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Title: Essays Literary, Critical and Historical
Author: O'Hagan, Thomas
Language: English
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                                 ESSAYS

                           LITERARY, CRITICAL
                             AND HISTORICAL


                                   BY
                            THOMAS O’HAGAN,
                              M.A., Ph.D.

                      Author of “Canadian Essays,”
                        “Studies in Poetry,” “In
                         Dreamland,” “Songs of
                            the Settlement,”
                                  etc.


                            AUTHOR’S EDITION

                                TORONTO
                             WILLIAM BRIGGS
                                  1909



                      Copyright, Canada, 1909, by
                            THOMAS O’HAGAN.



                                   TO

                         HIS FELLOW-COUNTRYMEN,

                   THE FRENCH CANADIANS AND ACADIANS

                 Who, speaking the language of Bossuet
                    and Lamartine, have added Lustre
                      to our Canadian Citizenship,
                         Virtue to our Canadian
                         Homes, and Joy to our
                          Canadian Firesides,

                       THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED,

                         IN SINCERE ADMIRATION,

                             BY THE AUTHOR



                                PREFACE.


Four of the five essays which make up this volume have appeared during
the past few years in the _American Catholic Quarterly Review_ and the
_Champlain Educator_. The author begs to acknowledge particularly his
indebtedness to Dr. S. E. Dawson’s admirable work on Tennyson’s “The
Princess,” in the preparation of his study of that poem. Indeed, without
Dr. Dawson’s fine analysis of the poem the first essay in this volume
could never have been written.

The paper on “The Italian Renaissance and the Popes of Avignon” was
prepared while the writer was sojourning at Louvain University, Belgium,
in the autumn of 1903, and at Grenoble University, France, during the
summer of 1904. It may be well to add that the libraries of both these
ancient and renowned seats of learning are very rich in works relating
to medieval history and literature, and afforded the author unusual
opportunity in the preparation of the essay.

In the writing of the essay on “Poetry and History Teaching Falsehood,”
the author has been motived by a desire to set forth in the clearest
light possible the misrepresentation of Catholic truth which obtains in
much of the history and poetry of our day.

The third essay in the volume, “The Study and Interpretation of
Literature,” is based by the author upon ideals gained in post-graduate
courses pursued in this subject at several of the leading American
universities, as well as upon a practical knowledge in the teaching of
literature obtained in the High Schools of Ontario.

The paper on “The Degradation of Scholarship” has never before appeared
in print. Let the reader, divested of every predilection and bias,
examine it carefully, remembering that the courage to state the truth is
a more valuable asset of character than the gift of bestowing false
praise, though that praise should secure friends.

                                                              T. O’H.
   Toronto, Canada, March, 1909.



                               CONTENTS.


                                                     PAGE

             A STUDY OF TENNYSON’S “PRINCESS”          11

             POETRY AND HISTORY TEACHING               45
               FALSEHOOD

             THE STUDY AND INTERPRETATION OF           65
               LITERATURE

             THE DEGRADATION OF SCHOLARSHIP            83

             THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE AND THE          101
               POPES OF AVIGNON



                         A STUDY OF TENNYSON’S
                               “PRINCESS”



                   A STUDY OF TENNYSON’S “PRINCESS.”


Few poems written within the Victorian era of English literature have
been so singularly underrated and misunderstood as Tennyson’s
“Princess.” At its very birth—as if it had been born under an
unfavorable star—it encountered the adverse breath of criticism; and
even now, after nearly fifty years have rectified many a past error of
judgment in literary matters, this, the first long and sustained poem of
the late Poet Laureate, receives but grudging recognition and
commendation in a general review and study of the author’s works. We
think it was a little unfortunate that its second title, “A Medley,” was
tacked to it when the poem first appeared, for it gave some of the
critics who had neither the gifts nor disposition to study it aright a
pretext, and, in some measure, justification, for the violent onslaughts
which they from time to time made upon it.

In the light of the progressive views held to-day of the higher
education of woman, this poem may be regarded as a prophecy voicing the
advent of a broader, rounder and deeper culture for the race upon a
plane of civilization in which woman as a primal factor and true
complement of man shall unfold her being in a ceaseless striving for
truth, beauty and love. The attainment of this higher condition of life
will not, however, be hastened by isolated Idas walled within colleges
of their own pride and sex, and vainly and foolishly waging war upon
their own brothers; and every movement which starts out with the purpose
of setting up woman as a rival of man in achievement, is not only a
detriment to the cause of human progress, in which man and woman alike
are shareholders, but the end thereof must be abasement and defeat.

The “Princess” appeared first in print in 1847, at a time, by the way,
when the surface thought of England was largely given up to corn-laws
and free-trade; and this may account, in some measure, for the coldness
of the reception accorded it, as the English are a people who have
proverbially little time or thought for “bainting and boetry” when a
commercial or economic question is on the boards. The poem is a medley
in form, but not in essence, as it possesses the real and deep-seated
unity which all art demands—that of a consistent purpose and a
pervading harmony of tone. The medley consists in the poem being
serio-comic, constructed of ancient and modern materials—a show, as
Edmund Clarence Stedman says, of medieval pomp and movement observed
through an atmosphere of latter-day thought and emotion. It is such a
mixture as we find in Shakespeare’s “Winter’s Tale,” and, indeed, in the
prologue the name of that drama is introduced as if to justify by
precedent the incongruities of the narrative.

We think, however, that the critics have made too much out of the
improbability of the incidents in the poem. Surely to be consistent such
critics should extend their reproach to “The Tempest” and “Midsummer
Night’s Dream.” To us the impossible elements and anachronisms render
the poem more attractive. In estimating a poem we must always take for
granted the conditions assumed by the poet, and these being assumed, we
have only to inquire whether the poem possesses unity, congruity and a
definite and worthy object. There are, however, two things we have a
right to demand: that the characters are congruous with themselves, and
that the treatment of the incidents is poetic. But as far as art is
concerned, we should not lose our literary tempers or prepare to let
fall the axe of condemnation merely because some idealized scene in a
poem or drama does not harmonize in every particular with our own
workaday world. We mention this fact because in all fairness we consider
that this poem, “The Princess,” should be judged and appraised according
to some canons and rules that apply to similar works of imagination and
fancy.

The prologue and epilogue form the setting of the poem, and it would be
difficult to find in all English literature a more truly natural and
graceful picture than the scene from English life of to-day which the
poet paints for us in the opening lines of the poem. The place is the
South of England. The occasion a festival upon the grounds of a wealthy
baronet. Sir Walter Vivian has thrown open his grounds for a summer’s
day, and the people of the neighboring town, and especially the members
of its scientific institute, throng the park and give themselves up to
recreation and pleasure. A party of young collegians on vacation, in
company with some of the wellborn and cultured girls of the Hall and the
neighboring country seats, have made a select picnic of their own in a
ruined abbey. The baronet’s son, young Walter Vivian, is of the company.
One of the collegians, a dreamy youth—the poet himself—has been
looking through the library and has come across a book telling of
knightly deeds of the medieval ancestors of the stately Hall. Taking the
book with him, he joins the party, keeping his finger on the place where
is told the story of a fearless dame of the house, who, in defending her
castle against a lawless king, had armed

    “Her own fair head, and sallying thro’ the gate
    Had beat her foes with slaughter from her walls.
    ‘O miracle of women,’ said the book;
    ‘O noble heart who, being strait besieged
    By this wild king to force her to his wish,
    Nor bent nor broke nor shunned a soldier’s death.’”

These last lines form a key to the story which Tennyson employs in
giving us his views as to the proper sphere of woman, for this “miracle
of women” is the prototype of the Princess Ida. While discussing the
character of this heroine who defended her castle in days agone, the
question at once arises among the members of the picnic party—are there
such women now? One of the young ladies, Lilia, the baronet’s daughter,
answers:

    “There are thousands now
    Such women, but convention beats them down,”

and in a half serious, half sportive way protests against the way in
which nowadays the powers of her sex are dwarfed by insufficient
culture, and as a consequence women are no longer capable of exhibiting
such heroic qualities. Young Walter Vivian in the course of his remarks,
which are banteringly addressed to his sister, mentions a favorite game
which he and his college companions used to play, of telling a story
from mouth to mouth, each one in succession taking up the thread till
among them they brought the story to a close. It is then forthwith
agreed that the seven youths should transfer this medieval miracle of
womanhood to modern times in a story to which each should contribute a
chapter. Of course, the conception out of which the plot is developed is
the founding of a Ladies’ University by the Princess Ida, who has set
before her the task of

    “Raising the woman’s fallen divinity
    Upon an equal pedestal with man.”

It may be added that the question discussed in this poem by Tennyson is
one of vital importance to the human race, and is in every way worthy of
the attention of the best and most earnest minds of our century. The
poem proper is made up of seven cantos, written in semi-heroic verse,
each story linked to and growing out of the previous canto. The first
canto represents the Prince, who is none other than the poet himself, as
longing for the bride betrothed to him in childhood. She, however,
disregarding all pledge and promise, has conceived the idea of founding
a University for Women, from which men are to be excluded on pain of
death. To carry out her strange project she obtains from her father one
of his castles with the domain surrounding it. Here the Princess Ida
establishes her faculty, and rains down the dews of knowledge upon the
thirsty flowers that bud and bloom under her high-souled care. This
lofty enterprise is, however, in no way acceptable to the Prince, nor to
the King, his father, who, inflamed with rage at her refusal to marry
his son, swears

    “That he will send a hundred thousand men
    And bring her in a whirlwind.”

The Prince, in company with two friends, Cyril and Florian, steals away
by night from his father’s court for the purpose of making a personal
appeal to his affianced bride, encouraged by a mysterious voice, borne
upon the winds in the woods, which whispered,

    “Follow, follow, thou shalt win.”

In his interview with Gama, the King, father of the Princess Ida, who,
by the way, was powerless to oppose the wishes and designs of his
daughter and her two widow companions, we learn the two fallacies which
mislead the Princess in her design to found a Ladies’ University: that
the woman is equal in all respects to the man, and that knowledge is all
in all. These are the very two fallacies which to-day are productive of
most mischief to the true advancement of woman.

The second book or canto brings the Prince and his two companions,
disguised as women, to the University, where the detection of Florian by
his sister, Lady Psyche, one of the lady lecturers, is narrated. The
description of the grounds and walks leading to the University shows
Tennyson’s keen knowledge of feminine nature. Just note, please, the
following appointments in the grounds. Do they not reflect the artistic
taste of woman?

    “We follow’d up the river as we rode,
    And rode till midnight, when the college lights
    Began to glitter firefly-like in copse
    And linden alley: then we past an arch,
    Whereon a woman-statue rose with wings
    From four wing’d horses dark against the stars;
    And some inscription ran along the front,
    But deep in shadow: further on we gained
    A little street, half garden and half house;
    But scarce could hear each other speak for noise
    Of clock and chimes, like silver hammers falling
    On silver anvils, and the splash and stir
    Of fountains spouted up and showering down
    In meshes of the jasmine and the rose:
    And all about us peal’d the nightingale,
    Rapt in her song and careless of the snare.”

The only thing wrong in this nice bit of description, as Dr. S. E.
Dawson has pointed out in his study of “The Princess,” is in reference
to the song of the nightingale. It is only the male bird which sings.
Scientifically, therefore, Tennyson is wrong, though historically and
poetically he is correct, for, according to the Greek myth, Philomela
was a princess who was turned into a nightingale which sang.

Lady Psyche having discovered that her three visiting friends are men,
not women, the Prince and his two companions, upon promising a speedy
departure, prevail upon the fair professor to conceal their real
identity. Disguised as women, and keeping their hoods about their faces,
the three young men stroll through the lecture-rooms and listen to the
“violet-hooded doctors” descant on the ancient glories of Greece and
Rome, now reciting some scrap of thunderous epic, now lilting off some
throbbing ode, now dipping into the science of star and bird and shell
and flower, electric, chemic laws and all the rest, and whatsoever can
be taught and known—with what result? We will let the Prince tell:

    “Till like three horses that have broken fence,
    And glutted all night long breast-deep in corn,
    We issued gorged with knowledge.”

