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´╗┐Title: Romance - Two Lectures
Author: Raleigh, Walter Alexander, Sir, 1861-1922
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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Transcribed from the 1916 Princeton University Press edition by David
Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org

LOUIS CLARK VANUXEM FOUNDATION



ROMANCE


TWO LECTURES BY

SIR WALTER RALEIGH

M.A., PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE
UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, FELLOW OF
MERTON COLLEGE

LECTURES DELIVERED AT PRINCETON
UNIVERSITY, MAY 4TH AND 6TH, 1915

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS
PRINCETON

LONDON: HUMPHREY MILFORD
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

1916

Copyright, 1916, by
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS

Published October, 1916



THE ORIGIN OF ROMANCE


The period of English political history which falls between Pitt's
acceptance of office as prime minister, in 1783, and the passing of the
Reform Bill, in 1832, is a period rich in character and event.  The same
period of fifty years is one of the most crowded epochs of our national
literature.  In 1783 William Blake produced his _Poetical Sketches_, and
George Crabbe published _The Village_.  In 1832 Scott died, not many
months after the death of Goethe.  Between these two dates a great
company of English writers produced a literature of immense bulk, and of
almost endless diversity of character.  Yet one dominant strain in that
literature has commonly been allowed to give a name to the whole period,
and it is often called the Age of the Romantic Revival.

We do not name other notable periods of our literature in this fashion.
The name itself contains a theory, and so marks the rise of a new
philosophical and aesthetic criticism.  It attempts to describe as well
as to name, and attaches significance not to kings, or great authors, but
to the kind of writing which flourished conspicuously in that age.  A
less ambitious and much more secure name would have been the Age of
George III; but this name has seldom been used, perhaps because the
writers of his time who reverenced King George III were not very many in
number.  The danger of basing a name on a theory of literature is that
the theory may very easily be superseded, or may prove to be inadequate,
and then the name, having become immutable by the force of custom, is
left standing, a monument of ancient error.  The terminology of the
sciences, which pretends to be exact and colourless, is always being
reduced to emptiness by the progress of knowledge.  The thing that struck
the first observer is proved to be less important than he thought it.
Scientific names, for all their air of learned universality, are merely
fossilized impressions, stereotyped portraits of a single aspect.  The
decorous obscurity of the ancient languages is used to conceal an immense
diversity of principle.  Mammal, amphibian, coleoptera, dicotyledon,
cryptogam,--all these terms, which, if they were translated into the
language of a peasant, would be seen to record very simple observations,
yet do lend a kind of formal majesty to ignorance.

So it is with the vocabulary of literary criticism: the first use of a
name, because the name was coined by someone who felt the need of it, is
often striking and instructive; the impression is fresh and new.  Then
the freshness wears off it, and the name becomes an outworn print, a
label that serves only to recall the memory of past travel.  What was
created for the needs of thought becomes a thrifty device, useful only to
save thinking.  The best way to restore the habit of thinking is to do
away with the names.  The word Romantic loses almost all its meaning and
value when it is used to characterize whole periods of our literature.
Landor and Crabbe belong to a Romantic era of poetry; Steele and Sterne
wrote prose in an age which set before itself the Classic ideal.  Yet
there is hardly any distinctively Classical beauty in English verse which
cannot be exemplified from the poetry of Landor and Crabbe; and there are
not very many characteristics of Romantic prose which find no
illustration in the writings of Steele and Sterne.  Nevertheless, the
very name of romance has wielded such a power in human affairs, and has
so habitually impressed the human imagination, that time is not misspent
in exhibiting its historical bearings.  These great vague words, invented
to facilitate reference to whole centuries of human history--Middle Ages,
Renaissance, Protestant Reformation, Revival of Romance--are very often
invoked as if they were something ultimate, as if the names themselves
were a sufficient explanation of all that they include.  So an imperfect
terminology is used to gain esteem for an artificial and rigid conception
of things which were as fluid as life itself.  The Renaissance, for
instance, in its strict original meaning, is the name for that renewed
study of the classical literatures which manifested itself throughout the
chief countries of Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  In
Italy, where the movement had its origin, no single conspicuous event can
be used to date it.  The traditions inherited from Greece and Rome had
never lost their authority; but with the increase of wealth and leisure
in the city republics they were renewed and strengthened.  From being
remnants and memories they became live models; Latin poetry was revived,
and Italian poetry was disciplined by the ancient masters.  But the
Renaissance, when it reached the shores of England, so far from giving
new life to the literature it found there, at first degraded it.  It
killed the splendid prose school of Malory and Berners, and prose did not
run clear again for a century.  It bewildered and confused the minds of
poets, and blending itself with the national tradition, produced the rich
lawlessness of the English sixteenth century.  It was a strong tributary
to the stream of our national literature; but the popular usage, which
assigns all that is good in the English literature of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries to a mysterious event called the Renaissance, is
merely absurd.  Modern scholars, if they are forced to find a beginning
for modern literature, would prefer to date it from the wonderful
outburst of vernacular poetry in the latter part of the twelfth century,
and, if they must name a birthplace, would claim attention for the Court
of King Henry II.

In some of its aspects, the Romantic revival may be exhibited as a
natural consequence of the Renaissance.  Classical scholarship at first
scorned the vernacular literatures, and did all its work of criticism and
imitation in the Latin tongue.  By degrees the lesson was widened, and
applied to the modern languages.  Study; imitation in Latin; extension of
classical usages and principles to modern literature,--these were the
regular stages in the progress of the classical influence.  When the
poets of France and England, to name no others, had learned as much as
they were able and willing to learn from the masters of Greece and Rome,
the work of the Renaissance was done.  By the middle of the eighteenth
century there was no notable kind of Greek or Latin
literature--historical, philosophical, poetical; epic, elegy, ode,
satire--which had not worthy disciples and rivals in the literatures of
France and England.  Nothing remained to do but to go further afield and
seek for new masters.  These might easily have been found among the poets
and prophets of the East, and not a few notable writers of the time began
to forage in that direction.  But the East was too remote and strange,
and its languages were too little known, for this attempt to be carried
far; the imitation of Chinese and Persian models was practised chiefly by
way of fantasy and joke.  The study of the neglected and forgotten matter
of mediaeval times, on the other hand, was undertaken by serious
scholars.  The progress of the mediaeval influence reproduced very
exactly the successive phases of the Classical Renaissance.  At first
there was study; and books like Sainte Palaye's _Memoirs of Ancient
Chivalry_, and Paul Henri Mallet's _Northern Antiquities_, enjoyed a
European reputation.  Then followed the period of forgery and imitation,
the age of Ossian and Chatterton, Horace Walpole and Bishop Percy.
Lastly, the poets enrolled themselves in the new school, and an original
literature, suggested by the old, was created by Sir Walter Scott,
Coleridge, and Keats.  It was the temper of the antiquary and the
sceptic, in the age of Gibbon and Hume, that begot the Romantic Revival;
and the rebellion of the younger age against the spirit of the eighteenth
century was the rebellion of a child against its parents.

It is not needful, nor indeed is it possible, to define Romance.  In the
mathematical sciences definitions are all-important, because with them
the definition is the thing.  When a mathematician asks you to describe a
circle, he asks you to create one.  But the man who asks you to describe
a monkey is less exacting; he will be content if you mention some of the
features that seem to you to distinguish a monkey from other animals.
Such a description must needs be based on personal impressions and ideas;
some features must be chosen as being more significant than the rest.  In
the history of literature there are only two really significant
things--men, and books.  To study the ascertained facts concerning men
and books is to study biography and bibliography, two sciences which
between them supply the only competent and modest part of the history of
literature.  To discern the significance of men and books, to classify
and explain them, is another matter.  We have not, and we never shall
have, a calculus sufficient for human life even at its weakest and
poorest.  Let him who conceives high hopes from the progress of knowledge
and the pertinacity of thought tame and subdue his pride by considering,
for a moment, the game of chess.  That game is played with thirty-two
pieces, of six different kinds, on a board of sixty-four squares.  Each
kind of piece has one allotted mode of action, which is further cramped
by severe limitations of space.  The conditions imposed upon the game are
strict, uniform, and mechanical.  Yet those who have made of chess a life-
long study are ready to confess their complete ignorance of the
fundamental merits of particular moves; one game does not resemble
another; and from the most commonplace of developments there may spring
up, on the sudden, wild romantic possibilities and situations that are
like miracles.  If these surprising flowers of fancy grow on the chess-
board, how shall we set a limit to the possibilities of human life, which
is chess, with variety and uncertainty many million times increased?  It
is prudent, therefore, to say little of the laws which govern the course
of human history, to avoid, except for pastime, the discussion of
tendencies and movements, and to speak chiefly of men and books.  If an
author can be exhibited as the effect of certain causes (and I do not
deny that some authors can plausibly be so exhibited) he loses his virtue
as an author.  He thought of himself as a cause, a surprising intruder
upon the routine of the world, an original creator.  I think that he is
right, and that the profitable study of a man is the study which regards
him as an oddity, not a quiddity.

A general statement of the law that governs literary history may perhaps
be borrowed from the most unreasonable of the arts--the art of dress.  One
of the powerful rulers of men, and therefore of books, is Fashion, and
the fluctuations of literary fashion make up a great part of literary
history.  If the history of a single fashion in dress could ever be
written, it would illuminate the literary problem.  The motives at work
are the same; thoughtful wearers of clothes, like thoughtful authors, are
all trying to do something new, within the limits assigned by practical
utility and social sympathy.  Each desires to express himself and yet in
that very act to win the admiration and liking of his fellows.  The great
object is to wear the weeds of humanity with a difference.  Some authors,
it is true, like timid or lazy dressers, desire only to conform to usage.
But these, as M. Brunetiere remarks in one of his historical essays, are
precisely the authors who do not count.  An author who respects himself
is not content if his work is mistaken for another's, even if that other
be one of the gods of his idolatry.  He would rather write his own
signature across faulty work than sink into a copyist of merit.  This
eternal temper of self-assertion, this spirit of invention, this
determination to add something or alter something, is no doubt the
principle of life.  It questions accepted standards, and makes of
reaction from the reigning fashion a permanent force in literature.  The
young want something to do; they will not be loyal subjects in a kingdom
where no land remains to be taken up, nor will they allow the praise of
the dead to be the last word in criticism.  Why should they paraphrase
old verdicts?

