the soughing reeds,
   And the wave-worn horns of the echoing bank,
And the silvery marish flowers that throng
The desolate creeks and pools among,
Were flooded over with eddying song.


No doubt there are in the earlier poems exceptions to this style--
attempts to adorn nature, and dazzle with a barbaric splendour akin
to that of Keats--as, for instance, in the "Recollections of the
Arabian Nights."  But how cold and gaudy, in spite of individual
beauties, is that poem by the side of either of the Marianas, and
especially of the one in which the scenery is drawn, simply and
faithfully, from those counties which the world considers the
quintessence of the prosaic--the English fens.


Upon the middle of the night
   Waking she heard the night-fowl crow;
The cock sang out an hour ere light:
   From the dark fen the oxen's low
Came to her:  without hope of change,
   In sleep she seemed to walk forlorn,
   Till cold winds woke the gray-eyed morn
About the lonely moated grange.

* * * * *

About a stone-cast from the wall
   A sluice with blackened waters slept,
And o'er it many, round and small,
   The cluster'd marish-mosses crept.
Hard by a poplar shook alway,
   All silver-green with gnarled bark,
   For leagues no other tree did mark
The level waste, the rounding gray,


Throughout all these exquisite lines occurs but one instance of what
the vulgar call "poetic diction."  All is simple description, in
short and Saxon words, and yet who can deny the effect to be perfect-
-superior to any similar passage in Wordsworth?  And why?  Because
the passage quoted, and indeed the whole poem, is perfect in what
artists call tone--tone in the metre and in the sound of the words,
as well as in the images and the feelings expressed.  The weariness,
the dreariness, the dark mysterious waste, exist alike within and
without, in the slow monotonous pace of the metre and the words, as
well as in the boundless fen, and the heart of her who, "without hope
of change, in sleep did seem to walk forlorn."

The same faith in Nature, the same instinctive correctness in melody,
springing from that correct insight into Nature, ran through the
poems inspired by medieval legends.  The very spirit of the old
ballad writers, with their combinations of mysticism and objectivity,
their freedom from any self-conscious attempt at reflective epithets
or figures, runs through them all.  We are never jarred in them, as
we are in all the attempts at ballad-writing and ballad-restoring
before Mr. Tennyson's time, by discordant touches of the reflective
in thought, the picturesque in Nature, or the theatric in action.  To
illustrate our meaning, readers may remember the ballad of "Fair
Emmeline," in Bishop Percy's "Reliques."  The bishop confesses, if we
mistake not, to have patched one end of the ballad.  He need not have
informed us of that fact, while such lines as these following meet
our eyes:


      The Baron turned aside,
And wiped away the rising tears
   He proudly strove to hide.


No old ballad writer would have used such a complicated concetto.
Another, and even a worse instance is to be found in the difference
between the old and new versions of the grand ballad of "Glasgerion."
In the original, we hear how the elfin harper could


Harp fish out of the water,
   And water out of a stone,
And milk out of a maiden's breast
   That bairn had never none.


For which some benighted "restorer" substitutes--


Oh, there was magic in his touch,
   And sorcery in his string!


No doubt there was.  But while the new poetaster informs you of the
abstract notion, the ancient poet gives you the concrete fact; as Mr.
Tennyson has done with wonderful art in his exquisite "St. Agnes,"
where the saint's subjective mysticism appears only as embodied in
objective pictures:


Break up the heavens, oh Lord! and far
   Through all yon starlight keen
Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star,
In raiment white and clean.


Sir Walter Scott's ballads fail just on the same point.  Even
Campbell cannot avoid an occasional false note of sentiment.  In Mr.
Tennyson alone, as we think, the spirit of the Middle Age is
perfectly reflected; its delight, not in the "sublime and
picturesque," but in the green leaves and spring flowers for their
own sake--the spirit of Chaucer and of the "Robin Hood Garland"--the
naturalism which revels as much in the hedgerow and garden as in
Alps, and cataracts, and Italian skies, and the other strong
stimulants to the faculty of admiration which the palled taste of an
unhealthy age, from Keats and Byron down to Browning, has rushed
abroad to seek.  It is enough for Mr. Tennyson's truly English spirit
to see how


On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And through the field the road runs by
      To many-tower'd Camelot.


Or how


In the stormy east wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
      Over tower'd Camelot.


Give him but such scenery as that which he can see in every parish in
England, and he will find it a fit scene for an ideal myth, subtler
than a casuist's questionings, deep as the deepest heart of woman.

But in this earlier volume the poet has not yet arrived at the art of
combining his new speculations on man with his new mode of viewing
Nature.  His objective pieces are too exclusively objective, his
subjective too exclusively subjective; and where he deals with
natural imagery in these latter, he is too apt, as in "Eleanore," to
fall back upon the old and received method of poetic diction, though
he never indulges in a commonplace or a stock epithet.  But in the
interval between 1830 and 1842 the needful interfusion of the two
elements has taken place.  And in "Locksley Hall" and the "'Two
Voices" we find the new doubts and questions of the time embodied
naturally and organically, in his own method of simple natural
expression.  For instance, from the Search for Truth in the "Two
Voices"--


Cry, faint not, climb:  the summits lope
Beyond the furthest flights of hope,
Wrapt in dense cloud from base to cope.

Sometimes a little corner shines
As over rainy mist inclines
A gleaming crag with belts of pines.

"I will go forward," sayest thou;
"I shall not fail to find her now.
Look up, the fold is on her brow."


Or again, in "Locksley Hall," the poem which, as we think deservedly,
has had most influence on the minds of the young men of our day:


Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father's field,
And at night along the dusky highway near and nearer drawn,
Sees in heaven the light of London flaring like a dreary dawn;
And his spirit leaps within him to be gone before him then,
Underneath the light he looks at, in among the throngs of men;
Men, my brothers, men the workers, over reaping something new:
That which they have done but earnest of the things which they shall
do:


and all the grand prophetic passage following, which is said, we know
not how truly, to have won for the poet the respect of that great
statesman whose loss all good men deplore.

In saying that "Locksley Hall" has deservedly had so great an
influence over the minds of the young, we shall, we are afraid, have
offended some who are accustomed to consider that poem as Werterian
and unhealthy.  But, in reality, the spirit of the poem is simply
anti-Werterian.  It is man rising out of sickness into health--not
conquered by Werterism, but conquering his selfish sorrow, and the
moral and intellectual paralysis which it produces, by faith and
hope--faith in the progress of science and civilisation, hope in the
final triumph of good.  Doubtless, that is not the highest
deliverance--not a permanent deliverance at all.  Faith in God and
hope in Christ alone can deliver a man once and for all from
Werterism, or any other moral disease; that truth was reserved for
"In Memoriam:" but as far as "Locksley Hall" goes, it is a step
forward--a whole moral aeon beyond Byron and Shelley; and a step,
too, in the right direction, just because it is a step forward--
because the path of deliverance is, as "Locksley Hall" sets forth,
not backwards towards a fancied paradise of childhood--not backward
to grope after an unconsciousness which is now impossible, an
implicit faith which would be unworthy of the man, but forward on the
road on which God has been leading him, carrying upward with him the
aspirations of childhood, and the bitter experience of youth, to help
the organised and trustful labour of manhood.  There are, in fact,
only two deliverances from Werterism possible in the nineteenth
century; one is into Popery, and the other is--


   Forward, forward, let us range;
Let the peoples spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change;
Through the shadow of the world we sweep into the younger day:
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.


But such a combination of powers as Mr. Tennyson's naturally develop
themselves into a high idyllic faculty; for it is the very essence of
the idyl to set forth the poetry which lies in the simpler
manifestations of Man and Nature; yet not explicitly, by a reflective
moralising on them, as almost all our idyllists--Cowper, Gray,
Crabbe, and Wordsworth--have been in the habit of doing, but
implicitly, by investing them all with a rich and delightful tone of
colouring, perfect grace of manner, perfect melody of rhythm, which,
like a gorgeous summer atmosphere, shall glorify without altering the
most trivial and homely sights.  And it is this very power, as
exhibited in the "Lord of Burleigh," "Audley Court," and the
"Gardener's Daughter," which has made Mr. Tennyson, not merely the
only English rival of Theocritus and Bion, but, in our opinion, as
much their superior as modern England is superior to ancient Greece.

Yet in "The Princess," perhaps, Mr. Tennyson rises higher still.  The
idyllic manner alternates with the satiric, the pathetic, even the
sublime, by such imperceptible gradations, and continual delicate
variations of key, that the harmonious medley of his style becomes
the fit outward expression of the bizarre and yet harmonious
fairyland in which his fancy ranges.  In this work, too, Mr. Tennyson
shows himself more than ever the poet of the day.  In it more than
ever the old is interpenetrated with the new--the domestic and
scientific with the ideal and sentimental.  He dares, in every page,
to make use of modern words and notions, from which the mingled
clumsiness and archaism of his compeers shrinks, as unpoetical.
Though, as we just said, his stage is an ideal fairyland, yet he has
reached the ideal by the only true method--by bringing the Middle Age
forward to the Present one, and not by ignoring the Present to fall
back on a cold and galvanised Medievalism; and thus he makes his
"Medley" a mirror of the nineteenth century, possessed of its own new
art and science, its own new temptations and aspirations, and yet
grounded on, and continually striving to reproduce, the forms and
experiences of all past time.  The idea, too, of "The Princess" is an
essentially modern one.  In every age women have been tempted, by the
possession of superior beauty, intellect, or strength of will, to
deny their own womanhood, and attempt to stand alone as men, whether
on the ground of political intrigue, ascetic saintship, or
philosophic pride.  Cleopatra and St. Hedwiga, Madame de Stael and
the Princess, are merely different manifestations of the same self-
willed and proud longing of woman to unsex herself, and realise,
single and self-sustained, some distorted and partial notion of her
own as to what the "angelic life" should be.  Cleopatra acted out the
pagan ideal of an angel; St. Hedwiga, the medieval one; Madame de
Stael hers, with the peculiar notions of her time as to what
"spirituel" might mean; and in "The Princess" Mr. Tennyson has
embodied the ideal of that nobler, wider, purer, yet equally
fallacious, because equally unnatural, analogue, which we may meet
too often up and down England now.  He shows us the woman, when she
takes nor stand on the false masculine ground of intellect, working
out her own moral punishment, by destroying in herself the tender
heart of flesh:  not even her vast purposes of philanthropy can
preserve her, for they are built up, not on the womanhood which God
has given her, but on her own self-will; they change, they fall, they
become inconsistent, even as she does herself, till, at last, she
loses all feminine sensibility; scornfully and stupidly she rejects
and misunderstands the heart of man; and then falling from pride to
sternness, from sternness to sheer inhumanity, she punishes sisterly
love as a crime, robs the mother of her child, and becomes all but a
vengeful fury, with all the peculiar faults of woman, and none of the
peculiar excellences of man.

The poem being, as its title imports, a medley of jest and earnest,
allows a metrical licence, of which we are often tempted to wish that
its author had not availed himself; yet the most unmetrical and
apparently careless passages flow with a grace, a lightness, a
colloquial ease and frolic, which perhaps only heighten the effect of
the serious parts, and serve as a foil to set off the unrivalled
finish and melody of these latter.  In these come out all Mr.
Tennyson's instinctive choice of tone, his mastery of language, which
always fits the right word to the right thing, and that word always
the simplest one, and the perfect ear for melody which makes it
superfluous to set to music poetry which, read by the veriest
schoolboy, makes music of itself.  The poem, we are glad to say, is
so well known that it seems unnecessary to quote from it; yet there
are here and there gems of sound and expression of which, however
well our readers may know them, we cannot forbear reminding them
again.  For instance, the end of the idyl in book vii. beginning
"Come down, O maid" (the whole of which is perhaps one of the most
perfect fruits of the poet's genius):


Myriads of rivulets hurrying through the lawn,
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.


Who, after three such lines, will talk of English as a harsh and
clumsy language, and seek in the effeminate and monotonous Italian
for expressive melody of sound?  Who cannot hear in them the rapid
rippling of the water, the stately calmness of the wood-dove's note,
and, in the repetition of short syllables and soft liquids in the
last line, the


Murmuring of innumerable bees?


Or again, what combination of richness with simplicity in such a
passage as this:


   Breathe upon my brows;
In that fine air I tremble, all the past
Melts mist-like into this bright hour, and this
I scarce believe, and all the rich to come
Reels, as the golden Autumn woodland reels
Athwart the smoke of burning leaves.


How Mr. Tennyson can have attained the prodigal fulness of thought
and imagery which distinguishes this poem, and especially the last
canto, without his style ever becoming overloaded, seldom even
confused, is perhaps one of the greatest marvels of the whole
production.  The songs themselves, which have been inserted between
the cantos in the last edition of the book, seem, perfect as they
are, wasted and smothered among the surrounding fertility; till we
discover that they stand there, not merely for the sake of their
intrinsic beauty, but serve to call back the reader's mind, at every
pause in the tale of the Princess's folly, to that very healthy ideal
of womanhood which she has spurned.

At the end of the first canto, fresh from the description of the
female college, with its professoresses, and hostleresses, and other
utopian monsters, we turn the page, and--


As through the land at eve we went,
   And pluck'd the ripen'd ears.
We fell out, my wife and I,
   And kissed again with tears:

And blessings on the falling-out
   That all the more endears,
When we fall out with those we love,
   And kiss again with tears!

For when we came where lies the child
   We lost in other years,
There above the little grave,
   We kissed again with tears.


Between the next two cantos intervenes the well-known cradle-song,
perhaps the best of all; and at the next interval is the equally
well-known bugle-song, the idea of which is that of twin-labour and
twin-fame, in a pair of lovers:


Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.


In the next, the memory of wife and child inspirits the soldier in
the field; in the next, the sight of the fallen hero's child opens
the sluices of his widow's tears; and in the last, and perhaps the
most beautiful of all, the poet has succeeded, in the new edition, in
superadding a new form of emotion to a canto in which he seemed to
have exhausted every resource of pathos which his subject allowed;
and prepares us for the triumph of that art by which he makes us,
after all, love the heroine whom he at first taught us to hate and
despise, till we see that the naughtiness is after all one that must
be kissed and not whipped out of her, and look on smiling while she
repents, with Prince Harry of old, "not in sackcloth and ashes, but
in new silk and old sack:"


Ask me no more:  the moon may draw the sea;
   The cloud may stoop from Heaven and take the shape,
   With fold to fold, of mountain or of cape;
But, O too fond, when have I answered thee?
      Ask me no more.

Ask me no more:  what answer should I give?
   I love not hollow cheek or faded eye:
   Yet, O my friend, I will not have thee die!
Ask me no more, lest I should bid thee live;
      Ask me no more.

Ask me no more:  thy fate and mine are seal'd:
   I strove against the stream and all in vain:
   Let the great river take me to the main:
No more, dear love, for at a touch I yield;
      Ask me no more.


We now come to "In Memoriam;" a collection of poems on a vast variety
of subjects, but all united, as their name implies, to the memory of
a departed friend.  We know not whether to envy more--the poet the
object of his admiration, or that object the monument which has been
consecrated to his nobleness.  For in this latest and highest volume,
written at various intervals during a long series of years, all the
poet's peculiar excellences, with all that he has acquired from
others, seem to have been fused down into a perfect unity, and
brought to bear on his subject with that care and finish which only a
labour of love can inspire.  We only now know the whole man, all his
art, all his insight, all his faculty of discerning the piu nell'
uno, and the uno nell' piu.  As he says himself:


My love has talked with rocks and trees,
   He finds on misty mountain-ground,
   His own vast shadow glory-crowned;
He sees himself in all he sees.


Everything reminds him of the dead.  Every joy or sorrow of man,
every aspect of nature, from


The forest crack'd, the waters, curl'd,
   The cattle huddled on the lea.

The thousand waves of wheat
That ripple round the lonely grange.


In every place where in old days they had met and conversed; in every
dark wrestling of the spirit with the doubts and fears of manhood,
throughout the whole outward universe of Nature, and the whole inward
universe of spirit, the soul of his dead friend broods--at first a
memory shrouded in blank despair, then, a living presence, a
ministering spirit, answering doubts, calming fears, stirring up
noble aspirations, utter humility, leading the poet upward, step by
step, to faith, and peace, and hope.  Not that there runs throughout
the book a conscious or organic method.  The poems seem often merely
to be united by the identity of their metre, so exquisitely chosen,
that while the major rhyme in the second and third lines of each
stanza gives the solidity and self-restraint required by such deep
themes, the mournful minor rhyme of each first and fourth line always
leads the ear to expect something beyond, and enables the poet's
thoughts to wander sadly on, from stanza to stanza and poem to poem,
in an endless chain of


Linked sweetness long drawn out.


There are records of risings and fallings again, of alternate cloud
and sunshine, throughout the book; earnest and passionate, yet never
bitter; humble, yet never abject; with a depth and vehemence of
affection "passing the love of woman," yet without a taint of
sentimentality; self-restrained and dignified, without ever narrowing
into artificial coldness; altogether rivalling the sonnets of
Shakespeare; and all knit together into one spiritual unity by the
proem at the opening of the volume--in our eyes, the noblest English
Christian poem which several centuries have seen.

We shall not quote the very poems which we should most wish to sink
into men's hearts.  Let each man find for himself those which suit
him best, and meditate on them in silence.  They are fit only to be
read solemnly in our purest and most thoughtful moods, in the
solitude of our chamber, or by the side of those we love, with thanks
to the great heart who has taken courage to bestow on us the record
of his own friendship, doubt, and triumph.

It has been often asked why Mr. Tennyson's great and varied powers
had never been concentrated on one immortal work.  The epic, the
lyric, the idyllic faculties, perhaps the dramatic also, seemed to be
all there, and yet all sundered, scattered about in small fragmentary
poems.  "In Memoriam," as we think, explains the paradox.  Mr.
Tennyson had been employed on higher, more truly divine, and yet more
truly human work than either epos or drama.  Within the unseen and
alone truly Real world which underlies and explains this mere time-
shadow, which men miscall the Real, he had been going down into the
depths, and ascending into the heights, led, like Dante of old, by
the guiding of a mighty spirit.  And in this volume, the record of
seventeen years, we have the result of those spiritual experiences in
a form calculated, as we believe, to be a priceless benefit to many
an earnest seeker in this generation, and perhaps to stir up some who
are priding themselves on a cold dilettantism and barren epicurism,
into something like a living faith and hope.  Blessed and delightful
it is to find, that even in these new ages the creeds which so many
fancy to be at their last gasp, are still the final and highest
succour, not merely of the peasant and the outcast, but of the subtle
artist and the daring speculator.  Blessed it is to find the most
cunning poet of our day able to combine the complicated rhythm and
melody of modern times with the old truths which gave heart to
martyrs at the stake; and to see in the science and the history of
the nineteenth century new and living fulfilments of the words which
we learnt at our mother's knee.  Blessed, thrice blessed, to find
that hero-worship is not yet passed away; that the heart of man still
beats young and fresh; that the old tales of David and Jonathan,
Damon and Pythias, Socrates and Alcibiades, Shakespeare and his
nameless friend, of "love passing the love of woman," ennobled by its
own humility, deeper than death, and mightier than the grave, can
still blossom out, if it be but in one heart here and there, to show
men still how, sooner or later, "he that loveth knoweth God, for God
is love."



BURNS AND HIS SCHOOL {127}



Four faces among the portraits of modern men, great or small, strike
us as supremely beautiful; not merely in expression, but in the form
and proportion and harmony of features:  Shakespeare, Raffaelle,
Goethe, Burns.  One would expect it to be so; for the mind makes the
body, not the body the mind; and the inward beauty seldom fails to
express itself in the outward, as a visible sign of the invisible
grace or disgrace of the wearer.  Not that it is so always.  A Paul,
Apostle of the Gentiles, may be ordained to be "in presence weak, in
speech contemptible," hampered by some thorn in the flesh--to
interfere apparently with the success of his mission, perhaps for the
same wise purpose of Providence which sent Socrates to the Athenians,
the worshippers of physical beauty, in the ugliest of human bodies,
that they, or rather those of them to whom eyes to see had been
given, might learn, that soul is after all independent of matter, and
not its creature and its slave.  But, in the generality of cases,
physiognomy is a sound and faithful science, and tells us, if not,
alas! what the man might have been, still what he has become.  Yet
even this former problem, what he might have been, may often be
solved for us by youthful portraits, before sin and sorrow and
weakness have had their will upon the features; and, therefore, when
we spoke of these four beautiful faces, we alluded, in each case, to
the earliest portraits of each genius which we could recollect.
Placing them side by side, we must be allowed to demand for that of
Robert Burns an honourable station among them.  Of Shakespeare's we
do not speak, for it seems to us to combine in itself the elements of
all the other three; but of the rest, we question whether Burns be
not, after all, if not the noblest, still the most lovable--the most
like what we should wish that of a teacher of men to be.  Raffaelle--
the most striking portrait of him, perhaps, is the full-face pencil
sketch by his own hand in the Taylor Gallery at Oxford--though
without a taint of littleness or effeminacy, is soft, melancholy,
formed entirely to receive and to elaborate in silence.  His is a
face to be kissed, not worshipped.  Goethe, even in his earliest
portraits, looks as if his expression depended too much on his own
will.  There is a self-conscious power, and purpose, and self-
restraint, and all but scorn, upon those glorious lineaments, which
might win worship, and did; but not love, except as the child of
enthusiasm or of relationship.  But Burns's face, to judge of it by
the early portrait of him by Nasmyth, must have been a face like that
of Joseph of old, of whom the Rabbis relate, that he was mobbed by
the Egyptian ladies whenever he walked the streets.  The magic of
that countenance, making Burns at once tempter and tempted, may
explain many a sad story.  The features certainly are not perfectly
regular; there is no superabundance of the charm of mere animal
health in the outline or colour:  but the marks of intellectual
beauty in the face are of the highest order, capable of being but too
triumphant among a people of deep thought and feeling.  The lips,
ripe, yet not coarse or loose, full of passion and the faculty of
enjoyment, are parted, as if forced to speak by the inner fulness of
the heart; the features are rounded, rich, and tender, and yet the
bones show thought massively and manfully everywhere; the eyes laugh
out upon you with boundless good humour and sweetness, with simple,
eager, gentle surprise--a gleam as of the morning star, looking forth
upon the wonder of a new-born world--altogether


A station like the herald Mercury,
New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill.


Bestow on such a man the wittiest and most winning eloquence--a rich
flow of spirits and fulness of health and life--a deep sense of
wonder and beauty in the earth and man--an instinct of the dynamic
and supernatural laws which underlie and vivify this material
universe and its appearances, healthy, yet irregular and
unscientific, all but superstitious--turn him loose in any country in
Europe, during the latter half of the eighteenth century, and it will
not be difficult, alas! to cast his horoscope.

And what an age in which to be turned loose!--for loose he must go,
to solve the problem of existence for himself.  The grand simple old
Scottish education which he got from his parents must prove narrow
and unsatisfying for so rich and manifold a character; not because it
was in itself imperfect; not because it did not contain implicitly
all things necessary for his "salvation"--in every sense, all laws
which he might require for his after-life guidance; but because it
contained so much of them as yet only implicitly; because it was not
yet conscious of its own breadth and depth, and power of satisfying
the new doubts and cravings of such minds and such times as Burns's.
It may be that Burns was the devoted victim by whose fall it was to
be taught that it must awaken and expand and renew its youth in
shapes equally sound, but more complex and scientific.  But it had
not done so then.  And when Burns found himself gradually growing
beyond his father's teaching in one direction, and tempted beyond it
in another and a lower one, what was there in those times to take up
his education at the point where it had been left unfinished?  He saw
around him in plenty animal good-nature and courage, barbaric honesty
and hospitality--more, perhaps, than he would see now; for the upward
progress into civilised excellences is sure to be balanced by some
loss of savage ones--but reckless, shallow, above all, drunken.  It
was a hard-drinking, coarse, materialist age.  The higher culture, of
Scotland especially, was all but exclusively French--not a good kind,
while Voltaire and Volney still remained unanswered, and "Les
Liaisons Dangereuses" were accepted by all young gentlemen, and a
great many young ladies who could read French, as the best account of
the relation of the sexes.

Besides, the philosophy of that day, like its criticism, was
altogether mechanical, nay, as it now seems, materialist in its
ultimate and logical results.  Criticism was outward, and of the form
merely.  The world was not believed to be already, and in itself,
mysterious and supernatural, and the poet was not defined as the man
who could see and proclaim that supernatural element.  Before it was
admired, it was to be raised above nature into the region of "the
picturesque," or whatnot; and the poet was the man who gave it this
factitious and superinduced beauty, by a certain "kompsologia" and
"meteoroepeia," called "poetic diction," now happily becoming
extinct, mainly, we believe, under the influence of Burns, although
he himself thought it his duty to bedizen his verses therewith, and
though it was destined to flourish for many a year more in the temple
of the father of lies, like a jar of paper flowers on a Popish altar.

No wonder that in such a time, a genius like Burns should receive not
only no guidance, but no finer appreciation.  True; he was admired,
petted, flattered; for that the man was wonderful no one could doubt.
But we question whether he was understood; whether, if that very
flowery and magniloquent style which we now consider his great
failing had been away, he would not have been passed over by the many
as a writer of vulgar doggrel.  True, the old simple ballad-muse of
Scotland still dropped a gem from her treasures, here and there, even
in the eighteenth century itself--witness "Auld Robin Gray."  But who
suspected that they were gems, of which Scotland, fifty years
afterwards, would be prouder and more greedy than of all the second-
hand French culture which seemed to her then the highest earthly
attainment?  The Review of Burns in an early number of the "Edinburgh
Review," said to be from the pen of the late Lord Jeffrey, shows, as
clearly as anything can, the utterly inconsistent and bewildered
feeling with which the world must have regarded such a phenomenon.
Alas! there was inconsistency and bewilderment enough in the
phenomenon itself, but that only made confusion worse confounded; the
confusion was already there, even in the mind of the more practical
literary men, who ought, one would have thought, also to have been
the most deep-sighted.  But no.  The reviewer turns the strange thing
over and over, and inside out--and some fifteen years after it has
vanished out of the world, having said out its say and done all that
it had to do, he still finds it too utterly abnormal to make up his
mind about in any clear or consistent way, and gets thoroughly cross
with it, and calls it hard names, because it will not fit into any
established pigeon-hole or drawer of the then existing
anthropological museum.  Burns is "a literary prodigy," and yet it is
"a derogation" to him to consider him as one.  And that we find, not
as we should have expected, because he possessed genius, which would
have made success a matter of course in any rank, but because he was
so well educated--"having acquired a competent knowledge of French,
together with the elements of Latin and Geometry," and before he had
composed a single stanza, was "far more intimately acquainted with
Pope, Shakespeare, and Thomson, than nine-tenths of the youths who
leave school for the university," etc. etc.--in short, because he was
so well educated, that his becoming Robert Burns, the immortal poet,
was a matter of course and necessity.  And yet, a page or two on, the
great reason why it was more easy for Robert Burns the cottar to
become an original and vigorous poet, rather than for any one of "the
herd of scholars and academical literati," who are depressed and
discouraged by "perusing the most celebrated writers, and conversing
with the most intelligent judges," is found to be, that "the
literature and refinement of the age do not exist for a rustic and
illiterate individual; and consequently the present time is to him
what the rude times of old were to the vigorous writer who adorned
them."  In short the great reason of Robert Burns's success was that
he did not possess that education the possession of which proves him
to be no prodigy, though the review begins by calling him one, and
coupling him with Stephen Duck and Thomas Dermody.

Now if the best critic of the age, writing fifteen years after
Burns's death, found himself between the horns of such a dilemma'--
which indeed, like those of an old Arnee bull, meet at the points,
and form a complete circle of contradictions--what must have been the
bewilderment of lesser folk during the prodigy's very lifetime? what
must, indeed, have been his own bewilderment at himself, however
manfully he may have kept it down?  No wonder that he was unguided,
either by himself or by others.  We do not blame them; him we must
deeply blame; yet not as we ought to blame ourselves, did we yield in
the least to those temptations under which Burns fell.

Biographies of Burns, and those good ones, according to the standard
of biographies in these days, are said to exist; we cannot say that
we have as yet cared to read them.  There are several other
biographies, even more important, to be read first, when they are
written.  Shakespeare has found as yet no biographer; has not even
left behind him materials for a biography, such at least as are
considered worth using.  Indeed, we question whether such a biography
would be of any use whatever to the world; for the man who cannot, by
studying his dramas in some tolerably accurate chronological order,
and using as a running accompaniment and closet commentary those awe-
inspiring sonnets of his, attain to some clear notion of what sort of
life William Shakespeare must have led, would not see him much the
clearer for many folios of anecdote.  For after all, the best
biography of every sincere man is sure to be his own works; here he
has set down, "transferred as in a figure," all that has happened to
him, inward or outward, or rather, all which has formed him, produced
a permanent effect upon his mind and heart; and knowing that, you
know all you need know, and are content, being glad to escape the
personality and gossip of names and places, and of dates even, except
in as far as they enable you to place one step of his mental growth
before or after another.  Of the honest man this holds true always;
and almost always of the dishonest man, the man of cant, affectation,
hypocrisy; for even if he pretend in his novel or his poem to be what
he is not, he still shows you thereby what he thinks he ought to have
been, or at least what he thinks that the world thinks he ought to
have been, and confesses to you, in the most naive and confidential
way, like one who talks in his sleep, what learning he has or has not
had; what society he has or has not seen, and that in the very act of
trying to prove the contrary.  Nay, the smaller the man or woman, and
the less worth deciphering his biography, the more surely will he
show you, if you have eyes to see and time to look, what sort of
people offended him twenty years ago; what meanness he would have
liked "to indulge in," if he had dared, when young, and for what
other meanness he relinquished it, as he grew up; of what periodical
he stood in awe when he took pen in hand, and so forth.  Whether his
books treat of love or political economy, theology or geology, it is
there, the history of the man legibly printed, for those who care to
read it.  In these poems and letters of Burns, we apprehend, is to be
found a truer history than any anecdote can supply, of the things
which happened to himself, and moreover of the most notable things
which went on in Scotland between 1759 and 1796.

This latter assertion may seem startling, when we consider that we
find in these poems no mention whatsoever of the discoveries of
steamboats and spinning-jennies, the rise of the great manufacturing
cities, the revolution in Scottish agriculture, or even in Scottish
metaphysics.  But after all, the history of a nation is the history
of the men, and not of the things thereof; and the history of those
men is the history of their hearts, and not of their purses, or even
of their heads; and the history of one man who has felt in himself
the heart experiences of his generation, and anticipated many
belonging to the next generation, is so far the collective history of
that generation, and of much--no man can say how much--of the next
generation; and such a man, bearing within his single soul two
generations of working-men, we take Robert Burns to have been; and
his poems, as such, a contemporaneous history of Scotland, the equal
to which we are not likely to see written for this generation, or
several to come.

Such a man sent out into such an age, would naturally have a hard and
a confused battle to fight, would probably, unless he fell under the
guidance of some master-mind, end se ipso minor, stunted and sadly
deformed, as Burns did.  His works are after all only the disjecta
membra poetae; full of hints of a great might-have-been.  Hints of
the keenest and most dramatic appreciation of human action and
thought.  Hints of an unbounded fancy, playing gracefully in the
excess of its strength, with the vastest images, as in that robe of
the Scottish Muse, in which


Deep lights and shades, bold mingling, threw
      A lustre grand,
And seem'd to my astonished view
      A well-known land.


The image, and the next few stanzas which dilate it, might be a
translation from Dante's "Paradiso," so broad, terse, vivid, the
painter's touch.  Hints, too, of a humour, which, like that of
Shakespeare, rises at times by sheer depth of insight into the
sublime; as when


Hornie did the Laigh Kirk watch
Just like a winking baudrons.


Hints of a power of verbal wit, which, had it been sharpened in such
a perpetual word-battle as that amid which Shakespeare lived from the
age of twenty, might have rivalled Shakespeare's own; which even now
asserts its force by a hundred little never-to-be-forgotten phrases
scattered through his poems, which stick, like barbed arrows, in the
memory of every reader.  And as for his tenderness--the quality
without which all other poetic excellence is barren--it gushes forth
toward every creature, animate and inanimate, with one exception,
namely, the hypocrite, ever alike "spiacente a Dio e ai nemici sui;"
and therefore intolerable to Robert Burns's honesty, whether he be
fighting for or against the cause of right.  Again we say, there are
evidences of a versatile and manifold faculty in this man, which,
with a stronger will and a larger education, might have placed him as
an equal by the side of those great names which we mentioned together
with his at the commencement of this article.

But one thing Burns wanted; and of that one thing his age helped to
deprive him--the education which comes by reverence.  Looking round
in such a time, with his keen power of insight, his keen sense of
humour, what was there to worship?  Lord Jeffrey, or whosoever was
the author of the review in the "Edinburgh," says disparagingly, that
Burns had as much education as Shakespeare.  So he very probably had,
if education mean book-learning.  Nay, more, of the practical
education of the fireside, the sober, industrious, God-fearing
education, and "drawing out" of the manhood, by act and example,
Burns may have had more under his good father than Shakespeare under
his; though the family life of the small English burgher in
Elizabeth's time would have generally presented, as we suspect, the
very same aspect of staid manfulness and godliness which a Scotch
farmer's did fifty years ago.  But let that be as it may, Burns was
not born into an Elizabethan age.  He did not see around him Raleighs
and Sidneys, Cecils and Hookers, Drakes and Frobishers, Spensers and
Jonsons, Southamptons and Willoughbys, with an Elizabeth, guiding and
moulding the great whole, a crowned Titaness, terrible, and strong,
and wise--a woman who, whether right or wrong, bowed the proudest, if
not to love, yet still to obey.

That was the secret of Shakespeare's power.  Heroic himself, he was
born into an age of heroes.  You see it in his works.  Not a play but
gives patent evidence that to him all forms of human magnanimity were
common and wayside flowers--among the humours of men which he and Ben
Jonson used to wander forth together to observe.  And thus he could
give living action and speech to the ancient noblenesses of Rome and
the Middle Age; for he had walked and conversed with them, unchanged
in everything but in the dress.  Had he known Greek literature he
could have recalled to imperishable life such men as Cimon and
Aristides, such deeds as Marathon and Salamis.  For had we not had
our own Salamis acted within a few years of his birth; and were not
the heroes of it still walking among men?  It was surely this
continual presence of "men of worship," this atmosphere of admiration
and respect and trust, in which Shakespeare must have lived, which
tamed down the wild self-will of the deer-stealing fugitive from
Stratford, into the calm large-eyed philosopher, tolerant and loving,
and full of faith in a species made in the likeness of God.  Not so
with Burns.  One feels painfully in his poems the want of great
characters; and still more painfully that he has not drawn them,
simply because they were not there to draw.  That he has a true eye
for what is noble, when he sees it, let his "Lament for Glencairn"
testify, and the stanzas in his "Vision," in which, with a high-bred
grace which many a courtly poet of his day might have envied, he
alludes to one and another Scottish worthy of his time.  There is no
vein of saucy and envious "banausia" in the man; even in his most
graceless sneer, his fault--if fault it be--is, that he cannot and
will not pretend to respect that which he knows to be unworthy of
respect.  He sees around him and above him, as well as below him, an
average of men and things dishonest, sensual, ungodly, shallow,
ridiculous by reason of their own lusts and passions, and he will not
apply to the shams of dignity and worth, the words which were meant
for their realities.  After all, he does but say what every one round
him was feeling and thinking; but he said it; and hypocritical
respectability shrank shrieking from the mirror of her own inner
heart.  But it was all the worse for him.  In the sins of others he
saw an excuse for his own.  Losing respect for and faith in his
brother-men, he lost, as a matter of course, respect for himself,
faith in himself.  The hypocrisy which persecutes in the name of law,
whether political or moral, while in private it transgresses the very
law which is for ever on its tongue, is turned by his passionate and
sorely-tempted character into a too easy excuse for disbelieving in
the obligation of any law whatsoever.  He ceases to worship, and
therefore to be himself worshipful--and we know the rest.

"He might have still worshipped God?"  He might, and surely amid all
his sins, doubts, and confusions, the remembrance of the old faith
learned at his parent's knee, does haunt him still as a beautiful
regret--and sometimes, in his bitterest hours, shine out before his
poor broken heart as an everlasting Pharos, lighting him homewards
after all.  Whether he reached that home or not, none on earth can
tell.  But his writings show, if anything can, that the vestal-fire
of conscience still burned within, though choked again and again with
bitter ashes and foul smoke.  Consider the time in which he lived,
when it was "as with the people, so with the priest," and the grand
old life-tree of the Scottish Kirk, now green and vigorous with fresh
leaves and flowers, was all crusted with foul scurf and moss, and
seemed to have ceased growing, and to be crumbling down into decay;
consider the terrible contradiction between faith and practice which
must have met the eyes of the man, before he could write with the
same pen--and one as honestly as the other--"The Cottar's Saturday
Night," and "Holy Willie's Prayer."  But those times are past, and
the men who acted in them gone to another tribunal.  Let the dead
bury their dead; and, in the meantime, instead of cursing the
misguided genius, let us consider whether we have not also something
for which to thank him; whether, as competent judges of him aver from
their own experience, those very seeming blasphemies of his have not
produced more good than evil; whether, though "a savour of death unto
death," to conceited and rebellious spirits, they may not have helped
to open the eyes of the wise to the extent to which the general
eighteenth-century rottenness had infected Scotland, and to make
intolerable a state of things which ought to have been intolerable,
even if Burns had never written.