Cyril, however, is not pleased with the condition of things, and thinks
that violence is done to woman’s nature in this isolated institution.
This plain-spoken fellow evidently regards the heart and its affections
in woman as of much more importance than the intellect, for how
otherwise are we to interpret his opinion, as expressed to Florian:

    “A thousand hearts lie fallow in these halls,
    And round these halls a thousand baby loves
    Fly, twanging headless arrows at the hearts,
    Whence follows many a vacant pang.”

In the third canto the mock damsels pursue still further their studies,
and mounted on horses, in company with the Princess, make a geological
excursion in the neighboring country. The Prince and Princess ride side
by side, and out of their conversation grows a reference to her
betrothal to the young prince in the North. Her reply to the statement
of her disguised companion, that her persistence in refusing to make
good her pledge of marriage would surely lead to the death of the
Prince, is characteristic of a woman who is waging war with her womanly
instincts and the rooted affections of her heart, and undertakes the
heavy task of breasting the current of nature with its strong and
irresistible tide. Here is the crumb of consolation she offers him in
his disappointment:

    “‘Poor boy,’ she cried, ‘can he not read—no books?
    Quoit, tennis, ball—no games? nor deals in that
    Which men delight in, martial exercise?
    To nurse a blind ideal like a girl,
    Methinks he seems no better than a girl;
    As girls were once, as we ourself have been;
    We had our dreams; perhaps he mixt with them.’”

This reminds one of the advice given in Donald G. Mitchell’s “Reveries
of a Bachelor” to a disappointed lover—to adopt a diet of vegetables
and read Jeremy Taylor’s sermons.

The fourth canto contains the grand crash. It is also the canto which
closes the humorous or serio-comic part of the story, the transition
being made from jest to earnest at the request of Lilia, who, as
spokeswoman for the ladies in the poem, objected to the banter in the
first four cantos;

    “They hated banter, wished for something real,
    A gallant fight, a noble Princess—why
    Not make her true heroic,—true sublime?
    Or all, they said, as earnest as the close?
    Which yet,” replies the poet, “scarce could be.”

The crash comes when Cyril, honest-hearted Cyril, after the party, tired
from geologizing and astronomizing, are seated in a silken pavilion
indulging in meat, wine and song, responds to the request of the
Princess for a song that would have in it something of the flavor and
manners of his countrywomen in the North. Cyril is a merry fellow and
reminds one not a little of Shakespeare’s Mercutio. He is the least
sentimental of the three friends, and while the Prince has been dwelling
in cloudland, rocked in airy dreams, Cyril has given himself up to the
excellent vintage of the southern kingdom, and so, wrought upon by the
purple grape and his own sense of sport, he trolls out, in absolute
forgetfulness of his disguise, a rollicking love-song in mellow and
melodious tenor. Such song was not, of course, meant for the ears of the
Princess and her companions, and so Florian nods at him frowning, Psyche
flushes and wans, Melissa droops her brows, the Prince smites him on the
breast, while the noble Ida, shocked beyond all endurance, cries,
“Forbear, sir!” and “Home! to horse!” and dashing off on her steed falls
into the river and is rescued from death by the Prince.

In the fifth canto the Northern King has marched with his army into the
Southern kingdom, and, anxious for the safety of his son, has surrounded
the Princess Ida’s domain. He has taken the King, her father, a
prisoner. Meantime, by judgment of the Princess Ida, the Prince and his
two companions have been ignominiously thrust out of the University and
reach the camp of the investing army in draggled female attire. Ida’s
warlike brothers, fearing for their sister’s safety, march their troops
northward to protect her. After a parley between the two armies, it is
decided that the matter be finally settled by a tournament between fifty
knights on each side—the hand of the Princess to be the reward of the
Prince if his side win. The fight takes place and terminates
unsuccessfully for the Prince, who loses his bride and is wounded nearly
to death.

The tournament scene is, indeed, a magnificent passage and has about it
a certain Homeric swiftness of movement and action that is in strong
contrast to some of Tennyson’s more labored narrative. We feel the shock
of combat and shiver of lance as we read the following vehement lines,
full of the pulse and power of the lists:

                “Empanoplied and plumed
  We entered in and waited, fifty there
  Opposed to fifty, till the trumpet blared
  At the barrier like a wild horn in a land
  Of echoes, and a moment, and once more
  The trumpet, and again: at which the storm
  Of galloping hoofs bare on the ridge of spears
  And riders front to front, until they closed
  In conflict with the crash of shivering points
  And thunder. Yet it seem’d a dream I dream’d
  Of fighting. On his haunches rose the steed,
  And into fiery splinters leapt the lance,
  And out of stricken helmets sprang the fire.
  Part sat like rocks: part reel’d but kept their seats:
  Part roll’d on the earth and rose again and drew:
  Part stumbled mixt with floundering horses. Down
  From those two bulks at Arac’s side and down
  From Arac’s arm, as from a giant’s flail,
  The large blows rain’d, as here and everywhere
  He rode the mellay, lord of the ringing lists,
  And all the plain,—brand, mace and shaft and shield—
  Shock’d like an iron-clanking anvil bang’d
  With hammers.

       *      *      *      *      *      *

                          With that I drave
  Among the thickest and bore down a Prince,
  And Cyril one. Yea, let me make my dream
  All that I would. But that large-moulded man,
  His visage all agrin as at a wake,
  Made at me thro’ the press and staggering back
  With stroke on stroke the horse and horseman, came
  As comes a pillar of electric cloud,
  Flaying the roofs and sucking up the drains,
  And shadowing down the champaign till it strikes
  On a wood, and takes, and breaks and cracks and splits,
  And twists the grain with such a roar that Earth
  Reels and the herdsmen cry; for everything
  Gave way before him: only Florian, he
  That loved me closer than his own right eye,
  Thrust in between; but Arac rode him down:
  And Cyril seeing it, push’d against the Prince,
  With Psyche’s color round his helmet, tough,
  Strong, supple, sinew-corded, apt at arms;
  But tougher, heavier, stronger, he that smote
  And threw him: last I spurr’d; I felt my veins
  Stretch with fierce heat; a moment hand to hand,
  And sword to sword, and horse to horse we hung,
  Till I struck out and shouted; the blade glanced;
  I did but shear a feather, and dream and truth
  Flow’d from me; darkness closed me; and I fell.”

The sixth canto is, perhaps, taken all in all, the finest in the poem.
In it the full strength of the poet is put forth. The field of battle,
the wounded knights, the old king’s haggard face stooping over the
prostrate body of his son—all are themes for touching and pathetic
pictures. How beautifully the poet traces in this canto the growth and
final supremacy of the true womanly elements in Ida’s nature. The tender
domestic instincts, first awakened by the care of Psyche’s child, are
now quickened into new and stronger life by the presence of suffering
and sorrow around her.

The seventh canto, which opens with one of the sweetest songs in the
English language, “Ask Me No More,” shows the complete transfiguration
of Ida’s nature under the influence of the affections. The college has
been turned into an hospital, and the ministry of the heart in all its
tenderness has taken the place of mere pride of intellect. Love has
built its lily walls and transformed the cold hearth of solitude and
selfishness into a radiant altar of self-sacrifice, devotion and love.

                              “Everywhere
    Low voices with the ministering hand
    Hung round the sick: the maidens came, they talk’d,
    They sang, they read: till she not fair began
    To gather light, and she that was, became
    Her former beauty treble.”

Ida sits by the couch of the Prince, watching him in his delirium of
fever. Her name is ever on his lips. Finally, in the still summer night,
consciousness returns, and observing Ida at his bedside he murmurs:

    “If you be, what I think you, some sweet dream,
    I would but ask you to fulfil yourself:
    But if you be that Ida whom I knew,
    I ask you nothing: only, if a dream,
    Sweet dream, be perfect. I shall die to-night.
    Stoop down and seem to kiss me ere I die.”

The transforming power of love has done its work. Ida, who sought far
less for truth than power in knowledge, is defeated in her purpose, but
rises in this apparent defeat to the supreme height of her womanhood.
Frankly she confesses her failure and the cause thereof:

    “She had failed in sweet humility.”

Still she will not relinquish her high hopes of a nobler future for
woman; nor is it necessary that she should do so. “Rather,” says the
Prince,

    “Henceforth thou hast a helper, me, that know
    The woman’s cause is man’s: they rise or sink
    Together, dwarf’d or godlike, bond or free.

         *      *      *      *      *      *

    If she be small, slight-natured, miserable,
    How shall men grow? but work no more alone!
    Our place is much: as far as in us lies
    We two will serve them both in aiding her—
    Will clear away the parasitic forms
    That seem to keep her up but drag her down—
    Will leave her space to burgeon out of all
    Within her—let her make herself her own
    To give or keep, to live and learn and be
    All that not harms distinctive womanhood.”

And then, in the following beautiful passage, which for majesty of
thought and delicacy of feeling can scarcely be matched in the whole
realm of poetry, the poet describes the relations of man’s nature to
woman’s and paints the ideal of a perfect marriage:

    “For woman is not undevelopt man,
    But diverse: could we make her as the man,
    Sweet Love were slain: his dearest bond is this,
    Not like to like, but like in difference.
    Yet in the long years liker must they grow;
    The man be more of woman, she of man;
    He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
    Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
    She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,
    Nor lose the child-like in the larger mind;
    Till at the last she set herself to man,
    Like perfect music unto noble words;
    And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time,
    Sit side by side, full-summ’d in all their powers,
    Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-be,
    Self-reverent each and reverencing each,
    Distinct in individualities,
    But like each other ev’n as those who love.
    Then comes the statelier Eden back to men;
    Then reign the world’s great bridals, chaste and calm:
    Then springs the crowning race of humankind.”

Then follows the epilogue or conclusion, whereby the reader is
transferred from the fairy-land of imagination back to the festival
crowd in the park, with which the poem commenced. There is not a jar in
the transition, and the mind of the reader, translated from the stirring
incidents of trumpet and tournament, finds repose in the idyllic beauty
which reigns in the heart of English life and scenes.

Having traced the motive of the story and the unity of its conception
throughout, let us now see whether the separate characters are congruous
within themselves, and in what way they have a share in the development
of the plot.

The Princess Ida is drawn as the prototype of “the miracle of women” who
beat the king and his forces with slaughter from the walls. She
possessed a noble enthusiasm, a quality which would have made her an
ideal wife for Arthur. As a wife she would have sympathized with him in
his lofty aims and purposes, and been willing to share with him in his
failures and lost hopes:

    “She sees herself in every woman else,
    And so she wears her errors like a crown.”

With what a loving hand Tennyson does justice to her unselfish nature,
even with the failure of her enterprise inevitable. Cold natures cannot
understand her enthusiasm for the cause which she has espoused:

    “They know not, cannot guess
    How much their welfare is a passion to us.
    If we could give them surer, quicker proof—
    Oh! if our end were less achievable
    By slow approaches, than by single act
    Of immolation; any phase of death;
    We were as prompt to spring against the pikes,
    Or down the fiery gulf, as talk of it,
    To compass our dear sisters’ liberties.”

And as the womanly elements gain ascendancy in her nature, how
beautifully the poet tells of the dawning of love in her heart:

    “Love, like an Alpine harebell hung with tears,
    By some cold morning glacier; frail at first
    And feeble, all unconscious of itself,
    But such as gathered color day by day.”

The Prince represents the poet himself, and when he speaks it may be
taken for granted that his opinions relative to woman’s sphere and
duties are the opinions of Tennyson himself. It may be noticed that his
character is not defined in very strong colors, simply because he is a
foil to the Princess, and would, if brought out more strongly, detract
from the brilliancy of the Princess as well as mar the general unity of
the poem. The character of the Prince must have given Tennyson a great
deal of trouble, for it was not until after the fourth edition that he
ceased to elaborate it. It is hard to understand why the poet added the
passages relating to the weird seizures of the Prince. Perhaps his
object was to set forth the weakness and incompleteness of the poet side
of the Prince’s character until he has found rest in his ideal.

It will be observed, too, that the Prince aims at elevating woman, but
he differs from Ida as to the means. Ida dreams of intellectual
advancement alone. The Prince recognizes moral elevation to be the
higher of the two. He pays tribute to the moral greatness of woman where
he says they are,

    “Not like that piebald miscellany, man;
    Bursts of great heart and slips in sensual mire;
    But whole and one; and take them all in all,
    Were we ourselves but half as good, as kind,
    As truthful, much that Ida claims as right
    Had ne’er been mooted.”