The sway of Fashion often bears hardest on a good author just dead, when
the generation that discovered him and acclaimed him begins to pass away.
Then it is not what he did that attracts the notice of the younger sort,
but what he left undone.  Tennyson is discovered to be no great thinker.
Pope, who, when his star was in the ascendant, was "Mr. Pope, the new
Poet," has to submit to examination by the Headmaster of Winchester, who
decides that he is not a poet, except in an inferior sense.  Shakespeare
is dragged to the bar by Thomas Rymer, who demonstrates, with what degree
of critical ability is still disputed, but certainly in clear and
vigorous English, that Shakespeare has no capacity for tragic writing.
Dante is banished, by the critics of the Renaissance, into the Gothic
darkness.  So the pendulum of fashion swings to and fro, compelled, even
in the shortest of its variable oscillations, to revisit the greatest
writers, who are nearest to the centre of rest.  Wit and sense, which are
raised by one age into the very essentials of good poetry, are denied the
name of poetry by the next; sentiment, the virtue of one age, is the
exploded vice of another; and Romance comes in and goes out with secular
regularity.

The meaning of Romance will never come home to him who seeks for it in
modern controversies.  The name Romance is itself a memorial of the
conquest of Europe by the Romans.  They imposed their language on half
Europe, and profoundly influenced the other half.  The dialectical,
provincial Latin, of various kinds, spoken by the conquered peoples,
became the Romance speech; and Romance literature was the new literature
which grew up among these peoples from the ninth century onwards,--or
from an earlier time, if the fringe of Celtic peoples, who kept their
language but felt the full influence of Christianity, be taken into the
account.  The chief thing to be noted concerning Romance literature is
that it was a Christian literature, finding its background and
inspiration in the ideas to which the Christian Church gave currency.
While Rome spread her conquests over Europe, at the very heart of her
empire Christianity took root, and by slow process transformed that
empire.  During the Middle Ages the Bishops of Rome sat in the seat of
the Roman Emperors.  This startling change possessed Gibbon's
imagination, and is the theme of his great work.  But the whole of
Gibbon's history was anticipated and condensed by Hobbes in a single
sentence--"If a man considers the original of this great ecclesiastical
dominion, he will easily perceive that the Papacy is no other than the
ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave
thereof.  For so did the Papacy start up on a sudden out of the ruins of
that heathen power."

Here, then, is the answer to a question which at once suggests itself.
How do we get this famous opposition between the older Latin literature
and the literature of those countries which had inherited or accepted the
Latin tradition?  Why did not the Romans hand over their literature and
teach it, as they handed over and taught their law?  They did teach it in
their schools; grammar and rhetoric, two of the chief subjects of a
liberal education, were purely literary studies, based on the work of the
literary masters of Rome.  Never was there an education so completely
literary as the organized education of Rome and of her provinces.  How
came it that there was any breach between the old and the new?

A question of this kind, involving centuries of history, does not admit
of a perfectly simple answer.  It may be very reasonably maintained that
in Rome education killed literature.  A carefully organized, universal
system of education, which takes for its material the work of great poets
and orators, is certain to breed a whole army of slaves.  The teachers,
employed by the machine to expound ideas not their own, soon erect
systems of pedantic dogma, under which the living part of literature is
buried.  The experience of ancient Rome is being repeated in the England
of to-day.  The officials responsible for education, whatever they may
uneasily pretend, are forced by the necessities of their work to
encourage uniformity, and national education becomes a warehouse of
second-hand goods, presided over by men who cheerfully explain the mind
of Burke or of Shakespeare, adjusting the place of each, and balancing
faults against merits.  But Roman education throughout the Empire had
further difficulties to encounter.  To understand these it must be
remembered what Latin literature was.  The Latins, when we first discern
them in the dim light of the past, were a small, strenuous, political
people, with a passion for government and war.  They first subdued Italy,
and no very serious culture-problem resulted from that conquest.  The
Etruscans certainly contributed much to Latin civilization, but their
separate history is lost.  No one knows what the Etruscans thought.  The
Romans do not seem to have cared.  They welded Italy together, and
thereafter came into contact with the older, richer civilizations of the
Mediterranean shores.  The chief of these, in its influence, was the
Greek civilization, as it had developed in that famous group of free city
states, fostered by the sun and air, and addicted to life.  In Athens, at
the time of her glory, life was not a habit, but an experiment.  Even the
conservative Romans were infected.  They fell under the sway of Greek
thought.  When a practical man of business becomes intimate with an
artist, he is never the same man again.  The thought of that
disinterested mode of life haunts his dreams.  So Rome, though she had
paid little regard to the other ancient peoples with whom she had had
traffic and war, put herself to school to the Greeks.  She accepted the
Greek pantheon, renamed the Greek gods and goddesses, and translated and
adopted Greek culture.  The real Roman religion was a religion of the
homestead, simple, pious, domestic, but they now added foreign ornaments.
So also with literature; their own native literature was scanty and
practical--laws and rustic proverbs--but they set themselves to produce a
new literature, modelled on the Greek.  Virgil followed Homer; Plautus
copied Menander; and Roman literature took on that secondary and
reminiscent character which it never lost.  It was a literature of
culture, not of creed.  This people had so practical a genius that they
could put the world in harness; for the decoration of the world they were
willing to depend on foreign loans.

In so far as Latin literature was founded on the Greek, that is, in so
far as it was a derivative and imitative literature, it was not very fit
for missionary purposes.  One people can give to another only what is its
own.  The Greek gods were useless for export.  An example may be taken
from the English rule in India.  We can give to the peoples of India our
own representative institutions.  We can give them our own authors,
Shakespeare, Burke, Macaulay.  But we cannot give them Homer and Virgil,
who nevertheless continue to play an appreciable part in training the
English mind; and we can hardly give them Milton, whose subtlest beauties
depend on the niceties of the Latin speech.  The trial for Latin
literature came when obscurely, in the purlieus and kennels of Rome, like
a hidden fermentation, Christianity arose.  The earliest Christians were
for the most part illiterate; but when at last Christianity reached the
high places of the government, and controlled the Empire, a problem of
enormous difficulty presented itself for solution.  The whole elaborate
educational system of the Romans was founded on the older literature and
the older creeds.  All education, law, and culture were pagan.  How could
the Christians be educated; and how, unless they were educated, could
they appeal to the minds of educated men?  So began a long struggle,
which continued for many centuries, and swayed this way and that.  Was
Christianity to be founded barely on the Gospel precepts and on a way of
life, or was it to seek to subdue the world by yielding to it?  This, the
religious problem, is the chief educational problem in recorded history.
There were the usual parties; and the fiercest, on both sides, counselled
no surrender.  Tertullian, careful for the purity of the new religion,
held it an unlawful thing for Christians to become teachers in the Roman
schools.  Later, in the reign of Julian the Apostate, an edict forbade
Christians to teach in the schools, but this time for another reason,
lest they should draw away the youth from the older faith.  In the end
the result was a practical compromise, arranged by certain ecclesiastical
politicians, themselves lovers of letters, between the old world and the
new.  It was agreed, in effect, that the schools should teach humane
letters and mythology, leaving it to the Church to teach divine doctrine
and the conduct of life.  All later history bears the marks of this
compromise.  Here was the beginning of that distinction and apportionment
between the secular and the sacred which is so much more conspicuous in
Christian communities than ever it has been among the followers of other
religions.  Here also was the beginning of that strange mixture, familiar
to all students of literature, whereby the Bible and Virgil are quoted as
equal authorities, Plato is set over against St. Paul, the Sibyl confirms
the words of David, and, when a youth of promise, destined for the
Church, is drowned, St. Peter and a river-god are the chief mourners at
his poetic obsequies.  This mixture is not a fantasy of the Renaissance;
it has been part and parcel, from the earliest times, of the tradition of
the Christian church.

History is larger than morality; and a wise man will not attempt to pass
judgment on those who found themselves in so unparalleled a position.  A
new religion, claiming an authority not of this world, prevailed in this
world, and was confronted with all the resources of civilization,
inextricably entangled with the ancient pagan faiths.  What was to be
done?  The Gospel precepts seemed to admit of no transaction.  "They that
say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if
they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they
might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a
better country, that is an heavenly."  The material prosperity and social
order which Law and Politics take such pains to preserve and increase are
no part of their care.  They are strangers and pilgrims in the country
where they pitch their tent for a night.  How dare they spend time on
cherishing the painted veil called Life, when their desires are fixed on
what it conceals?  When Tacitus called the Christian religion "a deadly
superstition," he spoke as a true Roman, a member of the race of Empire-
builders.  His subtle political instinct scented danger from those who
looked with coldness on the business and desire of this world.  The
Christian faith, which presents no social difficulties while it is
professed here and there by a lonely saint or seer, is another thing when
it becomes the formal creed of a nation.  The Christians themselves knew
that to cut themselves off from the country of their birth would have
been a fatal choice, so far as this world is concerned.  Their ultimate
decision was to accept Roman civilization and Roman culture, and to add
Christianity to it.