We are not attacking the reviewer, far less the "Edinburgh Review,"
which some years after this not only made the amende honorable to
Burns, but showed a frank impartiality only too rare in the reviews
of these days, by publishing in its pages the noble article on Burns
which has since appeared separately in Mr. Carlyle's "Miscellanies."
We only wish to show, from the reviewer's own words, the element in
which Burns had to work, the judges before whom he had to plead, and
the change which, as we think, very much by the influence of his own
poems, has passed upon the minds of men.  How few are there who would
pen now about him such a sentence as this:  "He is" (that is, was,
having gone to his account fifteen years before) "perpetually making
a parade of his own inflammability and imprudence, and talking with
much self-complacency and exultation of the offence he has occasioned
to the sober and correct part of mankind"--a very small part of
mankind, one would have thought, in the British Isles at least, about
the end of the last century.  But, it was the fashion then, as usual,
to substitute the praise of virtues for the practice of them; and
three-bottle and ten-tumbler men had a very good right, of course, to
admire sobriety and correctness, and to denounce any two-bottle and
six-tumbler man who was not ashamed to confess in print the
weaknesses which they confessed only by word of mouth.  Just, and yet
not just.  True, Burns does make a parade of his thoughtlessness, and
worse; but why? because he gloried in it?  He must be a very skin-
deep critic who cannot see, even in the most insolent of those
blameworthy utterances, an inward shame and self-reproach, which if
any man had ever felt in himself, he would be in nowise inclined to
laugh at it in others.  Why, it is the very shame which wrings those
poems out of him.  They are the attempt of the strong man fettered to
laugh at his own consciousness of slavery--to deny the existence of
his chains--to pretend to himself that he likes them.  To us, some of
those wildest "Rob the Ranter" bursts of blackguardism are most
deeply mournful, hardly needing that the sympathies which they stir
up should be heightened by the little scraps of prayer and bitter
repentance, which lie up and down among their uglier brethren, the
disjecta membra of a great "De Profundis," perhaps not all unheard.
These latter pieces are most significant.  The very doggrel of them,
the total absence of any attempt at ornament in diction or polish in
metre, is proof complete of their deep heart-wrung sincerity.  They
are like the wail of a lost child, rather than the remorse of a
Titan.  The heart of the man was so young to the last; the boy-vein
in him, as perhaps in all great poets, beating on through manhood for
good and for evil.  No! there was parade there, as of the lost woman,
who tries to hide her self-disgust by staring you out of countenance,
but of complacency and exultation none.

On one point, namely politics, Burns's higher sympathies seem to have
been awakened.  It had been better for him, in a worldly point of
view, that they had not.  In an intellectual, and even in a moral
point of view, far worse.  A fellow-feeling with the French
Revolution, in the mind of a young man of that day, was a sign of
moral health, which we should have been sorry to miss in him.  Unable
to foresee the outcome of the great struggle, having lost faith in
those everlasting truths, religious and political, which it was madly
setting at naught, what could it appear to him but an awakening from
the dead, a return to young and genial health, a purifying
thunderstorm.  Such was his dream, the dream of thousands more, and
not so wrong a one after all.  For that, since that fearful outburst
of the nether pit, all Europe has arisen and awakened into manifold
and beautiful new life, who can deny?  We are not what we were, but
better, or rather, with boundless means of being better if we will.
We have entered a fresh era of time for good and evil; the fact is
patent in every sermon we hear, in every book we read, in every
invention, even the most paltry, which we see registered.  Shall we
think hardly of the man who saw the dawn of our own day, and welcomed
it cheerfully and hopefully, even though he fancied the mist-spectres
to be elements of the true sunrise, and knew not--and who knows?--the
purposes of Him whose paths are in the great deep, and His ways past
finding out?  At least, the greater part of his influence on the
times which have followed him, is to be ascribed to that very
"Radicalism" which in the eyes of the respectable around him, had
sealed his doom, and consigned him to ignoble oblivion.  It has been,
with the working men who read him, a passport for the rest of his
writings; it has allured them to listen to him, when he spoke of high
and holy things, which but for him, they might have long ago tossed
away as worthless, in the recklessness of ignorance and discontent.
They could trust his "Cottar's Saturday Night;" they could believe
that he spoke from his heart, when in deep anguish he cries to the
God whom he had forgotten, while they would have turned with a
distrustful sneer from the sermon of the sleek and comfortable
minister, who in their eyes, however humbly born, had deserted his
class, and gone over to the camp of the enemy, and the flesh-pots of
Egypt.

After the time of Burns, as was to be expected, Scottish song
multiplies itself tenfold.  The nation becomes awakened to the
treasures of its own old literature, and attempts, what after all,
alas! is but a revival; and like most revivals, not altogether a
successful one.  Of the twelve hundred songs contained in Mr.
Whitelaw's excellent collection, whereof more than a hundred and
fifty are either wholly or partly Burns's, the small proportion
written before him are decidedly far superior in value to those
written after him; a discouraging fact, though not difficult to
explain, if we consider the great social changes which have been
proceeding, the sterner subjects of thought which have been arising,
during the last half-century.  True song requires for its atmosphere
a state rather of careless Arcadian prosperity, than of struggle and
doubt, of earnest looking forward to an unknown future, and
pardonable regret for a dying past; and in that state the mind of the
masses, throughout North Britain, has been weltering confusedly for
the last few years.  The new and more complex era into which we are
passing has not yet sufficiently opened itself to be sung about; men
hardly know what it is, much less what it will be; and while they are
hard at work creating it, they have no breath to spare in talking of
it.  One thing they do see and feel, painfully enough at times,
namely, that the old Scottish pastoral life is passing away, before
the combined influence of manufactures and the large-farm system; to
be replaced, doubtless, hereafter, by something better, but in the
meanwhile dragging down with it in its decay but too much that can
ill be spared of that old society which inspired Ramsay and Burns.
Hence the later Scottish song-writers seldom really sing; their
proses want the unconscious lilt and flash of their old models; they
will hardly go (the true test of a song) without music.  The true
test, we say again, of a song.  Who needs music, however fitting and
beautiful the accustomed air may happen to be, to "Roy's Wife of
Aldivalloch," or "The Bride cam' out o' the byre," or either of the
casts of "The Flowers of the Forest," or to "Auld Lang Syne" itself?
They bubble right up out of the heart, and by virtue of their inner
and unconscious melody, which all that is true to the heart has in
it, shape themselves into a song, and are not shaped by any notes
whatsoever.  So with many, most indeed, of Burns's; and a few of
Allan Cunningham's; the "Wet sheet and a flowing sail," for instance.
But the great majority of these later songs seem, if the truth is to
be spoken, inspirations at second hand, of people writing about
things which they would like to feel, and which they ought to feel,
because others used to feel them in old times; but which they do not
feel as their forefathers felt--a sort of poetical Tractarianism, in
short.  Their metre betrays them, as well as their words; in both
they are continually wandering, unconsciously to themselves, into the
elegiac--except when on one subject, whereon the muse of Scotia still
warbles at first hand, and from the depths of her heart--namely,
alas! the barley bree:  and yet never, even on this beloved theme,
has she risen again to the height of Burns's bacchanalian songs.

But when sober, there is a sadness about the Scottish muse nowadays--
as perhaps there ought to be--and the utterances of hers which ring
the truest are laments.  We question whether in all Mr. Whitelaw's
collection there is a single modern poem (placing Burns as the
transition point between the old and new) which rises so high, or
pierces so deep, with all its pastoral simplicity, as Smibert's
"Widow's Lament."


Afore the Lammas tide
   Had dwin'd the birken tree,
In a' our water-side,
   Nae wife was blest like me:
A kind gudeman, and twa
   Sweet bairns were round me here;
But they're a' ta'en awa',
   Sin' the fa' o' the year.

Sair trouble cam' our gate,
   And made me, when it cam',
A bird without a mate,
   A ewe without a lamb.
Our hay was yet to maw,
   And our corn was yet to shear;
When they a' dwined awa',
   In the fa' o' the year.

I daurna look a-field,
   For aye I trow to see,
The form that was a bield
   To my wee bairns and me.
But wind, and weet, and snaw,
   They never mair can fear,
Sin' they a' got the ca',
   In the fa' o' the year.

Aft on the hill at e'ens,
   I see him 'mang the ferns,
The lover o' my teens,
   The father o' my bairns:
For there his plaid I saw,
   As gloamin' aye drew near--
But my a's now awa',
   Sin' the fa' o' the year.

Our bonnie rigs theirsel',
   Reca' my waes to mind,
Our puir dumb beasties tell
   O' a' that I ha'e tyned;
For whae our wheat will saw,
   And whae our sheep will shear,
Sin' my a' gaed awa',
   In the fa' o' the year?

My heart is growing cauld,
   And will be caulder still,
And sair sair in the fauld,
   Will be the winter's chill;
For peats were yet to ca',
   Our sheep they were to smear,
When my a' dwined awa',
   In the fa' o' the year.

I ettle whiles to spin,
   But wee wee patterin' feet,
Come rinnin' out and in,
   And then I first maun greet:
I ken its fancy a'
   And faster rows the tear,
That my a' dwined awa',
   In the fa' o' the year.

Be kind, O heav'n abune!
   To ane sae wae and lane,
An' tak' her hamewards sune,
   In pity o' her mane:
Lang ere the March winds blaw,
   May she, far far frae here,
Meet them a' that's awa',
   Sin' the fa' o' the year.


It seems strange why the man who could write this, who shows, in the
minor key of metre, which he has so skilfully chosen, such an
instinct for the true music of words, could not have written much
more.  And yet, perhaps, we have ourselves given the reason already.
There was not much more to sing about.  The fashion of imitating old
Jacobite songs is past, the mine now being exhausted, to the great
comfort of sincerity and common sense.  The peasantry, whose
courtship, rich in animal health, yet not over pure and refined,
Allan Ramsay sang a hundred years ago, are learning to think, and
act, and emigrate, as well as to make love.  The age of Theocritus
and Bion has given place to--shall we say the age of the Caesars, or
the irruption of the barbarians?--and the love-singers of the North
are beginning to feel, that if that passion is to retain any longer
its rightful place in their popular poetry, it must be spoken of
henceforth in words as lofty and refined as those in which the most
educated and the most gifted speak of it.  Hence, in the transition
between the old animalism and the new spiritualism, a jumble of the
two elements, not always felicitous; attempts at ambitious
description, after Burns's worst manner; at subjective sentiment,
after the worst manner of the world in general; and yet, all the
while, a consciousness that there was something worth keeping in the
simple objective style of the old school, without which the new
thoughtfulness would be hollow, and barren, and windy; and so the two
are patched together, "new cloth into an old garment, making the rent
worse."  Accordingly, these new songs are universally troubled with
the disease of epithets.  Ryan's exquisite "Lass wi' the Bonny Blue
Een," is utterly spoiled by two offences of this kind.


She'll steal out to meet her loved Donald again,


and--


The world's false and vanishing scene;


as Allan Cunningham's still more exquisite "Lass of Preston Mill" is
by one subjective figure:


Six hills are woolly with my sheep,
   Six vales are lowing with my kye.


Burns doubtless committed the same fault again and again; but in his
time it was the fashion; and the older models (for models they are
and will remain for ever) had not been studied and analysed as they
have been since.  Burns, indeed, actually spoiled one or two of his
own songs by altering them from their first cast to suit the
sentimental taste of his time.  The first version, for instance, of
the "Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon," is far superior to the second
and more popular one, because it dares to go without epithets.
Compare the second stanza of each:


Thou'lt break my heart, thou bonnie bird,
   That sings upon the bough;
Thou minds me o' the happy days
   When my fause love was true.

* * * *

Thou'lt break my heart, thou warbling bird,
   That wantons through the flowery thorn;
Thou minds me o' departed joys,
   Departed never to return.


What is said in the latter stanza which has not been said in the
former, and said more dramatically, more as the images would really
present themselves to the speaker's mind?  It would be enough for him
that the bird was bonnie, and singing; and his very sorrow would lead
him to analyse and describe as little as possible a thing which so
painfully contrasted with his own feelings; whether the thorn was
flowery or not, would not have mattered to him, unless he had some
distinct association with the thorn-flowers, in which case he would
have brought out the image full and separate, and not merely thrown
it in as a make-weight to "thorn"--and this is the great reason why
epithets are, nine times out of ten, mistakes in song and ballad
poetry; he never would have thought of "departed" before he thought
of "joys."  A very little consideration of the actual processes of
thought in such a case, will show the truth of our observation, and
the instinctive wisdom of the older song-writers, in putting the
epithet as often as possible after the noun, instead of before it,
even at the expense of grammar.  They are bad things at all times in
song poetry, these epithets; and, accordingly, we find that the best
German writers, like Uhland and Heine, get rid of them as much as
possible, and succeed thereby, every word striking and ringing down
with full force, no cushion of an epithet intruding between the
reader's brain-anvil and the poet's hammer to break the blow.  In
Uhland's "Three Burschen," if we recollect right, there are but two
epithets, and those of the simplest descriptive kind:  "Thy fair
daughter" and a "black pall."  Were there more, we question whether
the poet would have succeeded, as he has done, in making our flesh
creep as he leads us on from line to line and verse to verse.  So
Tennyson, the greatest of our living poets, eschews as much as
possible, in his later writings, these same epithets, except in cases
where they are themselves objective and pictorial--in short, the very
things which he wants you to look at, as, for instance:


   And into silver arrows break
The sailing moon in creek and cove.


This is fair enough; but, indeed, after laying down our rule, we must
confess that it is very difficult to keep always true to it, in a
language which does not, like the Latin and German, allow us to put
our adjectives very much where we choose.  Nevertheless, whether we
can avoid it or not, every time we place before the noun an epithet
which, like "departed joys," relates to our consciousness concerning
the object, and not merely to the object itself; or an epithet which,
like "flowery thorn," gives us, before we get to the object itself,
those accidents of the object which we only discern by a second look,
by analysis and reflection--(for the thorn, if in the flower, would
look to us, at the first glance, not "flowery," but "white," "snowy,"
or what you will which expresses colour, and not scientific fact)--
every time, we repeat, this is done, the poet descends from the
objective and dramatic domain of song, into the subjective and
reflective one of elegy.

But the field in which Burns's influence has been, as was to be
expected, most important and most widely felt, is in the poems of
working men.  He first proved that it was possible to become a poet
and a cultivated man, without deserting his class, either in station
or in sympathies; nay, that the healthiest and noblest elements of a
lowly-born poet's mind might be, perhaps must be, the very feelings
and thoughts which he brought up with him from below, not those which
he received from above, in the course of his artificial culture.
From the example of Burns, therefore, many a working man, who would
otherwise have "died and given no sign," has taken courage, and
spoken out the thought within him, in verse or prose, not always
wisely and well, but in all cases, as it seems to us, in the belief
that he had a sort of divine right to speak and be heard, since Burns
had broken down the artificial ice-wall of centuries, and asserted,
by act as well as song, that "a man's a man for a' that."  Almost
every volume of working men's poetry which we have read, seems to re-
echo poor Nicoll's spirited, though somewhat over-strained address to
the Scottish genius:


This is the natal day of him
   Who, born in want and poverty,
Burst from his fetters and arose,
   The freest of the free.

Arose to tell the watching earth
   What lowly men could feel and do,
To show that mighty heaven-like souls
   In cottage hamlets grew.

Burns! thou hast given us a name
   To shield us from the taunts of scorn:
The plant that creeps amid the soil
   A glorious flower has borne.

Before the proudest of the earth
   We stand with an uplifted brow;
Like us, thou wast a toil-worn man,
   And we are noble now!


The critic, looking calmly on, may indeed question whether this new
fashion of verse-writing among working men has been always conducive
to their own happiness.  As for absolute success as poets, that was
not to be expected of one in a hundred, so that we must not be
disappointed if among the volumes of working men's poetry, of which
we give a list at the head of our article, only two should be found,
on perusal, to contain any writing of a very high order, although
these volumes form a very small portion of the verses which have been
written, during the last forty years, by men engaged in the rudest
and most monotonous toil.  To every man so writing, the art,
doubtless, is an ennobling one.  The habit of expressing thought in
verse not only indicates culture, but is a culture in itself of a
very high order.  It teaches the writer to think tersely and
definitely; it evokes in him the humanising sense of grace and
melody, not merely by enticing him to study good models, but by the
very act of composition.  It gives him a vent for sorrows, doubts,
and aspirations, which might otherwise fret and canker within,
breeding, as they too often do in the utterly dumb English peasant,
self-devouring meditation, dogged melancholy, and fierce fanaticism.
And if the effect of verse-writing had stopped there, all had been
well; but bad models have had their effect, as well as good ones, on
the half-tutored taste of the working men, and engendered in them but
too often a fondness for frothy magniloquence and ferocious raving,
neither morally nor aesthetically profitable to themselves or their
readers.  There are excuses for the fault; the young of all ranks
naturally enough mistake noise for awfulness, and violence for
strength; and there is generally but too much, in the biographies of
these working poets, to explain, if not to excuse, a vein of
bitterness, which they certainly did not learn from their master,
Burns.  The two poets who have done them most harm, in teaching the
evil trick of cursing and swearing, are Shelley and the Corn-Law
Rhymer; and one can well imagine how seducing two such models must
be, to men struggling to utter their own complaints.  Of Shelley this
is not the place to speak.  But of the Corn-Law Rhymer we may say
here, that howsoever he may have been indebted to Burns's example for
the notion of writing at all, he has profited very little by Burns's
own poems.  Instead of the genial loving tone of the great Scotchman,
we find in Elliott a tone of deliberate savageness, all the more
ugly, because evidently intentional.  He tries to curse; "he
delights"--may we be forgiven if we misjudge the man--"in cursing;"
he makes a science of it; he defiles, of malice prepense, the
loveliest and sweetest thoughts and scenes (and he can be most sweet)
by giving some sudden sickening revulsion to his reader's feelings;
and he does it generally with a power which makes it at once as
painful to the calmer reader as alluring to those who are struggling
with the same temptations as the poet.  Now and then, his trick drags
him down into sheer fustian and bombast; but not always.  There is a
terrible Dantean vividness of imagination about him, perhaps
unequalled in England, in his generation.  His poems are like his
countenance, coarse and ungoverned, yet with an intensity of eye, a
rugged massiveness of feature, which would be grand but for the
seeming deficiency of love and of humour--love's twin and inseparable
brother.  Therefore it is, that although single passages may be found
in his writings, of which Milton himself need not have been ashamed,
his efforts at dramatic poetry are utter failures, dark, monstrous,
unrelieved by any really human vein of feeling or character.  As in
feature, so in mind, he has not even the delicate and graceful
organisation which made up in Milton for the want of tenderness, and
so enabled him to write, if not a drama, yet still the sweetest of
masques and idyls.

Rather belonging to the same school than to that of Burns, though
never degrading itself by Elliott's ferocity, is that extraordinary
poem, "The Purgatory of Suicides," by Thomas Cooper.  As he is still
in the prime of life, and capable of doing more and better than he
yet has done, we will not comment on it as freely as we have on
Elliott, except to regret a similar want of softness and sweetness,
and also of a clearness and logical connection of thought, in which
Elliott seldom fails, except when cursing.  The imagination is hardly
as vivid as Elliott's, though the fancy and invention, the polish of
the style, and the indications of profound thought on all subjects
within the poet's reach, are superior in every way to those of the
Corn-Law Rhymer; and when we consider that the man who wrote it had
to gather his huge store of classic and historic anecdote while
earning his living, first as a shoemaker, and then as a Wesleyan
country preacher, we can only praise and excuse, and hope that the
day may come when talents of so high an order will find some
healthier channel for their energies than that in which they now are
flowing.

Our readers may wonder at not seeing the Ettrick Shepherd's poems
among the list at the head of the article.  It seems to us, however,
that we have done right in omitting them.  Doubtless, he too was
awakened into song by the example of Burns; but he seems to us to owe
little to his great predecessor, beyond the general consciousness
that there was a virgin field of poetry in Scotch scenery, manners,
and legends--a debt which Walter Scott himself probably owed to the
Ayrshire peasant just as much as Hogg did.  Indeed, we perhaps are
right in saying, that had Burns not lived, neither Wilson, Galt,
Allan Cunningham, or the crowd of lesser writers who have found
material for their fancy in Scotch peculiarities, would have written,
as they have.  The three first names, Wilson's above all, must have
been in any case distinguished; yet it is surely no derogation to
some of the most exquisite rural sketches in "Christopher North's
Recreations," to claim them as the intellectual foster-children of
"The Cottar's Saturday Night."  In this respect, certainly, the
Ettrick Shepherd has a place in Burns's school, and, in our own
opinion, one which has been very much overrated.  But the deeper
elements of Burns's mind, those which have especially endeared him to
the working man, reappear very little, or not at all, in Hogg.  He
left his class too much below him; became too much of the mere
aesthetic prodigy, and member of a literary clique; frittered away
his great talents in brilliant talk and insincere Jacobite songs,
and, in fine, worked no deliverance on the earth.  It is sad to have
to say this:  but we had it forced upon us painfully enough a few
days ago, when re-reading "Kilmeny."  There may be beautiful passages
in it; but it is not coherent, not natural, not honest.  It is
throughout an affectation of the Manichaean sentimental-sublime,
which God never yet put into the heart of any brawny, long-headed,
practical Borderer, and which he therefore probably put into his own
head, or, as we call it, affected, for the time being; a method of
poetry writing which comes forth out of nothing, and into nothing
must return.

This is unfortunate, perhaps, for the world; for we question whether
a man of talents in anywise to be compared with those of the Ettrick
Shepherd has followed in the footsteps of Burns.  Poor Tannahill,
whose sad story is but too well known, perished early, at the age of
thirty-six, leaving behind him a good many pretty love-songs of no
great intrinsic value, if the specimens of them given in Mr.
Whitelaw's collection are to be accepted as the best.  Like all
Burns's successors, including even Walter Scott and Hogg, we have but
to compare him with his original to see how altogether unrivalled on
his own ground the Ayrshire farmer was.  In one feature only
Tannahill's poems, and those later than him, except where
pedantically archaist, like many of Motherwell's, are an improvement
on Burns:  namely, in the more easy and complete interfusion of the
two dialects, the Norse Scotch and the Romanesque English, which
Allan Ramsay attempted in vain to unite; while Burns, though not
succeeding by any means perfectly, welded them together into
something of continuity and harmony--thus doing for the language of
his own country very much what Chaucer did for that of England--a
happy union, in the opinion of those who, as we do, look on the
vernacular Norse Scotch as no barbaric dialect, but as an independent
tongue, possessing a copiousness, melody, terseness, and
picturesqueness which makes it, both in prose and verse, a far better
vehicle than the popular English for many forms of thought.

Perhaps the young peasant who most expressly stands out as the pupil
and successor of Burns, is Robert Nicoll.  He is a lesser poet,
doubtless, than his master, and a lesser man, if the size and number
of his capabilities be looked at; but he is a greater man, in that,
from the beginning to the end of his career, he seems to have kept
that very wholeness of heart and head which poor Burns lost.
Nicoll's story is, mutatis mutandis, that of the Bethunes, and many a
noble young Scotsman more.  Parents holding a farm between Perth and
Dunkeld, they and theirs before them for generations inhabitants of
the neighbourhood, "decent, honest, God-fearing people."  The farm is
lost by reverses, and manfully Robert Nicoll's father becomes a day-
labourer on the fields which he lately rented:  and there begins, for
the boy, from his earliest recollections, a life of steady sturdy
drudgery.  But they must have been grand old folk, these parents, and
in no wise addicted to wringing their hands over "the great might-
have-been."  Like true Scots Bible lovers, they do believe in a God,
and in a will of God, underlying, absolute, loving, and believe that
the might-have-been ought not to have been, simply because it has not
been; and so they put their shoulders to the new collar patiently,
cheerfully, hopefully, and teach the boys to do the same.  The mother
especially, as so many great men's mothers do, stands out large and
heroic, from the time when, the farm being gone, she, "the ardent
book-woman," finds her time too precious to be spent in reading, and
sets little Robert to read to her as she works--what a picture!--to
the last sad day, when, wanting money to come up to Leeds to see her
dying darling, she "shore for the siller," rather than borrow it.
And her son's life is like her own--a most pure, joyous, valiant
little epic.  Robert does not even take to work as something beyond
himself, uninteresting and painful, which, however, must be done
courageously:  he lives in it, enjoys it as his proper element, one
which is no more a burden and an exertion to him than the rush of the
strid is to the trout who plays and feels in it day and night,
unconscious of the amount of muscular strength which he puts forth in
merely keeping his place in the stream.  Whether carrying
"Kenilworth" in his plaid to the woods, to read while herding, or
selling currants and whisky as the Perth storekeeper's apprentice, or
keeping his little circulating library in Dundee, tormenting his pure
heart with the thought of the twenty pounds which his mother has
borrowed wherewith to start him, or editing The Leeds Times, or lying
on his early deathbed, just as life seems to be opening clear and
broad before him, he


Bates not a jot of heart or hope,


but steers right onward, singing over his work, without bluster or
self-gratulation, for very joy at having work to do.  There is a keen
practical insight about him, rarely combined, in these days, with his
single-minded determination to do good in his generation.  His eye is
single, and his whole body full of light.


It would indeed (writes the grocer's boy, encouraging his despondent
and somewhat Werterean friend) be hangman's work to write articles
one day to be forgotten to-morrow, if that were all; but you forget
the comfort--the repayment.  If one prejudice is overthrown, one
error rendered untenable; if but one step in advance be the
consequence of your articles and mine--the consequences of the labour
of all true men--are we not deeply repaid?


Or again, in a right noble letter to his noble mother:


That money of R.'s hangs like a millstone about my neck.  If I had
paid it, I would never borrow again from mortal man.  But do not
mistake me, mother; I am not one of those men who faint and falter in
the great battle of life.  God has given me too strong a heart for
that.  I look upon earth as a place where every man is set to
struggle and to work, that he may be made humble and pure-hearted,
and fit for that better land for which earth is a preparation--to
which earth is the gate . . . If men would but consider how little of
real evil there is in all the ills of which they are so much afraid--
poverty included--there would be more virtue and happiness, and less
world and Mammon-worship on earth than is.  I think, mother, that to
me has been given talent; and if so, that talent was given to make it
useful to man.


And yet there is a quiet self-respect about him withal:


In my short course through life (says he in confidence to a friend at
one-and-twenty), I have never feared an enemy, or failed a friend;
and I live in the hope I never shall.  For the rest, I have written
my heart in my poems; and rude and unfinished and hasty as they are,
it can be read there.

*****

From seven years of age to this very hour, I have been dependent only
on my own head and hands for everything--for very bread.  Long years
ago--ay, even in childhood--adversity made me think, and feel, and
suffer; and would pride allow me, I could tell the world many a deep
tragedy enacted in the heart of a poor, forgotten, uncared-for boy .
. . But I thank God, that though I felt and suffered, the scathing
blast neither blunted my perceptions of natural and moral beauty,
nor, by withering the affections of my heart, made me a selfish man.
Often when I look back I wonder how I bore the burden--how I did not
end the evil day at once and for ever.


Such, is the man, in his normal state; and as was to be expected,
God's blessing rests on him.  Whatever he sets his hand to succeeds.
Within a few weeks of his taking the editorship of The Leeds Times
its circulation begins to rise rapidly, as was to be expected with an
honest man to guide it.  For Nicoll's political creed, though perhaps
neither very deep nor wide, lies clear and single before him, as
everything else which he does.  He believes naturally enough in
ultra-Radicalism according to the fashions of the Reform Bill era.
That is the right thing; and for that he will work day and night,
body and soul, and if needs be, die.  There, in the editor's den at
Leeds, he "begins to see the truth of what you told me about the
world's unworthiness; but stop a little.  I am not sad as yet.  . . .
If I am hindered from feeling the soul of poetry among woods and
fields, I yet trust I am struggling for something worth prizing--
something of which I am not ashamed, and need not be.  If there be
aught on earth worth aspiring to, it is the lot of him who is enabled
to do something for his miserable and suffering fellow-men; and this
you and I will try to do at least."

His friend is put to work a ministerial paper, with orders "not to be
rash, but to elevate the population gradually;" and finding those
orders to imply a considerable leaning towards the By-ends, Lukewarm,
and Facing-both-ways school, kicks over the traces, wisely, in
Nicoll's eyes, and breaks loose.


Keep up your spirits (says honest Nicoll).  You are higher at this
moment in my estimation, in your own, and that of every honest man,
than you ever were before.  Tait's advice was just such as I should
have expected of him; honest as honesty itself.  You must never again
accept a paper but where you can tell the whole truth without fear or
favour. . . . . Tell E. (the broken-loose editor's lady-love), from
me to estimate as she ought the nobility and determination of the man
who has dared to act as you have done.  Prudent men will say that you
are hasty:  but you have done right, whatever may be the
consequences.


This is the spirit of Robert Nicoll; the spirit which is the fruit of
early purity and self-restraint, of living "on bread-and-cheese and
water," that he may buy books; of walking out to the Inch of Perth at
four o'clock on summer mornings, to write and read in peace before he
returns to the currants and the whisky.  The nervous simplicity of
the man come out, in the very nervous simplicity of the prose he
writes; and though there be nothing very new or elevated in it, or
indeed in his poems themselves, we call on our readers to admire a
phenomenon so rare, in the "upper classes" at least, in these days,
and taking a lesson from the peasant's son, rejoice with us that "a
man is born into the world."

For Nicoll, as few do, practises what he preaches.  It seems to him,
once on a time, right and necessary that Sir William Molesworth
should be returned for Leeds; and Nicoll having so determined,
"throws himself, body and soul, into the contest, with such ardour,
that his wife afterwards said (and we can well believe it) that if
Sir William had failed, Robert would have died on the instant!"--why
not?  Having once made up his mind that that was the just and right
thing, the thing which was absolutely good for Leeds, and the human
beings who lived in it, was it not a thing to die for, even if it had
been but the election of a new beadle?  The advanced sentry is set to
guard some obscure worthless dike-end--obscure and worthless in
itself, but to him a centre of infinite duty.  True, the fate of the
camp does not depend on its being taken; if the enemy round it, there
are plenty behind to blow them out again.  But that is no reason
whatsoever why he, before any odds, should throw his musket over his
shoulder, and retreat gracefully to the lines.  He was set there to
stand by that, whether dike-end or representation of Leeds; that is
the right thing for him; and for that right he will fight, and if he
be killed, die.  So have all brave men felt, and so have all brave
deeds been done, since man walked the earth.  It is because that
spirit, the spirit of faith, has died out among us, that so few brave
deeds are done now, except on battle-fields and in hovels, whereof
none but God and the angels know.

So the man prospers.  Several years of honourable and self-
restraining love bring him a wife, beautiful, loving, worshipping his
talents; a help meet for him, such as God will send at times to those
whom he loves.  Kind men meet and love and help him--"The Johnstones,
Mr. Tait, William and Mary Howitt;" Sir William Molesworth, hearing
of his last illness, sends him unsolicited fifty pounds, which, as we
understand it, Nicoll accepts without foolish bluster about
independence.  Why not?--man should help man, and be helped by him.
Would he not have done as much for Sir William?  Nothing to us proves
Nicoll's heart-wholeness more than the way in which he talks of his
benefactors, in a tone of simple gratitude and affection, without
fawning and without vapouring.  The man has too much self-respect to
consider himself lowered by accepting a favour.

But he must go after all.  The editor's den at Leeds is not the place
for lungs bred on Perthshire breezes; and work rises before him,
huger and heavier as he goes on, till he drops under the ever-
increasing load.  He will not believe it at first.  In sweet
childlike playful letters, he tells his mother that it is nothing.
It has done him good--"opened the grave before his eyes, and taught
him to think of death."  "He trusts that he has not borne this, and
suffered, and thought in vain."  This too, he hopes, is to be a fresh
lesson-page of experience for his work.  Alas! a few months more of
bitter suffering, and of generous kindness and love from all around
him--and it is over with him at the age of twenty-three.  Shall we
regret him?--shall we not rather believe that God knew best; and
considering the unhealthy moral atmosphere of the second-class press,
and the strange confused ways into which old ultra-Radicalism,
finding itself too narrow for the new problems of the day, has
stumbled and floundered during the last fifteen years, believe that
he might have been a worse man had he been a longer-lived one, and
thank heaven that "the righteous is taken away from the evil to
come?"

As it is, he ends as he began.  The first poem in his book is "The
Ha' Bible;" and the last, written a few days before his death, is
still the death-song of a man--without fear, without repining,
without boasting, blessing and loving the earth which he leaves, yet
with a clear joyful eye upwards and outwards and homewards.  And so
ends his little epic, as we called it.  May Scotland see many such
another!

The actual poetic value of his verses is not first-rate by any means.
He is far inferior to Burns in range of subject, as he is in humour
and pathos.  Indeed, there is very little of these latter qualities
in him anywhere--rather playfulness, flashes of childlike fun, as in
"The Provost," and "Bonnie Bessie Lee."  But he has attained a
mastery over English, a simplicity and quiet which Burns never did;
and also, we need not say, a moral purity.  His "Poems illustrative
of the Scotch peasantry" are charming throughout--alive and bright
with touches of real humanity, and sympathy with characters
apparently antipodal to his own.

His more earnest poems are somewhat tainted with that cardinal fault
of his school, of which he steered so clear in prose--fine words; yet
he never, like the Corn-Law Rhymer, falls a cursing.  He is evidently
not a good hater even of "priests and kings, and aristocrats, and
superstition;" or perhaps he worked all that froth safely over and
off in debating-club speeches and leading articles, and left us, in
these poems, the genuine metheglin of his inner heart, sweet, clear,
and strong; for there is no form of lovable or right thing which this
man has come across, which he does not seem to have appreciated.
Besides pure love and the beauties of nature--those on which every
man of poetic power, and a great many of none, as a matter of course,
have a word to say--he can feel for and with the drunken beggar, and
the warriors of the ruined manor-house, and the monks of the abbey,
and the old mailed Normans with their "priest with cross and counted
beads in the little Saxon chapel"--things which a Radical editor
might have been excused for passing by with a sneer.

His verses to his wife are a delicious little glimpse of Eden; and
his "People's Anthem" rises into somewhat of true grandeur by virtue
of simplicity:


Lord, from Thy blessed throne,
Sorrow look down upon!
      God save the Poor!
Teach them true liberty--
Make them from tyrants free--
Let their homes happy be!
      God save the Poor!

The arms of wicked men
Do Thou with might restrain--
      God save the Poor!
Raise Thou their lowliness--
Succour Thou their distress--
Thou whom the meanest bless!
      God save the Poor!

Give them stanch honesty--
Let their pride manly be--
      God save the Poor!
Help them to hold the right;
Give them both truth and might,
Lord of all LIFE and LIGHT!
      God save the Poor!


And so we leave Robert Nicoll, with the parting remark, that if the
"Poems illustrative of the feelings of the intelligent and religious
among the working-classes of Scotland" be fair samples of that which
they profess to be, Scotland may thank God, that in spite of
temporary manufacturing rot-heaps, she is still whole at heart; and
that the influence of her great peasant poet, though it may seem at
first likely to be adverse to Christianity, has helped, as we have
already hinted, to purify and not to taint; to destroy the fungus,
but not to touch the heart, of the grand old Covenant-kirk life-tree.

Still sweeter, and, alas! still sadder, is the story of the two
Bethunes.  If Nicoll's life, as we have said, be a solitary melody,
and short though triumphant strain of work-music, theirs is a harmony
and true concert of fellow-joys, fellow-sorrows, fellow-drudgery,
fellow-authorship, mutual throughout, lovely in their joint-life, and
in their deaths not far divided.  Alexander survives his brother John
only long enough to write his "Memoirs," and then follows; and we
have his story given us by Mr. M'Combie, in a simple unassuming
little volume--not to be read without many thoughts, perhaps not
rightly without tears.  Mr. M'Combie has been wise enough not to
attempt panegyric.  He is all but prolix in details, filling up some
half of his volume with letters of preternatural length from
Alexander to his publishers and critics, and from the said publishers
and critics to Alexander, altogether of an unromantic and business-
like cast, but entirely successful in doing that which a book should
do--namely, in showing the world that here was a man of like passions
with ourselves, who bore from boyhood to the grave hunger, cold, wet,
rags, brutalising and health-destroying toil, and all the storms of
the world, the flesh, and the devil, and conquered them every one.