And when the Prince sets forth the mission of woman as the conservator
of the results of civilization hardly won by the struggles of man, and
paints his ideal of a perfect marriage, the Princess asks:

    “What woman taught you this?”

To which the Prince replies, in language which touches the heart of
every man:

                                      “One
    Not learned, save in gracious household ways;
    Not perfect, nay, but full of tender wants;
    No Angel, but a dearer being, all dipt
    In Angel instincts, breathing Paradise,
    Interpreter between the gods and men,
    Who looked all native to her place, and yet
    On tiptoe seem’d to touch upon a sphere
    Too gross to tread, and all male minds perforce
    Swayed to her from their orbits as they moved
    And girdled her with music. Happy he
    With such a mother! faith in womankind
    Beats with his blood, and trust in all things high
    Comes easy to him, and tho’ he trip and fall,
    He shall not blind his soul with clay.”

As to the characters of the two kings, they are well conceived and
drawn. Ida’s father has an easy, loving disposition, and it is very
evident that she inherits her strength of character from her mother. The
Northern King is of a rough and violent type, which recalls the time
when marriage was a capture:

                          “Look you—Sir!
    Man is the hunter; woman is the game;
    The sleek and shining creatures of the chase,
    We hunt them for the beauty of their skins;
    They love us for it and we ride them down.”

While the character of Florian is vague and indefinite, that of Cyril is
well and clearly conceived. The latter is a wholesome, jovial and
honest-hearted fellow. He is no dreamer and can always tell the
substance from the shadow. He is not at all impressed by stately women,
and so he tells the Princess that Love and Nature are more terrible than
she.

The two widows, Lady Psyche and Lady Blanche, are in sharp contrast to
each other. The former remains womanly under every circumstance. Even
when discoursing on the nebular hypothesis in the lecture-room, we find
that her babe, sweet Agläea, is by her side, and when she has lost it
she bitterly reproaches herself for having left it behind.

Lady Blanche is the most unlovely woman in the whole gallery of
Tennyson’s women. She has no thought but for herself, and even asperses
the memory of her dead husband. She is full of envy and jealousy, nor
has she even the affection of a mother for her sunny-hearted and winsome
daughter, Melissa. She is a type of not a few who identify themselves
with the Woman’s Rights movement of to-day, ostensibly to better the
social and intellectual position of woman, but virtually to blow a
bubble before the eyes of the world and gather about them an atmosphere
of notoriety.

Having analyzed the poem as to its motive and plot, and shown the part
which each character contributes to the development of the plot, we will
now consider the purpose and import of the songs or ballads which the
young ladies sing during the pauses or interludes in the poem. The songs
did not appear at first, but were added by the poet to the third
edition, which appeared in 1850. It will be noticed that they nearly all
relate to children, and serve as choruses to guide and interpret the
sympathies of the reader in the progress of the poem. Let us take them
in their order, one by one. The first tells of a quarrel between a man
and his wife, and of the reconciliation caused by the memory of their
dead child:

    “As thro’ the land at eve we went,
      And pluck’d the ripen’d ears,
    We fell out, my wife and I,
    O we fell out I know not why,
      And kiss’d again with tears.
    And blessings on the falling out
      That all the more endears,
    When we fall out with those we love
      And kiss again with tears!
    For when we came where lies the child
      We lost in other years,
    There above the little grave,
    O there above the little grave,
      We kiss’d again with tears.”

Here we have the abiding influence of the child reaching back from the
grave and uniting by its memory the tearful and desolate hearts of the
estranged parents.

The second represents how the toil and labor of the father are ennobled
and lightened amid the perils of the deep through the memory of the
little babe for whose life and love he fondly braves every danger:

    “Sweet and low, sweet and low,
      Wind of the western sea,
    Low, low, breathe and blow,
      Wind of the western sea!
    Over the rolling waters go,
    Come from the dying moon, and blow,
      Blow him again to me,
    While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.

    “Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
      Father will come to thee soon;
    Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
      Father will come to thee soon;
    Father will come to his babe in the nest,
    Silver sails all out of the west
      Under the silver moon:
    Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.”

Sweet influence, indeed, this of the babe which reaches across the ocean
and unites loving hearts.

The next song, “The Bugle,” is regarded by many as the finest lyric that
has been written since the days of Shakespeare. Its real meaning is
frequently not grasped by the casual reader. It is based upon the
contrast between the echoes of a bugle on a mountain lake, which grow
fainter and fainter in proportion to the receding distance, and the
influence of soul upon soul through growing distances of time:

    “The splendor falls on castle walls
        And snowy summits old in story:
      The long light shakes across the lakes,
        And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
    Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
    Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

    “O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,
        And thinner, clearer, farther going!
      O sweet and far from cliff and scar
        The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
    Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
    Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

    “O love, they die in yon rich sky,
        They faint on hill or field or river:
      _Our_ echoes roll from soul to soul
        And _grow_ forever and forever.
    Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
    And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.”

The stress of meaning is in the words _our_ and _grow_. _Our_ echoes
roll from _soul to soul_—from generation to generation—from
grandparent to parent and grandchild. This poem represents unity through
the family in its relation to the future, just as the first two songs
represent that unity through the past and present.

The fourth is intended to show the influences of home and wedded love in
nerving a man for the shocks and conflicts of life:

    “Thy voice is heard thro’ rolling drums,
      That beat to battle where he stands;
    Thy face across his fancy comes,
      And gives the battle to his hands:
    A moment while the trumpets blow,
      He sees his brood about thy knee;
    The next, like fire he meets the foe,
      And strikes him dead—_for thine and thee_.”

We see by this lyric that patriotism and heroic effort have their root
and origin in home affection.

The next song represents the influence of the family, of which the child
is the bond, upon the mother:

    “Home they brought her warrior dead:
      She nor swoon’d nor utter’d cry:
    All her maidens, watching, said,
      ‘She must weep or she will die.’

    “Then they praised him, soft and low,
      Call’d him worthy to be loved,
    Truest friend and noblest foe;
      Yet she neither spoke nor moved.

    “Stole a maiden from her place,
      Lightly to the warrior stept,
    Took the face-cloth from the face;
      Yet she neither moved nor wept.

    “Rose a nurse of ninety years,
      Set his child upon her knee—
    Like summer tempest came her tears—
      ‘Sweet my child, I live for thee.’”

In this poem we see that desolation and despair have sealed the fountain
of tears in the widowed wife—that the light of love has gone from her
life and returns only through the influence of childhood, with all its
tender links and memories.

The last song, “Ask Me No More,” is like the sestette in a sonnet—the
application of all the preceding. These influences of the family, with
all its sacred ties and affections, are too much for the strong and
noble soul of the Princess, who throws aside all theories of
intellectual independence for woman, and, yielding to the impulse of
love and affection, proclaims the triumph of the womanly elements in her
nature in the following sweet and tender lines:

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

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

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

What bearing these six lyrics, which are truly miracles of workmanship,
have upon the main theme of the story will be readily perceived. They
not only contribute to the unity of the poem proper but are in
themselves linked together by a kindred bond and purpose. They are the
voice of the heart singing through the night, cheered by the kindly
stars of faith, hope and love.

Having analyzed the poem and reached its central thought, let us now
consider who is the hero or heroine of the story. Assuredly it is not
the Prince, for he has been ignominiously thrust out of Ida’s gates in
draggled female clothes. Nor is it his jovial-hearted companion, Cyril,
nor Arac, who cares for nothing save the tournament. It cannot even be
the high-souled and stately Princess, for has she not been vanquished at
the very moment of triumph? The only one who comes out triumphantly is
Psyche’s baby—she is the real heroine of the epic. The little blossom,
sweet Agläea, is the central point upon which the plot turns. In the
poem, in the songs—everywhere—this unconscious child, the concrete
embodiment of nature itself, exerts an overpowering influence, shaping,
directing, nurturing the tender instincts of womanhood and clearing away
all intellectual theories which tend to usurp the sacred offices of
mother and home.

In the despatch which Ida sends to her brother she acknowledges the
power of the child in the following lines:

    “I took it for an hour in mine own bed
    This morning: there the tender orphan hands
    Felt at my heart, and seemed to charm from thence
    The wrath I nursed against the world.”

And again:

                                      “I felt
    Thy helpless warmth about my barren breast
    In the dead prime.”

Notice, too, how ubiquitous the babe is. Ida carries it with her
everywhere. It is on her judgment seat, it shares in her song of triumph
when the tournament is ended, and is with her on the battlefield when
she is tending her wounded brothers.

The babe is indeed the heroine of the story, holding the epic along the
channel of its main motive, despite every current and breeze stirred by
foreign elements in its course.

It is not hard to read in this poem Tennyson’s solution of the woman
question, though there are some who maintain that it is vague and
unsatisfactory. Such persons forget that it is the office of the poet
not so much to affirm principles on a subject as to inspire the
sentiments which ought to preside over the solution.

It seems to us that the transfiguration of Ida’s nature under the
influence of the affections is the only solution possible that could be
offered by the poet for the questions raised in “The Princess.” It is
the office of poetry, not to guide the conclusions of the intellect, but
to tone the feelings in accordance with truth and duty. Poetry is not to
teach the truth—it is truth itself.

Those who have the interest of the true advancement of woman at heart
should remember that neither the whole race nor woman herself can be
benefited by any system of education for woman at variance with Nature
and not co-ordinate with the highest needs of the race. It is idle to
discuss the equality or inequality of gifts and faculties as between man
and woman. Every person knows that woman is not only the equal of man in
many respects, but his superior in not a few; yet this does not justify
her in waging a war with Nature and, with her heart clothed in an iron
panoply, riding forth into the arena of dust and turmoil to perform
services for which the strong hand and knightly heart of man as well as
the vocation of centuries have fitted him alone.

As to her education, that which enables her every faculty to grow and
unfold its beauty and power, with no harm to her distinctive
womanhood—that should be her privilege and right to enjoy, whether it
be obtained in convent or co-education hall. That woman needs a greater
breadth and solidity of intellectual culture goes without saying, and
this for two reasons—to better fit her for the high moral offices which
belong to her domestic mission, and to keep alive in her a just sympathy
with the larger social movements of which she is the passive, but ought
not to be the uninterested spectator.

If Ida’s theories were carried out, the child element in woman and the
feminine element in man would be crushed out, and it is this very
feminine element in man which gives him moral insight—it constitutes
the poetic side of his nature. Without the feminine element in his
nature Chaucer never could have written “The Canterbury Tales.”

Ida was right in seeking for a more generous culture, but the spirit in
which she sought it was wrong. Mrs. Browning’s Aurora Leigh would be an
artist first and then a woman. Ida, too, would crush out the womanly
elements in her nature in her eagerness to satisfy the claims of the
intellect. She set the claims of the head above those of the heart, and,
like Aurora Leigh, she failed.

Enthusiasts often point to the glories achieved by women through the
centuries, and make this a pretext for their vagaries and Utopian
dreams. Because Corinna won the lyric prize from Pindar, and Judith
delivered her people from Holofernes, and Joan of Arc repulsed the
English from the walls of Orleans, and Queen Elizabeth laid the
foundation of England’s supremacy upon the sea, is it meet that the
whole social order should be turned upside down and Nature wounded in
its very heart? Such enthusiasts forget that the mother of Themistocles
was greater than the vanquisher of Pindar, the mother of St. Louis of
France greater than the Maid of Orleans, and the mother of Shakespeare
greater than she who held with firm grasp the sceptre of English
sovereignty during the closing years of the Tudor period.

In spite, therefore, of all theories to the contrary, in spite of many
zealous but misguided women who are looking in the near future for the
reign of woman and the complete subserviency of man, the true mission of
woman is, and always will continue to be, within the domestic sphere,
where she conserves the accumulated sum of the moral education of the
race, and keeps burning through the darkest night of civilization upon
the sacred altar of humanity, the vestal fires of Truth, Beauty, and
Love.



                      POETRY AND HISTORY TEACHING
                               FALSEHOOD



                 POETRY AND HISTORY TEACHING FALSEHOOD.