Then followed an age-long attempt to Christianize Latin literature, to
supply believers with a new poetry, written in polished and accomplished
verse, and inspired by Christian doctrine.  Of those who attempted this
task, Prudentius is perhaps the greatest name.  The attempt could never
have been very successful; those who write in Latin verse must submit to
be judged, not by the truth of their teaching, but by the formal beauties
of their prosody, and the wealth of their allusive learning.  Even
Milton, zealot though he be, is esteemed for his manner rather than for
his matter.  But the experiment was cut short by the barbarian invasions.
When the Empire was invaded, St. Jerome and St. Augustine, Prudentius and
Symmachus, Claudian and Paulinus of Nola, were all alive.  These men, in
varying degrees, had compounded and blended the two elements, the pagan
and the Christian.  The two have been compounded ever since.  The famous
sevententh century controversy concerning the fitness of sacred subjects
for poetic treatment is but a repetition and an echo of that older and
more vital difference.  The two strains could never be perfectly
reconciled, so that a certain impurity and confusion was bequeathed to
modern European literature, not least to English literature.  Ours is a
great and various literature, but its rarest virtue is simplicity.  Our
best ballads and lyrics are filled with the matter of faith, but as often
as we try the larger kinds of poetry, we inevitably pass over into
reminiscence, learning, criticism,--in a word, culture.

The barbarians seized, or were granted, land; and settled down under
their chiefs.  They accepted Christianity, and made it into a warlike
religion.  They learned and "corrupted" the Latin language.  In their
dialects they had access neither to the literature of ancient Rome, nor
to the imitative scholarly Christian literature, poetry and homily, which
competed with it.  Latin continued to be the language of religion and
law.  It was full of terms and allusions which meant nothing to them.
They knew something of government,--not of the old republic, but of their
own men and estates.  They believed wholly and simply in Christianity,
especially the miraculous part of it.  To them (as to all whom it has
most profoundly influenced) it was not a philosophy, but a history of
marvellous events.  When, by the operation of society, their dialect had
formed itself, a new literature, unlike anything that had flourished in
ancient Rome, grew up among them.  This was Romance, the great literary
form of the Middle Ages.  It was a sincere literature, expressive of
their pride in arms and their simple religious faith.  The early songs
and ballads, chanted in the Romance speech, have all perished.  From a
later time there have come down to us the _Chansons de Geste_, narrative
poems composed by the professional caste of poets to celebrate the deeds
and adventures of the knights who fought the battles of Charlemagne
against the Saracen invader.

The note of this Romance literature is that it was actual, modern,
realistic, at a time when classical literature had become a remote
convention of bookish culture.  It was sung in the banqueting-hall, while
Latin poetry was read in the cells of monks.  It flourished enormously,
and extended itself to all the matter of history and legend, to King
Arthur, Theseus, Alexander, ancient heroes and warriors who were brought
alive again in the likeness of knights and emperors.  Its triumph was so
complete, that its decadence followed swiftly.  Like the creatures that
live in the blood of man, literary forms and species commonly die of
their own excess.  Romances were multiplied, and imitated; professional
poets, not content with marvels that had now become familiar, sought for
a new sensation in extravagant language and incident.  The tales became
more and more sophisticated, elaborate, grotesque, and unreal, until, in
the fourteenth century, a stout townsman, who ticketed bales in a custom-
house, and was the best English poet of his time, found them ridiculous.
In _Sir Thopas_ Chaucer parodies the popular literature of his day.  Sir
Thopas is a great reader of romances; he models himself on the heroes
whose deeds possess his imagination, and scours the English countryside,
seeking in vain for the fulfilment of his dreams of prowess.

So Romance declined; and by the end of the seventeenth century the
fashion is completely reversed; the pendulum has swung back; now it is
the literature inspired by the old classical models that is real, and
handles actual human interests, while Romantic literature has become
remote, fictitious, artificial.  This does not mean that the men of the
later seventeenth century believed in the gods and Achilles, but not in
the saints and Arthur.  It means that classical literature was found best
to imitate for its form.  The greater classical writers had described the
life of man, as they saw it, in direct and simple language, carefully
ordered by art.  After a long apprenticeship of translation and
imitation, modern writers adopted the old forms, and filled them with
modern matter.  The old mythology, when it was kept, was used
allegorically and allusively.  Common-sense, pointedly expressed, with
some traditional ornament and fable, became the matter of poetry.

A rough summary of this kind is enough to show how large a question is
involved in the history of Romance.  All literary history is a long
record of the struggle between those two rival teachers of man--books,
and the experience of life.  Good books describe the world, and teach
whole generations to interpret the world.  Because they throw light on
the life of man, they enjoy a vast esteem, and are set up in a position
of authority.  Then they generate other books; and literature, receding
further and further from the source of truth, becomes bookish and
conventional, until those who have been taught to see nature through the
spectacles of books grow uneasy, and throw away the distorting glasses,
to look at nature afresh with the naked eye.  They also write books, it
may be, and attract a crowd of imitators, who produce a literature no
less servile than the literature it supplants.

This movement of the sincere and independent human mind is found in the
great writers of all periods, and is called the Return to Nature.  It is
seen in Pope no less than in Wordsworth; in _The Rape of the Lock_ no
less than in _Peter Bell_.  Indeed the whole history of the mock-heroic,
and the work of Tassoni, Boileau, and Pope, the three chief masters in
that kind, was a reassertion of sincerity and nature against the stilted
conventions of the late literary epic.  The _Iliad_ is the story of a
quarrel.  What do men really quarrel about?  Is there any more
distinctive mark of human quarrels than the eternal triviality of the
immediate cause?  The insulting removal of a memorial emblem from an
Italian city; the shifting of a reading-desk from one position to another
in a French church; the playful theft of a lock of hair by an amorous
young English nobleman--these were enough, in point of fact, to set whole
communities by the ears, and these are the events celebrated in _The Rape
of the Bucket_, _The Rape of the Lectern_, _The Rape of the Lock_.  How
foolish it is to suppose that nature and truth are to be found in one
school of poetry to the exclusion of another!  The eternal virtues of
literature are sincerity, clarity, breadth, force, and subtlety.  They
are to be found, in diverse combinations, now here and now there.  While
the late Latin Christian poets were bound over to Latin models--to
elegant reminiscences of a faded mythology and the tricks of a
professional rhetoric--there arose a new school, intent on making
literature real and modern.  These were the Romance poets.  If they
pictured Theseus as a duke, and Jason as a wandering knight, it was
because they thought of them as live men, and took means to make them
live for the reader or listener.  The realism of the early literature of
the Middle Ages is perhaps best seen in old Irish.  The monk bewails the
lawlessness of his wandering thoughts, which run after dreams of beauty
and pleasure during the hour of divine service.  The hermit in the wood
describes, with loving minuteness, the contents of his larder.  Never was
there a fresher or more spontaneous poetry than the poetry of this early
Christian people.  But it is not in the direct line of descent, for it
was written in the Celtic speech of a people who did not achieve the
government of Europe.  The French romances inherited the throne, and
passed through all the stages of elaboration and decadence.  They too, in
their turn, became a professional rhetoric, false and tedious.  When they
ceased to be a true picture of life, they continued in esteem as a school
of manners and deportment for the fantastic gallantry of a court.  Yet
through them all their Christian origin shines.  Their very themes bear
witness to the teaching of Christian asceticism and Christian idealism.
The quest of a lady never seen; the temptations that present themselves
to a wandering knight under the disguise of beauty and ease;--these, and
many other familiar romantic plots borrow their inspiration from the same
source.  Not a few of the old fairy stories, preserved in folk-lore, are
full of religious meaning--they are the Christian literature of the Dark
Ages.  Nor is it hard to discern the Christian origins of later Romantic
poetry.  Pope's morality has little enough of the religious character:

   Know then this truth (enough for Man to know),
   Virtue alone is Happiness below.

But Coleridge, when he moralizes, speaks the language of Christianity:

   He prayeth best, who loveth best
      All things both great and small;
   For the dear God who loveth us
      He made and loveth all.

The like contrast holds between Dryden and Shelley.  It is perhaps hardly
fair to take an example from Dryden's poems on religion; they are
rational arguments on difficult topics, after this fashion:

   In doubtful questions 'tis the safest way
   To learn what unsuspected ancients say;
   For 'tis not likely we should higher soar
   In search of heaven than all the church before.

When Dryden writes in his most fervent and magnificent style, he writes
like this:

   I will not rake the Dunghill of thy Crimes,
   For who would read thy Life that reads thy rhymes?
   But of King _David's_ Foes be this the Doom,
   May all be like the Young-man _Absalom_;
   And for my Foes may this their Blessing be,
   To talk like _Doeg_ and to write like Thee.

Nor is it fair to bring Shelley's lame satires into comparison with these
splendors.  When Shelley is inspired by his demon, this is how he writes:

   To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
   To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
      To defy Power which seems omnipotent;
   To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
   From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
      Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
   This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
   Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
   This is alone Life, Joy, Empire and Victory.

Some of the great poets of the Romantic Revival took mediaeval literature
for their model, but they did more than that.  They returned to the cult
of wild nature; they reintroduced the supernatural, which is a part of
the nature of man; they described seas, and deserts, and mountains, and
the emotions of the soul in loneliness.  But so soon as it passed out of
the hands of the greater poets, this revived Romance became as bookish as
decadent Classicism, and ran into every kind of sentimental extravagance.
Indeed revived Romance also became a school of manners, and by making a
fashion and a code of rare emotions, debased the descriptive parts of the
language.  A description by any professional reporter of any Royal
wedding is further from the truth to-day than it was in the eighteenth
century.  The average writer is looser and more unprincipled.