Alexander is set at fourteen to throw earth out of a ditch so deep,
that it requires the full strength of a grown man, and loses flesh
and health under the exertion; he is twice blown up with his own
blast in quarrying, and left for dead, recovers slowly, maimed and
scarred, with the loss of an eye.  John, when not thirteen, is set to
stone-breaking on the roads during intense cold, and has to keep
himself from being frostbitten and heart-broken by monkey gambols;
takes to the weaving trade, and having helped his family by the most
desperate economy to save ten pounds wherewith to buy looms, begins
to work them, with his brother as an apprentice, and finds the whole
outlay rendered useless the very same year by the failures of 1825-
26.  So the two return to day-labour at fourteenpence a-day.  John,
in a struggle to do task-work honestly, over-exerts himself, and
ruins his digestion for life.  Next year he is set in November to
clean out a watercourse knee-deep in water; then to take marl from a
pit; and then to drain standing water off a swamp during an intense
December frost; and finds himself laid down with a three months'
cough, and all but sleepless illness, laying the foundation of the
consumption which destroyed him.  But the two brothers will not give
in.  Poetry they will write; and they write it to the best of their
powers, on scraps of paper, after the drudgery of the day, in a cabin
pervious to every shower, teaching themselves the right spelling of
the words from some "Christian Remembrancer" or other--apparently not
our meek and unbiassed contemporary of that name; and all this
without neglecting their work a day or even an hour, when the weather
permitted--the "only thing which tempted them to fret," being--hear
it, readers, and perpend!--"the being kept at home by rain and snow."
Then an additional malady (apparently some calculous one) comes on
John, and stops by him for the six remaining years of his life.  Yet
between 1826 and 1832, John had saved fourteen pounds out of his
miserable earnings, to be expended to the last farthing on his
brother's recovery from the second quarry accident.  Surely the devil
is trying hard to spoil these men.  But no.  They are made perfect by
sufferings.  In the house with one long narrow room, and a small
vacant space at the end of it, lighted by a single pane of glass,
they write and write untiring, during the long summer evenings,
poetry, "Tales of the Scottish Peasant Life," which at last bring
them in somewhat; and a work on practical economy, which is bepraised
and corrected by kind critics in Edinburgh, and at last published--
without a sale.  Perhaps one cause of its failure might be found in
those very corrections.  There were too many violent political
allusions in it, complains their good Mentor of Edinburgh; and
persuades them, seemingly the most meek and teachable of heroes, to
omit them; though Alexander, while submitting, pleads fairly enough
for retaining them, in a passage which we will give, as a specimen of
the sort of English possible to be acquired by a Scotch day-labourer,
self-educated, all but the rudiments of reading and writing, and a
few lectures on popular poetry from "a young student of Aberdeen,"
now the Rev. Mr. Adamson, who must look back on the friendship which
he bore these two young men as one of the noblest pages in his life.


Talk to the many of religion, and they will put on a long face,
confess that it is a thing of the greatest importance to all--and go
away and forget the whole.  Talk to them of education; they will
readily acknowledge that it's "a braw thing to be weel learned," and
begin a lamentation, which is only shorter than the lamentations of
Jeremiah because they cannot make it as long, on the ignorance of the
age in which they live; but they neither stir hand nor foot in the
matter.  But speak to them of politics, and their excited
countenances and kindling eye show in a moment how deeply they are
interested.  Politics are therefore an important feature, and an
almost indispensable element in such a work as mine.  Had it
consisted solely of exhortations to industry and rules of economy, it
would have been dismissed with an "Ou ay, it's braw for him to crack
that way:  but if he were whaur we are, 'deed he wad just hae to do
as we do."  But by mixing up the science with politics, and giving it
an occasional political impetus, a different result may be reasonably
expected.  In these days no man can be considered a patriot or friend
of the poor, who is not also a politician.


It is amusing, by-the-bye, to see how the world changes its codes of
respectability, and how, what is anathema in one generation, becomes
trite orthodoxy in the next.  The political sins in the work were,
that "my brother had attacked the corn-laws with some severity; and I
have attempted to level a battery against that sort of servile homage
which the poor pay to the rich!"

There is no use pursuing the story much farther.  They again save a
little money, and need it; for the estate on which they have lived
from childhood changing hands, they are, with their aged father,
expelled from the dear old dog-kennel to find house-room where they
can.  Why not?--"it was not in the bond."  The house did not belong
to them; nothing of it, at least, which could be specified in any
known lease.  True, there may have been associations:  but what
associations can men be expected to cultivate on fourteenpence a-day?
So they must forth, with their two aged parents, and build with their
own hands a new house elsewhere, having saved some thirty pounds from
the sale of their writings.  The house, as we understand, stands to
this day--hereafter to become a sort of artisan's caaba and pilgrim's
station, only second to Burns's grave.  That, at least, it will
become, whenever the meaning of the words "worth" and "worship" shall
become rightly understood among us.

For what are these men, if they are not heroes and saints?  Not of
the Popish sort, abject and effeminate, but of the true, human,
evangelic sort, masculine and grand--like the figures in Raffaelle's
Cartoons compared with those of Fra Bartolomeo.  Not from
superstition, not from selfish prudence, but from devotion to their
aged parents, and the righteous dread of dependence, they die
voluntary celibates, although their writings show that they, too,
could have loved as nobly as they did all other things.  The extreme
of endurance, self-restraint, of "conquest of the flesh," outward as
well as inward, is the life-long lot of these men; and they go
through it.  They have their share of injustice, tyranny,
disappointment; one by one each bright boy's dream of success and
renown is scourged out of their minds, and sternly and lovingly their
Father in heaven teaches them the lesson of all lessons.  By what
hours of misery and blank despair that faith was purchased, we can
only guess; the simple strong men give us the result, but never dream
of sitting down and analysing the process for the world's amusement
or their own glorification.  We question, indeed, whether they could
have told us; whether the mere fact of a man's being able to dissect
himself, in public or in private, is not proof-patent that he is no
man, but only a shell of a man, with works inside, which can of
course be exhibited and taken to pieces--a rather more difficult
matter with flesh and blood.  If we believe that God is educating,
the when, the where, and the how are not only unimportant, but,
considering who is the teacher, unfathomable to us, and it is enough
to be able to believe with John Bethune that the Lord of all things
is influencing us through all things; whether sacraments, or
sabbaths, or sun-gleams, or showers--all things are ours, for all are
His, and we are His, and He is ours--and for the rest, to say with
the same John Bethune:


Oh God of glory! thou hast treasured up
   For me my little portion of distress;
But with each draught--in every bitter cup
   Thy hand hath mixed, to make its soreness less,
Some cordial drop, for which thy name I bless,
And offer up my mite of thankfulness.
   Thou hast chastised my frame with dire disease,
Long, obdurate, and painful; and thy hand
   Hath wrung cold sweat-drops from my brow; for these
I thank thee too.  Though pangs at thy command
Have compassed me about, still, with the blow,
Patience sustained my soul amid its woe.


Of the actual literary merit of these men's writings there is less to
be said.  However extraordinary, considering the circumstances under
which they were written, may be the polish and melody of John's
verse, or the genuine spiritual health, deep death-and-devil-defying
earnestness, and shrewd practical wisdom, which shines through all
that either brother writes, they do not possess any of that fertile
originality, which alone would have enabled them, as it did Burns, to
compete with the literary savants, who, though for the most part of
inferior genius, have the help of information and appliances, from
which they were shut out.  Judging them, as the true critic, like the
true moralist, is bound to do, "according to what they had, not
according to what they had not," they are men who, with average
advantages, might have been famous in their day.  God thought it
better for them to "hide them in his tabernacle from the strife of
tongues;" and--seldom believed truism--He knows best.  Alexander
shall not, according to his early dreams, "earn nine hundred pounds
by writing a book, like Burns," even though his ideal method of
spending be to buy all the boys in the parish "new shoes with iron
tackets and heels," and send them home with shillings for their
mothers, and feed their fathers on wheat bread and milk, with tea and
bannocks for Sabbath-days, and build a house for the poor old toil-
stiffened man whom he once saw draining the hill field, "with a yard
full of gooseberries, and an apple-tree!"--not that, nor even, as the
world judges, better than that, shall he be allowed to do.  The poor,
for whom he writes his "Practical Economy," shall not even care to
read it; and he shall go down to the grave a failure and a lost thing
in the eyes of men:  but not in the eyes of grand God-fearing old
Alison Christie, his mother, as he brings her, scrap by scrap, the
proofs of their dead idol's poems, which she has prayed to be spared
just to see once in print, and, when the last half-sheet is read,
loses her sight for ever--not in her eyes, nor in those of God who
saw him, in the cold winter mornings, wearing John's clothes, to warm
them for the dying man before he got up.

His grief at his brother's death is inconsolable.  He feels for the
first time in his life, what a lot is his--for he feels for the first
time that--


Parent and friend and brother gone,
I stand upon the earth alone.


Four years he lingers; friends begin to arise from one quarter and
another, but he, not altogether wisely or well, refuses all pecuniary
help.  At last Mr. Hugh Miller recommends him to be editor of a
projected "Non-Intrusion" paper in Dumfries, with a salary, to him
boundless, of 100l. a-year.  Too late!  The iron has entered too
deeply into his soul; in a few weeks more he is lying in his
brother's grave--"Lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their
deaths not divided."

"William Thom of Inverury" is a poet altogether of the same school.
His "Rhymes and Recollections of a Handloom Weaver" are superior to
those of either Nicoll or the Bethunes, the little love-songs in the
volume reminding us of Burns's best manner, and the two languages in
which he writes being better amalgamated, as it seems to us, than in
any Scotch songwriter.  Moreover, there is a terseness, strength, and
grace about some of these little songs, which would put to shame many
a volume of vague and windy verse, which the press sees yearly sent
forth by men, who, instead of working at the loom, have been pampered
from their childhood with all the means and appliances of good taste
and classic cultivation.  We have room only for one specimen of his
verse, not the most highly finished, but of a beauty which can speak
for itself.


DREAMINGS OF THE BEREAVED.

The morning breaks bonny o'er mountain and stream,
An' troubles the hallowed breath of my dream.
The gowd light of morning is sweet to the e'e,
But ghost-gathering midnight, thou'rt dearer to me.
The dull common world then sinks from my sight,
And fairer creations arise to the night;
When drowsy oppression has sleep-sealed my e'e,
Then bright are the visions awakened to me!

Oh, come, spirit-mother! discourse of the hours
My young bosom beat all its beating to yours,
When heart-woven wishes in soft counsel fell
On ears--how unheedful, proved sorrow might tell!
That deathless affection nae sorrow could break;
When all else forsook me, ye would na forsake;
Then come, oh my mother! come often to me,
An' soon an' for ever I'll come unto thee!

An' then, shrouded loveliness! soul-winning Jean,
How cold was thy hand on my bosom yestreen!
'Twas kind--for the love that your e'e kindled there
Will burn, ay an' burn, till that breast beat nae mair--
Our bairnies sleep round me, oh bless ye their sleep!
Your ain dark-eyed Willie will wauken and weep!
But blythe through his weepin', he'll tell me how you,
His heaven-hamed mammie, was dauting his brow.

Though dark be our dwellin', our happin' tho' bare,
And night closes round us in cauldness and care,
Affection will warm us--and bright are the beams
That halo our hame in yon dear land o' dreams:
Then weel may I welcome the night's deathly reign,
Wi' souls of the dearest I mingle me then;
The gowd light of morning is lightless to me,
But, oh for the night with its ghost revelrie!


But even more interesting than the poems themselves, is the
autobiographical account prefixed, with its vivid sketches of factory
life in Aberdeen, of the old regime of 1770; when "four days did the
weaver's work--Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, were of course jubilee.  Lawn
frills gorged (?) freely from under the wrists of his fine blue gilt-
buttoned coat.  He dusted his head with white flour on Sunday,
smirked and wore a cane; walked in clean slippers on Monday; Tuesday
heard him talk war bravado, quote Volney, and get drunk:  weaving
commenced gradually on Wednesday.  Then were little children pirn-
fillers, and such were taught to steal warily past the gate-keeper,
concealing the bottle.  These wee smugglers had a drop for their
services, over and above their chances of profiting by the elegant
and edifying discussions uttered in their hearing.  Infidelity was
then getting fashionable."  But by the time Thom enters on his
seventeen years' weaving, in 1814, the Nemesis has come.  "Wages are
six shillings a-week where they had been forty; but the weaver of
forty shillings, with money instead of wit, had bequeathed his vices
to the weaver of six shillings, with wit instead of money."  The
introduction of machinery works evil rather than good, on account of
the reckless way in which it is used, and the reckless material which
it uses.  "Vacancies in the factory, daily made, were daily filled by
male and female workers; often queer enough people, and from all
parts--none too coarse for using.  The pickpocket, trained to the
loom six months in Bridewell, came forth a journeyman weaver; and his
precious experiences were infused into the common moral puddle, and
in due time did their work."  No wonder that "the distinctive
character of all sunk away.  Man became less manly--woman unlovely
and rude."  No wonder that the factory, like too many more, though a
thriving concern to its owners, becomes "a prime nursery of vice and
sorrow."  "Virtue perished utterly within its walls, and was dreamed
of no more; or, if remembered at all, only in a deep and woful sense
of self-debasement--a struggling to forget, where it was hopeless to
obtain."  But to us, almost the most interesting passage in his book,
and certainly the one which bears most directly on the general
purpose of this article, is one in which he speaks of the effects of
song on himself and his fellow factory-workers.


Moore was doing all he could for love-sick boys and girls, yet they
had never enough!  Nearer and dearer to hearts like ours was the
Ettrick Shepherd, then in his full tide of song and story; but nearer
and dearer still than he, or any living songster, was our ill-fated
fellow-craftsman Tannahill.  Poor weaver chiel! what we owe to you!--
your "Braes of Balquidder," and "Yon Burnside," and "Gloomy Winter,"
and the "Minstrel's" wailing ditty, and the noble "Gleneiffer."  Oh!
how they did ring above the rattle of a thousand shuttles!  Let me
again proclaim the debt which we owe to these song spirits, as they
walked in melody from loom to loom, ministering to the low-hearted;
and when the breast was filled with everything but hope and
happiness, let only break out the healthy and vigorous chorus, "A
man's a man for a' that," and the fagged weaver brightens up . . .
Who dare measure the restraining influences of these very songs?  To
us they were all instead of sermons.  Had one of us been bold enough
to enter a church, he must have been ejected for the sake of decency.
His forlorn and curiously patched habiliments would have contested
the point of attraction with the ordinary eloquence of that period.
Church bells rang not for us.  Poets were indeed our priests:  but
for those, the last relic of moral existence would have passed away.
Song was the dewdrop which gathered during the long dark night of
despondency, and was sure to glitter in the very first blink of the
sun.  You might have seen "Auld Robin Gray" wet the eyes that could
be tearless amid cold and hunger, and weariness and pain.  Surely,
surely, then there was to that heart one passage left.


Making all allowance for natural and pardonable high-colouring, we
recommend this most weighty and significant passage to the attention
of all readers, and draw an argumentum a fortiori, from the high
estimation in which Thom holds those very songs of Tannahill's, of
which we just now spoke somewhat depreciatingly, for the extreme
importance which we attach to popular poetry, as an agent of
incalculable power in moulding the minds of nations.

The popular poetry of Germany has held that great nation together,
united and heart-whole for centuries, in spite of every disadvantage
of internal division, and the bad influence of foreign taste; and the
greatest of their poets have not thought it beneath them to add their
contributions, and their very best, to the common treasure, meant not
only for the luxurious and learned, but for the workman and the child
at school.  In Great Britain, on the contrary, the people have been
left to form their own tastes, and choose their own modes of
utterance, with great results, both for good and evil; and there has
sprung up before the new impulse which Burns gave to popular poetry,
a considerable literature--considerable not only from, its truth and
real artistic merit, but far more so from its being addressed
principally to the working classes.  Even more important is this
people's literature question, in our eyes, than the more palpable
factors of the education question, about which we now hear such ado.
It does seem to us, that to take every possible precaution about the
spiritual truth which children are taught in school, and then leave
to chance the more impressive and abiding teaching which popular
literature, songs especially, give them out of doors, is as great a
niaiserie as that of the Tractarians who insisted on getting into the
pulpit in their surplices, as a sign that the clergy only had the
right of preaching to the people, while they forgot that, by means of
a free press (of the licence of which they, too, were not slack to
avail themselves), every penny-a-liner was preaching to the people
daily, and would do so, maugre their surplices, to the end of time.
The man who makes the people's songs is a true popular preacher.
Whatsoever, true or false, he sends forth, will not be carried home,
as a sermon often is, merely in heads, to be forgotten before the
week is out:  it will ring in the ears, and cling round the
imagination, and follow the pupil to the workshop, and the tavern,
and the fireside; even to the deathbed, such power is in the magic of
rhyme.  The emigrant, deep in Australian forests, may take down
Chalmers's sermons on Sabbath evenings from the scanty shelf:  but
the songs of Burns have been haunting his lips, and cheering his
heart, and moulding him, unconsciously to himself, in clearing and in
pasture all the weary week.  True, if he be what a Scotchman should
be, more than one old Hebrew psalm has brought its message to him
during these week-days; but there are feelings of his nature on which
those psalms, not from defect, but from their very purpose, do not
touch:  how is he to express them, but in the songs which echo them?
These will keep alive, and intensify in him, and in the children who
learn them from his lips, all which is like themselves.  Is it, we
ask again, to be left to chance what sort of songs these shall be?

As for poetry written for the working classes by the upper, such
attempts at it as we yet have seen, may be considered nil.  The upper
must learn to know more of the lower, and to make the lower know more
of them--a frankness of which we honestly believe they will never
have to repent.  Moreover, they must read Burns a little more, and
cavaliers and Jacobites a little less.  As it is, their efforts have
been as yet exactly in that direction which would most safely secure
the blessings of undisturbed obscurity.  Whether "secular" or
"spiritual," they have thought proper to adopt a certain Tommy-good-
child tone, which, whether to Glasgow artisans or Dorsetshire
labourers, or indeed for any human being who is "grinding among the
iron facts of life," is, to say the least, nauseous; and the only use
of their poematicula has been to demonstrate practically the
existence of a great and fearful gulf between those who have, and
those who have not, in thought as well as in purse, which must be, in
the former article at least, bridged over as soon as possible, if we
are to remain one people much longer.  The attempts at verse for
children are somewhat more successful--a certain little "Moral Songs"
especially, said to emanate from the Tractarian School, yet full of a
health, spirit, and wild sweetness, which makes its authoress, in our
eyes, "wiser than her teachers."  But this is our way.  We are too
apt to be afraid of the men, and take to the children as our pis-
aller, covering our despair of dealing with the majority, the adult
population, in a pompous display of machinery for influencing that
very small fraction, the children.  "Oh, but the destinies of the
empire depend on the rising generation!"  Who has told us so?--how do
we know that they do not depend on the risen generation?  Who are
likely to do more work during our lifetime, for good and evil,--those
who are now between fifteen and five-and-forty, or those who are
between five and fifteen?  Yet for those former, the many, and the
working, and the powerful, all we seem to be inclined to do is to
parody Scripture, and say:  "He that is unjust, let him be unjust
still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still."

Not that we ask any one to sit down, and, out of mere benevolence, to
write songs for the people.  Wooden out of a wooden birthplace, would
such go forth, to feed fires, not spirits.  But if any man shall read
these pages, to whom God has given a truly poetic temperament, a
gallant heart, a melodious ear, a quick and sympathetic eye for all
forms of human joy, and sorrow, and humour, and grandeur; an insight
which can discern the outlines of the butterfly, when clothed in the
roughest and most rugged chrysalis-hide; if the teachers of his heart
and purposes, and not merely of his taste and sentiments, have been
the great songs of his own and of every land and age; if he can see
in the divine poetry of David and Solomon, of Isaiah and Jeremiah,
and, above all, in the parables of Him who spake as never man spake,
the models and elemental laws of a people's poetry, alike according
to the will of God and the heart of man; if he can welcome gallantly
and hopefully the future, and yet know that it must be, unless it
would be a monster and a machine, the loving and obedient child of
the past; if he can speak of the subjects which alone will interest
the many, on love, marriage, the sorrows of the poor, their hopes,
political and social, their wrongs, as well as their sins and duties;
and that with a fervour and passion akin to the spirit of Burns and
Elliott, yet with more calmness, more purity, more wisdom, and
therefore with more hope, as one who stands upon a vantage-ground of
education and culture, sympathising none the less with those who
struggle behind him in the valley of the shadow of death, yet seeing
from the mountain peaks the coming dawn, invisible as yet to them:
then let that man think it no fall, but rather a noble rise, to leave
awhile the barren glacier ranges of pure art, for the fertile gardens
of practical and popular song, and write for the many, and with the
many, in words such as they can understand; remembering that that
which is simplest is always deepest; that the many contain in
themselves the few; and that when he speaks to the wanderer and the
drudge, he speaks to the elemental and primeval man, and in him
speaks to all who have risen out of him.  Let him try, undiscouraged
by inevitable failures; and if at last he succeeds in giving vent to
one song which will cheer hard-worn hearts at the loom and the forge,
or wake one pauper's heart with the hope that his children are
destined not to die as he died, or recall, amid Canadian forests or
Australian sheep-walks, one thrill of love for the old country, her
liberties, and her laws, and her religion, to the settler's heart--
let that man know that he has earned a higher place among the spirits
of the wise and good, by doing, in spite of the unpleasantness of
self-denial, the duty which lay nearest him, than if he had out-
rivalled Goethe on his own classic ground, and made all the
cultivated and the comfortable of the earth desert, for the exquisite
creations of his fancy, Faust, and Tasso, and Iphigenie.



THE POETRY OF SACRED AND LEGENDARY ART {187}



Much attention has been excited this year by the alleged fulfilment
of a prophecy that the Papal power was to receive its death-blow--in
temporal matters, at least--during the past year 1848.  For
ourselves, we have no more faith in Mr. Fleming, the obsolete author,
who has so suddenly revived in the public esteem, than we have in
many other interpreters of prophecy.  Their shallow and bigoted views
of past history are enough to damp our faith in their discernment of
the future.  It does seem that people ought to understand what has
been, before they predict what will be.  History is "the track of
God's footsteps through time;" it is in His dealings with our
forefathers that we may expect to find the laws by which He will deal
with us.  Not that Mr. Fleming's conjecture must be false; among a
thousand guesses there ought surely to be one right one.  And it is
almost impossible for earnest men to bend their whole minds, however
clumsily, to one branch of study without arriving at some truth or
other.  The interpreters of prophecy therefore, like all other
interpreters, have our best wishes, though not our sanguine hopes.
But, in the meantime, there are surely signs of the approaching ruin
of Popery, more certain than any speculations on the mystic numbers
of the Revelation.  We should point to recent books--not to books
which merely expose Rome, that has been done long ago, usque ad
nauseam--but to books which do her justice:  to Mr. Maitland's "Dark
Ages;" Lord Lindsay's "Christian Art;" and last, but not least, to
the very charming work of Mrs. Jameson, whose title heads this
review.  In them, and in a host of similar works in Germany, which
Dr. Wiseman's party hail as signs of coming triumph, we fancy we see
the death-warrant of Romanism; because they prove that Rome has
nearly done her work--that the Protestants are learning the lesson
for the sake of which Providence has so long borne with that
monstrous system.  When Popery has no more truth to teach us, but not
till then, will it vanish away into its native night.

We entreat Protestant readers not to be alarmed at us.  We have not
the slightest tendency toward the stimulants of Popery, either in
their Roman unmixed state, or in their diluted Oxford form.  We are,
with all humility, more Protestant than Protestantism itself; our
fastidious nostril, more sensitive of Jesuits than even those of the
author of "Hawkstone," has led us at moments to fancy that we scent
indulgences in Conduit-street Chapel, and discern inquisitors in
Exeter Hall itself.  Seriously, none believe more firmly than
ourselves that the cause of Protestantism is the cause of liberty, of
civilisation, of truth; the cause of man and God.  And because we
think Mrs. Jameson's book especially Protestant, both in manner and
intention, and likely to do service to the good cause, we are setting
to work herein to praise and recommend it.  For the time, we think,
for calling Popery ill names is past; though to abstain is certainly
sometimes a sore restraint for English spirits, as Mrs. Jameson
herself, we suspect, has found; but Romanism has been exposed and
refuted triumphantly, every month for centuries, and yet the Romish
nations are not converted; and too many English families of late have
found, by sad experience, that such arguments as are in vogue are
powerless to dissuade the young from rushing headlong into the very
superstitions which they have been taught from their childhood to
deride.  The truth is, Protestantism may well cry:  "Save me from my
friends!"  We have attacked Rome too often on shallow grounds, and
finding our arguments weak, have found it necessary to overstate
them.  We have got angry, and caught up the first weapon which came
to hand, and have only cut our own fingers.  We have very nearly
burnt the Church of England over our heads, in our hurry to make a
bonfire of the Pope.  We have been too proud to make ourselves
acquainted with the very tenets which we exposed, and have made a
merit of reading no Popish books but such as we were sure would give
us a handle for attack, and not even them without the precaution of
getting into a safe passion beforehand.  We have dealt in
exaggerations, in special pleadings, in vile and reckless imputations
of motive, in suppressions of all palliating facts.  We have outraged
the common feelings of humanity by remaining blind to the virtues of
noble and holy men because they were Papists, as if a good deed was
not good in Italy as well as in England.  We have talked as if God
had doomed to hopeless vileness in this world and reprobation in the
next millions of Christian people, simply because they were born of
Romish and not of Protestant fathers.  And we have our reward; we
have fared like the old woman who would not tell the children what a
well was for fear they should fall into one.  We see educated and
pious Englishmen joining the Romish communion simply from ignorance
of Rome, and have no talisman wherewith to disenchant them.  Our
medicines produce no effect on them, and all we can do is, like
quacks, to increase the dose.  Of course, if ten boxes of Morison's
pills have killed a man, it only proves that--he ought to have taken
twelve of them.  We are jesting, but, as an Ulster Orangeman would
say, "it is in good Protestant earnest."

In the meantime some of the deepest cravings of the human heart have
been left utterly unsatisfied.  And be it remembered, that such
universal cravings are more than fancies; they are indications of
deep spiritual wants, which, unless we supply them with the good food
which God has made for them, will supply themselves with poison--
indications of spiritual faculties, which it is as wicked to stunt or
distort by mis-education as it is to maim our own limbs or stupefy
our understanding.  Our humanity is an awful and divine gift; our
business is to educate it throughout--God alone must judge which part
of it shall preponderate over the rest.  But in the last generation--
and, alas! in this also--little or no proper care has been taken of
the love for all which is romantic, marvellous, heroic, which exists
in every ingenuous child.  Schoolboys, indeed, might, if they chose,
in play-hours, gloat over the "Seven Champions of Christendom," or
Lempriere's gods and goddesses; girls might, perhaps, be allowed to
devour by stealth a few fairy tales, or the "Arabian Nights;" but it
was only by connivance that their longings were satisfied from the
scraps of Moslemism, Paganism--anywhere but from Christianity.
Protestantism had nothing to do with the imagination--in fact, it was
a question whether reasonable people had any; whether the devil was
not the original maker of that troublesome faculty in man, woman, and
child.  Poetry itself was, with most parents, a dram, to be given,
like Dalby's Carminative, as a pis-aller, when children could not
possibly be kept quiet by Miss Edgeworth or Mrs. Mangnall.  Then, as
the children grew up, and began to know something of history and art,
two still higher cravings began to seize on many of them, if they
were at all of deep and earnest character:  a desire to associate
with religion their new love for the beautiful, and a reverence for
antiquity; a wish to find some bond of union between themselves and
the fifteen centuries of Christianity which elapsed before the
Reformation.  They applied to Protestant teachers and Protestant
books, and received too often the answer that the Gospel had nothing
to do with art--art was either Pagan or Popish; and as for the
centuries before the Reformation, they and all in them belonged
utterly to darkness and the pit.  As for the heroes of early
Christianity, they were madmen or humbugs; their legends, devilish
and filthy puerilities.  They went to the artists and literary men,
and received the same answer.  The medieval writers were fools.
Classical art was the only art; all painters before the age of
Raphael superstitious bunglers.  To be sure, as Fuseli said,
Christianity had helped art a little; but then it was the
Christianity of Julio and Leone--in short, of the worst age of
Popery.

These falsehoods have worked out their own punishment.  The young are
examining for themselves, and finding that we have deceived them, a
revulsion in their feelings has taken place, similar to that which
took place in Germany some half-century ago.  They are reading the
histories of the Middle Ages, and if we call them barbarous--they
will grant it, and then quote instances of individual heroism and
piety, which they defy us or any honest man not to admire.  They are
reading the old legends, and when we call them superstitious--they
grant it, and then produce passages in which the highest doctrines of
Christianity are embodied in the most pathetic and noble stories.
They are looking for themselves at the ante-Raphaellic artists, and
when we tell them that Fra Angelico's pictures are weak, affected,
ill-drawn, ill-coloured--they grant it, and then ask us if we can
deny the sweetness, the purity, the rapt devotion, the saintly
virtue, which shines forth from his faces.  They ask us how beautiful
and holy words or figures can be inspired by an evil spirit.  They
ask us why they are to deny the excellence of tales and pictures
which make men more pure and humble, more earnest and noble.  They
tell us truly that all beauty is God's stamp, and that all beauty
ought to be consecrated to his service.  And then they ask us:  "If
Protestantism denies that she can consecrate the beautiful, how can
you wonder if we love the Romanism which can?  You say that Popery
created these glorious schools of art; how can you wonder if, like
Overbeck, "we take the faith for the sake of the art which it
inspired?"

To all which, be it true or false (and it is both), are we to answer
merely by shutting our eyes and ears tight, and yelling "No Popery!"
or are we to say boldly to them:  "We confess ourselves in fault; we
sympathise with your longings; we confess that Protestantism has not
satisfied them; but we assert that the only cause is, that
Protestantism has not been true to herself; that Art, like every
other product of the free human spirit, is her domain and not
Popery's; that these legends, these pictures, are beautiful just in
as far as they contain in them the germs of those eternal truths
about man, nature, and God, which the Reformation delivered from
bondage; that you can admire them, and yet remain thorough
Protestants; and more, that unless you do remain Protestants, you
will never enter into their full beauty and significance, because you
will lose sight of those very facts and ideas from which they derive
all their healthy power over you"?

These thoughts are not our own; they are uttered all over England,
thank God! just now, by many voices and in many forms; if they had
been boldly spoken during the last fifteen years, many a noble
spirit, we believe, might have remained in the Church of its fathers
which has now taken refuge in Romanism from the fruits of mis-
education.  One great reason why Romanism has been suffered to drag
on its existence is, we humbly think, that it might force us at last
to say this:  We have been long learning the lesson; till we have
learnt it thoroughly Romanism will exist, and we shall never be safe
from its allurements.

These thoughts may help to explain our opening sentences, as well as
the extreme pleasure with which we hail the appearance of Mrs.
Jameson's work.

The authoress has been struck, during her examination of the works of
Christian artists, with the extreme ignorance which prevails in
England on the subjects which they portray.

We have had (she says, in an introduction, every word of which we
recommend as replete with the truest Christian philosophy)--


Inquiries into the Principles of Taste, treatises on the Sublime and
Beautiful, Anecdotes of Painting, and we abound in antiquarian essays
on disputed pictures and mutilated statues; but up to a late period
any inquiry into the true spirit and significance of works of art, as
connected with the history of religion and civilisation, would have
appeared ridiculous or, perhaps, dangerous.  We should have had
another cry of "No Popery!" and Acts of Parliament prohibiting the
importation of saints and Madonnas.--P. xxi.


And what should we have gained by it, but more ignorance of the
excuses for Popery, and, therefore, of its real dangers?  If
Protestantism be the truth, knowledge of whatsoever kind can only
further it.  We have found it so in the case of classical literature.
Why should we strain at a gnat and swallow a camel?  Our boys have
not taken to worshipping Jupiter and Juno by reading about them.  We
never feared that they would.  We knew that we should not make them
pagans by teaching them justly to admire the poetry, the philosophy,
the personal virtues of pagans.  And, in fact, the few who since the
revival of letters have deserted Christianity for what they called
philosophic heathenism, have in almost every case sympathised, not
with the excellences, but with the worst vices of the Greek and
Roman.  They have been men like Leo X. or the Medici, who, ready to
be profligates under any religion, found in heathenism only an excuse
for their darling sins.  The same will be the fruits of a real
understanding of the medieval religion.  It will only endanger those
who carried already the danger in themselves, and would have fallen
into some other snare if this had been away.  Why should we fancy
that Protestantism, like the Romanism which it opposes, is a plant
that will not bear the light, and can only be protected at the
expense of the knowledge of facts?  Why will we forgot the great
spiritual law which Mrs. Jameson and others in these days are fully
recognising, that "we cannot safely combat the errors of any man or
system without first giving them full credit for whatever excellences
they may retain"?  Such a course is the true fruit of that free
spirit of Protestantism which ought to delight in recognising good to
whatever party it may belong; which asserts that every good gift and
perfect gift comes directly from above, and not through the channel
of particular formularies or priesthoods; which, because it loves
faith and virtue, for their own sakes, and not as mere parts of a
"Catholic system," can recognise them and delight in them wherever it
finds them.


Upon these creations of ancient art (as Mrs. Jameson says) we cannot
look as those did for whom they were created; we cannot annihilate
the centuries which lie between us and them; we cannot in simplicity
of heart, forget the artist in the image he has placed before us, nor
supply what may be deficient in his work through a reverentially
excited fancy.  We are critical, not credulous.  We no longer accept
this polytheistic form of Christianity; and there is little danger, I
suppose, of our falling again into the strange excesses of
superstition to which it led.  But if I have not much sympathy with
modern imitations of medieval art, still less can I sympathise with
that narrow puritanical jealousy which holds the monuments of a real
and earnest faith in contempt:  all that God has permitted to exist
once in the past should be considered as the possession of the
present; sacred for example or warning, and held as the foundation on
which to build up what is better and purer.--Introd. p. xx.


Mrs. Jameson here speaks in the name of a large and rapidly-
increasing class.  The craving for religious art, of which we spoke
above, is spreading far and wide; even in dissenting chapels we see
occasional attempts at architectural splendour, which would have been
considered twenty years ago heretical or idolatrous.  And yet with
all this there is, as Mrs. Jameson says, a curious ignorance with
regard to the subject of medieval art, even though it has now become
a reigning fashion among us.


We have learned, perhaps, after running through half the galleries
and churches in Europe, to distinguish a few of the attributes and
characteristic figures which meet us at every turn, yet without any
clear idea of their meaning, derivation, or relative propriety.  The
palm of victory, we know, designates the martyr, triumphant in death.
We so far emulate the critical sagacity of the gardener in "Zeluco,"
that we have learned to distinguish St. Laurence by his gridiron, and
St. Catherine by her wheel.  We are not at a loss to recognise the
Magdalene's "loose hair and lifted eye," even when without her skull
and her vase of ointment.  We learn to know St. Francis by his brown
habit, and shaven crown, and wasted ardent features; but how do we
distinguish him from St. Anthony, or St. Dominick?  As for St. George
and the Dragon--from the St. George of the Louvre--Raphael's--who
sits his horse with the elegant tranquillity of one assured of
celestial aid, down to him "who swings on a sign-post at mine
hostess's door"--he is our familiar acquaintance.  But who is that
lovely being in the first blush of youth, who, bearing aloft the
symbolic cross, stands with one foot on the vanquished dragon?  "That
is a copy after Raphael."  And who is that majestic creature holding
her palm-branch, while the unicorn crouches at her feet?  "That is
the famous Moretto at Vienna."  Are we satisfied?  Not in the least!
but we try to look wiser and pass on.

In the old times, the painters of these legendary scenes and subjects
could always reckon securely on certain associations and certain
sympathies in the minds of the spectators.  We have outgrown these
associations, we repudiate these sympathies.  We have taken these
works from their consecrated localities, in which they once held each
their dedicated place, and we have hung them in our drawing-rooms and
our dressing-rooms, over our pianos and our sideboards, and now what
do they say to us?  That Magdalene weeping amid her hair, who once
spoke comfort to the soul of the fallen sinner,--that Sebastian,
arrow-pierced, whose upward ardent glance, spoke of courage and hope
to the tyrant-ridden serf--that poor tortured slave to whose aid St.
Mark comes sweeping down from above--can they speak to us of nothing
save flowing lines, and correct drawing, and gorgeous colour?  Must
we be told that one is a Titian, the other a Guido, the third a
Tintoret, before we dare to melt into compassion or admiration? or
the moment we refer to their ancient religious signification and
influence, must it be with disdain or with pity?  This, as it appears
to me, is to take not a rational, but rather a most irrational, as
well as a most irreverent, view of the question:  it is to confine
the pleasure and improvement to be derived from works of art within
very narrow bounds; it is to seal up a fountain of the richest
poetry, and to shut out a thousand ennobling and inspiring thoughts.
Happily there is a growing appreciation of these larger principles of
criticism as applied to the study of art.  People look at the
pictures which hang round their walls, and have an awakening
suspicion that there is more in them than meets the eye--more than
mere connoisseurship can interpret; and that they have another, a
deeper significance than has been dreamed of by picture dealers and
picture collectors, or even picture critics.--Introd. xxiii.