The function of the poet is to speak essential truths as opposed to
relative truths, and Mrs. Browning in “Aurora Leigh” testifies to this
fact in the following lines:

                                  “I write so
    Of the only truth-tellers now left to God,
    The only speakers of essential truth
    Opposed to relative, comparative,
    And temporal truths; the only holders by
    His sun-skirts, through conventional gray glooms;
    The only teachers who instruct mankind
    From just a shadow on a charnel wall
    To find man’s veritable stature out
    Erect, sublime,—the measure of a man;
    And that’s the measure of an angel says
    The Apostle.”

It is much to be regretted that the poetry of the present day does not
always fulfil this high purpose. The poets of to-day—and by poets of
to-day I mean the poets of the past half-century—are not “the only
truth-tellers now left to God.” Nay, they are often disseminators of
falsehood. It is true the non-Catholic poet—a Wordsworth, a Byron, a
Longfellow, or a Tennyson—by being true to art and inspiration, which
has as its basis Catholic truth, sometimes unwittingly expresses a
Catholic truth of the deepest significance. But as poetry is only a
reflection of life idealized, and as there is nothing in poetry but what
is in life, we may expect the anti-Catholic seeds scattered about by
prejudiced hearts in the garden of the world to bear the poisonous
blossoms of falsehood as they are translated and reflected in the pages
of modern poetry.

And this is sometimes done indirectly. Sometimes, too, it is done by
expressing a half truth or by seizing on some exceptional phase of
Catholic religious life and impressing it upon the non-Catholic mind
with an “_Ab uno disce omnes_.”

A concrete example will best illustrate this. Browning has a poem
entitled “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church.” Now
Browning’s poetic workshop was Italy, so this great psychological poet
wrote:

    “Open my heart and you shall see
    Graven on it Italy.”

He found in the land of Dante and Michael Angelo fit subjects for his
dramatic monologues. The art world of Italy opened up to Browning new
themes, new thoughts. The intense life of its people, full of the
sweetness and aroma of virtue and the dark tragedy of vice, gave him
scope which he could not find elsewhere. Pity it is that he presents
only the dark side of Italian character. Pity it is that the paganized
and sensual Bishop of the Italian Renaissance depicted by Browning in
“The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church” did not find
setting, in his poems, as a foil to the pure and pious men and women who
prayed before the shrines and in the cloisters of Italy when the new
wine of old classicism poured from Homeric flasks and casks had
intoxicated the head and heart of that garden of Europe and turned
possible saints into satyrs.

De Maistre, the great French publicist, has said that history for the
past three hundred years has been a conspiracy against truth. Aye, and
poetry, too, whose countenance should reflect the beauty of heavenly
truth, often wears the mask of the assassin. To-day there are so-called
advanced and up-to-date scholars in our universities and clubs who hold
that “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church” is a true
reflection of the religious life of the Italian Renaissance. They quote
Ruskin as saying of that poem:

“I know of no other piece of modern English, prose or poetry, in which
there is so much told as in these lines, of the Renaissance spirit—its
worldliness, inconsistency, pride, hypocrisy, ignorance of itself, love
of art, of luxury, and of good Latin. It is nearly all that I have said
of the Central Renaissance, in thirty pages of the ‘Stones of Venice,’
put into as many lines, Browning’s being also the antecedent work.”

We would say just here to students of literature and history: Let not
the shadow of a great literary name overawe you. John Ruskin did a great
deal for art and criticism, but he is far from being an infallible
apostle of truth in either domain; and though he loved the lowly,
brown-hooded friars of St. Francis, this love was not based on spiritual
affinity, but on the poetry and art bound up in their humble lives.

John Ruskin and Robert Browning, respectively art critic and poet, have
done the religious life of the Italian Renaissance a grievous
wrong—nay, they grossly misrepresent it when they say that this
abnormal picture of a Renaissance Catholic bishop truly represents and
reflects the religious life of Italy at that period. No doubt but a
certain amount of abuses and corruption prevailed in the Church at that
time, largely as a consequence of the worldly spirit which had gained
entrance into it during its exile at Avignon.

However, all was not darkness and sin. The vivifying life of the Church
was not exemplified in the Bishop of St. Praxed’s. As the great
historian of the Popes of the Renaissance, Dr. Ludwig Pastor, says, “If
those days were full of failings and sins of every kind, the Church was
not wanting in glorious manifestations through which the source of her
higher life revealed itself. Striking contrasts—deep shadows on the one
hand and most consoling gleams of sunshine on the other—are the special
characteristics of this period. If the historian of the Church of the
fifteenth century meets with some unworthy prelates and bishops, he also
meets in every part of Christendom with an immense number of men
distinguished for their virtue, piety and learning, not a few of whom
have been, by the solemn voice of the Church, raised to her altars.”

Limiting ourselves to the most remarkable individuals of the period of
which we are about to treat, we shall mention only the saints and holy
men and women given by Italy to the Church: St. Bernardine of Siena, of
the order of Minorites, whose eloquence won for him the title of
“Trumpet of Heaven and fountain of knowledge”; around him are grouped
his holy brothers in religion, Saints John Capestran and Jacopo della
Marca. St. Antonius, whose unexampled zeal was displayed in Florence,
the very centre of the Renaissance, had for his disciples blessed
Antonio Neyrot of Ripoli and Constanzio di Fabriano. In the order of St.
Augustine are the following who have been beatified: Andrea, who died at
Montereale in 1497; Antonio Turriani, in 1494. In 1440 St. Frances, the
foundress of the Oblates, was working at Rome. The labors of another
founder, St. Francis of Paula, who died in 1507, belong in part to this
period. These names, to which many more might be added, furnish the most
striking proof of the vitality of religion in Italy at the time of the
Renaissance. Such fruits do not ripen on trees which are “decayed and
rotten to the core.”

Indeed, it is astonishing what nonsense is talked about this period of
the Italian Renaissance, especially as it influenced the religious life
of the people. In one breath our would-be professors will tell you that
the Italian Renaissance movement swept the Catholic Church into a vortex
of paganism—pope, cardinals, bishops, and all; and in the next they
will lead you to believe that the Catholic Church set its face against
the new revival of classical learning, fearing that the development of
the intellect would be prejudicial to the faith of the people. Either
slander will effect its end.

As we write we have before us two historical works of somewhat recent
publication: “Books and Their Makers During-the Middle Ages,” by George
Haven Putnam, A.M., and “A General History of Europe,” by Professors
Thatcher and Schwill, of Chicago University. As the latter is now used
as a text-book in many American High Schools, we will deal with its
worth and wisdom first.

There is but one Chicago University in the world, and we might expect
its distinguished professors of medieval and modern European history to
understand at least the elementary truths of the Catholic Church and
something of its spirit and policy.

Let us examine for a moment some of the statements contained in this
“General History of Europe,” by Professors Thatcher and Schwill. Here is
a choice morsel which will amuse the student of Church history. The
topic is “The Church and Feudalism.” The author says: “As late as the
eleventh century it was not at all uncommon for the clergy to marry.
Since fiefs were hereditary, it seemed perfectly proper that their
children should be provided for out of the Church lands which they held.
But unless all their children became clergymen these lands would pass
into the hands of laymen and therefore be lost to the Church. _One of
the purposes of the prohibition of the marriage of the clergy was to
prevent this alienation and diminution of the Church lands._”

And this little paragraph dealing with the Italian Renaissance, found on
page 264 of the same work: “Medieval life knew nothing of the freedom,
beauty and joy of the Greek world. . . . The medieval man had no eye for
the beauty of nature. To him nature was evil. God had indeed created the
world and pronounced it very good, but through the fall of man all
nature had been corrupted. Satan was now the prince of the world. _As a
result no one could either study or admire nature._” Pray note the force
of the auxiliary “could.”

Just think of it! A Catholic—a medieval Catholic—was forbidden to look
at or admire a flower, a forest, or a mountain peak. How so much of
nature got mixed up in the singing of “Old Dan Chaucer,” a Catholic poet
of the fourteenth century, we know not. ’Tis a mystery. Chaucer is
essentially the poet of the daisy, and robed it in verse long before
Burns turned it over with his plough.

Then we have the brown-hooded and gentle Friar, St. Francis of Assisi,
who was wont to call the birds of the air and the beasts of the field
his brothers, and who composed canticles to the winds, the flowers and
the sun. Did the erudite professors of Chicago University ever make a
study of Gothic architecture, the distinct inspiration and creation of
medieval times? If so, they will remember that plants and flowers play,
in symbolism, an important part in ornamentation. The hatred of nature
as well as the hatred of art imputed to the early Christians is simply a
“_fable convenue_,” manufactured by the partisan and superficial
historian who is either too dishonest or indolent to state or reach the
real facts.

It is enough to say that Professors Thatcher and Schwill’s work is
actually teeming with historical inaccuracies and gross
misrepresentations of the Catholic Church. Whether by inference or blunt
statement, these two professors have written themselves down in the
pages of their history either as ignorant or dishonest historians, and
it is unworthy of a presumably great university, such as Chicago, to
give its _imprimatur_ to such unreliable and unscholarly works.

But lest we may not have convicted as yet Professors Thatcher and
Schwill of having misrepresented the truth, life and policy of the
Catholic Church in the pages of their history, we shall cite one more
paragraph found on page 172. It deals with monasticism. The author says:
“The philosophic basis of asceticism is the belief that matter is the
seat of evil, and therefore that all contact with it is contaminating.
This conception of evil is neither Christian nor Jewish, but purely
heathen. Jesus freely used the good things of this world and taught that
sin is in nothing external to man, but has its seat only in the heart.
_But His teaching was not understood by His followers._ The peculiar
form which this asceticism in the Church took is called
monasticism. . . . After about 175 A.D. the Church rapidly grew worldly.
As Christianity became popular large numbers entered the Church and
became Christians in name; but at heart and in life they remained
heathen. The bishops were often proud and haughty and lived in grand
style. Those who were really in earnest about their salvation,
unsatisfied with such worldliness, fled from the contamination in the
Church and went to live in the desert and find the way to God without
the aid of the Church: her means of grace were for common Christians.
Those who would could obtain, by means of asceticism and prayer, all
that others received by means of the sacraments of the Church. There
were to be two ways of salvation: one through the Church and her means
of grace; the other through asceticism and contemplation.”

There is assuredly something of the historical _naïveté_ of the
schoolboy in the above. Mark when the Christian Church became
corrupt—nearly one hundred and fifty years before it was upheld by the
arm of Constantine and when it had been hiding for more than one hundred
years in the Catacombs carving and painting in symbol the truths and
mysteries of God. This was the corruption, that as Christ had birth in
the lowly manger of Bethlehem so the Church, His Spouse, was cradled in
humility, hidden away from the purple rage of the Cæsars, and, like a
little child whose dreams are of the past and the future, was rudely
fashioning her life and soul in terms of eternity, in symbols of the
palm, the dove and the lamb.

Now let us cite from Putnam’s “Books and Their Makers in the Middle
Ages” an instance of historical contradiction within the compass of
three pages. It is said that he who misrepresents the truth must have a
good memory, but the author of “Books and Their Makers in the Middle
Ages” is evidently devoid of that faculty, otherwise he would not have
contradicted himself in almost succeeding pages of his work. Here is the
contradiction. He is speaking of book-making at the time of the Italian
Renaissance. On page 331, Vol. I., the author says: “A production of
Beccadelli’s, perhaps the most brilliant of Alfonso’s literary
_protégés_, is to be noted as having been proscribed by the Pope, being
one of the earliest Italian publications to be so distinguished.
Eugenius IV. forbade, under penalty of excommunication, the reading of
Beccadelli’s “Hermaphroditus,” which was declared to be _contra bonos
mores_. The book was denounced from many pulpits, and copies were
burned, together with portraits of the poet, on the public squares of
Bologna, Milan and Ferrara.”

On page 333 of the same volume Putnam writes—and we beg the reader will
compare carefully the two statements: “Poggio is to be noted as a free
thinker who managed to keep in good relations with the Church. _So long
as free thinkers confined their audacity to such matters as form the
topic of Poggio’s ‘Facetiae,’ Beccadelli’s ‘Hermaphroditus’ or La Casa’s
‘Capitolo del Farno’ the Roman Curia looked on and smiled approvingly.
The most obscene books to be found in any literature escaped the Papal
censure, and a man like Aretino, notorious for his ribaldry, could
aspire with fair prospects of success to the scarlet of a Cardinal._”

These are the kind of books that stuff the shelves of the libraries in
our great secular universities.