The word Romance supplies no very valuable instrument of criticism even
in regard to the great writers of the early nineteenth century.
Wordsworth, like Defoe, drew straight from the life.  Those who will may
call him a Romantic.  He told of adventures--the adventures of the mind.
He did not write of Bacchus, Venus, and Apollo; neither did he concern
himself with Merlin, Tristram, and the Lady of the Lake.  He shunned what
is derived from other books.  His theme is man, nature, and human life.
Scott, in rich and careless fashion, dealt in every kind of material that
came his way.  He described his own country and his own people with
loving care, and he loved also the melodrama of historical fiction and
supernatural legend.  "His romance and antiquarianism," says Ruskin, "his
knighthood and monkery, are all false, and he knows them to be false."
Certainly, _The Heart of Midlothian_ and _The Antiquary_ are better than
_Ivanhoe_.  Scott's love for the knighthood and monkery was real, but it
was playful.  His heart was with Fielding.

There is nothing inconsistent in the best of the traditions of the two
parties.  The Classical school taught simplicity, directness, and modesty
of speech.  They are right: it is the way to tell a ghost story.  The
Romantic school taught a wider imaginative outlook and a more curious
analysis of the human mind.  They also are right: it is the way to
investigate a case in the police courts.  Both were cumbered, at times,
with the dead things that they found in the books they loved.  All
literature, except the strongest and purest, is cumbered with useless
matter--the conventional epithet, the grandiose phrase, the outworn
classical quotation, the self-conscious apology, the time-honored joke.
But there are only two schools of literature--the good, and the bad.  As
for national legend, its growth is the same in all ages.  The Greeks told
tales of Achilles, the Romans of Aeneas, the French of Charlemagne, the
British of Arthur.  It is a part of the same process, and an expression
of the same humanity.

I have tried to show that the Renaissance bears the same relation to
classical literature as the Revival of Romance bears to mediaeval
literature, and that the whole history of the literature of Europe is an
oscillation between Christian and Pagan ideals during that long and
wavering process whereby Christianity was partially established as the
creed and way of life of a group of diverse nations.  The historical
meaning of the word Romance is exact and easy to define.  But in common
usage the word means something much vaguer than this.  It is a note, an
atmosphere, a kind of feeling that is awakened not only by literature but
by the behavior of men and the disposition of material objects.  John
Evelyn, the diarist, enjoys the reputation of having been the first to
speak of a "romantic site,"--a phrase which leads the way to immeasurable
possibilities in the application of the word.  Accuracy in the definition
of this larger meaning is unattainable; and would certainly be false, for
the word has taken its meaning from centuries of usage by inaccurate
thinkers.  A whole cluster of feelings, impressions, and desires, dimly
recognized as cognate, has grown around the word, which has now been a
centre of critical discussion and controversy for the better part of a
century.  Heine, in his dissertation on the Romantic School, takes the
Christianity of the Middle Ages as his starting-point, and relates
everything to that.  Perhaps he makes too much of allegory and symbolism,
which have always been dear to the church, but are not conspicuous in
early Romance.  Yet no one can go far astray who keeps in touch, as Heine
does, with the facts of history.  Goethe, impatient of the wistful
intensities of youth, said that the Classical is health, and the Romantic
disease.  Much has been made, by many critics, of the statue and the
picture, as types of ancient and modern art, the one complete in itself,
the other suggesting more than it portrays.  Mr. Walter Pater, borrowing
a hint from a sentence of Bacon, finds the essence of Romance in the
addition of strangeness to beauty, of curiosity to desire.  It would be
easy to multiply these epigrammatic statements, which are all not
obscurely related to the fundamental changes wrought on the world by
Christian ideas.  No single formula can hope to describe and distinguish
two eras, or define two tempers of mind.  If I had to choose a single
characteristic of Romance as the most noteworthy, I think I should choose
Distance, and should call Romance the magic of Distance.  What is the
most romantic line in Virgil?  Surely it is the line which describes the
ghosts, staying for waftage on the banks of the river, and stretching out
their hands in passionate desire to the further shore:

   Tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore.

Scott expounds the harmonizing power of distance in his _Journal_, where
he describes the funeral of his friend Laidlaw's infant:

   I saw the poor child's funeral from a distance.  Ah, that Distance!
   What a magician for conjuring up scenes of joy or sorrow, smoothing
   all asperities, reconciling all incongruities, veiling all absurdness,
   softening every coarseness, doubling every effect by the influence of
   the imagination.  A Scottish wedding should be seen at a distance; the
   gay band of the dancers just distinguished amid the elderly group of
   the spectators,--the glass held high, and the distant cheers as it is
   swallowed, should be only a sketch, not a finished Dutch picture, when
   it becomes brutal and boorish.  Scotch psalmody, too, should be heard
   from a distance.  The grunt and the snuffle, and the whine and the
   scream, should be all blended in that deep and distant sound, which
   rising and falling like the Eolian harp, may have some title to be
   called the praise of our Maker.  Even so the distant funeral: the few
   mourners on horseback with their plaids wrapped around them--the
   father heading the procession as they enter the river, and pointing
   out the ford by which his darling is to be carried on the last long
   road--not one of the subordinate figures in discord with the general
   tone of the incident--seeming just accessories, and no more--this _is_
   affecting.

The same idea is the subject of T. E. Brown's poem, _The Schooner_:

      Just mark that schooner westward far at sea--
   'Tis but an hour ago
   When she was lying hoggish at the quay,
      And men ran to and fro,
   And tugged, and stamped, and shoved, and pushed and swore,
   And ever and anon, with crapulous glee,
   Grinned homage to viragoes on the shore.
   * * * * *
   And now, behold! a shadow of repose
      Upon a line of gray,
   She sleeps, that transverse cuts the evening rose--
      She sleeps, and dreams away,
   Soft blended in a unity of rest
   All jars, and strifes obscene, and turbulent throes,
   'Neath the broad benediction of the West.

Shelley finds the suggestion of distance in beautiful music:

      Though the sound overpowers,
   Sing again, with thy sweet voice revealing
         A tone
      Of some world far from ours,
   Where music and moonlight and feeling
         Are one.

Wordsworth hears it in the song of the Highland Girl:

   Will no one tell me what she sings?--
   Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
   For old, unhappy, far-off things,
      And battles long ago.

These quotations are enough to show what a width of view is given to
modern Romantic poetry.  Man is, in one sense, more truly seen in a wide
setting of the mountains and the sea than close at hand in the street.
But the romantic effect of distance may delude and conceal as well as
glorify and liberate.  The weakness of the modern Romantic poet is that
he must keep himself aloof from life, that he may see it.  He rejects the
authority, and many of the pleasures, along with the duties, of society.
He looks out from his window on the men fighting in the plain, and sees
them transfigured under the rays of the setting sun.  He enjoys the
battle, but not as the fighters enjoy it.  He nurses himself in all the
luxury of philosophic sensation.  He does not help to bury the child, or
to navigate the schooner, or to discover the Fortunate Islands.  The
business of every poet, it may be said, is vision, not action.  But the
epic poet holds his reader fast by strong moral bonds of sympathy with
the actors in the poem.  "I should have liked to do that" is what the
reader says to himself.  He is asked to think and feel as a man, not as a
god.

The weakness of revived Romance found the most searching of its critics
in Tennyson, who was fascinated, when he was shaping his own poetic
career, by the picture and the past, yet could not feel satisfied with
the purely aesthetic attitude of art to life.  In poem after poem he
returns to the question, Is poetry an escape from life?  Must it lull the
soul in a selfish security?  The struggle that went on in his mind has
left its mark on _The Lady of Shalott_, _The Palace of Art_, _The
Voyage_, _The Vision of Sin_, _The Lotos-Eaters_, and others of his
poems.  The Lady of Shalott lives secluded in her bower, where she weaves
a magic web with gay colors.  She has heard that a curse will fall on her
if she looks out on the world and down to the city of Camelot.  She sees
the outer world only in a mirror, and

   In her web she still delights
   To weave the mirror's magic sights

--villages, market-girls, knights riding two and two, funerals, or pairs
of lovers wandering by.  At last she grows half-sick of seeing the world
only in shadows and reflections.  Then a sudden vivid experience breaks
up this life of dream.  Sir Lancelot rides past, in shining armor,
singing as he rides.  She leaves her magic web and mirror, and looks upon
the real world.

   Out flew the web and floated wide;
   The mirror crack'd from side to side;
   "The curse is come upon me," cried
   The Lady of Shalott.

She goes into the world, and there she meets her death.  The poem is not
an allegory, but there is no mistaking the thought that generated it.  The
mirror and the web are the emblems of Romantic art.  The feelings which
stir the heart to action, which spring to meet the occasion or the
object, are contrasted, in the poem, with the more pensive feelings which
are excited by the sight of the object in a mirror, and the suggestions
of color and design which are to be transferred to the embroidery.  The
mirror is a true and subtle symbol.  When Shakespeare treated the same
problem, he made King Richard II, the most romantically minded of all his
kings, call for a mirror.  The thing that it is easiest for a man to see
in a mirror is himself; egotism in its many forms, self-pity,
self-cultivation, self-esteem, dogs Romanticism like its shadow.  The
desire to be the spectator of your own life, to see yourself in all kinds
of heroic and pathetic attitudes, is the motive-power of Romantic poetry
in many of its later developments.  Yet life must be arrested and
falsified before the desire can be fulfilled.  No one has ever seen
himself in a mirror as he is seen by others.  He cannot catch himself
looking away, self-forgetful, intent on something outward; yet only when
he is in these attitudes does his true character show itself in his face.
Nor, if he could so see himself, would he be a witness of the truth.  The
sensation of drowning, or of leading an assault in war, is very unlike
the sentiment which is aroused in the spectator of either of these
adventures.  Romanticism, in its decline, confuses the sentiment with the
sensation, and covets the enjoyment of life on the easy terms of a by-
stander.

These faults and failings of late Romance are far enough removed from the
simple heroism of the death of Roland in the pass of Roncesvalles.  Later
Romance is known everywhere by its derivative, secondary, consciously
literary character.  Yet it draws sometimes from the original source of
inspiration, and attains, by devious ways, to poetic glories not inferior
to the old.