On these grounds Mrs. Jameson treats of the Poetry of Sacred and
Legendary Art.  Her first volume contains a general sketch of the
legends connected with angels, with the scriptural personages, and
the primitive fathers.  Her second, the histories of most of "those
sainted personages who lived, or are supposed to have lived, in the
first ages of Christianity, and whose real history, founded on fact
or tradition, has been so disfigured by poetical embroidery that they
have in some sort the air of ideal beings."  Each story is followed
by a series of short but brilliant criticisms on those pictures in
which the story has been embodied by painters of various schools and
periods, and illustrated by numerous spirited etchings and woodcuts,
which add greatly to the value and intelligibility of the work.  A
future volume is promised which shall contain the "legends of the
monastic orders, and the history of the Franciscans and the
Dominicans, considered merely in their connection with the revival
and the development of the fine arts in the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries"--a work which, if it equal the one before us, will
doubtless be hailed by those conversant with that wonderful phase of
human history as a valuable addition to our psychologic and aesthetic
literature.

We ought to petition, also, for a volume which should contain the
life of the Saviour, and the legends of the Virgin Mary; though this
latter subject, we are afraid, will be too difficult for even Mrs.
Jameson's tact and delicacy to make tolerable to English readers, so
thoroughly has the Virgin Mary, as especial patroness of purity, been
intermixed in her legends with every form of prudish and prurient
foulmindedness. {199}

The authoress has wisely abstained from all controversial matters.
In her preface she begs that it may be clearly understood, "that she
has taken throughout the aesthetic and not the religious view of
these productions of art; which, in as far as they are informed with
a true and earnest feeling, and steeped in that beauty which emanates
from Genius inspired by Faith, may cease to be religion, but cannot
cease to be poetry; and as poetry only," she says, "I have considered
them."  In a word, Mrs. Jameson has done for them what schoolmasters
and schoolboys, bishops and Royal Academicians, have been doing for
centuries, by Greek plays and Greek statues, without having incurred,
as we said above, the slightest suspicion of wanting to worship
heathen gods and goddesses.

Not that she views these stories with the cold unbelieving eye of a
Goethe, merely as studies of "artistic effect;" she often
transgresses her rule of impartiality, and just where we should wish
her to do so.  Her geniality cannot avoid an occasional burst of
feeling, such as concludes her notice of the stories about the
Magdalene and the other "beatified penitents."


Poets have sung, and moralists and sages have taught, that for the
frail woman there was nothing left but to die; or if more remained
for her to suffer, there was at least nothing left for her to be or
do--no choice between sackcloth and ashes and the livery of sin.  The
beatified penitents of the early Christian Church spoke another
lesson--spoke divinely of hope for the fallen, hope without self-
abasement or defiance.  We, in these days, acknowledge no such
saints; we have even done our best to dethrone Mary Magdalene; but we
have martyrs--"by the pang without the palm"--and one, at least,
among these who has not died without lifting up a voice of eloquent
and solemn warning; who has borne her palm on earth, and whose starry
crown may be seen on high even now amid the constellations of
Genius.--Vol. ii. p. 386.


To whom the authoress may allude in this touching passage our
simplicity cannot guess in the least.  We may, therefore, without the
suspicion of partiality, say to the noble spirit of purity,
compassion, and true liberality which breathes throughout this whole
chapter, "Go on and conquer."

Nor again can Mrs. Jameson's English honesty avoid an occasional slip
of delicate sarcasm; for instance, in the story of St. Filomena, a
brand-new saint, whose discovery at Rome, in 1802, produced there an
excitement which we should suspect was very much wanted, which we
recommend to all our readers as an instance of the state into which
the virtues of honesty and common sense seem to have fallen in the
Eternal City--of humbugs.

No doubt there are many such cases of imposture among the list of
saints and martyrs; yet, granting all which have been exposed, and
more, there still remains a list of authentic stories, sadder and
stranger than any romance of man's invention, to read which without
deep sympathy and admiration our hearts must be callous or bigoted
indeed.  As Mrs. Jameson herself well says (vol. ii. p. 137):


When in the daily service of our Church we repeat these words of the
sublime hymn ("The noble army of martyrs praise Thee!"), I wonder
sometimes whether it be with a full appreciation of their meaning?
whether we do really reflect on all that this noble army of martyrs
has conquered for us?  Did they indeed glorify God through their
courage, and seal their faith in their Redeemer with their blood?
And if it be so, how is it that we Christians have learned to look
coldly upon the effigies of those who sowed the seed of the harvest
which we have reaped?--Sanguis martyrum semen Christianorum!  We may
admit that the reverence paid to them in former days was unreasonable
and excessive; that credulity and ignorance have in many instances
falsified the actions imputed to them; that enthusiasm has magnified
their numbers beyond all belief; that when the communion with martyrs
was associated with the presence of their material remains, the
passion for relics led to a thousand abuses, and the belief in their
intercession to a thousand superstitions.  But why, in uprooting the
false, uproot also the beautiful and the true?


Thoroughly and practically convinced as we are of the truth of these
words, it gave us some pain when, in the work of a very worthy
person, "The Church in the Catacombs," by Dr. Maitland (not the
author of "The Dark Ages"), we found, as far as we could perceive, a
wish "to advance the Protestant cause," by throwing general doubt on
the old martyrologies and their monuments in the Roman catacombs.  If
we shall have judged hastily, we shall be ready to apologise.  None,
as we have said before, more firmly believe that the Protestant cause
is the good cause; none are more reverentially inclined toward all
honest critical investigations, more anxious to see all truth, the
Bible itself, sifted and tested in every possible method; but we must
protest against what certainly seems too contemptuous a rejection of
a mass of historic evidence hitherto undoubted, except by the school
of Voltaire; and of the hasty denial of the meaning of Christian and
martyrologic symbols, as well known to antiquaries as Stonehenge or
Magna Charta.

At the same time, Dr. Maitland's book seems the work of a righteous
and earnest man, and it is not its object, but its method, of which
we complain.  The whole question of martyrology, a far more important
one than historians generally fancy, requires a thorough
investigation, critical and historical; it has to be done, and
especially just now.  The Germans, the civil engineers of the
intellectual world, ought to do it for us, and no doubt will.  But
those who undertake it must bring to the work, not only impartiality,
but enthusiasm; it is the spirit only, after all, which can quicken
the eye, which can free the understanding from the idols of laziness,
prejudice, and hasty induction.  To talk philosophically of such
matters a man must love them; he must set to work with a Christian
sympathy, and a manly admiration for those old spiritual heroes to
whose virtue and endurance Europe owes it that she is not now a den
of heathen savages.  He must be ready to assume everything about them
to be true which is neither absurd, immoral, nor unsupported by the
same amount of evidence which he would require for any other historic
fact.  And, just because this very tone of mind--enthusiastic but not
idolatrous, discriminating but not captious--runs through Mrs.
Jameson's work, we hail it with especial pleasure, as a fresh move in
a truly philosophic and Christian direction.  Indeed, for that branch
of the subject which she has taken in hand, not the history, but the
poetry of legends and of the art which they awakened, she derives a
peculiar fitness, not merely from her own literary talents and
acquaintance with continental art, but also from the very fact of her
being an English wife and mother.  Women ought, perhaps, always to
make the best critics--at once more quicksighted, more tasteful, more
sympathetic than ourselves, whose proper business is creation.
Perhaps in Utopia they will take the reviewer's business entirely off
our hands, as they are said to be doing already, by-the-bye, in one
leading periodical.  But of all critics an English matron ought to be
the best--open as she should be, by her womanhood, to all tender and
admiring sympathies, accustomed by her Protestant education to
unsullied purity of thought, and inheriting from her race, not only
freedom of mind and reverence for antiquity, but the far higher
birthright of English honesty.

And such a genial and honest spirit, we think, runs through this
book.

Another difficult task, perhaps the most difficult of all, the
authoress has well performed.  We mean the handling of stories whose
facts she partly or wholly disbelieves, while she admires and loves
their spirit and moral; or doctrines, to pronounce on whose truth or
falsehood is beyond her subject.  This difficulty Mr. Newman, in the
"Lives of the English Saints," edited and partly written by him,
turned with wonderful astuteness to the advantage of Romanism; but
others, more honest, have not been so victorious.  Witness the
painfully uncertain impression left by some parts of one or two of
those masterly articles on Romish heroes which appeared in the
"Quarterly Review;" an uncertainty which we have the fullest reason
to believe was most foreign to the reviewer's mind and conscience.
Even Mr. Macaulay's brilliant history here and there falls into the
same snare.  No one but those who have tried it can be aware of the
extreme difficulty of preventing the dramatic historian from
degenerating into an apologist or heating into a sneerer; or
understand the ease with which an earnest author, in a case like the
present, becomes frantically reckless, under the certainty that, say
what he will, he will be called a Jesuit by the Protestants, an
Infidel by the Papists, a Pantheist by the Ultra-High-Church, and a
Rogue by all three.

Now, we certainly shall not say that Mrs. Jameson is greater than the
writers just mentioned; but we must say, that female tact and deep
devotional feeling cut the Gordian knot which has puzzled more
cunning heads.  Not that Mrs. Jameson is faultless; we want something
yet, in the telling of a Christian fairy-tale, and know not what we
want:  but never were legends narrated with more discernment and
simplicity than these.

As an instance, take the legend of St. Dorothea (vol. ii. p. 184),
which is especially one of those stories of "sainted personages who,"
as Mrs. Jameson says, "lived, or are supposed to have lived, in the
first ages of Christianity:  and whose real history, founded on fact
or tradition, has been so disguised by poetical embroidery, that they
have in some sort the air of ideal beings;" and which may, therefore,
be taken as a complete test of the authoress's tact and honesty:


In the province of Cappadocia and in the city of Caesarea, dwelt a
noble virgin, whose name was Dorothea.  In the whole city there was
none to be compared to her in beauty and grace of person.  She was a
Christian, and served God day and night with prayers, with fasting,
and with alms.

The governor of the city, by name Sapritius (or Fabricius), was a
very terrible persecutor of the Christians, and hearing of the
maiden, and of her great beauty, he ordered her to be brought before
him.  She came, with her mantle folded on her bosom, and her eyes
meekly cast down.  The governor asked "Who art thou?" and she
replied:  "I am Dorothea, a virgin, and a servant of Jesus Christ."
He said:  "Thou must serve our gods, or die."  She answered mildly:
"Be it so; the sooner shall I stand in the presence of Him whom I
most desire to behold."  Then the governor asked her:  "Whom meanest
thou?"  She replied:  "I mean the Son of God, Christ, mine espoused!
his dwelling is paradise; by his side are joys eternal; and in his
garden grow celestial fruits and roses that never fade."  Then
Sapritius, overcome by her eloquence and beauty, ordered her to be
carried back to her dungeon.  And he sent to her two sisters, whose
names were Calista and Christeta, who had once been Christians, but
who, from terror of the torments with which they were threatened, had
renounced their faith in Christ.  To these women the governor
promised large rewards if they would induce Dorothea to follow their
evil example; and they, nothing doubting of success, boldly undertook
the task.  The result, however, was far different; for Dorothea, full
of courage and constancy, reproved them, as one having authority, and
drew such a picture of the joys they had forfeited through their
falsehood and cowardice, that they fell at her feet, saying:  "O
blessed Dorothea, pray for us, that, through thy intercession, our
sins may be forgiven and our penitence accepted!"  And she did so.
And when they had left the dungeon they proclaimed aloud that they
were servants of Christ.

Then the governor, furious, commanded that they should be burned, and
that Dorothea should witness their torments.  And she stood by,
bravely encouraging them, and saying:  "O my sisters, fear not!
suffer to the end! for these transient pangs shall be followed by the
joys of eternal life!"  Thus they died:  and Dorothea herself was
condemned to be tortured cruelly, and then beheaded.  The first part
of her sentence she endured with invincible fortitude.  She was then
led forth to death; and, as she went, a young man, a lawyer of the
city named Theophilus, who had been present when she was first
brought before the governor, called to her mockingly:  "Ha! fair
maiden, goest thou to join thy bridegroom?  Send me, I pray thee, of
the fruits and flowers of that same garden of which thou hast spoken:
I would fain taste of them!"  And Dorothea looking on him inclined
her head with a gentle smile, and said:  "Thy request, O Theophilus,
is granted!"  Whereat he laughed aloud with his companions; but she
went on cheerfully to death.

When she came to the place of execution, she knelt down and prayed;
and suddenly appeared at her side a beautiful boy, with hair bright
as sunbeams:


A smooth-faced glorious thing,
With thousand blessings dancing in his eyes.


In his hand he held a basket containing three apples, and three
fresh-gathered and fragrant roses.  She said to him; "Carry these to
Theophilus; say that Dorothea hath sent them, and that I go before
him to the garden whence they came, and await him there."  With these
words she bent her neck, and received the death-stroke.

Meantime the angel (for it was an angel) went to seek Theophilus, and
found him still laughing in merry mood over the idea of the promised
gift.  The angel placed before him the basket of celestial fruit and
flowers, saying:  "Dorothea sends thee this," and vanished.  What
words can express the wonder of Theophilus?  Struck by the prodigy
operated in his favour, his heart melted within him; he tasted of the
celestial fruit, and a new life was his; he proclaimed himself a
servant of Christ, and, following the example of Dorothea, suffered
with like constancy in the cause of truth, and obtained the crown of
martyrdom.


We have chosen this legend just because it is in itself as
superstitious and fantastic as any in the book.  We happen to hold
the dream of "The Spiritual Marriage," as there set forth, in
especial abhorrence, and we have no doubt Mrs. Jameson does so also.
We are well aware of the pernicious effect which this doctrine has
exercised on matrimonial purity among the southern nations; that by
making chastity synonymous with celibacy, it degraded married
faithfulness into a restriction which there were penalties for
breaking, but no rewards for keeping.  We see clearly enough the
cowardice, the shortsightedness, of fancying that man can insure the
safety of his soul by fleeing from the world--in plain English,
deserting the post to which God has called him, like the monks and
nuns of old.  We believe that the numbers of the early martyrs have
been exaggerated.  We believe that they were like ourselves,
imperfect and inconsistent human beings; that, on the showing of the
legends and fathers themselves, their testimony for the truth was too
often impaired by superstition, fanaticism, or passion.  But granting
all this, we must still say, in the words of one who cannot be
suspected of Romanising--the great Dr. Arnold--


Divide the sum total of reported martyrs by twenty; by fifty, if you
will; after all, you have a number of persons of all ages and sexes
suffering cruel torments and deaths for conscience' sake, and for
Christ's; and by their sufferings, manifestly with God's blessing,
insuring the triumph of Christ's Gospel.  Neither do I think that we
consider the excellence of this martyr spirit half enough.


Indeed we do not.  Let all the abatements mentioned above, and more,
be granted; yet, even then, when we remember that the world from
which Jerome or Anthony fled was even worse than that denounced by
Juvenal and Persius--that the nuptials which, as legends say, were
often offered the virgin martyrs as alternatives for death, were such
as employed the foul pens of Petronius and Martial--that the tyrants
whom they spurned were such as live in the pages of Suetonius, and
the Augustae Historiae Scriptores--that the gods whom they were
commanded to worship, the rites in which they were to join, were
those over which Ovid and Apuleius had gloated, which Lucian had held
up to the contempt of heathendom itself--that the tortures which they
preferred to apostacy and to foul crimes were, by the confessions of
the heathens themselves, too horrible for pen to tell--it does raise
a flush of indignation to hear some sleek bigot-sceptic, bred up in
the safety and luxury of modern England, among Habeas Corpus Acts and
endowed churches, trying from his warm fireside to sneer away the
awful responsibilities and the heroic fortitude of valiant men and
tender girls, to whose piety and courage he owes the very
enlightenment, the very civilisation, of which he boasts.

It is an error, doubtless, and a fearful one, to worship even such as
them.  But the error, when it arose, was at worst the caricature of a
blessed truth.  Even for the sinful, surely it was better to admire
holiness than to worship their own sin.  Shame on those who, calling
themselves Christians, repine that a Cecilia or a Magdalen replaced
an Isis and a Venus; or who can fancy that they are serving
Protestantism by tracing malevolent likenesses between even the
idolatry of a saint and the idolatry of a devil!  True, there was
idolatry in both, as gross in one as the other.  And what wonder?
What wonder if, amid a world of courtesans, the nun was worshipped?
At least God allowed it; and will man be wiser than God?  "The times
of that ignorance He winked at."  The lie that was in it He did not
interfere to punish.  He did more; He let it work out, as all lies
will, their own punishment.  We may see that in the miserable century
which preceded the glorious Reformation; we may see it in the present
state of Spain and Italy.  The crust of lies, we say, punished
itself; to the germ of truth within it we partly owe that we are
Christian men this day.

But granting, or rather boldly asserting all this, and smiling as
much as we choose at the tale of St. Dorothea's celestial basket, is
it not absolutely, and in spite of all, an exquisite story?  Is it
likely to make people better or worse?  We might believe the whole of
it, and yet we need not, therefore, turn idolaters and worship sweet
Dorothea for a goddess.  But if, as we trust in God is the case, we
are too wise to believe it all--if even we see no reason (and there
is not much) for believing one single word of it--yet still we ask,
Is it not an exquisite story?  Is there not heroism in it greater
than of all the Ajaxes and Achilles who ever blustered on this earth?
Is there not power greater than of kings--God's strength made perfect
in woman's weakness?  Tender forgiveness, the Saviour's own likeness;
glimpses, brilliant and true at the core, however distorted and
miscoloured, of that spiritual world where the wicked cease from
troubling, where the meek alone shall inherit the earth, where, as
Protestants too believe, all that is spotless and beautiful in nature
as well as in man shall bloom for ever perfect?

It is especially in her descriptions of paintings that Mrs. Jameson's
great talents are displayed.  Nowhere do we recollect criticisms more
genial, brilliant, picturesque than those which are scattered through
these pages.  Often they have deeper merits, and descend to those
fundamental laws of beauty and of religion by which all Christian art
must ultimately be tested.  Mrs. Jameson has certainly a powerful
inductive faculty; she comprehends at once the idea {210} and central
law of a work of art, and sketches it in a few vivid and masterly
touches; and really, to use a hack quotation honestly for once, "in
thoughts which breathe, and words which burn."  As an instance, we
must be allowed to quote at length this charming passage on angel
paintings, so valuable does it seem not only as information, but as a
specimen of what criticism should be:


On the revival of art, we find the Byzantine idea of angels
everywhere prevailing.  The angels in Cimabue's famous "Virgin and
Child enthroned" are grand creatures, rather stern, but this arose, I
think, from his inability to express beauty.  The colossal angels at
Assisi, solemn sceptred kingly forms, all alike in action and
attitude, appeared to me magnificent.

In the angels of Giotto we see the commencement of a softer grace and
a purer taste, further developed by some of his scholars.  Benozzo
Gozzoli and Orcagna have left in the Campo Santo examples of the most
graceful and fanciful treatment.  Of Benozzo's angels in the Ricardi
Palace I have spoken at length.  His master, Angelico (worthy the
name!), never reached the same power of expressing the rapturous
rejoicing of celestial beings, but his conception of the angelic
nature remains unapproached, unapproachable:  it is only his, for it
was the gentle, passionless, refined nature of the recluse which
stamped itself there.  Angelico's angels are unearthly, not so much
in form as in sentiment; and superhuman, not in power but in purity.
In other hands, any imitation of his soft ethereal grace would become
feeble and insipid.  With their long robes falling round their feet,
and drooping many-coloured wings, they seem not to fly or to walk,
but to float along, "smooth sliding without step."  Blessed blessed
creatures! love us, only love us! for we dare not task your soft
serene beatitude, by asking you to help us!

There is more sympathy with humanity in Francia's angels:  they look
as if they could weep as well as love and sing.

* * * * *

Correggio's angels are grand and lovely, but they are like children
enlarged and sublimated, not like spirits taking the form of
children; where they smile it is truly--as Annibal Caracci expresses
it--con una naturalezza et simplicita che innamora e sforza a ridere
con loro:  but the smile in many of Correggio's angel heads has
something sublime and spiritual, as well as simple and natural.

And Titian's angels impress me in a similar manner--I mean those in
the glorious "Assumption" at Venice--with their childish forms and
features, but an expression caught from beholding the face of "our
Father that is in heaven:" it is glorified in fancy.  I remember
standing before this picture, contemplating those lovely spirits, one
after another, until a thrill came over me like that which I felt
when Mendelssohn played the organ--I became music while I listened.
The face of one of those angels is to the face of a child just what
that of the Virgin in the same picture is compared with the fairest
of the daughters of earth:  it is not here superiority of beauty, but
mind, and music, and love kneaded, as it were, into form and colour.

But Raphael, excelling in all things, is here excellent above all;
his angels combine in a higher degree than any other, the various
faculties and attributes in which the fancy loves to clothe these
pure, immortal, beatified creatures.  The angels of Giotti, of
Benozzo, of Fiesole, are, if not female, feminine; those of Filippo
Lippi and of Andrea, masculine; but you cannot say of those of
Raphael, that they are masculine or feminine.  The idea of sex is
wholly lost in the blending of power, intelligence, and grace.  In
his early pictures, grace is the predominant characteristic, as in
the dancing and singing angels in his "Coronation of the Virgin."  In
his later pictures the sentiment in his ministering angels is more
spiritual, more dignified.  As a perfect example of grand and
poetical feeling, I may cite the angels as "Regents of the Planets,"
in the Capella Chigiana.  The cupola represents in a circle the
creation of the solar system, according to the theological and
astronomical (or rather astrological) notions which then prevailed--a
hundred years before "the starry Galileo and his woes."  In the
centre is the Creator; around, in eight compartments, we have, first,
the angel of the celestial sphere, who seems to be listening to the
divine mandate:  "Let there be light in the firmament of heaven;"
then follow in their order, the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars,
Jupiter, and Saturn.  The name of each planet is expressed by its
mythological representative; the Sun by Apollo, the Moon by Diana:
and over each presides a grand colossal-winged spirit, seated or
reclining on a portion of the zodiac as on a throne.  I have selected
two angels to give an idea of this peculiar and poetical treatment.
The union of the theological and the mythological attributes is in
the classical taste of the time, and quite Miltonic.  In Raphael's
child-angels, the expression of power and intelligence, as well as
innocence, is quite wonderful; for instance, look at the two angel-
boys, in the Dresden Madonna di San Sisto, and the angels, or
celestial genii, who bear along the Almighty when he appears to Noah.
No one has expressed like Raphael the action of flight, except
perhaps Rembrandt.  The angel who descends to crown Santa Felicita
cleaves the air with the action of a swallow:  and the angel in
Rembrandt's Tobit soars like a lark with upward motion, spurning the
earth.

Michael Angelo rarely gave wings to his angels; I scarcely recollect
an instance, except the angel in the "Annunciation:" and his
exaggerated human forms, his colossal creatures, in which the idea of
power is conveyed through attitude and muscular action, are, to my
taste, worse than unpleasing.  My admiration for this wonderful man
is so profound that I can afford to say this.  His angels are
superhuman, but hardly angelic:  and while in Raphael's angels we do
not feel the want of wings, we feel while looking at those of Michael
Angelo that not even the "sail-broad vans" with which Satan laboured,
through the surging abyss of chaos could suffice to lift those
Titanic forms from earth, and sustain them in mid-air.  The group of
angels over the "Last Judgment," flinging their mighty limbs about,
and those that surround the descending figure of Christ in the
"Conversion of St. Paul," may be referred to here as characteristic
examples.  The angels, blowing their trumpets, puff and strain like
so many troopers.  Surely this is not angelic:  there may be power--
great, imaginative, and artistic power--exhibited in the conception
of form, but in the beings themselves there is more of effort than of
power:  serenity, tranquillity, beatitude, ethereal purity, spiritual
grace, are out of the question.


In this passage we may remark an excellence in Mrs. Jameson's mode of
thought which has become lately somewhat rare.  We mean a freedom
from that bigoted and fantastic habit of mind which leads nowadays
the worshippers of high art to exalt the early schools to the
disadvantage of all others, and to talk as if Christian painting had
expired with Perugino.  We were much struck with our authoress's
power of finding spiritual truth and beauty in Titian's "Assumption,"
one of the very pictures in which the "high-art" party are wont to
see nothing but "coarseness" and "earthliness" of conception.  She,
having, we suppose, a more acute as well as a more healthy eye for
the beautiful and the spiritual, and therefore able to perceive its
slightest traces wherever they exist, sees in those "earthly" faces
of the great masters, "an expression caught from beholding the face
of our Father that is in heaven."  The face of one of those "angels,"
she continues, "is to the face of a child just what that of the
Virgin in the same picture is compared with the fairest of the
daughters of earth:  it is not here superiority of beauty, but mind,
and music, and love, kneaded, as it were, into form and colour."

Mrs. Jameson acknowledges her great obligations to M. Rio; and all
students of art must be thankful to him for the taste, learning, and
earnest religious feeling which he has expended on the history of the
earlier schools of painting.  An honest man, doubtless, he is; but it
does not follow, alas! in this piecemeal world, that he should write
an honest book.  And his bigotry stands in painful contrast to the
genial and comprehensive spirit by which Mrs. Jameson seems able to
appreciate the specific beauties of all schools and masters.  M.
Rio's theory (and he is the spokesman of a large party) is, unless we
much misjudge him, this--that the ante-Raphaelic is the only
Christian art; and that all the excellences of these early painters
came from their Romanism; all their faults from his two great
bugbears--Byzantinism and Paganism.  In his eyes, the Byzantine idea
of art was Manichean; in which we fully coincide, but add, that the
idea of the early Italian painters was almost equally so:  and that
almost all in them that was not Manichean they owe not to their
Romanism or their asceticism, but to their healthy layman's common
sense, and to the influence of that very classical art which they are
said to have been pious enough to despise.  Bigoted and ascetic
Romanists have been, in all ages, in a hurry to call people
Manicheans, all the more fiercely because their own consciences must
have hinted to them that they were somewhat Manichean themselves.
When a man suspects his own honesty, he is, of course, inclined to
prove himself blameless by shouting the loudest against the
dishonesty of others.  Now M. Rio sees clearly and philosophically
enough what is the root of Manicheanism--the denial that that which
is natural, beautiful, human, belongs to God.  He imputes it justly
to those Byzantine artists who fancied it carnal to attribute beauty
to the Saviour or to the Virgin Mary, and tried to prove their own
spirituality by representing their sacred personages in the extreme
of ugliness and emaciation, though some of the specimens of their
painting which Mrs. Jameson gives proves that this abhorrence of
beauty was not so universal as M.  Rio would have us believe.  We
agree with him that this absurdity was learned from them by earlier
and semi-barbarous Italian artists, that these latter rapidly escaped
from it, and began rightly to embody their conceptions in beautiful
forms; and yet we must urge against them, too, the charge of
Manicheanism, and of a spiritual eclecticism also, far deeper and
more pernicious than the mere outward eclecticism of manner which has
drawn down hard names on the school of the Caracci.

For an eclectic, if it mean, anything, means this--one who, in any
branch of art or science, refuses to acknowledge Bacon's great law,
"that nature is only conquered by obeying her;" who will not take a
full and reverent view of the whole mass of facts with which he has
to deal, and from them deducing the fundamental laws of his subject,
obey them whithersoever they may lead; but who picks and chooses out
of them just so many as may be pleasant to his private taste, and
then constructs a partial system which differs from the essential
ideas of nature, in proportion to the number of facts which he has
determined to discard.  And such a course was pursued in the art by
the ascetic painters between the time of Giotto and Raphael.  Their
idea of beauty was a partial and a Manichean one; in their adoration
for a fictitious "angelic nature," made up from all which is negative
in humanity, they were prone to despise all by which man is brought
in contact with this earth--the beauties of sex, of strength, of
activity, of grandeur of form; all, that is, in which Greek art
excels:  their ideal of beauty was altogether effeminate.  They
prudishly despised the anatomic study of the human figure, of
landscape and chiaroscuro.  Spiritual expression with them was
everything; but it was only the expression of the passive spiritual
faculties of innocence, devotion, meekness, resignation--all good,
but not the whole of humanity.  Not that they could be quite
consistent in their theory.  They were forced to paint their very
angels as human beings; and a standard of human beauty they had to
find somewhere; and they found one, strange to say, exactly like that
of the old Pagan statues (wings and all--for the wings of Christian
angels are copied exactly from those of Greek Genii), and only
differing in that ascetic and emasculate tone, which was peculiar to
themselves.  Here is a dilemma which the worshippers of high art have
slurred over.  Where did Angelico de Fiesole get the idea of beauty
which dictated his exquisite angels?  We shall not, I suppose, agree
with those who attribute it to direct inspiration, and speak of it as
the reward of the prayer and fasting by which the good monk used to
prepare himself for painting.  Must we then confess that he borrowed
his beauties from the faces of the prettiest nuns with whom he was
acquainted?  That would be sad naturalism; and sad eclecticism too,
considering that he must have seen among his Italian sisters a great
many beauties of a very different type from that which he has chosen
to copy; though, we suppose, of God's making equally with that of his
favourites.  Or did he, in spite of himself, steal a side-glance now
and then at some of the unrivalled antique statues of his country,
and copy on the sly any feature or proportion in them which was
emasculate enough to be worked into his pictures?  That, too, is
likely enough; nay, it is certain.  We are perfectly astonished how
any draughtsman, at least how such a critic as M. Rio, can look at
the early Italian painters without tracing everywhere in them the
classic touch, the peculiar tendency to mathematic curves in the
outlines, which is the distinctive peculiarity of Greek art.  Is not
Giotto, the father of Italian art, full of it in every line?  Is not
Perugino?  Is not the angel of Lorenzo Credi in Mrs. Jameson's
woodcut?  Is not Francia, except just where he is stiff, and soft,
and clumsy?  Is not Fra Angelico himself?  Is it not just the absence
of this Greek tendency to mathematical forms in the German painters
before Albert Durer, which makes the specific difference, evident to
every boy, between the drawing of the Teutonic and Italian schools?

But if so, what becomes of the theory which calls Pagan art by all
manner of hard names? which dates the downfall of Christian art from
the moment when painters first lent an eye to its pernicious
seductions?  How can those escape the charge of eclecticism, who,
without going to the root-idea of Greek art, filched from its outside
just as much as suited their purpose?  And how, lastly, can M. Rio's
school of critics escape the charge of Manichean contempt for God's
world and man, not as ascetics have fancied him, but as God has made
him, when they think it a sufficient condemnation of a picture to
call it naturalistic; when they talk and act about art as if the
domain of the beautiful were the devil's kingdom, from which some few
species of form and elements were to be stolen by Christian painters,
and twisted from their original evil destination into the service of
religion?

On the other hand, we owe much to those early ascetic painters; their
works are a possession for ever.  No future school of religious art
will be able to rise to eminence without taking full cognisance of
them, and learning from them their secret.  They taught artists, and
priests, and laymen too, that beauty is only worthy of admiration
when it is the outward sacrament of the beauty of the soul within;
they helped to deliver men from that idolatry to merely animal
strength and loveliness into which they were in danger of falling in
ferocious ages, and among the relics of Roman luxury; they asserted
the superiority of the spirit over the flesh; according to their
light, they were faithful preachers of the great Christian truth,
that devoted faith, and not fierce self-will, is man's glory.  Well
did their pictures tell to brutal peasant, and to still more brutal
warrior, that God's might was best shown forth, not in the
elephantine pride of a Hercules, or the Titanic struggles of a
Laocoon, but in the weakness of martyred women, and of warriors who
were content meekly to endure shame and death, for the sake of Him
who conquered by sufferings, and bore all human weaknesses; who "was
led as a lamb to the slaughter, and, like a sheep dumb before the
shearer, opened not his mouth."

We must conclude with a few words on one point on which we differ
somewhat from Mrs. Jameson--the allegoric origin of certain legendary
stories.  She calls the story of the fiend, under the form of a
dragon, devouring St. Margaret, and then bursting at the sign of the
cross while the saint escaped unhurt, "another form of the familiar
allegory--the power of Sin overcome by the power of the Cross."

And again, vol. ii. p. 4:


The legend of St. George came to us from the East; where, under
various forms, as Apollo and the Python, as Bellerophon and the
Chimaera, as Perseus and the Sea-monster, we see perpetually
recurring the mythic allegory by which was figured the conquest
achieved by beneficent Power over the tyranny of Wickedness, and
which reappears in Christian art in the legends of St. Michael and
half a hundred other saints.


To us these stories seem to have had by no means an allegorical, but
rather a strictly historic foundation; and our reasons for this
opinion may possibly interest some readers.

Allegory, strictly so called, is the offspring of an advanced, and
not of a semi-barbarous state of society.  Its home is in the East--
not the East of barbarous Pontine countries peopled by men of our own
race, where the legend of St. George is allowed to have sprung up,
but of the civilised, metaphysical, dark-haired races of Egypt,
Syria, and Hindostan.  The "objectivity" of the Gothic mind has never
had any sympathy with it.  The Teutonic races, like the earlier
Greeks, before they were tinctured with Eastern thought, had always
wanted historic facts, dates, names, and places.  They even found it
necessary to import their saints; to locate Mary Magdalene at
Marseilles, Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury, the three Magi at
Cologne, before they could thoroughly love or understand them.
Englishmen especially cannot write allegories.  John Bunyan alone
succeeded tolerably, but only because his characters and language
were such as he had encountered daily at every fireside and in. every
meeting-house.  But Spenser wandered perpetually away, or rather,
rose up from his plan into mere dramatic narrative.  His work and
other English allegories, are hardly allegoric at all, but rather
symbolic; spiritual laws in them are not expressed by arbitrary
ciphers, but embodied in imaginary examples, sufficiently startling
or simple to form a plain key to other and deeper instances of the
same law.  They are analogous to those symbolic devotional pictures
in which the Madonna and saints of all ages are grouped together with
the painter's own contemporaries--no allegories at all, but the plain
embodiment of a fact in which the artist believed; not only "the
communion of all saints," but also their habit of assisting, often in
visible form, the Christians of his own time.

These distinctions may seem over-subtle, but our meaning will surely
be plain to anyone who will compare "The Faerie Queen," or the legend
of St. George, with the Gnostic or Hindoo reveries, and the fantastic
and truly Eastern interpretation of Scripture, which the European
monks borrowed from Egypt.  Our opinion is, that in the old legends
the moral did not create the story, but the story the moral; and that
the story had generally a nucleus of fact within all its distortions
and exaggerations.  This holds good of the Odinic and Grecian myths;
all are now more or less inclined to believe that the deities of
Zeus's or Odin's dynasties were real conquerors or civilisers of
flesh and blood, like the Manco Capac of the Peruvians, and that it
was around records of their real victories over barbarous aborigines,
and over the brute powers of nature, that extravagant myths grew up,
till more civilised generations began to say:  "These tales must have
some meaning--they must be either allegories or nonsense;" and then
fancied that in the remaining thread of fact they found a clue to the
mystic sense of the whole.

Such, we suspect, has been the history of St. George and the Dragon,
as well as of Apollo and the Python.  It is very hard to have to give
up the dear old dragon who haunted our nursery dreams, especially
when there is no reason for it.  We have no patience with antiquaries
who tell us that the dragons who guarded princesses were merely "the
winding walls or moats of their castles."  What use then, pray, was
there in the famous nether garment with which Regnar Lodbrog (shaggy-
trousers) choked the dragon who guarded his lady-love?  And Regnar
was a real piece of flesh and blood, as King AElla and our Saxon
forefathers found to their cost; his awful death-dirge, and the
effect which it produced, are well known to historians.  We cannot
give up Regnar's trousers, for we suspect the key to the whole
dragon-question is in the pocket of them.

Seriously, Why should not those dragons have been simply what the
Greek word dragon means--what the earliest romances, the Norse myths,
and the superstitions of the peasantry in many parts of England to
this day assert them to have been--"mighty worms," huge snakes?  All
will agree that the Python, the representative in the old world of
the Boa-constrictor of the new, lingered in the Homeric age, if not
later, both in Greece and in Italy.  It existed on the opposite coast
of Africa (where it is now extinct) in the time of Regulus; we
believe, from the traditions of all nations, that it existed to a far
later date in more remote and barbarous parts of Europe.  There is
every reason to suppose that it still lingered in England after the
invasion of the Cymri--say not earlier than B.C. 600--for it was
among them an object of worship; and we question whether they would
have been likely to have adored a foreign animal, and, as at Abury,
built enormous temples in imitation of its windings, and called them
by its name.