There is perhaps no other period in the history of the world that
requires more careful investigation than that of the Renaissance in
Italy, and this because of its complex character. Speaking of this
complexity Dr. Pastor says: “In the nature of things it must be
extremely difficult to present a truthful picture of an age which
witnessed so many revolutions affecting almost all departments of human
life and thought, and abounded in contradictions and startling
contrasts. But the difficulty becomes enormously increased if we are
endeavoring to formulate a comprehensive appreciation of the moral and
religious character of such an epoch. In fact in one sense the task is
an impossible one. No mortal eye can penetrate the conscience of a
single man; how much less can any human intellect strike the balance
between the incriminating and the extenuating circumstances on which our
judgment of the moral condition of such a period depends, amid the whirl
of conflicting events. In a rough way, no doubt, we can form an
estimate, but it can never pretend to absolute accuracy. As Burckhardt,
author of ‘The Civilization of the Period of the Renaissance in Italy,’
says: ‘In this region the more clearly the facts seem to point to any
conclusion the more must we be upon our guard against unconditional or
universal assertions.’”

It were well assuredly if some of our professors of history in the great
secular universities—professors who assume to understand the Catholic
Church and her policy better than her own clergy and laity—it were
well, we say, if these would lay to their historical souls Pastor’s
judicial words ere they indict the “Renaissance Period” and blacken the
character of its popes, its prelates and its people.

The truth is that few if any non-Catholic students read Catholic
historical works to-day. Jansen’s great work, dealing with the social
and religious life of Germany in the period that preceded the advent of
Luther, is considered to be the last word on this debatable ground, and
yet how many non-Catholic students have ever opened its pages? The same
may be said of Pastor’s monumental work. “Lives of the Popes Since the
Close of the Middle Ages.” When this ignorance of Catholic fact is
supplemented by the reading of such misrepresentation as is found in
Browning’s poem, “The Bishop Orders His Tomb,” what hope can there be of
justice to Catholic truth and the Catholic faith in our great secular
universities?

We see, then, that not alone are the facts of history falsified, but the
genius of the poet is enlisted to give glamor and glow to the historical
slander.

Take again Tennyson’s poem, “St. Simeon Stylites.” This is a satire on
ascetic life. Tennyson was a Broad Churchman, and it is said that he was
particularly careful not to write anything that would offend the
religious feelings of any of his friends. He saw, however, at the time
of the “Oxford Movement,” the English mind in certain quarters look with
favor on monasticism, and he wrote “St. Simeon Stylites” as a rebuke to
the movement. But is it a true picture of the spirit and life of those
early hermits of the desert? Not at all. Tennyson as a satirist did not
aim at truth, but rather at exaggeration. So he puts into the mouth of
this pillar-fixed saint these words of pride:

            “A time may come, yea, even now,
    When you may worship me without reproach,
    And burn a fragrant lamp before my bones,
    When I am gathered to the glorious Saints.”

The essence of the Catholic faith is not “the torpidity of assurance,”
but the working out of one’s salvation in fear and trembling. That pride
should sometimes gain entrance into the cloister and assume the garb of
humility is no doubt true; but the self-renunciation which is the true
spirit of the cloister, giving up all for the service of God, is in
itself a mantle of virtue—a seamless garment of grace which neither the
false satire of a Tennyson nor the flashlight of a Browning monologue
can transform from a beauteous raiment of light.

It is true that the same pen which gave us “St. Simeon” gave us also
these beautiful lines in “St. Agnes’ Eve,” a poem which is stirred with
the loveliness and tenderness of religious life. St. Agnes on the very
eve of death utters these ecstatic words in beatific vision:

    “He lifts me to the golden doors;
      The flashes come and go;
    All heaven bursts her starry floors,
      And strews her lights below,
    And deepens on and up! The gates
      Roll back, and far within
    For me the heavenly Bridegroom waits
      To make me pure of sin.
    The Sabbaths of Eternity,
      One Sabbath deep and wide—
    A light upon the shining sea—
      The Bridegroom with his bride.”

The student, before accepting Tennyson’s poetic or, more correctly,
satiric picture of the hermits of the desert in the early centuries of
the Church as represented in “St. Simeon Stylites,” would do well to
study the condition of the Christian, or rather pagan, world at the time
when the hermits fled to the desert. It is a remote period in the life
of the world, and like all remote periods you must translate yourself
into it if you would clearly and justly understand it. But we warn you
that Kingsley’s “Hermits” will not enlighten you.

Catholics have no need to apologize for the life or policy of their
Church during its reign of nineteen hundred years. It is a book open to
the world, and every chapter in it is a record of the spiritual and
intellectual progress of man. There have been, indeed, twilight
epochs—spiritual eclipses—when man seemed to forget his divine
destiny; but the Church of God still stood at her altars waiting for her
people to kneel—waiting for the “_Introibo ad altare Dei_” to reach the
heart of king and noble, peasant and slave.

Therefore as a student of history and literature we protest against
every misrepresentation of Catholic truth, whether within the pages of
history, fiction or poetry, no matter who may be its author—a professor
in one of our New World universities, a Marie Corelli counting her gains
as she kneels at the shrine of a publisher, a Tennyson striking the
chords of falsehood and “looking down towards Camelot,” or a Browning
constructing his little monologue chapel by the wayside to seduce from
Catholic truth his poetic pilgrim—it is ever misrepresentation wearing
the specious garb of truth, whether it be in history or fiction or
poetry teaching falsehood.



                      THE STUDY AND INTERPRETATION
                             OF LITERATURE



              THE STUDY AND INTERPRETATION OF LITERATURE.


The study of literature has of late years become somewhat sane and
rational in its aim and purpose. There was a time, and that not very
long ago, when literature was forced to yield up its spirit in the
class-room to mere analysis or a talk about grammar, philology, rhetoric
and sundry other irrelevant subjects.

To-day, however, in the best schools and colleges, this vicious method,
which has for years worked destruction to true literary culture, has
pretty well died out; nor is a through ticket by flying express down the
centuries from Chaucer to Tennyson any longer regarded as satisfactory
evidence that the privileged passenger knows much of the glory which
nestles on the way.

How any person can hope to become a literary scholar in the highest and
best sense of the word without assimilating the INFORMING life of
literature has always seemed to us a problem in dire need of solution.
We can well understand how one may possess himself of the literature of
knowledge without such assimilation, but how he can become possessed of
the literature of power without responding to the inner life of an art
product, is to us a question incomprehensible.

Nor has the old spirit, we fear, been fully and wholly exorcised, as
yet, from the class and lecture room. There are still to be found those
who believe that the analytical exegesis of literature should be the
main purpose of the teacher—that to elucidate the intellectual thought
which articulates a poem, precipitating it from a concrete creation into
a barren abstraction—this and this alone should be the aim and end of
all literary study in the school or lecture room.

The fault with such persons is, that they do not fully understand and
appreciate the true meaning and import of literature, mistaking its
lesser coefficient for its chief and primary one. No definition of
literature can be at all adequate which does not take into consideration
the spiritual element as a factor. The late Brother Azarias, whose study
of literature was most profound, clear and sympathetic, gives us a
definition in the very opening chapter of his charming little volume, “A
Philosophy of Literature,” which is entirely satisfactory. He regards
literature as the verbal expression of man’s affections, as acted upon
in his relations with the material world, society and his Creator.
Literature may therefore be defined as the expression in letters of the
spiritual co-operating with the intellectual man, the former being the
dominant co-efficient.

Knowing, then, that the spiritual element constitutes the INFORMING life
of a poem, how can teachers fritter their time away with brilliant
analytics which do little or nothing for true literary culture? Better,
far better, that the students under their charge be turned loose in some
library—there to browse at will, free to follow their literary tastes
and inclinations.

We have long considered that examinations for certificates and degrees
are for the most part a detriment to literary studies—that they dull
the finer faculties of appreciation and magnify the importance of mere
acquisition. Assuredly, when a young man finds that in order to reach
his diploma or degree he must be able to discuss the Elizabethan English
as found in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and “As You Like It,” or trace the
gerundial infinitive through Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” he will pay
little heed to either the spirit of Shakespeare or Chaucer as embodied
in their works.

In our great eagerness to fill our heads with facts, without any
co-ordination, we lose sight amid the stress and strain of our
educational work of the ONE GREAT FACT: That if we would be wisely
educated, we must seek it on the basis of a maximum of education with a
minimum of acquirement. It is impossible to play fast and loose with the
spirit of literature and not suffer for our insincerity. Literature is a
jealous mistress and will brook no rival. Those who woo her must come
with clean hearts and minds, setting aside all thought of mercenary
returns, for, as Mrs. Browning says:

                “We get no good
    In being ungenerous, even to a book,
    And calculating profits—so much help
    By so much reading. It is rather when
    We gloriously forget ourselves and plunge
    _Soul-forward_, headlong into a book’s profound
    Impassion’d for its beauty and salt of truth—
    ’Tis then we get the right good from a book.”

Another fault which characterizes the literary studies of to-day is,
that we grasp at too much, and not a little that we fain would compass
is, as far as literary training and culture are concerned, entirely
unimportant. A few great literary personages—epochal men—who have
handed the intellectual torch down the centuries—these are worthy of a
devoted study. We think it is Ruskin who says that he who knows the
history of Rome, Venice, Florence, Paris and London has a full knowledge
of medieval and modern civilization. Twenty authors are not many, still
they largely cover the great masterpieces of poetic thought, both
ancient and modern. Homer, Virgil and Dante, Calderon, Molière and
Goethe, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth and
Tennyson—these contain much of the best poetic thought in all ages, and
yet we have but named little more than half of the twenty. There is a
flood of ephemeral literature—chiefly novels—day by day deluging the
land, which fashion and frivolity set up for literary study. How much
harm these novels do, lashing with their waves the moral shores of life.
God alone knows. To-day, in the minds of many, the novel has supplanted
the Bible, and the ethics of George Eliot take precedence of the Sermon
on the Mount. It is doubtful if either Cardinal Newman or John Ruskin
ever read a line of Tolstoi, Ibsen or Kipling, and yet both hold
respectable places in literature.

Passing now from the subject of literature in itself to a consideration
of its interpretation, we desire to touch upon a subject of vital
import: The Vocal Interpretation of Literature. The spiritual element in
a poem is indefinite and cannot be formulated in terms of x and y. No
examination on paper, be it ever so thorough, can satisfactorily reach
it. The only full response to this spiritual element, this essential
life of a poem, that can be secured by the teacher is through a vocal
rendering of it. But before he is capable of doing so he must first have
sympathetically assimilated the INFORMING life of the poem. This is why
no person need hope to become a great reader without a deep and
sympathetic study of literature, nor a great interpreter of
literature—which means a great teacher of literature—without the vocal
capabilities requisite for voicing the indefinite or spiritual element
which constitutes the soul of an art product. A true literary scholar is
one who grows soulward. It is not enough that he store his mind with
intellectual facts, he should grow vitalized at every point of his soul
in his literary studies.

    “Let knowledge grow from more to more,
    But more of reverence in us dwell.”

Knowledge is of the intellect, wisdom and reverence of the soul. We
should aim, in our study of literature, to pierce through the show of
things—to reach the vital, quickening, spiritual element, by breaking
through the baffling and perverting mesh of words which hide and blind
it. How true are the lines of the late Poet Laureate:

      “I sometimes hold it half a sin
    To put in words the thoughts I feel,
    For words, like nature, half reveal
    And half conceal the soul within.”

Herein, then, comes the office of the voice in literary
interpretation—to aid in laying bare the soul within. When the same
time is given in preparing the voice for the high office of literary
interpretation that is now devoted to it in preparation for the operatic
and concert stage, then we may look for the best and highest results in
literary study. Then, indeed, will the throbbing pulse of poetry be felt
in the class and lecture room, and the divine infection of inspiration
will do its benign work, cheating the lazy and indifferent student of
his hours and days.