IMITATION AND FORGERY


Romance is a perennial form of modern literature, and has passed through
many phases.  No period has been without it, though the esteem in which
it is held has varied a good deal from age to age.  English literature is
strong in romance; there is something in the English temper which makes
scepticism ungrateful to it, and disposes it to treat even dreams
seriously.  Chaucer, who laughed at the romantic writers of his day, yet
gave a new lease of life to Romance in _Troilus and Cressida_ and _The
Knightes Tale_.  Many of the poets of the seventeenth century chose
romantic themes for their most serious work; if Davenant and Chamberlayne
and others had been as successful as they were ambitious, they would have
anticipated the Revival of Romance.  Even in the age of Pope, the old
romance subjects were still popular, though they were celebrated in books
which have long been forgotten.  Everyone who has studied the Troy legend
of the Middle Ages knows how great a share in the popularization of the
legend belongs to the Sicilian lawyer, Guido delle Colonne, who
summarized, in the dull style of a Latin chronicle, and without
acknowledgment, the brilliant _Roman de Troie_ which the French poet,
Benoit de Sainte-More had written for Queen Eleanor of England.  Guide's
matter-of-fact compilation had an enormous vogue; Chaucer, Lydgate, and
Shakespeare treated it as an authority; and Caxton translated it into
English prose.  Through all the changes of fashion Caxton's version
continued in esteem; it was repeatedly revised and reissued; and, in the
very age of Pope, found what was doubtless a large public under the title
_The Destruction of Troy_, _In Three Books . . . With many Admirable Acts
of Chivalry and Martial Prowess_, _effected by Valiant Knights_, _in the
Defence and Love of distressed Ladies.  The Thirteenth Edition_,
_Corrected and much Amended_.  London, _Printed for Eben. Tracey_, _at
the Three Bibles on London-Bridge_.  _1708_.  In the underworld of
literature Romance never died out.  The Revival of Romance took its
special character from a gradual and powerful reaction against Dryden and
Pope and all those masters of Classical method who, during half a
century, had legislated for English poetry.  It began very early in the
eighteenth century, long before the death of Pope.  No sooner did a
dynasty of moralists and satirists claim possession of the high places,
and speak in the name of English literature, than all the other interests
and kinds, which survived among the people, began to range themselves in
opposition, and to assert their right to be heard.  The supremacy of
Dryden and Pope was the most despotic rule that English poetry has ever
known, and the revolt was strong in proportion.  Satire and morality very
easily becomes tedious, especially when they are in close alliance.
Despotism may be tempered by epigrams, and so become tolerable, but it is
important that the epigrams should not be made by the despot.  Outside
the charmed circle of his friendships, Pope was ready enough to use his
wit against any pretender.

The change began gradually, and in very innocent fashion.  Poetry had
been taught to be scholarly, self-conscious, experimental; and it showed
its skill in half-playful imitations of the older English masters.  Pope
himself imitated Chaucer and Spenser in burlesque fashion.  John Philips,
in _The Splendid Shilling_, used Milton's heightened style to describe
the distresses of an impecunious poet.  William Shenstone in _The School-
mistress_, parodied Spenser, yet the parody is in no way hostile, and
betrays an almost sentimental admiration.  Spenser, like Milton, never
lost credit as a master, though his fame was obscured a little during the
reign of Dryden.  His style, it must be remembered, was archaic in his
own time; it could not grow old, for it had never been young.  Addison,
in _An Account of the Greatest English Poets_, says that Spenser's verse

   Can charm an understanding age no more;
   The long-spun allegories fulsome grow,
   While the dull moral lies too plain below.

But the _Account_ is a merely juvenile work; its dogma is not the sword
of judgment, but the shield of ignorance.  "The character he gives of
Spenser," said Pope, "is false; and I have heard him say that he never
read Spenser till fifteen years after he wrote it."  As for Pope himself,
among the English poets Waller, Spenser, and Dryden were his childhood's
favorites, in that order; and the year before his death he said to
Spence--"I don't know how it is; there is something in Spenser that
pleases one as strongly in one's old age as it did in one's youth.  I
read the Faerie Queene, when I was about twelve, with infinite delight;
and I think it gave me as much when I read it over, about a year or two
ago."

The lyrical Milton and the romantic Spenser found disciples among poets
in the early half of the eighteenth century.  Two of these disciples may
be mentioned, both born about the year 1700, only twelve years later than
Pope.  John Dyer, the son of a solicitor in Wales, was bred to the law,
but gave it up to study painting under Jonathan Richardson.  His earlier
and better poems were written while he wandered about South Wales in
pursuit of his art.  _Grongar Hill_, the most notable of them, was
published in 1726.  Love of the country is what inspires his verses,
which have a very winning simplicity, only touched here and there by the
conventions deemed proper for poetry:

   Grass and flowers Quiet treads,
   On the meads and mountain-heads,
   Along with Pleasure, close ally'd,
   Ever by each other's side;
   And often, by the murmuring rill,
   Hears the thrush, while all is still,
   Within the groves of Grongar Hill.

The truth of his observation endeared him to Wordsworth; and his moral,
when he finds a moral, is without violence:

   How close and small the hedges lie!
   What streaks of meadows cross the eye!
   A step methinks may pass the stream,
   So little distant dangers seem;
   So we mistake the Future's face,
   Ey'd thro' Hope's deluding glass;
   As yon summits soft and fair,
   Clad in colours of the air,
   Which, to those who journey near,
   Barren, and brown, and rough appear,
   Still we tread tir'd the same coarse way,
   The present's still a cloudy day.

It takes a good poet to strike a clear note, with no indecision, in the
opening lines of his poem, as Dyer does in _The Country Walk_:

   I am resolv'd, this charming day,
   In the open fields to stray;
   And have no roof above my head
   But that whereon the Gods do tread.

His landscapes are delicately etched, and are loved for their own sake:

   And there behold a bloomy mead,
   A silver stream, a willow shade,
   Beneath the shade a fisher stand,
   Who, with the angle in his hand,
   Swings the nibbling fry to land.

It would be absurd to speak solemnly of Dyer's debt to Milton; he is an
original poet; but the writer of the lines quoted above can never have
been blind to the beauties of _L'Allegro_ and _Il Penseroso_.  His two
arts brought him little material prosperity; in 1740 he took orders in
the Church of England, and in his later years did harm to his fame by a
long industrial poem called _The Fleece_, which has on it none of the dew
that glistens on his youthful verses.

James Thomson, who won a great reputation in his own age, was the son of
a parish minister in Scotland.  He was educated in Edinburgh, and came to
London to seek his fortune.  All Thomson's work shows the new tendencies
in poetry struggling with the accepted fashions.  His language in _The
Seasons_ is habitually rhetorical and stilted, yet there is hardly a page
without its vignettes of truth and beauty.  When he forgets what he has
learned in the Rhetoric class, and falls back on his own memories and
likings, the poet in him reappears.  In _The Castle of Indolence_,
published just before his death in 1748, he imitates Spenser.  One stanza
of this poem is more famous than all the rest; it is pure and high
romance:

      As when a shepherd of the Hebrid-Isles,
      Placed far amid the melancholy main,
      (Whether it be lone fancy him beguiles,
      Or that aerial beings sometimes deign
      To stand embodied to our senses plain),
      Sees on the naked hill, or valley low,
      The whilst in ocean Phoebus dips his wain,
      A vast assembly moving to and fro;
   Then all at once in air dissolves the wondrous show.

Many who are familiar with this simile have never been at the pains to
remember, or enquire, what it illustrates.  Indeed its appearance in the
poem is almost startling, as if it were there for no purpose but to
prophesy of the coming glories of English poetry.  The visitors to the
Castle of Indolence are met at the gate by the porter, who supplies them
with dressing-gowns and slippers, wherein to take their ease.  They then
stroll off to various parts of the spacious grounds, and their
disappearance is the occasion for this wonderful verse.  Thomson cared no
more than his readers for the application of the figure; what possessed
him was his memory of the magic twilight on the west coast of Scotland.

Pope and Prior were metropolitan poets; it is worth noting that Dyer
belonged to Wales, and Thomson to Scotland.  It is even more significant
that Dyer was by profession a painter, and that Thomson's poems were
influenced by memories of the fashionable school of landscape painting.
The development of Romantic poetry in the eighteenth century is
inseparably associated with pictorial art, and especially with the rise
of landscape painting.  Two great masters of the seventeenth century,
Salvator Rosa and Claude Lorrain, are more important than all the rest.
We have here to do not with the absolute merits of painting, nor with its
technical beauties and subtleties, but with its effect on the popular
imagination, which in this matter does not much differ from the poetic
imagination.  The landscapes of Salvator Rosa and Claude were made
familiar to an enormous public by the process of engraving, and poetry
followed where painting led.  There are exquisite landscapes in the
backgrounds of the great Italian masters; Leonardo, Titian, and others;
but now the background became the picture, and the groups of figures were
reduced to serve as incidents in a wider scheme.  Exactly the same
change, the same shift of the centre of interest, may be seen in
Thomson's poetry compared with Spenser's.  No doubt it would be difficult
to balance the creditor and debtor account as between poetry and
painting; the earlier pictorial landscapes borrowed some hints from the
older romances; but in England, at least, landscapes of wild rocks, and
calm lakes, and feudal castles lit up by the glow of the setting sun were
familiar before the reaction in poetry set in.  Romance, in its modern
development, is largely a question of background.  A romantic love-affair
might be defined as a love-affair in other than domestic surroundings.
Who can use the word "romantic" with more authority than Coleridge?  In
_Kubla Khan_, a poem which some would choose as the high-water mark of
English romantic poetry, he gets his effect from the description of a
landscape combining the extremes of beauty and terror:

   But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
   Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
   A savage place! as holy and enchanted
   As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
   By woman wailing for her demon lover!
   And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
   * * * * *
   It flung up momently the sacred river.
   Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
   Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
   Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
   And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
   And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
   Ancestral voices prophesying war!