The only answer to these traditions has as yet been, that no reptile
of that bulk is known in cold climates.  Yet the Python still lingers
in the Hungarian marshes.  A few years ago a huge snake, as large as
the Pythons of Hindostan, spread havoc among the flocks and terror
among the peasantry.  Had it been Ariosto's "Orc," an a priori
argument from science would have had weight.  A marsupiate sea-
monster is horribly unorthodox; and the dragon, too, has doubtless
been made a monster of, but most unjustly:  his legs have been
patched on by crocodile-slaying crusaders, while his wings--where did
they come from?  From the traditions of "flying serpents," which have
so strangely haunted the deserts of Upper Egypt from the time of the
old Hebrew prophets, and which may not, after all, be such lies as
folk fancy.  How scientific prigs shook with laughter at the notion
of a flying dragon! till one day geology revealed to them, in the
Pterodactylus, that a real flying dragon, on the model of Carlo
Crivelli's in Mrs. Jameson's book, with wings before and legs behind,
only more monstrous than that, and than all the dreams of Seba and
Aldrovandus (though some of theirs, to be sure, have seven heads),
got its living once on a time in this very island of England!  But
such is the way of this wise world!  When Le Vaillant, in the last
century, assured the Parisians that he had shot a giraffe at the
Cape, he was politely informed that the giraffe was fabulous,
extinct--in short, that he lied; and now, behold! the respectable old
unicorn (and good Tories ought to rejoice to hear it) has been
discovered at last by a German naturalist, Von Muller, in Abyssinia,
just where our fathers told us to look for it!  And why should we not
find the flying serpent too?  The interior of Africa is as yet an
unknown world of wonders; and we may yet discover there, for aught we
know, the descendants of the very satyr who chatted with St. Anthony.

No doubt the discovery of huge fossil animals, as Mrs. Jameson says,
on the high authority of Professor Owen, may have modified our
ancestors' notions of dragons:  but in the old serpent worship we
believe the real explanation of these stories is to be found.  There
is no doubt that human victims, and even young maidens, were offered
to these snake-gods; even the sunny mythology of Greece retains
horrible traces of such customs, which lingered in Arcadia, the
mountain fastness of the old and conquered race.  Similar cruelties
existed among the Mexicans; and there are but too many traces of it
throughout the history of heathendom.

The same superstition may, as the legends assert, have lingered on,
or been at least revived during the later ages of the empire, in
remote provinces, left in their primeval barbarism, at the same time
that they were brutalised by the fiendish exhibitions of the Circus,
which the Roman governors found it their interest to introduce
everywhere.  Thus the serpent became naturally regarded as the
manifestation of the evil spirit by Christians as well as by the old
Hebrews; thus, also, it became the presiding genius of the malaria
and fever which arose from the fens haunted by it--a superstition
which gave rise to the theory that the tales of Hercules and the
Hydra, Apollo and the mud-Python, St. George and the Dragon, were
sanitary-reform allegories, and the monsters whose poisonous breath
destroyed cattle and young maidens only typhus and consumption.  We
see no reason why early Christian heroes should not have actually met
with such snake-gods, and felt themselves bound, like Southey's
Madoc, or Daniel in the old rabbinical story, whose truth has never
been disproved, to destroy the monsters at all risk.  We see no
reason, either, why their righteous daring may not have been crowned
with victory; and suspect that on such events were gradually built up
the dragon-slaying legends which charmed all Europe, and grew in
extravagances and absurdities, till they began to degenerate into the
bombast of the "Seven Champions," and expired in the immortal ballad
of the "Dragon of Wantley," in which More of More Hall, on the
morning of his battle with the monster, invoked the saints no more,
but--


To make him strong and mighty--
   He drank by the tale
   Six pots of ale
And a quart of aqua-vitae.


So ended the sublime sport of dragon-slaying.  Its only remnant may
now be seen in Borneo, whither that noble Christian man, Bishop
Macdougall, took out the other day a six-chambered rifle, on the
ground that "while the alligators ate his school-children at Sarawak,
it was his duty as a bishop to shoot the alligators."



ON ENGLISH COMPOSITION



Introductory Lectures given at Queen's College, London, 1848.

An introductory lecture on English composition is, I think, as much
needed as one on any other subject taught in this College.  For in
the first place, I am not sure whether we all mean the same thing
when we speak of English composition; and in the next place, I
believe that pupils themselves are very often best able to tell their
teachers what sort of instruction they require.  I purpose therefore
to-day, not only to explain freely my intentions with regard to this
course of lectures, but to ask you to explain freely your own wants.

I must suppose, however, that the ladies who attend here wish to be
taught how to write English better.  Now the art of writing English
is, I should say, the art of speaking English, and speech may be used
for any one of three purposes:  to conceal thought, as the French
diplomatist defined its use; to conceal the want of thought, as the
majority of popular writers and orators seem nowadays to employ it;
or, again, to express thought, which would seem to have been the
original destination of the gift of language.  I am therefore, I
suppose, in duty bound to take for granted that you come here to be
taught to express your thoughts better.

The whole matter then will very much depend on what thoughts you have
to express.  For the form of the symbol must depend on the form of
the thing symbolised, as the medal does upon its die; and thus style
and language are the sacraments of thoughts, the outward and visible
signs of the inward and spiritual grace, or want of grace, in the
writer.  And even where language is employed to conceal either
thought, or want thereof, it generally tells a truer tale than it was
meant to do.  Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth must speak,
and the hollowness or foolishness of the spirit will show itself, in
spite of all cunning sleights, in unconscious peculiarities or
defects of style.

Hence I say style, as the expression of thought, will depend entirely
on what there is within to be expressed, on the character of the
writer's mind and heart.  We all allow this implicitly in the
epithets which we apply to different styles.  We talk of a vigorous,
a soft, a weak, a frigid, an obscure style, not meaning that the
words and sentences in themselves are vigorous, soft, weak, or even
obscure (for the words and their arrangement may be simple enough all
the while).  No, you speak of the quality of the thoughts conveyed in
the words; that a style is powerful, because the writer is feeling
and thinking strongly and clearly; weak or frigid, because his
feelings on the subject have been weak or cold; obscure to you,
because his thoughts have been obscure to himself--because, in short,
he has not clearly imagined to himself the notion which he wishes to
embody.  The meaning of the very words "expression" and "composition"
prove the truth of my assertion.  Expression is literally the
pressing out into palpable form that which is already within us, and
composition, in the same way, is the composing or putting together of
materials already existing--the form and method of the composition
depend mainly on the form and quality of the materials.  You cannot
compose a rope of sand, or a round globe of square stones--and my
friend Mr. Strettell will tell you, in his lectures on grammar, that
words are just as stubborn and intractable materials as sand or
stone, and that we cannot alter their meaning or value a single
shade, for they derive that meaning from a higher fountain than the
soul of man, from the Word of God, the fount of utterance, who
inspires all true and noble thought and speech--who vindicated
language as His own gift, and man's invention, in that miracle of the
day of Pentecost.  And I am bound to follow up Mr. Strettell's
teaching by telling you that what holds true of words, and of their
grammatic and logical composition, holds true also of their aesthetic
and artistic composition, of style, of rhythm, of poetry, and
oratory.  Every principle of these which is true and good, that is,
which produces beauty, is to be taken as an inspiration from above,
as depending not on the will of man but of God; not on any abstract
rules, of pedant's invention, but on the eternal necessities and
harmony, on the being of God Himself.

These may seem lofty words, but I do not think they are likely to
make us lofty-minded.  I think that the belief of them will tend to
make us all more reverent and earnest in examining the utterances of
others, more simple and truthful in giving vent to our own, fearing
equally all prejudiced and hasty criticism, all self-willed
mannerism, all display of fine words, as sins against the divine
dignity of language.  From these assertions I think we may conclude
what is the true method of studying style.  The critical examination
of good authors, looking at language as an inspiration, and its laws
as things independent of us, eternal and divine, we must search into
them as we would into any other set of facts, in nature, or the
Bible, by patient induction.  We must not be content with any
traditional maxims, or abstract rules, such as have been put forth in
Blair and Lord Kaimes, for these are merely worked out by the head,
and can give us no insight into the magic which touches the heart.
All abstract rules of criticism, indeed, are very barren.  We may
read whole folios of them without getting one step farther than we
were at first, viz. that what is beautiful is beautiful.  Indeed,
these abstract rules generally tend to narrow our notions of what is
beautiful, in their attempt to explain spiritual things by the carnal
understanding.  All they do is to explain them away, and so those who
depend on them are tempted to deny the beauty of every thing which
cannot be thus analysed and explained away, according to the
established rule and method.  I shall have to point out this again to
you, when we come to speak of the Pope and Johnson school of critics,
and the way in which they wrote whole folios on Shakespeare, without
ever penetrating a single step deeper towards the secret of his
sublimity.  It was just this idolatry of abstract rules which made
Johnson call Bishop Percy's invaluable collection of ancient ballads
"stuff and nonsense."  It was this which made Voltaire talk of
"Hamlet" as the ravings of a drunken savage, because forsooth it
could not be crammed into the artificial rules of French tragedy.  It
is this which, even at this day, makes some men of highly-cultivated
taste declare that they can see no poetry in the writings of Mr.
Tennyson; the cause, little as they are aware of it, simply being
that neither his excellences nor his faults are after the model of
the Etonian classical school which reigned in England fifty years
ago.  When these critics speak of that with which they sympathise
they are admirable.  They become childish only when they resolve to
bind all by maxims which may suit themselves.

We must then, I think, absolutely eschew any abstract rules as
starting-points.  What rules we may require, we must neither borrow
nor invent, but discover, during the course of our reading.  We must
take passages whose power and beauty is universally acknowledged, and
try by reverently and patiently dissecting them to see into the
secret of their charm, to see why and how they are the best possible
expressions of the author's mind.  Then for the wider laws of art, we
may proceed to examine whole works, single elegies, essays, and
dramas.

In carrying out all this, it will be safest, as always, to follow the
course of nature, and begin where God begins with us.  For as every
one of us is truly a microcosm, a whole miniature world within
ourselves, so is the history of each individual more or less the
history of the whole human race, and there are few of us but pass
through the same course of intellectual growth, through which the
whole English nation has passed, with an exactness and perfection
proportionate, of course, to the richness and vigour of each person's
character.  Now as in the nation, so in the individual, poetry
springs up before prose.  Look at the history of English literature,
how completely it is the history of our own childhood and
adolescence, in its successive fashions.  First, fairy tales--then
ballads of adventure, love, and war--then a new tinge of foreign
thought and feeling, generally French, as it was with the English
nation in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries--then elegiac and
reflective poetry--then classic art begins to influence our ripening
youth, as it did the youth of our nation in the sixteenth century,
and delight in dramatic poetry follows as a natural consequence--and
last, but not least, as the fruit of all these changes, a vigorous
and matured prose.  For indeed, as elocution is the highest melody,
so is true prose the highest poetry.  Consider how in an air, the
melody is limited to a few arbitrary notes, and recurs at arbitrary
periods, while the more scientific the melody becomes, the more
numerous and nearly allied are the notes employed, and the more
complex and uncertain is their recurrence--in short, the nearer does
the melody of the air approach to the melody of elocution, in which
the notes of the voice ought continually to be passing into each
other, by imperceptible gradations, and their recurrence to depend
entirely on the emotions conveyed in the subject words.  Just so,
poetry employs a confined and arbitrary metre, and a periodic
recurrence of sounds which disappear gradually in its higher forms of
the ode and the drama, till the poetry at last passes into prose, a
free and ever-shifting flow of every imaginable rhythm and metre,
determined by no arbitrary rules, but only by the spiritual intent of
the subject.  The same will hold good of whole prose compositions,
when compared with whole poems.

Prose then is highest.  To write a perfect prose must be your
ultimate object in attending these lectures; but we must walk before
we can run, and walk with leading-strings before we can walk alone,
and such leading-strings are verse and rhyme.  Some tradition of this
is still kept up in the practice of making boys write Latin and Greek
verses at school, which is of real service to the intellect, even
when most carelessly employed, and which, when earnestly carried out,
is one great cause of the public school and University man's
superiority in style to most self-educated authors.  And why should
women's writings be in any respect inferior to that of men, if they
are only willing to follow out the same method of self-education?

Do not fancy, when I say that we must learn poetry before we learn
prose, that I am only advancing a paradox; mere talking is no more
prose than mere rhyme is poetry.  Monsieur Jourdain, in Moliere's
comedy, makes, I suspect, a very great mistake, when he tells his
master:  "If that means prose, I've been talking prose all my life."
I fancy the good man had been no more talking prose, than an awkward
country boy has been really walking all his life, because he has been
contriving somehow to put one leg before the other.  To see what
walking is, we must look at the perfectly-drilled soldier, or at the
perfectly-accomplished lady, who has been taught to dance in order
that she may know how to walk.  Dancing has been well called the
poetry of motion; but the tender grace, the easy dignity in every
gesture of daily life which the perfect dancer exhibits answers
exactly to that highly-organised prose which ought to be the
offspring of a critical acquaintance with poetry.  Milton's matchless
prose style, for instance, grows naturally from his matchless power
over rhyme and metre.  Practice in versification might be unnecessary
if we were all born world-geniuses; so would practice in dancing, if
every lady had the figure of a Venus and the garden of Eden for a
playground.  But even the ancient Greeks amid every advantage of
climate, dress, and physical beauty, considered a thorough
instruction in all athletic and graceful exercises as indispensably
necessary, not only to a boy's but also to a girl's education, and in
like manner, I think the exquisite models of prose with which English
literature abounds will not supersede the necessity of a careful
training in versification, nay, will rather make such a training all
the more requisite for those who wish to imitate such excellence.
Pray understand me:  by using the word "imitate," I do not mean that
I wish you to ape the style of any favourite author.  Your aim will
not be to write like this man or that woman, but to write like
yourselves, being of course responsible for what yourselves are like.
Do not be afraid to let the peculiarities of your different
characters show yourselves in your styles.  Your prose may be the
rougher for it, but it will be at least honest; and all mannerism is
dishonesty, an attempt to gain beauty at the expense of truthful
expression which invariably defeats its own ends, and produces an
unpleasing effect, so necessarily one are truth and beauty.  So far
then from wishing to foster in you any artificial mannerism,
mannerism is that foul enchanter from whom, above all others, I am
sworn "en preux chevalier" to deliver you.  As Professor Maurice
warned me when I undertook this lectureship, my object in teaching
you about "styles" should be that you may have no style at all.  But
mannerism can be only avoided by the most thorough practice and
knowledge.  Half-educated writers are always mannerists; while, as
the ancient canon says, "the perfection of art is to conceal art"--to
depart from uncultivated and therefore defective nature, to rise
again through art to a more organised and therefore more simple
naturalness.  Just as, to carry on the analogy which I employed just
now, it is only the perfect dancer who arrives at that height of art
at which her movements seem dictated not by conscious science, but
unconscious nature.

I do hope then that the study, and still more the practice of
versification, may produce in you the same good effects which they do
in young men; that they may give you a habit of portioning out your
thoughts distinctly and authentically in a more simple, condensed,
and expressive style; that they may teach you what elevation of
language, what class of sounds, what flow of words may best suit your
tone of thought and feeling, that they may prevent in you that
tendency to monotonous repetition, and vain wordiness, which is the
bosom sin of most uneducated prose writers, not only of the ladies of
the nineteenth century, but of the Middle Age monks, who, having in
general no poetry on which to form their taste, except the effeminate
and bombastic productions of the dying Roman empire, fell into a
certain washy prolixity, which has made monk Latin a byword, and puts
one sadly in mind of what is too truly called "young ladies'
English."

I should like then to begin with two or three of the early ballads,
and carefully analyse them with you.  I am convinced that in them we
may discover many of the great primary laws of composition, as well
as the secrets of sublimity and pathos in their very simplest
manifestations.  It may be that there are some here to whom the study
of old ballads may be a little distasteful, who are in an age when
the only poetry which has charms is the subjective and self-conscious
"poetry of the heart"--to whom a stanza of "Childe Harolde" may seem
worth all the ballads that ever were written:  but let me remind them
that woman is by her sex an educator, that every one here must
expect, ay hope, to be employed at some time or other in training the
minds of children; then let me ask them to recall the years in which
objective poems, those which dealt with events, ballads, fairy tales,
down to nursery rhymes, were their favourite intellectual food, and
let me ask them whether it will not be worth while, for the sake of
the children whom they may hereafter influence, to bestow a little
thought on this earlier form of verse.

I must add too, that without some understanding of these same
ballads, we shall never arrive at a critical appreciation of
Shakespeare.  For the English drama springs from an intermarriage
between this same ballad poetry, the poetry of incidents, and that
subjective elegiac poetry which deals with the feelings and
consciousnesses of man.  They are the two poles, by whose union our
drama is formed, and some critical knowledge of both of them will be,
as I said, necessary before we can study it.

After the ballads, we ought, I think, to know a little about the
early Norman poetry, whose fusion with the pure north Saxon ballad
school produced Chaucer and the poets previous to the Reformation.
We shall proceed to Chaucer himself; then to the rise of the drama;
then to the poets of the Elizabethan age.  I shall analyse a few of
Shakespeare's masterpieces; then speak of Milton and Spenser; thence
pass to the prose of Sidney, Hooker, Bacon, Taylor, and our later
great authors.  Thus our Composition lectures will follow an
historical method, parallel with, and I hope illustrative of, the
lectures on English History.

But it will not be enough, I am afraid, to study the style of others
without attempting something yourselves.  No criticism teaches so
much as the criticism of our own works.  And I hope therefore that
you will not think that I ask too much of you when I propose that
weekly prose and verse compositions, on set subjects, be sent in by
the class.  To the examination of these the latter half of each
lecture may be devoted, and the first half-hour to the study of
various authors:  and in order that I may be able to speak my mind
freely on them I should propose that they be anonymous.  I hope that
you will all trust me when I tell you that those who have themselves
experienced what labour attends the task of composition, are
generally most tender and charitable in judging of the work of
others, and that whatever remarks I may make will be such only as a
man has a right to make on a woman's composition.

And if I may seem to be asking anything new or troublesome, I beg you
to remember, that it is the primary idea of this College to vindicate
women's right to an education in all points equal to that of men; the
difference between them being determined not by any fancied
inferiority of mind, but simply by the distinct offices and character
of the sexes.  And surely when you recollect the long drudgery at
Greek and Latin verses which is required of every highly-educated
man, and the high importance which has attached to them for centuries
in the opinion of Englishmen, you cannot think that I am too exigeant
in asking you for a few sets of English verses.  Believe me, that you
ought to find their beneficial effect in producing, as I said before,
a measured deliberate style of expression, a habit of calling up
clear and distinct images on all subjects, a power of condensing and
arranging your thoughts, such as no practice in prose themes can ever
give.  If you are disappointed of these results it will not be the
fault of this long-proved method of teaching, but of my own inability
to carry it out.  Indeed I cannot too strongly confess my own
ignorance or fear my own inability.  I stand aghast when I compare my
means and my idea, but I believe that "by teaching thou shalt learn,"
is a rule of which I too shall take the benefit, and having begun
these lectures in the name of Him who is The Word, and with the firm
intention of asserting throughout His claims as the inspirer of all
language and of all art, I may perhaps hope for the fulfilment of His
own promise:  "Be not anxious what you shall speak, for it shall be
given you in that day and in that hour what you shall speak."



ON ENGLISH LITERATURE



Introductory Lecture given at Queen's College, London, 1848.

An introductory lecture must, I suppose, be considered as a sort of
art-exhibition, or advertisement of the wares hereafter to be
furnished by the lecturer.  If these, on actual use, should prove to
fall far short of the promise conveyed in the programme, hearers must
remember that the lecturer is bound, even to his own shame, to set
forth in all commencements the most perfect method of teaching which
he can devise, in order that human frailty may have something at
which to aim; at the same time begging all to consider that in this
piecemeal world, it is sufficient not so much to have realised one's
ideal, as earnestly to have tried to realise it, according to the
measure of each man's gifts.  Besides, what may not be fulfilled in a
first course, or in a first generation of teachers, may still be
effected by those who follow them.  It is but fair to expect that if
this Institution shall prove, as I pray God it may, a centre of
female education worthy of the wants of the coming age, the method
and the practice of the College will be developing, as years bring
experience and wider eye-range, till we become truly able to teach
the English woman of the nineteenth century to bear her part in an
era, which, as I believe, more and more bids fair to eclipse, in
faith and in art, in science and in polity, any and every period of
glory which Christendom has yet beheld.

The first requisite, I think, for a modern course of English
Literature is, that it be a whole course or none.  The literary
education of woman has too often fallen into the fault of our
"Elegant Extracts," and "Beauties of British Poetry."  It has neither
begun at the beginning nor ended at the end.  The young have been
taught to admire the laurels of Parnassus, but only after they have
been clipped and pollarded like a Dutch shrubbery.  The roots which
connect them with mythic antiquity, and the fresh leaves and flowers
of the growing present, have been generally cut off with care, and
the middle part only has been allowed to be used--too often, of
course, a sufficiently tough and dry stem.  This method is no doubt
easy, because it saves teachers the trouble of investigating
antiquity, and saves them too the still more delicate task of judging
contemporaneous authors--but like all half measures, it has bred less
good than evil.  If we could silence a free press, and the very free
tongues of modern society; if we could clip the busy, imaginative,
craving mind of youth on the Procrustean bed of use and wont, the
method might succeed; but we can do neither--the young _will_ read
and _will_ hear; and the consequence is, a general complaint that the
minds of young women are outgrowing their mothers' guidance, that
they are reading books which their mothers never dreamt of reading,
of many of which they never heard, many at least whose good and evil
they have had no means of investigating; that the authors which
really interest and influence the minds of the young are just the
ones which have formed no part of their education, and therefore
those for judging of which they have received no adequate rules;
that, in short, in literature as in many things, education in England
is far behind the wants of the age.

Now this is all wrong and ruinous.  The mother's mind should be the
lodestar of the daughter's.  Anything which loosens the bond of
filial reverence, of filial resignation, is even more destructive, if
possible, to womanhood than to manhood--the certain bane of both.
And the evil fruits are evident enough--self-will and self-conceit in
the less gentle, restlessness and dissatisfaction in many of the
meekest and gentlest; talents seem with most a curse instead of a
blessing; clever and earnest young women, like young men, are
beginning to wander up and down in all sorts of eclecticisms and
dilettanteisms--one year they find out that the dark ages were not
altogether barbarous, and by a revulsion of feeling natural to youth,
they begin to adore them as a very galaxy of light, beauty, and
holiness.  Then they begin to crave naturally enough for some real
understanding of this strange ever-developing nineteenth century,
some real sympathy with its new wonders, some real sphere of labour
in it; and this drives them to devour the very newest authors--any
book whatever which seems to open for them the riddle of the mighty
and mysterious present, which is forcing itself on their attention
through every sense.  And so up and down, amid confusions and
oscillations from pole to pole, and equally eclectic at either pole,
from St. Augustin and Mr. Pugin to Goethe and George Sand, and all
intensified and coloured by that tender enthusiasm, that craving for
something to worship, which is a woman's highest grace, or her
bitterest curse--wander these poor Noah's doves, without either ark
of shelter or rest for the sole of their foot, sometimes, alas! over
strange ocean-wastes, into gulfs of error--too sad to speak of here--
and _will_ wander more and more till teachers begin boldly to face
reality, and interpret to them both the old and the new, lest they
misinterpret them for themselves.  The educators of the present
generation must meet the cravings of the young spirit with the bread
of life, or they will gorge themselves with poison.  Telling them
that they ought not to be hungry, will not stop their hunger;
shutting our eyes to facts, will only make us stumble over them the
sooner; hiding our eyes in the sand, like the hunted ostrich, will
not hide us from the iron necessity of circumstances, or from the
Almighty will of Him, who is saying in these days to society, in
language unmistakable:  "Educate, or fall to pieces!  Speak the
_whole_ truth to the young, or take the consequences of your
cowardice!"

On these grounds I should wish to see established in this College a
really entire course of English Literature, such as shall give
correct, reverent, and loving views of every period, from the
earliest legends and poetry of the Middle Age, up to the latest of
our modern authors, and in the case of the higher classes, if it
should hereafter be found practicable, lectures devoted to the
criticism of such authors as may be exercising any real influence
upon the minds of English women.  This, I think, should be our ideal.
It must be attempted cautiously and step by step.  It will not be
attained at the first trial, certainly not by the first lecturer.
Sufficient, if each succeeding teacher shall leave something more
taught, some fresh extension of the range of knowledge which is
thought fit for his scholars.

I said that the ages of history were analogous to the ages of man,
and that each age of literature was the truest picture of the history
of its day; and for this very reason English literature is the best
perhaps, the only teacher of English history, to women especially.
For it seems to me that it is principally by the help of such an
extended literary course, that we can cultivate a just and enlarged
taste, which will connect education with the deepest feelings of the
heart.  It seems hardly fair, or reasonable either, to confine the
reading of the young to any certain fancied Augustan age of authors,
I mean those of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; especially
when that age requires, in order to appreciate it, a far more
developed mind, a far greater experience of mankind and of the world,
than falls to the lot of one young woman out of a thousand.  Strong
meat for men, and milk for babes.  But why are we to force on any age
spiritual food unfitted for it?  If we do we shall be likely only to
engender a lasting disgust for that by which our pupils might have
fully profited, had they only been introduced to it when they were
ready for it.  And this actually happens with English literature:  by
having the so-called standard works thrust upon them too early, and
then only in a fragmentary form, not fresh and whole, but cut up into
the very driest hay, the young too often neglect in after-life the
very books which then might become the guides of their taste.  Hence
proceed in the minds of the young sudden and irregular revulsions of
affection for different schools of writing:  and all revolutions in
the individual as well as in the nation are sure to be accompanied by
some dead loss of what has been already gained, some disruption of
feelings, some renunciation of principles, which ought to have been
preserved; something which might have borne fruit is sure to be
crushed in the earthquake.  Many before me must surely have felt
this.  Do none here remember how, when they first escaped from the
dry class-drudgery of Pope and Johnson, they snatched greedily at the
forbidden fruit of Byron, perhaps of Shelley, and sentimental novel-
writers innumerable?  How when the luscious melancholy of their
morbid self-consciousness began to pall on the appetite, they fled
for refuge as suddenly to mere poetry of description and action, to
Southey, Scott, the ballad-literature of all ages?  How when the
craving returned (perhaps unconsciously to themselves) to understand
the wondrous heart of man, they tried to satisfy it with deep
draughts of Wordsworth's celestial and pure simplicity?  How again,
they tired of that too gentle and unworldly strain, and sought in
Shakespeare something more exciting, more genial, more rich in the
facts and passions of daily life?  How even his all-embracing genius
failed to satisfy them, because he did not palpably connect for them
their fancy and their passions with their religious faith--and so
they wandered out again over the sea of literature, heaven only knows
whither, in search of a school of authors yet, alas! unborn.  For the
true literature of the nineteenth century, the literature which shall
set forth in worthy strains the relation of the two greatest facts,
namely, of the universe and of Christ, which shall transfigure all
our enlarged knowledge of science and of society, of nature, of art,
and man, with the eternal truths of the gospel, that poetry of the
future is not yet here:  but it is coming, ay even at the doors, when
this great era shall become conscious of its high vocation, and the
author too shall claim his priestly calling, and the poets of the
world, like the kingdoms of the world, shall become the poets of God
and of His Christ.

But to return.  Should we not rather in education follow that method
which Providence has already mapped out for us?  If we are bound, as
of course we are, to teach our pupils to breathe freely on the
highest mountain-peaks of Shakespeare's art, how can we more
certainly train them to do so, than by leading them along the same
upward path by which Shakespeare himself rose--through the various
changes of taste, the gradual developments of literature, through
which the English mind had been passing before Shakespeare's time?
For there was a literature before Shakespeare.  Had there not been,
neither would there have been a Shakespeare.  Critics are now
beginning to see that the old fancy which made Shakespeare spring up
at once, a self-perfected poet, like Minerva full-armed from the head
of Jove, was a superstition of pedants, who neither knew the ages
before the great poet, nor the man himself, except that little of him
which seemed to square with their shallow mechanical taste.  The old
fairy superstition, the old legends and ballads, the old chronicles
of feudal war and chivalry, the earlier moralities and mysteries, and
tragi-comic attempts--these were the roots of his poetic tree--they
must be the roots of any literary education which can teach us to
appreciate him.  These fed Shakespeare's youth; why should they not
feed our children's?  Why indeed?  That inborn delight of the young
in all that is marvellous and fantastic--has that a merely evil root?
No surely!  It is a most pure part of their spiritual nature; a part
of "the heaven which lies about us in our infancy;" angel-wings with
which the free child leaps the prison-walls of sense and custom, and
the drudgery of earthly life--like the wild dreams of childhood, it
is a God-appointed means for keeping alive what noble Wordsworth
calls


      those obstinate questionings
   Of sense and outward things,
   Fallings from us, vanishings;
   Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realised;

*****

by which


   Though inland far we be,
   Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
   Which brought us hither:
   Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sporting on the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.


And those old dreams of our ancestors in the childhood of England,
they are fantastic enough, no doubt, and unreal, but yet they are
most true and most practical, if we but use them as parables and
symbols of human feeling and everlasting truth.  What, after all, is
any event of earth, palpable as it may seem, but, like them, a shadow
and a ghostly dream, till it has touched our _hearts_, till we have
found out and obeyed its spiritual lesson?  Be sure that one really
pure legend or ballad may bring God's truth and heaven's beauty more
directly home to the young spirit than whole volumes of dry abstract
didactic morality.  Outward things, beauty, action, nature, are the
great problems for the young.  God has put them in a visible world,
that by what they _see_ they may learn to know the _unseen_; and we
must begin to feed their minds with that literature which deals most
with visible things, with passion manifested in action, which we
shall find in the early writing of our Middle Ages; for then the
collective mind of our nation was passing through its natural stages
of childhood and budding youth, as every nation and every single
individual must at some time or other do; a true "young England,"
always significant and precious to the young.  I said there was a
literary art before Shakespeare--an art more simple, more childlike,
more girlish as it were, and therefore all the more adapted for young
minds.  But also an art most vigorous and pure in point of style:
thoroughly fitted to give its readers the first elements of taste,
which must lie at the root of even the most complex aesthetics.  I
know no higher specimens of poetic style, considering the subject,
and the belief of the time about them, than may be found in many of
our old ballads.  How many poets are there in England now, who could
have written "The Twa Bairns," or "Sir Patrick Spens?"  How many such
histories as old William of Malmesbury, in spite of all his foolish
monk miracles?  As few now as there were then; and as for lying
legends--they had their superstitions, and we have ours; and the next
generation will stare at our strange doings as much as we stare at
our forefathers.  For our forefathers they were; we owe them filial
reverence, thoughtful attention, and more--we must know them ere we
can know ourselves.  The only key to the present is the _past_.

But I must go farther still, and after premising that the English
classics, so called, of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries will
of course form the bulk of the lectures, I must plead for some
instruction in the works of recent and living authors.  I cannot see
why we are to teach the young about the past and not about the
present.  After all, they have to live now, and at no other time; in
this same nineteenth century lies their work:  it may be unfortunate,
but we cannot help it.  I do not see why we should wish to help it.
I know no century which the world has yet seen so well worth living
in.  Let us thank God that we are here now, and joyfully try to
understand _where_ we are, and what our work is _here_.  As for all
superstitions about "the good old times," and fancies that _they_
belonged to God, while this age belongs only to man, blind chance,
and the Evil One, let us cast them from us as the suggestions of an
evil lying spirit, as the natural parents of laziness, pedantry,
popery, and unbelief.  And therefore let us not fear to tell our
children the meaning of this present day, and of all its different
voices.  Let us not be content to say to them, as we have been doing:
"We will see you well instructed in the past, but you must make out
the present for yourselves."  Why, if the past is worth explaining,
far more is the present--the pressing, noisy, complex present, where
our work-field lies, the most intricate of all states of society, and
of all schools of literature yet known, and therefore the very one
requiring most explanation.

How rich in strange and touching utterances have been the last fifty
years of English literature.  Do you think that God has been teaching
us nothing in them?  Will He not _make_ our children listen to that
teaching, whether we like or not?  And suppose our most modern
writers _had_ added nothing to the stock of national knowledge, which
I most fervently deny, yet are they not actually influencing the
minds of the young? and can we prevent their doing so either directly
or indirectly?  If we do not find them right teaching about their own
day, will they not be sure to find self-chosen teachers about it
themselves, who will be almost certainly the first who may come to
hand, and therefore as likely as not to be _bad_ teachers?  And do we
not see every day that it is just the most tender, the most
enthusiastic, the most precious spirits, who are most likely to be
misled, because their honest disgust at the follies of the day has
most utterly outgrown their critical training?  And that lazy
wholesale disapprobation of living writers, so common and convenient,
what does it do but injure all reverence for parents and teachers,
when the young find out that the poet, who, as they were told, was a
bungler and a charlatan, somehow continues to touch the purest and
noblest nerves of their souls, and that the author who was said to be
dangerous and unchristian, somehow makes them more dutiful, more
earnest, more industrious, more loving to the poor?  I speak of
actual cases.  Would to God they were not daily ones!

Is it not then the wiser, because the more simple and trustful
method, both to God and our children, to say:  "You shall read living
authors, and we will teach you how to read them; you, like every
child that is born into the world, must eat the fruit of the tree of
knowledge of good and evil; we will see that you have your senses
exercised to discern between that good and that evil.  You shall have
the writers for whom you long, as far as consists with common
prudence and morality, and more, you shall be taught them:  all we
ask of you is to be patient and humble; believe us, you will never
really appreciate these writers, you will not even rationally enjoy
their beauties, unless you submit to a course of intellectual
training like that through which most of them have passed, and
through which certainly this nation which produced them has passed,
in the successive stages of its growth."

The best method, I think, of working out these principles would be to
devote a few lectures in the last term of every complete course, to
the examination of some select works of recent writers, chosen under
the sanction of the Educational Committee.  But I must plead for
_whole_ works.  "Extracts" and "Select Beauties" are about as
practical as the worthy in the old story, who, wishing to sell his
house, brought one of the bricks to market as a specimen.  It is
equally unfair on the author and on the pupil; for it is impossible
to show the merits or demerits of a work of art, even to explain the
truth or falsehood of any particular passage, except by viewing the
book as an organic whole.  And as for the fear of raising a desire to
read more of an author than may be proper--when a work has once been
pointed out as really hurtful, the rest must be left to the best
safeguard which I have yet discovered, in man or woman--the pupil's
own honour.

Such a knowledge of English literature would tend no less, I think,
to the spread of healthy historic views among us.  The literature of
every nation is its autobiography.  Even in its most complex and
artistic forms, it is still a wonderfully artless and unconscious
record of its doubts and its faith, its sorrows and its triumphs, at
each era of its existence.  Wonderfully artless and correct--because
all utterances which were not faithful to their time, which did not
touch some sympathetic chord in their heart's souls, are pretty sure
to have been swept out into wholesome oblivion, and only the most
genuine and earnest left behind for posterity.  The history of
England indeed is the literature of England--but one very different
from any school history or other now in vogue.  You will find it
neither a mere list of acts of parliament and record-office, like
some; nor yet an antiquarian gallery of costumes and armour, like
others; nor a mere war-gazette and report of killed and wounded from
time to time; least of all not a "Debrett's Peerage," and catalogue
of kings and queens (whose names are given, while their souls are
ignored), but a true spiritual history of England--a picture of the
spirits of our old forefathers, who worked, and fought, and sorrowed,
and died for us; on whose accumulated labours we now here stand.
_That_ I call a history--not of one class of offices or events, but
of the living human souls of English men and English women.  And
therefore one most adapted to the mind of woman; one which will call
into fullest exercise her blessed faculty of sympathy, that pure and
tender heart of flesh, which teaches her always to find her highest
interest in mankind, simply as mankind; to see the Divine most
completely in the human; to prefer the incarnate to the disembodied,
the personal to the abstract, the pathetic to the intellectual; to
see, and truly, in the most common tale of village love or sorrow, a
mystery deeper and more divine than lies in all the theories of
politicians or the fixed ideas of the sage.

Such a course of history would quicken women's inborn _personal
interest_ in the actors of this life-drama, and be quickened by it in
return, as indeed it ought:  for it is thus that God intended woman
to look instinctively at the world.  Would to God that she would
teach us men to look at it thus likewise!  Would to God that she
would in these days claim and fulfil to the uttermost her vocation as
the priestess of charity!--that woman's heart would help to deliver
man from bondage to his own tyrannous and all-too-exclusive brain--
from our idolatry of mere dead laws and printed books--from our daily
sin of looking at men, not as our struggling and suffering brothers,
but as mere symbols of certain formulae), incarnations of sets of
opinions, wheels in some iron liberty-grinding or Christianity-
spinning machine, which we miscall society, or civilisation, or,
worst misnomer of all, the Church!