Many make the mistake of believing that they may become capable vocal
interpreters of literature in a month or a year, whereas the great work
should cover a lifetime. Professor Corson, of Cornell University, who is
acknowledged to be the ablest vocal interpreter of literature in
America, once told the writer that he had made it a custom to read aloud
for an hour each day for more than twenty-five years. Those who have
been privileged to hear Professor Corson interpret vocally the great
masterpieces of poetic literature, as found in Shakespeare, Tennyson,
Coleridge, Wordsworth, Milton and Browning, can better understand and
appreciate the true value of vocal culture as a factor in the great work
of literary interpretation.

If we could combine the voice work of our best schools of elocution and
oratory with the fullest and most comprehensive courses in literature
found in our best universities, we might soon hope for the very summit
of literary culture and training. The worst of our elocution schools are
a positive injury to vocal training as a worthy factor in the
interpretation of literature, inasmuch as they induce both
superficiality and artificiality, their chief ambition being to graduate
pretty girls with pretty gowns who can recite some catch-penny piece of
current literature, before an assemblage of admiring friends, according
to the numbers or lines upon an elocutionary chart or fashion plate.
When these graduates leave their schools after a six months’ course, all
equipped and prepared to voice the depths of Shakespeare, the heights of
Milton, or the zigzag involutions of Browning, they never fail, also, as
a rule, to carry with them the brand or trade-mark of their respective
manufactories.

In the best of our elocution schools, such as are found in Boston,
Philadelphia and New York, where saner and more thorough methods are
pursued and a certain measure of literary scholarship finds a habitation
and a name, respectable attention is given to some of the chief
masterpieces of literature, and a graduate knows something more than the
scrappy selections found in a few recitation books.

Still the aim of all these schools is to turn out readers and teachers
of reading, and this very aim precludes a deep, serious and
comprehensive study of literature.

In many of our leading colleges and universities there is a professor of
oratory, who trains young men for declamation and intercollegiate
contests in oratory and debate, but here again the aim determines the
character and limitations of the work done. The most suitable department
for voice training in a college or university is that of English
literature, for it is as needful in the dramas of Shakespeare as in the
orations of Webster and Burke; as requisite in the lyrics of Moore,
Burns and Longfellow as in the glorious epics of Homer, Dante and
Milton; as potent in the sonnets of Cowper and Wordsworth as in the
tender elegies of a Shelley, an Arnold or a Tennyson.

But what about the vocal interpretation of literature in our primary and
intermediate schools—in our academies preparatory to college and
university work? It is here where the great work of vocal culture should
begin—and begin in earnest, too. But it should never be pursued as an
accomplishment or means of frivolous display. The aim should be, in
every class, the adequate voicing of literary thought. Teachers will
find in the voice an invaluable aid in the work of interpreting,
particularly lyrics.

The lyric being subjective, and its very lifeblood being feeling, a
sympathetic vocal interpretation of it will give a better insight into
its poetic moment or inspirational thought, around which centres the
whole structure, than hours of sentence chopping and phrase stitching.
For the purpose of illustrating this fact let us take Tennyson’s
exquisite lyric, “Break, Break, Break,” which embodies or crystallizes a
mood. Here is the delightful little gem:

    “Break, break, break,
      On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
    And I would that my tongue could utter
      The thoughts that arise in me.

    “O well for the fisherman’s boy
      That he shouts with his sister at play!
    O well for the sailor-lad,
      That he sings in his boat on the bay.

    “And the stately ships go on
      To their haven under the hill;
    But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand,
      And the sound of a voice that is still!

    “Break, break, break,
      At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
    But the tender grace of a day that is dead
      Will never come back to me.”

It will be remembered that this lyric, as well as another poem, “In the
Valley of Cauteretz,” though not contained in the linked elegy of “In
Memoriam,” are practically a part of it, and are co-radical as to their
subject of inspiration—the sorrow borne by Tennyson for young Hallam.
Here are the lines of the second poem:

    “All along the valley, stream that flashest white,
    Deepening thy voice with the deepening of the night,
    All along the valley, where thy waters flow,
    I walked with one I loved two and thirty years ago.
    All along the valley, while I walk’d to-day,
    The two and thirty years were a mist that rolls away;
    For all along the valley, down thy rocky bed,
    Thy living voice to me was as the voice of the dead.
    And all along the valley, by rock and cave and tree,
    The voice of the dead was a living voice to me.”

It is easy to find the poetic moment in the first lyric, as it may be
seen and FELT at once that the whole poem-thought centres around the
inspirational lines:

    “But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
    And the sound of a voice that is still.”

We have seen an examination paper strewn with questions upon this lyric,
among them being one asking for the reason why the first line, “Break,
break, break,” is shorter in the number of its feet than the others
which follow. As well ask for the reason of the permanency of parental
or filial affection. The question is entirely gratuitous to one who has
assimilated the poem in its essential life and can voice it properly. To
those who have not responded, or, worse, cannot respond, to the
INFORMING life of the lyric, a technical answer is of as much value as
are many of the treatises that assume to deal with the subject of
versification. But enough. Let the reader be assured of one thing: That
the vocal interpretation of literature is in every way a subject worthy
of his attention, and that he is the best interpreter of literature
whose every faculty is fully developed—not the least of which is the
voice—and who brings to his work a full and vitally spiritualized life.

Now as to the best method of taking up the study of literature—and we
refer particularly to that department of it known as poetry—in our
primary and secondary schools and colleges, why, we should say that the
less method put into the work the better. For indeed there is no best
method in the study and interpretation of literature. A poem being a
work of art, the approach to it must be along the same lines as is the
approach to every work of art.

As a matter of fact, no two interpreters of literature—we use the word
interpreter here rather than that of teacher, since the study of
literature is entirely subjective—will ever approach a poem along
exactly the same lines. Why? Because the poem makes to each a different
appeal. Nothing is truer than the statement that you get out of a poem
what you bring to it. But the teacher of literature should ever remember
that the primary purpose in the study of poetry is not discipline and
instruction but exaltation and inspiration.

Dr. Hamilton Mabie, the well-known American critic and author, writing
upon the study of poetry, says: “So much has been said of late years
about methods of literary study that we are in danger of missing the
ends of that study; in the multiplication of mechanical devices of all
kinds and in the elaboration of systems the joy which ought to flow from
a true work of art escapes us, and we are disciplined and instructed
where we ought to be exalted and inspired. There are other studies which
train the mind and impart information; the study of poetry ought to do
more; it ought to liberate the imagination and enrich the spirit of the
student.”

Dr. Corson, now Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Cornell
University, N.Y., to whom reference has already been made, whose
sympathetic interpretation of poetry will remain a gift and memory to
every student who has ever had the rare privilege of sharing in his
instruction and enjoying the fine infection of his inspiring lectures,
has this to say with respect to the study of poetry: “In studying a poem
with a class of students, the purpose being literary culture (that is,
spiritual culture), the aim of the teacher should be to hold the minds
of the class up as near as possible, which at best may not be very near,
to the height of the poet’s thought and feeling. He should carefully
avoid loosening, so to speak, more than there is need the close texture
of the language; for it is all-important that the student should be
encouraged to think and feel as far as he is able in the idealized
language of the higher poetry.”

Nor should it be forgotten that much of our best poetry is expressed
under the form of a symbol. Take, for instance, Longfellow’s little
simple lyric, “Excelsior.” Think you that the full meaning of that poem
lies upon the surface? Instead of representing the failure of a youth
climbing the Alpine peaks of life, does the poem not rather represent
the triumph of a soul over all earthly difficulties, freed from every
worldly allurement? Is not the voice we hear at the close “from the sky
serene and far” but the voice of triumphant immortality?

If the student would indeed know what poetry really means, and what is
its function, and what the office of a poet, he should read Tennyson’s
“The Poet’s Mind” and “The Lady of Shalott,” the Fifth Book of Mrs.
Browning’s “Aurora Leigh,” and her “Musical Instrument,” and Browning’s
poem, “Popularity.” In nearly all these poems the meaning is expressed
in symbol.

Another thing to remember in the interpretation of poetry is that its
value is constant; nor has it one message or meaning for the boy and
another for the man. But in order that this may be realized it would be
well to take up first for interpretation in the classes the poets whose
work is chiefly confined to the lyric, the idyl and the ballad, and
leave for mature years—the years of philosophic thought—the study of
poets of the more complex and philosophic school.



                           THE DEGRADATION OF
                              SCHOLARSHIP



                    THE DEGRADATION OF SCHOLARSHIP.


Nothing is more evident in this our day than the degradation to which
scholarship is subjected at the hands of certain so-called educators.
Indeed, it has become a malady which sooner or later must prove fatal to
the life and welfare of the body educational. How could it be otherwise
when pedantry with all its assumption and presumption usurps the throne
of scholarship, and true culture often finds but little welcome in the
class-rooms and academic halls of our land?

Nor is this an exaggerated picture of the educational conditions which
obtain right here in the Province of Ontario. No person at all
acquainted with the character of work done in our primary and secondary
schools but knows that in many respects it is not only inferior, but
that much that bears the name of scholarship is only the merest pedantry
tricked out in the feathers and pomp of a school curriculum.

Should you ask for a proof of this statement you have but to visit with
an open and unbiased mind the primary and secondary schools of our
Province and learn for yourself of their lack of efficiency in the
foundation subjects of reading, writing, composition and spelling.

Should your desire lead you further to ascertain something of the
character of the work that is being done in the departments of what may
be designated culture subjects, such as Latin, French and German, you
will quickly find proof that here it is pedantry rather than scholarship
which obtains.

As to the subject of reading, it is conceded on all sides that it is
badly taught in both the Public and High Schools, and that along this
line little progress has been made for a number of years. The High
School teachers lay the blame for this at the door of the Public
Schools, alleging that the pupils read very badly when they enter the
High Schools, forgetting meantime that the charge recoils upon
themselves, since the teachers of the Public Schools are the product of
the High Schools.

The fault lies in the fact that neither teachers nor inspectors of
Public or High Schools in Ontario have had any training in the subject
of reading; or, if they have had, it has only been along the line of
barren and worthless theorizing. This is borne out by the fact that
teachers who have from time to time boldly ventured to prepare manuals
of reading have not been able to apply their own principles, and as
readers or vocal interpreters of literature have been and are pronounced
failures.

If the teacher whose spirit has been quickened by the deeper sympathies
and experiences of life cannot read, how, pray, can you expect the boy
or girl to do so? If “Learn by doing” is pedagogically of great value to
the pupil, should it not be of equal value to the teacher?

Now turn we for a moment to the subject of composition, and what do we
find? A condition which reveals manifest defects in its teaching. We can
readily put our finger on its weak spots, and with Goethe say, “Thou
ailest here and ailest there.” In the first place, the translations in
the secondary schools from Greek, Latin, French and German authors are
so badly done, so inaccurately done, so inelegantly done, that what
should be a daily practice in English composition in the construction of
sentences and paragraphs, the disposal of phrases, and the choice of the
exact word, becomes almost worthless. The introduction of no fad like
oral composition will or can compensate for this.

Again, while the Public and High Schools are being provided with
libraries—in many instances quite an unnecessary expense being
entailed—little direction is given to the reading, and pupils gabble
thoughtlessly through books in mental gallop from chapter to chapter
without adding to the capital of their scholarship a single new thought
or idea, or to their vocabulary a single new word. Was it not at a
convention of teachers, held but a short time ago in an Ontario city,
that a Public School teacher boasted of the fact that one of his pupils
had read sixty books in three months? And not a teacher present—not
even the Inspector—protested.

Then, too, in many cases the teachers cannot teach composition, since
they cannot write themselves. What does a teacher know about sentence or
paragraph construction, or the logical and artistic expression of
thought, who has never served his time as an apprentice in the great
laboratory of composition? It is but a few years since a leading
Canadian journalist told the writer that among the letters sent to his
paper many of the worst and most faulty came from teachers.

Lastly, the study of literature, which should be an auxiliary to
composition, nay, be its right arm, is often such in our schools as to
aid the student but little in the work of composition.