Romance demands scenery; and it should never be forgotten that the age of
Pope, the age of symmetry and correctness in poetry, was an age when the
taste for wild scenery in painting and in gardening was at its height.  If
the house was set in order, the garden broke into a wilderness.  Addison
in the _Spectator_ (No. 414) praises the new art of landscape gardening:

   There is generally in nature something more grand and august, than
   what we meet with in the curiosities of art.  When, therefore, we see
   this imitated in any measure, it gives us a nobler and more exalted
   kind of pleasure, than what we receive from the nicer and more
   accurate productions of art.  On this account our _English_ gardens
   are not so entertaining to the fancy as those in _France_ and _Italy_,
   where we see a larger extent of ground covered over with an agreeable
   mixture of garden and forest, which represent everywhere an artificial
   wildness, much more charming than that neatness and elegancy which we
   meet with in those of our own country.

Addison would have hesitated to apply this doctrine to poetry; indeed the
orthodoxy of that age favored the highest possible contrast between the
orderly works of man, and the garden, which it chose to treat as the
outpost of rebellious nature.  Pope was a gardener as well as a poet, and
his gardening was extravagantly romantic.  He describes his ideal garden
in the _Epistle to the Earl of Burlington_:

   Let not each beauty everywhere be spy'd,
   Where half the skill is decently to hide.
   He gains all points, who pleasingly confounds,
   Surprises, varies, and conceals the bounds.
   Consult the genius of the place in all;
   That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
   Or helps th' ambitious hill the heav'ns to scale,
   Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
   Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
   Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades;
   Now breaks, or now directs, th' intending lines;
   Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.

Pope carried out these ideas as well as he could in his garden at
Twickenham, where he attempted to compress every variety of scenic effect
within the space of five acres, so that it became a kind of melodramatic
peep-show.  The professional landscape-gardeners worked on a larger
scale; the two chief of them perhaps were Bridgeman, who invented the
haha for the purpose of concealing the bounds; and William Kent, Pope's
associate and contemporary, who disarranged old gardens, and designed
illustrations for Spenser's _Faerie Queene_.  Kent was an architect and
bad painter, much favored by George I.  Lord Chesterfield compares him to
Apelles, who alone was permitted to paint the portrait of Alexander:

   Equal your varied wonders! save
      This difference we see,
   One would no other painter have--
      No other would have thee.

From 1716 onward he was much employed by the Earl of Burlington.  He
helped to lay out Stowe, in Buckinghamshire, with a fresh and surprising
view at every turn; the wandering visitor was introduced, among other
delights, to the Hermitage, the Temple of Venus, the Egyptian pyramid,
St. Augustine's cave (artfully constructed of roots and moss), the Saxon
Temple, the Temple of Bacchus, and Dido's cave.  The craze for romantic
gardening, with its illusions of distance, and its ruins and groves,
persisted throughout the eighteenth century.  Shenstone's garden at The
Leasowes enjoyed a higher reputation even than his poetry, and it is well
known how he strained his slender means in the effort to outshine his
neighbors.  "In time," says Johnson, "his expenses brought clamours about
him that overpowered the lamb's bleat and the linnet's song; and his
groves were haunted by beings very different from fauns and fairies."

The chief of Kent's successors was Launcelot Brown, commonly called
"Capability Brown" from his habit of murmuring to himself, as he gazed on
a tract of land submitted for his diagnosis--"It has capabilities; it has
capabilities."  He laid out Kew and Blenheim.  Gazing one day on one of
his own made rivers, he exclaimed, with an artist's rapture,--"Thames!
Thames!  Thou wilt never forgive me."  He certainly imposed himself upon
his own time, and, so far, was a great man.  "Mr. Brown," said Richard
Owen Cambridge, "I very earnestly wish that I may die before you."  "Why
so?" said Brown with some surprise.  "Because," said he, "I should like
to see Heaven before you had improved it."  Among the romantic writers
who were bitten by the mania for picturesque improvement were Horace
Walpole and even Sir Walter Scott.  Everyone knows how Walpole bought
from Mrs. Chevenix, the toy-shop woman, a little house called "Chopp'd
Straw Hall" which he converted into the baronial splendors of Strawberry
Hill; and how Scott transmitted a mean Tweedside farm, called Clarty
Hole, into the less pretentious glories of Abbotsford.

After the practice came the theory.  The painters and landscape-gardeners
were followed by a school of philosophers, who expounded Taste and the
laws of the Picturesque.  Some extracts from the work of one of these,
Thomas Whately, whose _Observations on Modern Gardening_ appeared in
1770, will show to what excesses the whole nonsensical business had been
carried.  "In wild and romantic scenes," says Whately, "may be introduced
a ruined stone bridge, of which some arches may be still standing, and
the loss of those which are fallen may be supplied by a few planks, with
a rail, thrown over the vacancy.  It is a picturesque object: it suits
the situation; and the antiquity of the passage, the care taken to keep
it still open, though the original building is decayed, the apparent
necessity which thence results for a communication, give it an imposing
air of reality."  The context of this passages shows that the bridge
leads nowhither.  On the management of rocks Whately is a connoisseur.
"Their most distinguished characters," he says, "are _dignity_, _terror_,
and _fancy_: the expressions of all are constantly wild; and sometimes a
rocky scene is only wild, without pretensions to any particular
character."  But ruins are what he likes best, and he recommends that
they shall be constructed on the model of Tintern Abbey.  They must be
obvious ruins, much dilapidated, or the visitors will examine them too
closely.  "An appendage evidently more modern than the principal
structure will sometimes corroborate the effect; the shed of a cottager
amidst the remains of a temple, is a contrast both to the former and the
present state of the building."  It seems almost impossible that this
should have been offered as serious advice; but it was the admired usage
of the time.  Whately's book was a recognized authority, and ran through
several editions.  He is also known as a Shakespeare critic, of no
particular mark.

A more influential writer than Whately was William Gilpin, an industrious
clergyman and schoolmaster, who spent his holidays wandering and
sketching in the most approved parts of England, Wales and Scotland.  His
books on the Picturesque were long held in esteem.  The earliest of them
was entitled _Observations on the River Wye and several parts of South
Wales . . . relative chiefly to picturesque beauty_ (1782).  Others,
which followed in steady succession, rendered a like service to the Lake
district, the Highlands of Scotland, the New Forest, and the Isle of
Wight.  Those books taught the aesthetic appreciation of wild nature to a
whole generation.  It is a testimony to their influence that for a time
they enslaved the youth of Wordsworth.  In _The Prelude_ he tells how, in
early life, he misunderstood the teaching of Nature, not from
insensibility, but from the presumption which applied to the impassioned
life of Nature the "rules of mimic art."  He calls this habit "a strong
infection of the age," and tells how he too, for a time, was wont to
compare scene with scene, and to pamper himself "with meagre novelties of
colour and proportion."  In another passage he speaks of similar
melodramatic errors, from conformity to book-notions, in his early study
of poetry.

   The dignities of plain occurrence then
   Were tasteless, and truth's golden mean, a point,
   Where no sufficient pleasure could be found.

But imaginative power, and the humility which had been his in childhood,
returned to him--

      I shook the habit off
   Entirely and for ever.

Yet in one curious respect Gilpin's amateur teaching did leave its mark
on the history of English poetry.  When Wordsworth and Coleridge chose
the Wye and Tintern Abbey for their walking tour, they were probably
determined in that direction by the fame of the scenery; and when they
and Southey settled in the Lake district, it may be surmised that they
felt other and stronger attractions than those that came from
Wordsworth's early associations with the place.  The Wye, Tintern Abbey,
the English Lakes, the Scottish Highlands--these were the favored places
of the apostles of the picturesque, and have now become memorial places
in our poetic history.

All these gardeners and aesthetic critics who busied themselves with wild
nature were aiming at an ideal which had been expressed in many painted
landscapes, and had been held up as the top of admiration by one of the
greatest English poets.  The influence of Milton on the new landscape
interest must be held to be not less than the influence of his
contemporaries, Salvator Rosa and Claude.  His descriptions of Paradise
did more than any painting to alter the whole practice of gardening.  They
are often appealed to, even by the technical gardeners.  In garden-lore
Milton was a convinced Romantic.  He has two descriptions of the Garden
of Eden; the slighter of the two occurs on the occasion of Raphael's
entry, and merely resumes the earlier and fuller account:

   Their glittering tents they passed, and now is come
   Into the blissful field, through Groves of Myrrhe,
   And flowering Odours, Cassia, Nard, and Balme;
   A Wilderness of Sweets; for Nature here
   Wantoned as in her prime and plaid at will
   Her Virgin Fancies, pouring forth more sweet,
   Wilde above rule or art; enormous bliss.

Coleridge has some remarks, in his _Table Talk_, on Milton's disregard of
painting.  There are only two pictures, he says, in Milton; Adam bending
over the sleeping Eve, and the entrance of Dalilah, like a ship under
full sail.  Certainly the above lines are no picture; but they are more
exciting than any clear delineation could be; they are full of scent, and
air, and the emotions of ease and bliss.  The other passage has more of
architectural quality in it, and describes what first met Satan's gaze,
when he entered the Garden and sat, perched like a cormorant, upon the
Tree of Life.