This I take to be one of the highest aims of woman--to preach
charity, love, and brotherhood:  but in this nineteenth century,
hunting everywhere for law and organisation, refusing loyalty to
anything which cannot range itself under its theories, she will never
get a hearing, till her knowledge of the past becomes more organised
and methodic.  As it is now, for want of large many-sided views of
the past, her admiration is too apt to attach itself to some two or
three characters only in the hero-list of all the ages.  Then comes
the temptation to thrust aside all which interferes with her
favourite idols, and so the very heart given her for universal
sympathy becomes the organ of an exclusive bigotry, and she who
should have taught man to love, too often only embitters his hate.  I
claim, therefore, as necessary for the education of the future, that
woman should be initiated into the thoughts and feelings of her
countrymen in every age, from the wildest legends of the past to the
most palpable naturalism of the present; and that not merely in a
chronological order, sometimes not in chronological order at all; but
in a true spiritual sequence; that knowing the hearts of many, she
may in after life be able to comfort the hearts of all.

But there is yet another advantage in an extended study of English
literature--I mean the more national tone which it ought to give the
thoughts of the rising generation.  Of course to repress the reading
of foreign books, to strive after any national exclusiveness, or mere
John-Bullism of mind, in an age of railroads and free press, would be
simply absurd--and more, it would be fighting against the will of God
revealed in events.  He has put the literary treasures of the
Continent into our hands; we must joyfully accept them, and earnestly
exhaust them.  This age is craving for what it calls catholicity; for
more complete interchange and brotherhood of thought between all the
nations of the earth.  This spirit is stirring in the young
especially, and I believe that God Himself has inspired it, because I
see that He has first revealed the means of gratifying the desire, at
that very time in which it has arisen.

But every observant person must be aware that this tendency has
produced its evils as well as its good.  There is a general complaint
that the minds of young women are becoming un-English; that their
foreign reading does not merely supply the deficiencies of their
English studies, but too often completely supersedes them; that the
whole tone of their thoughts is too often taken from French or German
writings; that by some means or other, the standard works of English
literature are becoming very much undervalued and neglected by the
young people of this day; and that self-will and irregular
eclecticism are the natural results.

I must say that I consider the greater part of these evils as the
natural consequence of past mis-education; as the just punishment of
the old system, which attached the most disproportionate importance
to mere acquirements, and those mostly of foreign languages, foreign
music, and so forth, while the "well of English undefiled," and not
only that, but English literature, history, patriotism, too often
English religion, have been made quite minor considerations.
Therefore so few of the young have any healthy and firm English
standard whereby to try and judge foreign thought.  Therefore they
fancy, when they meet with anything deep and attractive in foreign
works, that because they have no such thoughts put before them in
English authors, no such thoughts exist in them.

But happily we may do much towards mending this state of things, by
making our pupils thoroughly conversant with the aesthetic treasures
of English literature.  From them I firmly believe they may derive
sufficient rules whereby to separate in foreign books the true from
the false, the necessary from the accidental, the eternal truth from
its peculiar national vesture.  Above all, we shall give them a
better chance of seeing things from that side from which God intended
English women to see them:  for as surely as there is an English view
of everything, so surely God intends us to take that view; and He who
gave us our English character intends us to develop its
peculiarities, as He intends the French woman to develop hers, that
so each nation by learning to understand itself, may learn to
understand, and therefore to profit, by its neighbour.  He who has
not cultivated his own plot of ground will hardly know much about the
tillage of his neighbour's land.  And she who does not appreciate the
mind of her own countrymen will never form any true judgment of the
mind of foreigners.  Let English women be sure that the best way to
understand the heroines of the Continent is not by mimicking them,
however noble they may be, not by trying to become a sham Rahel, or a
sham De Sevigne, but a real Elizabeth Fry, Felicia Hemans, or Hannah
More.  What indeed entitles either Madame de Sevigne or Rahel to
fame, but their very nationality--that intensely local style of
language and feeling which clothes their genius with a living body
instead of leaving it in the abstractions of a dreary cosmopolitism?
The one I suppose would be called the very beau-ideal, not of woman,
but of the French woman--the other the ideal, not even of the Jewess,
but of the German Jewess.  We may admire wherever we find worth; but
if we try to imitate, we only caricature.  Excellence grows in all
climes, transplants to none:  the palm luxuriates only in the
tropics, the Alp-rose only beside eternal snows.  Only by standing on
our own native earth can we enjoy or even see aright the distant
stars:  if we try to reach them, we shall at once lose sight of them,
and drop helpless in a new element, unfitted for our limbs.

Teach, then, the young, by an extended knowledge of English
literature, thoroughly to comprehend the English spirit, thoroughly
to see that the English mind has its peculiar calling on God's earth,
which alone, and no other, it can fulfil.  Teach them thoroughly to
appreciate the artistic and intellectual excellences of their own
country; but by no means in a spirit of narrow bigotry:  tell them
fairly our national faults--teach them to unravel those faults from
our national virtues; and then there will be no danger of the
prejudiced English woman becoming by a sudden revulsion an equally
prejudiced cosmopolite and eclectic, as soon as she discovers that
her own nation does not monopolise all human perfections; and so
trying to become German, Italian, French woman, all at once--a
heterogeneous chaos of imitations, very probably with the faults of
all three characters, and the graces of none.  God has given us our
own prophets, our own heroines.  To recognise those prophets, to
imitate those heroines, is the duty which lies nearest to the English
woman, and therefore the duty which God intends her to fulfil.

I should wish therefore in the first few lectures on English
literature to glance at the character of our old Saxon ancestors, and
the legends connected with their first invasion of the country; and
above all at the magnificent fables of King Arthur and his times
which exercised so great an influence on the English mind, and were
in fact, although originally Celtic, so thoroughly adopted and
naturalised by the Saxon, as to reappear under different forms in
every age, and form the keynote of most of our fictions, from
Geoffrey of Monmouth and the medieval ballads, up to Chaucer,
Spenser, Shakespeare, and at last Milton and Blackmore.  This series
of legends will, I think, as we trace its development, bring us in
contact one by one with the corresponding developments of the English
character; and, unless I am much mistaken, enable us to explain many
of its peculiarities.

Of course nothing more than sketches can be given; but I think
nothing more is required for any one but the professed historian.
For young people especially, it is sufficient to understand the tone
of human feeling expressed by legends, rather than to enter into any
critical dissertations on their historic truth.  They need, after
all, principles rather than facts.  To educate them truly we must
give them inductive habits of thought, and teach them to deduce from
a few facts a law which makes plain all similar ones, and so acquire
the habit of extracting from every story somewhat of its kernel of
spiritual meaning.  But again, to educate them truly we must
ourselves have faith; we must believe that in every one there is a
spiritual eye which can perceive those great principles when they are
once fairly presented to it, that in all there are some noble
instincts, some pure yearnings after wisdom, and taste, and
usefulness, which, if we only appeal to them trustfully through the
examples of the past, and the excitements of the present, will wake
into conscious life.  Above all, both pupils and teachers must never
forget that all these things were written for their examples; that
though circumstances and creeds, schools and tastes, may alter, yet
the heart of man, and the duty of man, remain unchanged; and that
while


The old order changes, giving place to the new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways--


yet again


Through the ages one unaltered purpose runs--


and the principles of truth and beauty are the same as when the
everlasting Spirit from whom they come "brooded upon the face" of the
primeval seas.

But once more, we must and will by God's help try to realise the
purpose of this College, by boldly facing the facts of the age and of
our own office.  And therefore we shall not shrink from the task,
however delicate and difficult, of speaking to our hearers as to
women.  Our teaching must be no sexless, heartless abstraction.  We
must try to make all which we tell them bear on the great purpose of
unfolding to woman her own calling in all ages--her especial calling
in this one.  We must incite them to realise the chivalrous belief of
our old forefathers among their Saxon forests, that something Divine
dwelt in the counsels of woman; but, on the other hand, we must
continually remind them that they will attain that divine instinct,
not by renouncing their sex, but by fulfilling it; by becoming true
women, and not bad imitations of men; by educating their heads for
the sake of their hearts, not their hearts for the sake of their
heads; by claiming woman's divine vocation, as the priestess of
purity, of beauty, and of love; by educating themselves to become,
with God's blessing, worthy wives and mothers of a mighty nation of
workers, in an age when the voice of the ever-working God is
proclaiming through the thunder of falling dynasties, and crumbling
idols:  "He that will not work, neither shall he eat."



GROTS AND GROVES {269}



This lecture is intended to be suggestive rather than didactic; to
set you thinking and inquiring for yourselves, rather than learning
at second-hand from me.  Some among my audience, I doubt not, will
neither need to be taught by me, nor to be stirred up to inquiry for
themselves.  They are already, probably, antiquarians; already better
acquainted with the subject than I am.  But they will, I hope,
remember that I am only trying to excite a general interest in that
very architecture in which they delight, and so to make the public do
justice to their labours.  They will therefore, I trust--


Be to my faults a little blind,
Be to my virtues very kind--


and if my architectural theories do not seem to them correct in all
details--well-founded I believe them myself to be--remember that if
it be a light matter to me, or to the audience, whether any special
and pet fancy of mine should be exactly true or not; yet it is not a
light matter that my hearers should be awakened--and too many just
now need an actual awakening--to a right, pure, and wholesome
judgment on questions of art, especially when the soundness of that
judgment depends, as in this case, on sound judgments about human
history, as well as about natural objects.

Now, it befell me that, fresh from the tropic forests, and with their
forms hanging always as it were in the background of my eye, I was
impressed more and more vividly the longer I looked, with the
likeness of those forest forms to the forms of our own Cathedral of
Chester.  The grand and graceful Chapter-house transformed itself
into one of those green bowers, which, once seen, and never to be
seen again, make one at once richer and poorer for the rest of life.
The fans of groining sprang from the short columns, just as do the
feathered boughs of the far more beautiful Maximiliana palm, and just
of the same size and shape; and met overhead, as I have seen them
meet, in aisles longer by far than our cathedral nave.  The free
upright shafts, which give such strength, and yet such lightness, to
the mullions of each window, pierced upward through those curving
lines, as do the stems of young trees through the fronds of palm;
and, like them, carried the eye and the fancy up into the infinite,
and took off a sense of oppression and captivity which the weight of
the roof might have produced.  In the nave, in the choir, the same
vision of the tropic forest haunted me.  The fluted columns not only
resembled, but seemed copied from the fluted stems beneath which I
had ridden in the primeval woods; their bases, their capitals, seemed
copied from the bulgings at the collar of the root, and at the spring
of the boughs, produced by a check of the redundant sap; and were
garlanded often enough, like the capitals of the columns, with
delicate tracery of parasite leaves and flowers; the mouldings of the
arches seemed copied from the parallel bundles of the curving bamboo
shoots; and even the flatter roof of the nave and transepts had its
antitype in that highest level of the forest aisles where the trees,
having climbed at last to the light-food which they seek, care no
longer to grow upward, but spread out in huge limbs, almost
horizontal, reminding the eye of the four-centred arch which marks
the period of perpendicular Gothic.

Nay, to this day there is one point in our cathedral which, to me,
keeps up the illusion still.  As I enter the choir, and look upward
toward the left, I cannot help seeing, in the tabernacle work of the
stalls, the slender and aspiring forms of the "rastrajo;" the
delicate second growth which, as it were, rushes upward from the
earth wherever the forest is cleared; and above it, in the tall lines
of the north-west pier of the tower--even though defaced, along the
inner face of the western arch, by ugly and needless perpendicular
panelling--I seem to see the stems of huge cedars, or balatas, or
ceibas, curving over, as they would do, into the great beams of the
transept roof, some seventy feet above the ground.

Nay, so far will the fancy lead, that I have seemed to see, in the
stained glass between the tracery of the windows, such gorgeous
sheets of colour as sometimes flash on the eye, when, far aloft,
between high stems and boughs, you catch sight of some great tree
ablaze with flowers, either its own or those of a parasite; yellow or
crimson, white or purple; and over them again the cloudless blue.

Now, I know well that all these dreams are dreams; that the men who
built our northern cathedrals never saw these forest forms; and that
the likeness of their work to those of tropic nature is at most only
a corroboration of Mr. Ruskin's dictum, that "the Gothic did not
arise out of, but developed itself into, a resemblance to vegetation
. . . It was no chance suggestion of the form of an arch from the
bending of a bough, but the gradual and continual discovery of a
beauty in natural forms which could be more and more transferred into
those of stone, which influenced at once the hearts of the people and
the form of the edifice."  So true is this, that by a pure and noble
copying of the vegetable beauty which they had seen in their own
clime, the medieval craftsmen went so far--as I have shown you--as to
anticipate forms of vegetable beauty peculiar to tropic climes, which
they had not seen; a fresh proof, if proof were needed, that beauty
is something absolute and independent of man; and not, as some think,
only relative, and what happens to be pleasant to the eye of this man
or that.

But thinking over this matter, and reading over, too, that which Mr.
Ruskin has written thereon in his "Stones of Venice," vol. ii. cap.
vi., on the nature of Gothic, I came to certain further conclusions--
or at least surmises--which I put before you to-night, in hopes that
if they have no other effect on you, they will at least stir some of
you up to read Mr. Ruskin's works.

Now Mr. Ruskin says:  "That the original conception of Gothic
architecture has been derived from vegetation, from the symmetry of
avenues and the interlacing of branches, is a strange and vain
supposition.  It is a theory which never could have existed for a
moment in the mind of any person acquainted with early Gothic; but,
however idle as a theory, it is most valuable as a testimony to the
character of the perfected style."

Doubtless so.  But you must remember always that the subject of my
lecture is Grots and Groves; that I am speaking not of Gothic
architecture in general, but of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture;
and more, almost exclusively of the ecclesiastical architecture of
the Teutonic or northern nations; because in them, as I think, the
resemblance between the temple and the forest reached the fullest
exactness.

Now the original idea of a Christian church was that of a grot--a
cave.  That is a historic fact.  The Christianity which was passed on
to us began to worship, hidden and persecuted, in the catacombs of
Rome, it may be often around the martyrs' tombs, by the dim light of
candle or of torch.  The candles on the Roman altars, whatever they
have been made to symbolise since then, are the hereditary memorials
of that fact.  Throughout the North, in these isles as much as in any
land, the idea of the grot was, in like wise, the idea of a church.
The saint or hermit built himself a cell; dark, massive, intended to
exclude light as well as weather; or took refuge in a cave.  There he
prayed and worshipped, and gathered others to pray and worship round
him, during his life.  There he, often enough, became an object of
worship in his turn, after his death.  In after ages his cave was
ornamented, like that of the hermit of Montmajour by Arles; or his
cell-chapel enlarged, as those of the Scotch and Irish saints have
been, again and again; till at last a stately minster rose above it.
Still, the idea that the church was to be a grot haunted the minds of
builders.

But side by side with the Christian grot there was throughout the
North another form of temple, dedicated to very different gods,
namely, the trees from whose mighty stems hung the heads of the
victims of Odin or of Thor--the horse, the goat, and, in time of
calamity or pestilence, of men.  Trees and not grots were the temples
of our forefathers.

Scholars know well--but they must excuse my quoting it for the sake
of those who are not scholars--the famous passage of Tacitus which
tells how our forefathers "held it beneath the dignity of the gods to
coop them within walls, or liken them to any human countenance; but
consecrated groves and woods, and called by the name of gods that
mystery which they held by faith alone;" and the equally famous
passage of Claudian, about "the vast silence of the Black Forest, and
groves awful with ancient superstition; and oaks, barbarian deities;"
and Lucan's "groves inviolate from all antiquity, and altars stained
with human blood."

To worship in such spots was an abomination to the early Christian.
It was as much a test of heathendom as the eating of horse-flesh,
sacred to Odin, and therefore unclean to Christian men.  The Lombard
laws and others forbid expressly the lingering remnants of grove
worship.  St. Boniface and other early missionaries hewed down in
defiance the sacred oaks, and paid sometimes for their valour with
their lives.

It is no wonder, then, if long centuries elapsed ere the likeness of
vegetable forms began to reappear in the Christian churches of the
North.  And yet both grot and grove were equally the natural temples
which the religious instinct of all deep-hearted peoples, conscious
of sin, and conscious, too, of yearnings after a perfection not to be
found on earth, chooses from the earliest stage of awakening
civilisation.  In them, alone, before he had strength and skill to
build nobly for himself, could man find darkness, the mother of
mystery and awe, in which he is reminded perforce of his own
ignorance and weakness; in which he learns first to remember unseen
powers, sometimes to his comfort and elevation, sometimes only to his
terror and debasement; darkness; and with it silence and solitude, in
which he can collect himself, and shut out the noise and glare, the
meanness and the coarseness of the world; and be alone awhile with
his own thoughts, his own fancy, his own conscience, his own soul.

But for awhile, as I have said, that darkness, solitude, and silence
were to be sought in the grot, not in the grove.

Then Christianity conquered the Empire.  It adapted, not merely its
architecture, but its very buildings, to its worship.  The Roman
Basilica became the Christian church; a noble form of building
enough, though one in which was neither darkness, solitude, nor
silence, but crowded congregations, clapping--or otherwise--the
popular preacher; or fighting about the election of a bishop or a
pope, till the holy place ran with Christian blood.  The deep-hearted
Northern turned away, in weariness and disgust, from those vast
halls, fitted only for the feverish superstition of a profligate and
worn-out civilisation; and took himself, amid his own rocks and
forests, moors and shores, to a simpler and sterner architecture,
which should express a creed, sterner, and at heart far simpler,
though dogmatically the same.

And this is, to my mind, the difference, and the noble difference,
between the so-called Norman architecture, which came hither about
the time of the Conquest; and that of Romanised Italy.

But the Normans were a conquering race; and one which conquered, be
it always remembered, in England at least, in the name and by the
authority of Rome.  Their ecclesiastics, like the ecclesiastics on
the Continent, were the representatives of Roman civilisation, of
Rome's right, intellectual and spiritual, to rule the world.

Therefore their architecture, like their creed, was Roman.  They took
the massive towering Roman forms, which expressed domination; and
piled them one on the other, to express the domination of Christian
Rome over the souls, as they had represented the domination of
heathen Rome over the bodies of men.  And so side by side with the
towers of the Norman keep rose the towers of the Norman cathedral--
the two signs of a double servitude.

But with the thirteenth century there dawned an age in Northern
Europe which I may boldly call an heroic age--heroic in its virtues
and in its crimes; an age of rich passionate youth, or rather of
early manhood; full of aspirations of chivalry, of self-sacrifice as
strange and terrible as it was beautiful and noble, even when most
misguided.  The Teutonic nations of Europe--our own forefathers most
of all--having absorbed all that heathen Rome could teach them, at
least for the time being, began to think for themselves; to have
poets, philosophers, historians, architects, of their own.  The
thirteenth century was especially an age of aspiration; and its
architects expressed, in building, quite unlike those of the
preceding centuries, the aspirations of the time.

The Pointed Arch had been introduced half a century before.  It may
be that the Crusaders saw it in the East and brought it home.  It may
be that it originated from the quadripartite vaulting of the Normans,
the segmental groins of which, crossing diagonally, produced to
appearance the pointed arch.  It may be that it was derived from that
mystical figure of a pointed oval form, the vesica piscis.  It may
be, lastly, that it was suggested simply by the intersection of
semicircular arches, so frequently found in ornamental arcades.  The
last cause may perhaps be the true one; but it matters little whence
the pointed arch came.  It matters much what it meant to those who
introduced it.  And at the beginning of the Transition or semi-Norman
period, it seems to have meant nothing.  It was not till the
thirteenth century that it had gradually received, as it were, a
soul, and had become the exponent of a great idea.  As the Norman
architecture and its forms had signified domination, so the Early
English, as we call it, signified aspiration--an idea which was
perfected, as far as it could be, in what we call the Decorated
style.

There is an evident gap, I had almost said a gulf, between the
architectural mind of the eleventh and that of the thirteenth
century.  A vertical tendency, a longing after lightness and freedom
appears; and with them a longing to reproduce the graces of nature
and art.  And here I ask you to look for yourselves at the buildings
of this new era--there is a beautiful specimen in yonder arcade
{278}--and judge for yourselves whether they, and even more than they
the Decorated style into which they developed, do not remind you of
the forest shapes?

And if they remind you, must they not have reminded those who shaped
them?  Can it have been otherwise?  We know that the men who built
were earnest.  The carefulness, the reverence, of their work have
given a subject for some of Mr. Ruskin's noblest chapters, a text for
some of his noblest sermons.  We know that they were students of
vegetable form.  That is proved by the flowers, the leaves, even the
birds, with which they enwreathed their capitals and enriched their
mouldings.  Look up there, and see.

You cannot look at any good church-work from the thirteenth to the
middle of the fifteenth century, with out seeing that leaves and
flowers were perpetually in the workman's mind.  Do you fancy that
stems and boughs were never in his mind?  He kept, doubtless, in
remembrance the fundamental idea, that the Christian church should
symbolise a grot or cave.  He could do no less; while he again and
again saw hermits around him dwelling and worshipping in caves, as
they had done ages before in Egypt and Syria; while he fixed, again
and again, the site of his convent and his minster in some secluded
valley guarded by cliffs and rocks, like Vale Crucis in North Wales.
But his minster stood often not among rocks only, but amid trees; in
some clearing in the primeval forest, as Vale Crucis was then.  At
least he could not pass from minster to minster, from town to town,
without journeying through long miles of forest.  Do you think that
the awful shapes and shadows of that forest never haunted his
imagination as he built?  He would have cut down ruthlessly, as his
predecessors the early missionaries did, the sacred trees amid which
Thor and Odin had been worshipped by the heathen Saxons; amid which
still darker deities were still worshipped by the heathen tribes of
Eastern Europe.  But he was the descendant of men who had worshipped
in those groves, and the glamour of them was upon him still.  He
peopled the wild forest with demons and fairies; but that did not
surely prevent his feeling its ennobling grandeur, its chastening
loneliness.  His ancestors had held the oaks for trees of God, even
as the Jews held the cedar, and the Hindoos likewise; for the Deodara
pine is not only, botanists tell us, the same as the cedar of
Lebanon, but its very name--the Deodara--signifies naught else but
"the tree of God."

His ancestors, I say, had held the oaks for trees of God.  It may be
that as the monk sat beneath their shade with his bible on his knee,
like good St. Boniface in the Fulda forest, he found that his
ancestors were right.

To understand what sort of trees they were from which he got his
inspiration, you must look, not at an average English wood,
perpetually thinned out as the trees arrive at middle age.  Still
less must you look at the pines, oaks, beeches, of an English park,
where each tree has had space to develop itself freely into a more or
less rounded form.  You must not even look at the tropic forests.
For there, from the immense diversity of forms, twenty varieties of
tree will grow beneath each other, forming a close-packed heap of
boughs and leaves, from the ground to a hundred feet and more aloft.

You should look at the North American forests of social trees--
especially of pines and firs, where trees of one species, crowded
together, and competing with equal advantages for the air and light,
form themselves into one wilderness of straight smooth shafts,
surmounted by a flat sheet of foliage, held up by boughs like the
ribs of a groined roof, while underneath the ground is bare as a
cathedral floor.

You all know, surely, the Hemlock spruce of America; which, while
growing by itself in open ground, is the most wilful and fantastic,
as well as the most graceful, of all the firs; imitating the shape,
not of its kindred, but of an enormous tuft of fern.

Yet if you look at the same tree, when it has struggled long for life
from its youth amid other trees of its own kind and its own age, you
find that the lower boughs have died off from want of light, leaving
not a scar behind.  The upper boughs have reached at once the light
and their natural term of years.  They are content to live, and
little more.  The central trunk no longer sends up each year a fresh
perpendicular shoot to aspire above the rest, but, as weary of
struggling ambition as they are, is content to become more and more
their equal as the years pass by.  And this is a law of social forest
trees, which you must bear in mind whenever I speak of the influence
of tree-forms on Gothic architecture.

Such forms as these are rare enough in Europe now.

I never understood how possible, how common they must have been in
medieval Europe, till I saw in the forest of Fontainebleau a few
oaks, like the oak of Charlemagne and the Bouquet du Roi, at whose
age I dare not guess, but whose size and shape showed them to have
once formed part of a continuous wood, the like whereof remains not
in these isles--perhaps not east of the Carpathian mountains.  In
them a clear shaft of at least sixty, it may be eighty feet, carries
a flat head of boughs, each in itself a tree.  In such a grove, I
thought, the heathen Gaul, even the heathen Frank, worshipped beneath
"trees of God."  Such trees, I thought, centuries after, inspired the
genius of every builder of Gothic aisles and roofs.

Thus, at least, we can explain that rigidity, which Mr. Ruskin tells
us, "is a special element of Gothic architecture.  Greek and Egyptian
buildings," he says--and I should have added, Roman building also, in
proportion to their age, i.e. to the amount of the Roman elements in
them--"stand for the most part by their own weight and mass, one
stone passively incumbent on another:  but in the Gothic vaults and
traceries there is a stiffness analogous to that of the bones of a
limb, or fibres of a tree; an elastic tension and communication of
force from part to part; and also a studious expression of this
throughout every part of the building."  In a word, Gothic vaulting
and tracery have been studiously made like to boughs of trees.  Were
those boughs present to the mind of the architect?  Or is the
coincidence merely fortuitous?  You know already how I should answer.
The cusped arch, too, was it actually not intended to imitate
vegetation?  Mr. Ruskin seems to think so.  He says that it is merely
the special application to the arch of the great ornamental system of
foliation, which, "whether simple as in the cusped arch, or
complicated as in tracery, arose out of the love of leafage.  Not
that the form of the arch is intended to imitate a leaf, "but to be
invested with the same characters of beauty which the designer had
discovered in the leaf."  Now I differ from Mr. Ruskin with extreme
hesitation.  I agree that the cusped arch is not meant to imitate a
leaf.  I think with Mr. Ruskin, that it was probably first adopted on
account of its superior strength; and that it afterwards took the
form of a bough.  But I cannot as yet believe that it was not at last
intended to imitate a bough; a bough of a very common form, and one
in which "active rigidity" is peculiarly shown.  I mean a bough which
has forked.  If the lower fork has died off, for want of light, we
obtain something like the simply cusped arch.  If it be still living-
-but short and stunted in comparison with the higher fork--we obtain,
it seems to me, something like the foliated cusp; both likenesses
being near enough to those of common objects to make it possible that
those objects may have suggested them.  And thus, more and more
boldly, the medieval architect learnt to copy boughs, stems, and at
last, the whole effect, as far always as stone would allow, of a
combination of rock and tree, of grot and grove.

So he formed his minsters, as I believe, upon the model of those
leafy minsters in which he walked to meditate, amid the aisles which
God, not man, has built.  He sent their columns aloft like the boles
of ancient trees.  He wreathed their capitals, sometimes their very
shafts, with flowers and creeping shoots.  He threw their arches out,
and interwove the groinings of their vaults, like the bough-roofage
overhead.  He decked with foliage and fruit the bosses above and the
corbels below.  He sent up out of those corbels upright shafts along
the walls, in the likeness of the trees which sprang out of the rocks
above his head.  He raised those walls into great cliffs.  He pierced
them with the arches of the triforium, as with hermits' cells.  He
represented in the horizontal sills of his windows, and in his
horizontal string-courses, the horizontal strata of the rocks.  He
opened the windows into high and lofty glades, broken, as in the
forest, by the tracery of stems and boughs, through which was seen,
not merely the outer, but the upper world.  For he craved, as all
true artists crave, for light and colour; and had the sky above been
one perpetual blue, he might have been content with it, and left his
glass transparent.  But in that dark, dank, northern clime, rain and
snowstorm, black cloud and gray mist, were all that he was like to
see outside for nine months in the year.  So he took such light and
colour as nature gave in her few gayer moods; and set aloft his
stained-glass windows, the hues of the noonday and the rainbow, and
the sunrise and the sunset, and the purple of the heather, and the
gold of the gorse, and the azure of the bugloss, and the crimson of
the poppy; and among them, in gorgeous robes, the angels and the
saints of heaven, and the memories of heroic virtues and heroic
sufferings, that he might lift up his own eyes and heart for ever out
of the dark, dank, sad world of the cold north, with all its
coarsenesses and its crimes, toward a realm of perpetual holiness,
amid a perpetual summer of beauty and of light; as one who--for he
was true to nature, even in that--from between the black jaws of a
narrow glen, or from beneath the black shade of gnarled trees,
catches a glimpse of far lands gay with gardens and cottages, and
purple mountain ranges, and the far-off sea, and the hazy horizon
melting into the hazy sky; and finds his heart carried out into an
infinite at once of freedom and of repose.

And so out of the cliffs and the forests he shaped the inside of his
church.  And how did he shape the outside?  Look for yourselves, and
judge.  But look, not at Chester, but at Salisbury.  Look at those
churches which carry not mere towers, but spires, or at least
pinnacled towers approaching the pyramidal form.  The outside form of
every Gothic cathedral must be considered imperfect if it does not
culminate in something pyramidal.

The especial want of all Greek and Roman buildings with which we are
acquainted is the absence--save in a few and unimportant cases--of
the pyramidal form.  The Egyptians knew at least the worth of the
obelisk; but the Greeks and Romans hardly knew even that:  their
buildings are flat-topped.  Their builders were contented with the
earth as it was.  There was a great truth involved in that; which I
am the last to deny.

But religions which, like the Buddhist or the Christian, nurse a
noble self-discontent, are sure to adopt sooner or later an upward
and aspiring form of building.  It is not merely that, fancying
heaven to be above earth, they point towards heaven.  There is a
deeper natural language in the pyramidal form of a growing tree.  It
symbolises growth, or the desire of growth.  The Norman tower does
nothing of the kind.  It does not aspire to grow.  Look--I mention an
instance with which I am most familiar--at the Norman tower of Bury
St. Edmund's.  It is graceful--awful, if you will--but there is no
aspiration in it.  It is stately, but self-content.  Its horizontal
courses, circular arches, above all, its flat sky-line, seem to have
risen enough, and wish to rise no higher.  For it has no touch of
that unrest of soul which is expressed by the spire, and still more
by the compound spire, with its pinnacles, crockets, finials--which
are finials only in name; for they do not finish, and are really
terminal buds, as it were, longing to open and grow upward, even as
the crockets are bracts and leaves thrown off as the shoot has grown.

You feel, surely, the truth of these last words.  You cannot look at
the canopy work or the pinnacle work of this cathedral without seeing
that they do not merely suggest buds and leaves, but that the buds
and leaves are there carven before your eyes.  I myself cannot look
at the tabernacle work of our stalls without being reminded of the
young pine forests which clothe the Hampshire moors.  But if the
details are copied from vegetable forms, why not the whole?  Is not a
spire like a growing tree, a tabernacle like a fir-tree, a compound
spire like a group of firs?  And if we can see that, do you fancy
that the man who planned the spire did not see it as clearly as we
do; and perhaps more clearly still?

I am aware, of course, that Norman architecture had sometimes its
pinnacle, a mere conical or polygonal capping.  I am aware that this
form, only more and more slender, lasted on in England during the
thirteenth and the early part of the fourteenth century; and on the
Continent under many modifications, one English kind whereof is
usually called a "broach," of which you have a beautiful specimen in
the new church at Hoole.

Now, no one will deny that that broach is beautiful.  But it would be
difficult to prove that its form was taken from a North European
tree.  The cypress was unknown, probably, to our northern architects.
The Lombardy poplar--which has wandered hither, I know not when, all
the way from Cashmere--had not wandered then, I believe, farther than
North Italy.  The form is rather that of mere stone; of the obelisk
or of the mountain-peak; and they, in fact, may have at first
suggested the spire.  The grandeur of an isolated mountain, even of a
dolmen or single upright stone, is evident to all.

But it is the grandeur not of aspiration, but of defiance; not of the
Christian, not even of the Stoic, but rather of the Epicurean.  It
says--I cannot rise.  I do not care to rise.  I will be contentedly
and valiantly that which I am; and face circumstances, though I
cannot conquer them.  But it is defiance under defeat.  The mountain-
peak does not grow, but only decays.  Fretted by rains, peeled by
frost, splintered by lightning, it must down at last; and crumble
into earth, were it as old, as hard, as lofty as the Matterhorn
itself.  And while it stands, it wants not only aspiration, it wants
tenderness; it wants humility; it wants the unrest which tenderness
and humility must breed, and which Mr. Ruskin so clearly recognises
in the best Gothic art.  And, meanwhile, it wants naturalness.  The
mere smooth spire or broach--I had almost said, even the spire of
Salisbury--is like no tall or commanding object in nature.  It is
merely the caricature of one--it may be of the mountain-peak.  The
outline must be broken, must be softened, before it can express the
soul of a creed which in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, far
more than now, was one of penitence as well as of aspiration, of
passionate emotion as well as of lofty faith.  But a shape which will
express that soul must be sought, not among mineral, but among
vegetable, forms.  And remember always, if we feel thus even now, how
much more must those medieval men of genius have felt thus, whose
work we now dare only copy line by line?

So--as it seems to me--they sought among vegetable forms for what
they needed:  and they found it at once in the pine, or rather the
fir--the spruce and silver firs of their own forests.  They are not,
of course, indigenous to England.  But they are so common through all
the rest of Europe, that not only would the form suggest itself to a
continental architect, but to any English clerk who travelled, as all
did who could, across the Alps to Rome.  The fir-tree, not growing on
level ground, like the oaks of Fontainebleau, into one flat roof of
foliage, but clinging to the hillside and the crag, old above young,
spire above spire, whorl above whorl--for the young shoots of each
whorl of boughs point upward in the spring; and now and then a whole
bough breaking away, as it were, into free space, turns upward
altogether, and forms a secondary spire on the same tree--this surely
was the form which the medieval architect seized, to clothe with it
the sides and roof of the stone mountain which he had built; piling
up pinnacles and spires, each crocketed at the angles; that, like a
group of firs upon an isolated rock, every point of the building
might seem in act to grow toward heaven, till his idea culminated in
that glorious Minster of Cologne, which, if it ever be completed,
will be the likeness of one forest-clothed group of cliffs,
surrounded by three enormous pines.

One feature of the Norman temple he could keep; for it was copied
from the same Nature which he was trying to copy--namely, the high-
pitched roof and gables.  Mr. Ruskin lays it down as a law, that the
acute angle in roofs, gables, spires, is the distinguishing mark of
northern Gothic.  It was adopted, most probably, at first from
domestic buildings.  A northern house or barn must have a high-
pitched roof, or the snow will not slip off it.  But that fact was
not discovered by man; it was copied by him from the rocks around.
He saw the mountain-peak jut black and bare above the snows of
winter; he saw those snows slip down in sheets, rush down in torrents
under the sun, from the steep slabs of rock which coped the hillside;
and he copied, in his roofs, the rocks above his town.  But as the
love for decorations arose, he would deck his roofs as nature had
decked hers, till the gray sheets of the cathedral slates should
stand out amid pinnacles and turrets rich with foliage, as the gray
mountain-sides stood out amid knolls of feathery birch and towering
pine.

He failed, though he failed nobly.  He never succeeded in attaining a
perfectly natural style.

The medieval architects were crippled to the last by the tradition of
artificial Roman forms.  They began improving them into naturalness,
without any clear notion of what they wanted; and when that notion
became clear, it was too late.  Take, as an instance, the tracery of
their windows.  It is true, as Mr. Ruskin says, that they began by
piercing holes in a wall of the form of a leaf, which developed, in
the rose window, into the form of a star inside, and of a flower
outside.  Look at such aloft there.  Then, by introducing mullions
and traceries into the lower part of the window, they added stem and
bough forms to those flower forms.  But the two did not fit.  Look at
the west window of our choir, and you will see what I mean.  The
upright mullions break off into bough curves graceful enough:  but
these are cut short--as I hold, spoiled--by circular and triangular
forms of rose and trefoil resting on them as such forms never rest in
nature; and the whole, though beautiful, is only half beautiful.  It
is fragmentary, unmeaning--barbaric, because unnatural.

They failed too, it may be, from the very paucity of the vegetable
forms they could find to copy among the flora of this colder clime;
and so, stopped short in drawing from nature, ran off into mere
purposeless luxuriance.  Had they been able to add to their stock of
memories a hundred forms which they would have seen in the tropics,
they might have gone on for centuries copying nature without
exhausting her.

And yet, did they exhaust even the few forms of beauty which they saw
around them?  It must be confessed that they did not.  I believe that
they could not, because they dared not.  The unnaturalness of the
creed which they expressed always hampered them.  It forbade them to
look Nature freely and lovingly in the face.  It forbade them--as one
glaring example--to know anything truly of the most beautiful of all
natural objects--the human form.  They were tempted perpetually to
take Nature as ornament, not as basis; and they yielded at last to
the temptation; till, in the age of Perpendicular architecture, their
very ornament became unnatural again; because conventional, untrue,
meaningless.

But the creed for which they worked was dying by that time, and
therefore the art which expressed it must needs die too.  And even
that death, or rather the approach of it, was symbolised truly in the
flatter roof, the four-centred arch, the flat-topped tower of the
fifteenth-century church.  The creed had ceased to aspire:  so did
the architecture.  It had ceased to grow:  so did the temple.  And
the arch sank lower; and the rafters grew more horizontal; and the
likeness to the old tree, content to grow no more, took the place of
the likeness to the young tree struggling toward the sky.

And now--unless you are tired of listening to me--a few practical
words.