There yet remain to be considered, of the foundation subjects, writing
and spelling. Perhaps nowhere else in the world can be found as many
slovenly and bad writers as here in the schools of Ontario. Go to
England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany or Switzerland, and you will find
that a boy or girl of fifteen years of age writes a hand marvellously
clear and legible. Why is this? Because in Europe its importance is
emphasized, and it counts for quite as much in the estimate of
acquirements as arithmetic or grammar or history or geography. We also
know of no word in the school vocabulary of Europe—in any
language—that exactly corresponds in meaning to our word for school
exercise book—“scribbler.” Sometimes a word when traced to its origin
is very significant.

Now just here it will be well, lest it might be thought that we are
making statements without any facts to support them, to quote from the
official report of McGill University matriculation examination held at
Montreal and the various examining centres of Canada in June, 1908.
Touching the subjects of writing and spelling, the chief examiner in his
report says: “The handwriting of some of the candidates was so unformed
and untidy that it was hard to believe that the writers were actually
candidates at a matriculation examination. Certainly such candidates
will stand a poor chance of being accepted should they look for any
employment in which writing is a factor. It is regrettable that a number
of papers otherwise excellent showed conspicuous lapses in this
particular. This will explain to some candidates thoroughly well up in
their subject why their marks were not high. A word of warning might be
given them that if they wish to have a high standing in English when
they come to college they must give their days and nights to the study
of the spelling-book—or the dictionary, perhaps, for there are no
spelling-books nowadays.” This is frank criticism, and if hearkened to
by schools and colleges cannot but prove a benefit educationally. There
is no attempt here to consider the work of the examiner as
“confidential.” Such criticism is, indeed, the basis of progress.

But pray enter the temple of higher studies and see what we find.
Assuredly the work done in Latin is not thorough. How could it be so
when a course that demands six or eight years of study in Old World
schools is completed here in three? Is it any wonder that the Canadian
matriculant, when pursuing his classical studies at the University, ever
lives on intimate terms with his “crib” or “pony”? How extensive can be
the vocabulary of a student in Latin whose class work has covered but
four thirty-minute spaces a week for three years? What will be his grasp
of the Latin grammar? During his third year he has been “sight reading.”
Is he really prepared for such work at the end of the second year? It is
quite true that “sight reading,” or translation without preparation, is
excellent practice in the study of any language, but does it not
presuppose a solid grounding in the grammar and a wide vocabulary? The
boy’s teacher, fresh from the academic halls of his alma mater, has
pathetically bid farewell to his “crib” or “pony,” and now goes out into
the cold classical world alone to teach “sight reading” to his class,
that have been tiptoed into Latin. What is the result? In most instances
the work is worthless—a loss of time which could have been far better
devoted to the Latin grammar or the extension of his vocabulary. But it
looks well, you know, in a High School curriculum.

In the department of modern languages—that is to say, French and
German—a still worse condition exists. After a three or four years’
course in those languages in an Ontario High School, what does the
student carry away? The ability, think you, to converse in those
languages, to write them and read them easily? Not at all. Though in
many cases the students have been taught by so-called specialists, their
accent in reading French or German is in most instances unlike that of
either “Christian, pagan or man.” They have prepared for an examination
and have passed. That is all.

The purpose in studying modern languages in Europe is to be able to
speak and write them with ease. Here gabbling through syntax and making
application of its rules to the prescribed text seem to constitute the
chief aim in their study. Indeed, an Ontario teacher who went to Europe
a couple of years ago for the purpose of taking a summer course in
modern languages complained on his return that over there too much
attention was given to the speaking of the languages and not enough to
the grammar. He was probably disappointed with Old World scholarship,
finding that it was so devoid of pedantry. No doubt grammar has its
place, but its role is a secondary one in the acquisition of any modern
language.

Let us for a moment consider next how the important subject of history
is taught in our secondary schools. No one will deny how large a place
this subject should hold in a curriculum of well ordered studies in
either a High School or a University. For what is history but a record
of the activities of the human race, and to have a thorough knowledge of
this is in itself equivalent to a liberal education.

But the student who pursues a course in history in the High Schools of
Ontario is beset with a double danger—that of endeavoring to cover too
much ground and thereby getting but a superficial knowledge of the facts
and great movements of history, and that of basing his judgments on data
drawn from only one source.

The course in history, as at present constituted in the High School
curriculum of Ontario, comprises five years. Now, certainly a good deal
should be done in that time, but it would be the sheerest folly to think
that any boy or girl could within that time gain even a fair knowledge
of the history of Greece, Rome, Canada, England, medieval and modern
Europe. This tiptoeing the pupils in history is not a whit better than
tiptoeing them in Latin, French or German. Indeed, we are not sure but
it works greater harm to true scholarship. We are living in an age when
education is becoming so widely diffused that scholarship as a
consequence is becoming very superficial and thin.

As we write we have before us the Syllabus of the Ontario High School
Course in Medieval and Modern History. It briefly outlines the scope of
the work to be done and gives a list of books to be consulted as works
of reference. Now, the scientific method of studying history warns you
to take nothing for granted. First you must verify the facts by
examining the witnesses that testify to these facts. Secondly, you must
properly appreciate or value these facts from the point of view of
principles that ought to govern human actions, and thirdly, these facts
should be explained by going back to the causes, whether particular or
general, that produced them. That is, the scientific method in history
requires, first, verification; secondly, appreciation or valuation; and
thirdly, explanation of historic facts.

In a High School it is true there is not sufficient time for historical
research or investigation, but there is sufficient time to study a
question on more than one side; there is sufficient time to be honest;
there is sufficient time to prefer truth to falsehood; and where in a
mooted point the policy and teachings of the Catholic Church are
involved there should be sufficient time and sufficient honesty to
consult authors who know whereof they write. Take for example the
history of the Middle Ages. Without a thorough and correct knowledge of
the policy, teachings and work of the Catholic Church, how, I ask, may
the student hope to follow and understand the great movements of history
in those centuries? In the first place, the Catholic Church in the
Middle Ages was the bulwark of sovereignty, law and order, the founder
of universities, the patron of letters, the inspiration of art, the
shield of the oppressed, and a very staff and guide to the halting and
stumbling steps of civilization. She was knowledge, she was authority,
she was order, she was reverence.

Taking up now the books of reference recommended in the Syllabus of the
High School Course in Medieval and Modern History in Ontario, we find
the work of but one Catholic author on the reference list—“English
Monastic Life,” by Dom Gasquet, the Benedictine. Is this not truly a
one-sided study of history that obtains in the secondary schools of
Ontario? Yet the teachers of history in those schools are supposed to be
broad-minded and cultured men. Why, then, should they refuse to read the
Catholic point of view in the study of historical periods and historical
movements in which the Catholic Church was the greatest factor?

It will not do to say that Catholic authors are not available.
Translations have been made of many of the most valuable works in
medieval and modern history written by leading Catholic scholars of
Europe. We usually find what we look for. Why, for instance, not put on
the list of reference books the lives of St. Benedict, St. Dominic, St.
Francis and St. Ignatius written by members of their own communities?
They should best understand the meaning, spirit and purpose of the
religious society in which they live. Why not put on the list the great
German historian Jansen’s work dealing with the history of Germany on
the eve of the Lutheran revolt, or Father Denifle’s monumental work,
“The Life of Luther”? For the beginnings of Christianity why not put on
the list Dr. Shahan’s excellent studies in this subject, as well as his
scholarly work on the Middle Ages? For a study of the Thirteenth
Century, which saw the founding of the medieval university, the rise of
the Gothic cathedral, the development of scholastic philosophy, the
birth of Dante, the world’s greatest epic poet, the composition of the
great Latin hymns, the foundation of great libraries, and the origin of
democracy, Christian socialism and self-government, is there a better
work of reference than Dr. J. J. Walsh’s “The Thirteenth, Greatest of
Centuries”? Why, then, not put it on the list? And beside this, why not
put on the list Pastor’s “Lives of the Popes Since the Close of the
Middle Ages”?

If the purpose in the study of history be to reach truth, why accept in
the court of history the testimony of but one set of witnesses? Such a
proceeding is neither judicial nor just. It would not be permitted in
the law courts of our land; why, then, permit it in the history courts
of our schools and colleges?

Nor is this _ex-parte_ study of history more obvious in the curriculum
of the High Schools of Ontario than is the objectionable character of
many of the poems that are assigned for literary study. In the
selections from Browning of last year this choice stanza greeted the
Catholic pupils in their study and appreciation of “Up at a Villa—Down
in the City”:

    “Or a sonnet with flowery marge to the Reverend Don So and So,
    Who is Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarca, St. Jerome and Cicero.
    ‘And moreover’ (the sonnet goes rhyming), ‘the skirts of St. Paul has
      reached,
    Having preached us those six Lent-lectures more unctuous than ever he
      preached.’
    Noon strikes,—here sweeps the procession! our Lady borne smiling and
      smart
    With a pink gauze gown all spangles and seven swords stuck in her
      heart!
    Bang-whang-whang goes the drum, tootle-te-tootle the fife;
    No keeping one’s haunches still: it’s the greatest pleasure in life.”

It may, we think, be legitimately questioned whether either the study in
our secondary schools of a one-sided presentation of the facts of
history or the interpretation of poems which ridicule the tenets and
ceremonies of any Church conduces to that breadth of scholarship and
culture and to the upbuilding of that large-minded Canadian citizenship
which we all so heartily desire in our land.

Is it not on the plea that these higher institutions of learning—High
Schools and Normal Schools—are broad and just and free from prejudice
in their teaching that the Roman Catholic Separate School System has
been persistently denied by successive Governments in this Province the
right to develop beyond an elementary status, though this right is
manifestly inherent or implied in the very pact which made provision for
the establishment of Separate Schools for the minorities in the
Provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The Government of Quebec has recognized
the right; the Government of Ontario refuses to do so.

Now a word as to certain conditions educational which prevail in Ontario
and which have not only led to abuses but are contributing factors to
the degradation of scholarship as well as to the debasement of the
teaching profession.

And first of these is the system of creating “specialists”—a system or
method which has not scholarship as its basis. Why should a university
graduate whose average is sixty-six per cent. in his examinations be
regarded as having the academic standing for a specialist, while the
graduate whose average is sixty per cent., though he may have pursued
post-graduate work for two or three years, is refused this standing? How
large a part does not mere memory play in examination percentages? If
specialism were based upon the post-graduate work of one, two or three
years it would have some meaning or value, but as it exists to-day in
Ontario it is largely a sham.

Then as regards the professional qualifications of a specialist, are
they not almost wholly based upon the opinion of an examiner or
inspector? Now this opinion may be worth a good deal; it may be worth
very little; it may be worth nothing. As a matter of fact the High
School inspectors of a few years ago often differed as widely as the
poles in their estimate or rating of the High School teachers of this
Province, and the High School inspectors of to-day are rating teachers
high who had been marked low by the former inspectors.

And what shall be said of educational officials who, lacking a fine
sense of duty, dignity and honor, have been playing the part of
educational Warwicks in the Province, crowning and uncrowning, making
and unmaking teachers, now in one part of Ontario, now in another? We
endeavor to keep education out of politics, while gross partisanship is
doing its work.

With such conditions educational in our Province, need we wonder that
during the past year an inspector refused to permit a French-Canadian
girl who held a Normal School Entrance and Normal School Professional
Certificate to teach in a school where three-fourths of the children are
of French-Canadian origin? Either the Normal School staff, in granting
that French-Canadian girl a certificate to teach, did not know what they
were doing, or the inspector exceeded his authority. Look at it as you
will, the matter is discreditable.

For how, we ask, may the teacher be expected to grow and reach out
towards higher things if he be not permitted to enjoy the very first
conditions of growth—the right to develop and advance by virtue of his
own gifts and toil? Who stands between the lawyer and the acceptance of
his brief? Who stands between the physician and the diagnosis of his
case? We speak of the dignity of scholarship and the dignity of the
teaching profession, but if the law of development be thwarted and its
attendant right to advancement be denied, degradation, not dignity,
would be the fitting term.



                      THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE AND
                          THE POPES OF AVIGNON



           THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE AND THE POPES OF AVIGNON.


There is probably no other period in the history of the world in which
the attitude of the Papacy toward art and letters has been so
misrepresented by certain writers as that of the Italian Renaissance. If
one takes up the works of such well-known historians of this period as
Pastor, Burckhardt and Symonds, the conflict of opinion is so great that
one almost despairs of getting at the real truth.