         The crisped Brooks
   With mazie error under pendant shades
   Ran Nectar, visiting each plant, and fed
   Flours worthy of Paradise which not nice Art
   In Beds and curious Knots, but Nature boon
   Poured forth profuse on Hill and Dale and Plaine
   Both where the morning sun first warmly smote
   The open field, and where the unpierc't shade
   Imbround the noontide Bowers: Thus was this place,
   A happy rural seat of various view:
   Groves whose rich Trees wept odorous Gumms and Balme,
   Others whose fruit burnisht with Golden Rinde
   Hung amiable, _Hesperian_ Fables true,
   If true, here onely, and of delicious taste:
   Betwixt the Lawns, or level Downs, and Flocks
   Grasing the tender herb, were interpos'd,
   Or palmie hilloc, or the flourie lap
   Of some irriguous Valley spread her store,
   Flours of all hue, and without Thorn the Rose:
   Another side, umbrageous Grots and Caves
   Of coole recess, o'er which the mantling Vine
   Layes forth her purple Grape, and gently creeps
   Luxuriant; mean while murmuring waters fall
   Down the slope hills, disperst, or in a Lake,
   That to the fringed Bank with Myrtle crown'd,
   Her chrystall mirror holds, unite their streams.
   The Birds their quire apply; aires, vernal aires,
   Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune
   The trembling leaves, while Universal _Pan_
   Knit with the _Graces_ and the _Hours_ in dance
   Led on th' Eternal Spring.

Here is all the variety of hill and valley, wood and lawn, rock and
meadow, waterfall and lake, rose and vine, which the landscape artists
also loved to depict, and which, together with ruined temples and
castles, unknown in Paradise, became the cherished ideal of landscape
gardening.  By the influence of _Paradise Lost_ upon the gardeners, no
less than by the influence of _L'Allegro_ and _Il Penseroso_ upon the
poets, Milton may claim to be regarded as one of the forefathers of the
Romantic Revival.  There is no need to distinguish carefully between
poetry and painting in discussing their contributions to Romance.  A
great outcry was raised, in the last age, against literary criticism of
pictures.  But in this question we are concerned with this effect of
pictures on the normal imagination, which is literary, which cares for
story, and suggested action, and the whole chain of memories and desires
that a picture may set in motion.  Do not most of those who look at a
romantic landscape imagine themselves wandering among the scenes that are
portrayed?  And are not men prone to admire in Nature what they have been
taught by Art to notice?  The landscape art of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries taught them to imagine themselves in lonely scenes,
among old ruins or frowning rocks, by the light of sunrise or sunset,
cast on gleaming lakes.  These were the theatre of Romance; and the
emotions awakened by scenes like these played an enormous part in the
Revival.  It was thus that poets were educated to find that exaltation in
the terrors of mountainous regions which Gray expressed when he said:
"Not a precipice, not a torrent, not a cliff, but is pregnant with
religion and poetry."

The weaker side of modern Romance, the play-acting and pretence that has
always accompanied it, may be seen in the gardening mania.  It was not
enough to be a country gentleman; the position must be improved by the
added elegances of a hermit's cell and an Egyptian pyramid.  It is like
children's play; the day is long, the affairs of our elders are tedious,
we are tired of a life in which there is no danger and no hunger; let us
pretend that we are monks, or ancient Romans.  The mature imagination
interprets the facts; this kind of imagination escapes from the facts
into a world of make-believe, where the tyranny and cause and effect is
no longer felt.  It is not a hard word to call it childish; the
imagination of these early Romantics had a child's weakness and a child's
delightful confidence and zest.

The same play activity expressed itself in literature, where an orgy of
imitation ushered in the real movement.  The antiquarian beginnings of
Romantic poetry may be well illustrated by the life and works of Thomas
Warton.  He passed his life as a resident Fellow of Trinity College,
Oxford, and devoted his leisure, which was considerable, to the study of
English poetry and Gothic architecture.  He was not yet thirty when, in
1757, he was elected Professor of Poetry, a post which he held for ten
years.  During this time he planned a complete History of English Poetry,
a task which Pope and Gray in turn had contemplated and abandoned.  The
historical interest which is so conspicuous in early Romanticism owed not
a little, it may be remarked in passing, to the initiative of Pope, who
must therefore be given a place in any full genealogy of the Romantic
family.  Warton's _History_, so far as it was completed, was published
between 1774 and 1781, when he relaxed his efforts, and took up lesser
tasks.  In 1785 he was made Poet Laureate on the strength of his early
poems and later scholarship.  He died in 1790.

Warton's poems are a curious study.  Spenser and Milton are his masters,
and he is a docile pupil.  His poetry is all derivative, and might be
best described as imitation poetry.  Christopher North said of him that
"the gods had made him poetical, but not a poet," a saying which contains
the whole truth.  He puts together a mosaic of phrases borrowed from his
teachers, and frames them in a sentimental setting of his own.  Here are
some passages from _The Pleasures of Melancholy_, which, though he wrote
it at the age of seventeen, does not differ in method or inspiration from
the rest of his poetical work:

   Beneath yon ruin'd abbey's moss-grown piles
   Oft let me sit, at twilight hour of eve,
   Where thro' some western window the pale moon
   Pours her long-levell'd rule of streaming light;
   While sullen sacred silence reigns around,
   Save the lone screech-owl's note, who builds his bow'r
   Amid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp,
   Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves
   Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green
   Invests some wasted tow'r. . . .
   Then, when the sullen shades of ev'ning close,
   Where thro' the room a blindly-glimm'ring gleam
   The dying embers scatter, far remote
   From Mirth's mad shouts, that thro' th' illumin'd roof
   Resound with festive echo, let me sit,
   Blest with the lowly cricket's drowsy dirge. . . .
   O come then, Melancholy, queen of thought!
   O come with saintly look, and steadfast step,
   From forth thy cave embower'd with mournful yew,
   Where ever to the curfeu's solemn sound
   List'ning thou sitt'st, and with thy cypress bind
   Thy votary's hair, and seal him for thy son.

Melancholy seems not to have answered these advances.  In later life
Warton was a short, squat, red-faced man, fond of ale, and a cheerful
talker, with a thick utterance, so that he gobbled like a turkey-cock.
Some of his verses are cheerful.  This is from the _Ode on the Approach
of Summer_:

   Haste thee, Nymph! and hand in hand
   With thee lead a buxom band;
   Bring fantastic-footed Joy,
   With Sport, that yellow-tressed boy:
   Leisure, that through the balmy sky
   Chases a crimson butterfly.
   Bring Health, that loves in early dawn
   To meet the milk-maid on the lawn;
   Bring Pleasure, rural nymph, and Peace,
   Meek, cottage-loving shepherdess!

It is all like this, fluent and unnecessary.  Perhaps no verses in
English were ever made so exactly in the approved fashion of modern Latin
verses.  Warton writes pleasantly, his cento of reminiscences is skilful,
and his own epithets are sometimes happy, yet nothing comes of it.  His
work suggests the doubt whether any modern Latin verse, even the best,
would deceive an intelligent citizen of ancient Rome.

The strange thing about the Romantic Revival is that an epidemic of this
sort of imitation at last produced real poetry and real romance.  The
industrious simulation of the emotions begot the emotions simulated.  Is
there not a story told of a young officer who, having dressed himself in
a sheet to frighten his fellows, was embarrassed by the company of a real
ghost, bent on the same errand; and retired from the enterprise, leaving
it wholly to the professional?  That, at any rate, is very much what
happened to the Romantic impersonators.

Another parallel may perhaps be found in the power of vulgarity to
advance civilization.  Take, for instance, the question of manners.
Politeness is a codification of the impulses of a heart that is moved by
good will and consideration for others.  If the impulses are not there,
the politeness is so far unreal and insincere--a cheap varnish.  Yet it
is insisted on by society, and enforced by fear and fashion.  If the
forms are taught, the soul of them may be, and sometimes is, breathed in
later.  So this imitative and timid artifice, this conformity to opinions
the ground and meaning of which is not fully understood, becomes a great
engine of social progress.  Imitation and forgery, which are a kind of
literary vulgarity, were the school of Romanticism in its nonage.  Some
of the greater poets who passed this way went on to express things
subtler and more profound than had found a voice in the poetry that they
imitated.

The long debate on the so-called poems of Ossian is now ended.  They are
known to be a not very skilful forgery by James Macpherson.  Yet their
importance in literary history remains undiminished, and the life of
Macpherson has a curious kind of pathos.  He was the creature and victim
of the Romantic movement, and was led, by almost insensible degrees, into
supplying fraudulent evidence for the favorite Romantic theory that a
truer and deeper vein of poetry is to be found among primitive peoples.
Collins's _Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland_
and Gray's _Bard_ show the literary world prepared to put itself to
school to Celtic tradition.  Macpherson supplied it with a body of poetry
which exactly fulfilled its expectations.  The crucial date in his
history is his meeting in 1759 with John Home, the author of the once
famous tragedy of _Douglas_.  In the summer of that year Home was
drinking the waters at Moffat, and among the visitors assembled there
found Thomas Graham, afterwards Lord Lynedoch, then a boy of ten, and his
tutor, James Macpherson, a young Highlander, shy and ambitious, who had
been educated at Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and had dabbled in verse.  Home,
full of the literary gossip of the hour, seized upon the opportunity to
question Macpherson concerning the poems that were rumored to have
survived among the Gaelic-speaking population of Scotland.  In the light
of what we now know it is not difficult to understand the genesis of this
great European fraud.  Macpherson was proud of his race, which he had
celebrated in an heroic poem called _The Highlander_.  He had interested
himself in Gaelic poetry, though his knowledge of the tongue was not
good, and he had by him some fragments of genuine Gaelic poems.  He was
flattered by Home's appeal to him, and, feeling perhaps that the few and
slight genuine poems which he could produce would hardly warrant the
magnificence of his allusions to Gaelic literature, he forged a tale in
poetic prose, called _The Death of Oscar_, and presented it to Home as a
translation from the Gaelic.  The poem was much admired, and Macpherson,
unable now to retrace his steps without declaring himself a cheat, soon
produced others from the same source.  These were submitted to the
literary society of Edinburgh, with the great Dr. Blair at its head, and
were pronounced to be the wonder of the world.  From this point onward,
during a long and melancholy life, poor Macpherson was enslaved to the
fraud which had its beginning in the shyness and vanity of his own
character.  He was bound now to forge or to fail; and no doubt the
consciousness that it was his own work which called forth such rapturous
applause supported him in his labors and justified him to his own
conscience.  A subscription was easily raised in Edinburgh to enable him
to travel and collect the remains of Celtic poetry.  For a few months he
perambulated the western highlands and islands, and returned to Edinburgh
bringing with him _Fingal_, a complete epic poem in six books.  This was
followed by _Temora_, in eight books, also attributed to the great Gaelic
bard Ossian; and the new Celtic fashion was established.