We are restoring our old cathedral stone by stone after its ancient
model.  We are also trying to build a new church.  We are building
it--as most new churches in England are now built--in a pure Gothic
style.

Are we doing right?  I do not mean morally right.  It is always
morally right to build a new church, if needed, whatever be its
architecture.  It is always morally right to restore an old church,
if it be beautiful and noble, as an heirloom handed down to us by our
ancestors, which we have no right--I say no right--for the sake of
our children, and of our children's children, to leave to ruin.

But are we artistically, aesthetically right?  Is the best Gothic fit
for our worship?  Does it express our belief?  Or shall we choose
some other style?

I say that it is; and that it is so because it is a style which, if
not founded on Nature, has taken into itself more of nature, of
nature beautiful and healthy, than any other style.

With greater knowledge of nature, both geographical and scientific,
fresh styles of architecture may and will arise, as much more
beautiful, and as much more natural, than the Gothic, as Gothic is
more beautiful and natural than the Norman.  Till then we must take
the best models which we have; use them; and, as it were, use them up
and exhaust them.  By that time we may have learnt to improve on
them; and to build churches more Gothic than Gothic itself, more like
grot and grove than even a northern cathedral.

That is the direction in which we must work.  And if any shall say to
us, as it has been said ere now--"After all, your new Gothic churches
are but imitations, shams, borrowed symbols, which to you symbolise
nothing.  They are Romish churches, meant to express Romish doctrine,
built for a Protestant creed which they do not express, and for a
Protestant worship which they will not fit."  Then we shall answer--
Not so.  The objection might be true if we built Norman or Romanesque
churches; for we should then be returning to that very foreign and
unnatural style which Rome taught our forefathers, and from which
they escaped gradually into the comparative freedom, the comparative
naturalness, of that true Gothic of which Mr. Ruskin says so well:


It is gladdening to remember that, in its utmost nobleness, the very
temper which has been thought most adverse to it, the Protestant
temper of self-dependence and inquiry, were expressed in every case.
Faith and aspiration there were in every Christian ecclesiastical
building from the first century to the fifteenth:  but the moral
habits to which England in this age owes the kind of greatness which
she has--the habits of philosophical investigation, of accurate
thought, of domestic seclusion and independence, of stern self-
reliance, and sincere upright searching into religious truth--were
only traceable in the features which were the distinctive creations
of the Gothic schools, in the varied foliage and thorny fretwork, and
shadowy niche, and buttressed pier, and fearless height of subtle
pinnacle and crested tower, sent "like an unperplexed question up to
heaven."


So says Mr. Ruskin.  I, for one, endorse his gallant words.  And I
think that a strong proof of their truth is to be found in two facts,
which seem at first paradoxical.  First, that the new Roman Catholic
churches on the Continent--I speak especially of France, which is the
most highly-cultivated Romanist country--are like those which the
Jesuits built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, less and
less Gothic.  The former were sham-classic; the latter are rather of
a new fantastic Romanesque, or rather Byzantinesque style, which is a
real retrogression from Gothic towards earlier and less natural
schools.  Next, that the Puritan communions, the Kirk of Scotland and
the English Nonconformists, as they are becoming more cultivated--and
there are now many highly-cultivated men among them--are introducing
Gothic architecture more and more into their churches.  There are
elements in it, it seems, which do not contradict their Puritanism;
elements which they can adapt to their own worship; namely, the very
elements which Mr. Ruskin has discerned.

But if they can do so, how much more can we of the Church of England?
As long as we go on where our medieval forefathers left off; as long
as we keep to the most perfect types of their work, in waiting for
the day when we shall be able to surpass them, by making our work
even more naturalistic than theirs, more truly expressive of the
highest aspirations of humanity; so long we are reverencing them, and
that latent Protestantism in them, which produced at last the
Reformation.

And if any should say:  "Nevertheless your Protestant Gothic Church,
though you made it ten times more beautiful, and more symbolic than
Cologne Minster itself, would still be a sham.  For where would be
your images?  And still more, where would be your Host?  Do you not
know that in the medieval church the vistas of its arcades, the
alternation of its lights and shadows, the gradations of its
colouring, and all its carefully subordinated wealth of art, pointed
to, were concentrated round, one sacred spot, as a curve, however
vast its sweep through space, tends at every moment toward a single
focus?  And that spot, that focus was, and is still in every Romish
church, the body of God, present upon the altar in the form of bread?
Without Him, what is all your building?  Your church is empty; your
altar bare; a throne without a king; an eye-socket without an eye."

My friends, if we be true children of those old worthies, whom
Tacitus saw worshipping beneath the German oaks, we shall have but
one answer to that scoff:

"We know it; and we glory in the fact.  We glory in it, as the old
Jews gloried in it, when the Roman soldiers, bursting through the
Temple and into the Holy of Holies itself, paused in wonder and in
awe when they beheld neither God, nor image of God, but--blank yet
all-suggestive--the empty mercy-seat.

"Like theirs, our altar is an empty throne; for it symbolises our
worship of Him who dwelleth not in temples made with hands; whom the
heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain.  Our eye-socket
holds no eye.  For it symbolises our worship of that Eye which is
over all the earth; which is about our path, and about our bed, and
spies out all our ways.  We need no artificial and material presence
of Deity.  For we believe in That One Eternal and Universal Real
Presence--of which it is written 'He is not far from anyone of us;
for in God we live and move and have our being;' and again:  'Lo, I
am with you even to the end of the world;' and again:  'Wheresoever
two or three are gathered together in My Name there am I in the midst
of them.'

"He is the God of nature, as well as the God of grace.  Forever He
looks down on all things which He has made, and behold, they are very
good.  And, therefore, we dare offer to Him, in our churches, the
most perfect works of naturalistic art, and shape them into copies of
whatever beauty He has shown us, in man or woman, in cove or
mountain-peak, in tree or flower, even in bird or butterfly.

"But Himself?--Who can see Him?  Except the humble and the contrite
heart, to whom He reveals Himself as a Spirit to be worshipped in
spirit and in truth, and not in bread, nor wood, nor stone, nor gold,
nor quintessential diamond."

So we shall obey the sound instinct of our Christian forefathers,
when they shaped their churches into forest aisles, and decked them
with the boughs of the woodland and the flowers of the field:  but we
shall obey too, that sounder instinct of theirs, which made them at
last cast out of their own temples, as misplaced and unnatural
things, the idols which they had inherited from Rome.

So we shall obey the sound instinct of our heathen forefathers when
they worshipped the unknown God beneath the oaks of the primeval
forests:  but we shall obey, too, that sounder instinct of theirs,
which taught them this, at least, concerning God--That it was beneath
His dignity to coop Him within walls; and that the grandest forms of
nature, as well as the deepest consciousness of their own souls,
revealed to them a mysterious Being, who was to be beheld by faith
alone.



HOURS WITH THE MYSTICS {299}



Few readers of this magazine probably know anything about "Mystics;"
know even what the term means:  but as it is plainly connected with
the adjective "mystical" they probably suppose it to denote some sort
of vague, dreamy, sentimental, and therefore useless and undesirable
personage.  Nor can we blame them if they do so; for mysticism is a
form of thought and feeling now all but extinct in England.  There
are probably not ten thorough mystics among all our millions; the
mystic philosophers are very little read by our scholars, and read
not for, but in spite of, their mysticism; and our popular theology
has so completely rid itself of any mystic elements, that our divines
look with utter disfavour upon it, use the word always as a term of
opprobrium, and interpret the mystic expressions in our liturgy--
which mostly occur in the Collects--according to the philosophy of
Locke, really ignorant, it would seem, that they were written by
Platonist mystics.

We do not blame them either, save in as far as teachers of men are
blameworthy for being ignorant of any form of thought which has ever
had a living hold upon good and earnest men, and may therefore take
hold of them again.  But the English are not now a mystic people, any
more than the old Romans were; their habit of mind, their destiny in
the world, are like those of the Romans, altogether practical; and
who can be surprised if they do not think about what they are not
called upon to think about?

Nevertheless, it is quite a mistake to suppose that mysticism is by
its own nature unpractical.  The greatest and most prosperous races
of antiquity--the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindoos, Greeks--had the
mystic element as strong and living in them as the Germans have now;
and certainly we cannot call them unpractical peoples.  They fell and
came to ruin--as the Germans may do--when their mysticism became
unpractical:  but their thought remained, to be translated into
practice by sounder-hearted races than themselves.  Rome learnt from
Greece, and did in some confused imperfect way that which Greece only
dreamed; just as future nations may act hereafter, nobly and
usefully, on the truths which Germans discover, only to put in a book
and smoke over.  For they are terribly practical people, these
mystics, quiet students and devotees as they may seem.  They go, or
seem to go, down to the roots of things, after a way of their own;
and lay foundations on which--be they sound or unsound--those who
come after them cannot choose but build; as we are building now.  For
our forefathers were mystics for generations; they were mystics in
the forests of Germany and in the dales of Norway; they were mystics
in the convents and the universities of the Middle Ages; they were
mystics, all the deepest and noblest minds of them, during the
Elizabethan era.

Even now the few mystic writers of this island are exercising more
influence on thought than any other men, for good or for evil.
Coleridge and Alexander Knox have changed the minds, and with them
the acts, of thousands; and when they are accused of having
originated, unknowingly, the whole "Tractarian" movement, those who
have watched English thought carefully can only answer, that on the
confession of the elder Tractarians themselves, the allegation is
true:  but that they originated a dozen other "movements" beside in
the most opposite directions, and that free-thinking Emersonians will
be as ready as Romish perverts and good plain English churchmen to
confess that the critical point of their life was determined by the
writings of the fakeer of Highgate.  At this very time too, the only
real mystic of any genius who is writing and teaching is exercising
more practical influence, infusing more vigorous life into the minds
of thousands of men and women, than all the other teachers of England
put together; and has set rolling a ball which may in the next half
century gather into an avalanche, perhaps utterly different in form,
material, and direction, from all which he expects.

So much for mystics being unpractical.  If we look faithfully into
the meaning of their name, we shall see why, for good or for evil,
they cannot be unpractical; why they, let them be the most self-
absorbed of recluses, are the very men who sow the seeds of great
schools, great national and political movements, even great
religions.

A mystic--according to the Greek etymology--should signify one who is
initiated into mysteries, one whose eyes are opened to see things
which other people cannot see.  And the true mystic in all ages and
countries, has believed that this was the case with him.  He believes
that there is an invisible world as well as a visible one--so do most
men:  but the mystic believes also that this same invisible world is
not merely a supernumerary one world more, over and above the earth
on which he lives, and the stars over his head, but that it is the
cause of them and the ground of them; that it was the cause of them
at first, and is the cause of them now, even to the budding of every
flower, and the falling of every pebble to the ground; and therefore,
that having been before this visible world, it will be after it, and
endure just as real, living, and eternal, though matter were
annihilated to-morrow.

"But, on this showing, every Christian, nay, every religious man, is
a mystic; for he believes in an invisible world?"  The answer is
found in the plain fact, that good Christians here in England do not
think so themselves; that they dislike and dread mysticism; would not
understand it if it were preached to them; are more puzzled by those
utterances of St. John, which mystics have always claimed as
justifying their theories, than by any part of their bibles.  There
is a positive and conscious difference between popular metaphysics
and mysticism; and it seems to lie in this:  the invisible world in
which Englishmen in general believe, is one which happens to be
invisible now, but which will not be so hereafter.  When they speak
of the other world they mean a place which their bodily eyes will see
some day, and could see now if they were allowed; when they speak of
spirits they mean ghosts who could, and perhaps do, make themselves
visible to men's bodily eyes.  We are not inquiring here whether they
be right or wrong; we are only specifying a common form of human
thought.

The mystic, on the other hand, believes that the invisible world is
so by its very nature, and must be so for ever.  He lives therein
now, he holds, and will live in it through eternity:  but he will see
it never with any bodily eyes, not even with the eyes of any future
"glorified" body.  It is ipso facto not to be seen, only to be
believed in; never for him will "faith be changed for sight," as the
popular theologians say that it will; for this invisible world is
only to be "spiritually discerned."

This is the mystic idea, pure and simple; of course there are various
grades of it, as there are of the popular one; for no man holds his
own creed and nothing more; and it is good for him, in this piecemeal
and shortsighted world, that he should not.  Were he over-true to his
own idea, he would become a fanatic, perhaps a madman.  And so the
modern evangelical of the Venn and Newton school, to whom mysticism
is neology and nehushtan, when he speaks of "spiritual experiences,"
uses the adjective in its purely mystic sense; while Bernard of
Cluny, in his once famous hymn, "Hic breve vivitur," mingles the two
conceptions of the unseen world in inextricable confusion.  Between
these two extreme poles, in fact, we have every variety of thought;
and it is good for us that we should have them; for no one man or
school of men can grasp the whole truth, and every intermediate
modification supplies some link in the great cycle of facts which its
neighbours have overlooked.

In the minds who have held this belief, that the unseen world is the
only real and eternal one, there has generally existed a belief, more
or less confused, that the visible world is in some mysterious way a
pattern or symbol of the invisible one; that its physical laws are
the analogues of the spiritual laws of the eternal world:  a belief
of which Mr. Vaughan seems to think lightly; though if it be untrue
we can hardly see how that metaphoric illustration in which he
indulges so freely, and which he often uses in a masterly and
graceful way, can be anything but useless trifling.  For what is a
metaphor or a simile but a mere paralogism--having nothing to do with
the matter in hand, and not to be allowed for a moment to influence
the reader's judgment, unless there be some real and objective
analogy--homology we should call it--between the physical phenomenon
from which the symbol is taken, and the spiritual truth which it is
meant to illustrate?  What divineness, what logical weight, in our
Lord's parables, unless He was by them trying to show his hearers
that the laws which they saw at work in the lilies of the field, in
the most common occupations of men, were but lower manifestations of
the laws by which are governed the inmost workings of the human
spirit?  What triflers, on any other ground, were Socrates and Plato.
What triflers, too, Shakespeare and Spenser.  Indeed, we should say
that it is the belief, conscious or unconscious, of the eternal
correlation of the physical and spiritual worlds, which alone
constitutes the essence of a poet.

Of course this idea led, and would necessarily lead, to follies and
fancies enough, as long as the phenomena of nature were not carefully
studied, and her laws scientifically investigated; and all the dreams
of Paracelsus or Van Helmont, Cardan or Crollius, Baptista Porta or
Behmen, are but the natural and pardonable errors of minds which,
while they felt deeply the sanctity and mystery of Nature, had no
Baconian philosophy to tell them what Nature actually was, and what
she actually said.  But their idea lives still, and will live as long
as the belief in a one God lives.  The physical and spiritual worlds
cannot be separated by an impassable gulf.  They must, in some way or
other, reflect each other, even in their minutest phenomena, for so
only can they both reflect that absolute primeval unity, in whom they
both live and move and have their being.  Mr. Vaughan's object,
however, has not been to work out in his book such problems as these.
Had he done so, he would have made his readers understand better what
Mysticism is; he would have avoided several hasty epithets, by the
use of which he has, we think, deceived himself into the notion that
he has settled a matter by calling it a hard name; he would have
explained, perhaps, to himself and to us, many strange and seemingly
contradictory facts in the annals of Mysticism.  But he would also
not have written so readable a book.  On the whole he has taken the
right course, though one wishes that he had carried it out more
methodically.

A few friends, literate and comfortable men, and right-hearted
Christians withal, meet together to talk over these same mystics, and
to read papers and extracts which will give a general notion of the
subject from the earliest historic times.  The gentlemen talk about
and about a little too much; they are a little too fond of
illustrations of the popular pulpit style; they are often apt to say
each his say, with very little care of what the previous speaker has
uttered; in fact these conversations are, as conversations, not good,
but as centres of thought they are excellent.  There is not a page
nor a paragraph in which there is not something well worth
recollecting, and often reflections very wise and weighty indeed,
which show that whether or not Mr. Vaughan has thoroughly grasped the
subject of Mysticism, he has grasped and made part of his own mind
and heart many things far more practically important than Mysticism,
or any other form of thought; and no one ought to rise up from the
perusal of his book without finding himself if not a better, at least
a more thoughtful man, and perhaps a humble one also, as he learns
how many more struggles and doubts, discoveries, sorrows and joys,
the human race has passed through, than are contained in his own
private experience.

The true value of the book is, that though not exhaustive of the
subject, it is suggestive.  It affords the best, indeed the only
general, sketch of the subject which we have in England, and gives
therein boundless food for future thought and reading; and the
country parson, or the thoughtful professional man, who has no time
to follow out the question for himself, much less to hunt out and
examine original documents, may learn from these pages a thousand
curious and interesting hints about men of like passions with
himself, and about old times, the history of which--as of all times--
was not the history of their kings and queens, but of the creeds and
deeds of the "masses" who worked, and failed, and sorrowed, and
rejoiced again, unknown to fame.  Whatsoever, meanwhile, their own
conclusions may be on the subject-matter of the book, they will
hardly fail to admire the extraordinary variety and fulness of Mr.
Vaughan's reading, and wonder when they hear--unless we are wrongly
informed--that he is quite a young man--


How one small head could compass all he knew.


He begins with the mysticism of the Hindoo Yogis.  And to this, as we
shall hereafter show, he hardly does justice; but we wish now to
point out in detail the extended range of subjects, of each of which
the book gives some general notion.  From the Hindoos he passes to
Philo and the neo-Platonists; from them to the pseudo-Dionysius, and
the Mysticism of the early Eastern Church.  He then traces, shrewdly
enough, the influence of the pseudo-Areopagite and the Easterns on
the bolder and more practical minds of the Western Latins, and gives
a sketch of Bernard and his Abbey of Clairvaux, which brings
pleasantly enough before us the ways and works of a long-dead world,
which was all but inconceivable to us till Mr, Carlyle disinterred it
in his picture of Abbot Sampson, the hero of "Past and Present."

We are next introduced to the mystic schoolmen--Hugo and Richard of
St. Victor; and then to a far more interesting class of men, and one
with which Mr. Vaughan has more sympathy than with any of his
characters, perhaps because he knows more about them.  His chapters
on the German Mysticism of the fourteenth century; his imaginary, yet
fruitful chronicle of Adolf of Arnstein, with its glimpses of Meister
Eckart, Suso, the "Nameless Wild," Ruysbroek, and Tauler himself, are
admirable, if merely as historic studies, and should be, and we doubt
not will be, read by many as practical commentaries on the "Theologia
Germanica," and on the selection from Tauler's "Sermons," now in
course of publication.  Had all the book been written as these
chapters are, we should not have had a word of complaint to make,
save when we find the author passing over without a word of comment,
utterances which, right or wrong, contain the very keynote and
central idea of the men whom he is holding up to admiration, and as
we think, of Mysticism itself.  There is, for instance, a paragraph
attributed to Ruysbroek, in p. 275, vol. i., which, whether true or
false--and we believe it to be essentially true--is so inexpressibly
important, both in the subject which it treats, and in the way in
which it treats it, that twenty pages of comment on it would not have
been misdevoted.  Yet it is passed by without a word.

Going forward to the age of the Reformation, the book then gives us a
spirited glimpse of John Bokelson and the Munster Anabaptists, of
Carlstadt and the Zurichian prophets, and then dwells at some length
on the attempt of that day to combine physical and spiritual science
in occult philosophy.  We have enough to make us wish to hear more of
Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Behmen, with their alchemy, "true
magic," doctrines of sympathies, {309} signatures of things, Cabbala,
and Gamahea, and the rest of that (now fallen) inverted pyramid of
pseudo-science.  His estimate of Behmen and his writings, we may
observe in passing, is both sound and charitable, and speaks as much
for Mr. Vaughan's heart as for his head.  Then we have a little about
the Rosicrucians and the Comte de Gabalis, and the theory of the
Rabbis, from whom the Rosicrucians borrowed so much, all told in the
same lively manner, all utterly new to ninety-nine readers out of a
hundred, all indicating, we are bound to say, a much more extensive
reading than appears on the page itself.

From these he passes to the Mysticism of the counter-Reformation,
especially to the two great Spanish mystics, St. Theresa and St. John
of the Cross.  Here again he is new and interesting; but we must
regret that he has not been as merciful to Theresa as he has to poor
little John.

He then devotes some eighty pages--and very well employed they are--
in detailing the strange and sad story of Madame Guyon and the
"Quietist" movement at Louis Quatorze's Court.  Much of this he has
taken, with all due acknowledgment, from Upham; but he has told the
story most pleasantly, in his own way, and these pages will give a
better notion of Fenelon, and of the "Eagle" (for eagle read vulture)
"of Meaux," old Bossuet, than they are likely to find elsewhere in
the same compass.

Following chronological order as nearly as he can, he next passes to
George Fox and the early Quakers, introducing a curious--and in our
own case quite novel--little episode concerning "The History of Hai
Ebn Yokhdan," a medieval Arabian romance, which old Barclay seems to
have got hold of and pressed into the service of his sect, taking it
for literal truth.

The twelfth book is devoted to Swedenborg, and a very valuable little
sketch it is, and one which goes far to clear up the moral character,
and the reputation for sanity also, of that much-calumniated
philosopher, whom the world knows only as a dreaming false prophet,
forgetting that even if he was that, he was also a sound and severe
scientific labourer, to whom our modern physical science is most
deeply indebted.

This is a short sketch of the contents of a book which is a really
valuable addition to English literature, and which is as interesting
as it is instructive.  But Mr. Vaughan must forgive us if we tell him
frankly that he has not exhausted the subject; that he has hardly
defined Mysticism at all--at least, has defined it by its outward
results, and that without classifying them; and that he has not
grasped the central idea of the subject.  There were more things in
these same mystics than are dreamt of in his philosophy; and he has
missed seeing them, because he has put himself rather in the attitude
of a judge than of an inquirer.

He has not had respect and trust enough for the men and women of whom
he writes; and is too much inclined to laugh at them, and treat them
de haut en bas.  He has trusted too much to his own great power of
logical analysis, and his equally great power of illustration, and is
therefore apt to mistake the being able to put a man's thoughts into
words for him, for the being really able to understand him.  To
understand any man we must have sympathy for him, even affection.  No
intellectual acuteness, no amount even of mere pity for his errors,
will enable us to see the man from within, and put our own souls into
the place of his soul.  To do that, one must feel and confess within
oneself the seed of the same errors which one reproves in him; one
must have passed more or less through his temptations, doubts, hunger
of heart and brain; and one cannot help questioning, as one reads Mr.
Vaughan's book, whether he has really done this in the case of those
of whom he writes.  He should have remembered too how little any
young man can have experienced of the terrible sorrows which branded
into the hearts of these old devotees the truths to which they clung
more than to life, while they too often warped their hearts into
morbidity, and caused alike their folly and their wisdom.  Gently
indeed should we speak even of the dreams of some self-imagined
"Bride of Christ," when we picture to ourselves the bitter agonies
which must have been endured ere a human soul could develop so
fantastically diseased a growth.  "She was only a hysterical nun."
Well, and what more tragical object, to those who will look patiently
and lovingly at human nature, than a hysterical nun?  She may have
been driven into a convent by some disappointment in love.  And has
not disappointed affection been confessed, in all climes and ages, to
enshroud its victim ever after in a sanctuary of reverent pity?  If
sorrow "broke her brains," as well as broke her heart, shall we do
aught but love her the more for her capacity of love?  Or she may
have entered the convent, as thousands did, in girlish simplicity, to
escape from a world she had not tried, before she had discovered that
the world could give her something which the convent could not.  What
more tragical than her discovery in herself of a capacity for love
which could never be satisfied within that prison?  And when that
capacity began to vindicate itself in strange forms of disease,
seemingly to her supernatural, often agonising, often degrading, and
at the same time (strange contradiction) mixed itself up with her
noblest thoughts, to ennoble them still more, and inspire her not
only with a desire of physical self-torture, which would seem holy
both in her own eyes and her priest's, but with a love for all that
is fair and lofty, for self-devotion and self-sacrifice--shall we
blame her--shall we even smile at her if, after the dreadful
question:  "Is this the possession of a demon?" had alternated with,
"Is this the inspiration of a god?" she settled down, as the only
escape from madness and suicide, into the latter thought and believed
that she found in the ideal and perfect manhood of One whom she was
told to revere and love as a God, and who had sacrificed His own life
for her, a substitute for that merely human affection from which she
was for ever debarred?  Why blame her for not numbering that which
was wanting, or making straight that which was crooked?  Let God
judge her, not we:  and the fit critics of her conduct are not the
easy gentlemanlike scholars, like Mr. Vaughan's Athertons and Gowers,
discussing the "aberrations of fanaticism" over wine and walnuts; or
the gay girl, Kate; hardly even the happy mother, Mrs. Atherton; but
those whose hairs are gray with sorrow; who have been softened at
once and hardened in the fire of God; who have cried out of the
bottomless deep like David, while lover and friend were hid away from
them, and laid amid the corpses of their dead hopes, dead health,
dead joy, as on a ghastly battle-field, "stript among the dead, like
those who are wounded, and cut away from God's hands;" who have
struggled drowning in the horrible mire of doubt, and have felt all
God's billows and waves sweep over them, till they were weary of
crying, and their sight failed for waiting so long upon God; and all
the faith and prayer which was left was "Thou wilt not leave my soul
in hell, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption."  Be it
understood, however, for fear of any mistake, that we hold Mr.
Vaughan to be simply and altogether right in his main idea.  His one
test for all these people, and all which they said or did, is--Were
they made practically better men and women thereby?  He sees clearly
that the "spiritual" is none other than the "moral"--that which has
to do with right and wrong; and he has a righteous contempt for
everything and anything, however graceful and reverent, and artistic
and devout, and celestial and super-celestial, except in as far as he
finds it making better men and women do better work at every-day
life.

But even on this ground we must protest against such a sketch as
this; even of one of the least honourable of the Middle-age saints:


ATHERTON.  Angela de Foligni, who made herself miserable--I must say
something the converse of flourished--about the beginning of the
fourteenth century, was a fine model pupil of this sort, a genuine
daughter of St. Francis.  Her mother, her husband, her children dead,
she is alone and sorrowful.  She betakes herself to violent devotion-
-falls ill--suffers incessant anguish from a complication of
disorders--has rapturous consolations and terrific temptations--is
dashed in a moment from a seat of glory above the empyrean . . .


Very amusing, is it not?  To have one's mother, husband, children
die--the most commonplace sort of things--what (over one's wine and
walnuts) one describes as being "alone and sorrowful."  Men who
having tasted the blessings conveyed in those few words, have also
found the horror conveyed in them, have no epithets for the state of
mind in which such a fate would leave them.  They simply pray that if
that hour came, they might just have faith enough left not to curse
God and die.  Amusing, too, her falling ill, and suffering under a
complication of disorders, especially if those disorders were the
fruit of combined grief and widowhood.  Amusing also her betaking
herself to violent devotion!  In the first place, if devotion be a
good thing, could she have too much of it?  If it be the way to make
people good (as is commonly held by all Christian sects), could she
become too good?  The more important question which springs out of
the fact we will ask presently.  "She has rapturous consolations and
terrific temptations."  Did the consolations come first, and were the
temptations a revulsion from "spiritual" exaltation into "spiritual"
collapse and melancholy? or did the temptations come first, and the
consolations come after, to save her from madness and despair?
Either may be the case; perhaps both were:  but somewhat more of care
should have been taken in expressing so important a spiritual
sequence as either case exhibits.

It is twelve years and more since we studied the history of the "B.
Angela de Foligni," and many another kindred saint; and we cannot
recollect what were the terrific temptations, what was the floor of
hell which the poor thing saw yawning beneath her feet.  But we must
ask Mr. Vaughan, has he ever read Boccaccio, or any of the Italian
novelists up to the seventeenth century?  And if so, can he not
understand how Angela de Foligni, the lovely Italian widow of the
fourteenth century, had her terrific temptations, to which, if she
had yielded, she might have fallen to the lowest pit of hell, let
that word mean what it may; and temptations all the more terrific
because she saw every widow round her considering them no temptations
at all, but yielding to them, going out to invite them in the most
business-like, nay, duty-like, way?  What if she had "rapturous
consolations"?  What if she did pour out to One who was worthy not of
less but of more affection than she offered in her passionate
southern heart, in language which in our colder northerns would be
mere hypocrisy, yet which she had been taught to believe lawful by
that interpretation of the Canticles which (be it always remembered)
is common to Evangelicals and to Romanists?  What if even, in reward
for her righteous belief, that what she saw all widows round her
doing was abominable and to be avoided at all risks, she were
permitted to enjoy a passionate affection, which after all was not
misplaced?  There are mysteries in religion as in all things, where
it is better not to intrude behind the veil.  Wisdom is justified of
all her children:  and folly may be justified of some of her children
also.

Equally unfair it seems to us is the notice of St. Brigitta--in our
eyes a beautiful and noble figure.  A widow she, too--and what worlds
of sorrow are there in that word, especially when applied to the pure
deep-hearted Northern woman, as she was--she leaves her Scandinavian
pine-forests to worship and to give wherever she can, till she
arrives at Rome, the centre of the universe, the seat of Christ's
vicegerent, the city of God, the gate of Paradise.  Thousands of
weary miles she travels, through danger and sorrow--and when she
finds it, behold it is a lie and a sham! not the gate of Paradise,
but the gate of Sodom and of hell.  Was not that enough to madden
her, if mad she became?  What matter after that her "angel dictated
discourses on the Blessed Virgin," "bombastic invocations to the
Saviour's eyes, ears, hair?"--they were at least the best objects of
worship which the age gave her.  In one thing she was right, and kept
her first love.  "What was not quite so bad, she gives to the world a
series of revelations, in which the vices of popes and prelates are
lashed unsparingly and threatened with speedy judgment."  Not quite
so bad?  To us the whole phenomenon wears an utterly different
aspect.  At the risk of her life, at the risk of being burned alive--
did anyone ever consider what that means?--the noble Norse-woman,
like an Alruna maid of old, hurls out her divine hereditary hatred of
sin and filth and lies.  At last she falls back on Christ Himself, as
the only home for a homeless soul in such an evil time.  And she is
not burnt alive.  The hand of One mightier than she is over her, and
she is safe under the shadow of His wings till her weary work is done
and she goes home, her righteousness accepted for His sake:  her
folly, hysterics, dreams--call them by what base name we will--
forgiven and forgotten for the sake of her many sorrows and her
faithfulness to the end.

But whatever fault we can find with these sketches, we can find none
with Mr. Vaughan's reflections on them:


What a condemning comment on the pretended tender mercies of the
Church are those narratives which Rome delights to parade of the
sufferings, mental and bodily, which her devotees were instructed to
inflict upon themselves!  I am reminded of the thirsting mule, which
has, in some countries, to strike with his hoof among the spines of
the cactus, and drink, with lamed foot and bleeding lips, the few
drops of milk which ooze from the broken thorns.  Affectionate,
suffering natures came to Rome for comfort; but her scanty kindness
is only to be drawn with anguish from the cruel sharpness of
asceticism.  The worldly, the audacious, escape easily; but these
pliant excitable temperaments, so anxiously in earnest, may be made
useful.  The more dangerous, frightful, or unnatural their
performances, the more profit for their keepers.  Men and women are
trained by torturing processes to deny their nature, and then they
are exhibited to bring grist to the mill--like birds and beasts
forced to postures and services against the laws of their being--like
those who must perform perilous feats on ropes or with lions, nightly
hazarding their lives to fill the pockets of a manager.  The self-
devotedness of which Rome boasts so much is a self-devotion she has
always thus made the most of for herself.  Calculating men who have
thought only of the interest of the priesthood, have known well how
best to stimulate and to display the spasmodic movements of a
brainsick disinterestedness.  I have not the shadow of a doubt that,
once and again, some priest might have been seen, with cold gray eye,
endeavouring to do a stroke of diplomacy by means of the enthusiastic
Catherine, making the fancied ambassadress of Heaven in reality the
tool of a schemer.  Such unquestionable virtues as these visionaries
may some of them have possessed cannot be fairly set down to the
credit of the Church, which has used them all for mercenary or
ambitious purposes, and infected them everywhere with a morbid
character.  Some of these mystics, floating down the great
ecclesiastical current of the Middle Age, appear to me like the trees
carried away by the inundation of some mighty tropical river.  They
drift along the stream, passive, lifeless, broken; yet they are
covered with gay verdure, the aquatic plants hang and twine about the
sodden timber and the draggled leaves, the trunk is a sailing garden
of flowers.  But the adornment is that of Nature--it is the
decoration of another and a strange element:  the roots are in the
air; the boughs which should be full of birds, are in the flood,
covered by its alien products, swimming side by side with the
alligator.  So has this priestcraft swept its victims from their
natural place and independent growth, to clothe them in their
helplessness with a false spiritual adornment, neither scriptural nor
human, but ecclesiastical--the native product of that overwhelming
superstition which has subverted and enslaved their nature.  The
Church of Rome takes care that while simple souls think they are
cultivating Christian graces they shall be forging their own chains;
that their attempts to honour God shall always dishonour, because
they disenfranchise themselves.  To be humble, to be obedient, to be
charitable, under such direction, is to be contentedly ignorant,
pitiably abject, and notoriously swindled.


Mr. Vaughan cannot be too severe upon the Romish priesthood.  But it
is one thing to dismiss with summary contempt men, who, as they do,
keep the keys of knowledge, and neither enter in themselves nor
suffer others to enter, and quite another thing to apply the same
summary jurisdiction to men who, under whatsoever confusions, are
feeling earnestly and honestly after truth.  And therefore we regret
exceedingly the mock trial which he has introduced into his
Introduction.  We regret it for his own sake; for it will drive away
from the book--indeed it has driven--thoughtful and reverent people
who, having a strong though vague inclination toward the Mystics,
might be very profitably taught by the after pages to separate the
evil from the good in the Bernards and Guyons whom they admire, they
scarce know why; and will shock, too, scholars, to whom Hindoo and
Persian thoughts on these subjects are matters not of ridicule but of
solemn and earnest investigation.

Besides, the question is not so easily settled.  Putting aside the
flippancy of the passage, it involves something very like a petitio
principii to ask offhand:  "Does the man mean a living union of heart
to Christ, a spiritual fellowship or converse with the Father, when
he talks of the union of the believer with God--participation in the
Divine nature?"  For first, what we want to know is, the meaning of
the words--what means "living"? what "union"? what "heart"?  They are
terms common to the Mystic and to the popular religionist, only
differently interpreted; and in the meanings attributed to them lies
nothing less than the whole world-old dispute between Nominalist and
Realist not yet to be settled in two lines by two gentlemen over
their wine, much less ignored as a thing settled beyond all dispute
already.  If by "living union of heart with"--Mr. Vaughan meant
"identity of morals with"--he should have said so:  but he should
have borne in mind that all the great evangelicals have meant much
more than this by those words; that on the whole, instead of
considering--as he seems to do, and we do--the moral and the
spiritual as identical, they have put them in antithesis to each
other, and looked down upon "mere morality" just because it did not
seem to them to involve that supernatural, transcendental, "mystic"
element which they considered that they found in Scripture.  From
Luther to Owen and Baxter, from them to Wesley, Cecil, and Venn,
Newton, Bridges, the great evangelical authorities would (not very
clearly or consistently, for they were but poor metaphysicians, but
honestly and earnestly) have accepted some modified form of the
Mystic's theory, even to the "discerning in particular thoughts,
frames, impulses, and inward witnessings, immediate communications
from heaven."  Surely Mr. Vaughan must be aware that the majority of
"vital Christians" on this ground are among his mystic offenders; and
that those who deny such possibilities are but too liable to be
stigmatised as "Pelagians," and "Rationalists."  His friend Atherton
is bound to show cause why those names are not to be applied to him,
as he is bound to show what he means by "living union with Christ,"
and why he complains of the Mystic for desiring "participation in the
Divine nature."  If he does so, he only desires what the New
Testament formally, and word for word, promises him; whatsoever be
the meaning of the term, he is not to be blamed for using it.  Mr.
Vaughan cannot have forgotten the many expressions, both of St. Paul
and St. John, which do at first sight go far to justify the Mystic,
though they are but seldom heard, and more seldom boldly commented
on, in modern pulpits--of Christ being formed in men, dwelling in
men; of God dwelling in man and man in God; of Christ being the life
of men; of men living, and moving, and having their being in God; and
many another passage.  If these be mere metaphors let the fact be
stated, with due reason for it.  But there is no sin or shame in
interpreting them in that literal and realist sense in which they
seem at first sight to have been written.  The first duty of a
scholar who sets before himself to investigate the phenomena of
"Mysticism" so called, should be to answer these questions:  Can
there be a direct communication, above and beyond sense or
consciousness, between the human spirit and God the Spirit?  And if
so, what are its conditions, where its limits, to transcend which is
to fall into "mysticism"?

And it is just this which Mr. Vaughan fails in doing.  In his sketch,
for instance, of the Mysticism of India, he gives us a very clear and
(save in two points) sound summary of that "round of notions,
occurring to minds of similar make under similar circumstances,"
which is "common to Mystics in ancient India and in modern
Christendom."