The charm of style in the work of Symonds is so seductive that for the
moment misrepresentation and contradiction pass unheeded and one is
swept along a current of rhetoric, dazzled now by the coloring of
thought, now by the very atmosphere which rests upon the art headlands
and uplands of this transition period.

The Italian Renaissance flowered during the fifteenth century, but it
drew its nutrition from the soil of the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries. The spirit of free inquiry and delight in beauty which are
especially credited as belonging to the Italian Renaissance had a place
in the life and art of Italy as well as France long before the fifteenth
century.

The Catholic Church has during no century prohibited free inquiry on
questions that pertain to science, art and letters, and the expression
of her life as represented in art and literature is but the reflection
of that beauty which emanates from the source of all beauty—God.

It is not only unjust to the Catholic Church, but it betrays as well a
superficial knowledge of the basis and genesis of Christian art to
maintain that all great poetry, painting, architecture, sculpture and
music had first soil in the wilderness of the world rather than within
the sanctuary of God. So it is that certain historians, for example,
turn their faces in every direction seeking causes for the great
awakening of life and art in Italy during the fifteenth century, but are
absolutely blind to the light and influence which streamed from the
centre and headship of Christianity.

These historians would fain have us believe that the Popes of the
Renaissance set their faces like flint against the revival of
letters—that they feared it would emancipate the human intellect from
the power of the Church. Indeed, as has been elsewhere pointed out,
Putnam, in his work dealing with the making of books during the medieval
centuries, states in two paragraphs, in almost successive pages, that
the Pope had a certain work burned “because it was _contra bonos
mores_”; and, again, that the Roman Curia looked on and smiled
approvingly at such a work because it was not contrary to faith. The
real truth is that the Catholic Church was the greatest factor in the
Renaissance movement, and he who would understand the forces that
contributed to this great awakening of the human intellect, and the
development of art and letters which followed logically in its train,
must understand the beginnings of the Renaissance in the fourteenth
century and the share which the Popes of Avignon—then in exile—took in
its promotion and extension.

The poet Petrarch is justly styled the “Father of Humanism,” but were it
not for the influence, kindly offices and patronage of the Papal Court
of Avignon, the sweetest of Italian sonneteers might have lived
unheeded—obscure in a lonely villa of Parma or Verona.

Let us, then, examine the share which the Popes of Avignon justly have
in this great movement which filled the world of Italy of the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries as with the glory of a new and dazzling sunrise.

It should not be forgotten that the revival of classical learning in
Italy really began early in the twelfth century with the revival of the
study of Roman law. Italy was heir to the mid-day splendor of Roman
literature, with its Virgils, its Horaces, its Ciceros, its Quintilians.
Not only this, but as Carducci says, “By the fall of Constantinople
Italy became sole heir and guardian of the ancient civilization of
Greece.”

But it is a mistake to consider that it was the discovery of some
manuscripts by Petrarch at Verona, or the appointment of Manuel
Chrysoloras to the chair of Greek at the Florence University in 1396,
that set aglow the skies of the Italian Renaissance.

A writer tells us that the growth of civilization is as gradual and
imperceptible as that of an oak tree. It does not suddenly pass from
night to day, not even from night to twilight. So was the Renaissance in
Italy ushered in slowly, and the factors which contributed to this great
intellectual awakening were indeed many.

Now, not the least of these factors was the Papal Court, whether its
influence went out from Rome or Avignon. It seems to us strange—nay,
absurd—that historians of the Italian Renaissance eagerly gather up
every vagrant straw that may contribute to their theory as to the cause
of the great intellectual awakening of Italy in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, but absolutely ignore the influence of the Catholic
Church as a potent force in the Renaissance movement.

Non-Catholic historians are fond of quoting the Latin poet’s words:
“_Nihil humani est mihi alienum_,” and hold that it was out of this
spirit—this attitude towards the world and mankind—that the Italian
Renaissance was born. This is quite true, but as Guiraud points out in
his admirable work, “L’Eglise et Les Origines de la Renaissance,” the
need of simplifying and generalizing—of studying man in himself rather
than any man in particular—could find recognition in the classical
spirit only because it already existed in the spirit of the Renaissance.

One thing is quite certain, that it was the relation of the Papal Court
to the Greek Church at Constantinople and the religious controversies
that took place during the fourteenth century between Avignon and
Constantinople that gave an impetus to the study of the Greek Fathers, a
large number of whose works were in the Papal library at Avignon. In
fact, relations of friendship bound together the men of letters of
Avignon and Constantinople in such manner that there was often an
exchange of manuscripts between the East and West. The life of Petrarch
furnishes examples of this.

From the very beginning of the Papal occupancy of Avignon the Vicars of
Christ enriched the library of the Holy See with numerous copies of the
works of the Latin and Greek writers—now the works of Seneca, Pliny,
Sallust, Suetonius and Cicero, now the Ethics of Aristotle and the Poems
of Virgil.

As to theological works written in Greek, it was most natural that at a
time when theology reigned incontestably as the chief of the sciences
the Papal Library was well supplied.

It is true that the great masterpieces of Greek literature, such as the
works of Homer, Hesiod and Pindar, the great tragedies, and the Latin
writers, Horace and Tacitus, were not as yet well represented in the
Papal Library at Avignon, but it is equally true that on the eve of the
great schism the Popes had collected together an important number of
manuscripts in which Latin literature was well represented, so that in
the number and quality of the volumes the Apostolic Library was second
only to the ancient libraries of the Sorbonne and Canterbury.

In several of his letters the poet Petrarch has shown himself very
severe towards the Popes of the fourteenth century, who, in his eyes,
were guilty of the double crime of being French and of having left
Italy. Meanwhile the very literary reputation and glory which Petrarch
loved so much were due in no small measure to the protection accorded
him by the Popes of Avignon. Was it not, too, at the Papal Court of
Avignon that Petrarch’s father, an exile from Florence, had sought an
asylum, and in the sunshine of whose favor the poet himself had grown in
peace and security?

Nor should it be forgotten that it was from the Papal Curia of Avignon
that the order first went out to search for the Latin manuscripts which
were of so great service in the study of the ancient literature and
language of Rome. The work of copying also went on, so that a manuscript
copy of nearly every valuable Latin work was soon to be found in the
Pontifical Library.

In collecting thus the scattered literary remains of antiquity the Popes
gave proof of an enlightened taste for letters, while at the same time
they favored the movement born of humanism. As in our own day, the
Apostolic Library was thrown open to scholars, and the poet Petrarch, in
several passages of his familiar letters, testifies to the fact that he
himself had full access to the books and manuscripts of the Pontifical
Library at Avignon.

Again, the missionary work carried on in Africa and Asia during the
residence of the Popes at Avignon did much to bring in contact the mind
of the Orient and the Occident. Towards the close of the thirteenth
century, before the Papacy had yet removed to Avignon, the Franciscan
Jean de Montecorvino had established flourishing Christian missions in
China, and in 1306 Pope Clement V. erected for him the see of Pekin.
Numerous missions were also established in the Barbary States, in
Northern Africa, as well as in Tunis.

If, then, the discovery of new worlds, the fall of Constantinople and
the invention of printing were factors in the development of the Italian
Renaissance, assuredly the mission work of the Papal Court of Avignon in
its propagation of the gospel in distant countries contributed
indirectly but incontestably to this great awakening of the human mind.
Indeed, “humanism” may be said to have had birth at Avignon within the
Pontifical Court, with him who has been justly designated “the first of
Humanists”—the poet Petrarch.

As to the study of Greek in Italy, long before the dispersion of Greek
scholars consequent on the fall of Constantinople in 1453, long, too,
before the appointment of Manuel Chrysoloras to the chair of Greek at
the Florence University in 1396, the monk Barlaam, a Greek scholar of
great repute, a Calabrian by birth, who had passed his youth at Salonica
and at Constantinople, where he became, thanks to his literary and
scientific culture, a favorite of the Emperor Andronicus, was sent by
the latter to propose to Benedict XII. a reunion of the Greek and Latin
Churches.

On his return from Rome in 1342, where he had received the laurel crown
of poetry, Petrarch found Barlaam at Avignon and requested from him
lessons in Greek. Another instructor of the poet Petrarch in Greek was
Nicolas Sigeros, also a Byzantine envoy to the Court of Avignon. When
the latter had terminated his negotiations with Clement VI. and had to
return to Constantinople, Petrarch made him promise that he would search
for manuscripts of Cicero which might be hidden in the libraries of the
Bosphorus. Sigeros, however, found none, but to show his good-will he
sent to his friend of Avignon a copy of the poems of Homer.

It was Petrarch’s different visits to Rome that inspired in him a love
for antiquity. His first visit to the Eternal City was on the invitation
of his friend, the Bishop of Lombez, in 1337, and it is from this year
that his Roman patriotism dates, which henceforth inspires all his works
and in particular his Latin poem, “Africa,” and which, too, made him the
enthusiastic friend of Rienzi.

A study of the life of Petrarch reveals the fact that it was the good
offices of the Papal Court of Avignon which placed him in touch with the
eminent Greek and Latin scholars of the day and made it possible for
him, in the seclusion of Vaucluse, to pursue his studies of the great
masters of Greek poetry and philosophy.

Petrarch also prevailed upon his friend Boccaccio to publish in Latin
the Iliad and Odyssey. It was Leontius Pilatus who took charge of this
work a little time after and thus began the great work of translating
Greek authors which Pope Nicholas V. was later to bring to so successful
an end.

But the works of the nature-loving Greeks would never have inspired in
the heart and mind of Petrarch a love of the beauty of life around
him—Hellenism was but a factor—were it not that his own beloved
Provence revealed its charms to his eyes and filled his soul with poetic
dreams. In his garden at Vaucluse, among his trees and vines, he found
the inspiration which Nature never refuses to the open and responsive
heart, whether the votary at her altar be a Wordsworth, amid the lakes
and cliffs and scenes of Cumberland; a Burns, treading the hillsides of
his native Ayr, or a Whittier, dreaming amid his Berkshire hills.

Many historians do an injustice to the character of Petrarch on the
moral side. Petrarch, in the moral gospel of his life and living, was
far from being either a Poggio or a Machiavelli. Much as was his respect
for the master geniuses of antiquity, his love for the sacred writings
of St. Jerome and St. Augustine was more profound, and it is said that
on reading for the first time the works of the latter he thought of
abandoning altogether the frivolous study of the classics, with a view
of consecrating himself entirely to Christian meditation and reading.
Petrarch’s respect for the Christian ideal is to be found in the
marginal annotations of his manuscripts. We have the poet’s own word for
it that he took the “Confessions of St. Augustine” for his model when he
wrote his “De Contemptu Mundi.” Practices of scrupulous piety marked his
whole life. Each night he arose to pray to God, and on every Friday he
practised a rigorous fast, while his devotion to the Blessed Virgin was
most ardent and sincere.

It is true that, like all men of the Renaissance period, Petrarch was
intense in his character. He hated with a Renaissance fervor, and he was
not free from the jealousy and vainglory which belonged especially to
the spirit of his times.

In estimating the character of Petrarch one must remember the spirit of
the times in which he had birth—that it was an age of great virtues and
great vices, and that excessive liberty to sin followed in the wake of
the Renaissance in every land. In England it is reflected in the lives
of such men as Green and Marlowe and in Marlowe’s play of “Dr. Faustus,”
while in France the courts of the House of Valois and the camps of the
Huguenots were marked by the greatest wantonness and license. In Germany
men like Ulrich von Hutten were anything but moral.

Petrarch was certainly “the morning star” of the Italian Renaissance,
but it was the Papal Court of Avignon that made possible his light—it
was the Pope, as representative and head of a universal Church, that
quickened by contact the mind of the East with the West—in a word, it
was the enlightened scholarship of fourteen centuries illumined by the
rays of Divine Faith and speaking through the lips of the Vicar of
Christ in exile at Avignon that led the way in that greatest of
intellectual movements—the Italian Renaissance of the Fifteenth
Century.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Transcriber’s Notes:

Hyphenation, and spellings have been retained as in the original.
Punctuation has been corrected without note.





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