These poems had an immense success.  Everyone knows how they influenced
the youth of Goethe, and captured the imagination of Napoleon.  It is
less surprising that they enraptured the poet Gray, and were approved by
the professor Blair, for they were exactly modelled on the practice and
theory of these two critics.  All the fashionable doctrine of that age
concerning the history of poetry was borne out by these works.  Poetry,
so it was held, is to be found in its perfection only in primitive
society, before it is overlaid by the complexities of modern
civilization.  Its most perfect, and therefore its earliest, form, is the
epic; and Dr. Blair must have been delighted to find that the laws of the
epic, which he so often explained to his class in Edinburgh University,
were minutely observed by the oldest of Scottish bards.  He died without
suspecting that the inspiration of the Ossianic poems had come partly
from himself.

The belief that Celtic literature is essentially and eternally
melancholy,--a belief which persisted down to the time of Matthew Arnold,
also drew its strength from the poems of Ossian.  Here again theory
showed the way to practice.  The melancholy of the Ossianic poems is not
the melancholy of the Celt, but a melancholy compounded of many simples,
and extracted from works that were held in high esteem in the eighteenth
century--Young's _Night Thoughts_, Blair's _Grave_, Gray's _Bard_, and
the soliloquies of Milton's Satan.

Macpherson was soon challenged, and his whole life was passed in a brawl
of controversy.  Two famous men dismissed him contemptuously.  Dr.
Johnson, who knew what honesty means among scholars, treated him as an
impudent impostor.  Wordsworth, who knew what simplicity means in poetry,
declared that all the imagery of the poems is false and spurious.  But
the whole question early became a national quarrel, and the honor of
Scotland was involved in it.  There are signs that Macpherson would
gladly have escaped from the storm he had raised.  Aided by his early
literary success, he became a prosperous man, held a well-paid post at
court, entered Parliament, and was pensioned by the government.  Still
the controversy persisted.  He had found it easy to take up a haughty
attitude towards those hostile critics who had doubted his good faith and
had asked him to produce his Gaelic originals.  But now the demand for
the originals came from his champions and friends, who desired to place
the fame of Scotland's oldest and greatest poet on a sure foundation.  He
wriggled on the hook, and more than once timidly hinted that the poems
owed not a little to the poetic genius of the translator.  But this half-
hearted attempt to rob the great Ossian of a part of his fame stirred the
Caledonian enthusiasts to a frenzy of indignation.  At last, when he was
no longer able to restrain his supporters, the wretched Macpherson found
no escape but one.  In middle age, some twenty years after his first
appearance on the poetic horizon, he sat down, with a heavy heart and an
imperfect knowledge of the Gaelic tongue, to forge the originals.  In
1807, eleven years after his death, these were at last published.  The
progress of genuine Celtic scholarship during the succeeding century did
the rest; and the old blind bard rejoined the mists and vapors which were
the inspiration of his Muse. {78}  The poems of Ossian are only one,
though perhaps the most signal, instance of the forgeries which prevailed
like an epidemic at the time of the Romantic Revival.  Some of these,
like Ireland's Shakespeare forgeries, were little better than
cold-blooded mercenary frauds.  Others, like Chatterton's Rowley Poems
and Horace Walpole's _Castle of Otranto_, are full of the zest and
delight of play-acting.  Even Coleridge's _Ancient Mariner_, though it is
free from the reproach of forgery, is touched by the same spirit.  The
severe morality of scholarship had not yet been applied to mediaeval or
modern matter.  Scholars are the trustees of poets; but where this trust
is undertaken by men who are poets themselves, there is usually a good
deal of gaiety and exuberance in its performance.

I have now traced some of the neglected sources of revived Romance, and
have shown how in this movement, more notably, perhaps, than in any other
great movement in literature, it was not the supply which created the
demand, but the demand which created the supply.  The Romantic change was
wrought, not by the energy of lonely pioneers, but by a shift in public
taste.  Readers of poetry knew what it was they wanted, even before they
knew whether it existed.  Writers were soon at hand to prove that it had
existed in the past, and could still be made.  The weakness of vague
desire is felt everywhere in the origins of the change.  Out of the
weakness came strength; the tinsel Gothic castle of Walpole was enlarged
to house the magnanimous soul of Scott; the Sorrows of Werther gave birth
to _Faust_.

The weakness of the Romantic movement, its love of mere sensation and
sentiment, is well exhibited in its effect upon the sane and strong mind
of Keats.  He was a pupil of the Romantics; and poetry, as he first
conceived of it, seemed to open to him boundless fields of passive
enjoyment.  His early work shows the struggle between the delicious swoon
of reverie and the growing pains of thought.  His verse, in its
beginnings, was crowded with "luxuries, bright, milky, soft, and rosy."
He was a boy at the time of England's greatest naval glory, but he thinks
more of Robin Hood than of Nelson.  If Robin Hood could revisit the
forest, says Keats,

   He would swear, for all his oaks
   Fallen beneath the dockyard strokes,
   Have rotted on the briny seas.

His use of a word like "rich," as Mr. Robert Bridges has remarked, is
almost inhuman in its luxurious detachment from the human situation.

   Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
   To cease upon the midnight with no pain.
   Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
   Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave.

By his work in this kind Keats became the parent and founder of the
Aesthetic School of poetry, which is more than half in love with easeful
death, and seeks nothing so ardently as rest and escape from the world.
The epilogue to the Aesthetic movement was written by William Morris
before ever he broke out from those enchanted bowers:

   So with this earthly paradise it is,
   If ye will read aright, and pardon me
   Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss
   Midmost the beating of the steely sea,
   Where tossed about all hearts of men must be,
      Whose ravening monsters mighty men must slay,
         Not the poor singer of an empty day.

Yet there is another side to the work of Keats, more wonderful in its
broken promise than all the soft perfections of his tender Muse.  He grew
tired of imitation and ease.  Weakness may exclude the world by
forgetting it; only strength can conquer the world.  What if this law be
also the law of beauty?  The thought inspires his last great attempt, the
fragment of _Hyperion_.  Men have their dynasties and revolutions; but
the immortals also, whom men worship, must change to live.

   So on our heels a fresh perfection treads,
   A power more strong in beauty.

And this power cannot be won by those who shirk the challenge of ugly
facts.

   O folly! for to bear all naked truths,
   And to envisage circumstance, all calm,
   That is the top of sovereignty.

As if to enforce his thought by repetition, Keats made an allegorical
framework for his revised version of the poem.  There he exhibits himself
as wandering among the delights of the garden of this life, and indulging
himself to the point of drunkenness.  Awaked from his swoon, he finds
himself at the steps of the temple of fame.  He is told he must climb or
die.  After an agony of struggle he mounts to the top, and has speech
there with a veiled figure, who tells him that this temple is all that
has been spared in the war between the rival houses of the Gods.  When he
asks why he has been saved from death, the veiled figure makes reply:

   "None can usurp this height," return'd that shade,
   "But those to whom the miseries of the world
   Are misery, and will not let them rest."
   * * * * *
   "Are there not thousands in the world," said I,
   Encourag'd by the sooth voice of the shade,
   "Who love their fellows even to the death,
   Who feel the giant agony of the world,
   And more, like slaves to poor humanity,
   Labour for mortal good?  I sure should see
   Other men here, but I am here alone."
   "Those whom thou spakest of are no visionaries,"
   Rejoined that voice; "they are no dreamers weak;
   They seek no wonder but the human face,
   No music but a happy-noted voice:
   They come not here, they have no thought to come;
   And thou art here, for thou art less than they.
   What benefit canst thou do, or all thy tribe,
   To the great world?  Thou art a dreaming thing,
   A fever of thyself: think of the earth;
   What bliss, even in hope, is there for thee?
   What haven? every creature hath its home,
   Every sole man hath days of joy and pain,
   Whether his labours be sublime or low--
   The pain alone, the joy alone, distinct:
   Only the dreamer venoms all his days,
   Bearing more woe than all his sins deserve."

In this, which is almost his last deliberate utterance, Keats expresses
his sense of the futility of romance, and seems to condemn poetry itself.
A condemnation of the expression of profound thought in beautiful forms
would come very ill from Keats, but this much he surely had learned, that
poetry, the real high poetry, cannot be made out of dreams.  The worst of
dreams is that you cannot discipline them.  Their tragedy is night-mare;
their comedy is nonsense.  Only what can stand severe discipline, and
emerge the purer and stronger for it, is fit to endure.  For all its sins
of flatness and prosiness the Classical School has always taught
discipline.  No doubt it has sometimes trusted too absolutely to
discipline, and has given us too much of the foot-rule and the tuning-
fork.  But one discipline, at least, poetry cannot afford to neglect--the
discipline of facts and life.  The poetry that can face this ordeal and
survive it is rare.  Some poets are tempted to avoid the experience and
save the dream.  Others, who were poets in their youth, undergo the
experience and are beaten by it.  But the poetry which can bear all naked
truth and still keep its singing voice is the only immortal poetry.



Footnotes:


{78}  For some of the facts in this account of Ossian I am indebted to
Mr. J. S. Smart's fascinating book, _James Macpherson_, _an Episode in
Literature_ (David Nutt, 1905).





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