Summarily, I would say this Hindoo mysticism--

(1)  Lays claim to disinterested love as opposed to a mercenary
religion;

(2)  Reacts against the ceremonial prescription and pedantic
literalism of the Vedas;

(3)  Identifies, in its pantheism, subject and object, worshipper and
worshipped;

(4)  Aims at ultimate absorption in the Infinite;

(5)  Inculcates, as the way to this dissolution, absolute passivity,
withdrawal into the inmost self, cessation of all the powers:  giving
recipes for procuring this beatific torpor or trance;

(6)  Believes that eternity may thus be realised in time;

(7)  Has its mythical miraculous pretensions, i.e. its theurgic
department;

(8)  And, finally, advises the learner in this kind of religion to
submit himself implicitly to a spiritual guide--his Guru.


Against the two latter articles we except.  The theurgic department
of Mysticism--unfortunately but too common--seems to us always to
have been (as it certainly was in neo-Platonism) the despairing
return to that ceremonialism which it had begun by shaking off, when
it was disappointed in reaching its high aim by its proper method.
The use of the Guru, or Father Confessor (which Mr. Vaughan confesses
to be inconsistent with Mysticism), is to be explained in the same
way--he is a last refuge after disappointment.

But as for the first six counts.  Is the Hindoo mystic a worse or a
better man for holding them?  Are they on the whole right or wrong?
Is not disinterested love nobler than a mercenary religion?  Is it
not right to protest against ceremonial prescriptions, and to say,
with the later prophets and psalmists of the Jews:  "Thinkest thou
that He will eat bull's flesh, and drink the blood of goats.
Sacrifice and burnt-offering Thou wouldst not . . . I come to do thy
will, O God!"  What is, even, if he will look calmly into it, the
"pantheistic identification of subject and object, worshipper and
worshipped," but the clumsy yet honest effort of the human mind to
say to itself:  "Doing God's will is the real end and aim of man?"
The Yogi looks round upon his fellow-men, and sees that all their
misery and shame come from self-will; he looks within, and finds that
all which makes him miserable, angry, lustful, greedy after this and
that, comes from the same self-will.  And he asks himself:  How shall
I escape from this torment of self?--how shall I tame my wayward
will, till it shall become one with the harmonious, beautiful, and
absolute Will which made all things?  At least I will try to do it,
whatever it shall cost me.  I will give up all for which men live--
wife and child, the sights, scents, sounds of this fair earth, all
things, whatever they be, which men call enjoyment; I will make this
life one long torture, if need be; but this rebel will of mine I will
conquer.  I ask for no reward.  That may come in some future life.
But what care I?  I am now miserable by reason of the lusts which war
in my members; the peace which I shall gain in being freed from them
will be its own reward.  After all I give up little.  All those
things round me--the primeval forest, and the sacred stream of Ganga,
the mighty Himalaya, mount of God, ay, the illimitable vault of
heaven above me, sun and stars--what are they but "such stuff as
dreams are made of"?  Brahm thought, and they became something and
somewhere.  He may think again, and they will become nothing and
nowhere.  Are these eternal, greater than I, worth troubling my mind
about?  Nothing is eternal, but the Thought which made them, and will
unmake them.  They are only venerable in my eyes, because each of
them is a thought of Brahm's.  And I too have thought; I alone of all
the kinds of living things.  Am I not, then, akin to God? what better
for me than to sit down and think, as Brahm thinks, and so enjoy my
eternal heritage, leaving for those who cannot think the passions and
pleasures which they share in common with the beasts of the field?
So I shall become more and more like Brahm--will his will, think his
thoughts, till I lose utterly this house-fiend of self, and become
one with God.

Is this a man to be despised?  Is he a sickly dreamer, or a too
valiant hero? and if any one be shocked at this last utterance, let
him consider carefully the words which he may hear on Sunday:  "Then
we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and
Christ with us."  That belief is surely not a false one.  Shall we
abhor the Yogi because he has seen, sitting alone there amid idolatry
and licentiousness, despotism and priestcraft, that the ideal goal of
man is what we confess it to be in the communion service?  Shall we
not rather wonder and rejoice over the magnificent utterance in that
Bhagavat-Gita which Mr. Vaughan takes for the text-book of Hindoo
Mysticism, where Krishna, the teacher human, and yet God himself,
speaks thus:


There is nothing greater than I; all things hang on me, as precious
gems upon a string. . . . . I am life in all things, and zeal in the
zealous.  I am the eternal seed of nature:  I am the understanding of
the wise, the glory of the proud, the strength of the strong, free
from lust and anger. . . .  Those who trust in me know Brahm, the
supreme and incorruptible. . . . . In this body I am the teacher of
worship.  He who thinks of me will find me.  He who finds me returns
not again to mortal birth. . . . . I am the sacrifice, I am the
worship, I am the incense, I am the fire, I am the victim, I am the
father and mother of the world; I am the road of the good, the
comforter, the creator, the witness, the asylum, and the friend.
They who serve other Gods with a firm belief, involuntarily worship
me.  I am the same to all mankind.  They who serve me in adoration
are in me.  If one whose ways are ever so evil serve me alone, he
becometh of a virtuous spirit and obtaineth eternal happiness.  Even
women, and the tribes of Visya and Soodra, shall go the supreme
journey if they take sanctuary with me; how much more my holy
servants the Brahmins and the Ragarshees!  Consider this world as a
finite and joyless place, and serve me.


There may be confused words scattered up and down here; there are
still more confused words--not immoral ones--round them, which we
have omitted; but we ask, once and for all, is this true, or is it
not?  Is there a being who answers to this description, or is there
not?  And if there be, was it not a light price to pay for the
discovery of Him "to sit upon the sacred grass called koos, with his
mind fixed on one object alone; keeping his head, neck, and body
steady, without motion; his eyes fixed upon the point of his nose,
looking at no other place around"--or any other simple, even
childish, practical means of getting rid of the disturbing bustle and
noise of the outward time-world, that he might see the eternal world
which underlies it?  What if the discovery be imperfect, the figure
in many features erroneous?  Is not the wonder to us, the honour to
him, that the figure should be there at all?  Inexplicable to us on
any ground, save that one common to the Bhagavat-Gita, to the gospel.
"He who seeks me shall find me."  What if he knew but in part, and
saw through a glass darkly?  Was there not an inspired apostle, who
could but say the very same thing of himself, and look forward to a
future life in which he would "know even as he was known"?

It is well worth observing too, that so far from the moral of this
Bhagavat-Gita issuing in mere contemplative Quietism, its purpose is
essentially practical.  It arises out of Arjoun's doubt whether he
shall join in the battle which he sees raging below him; it results
in his being commanded to join in it, and fight like a man.  We
cannot see, as Mr. Vaughan does, an "unholy indifference" in the
moral.  Arjoun shrinks from fighting because friends and relatives
are engaged on both sides, and he dreads hell if he kills one of
them.  The answer to his doubt is, after all, the only one which
makes war permissible to a Christian, who looks on all men as his
brothers:

"You are a Ksahtree, a soldier; your duty is to fight.  Do your duty,
and leave the consequences of it to him who commanded the duty.  You
cannot kill these men's souls any more than they can yours.  You can
only kill their mortal bodies; the fate of their souls and yours
depends on their moral state.  Kill their bodies, then, if it be your
duty, instead of tormenting yourself with scruples, which are not
really scruples of conscience, only selfish fears of harm to
yourself, and leave their souls to the care of Him who made them, and
knows them, and cares more for them than you do."

This seems to be the plain outcome of the teaching.  What is it,
mutatis mutandis, but the sermon "cold-blooded" or not, which every
righteous soldier has to preach to himself, day by day, as long as
his duty commands him to kill his human brothers?

Yet the fact is undeniable that Hindoo Mysticism has failed of
practical result--that it has died down into brutal fakeerism.  We
look in vain, however, in Mr. Vaughan's chapter for an explanation of
this fact, save his assertion, which we deny, that Hindoo Mysticism
was in essence and at its root wrong and rotten.  Mr. Maurice ("Moral
and Metaphysical Philosophy," p. 46) seems to point to a more
charitable solution.  "The Hindoo," he says, "whatsoever vast
discovery he may have made at an early period of a mysterious Teacher
near him, working on his spirit, who is at the same time Lord over
nature, began the search from himself--he had no other point from
whence to begin--and therefore it ended in himself.  The purification
of his individual soul became practically his highest conceivable
end; to carry out that he must separate from society.  Yet the more
he tries to escape self the more he finds self; for what are his
thoughts about Brahm, his thoughts about Krishna, save his own
thoughts?  Is Brahm a projection of his own soul?  To sink in him,
does it mean to be nothing?  Am I, after all, my own law?  And hence
the downward career into stupid indifferentism, even into Antinomian
profligacy."

The Hebrew, on the other hand, begins from the belief of an objective
external God, but One who cares for more than his individual soul; as
One who is the ever-present guide, and teacher, and ruler of his
whole nation; who regards that nation as a whole, a one person, and
that not merely one present generation, but all, past or future, as a
one "Israel"--lawgivers, prophets, priests, warriors.  All classes
are His ministers.  He is essentially a political deity, who cares
infinitely for the polity of a nation, and therefore bestows one upon
them--"a law of Jehovah."  Gradually, under this teaching, the Hebrew
rises to the very idea of an inward teacher, which the Yogi had, and
to a far purer and clearer form of that idea; but he is not tempted
by it to selfish individualism, or contemplative isolation, as long
as he is true to the old Mosaic belief, that this being is the
Political Deity, "the King of Kings."  The Pharisee becomes a selfish
individualist just because he has forgotten this; the Essene, a
selfish "mystic" for the same reason; Philo and the Jewish mystics of
Alexandria lose in like manner all notion that Jehovah is the
lawgiver, and ruler, and archetype of family and of national life.
Christianity retained the idea; it brought out the meaning of the old
Jewish polity in its highest form; for that very reason it was able
to bring out the meaning of the "mystic" idea in its highest form
also, without injury to men's work as members of families, as
citizens, as practical men of the world; and so to conquer at last
that Manichaean hatred of marriage and parentage, which from the
first to the sixteenth century shed its Upas shade over the Church.

And here let us say boldly to Mr. Vaughan and to our readers:  As
long as "the salvation of a man's own soul" is set forth in all
pulpits as the first and last end and aim of mortal existence; as
long as Christianity is dwelt on merely as influencing individuals
each apart--as "brands plucked, one here and another there, from the
general burning"--so long will Mysticism, in its highest form be the
refuge of the strongest spirits, and in its more base and diseased
forms the refuge of the weak and sentimental spirits.  They will say,
each in his own way:  "You confess that there can be a direct
relation, communion, inspiration, from God to my soul, as I sit alone
in my chamber.  You do not think that there is such between God and
what you call the world; between Him and nations as wholes--families,
churches, schools of thought, as wholes; that He does not take a
special interest, or exercise a special influence, over the ways and
works of men--over science, commerce, civilisation, colonisation, all
which affects the earthly destinies of the race.  All these you call
secular; to admit His influence over them for their own sake (though
of course He overrules them for the sake of His elect) savours of
Pantheism.  Is it so?  Then we will give up the world.  We will cling
to the one fact which you confess to be certain about us--that we can
take refuge in God, each in the loneliness of his chamber, from all
the vain turmoil of a race which is hastening heedless into endless
misery.  You may call us Mystics, or what you will.  We will possess
our souls in patience, and turn away our eyes from vanity.  We will
commune with our own hearts in solitude, and be still.  We will not
even mingle in your religious world, the world which you have
invented for yourselves, after denying that God's human world is
sacred; for it seems to us as full of intrigue, ambition, party-
spirit, falsehood, bitterness, and ignorance, as the political world,
or the fashionable world, or the scientific world; and we will have
none of it.  Leave us alone with God."

This has been the true reason of mystical isolation in every age and
country.  So thought Macarius and the Christian fakeers of the
Thebaid.  So thought the medieval monks and nuns.  So thought the
German Quietists when they revolted from the fierce degradation of
decaying Lutheranism.  So are hundreds thinking now; so may thousands
think ere long.  If the individualising phase of Christianity which
is now dominant shall long retain its ascendancy, and the creed of
Dr. Cumming and Mr. Spurgeon become that of the British people, our
purest and noblest spirits will act here, with regard to religion, as
the purest and noblest in America have acted with regard to politics.
They will withdraw each into the sanctuary of his own heart, and
leave the battle-field to rival demagogues.  They will do wrong, it
may be.  Isolation involves laziness, pride, cowardice; but if sober
England, during the next half-century, should be astonished by an
outburst of Mysticism, as grand in some respects, as fantastic in
others, as that of the thirteenth or the seventeenth centuries, the
blame, if blame there be, will lie with those leaders of the public
conscience who, after having debased alike the Church of England and
the dissenting sects with a selfish individualism which was as
foreign to the old Cromwellite Ironside as to the High Church divine,
have tried to debar their disciples from that peaceful and graceful
Mysticism which is the only excusable or tolerable form, of religion
beginning and ending in self.

Let it be always borne in mind, that Quakerism was not a protest
against, or a revulsion from, the Church of England, but from
Calvinism.  The steeple-houses, against which George Fox testified,
were not served by Henry Mores, Cudworths, or Norrises:  not even by
dogmatist High-Churchmen, but by Calvinist ministers, who had ejected
them.  George Fox developed his own scheme, such as it was, because
the popular Protestantism of his day failed to meet the deepest wants
of his heart; because, as he used to say, it gave him "a dead
Christ," and he required "a living Christ."  Doctrines about who
Christ is, he held, are not Christ Himself.  Doctrines about what He
has done for man, are not He himself.  Fox held, that if Christ be a
living person, He must act (when He acted) directly on the most
inward and central personality of him, George Fox; and his desire was
satisfied by the discovery of the indwelling Logos, or rather by its
re-discovery, after it had fallen into oblivion for centuries.
Whether he were right or wrong, he is a fresh instance of a man's
arriving, alone and unassisted, at the same idea at which Mystics of
all ages and countries have arrived:  a fresh corroboration of our
belief, that there must be some reality corresponding to a notion
which has manifested itself so variously, and among so many thousands
of every creed, and has yet arrived, by whatsoever different paths,
at one and the same result.

That he was more or less right--that there is nothing in the essence
of Mysticism contrary to practical morality, Mr. Vaughan himself
fully confesses.  In his fair and liberal chapters on Fox and the
Early Quakers, he does full justice to their intense practical
benevolence; to the important fact that Fox only lived to do good, of
any and every kind, as often as a sorrow to be soothed, or an evil to
be remedied, crossed his path.  We only wish that he had also brought
in the curious and affecting account of Fox's interview with
Cromwell, in which he tells us (and we will take Fox's word against
any man) that the Protector gave him to understand, almost with
tears, that there was that in Fox's faith which he was seeking in
vain from the "ministers" around him.

All we ask of Mr. Vaughan is, not to be afraid of his own evident
liking for Fox; of his own evident liking for Tauler and his school;
not to put aside the question which their doctrines involve, with
such half-utterances as--


The Quakers are wrong, I think, in separating particular movements
and monitions as Divine.  But, at the same time, the "witness of the
Spirit," as regards our state before God, is something more, I
believe, than the mere attestation to the written word.


As for the former of these two sentences, he may be quite right, for
aught we know.  But it must be said on the other hand, that not
merely Quakers, but decent men of every creed and age, have--we may
dare to say, in proportion to their devoutness--believed in such
monitions; and that it is hard to see how any man could have arrived
at the belief that a living person was working on him, and not a mere
impersonal principle, law, or afflatus--(spirit of the universe, or
other metaphor for hiding materialism)--unless by believing, rightly
or wrongly, in such monitions.  For our only inductive conception of
a living person demands that that person shall make himself felt by
separate acts.

But against the second sentence we must protest.  The question in
hand is not whether this "witness of the Spirit" "is something more"
than, anything else, but whether it exists at all, and what it is.
Why was the book written, save to help toward the solution of this
very matter?  The question all through has been:  Can an immediate
influence be exercised by the Spirit of God on the spirit of man?
Mr. Vaughan assents, and says (we cannot see why) that there is no
mysticism in such a belief.  Be that as it may, what that influence
is, and how exercised, is all through the de quo agitur of Mysticism.
Mr. Vaughan, however, seems here for awhile to be talking realism
through an admirable page, well worth perusal (pp. 264, 265).  Yet
his grasp is not sure.  We soon find him saying what More and Fox
would alike deny, that "The story of Christ's life and death is our
soul's food."  No; Christ Himself is--would the Catholic Church and
the Mystic alike answer.  And here again the whole matter in dispute
is (unconsciously to Mr. Vaughan) opened up in one word.  And if this
sentence does not bear directly on that problem, on what does it
bear?  It was therefore with extreme disappointment that on reading
this, and saying to ourselves:  "Now we shall hear at last what Mr.
Vaughan himself thinks on the matter," we found that he literally
turned the subject off, as if not worth investigation, by making the
next speaker answer, apropos of nothing, that "the traditional
ascetism of the Friends is their fatal defect as a body."

Why, too, has Mr. Vaughan devoted a few lines only to the great
English Platonists, More, Norris, Smith of Jesus, Gale, and Cudworth?
He says, indeed, that they are scarcely Mystics, except in as far as
Platonism is always in a measure mystical.  In our sense of the word
they were all of them Mystics, and of a very lofty type; but surely
Henry More is a Mystic in Mr. Vaughan's sense also.  If the author of
"Conjectura Cabbalistica" be not a mystical writer (he himself uses
the term without shame), who is?

We hope to see much in this book condensed, much modified, much
worked out, instead of being left fragmentary and embryotic; but
whether our hope be fulfilled or not, a useful and honourable future
is before the man who could write such a book as this is, in spite of
all defects.

*****

Since the above was written, Mr. Vaughan's premature death has robbed
us of a man who might have done brave work, by lessening, through his
own learning, the intellectual gulf which now exists between English
Churchmen and Dissenters.  Dis aliter visum.  But Mr. Vaughan's death
does not, I think, render it necessary for me to alter any of the
opinions expressed here; and least of all that in the last sentence,
fulfilled now more perfectly than I could have foreseen.



FREDERICK DENISON MAURICE. {337} IN MEMORIAM



On Friday, the fifth of April, a noteworthy assemblage gathered round
an open vault in a corner of Highgate Cemetery.  Some hundreds of
persons, closely packed up the steep banks among the trees and
shrubs, had found in that grave a common bond of brotherhood.  I say,
in that grave.  They were no sect, clique, or school of disciples,
held together by community of opinions.  They were simply men and
women, held together, for the moment at least, by love of a man, and
that man, as they had believed, a man of God.  All shades of opinion,
almost of creed, were represented there; though the majority were
members of the Church of England--many probably reconciled to that
Church by him who lay below.  All sorts and conditions of men, and
indeed of women, were there; for he had had a word for all sorts and
conditions of men.  Most of them had never seen each other before--
would never see each other again.  But each felt that the man,
however unknown to him who stood next him, was indeed a brother in
loyalty to that beautiful soul, beautiful face, beautiful smile,
beautiful voice, from which, in public or in secret, each had
received noble impulses, tender consolation, loving correction, and
clearer and juster conceptions of God, of duty, of the meaning of
themselves and of the universe.  And when they turned and left his
body there, the world--as one said who served him gallantly and long-
-seemed darker now he had left it; but he had stayed here long enough
to do the work for which he was fitted.  He had wasted no time, but
died, like a valiant man, at his work, and of his work.

He might have been buried in Westminster Abbey.  There was no lack of
men of mark who held that such a public recognition of his worth was
due, not only to the man himself, but to the honour of the Church of
England.  His life had been one of rare sanctity; he was a
philosopher of learning and acuteness, unsurpassed by any man of his
generation; he had done more than any man of that generation to
defend the Church's doctrines; to recommend her to highly-cultivated
men and women; to bring within her pale those who had been born
outside it, or had wandered from it; to reconcile the revolutionary
party among the workmen of the great cities with Christianity, order,
law; to make all ranks understand that if Christianity meant
anything, it meant that a man should not merely strive to save his
own soul after death, but that he should live here the life of a true
citizen, virtuous, earnest, helpful to his human brethren.  He had
been the originator of, or at least the chief mover in, working-men's
colleges, schemes for the higher education of women, for the
protection of the weak and the oppressed.  He had been the champion,
the organiser, the helper with his own money and time, of that co-
operative movement--the very germ of the economy of the future--which
seems now destined to spread, and with right good results, to far
other classes, and in far other forms, than those of which Mr.
Maurice was thinking five-and-twenty years ago.  His whole life had
been one of unceasing labour for that which he believed to be truth
and right, and for the practical amelioration of his fellow-
creatures.  He had not an enemy, unless it were here and there a
bigot or a dishonest man--two classes who could not abide him,
because they knew well that he could not abide them.  But for the
rest, those from whom he had differed most, with whom he had engaged,
ere now, in the sharpest controversy, had learned to admire his
sanctity, charity, courtesy--for he was the most perfect of
gentlemen--as well as to respect his genius and learning.  He had
been welcomed to Cambridge, by all the finer spirits of the
University, as Professor of Moral Philosophy; and as such, and as the
parish priest of St. Edward's, he had done his work--as far as
failing health allowed--as none but he could do it.  Nothing save his
own too-scrupulous sense of honour had prevented him from accepting
some higher ecclesiastical preferment--which he would have used,
alas! not for literary leisure, nor for the physical rest which he
absolutely required, but merely as an excuse for greater and more
arduous toil.  If such a man was not the man whom the Church of
England would delight to honour, who was the man?  But he was gone;
and a grave among England's worthies was all that could be offered
him now; and it was offered.  But those whose will on such a point
was law, judged it to be more in keeping with the exquisite modesty
and humility of Frederick Denison Maurice, that he should be laid out
of sight, though not out of mind, by the side of his father and his
mother.  Well:  be it so.  At least that green nook at Highgate will
be a sacred spot to hundreds--it may be to thousands--who owe him
more than they will care to tell to any created being.

It was, after all, in this--in his personal influence--that Mr.
Maurice was greatest.  True, he was a great and rare thinker.  Those
who wish to satisfy themselves of this should measure the
capaciousness of his intellect by studying--not by merely reading--
his Boyle Lectures on the Religions of the world; and that Kingdom of
Christ, the ablest "Apology" for the Catholic Faith which England has
seen for more than two hundred years.  The ablest, and perhaps
practically the most successful; for it has made the Catholic Faith
look living, rational, practical, and practicable, to hundreds who
could rest neither in modified Puritanism nor modified Romanism, and
still less in scepticism, however earnest.  The fact that it is
written from a Realist point of view, as all Mr. Maurice's books are,
will make it obscure to many readers.  Nominalism is just now so
utterly in the ascendant, that most persons seem to have lost the
power of thinking, as well as of talking, by any other method.  But
when the tide of thought shall turn, this, and the rest of Mr.
Maurice's works, will become not only precious but luminous, to a
generation which will have recollected that substance does not mean
matter, that a person is not the net result of his circumstances, and
that the real is not the visible Actual, but the invisible Ideal.

If anyone, again, would test Mr. Maurice's faculty as an interpreter
of Scripture, let him study the two volumes on the Gospel and the
Epistles of St. John; and study, too, the two volumes on the Old
Testament, which have been (as a fact) the means of delivering more
than one or two from both the Rationalist and the Mythicist theories
of interpretation.  I mention these only as peculiar examples of Mr.
Maurice's power.  To those who have read nothing of his, I would say:
"Take up what book you will, you will be sure to find in it something
new to you, something noble, something which, if you can act on it,
will make you a better man."  And if anyone, on making the trial,
should say:  "But I do not understand the book.  It is to me a new
world;" then it must be answered:  "If you wish to read only books
which you can understand at first sight, confine yourself to
periodical literature.  As for finding yourself in a new world, is it
not good sometimes to do that?--to discover how vast the universe of
mind, as well as of matter, is; that it contains many worlds; and
that wise and beautiful souls may and do live in more worlds than
your own?"  Much has been said of the obscurity of Mr. Maurice's
style.  It is a question whether any great thinker will be anything
but obscure at times; simply because he is possessed by conceptions
beyond his powers of expression.  But the conceptions may be clear
enough; and it may be worth the wise man's while to search for them
under the imperfect words.  Only thus--to take an illustrious
instance--has St. Paul, often the most obscure of writers, become
luminous to students; and there are those who will hold that St. Paul
is by no means understood yet; and that the Calvinistic system which
has been built upon his Epistles, has been built up upon a total
ignoring of the greater part of them, and a total misunderstanding of
the remainder:  yet, for all that, no Christian man will lightly shut
up St. Paul as too obscure for use.  Really, when one considers what
worthless verbiage which men have ere now, and do still, take
infinite pains to make themselves fancy that they understand, one is
tempted to impatience when men confess that they will not take the
trouble of trying to understand Mr. Maurice.

Yet after all, I know no work which gives a fairer measure of Mr.
Maurice's intellect, both political and exegetic, and a fairer
measure likewise, of the plain downright common sense which he
brought to bear on each of so many subjects, than his Commentary on
the very book which is supposed to have least connection with common
sense, and on which common sense has as yet been seldom employed--
namely, the Apocalypse of St. John.  That his method of
interpretation is the right one can hardly be doubted by those who
perceive that it is the one and only method on which any fair
exegesis is possible--namely, to ask:  What must these words have
meant to those to whom they were actually spoken?  That Mr. Maurice
is more reverent, by being more accurate, more spiritual, by being
more practical, in his interpretation than commentators on this book
have usually been, will be seen the more the book is studied, and
found to be what any and every commentary on the Revelation ought to
be--a mine of political wisdom.  Sayings will be found which will
escape the grasp of most readers, as indeed they do mine, so pregnant
are they, and swift revealing, like the lightning-flash at night, a
whole vision:  but only for a moment's space.  The reader may find
also details of interpretation which are open to doubt; if so, he
will remember that no man would have shrunk with more horror than Mr.
Maurice from the assumption of infallibility.  Meanwhile, that the
author's manly confidence in the reasonableness of his method will be
justified hereafter, I must hope, if the Book of Revelation is to
remain, as God grant it may, the political text-book of the Christian
Church.

On one matter, however, Mr. Maurice is never obscure--on questions of
right and wrong.  As with St. Paul, his theology, however seemingly
abstruse, always results in some lesson of plain practical morality.
To do the right and eschew the wrong, and that not from hope of
reward or fear of punishment--in which case the right ceases to be
right--but because a man loves the right and hates the wrong; about
this there is no hesitation or evasion in Mr. Maurice's writings.  If
any man is in search of a mere philosophy, like the neo-Platonists of
old, or of a mere system of dogmas, by assenting to which he will
gain a right to look down on the unorthodox, while he is absolved
from the duty of becoming a better man than he is and as good a man
as he can be--then let him beware of Mr. Maurice's books, lest, while
searching merely for "thoughts that breathe," he should stumble upon
"words that burn," and were meant to burn.  His books, like himself,
are full of that [Greek], that capacity of indignation, which Plato
says is the root of all virtues.  "There was something," it has been
well said, "so awful, and yet so Christ-like in its awful sternness,
in the expression which came over that beautiful face when he heard
of anything base or cruel or wicked, that it brought home to the
bystander our Lord's judgment of sin."

And here, perhaps, lay the secret of the extraordinary personal
influence which he exercised; namely, in that truly formidable
element which underlaid a character which (as one said of him)
"combined all that was noblest in man and woman; all the tenderness
and all the strength, all the sensitiveness and all the fire, of
both; and with that a humility which made men feel the utter
baseness, meanness, of all pretension."  For can there be true love
without wholesome fear?  And does not the old Elizabethan "My dear
dread" express the noblest voluntary relation in which two human
souls can stand to each other?  Perfect love casteth out fear.  Yes:
but where is love perfect among imperfect beings, save a mother's for
her child?  For all the rest, it is through fear that love is made
perfect; fear which bridles and guides the lover with awe--even
though misplaced--of the beloved one's perfections; with dread--never
misplaced--of the beloved one's contempt.  And therefore it is that
souls who have the germ of nobleness within, are drawn to souls more
noble than themselves, just because, needing guidance, they cling to
one before whom they dare not say or do, or even think, an ignoble
thing.  And if these higher souls are--as they usually are--not
merely formidable, but tender likewise, and true, then the influence
which they may gain is unbounded, for good--or, alas! for evil--both
to themselves and to those that worship them.  Woe to the man who,
finding that God has given him influence over human beings for their
good, begins to use it after awhile, first only to carry out through
them his own little system of the Universe, and found a school or
sect; and at last by steady and necessary degradation, mainly to feed
his own vanity and his own animal sense of power.

But Mr. Maurice, above all men whom I have ever met, conquered both
these temptations.  For, first, he had no system of the Universe.  To
have founded a sect, or even a school, would be, he once said, a sure
sign that he was wrong and was leading others wrong.  He was a
Catholic and a Theologian, and he wished all men to be such likewise.
To be so, he held, they must know God in Christ.  If they knew God,
then with them, as with himself, they would have the key which would
unlock all knowledge, ecclesiastical, eschatological (religious, as
it is commonly called), historic, political, social.  Nay even, so he
hoped, that knowledge of God would prove at last to be the key to the
right understanding of that physical science of which he,
unfortunately for the world, knew but too little, but which he
accepted with a loyal trust in God, and in fact as the voice of God,
which won him respect and love from men of science to whom his
theology was a foreign world.  If he could make men know God, and
therefore if he could make men know that God was teaching them; that
no man could see a thing unless God first showed it to him--then all
would go well, and they might follow the Logos, with old Socrates,
whithersoever he led.  Therefore he tried not so much to alter men's
convictions, as, like Socrates, to make them respect their own
convictions, to be true to their own deepest instincts, true to the
very words which they used so carelessly, ignorant alike of their
meaning and their wealth.  He wished all men, all churches, all
nations, to be true to the light which they had already, to
whatsoever was godlike, and therefore God-given, in their own
thoughts; and so to rise from their partial apprehensions, their
scattered gleams of light, toward that full knowledge and light which
was contained--so he said, even with his dying lips--in the orthodox
Catholic faith.  This was the ideal of the man and his work; and it
left him neither courage nor time to found a school or promulgate a
system.  God had His own system:  a system vaster than Augustine's,
vaster than Dante's, vaster than all the thoughts of all thinkers,
orthodox and heterodox, put together; for God was His own system, and
by Him all thing's consisted, and in Him they lived and moved and had
their being; and He was here, living and working, and we were living
and working in Him, and had, instead of building systems of our own,
to find out His eternal laws for men, for nations, for churches; for
only in obedience to them is Life.  Yes, a man who held this could
found no system.  "Other foundation," he used to say, "can no man
lay, save that which is laid, even Jesus Christ."  And as he said it,
his voice and eye told those who heard him that it was to him the
most potent, the most inevitable, the most terrible, and yet the most
hopeful, of all facts.

As for temptations to vanity, and love of power--he may have had to
fight with them in the heyday of youth, and genius, and perhaps
ambition.  But the stories of his childhood are stories of the same
generosity, courtesy, unselfishness, which graced his later years.
At least, if he had been tempted, he had conquered.  In more than
five-and-twenty years, I have known no being so utterly unselfish, so
utterly humble, so utterly careless of power or influence, for the
mere enjoyment--and a terrible enjoyment it is--of using them.
Staunch to his own opinion only when it seemed to involve some moral
principle, he was almost too ready to yield it, in all practical
matters, to anyone whom he supposed to possess more practical
knowledge than he.  To distrust himself, to accuse himself, to
confess his proneness to hard judgments, while, to the eye of those
who knew him and the facts, he was exercising a splendid charity and
magnanimity; to hold himself up as a warning of "wasted time," while
he was, but too literally, working himself to death--this was the
childlike temper which made some lower spirits now and then glad to
escape from their consciousness of his superiority by patronising and
pitying him; causing in him--for he was, as all such great men are
like to be, instinct with genial humour--a certain quiet good-natured
amusement, but nothing more.

But it was that very humility, that very self-distrust, combined so
strangely with manful strength and sternness, which drew to him
humble souls, self-distrustful souls, who, like him, were full of the
"Divine discontent;" who lived--as perhaps all men should live--angry
with themselves, ashamed of themselves, and more and more angry and
ashamed as their own ideal grew, and with it their consciousness of
defection from that ideal.  To him, as to David in the wilderness,
gathered those who were spiritually discontented and spiritually in
debt; and he was a captain over them, because, like David, he talked
to them, not of his own genius or his own doctrines, but of the
Living God, who had helped their forefathers, and would help them
likewise.  How great his influence was; what an amount of teaching,
consolation, reproof, instruction in righteousness, that man found
time to pour into heart after heart, with a fit word for man and for
woman; how wide his sympathies, how deep his understanding of the
human heart; how many sorrows he has lightened; how many wandering
feet set right, will never be known till the day when the secrets of
all hearts are disclosed.  His forthcoming biography, if, as is
hoped, it contains a selection from his vast correspondence, will
tell something of all this:  but how little!  The most valuable of
his letters will be those which were meant for no eye but the
recipient's, and which no recipient would give to the world--hardly
to an ideal Church; and what he has done will have to be estimated by
wise men hereafter, when (as in the case of most great geniuses) a
hundred indirect influences, subtle, various, often seemingly
contradictory, will be found to have had their origin in Frederick
Maurice.

And thus I end what little I have dared to say.  There is much
behind, even more worth saying, which must not be said.  Perhaps some
far wiser men than I will think that I have said too much already,
and be inclined to answer me as Elisha of old answered the over-
meddling sons of the prophets:

"Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head
to-day?"

"Yea, I know it:  hold ye your peace."



Footnotes:

{0}  The edition of "Literary and General Essays" that this
transcription was taken from also contained "Phaethon; or, Loose
Thoughts for Loose Thinkers" as the final part.  This has been
released separately by Doctrine Publishing Corporation and is not, therefore,
duplicated here.--DP.

{1}  This Lecture was given at Harrow in 1873, and in America in
1874.

{35}  Fraser's Magazine, November, 1853.

{61}  "Poems," by Alexander Smith.  London:  Bogue.  1853.  Fraser's
Magazine, October, 1853.

{103}  Fraser's Magazine, September, 1850.--"In Memoriam."  Moxon,
Dover Street. 1850.--"The Princess, a Medley:" by Alfred Tennyson.
Third Edition.  1850.--"Poems:" by Alfred Tennyson. 1852.

{127}  North British Review, No.  XXXI.--1.--"Elliott's Poems."
London, 1833.--2.  "Poems of Robert Nicoll."  Third Edition.
Edinburgh, 1843.--3.  "Life and Poems of John Bethune."  London,
1841.--4.  "Memoirs of Alexander Bethune."  By W. M'Combie.
Aberdeen, 1845.--5.  "Rhymes and Recollections of a Handloom Weaver."
By William Thorn, of Inverury.  Second Edition, London, 1845.--6.
"The Purgatory of Suicides."  By Thomas Cooper.  London, 1845.--7.
"The Book of Scottish Song."  By Alexander Whitelaw.  Edinburgh,
1848.

{187}  Fraser's Magazine, March, 1849.--"Sacred and Legendary Art."
By Mrs. Jameson.  2 vols.  London.  1848, Longman and Co.

{199}  Since this was written, Mrs. Jameson's volume on the Legends
of the Madonna has succeeded excellently in giving us, if not a
complete, yet still a readable and modest picture of medieval
Mariolatry.

{210}  We are sorry to see, however, that Mrs. Jameson has been so
far untrue to her own faculty as to join in the common mistake of
naming Raphael's well-known cartoon at Hampton Court, "Elymas the
Sorcerer struck Blind."  On the supposition that this is its subject,
its method of arrangement is quite unworthy of the rest, as the
action would be split into the opposite corners of the picture, and
the post of honour in the centre occupied by a figure of secondary
importance; besides, the picture would lose its significance as one
of this great series on "Religious Conviction and Conversion."  But,
strange to say, Raphael has all the while especially guarded against
this very error, by labelling the picture with a description of its
subject.  Directly under the central figure is written, "Sergius
Paulus, Proconsul, embraces the Christian faith at the preaching of
Paul."  Taking which simple hint, and looking at the face of the
proconsul (himself a miracle of psychology) as the centre to which
all is to be referred, the whole composition, down to the minutest
details, arranges itself at once in that marvellous unity which is
Raphael's especial glory.

{269}  This Lecture was given at Chester in 1871.

{278}  An arcade in the King's School, Chester.

{299}  Fraser's Magazine, September, 1856.--"Hours with the Mystics."
By Robert Alfred Vaughan, B.A.  Two Volumes.  London:  John W. Parker
and Son.  1856.

{309}  Why has Mr. Vaughan omitted to give us a few racy lines on Sir
Matthew Hale's "Divine Contemplations of the Magnet," Sir Kenelm
Digby's "Weapon-Salve," and Valentine Greatrake's "Magnetic Cures"?
He should have told the world a little, too, about the strange
phenomenon of the Jesuit Kircher, in whom Popery attempted to recover
the very ground which Behmen and the Protestant Nature-mystics were
conquering from them.

{337}  Macmillan's Magazine, May 1872.





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