Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

is attended by the same effect, and may perienced in composing political songs, be discovered by the same criterion. political zealot as he was. The range of the poetic is indeed more The cultivation of poetry for its own extensive than that of the sister arts. sake is, however, quite exceptional, even Emotion may be aroused by an appeal with poets. With most, when once they to the affections, as in Moore's— have travelled beyond the simple lyrical

expression of their individual emotions, "I know not, I ask not, if guilt's in that

the main impulse to the production of heart; I but know that I love thee, whatever thou

poetry has obviously been to afford art;”

the world the benefit of their opinion —to the imagination, as in Shelley's importance. Thus, if we are to accept

on subjects which appear to them of description of the waning moon :

Milton's own account of his aims, his “Like a dying lady, lean and pale,

sublimest flights of imagination are Who totters forth, wrapt in a gauzy veil, merely accessories to the practical end Out of her chamber, led by the insane

of “justifying the ways of God to man.” And feeble wanderings of her fading brain, The moon arose up on the murky earth,

It is impossible to suppose that the A white and shapeless mass; "

architect of Pandemonium took no

pleasure in his work for its own sake, or, finally, by the enunciation of some independent of the value he ascribed to grand moral or philosophical truth, such it as a buttress of theology; but, with as Wordsworth’s

less imaginative writers, the artistic “Sense sublime

motive disappears in the didactic. In Of something far more deeply interfused, the “Course of Time,” for example, the Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, Calvinistic polemic is real and hearty; And the round ocean, and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man :

the imaginative form a reminiscence of A motion and a spirit, that impels

Milton, as conventional as a red pettiAll thinking things, all objects of all thought, coat in a landscape. The same assertion, And rolls through all things.”

mutatis mutandis, may be made with This latter sublime passage is to be

reference to Cowper, Young, Crabbe, &c.

Almost all Wordsworth's poems stand rather apprehended intuitively than by in direct and calculated relation to his a conscious effort of the understanding; theories of life and art. Even Mrs. and so in every case the appeal is ad- Browning tells us that she intends dressed to feeling of some sort ;1 and,

“Aurora Leigh” as the exponent of therefore, poetry, in the highest sense,

her own. Now we think we may vencannot undertake the construction of a

ture to assume as axiomstheory of life or the universe, on which the logical faculty alone is competent to

1. That every system of thought is

in some way the offspring of the age in pronounce. Yet this is the very work which each successive generation requires Wordsworth's anti-conventionalism was

which it makes its appearance. Thus and attempts to accomplish. The highest

at bottom merely another manifestation kind of poetry, then, cannot fulfil the

of the same spirit that was contempowants and wishes of contemporaries; raneously overthrowing the thrones of and it even requires self-discipline and

the continent. The Tractarian protest watchfulness, and an ambition of achiev

against the tendencies of the age was ing practical results, to prevent its wandering off altogether into the ideal virtually as much the creature of the

age as those tendencies themselves. regions which are after all most con

2. The poets who frame such systems genial to its nature. Mrs. Shelley has

are necessarily better exponents of the recorded the difficulty her husband ex

special characteristics of their times than 1 See Mr. Mill's masterly essay on Poetry

those who restrict themselves to the and its . Varieties (“Dissertations and Discus- essentially poetical ; for this is the sions," vol. i.).

common property of all ages. But, the more completely they express these reason, that Mr. Tennyson has not gone characteristic features, the more certainly out of his way in quest of anything, but, do they reproduce the frivolous casual allowing free play to his artistic instincts, aspects of the age, as well as those of has evolved an ethical lesson as well. serious and permanent significance. Con- Mr. Patmore could not write with this sequently, the problem, how to adapt abandon; he speaks by the intellect, the eternal spirit of poetry to contem- though, it may be, often to the feelings. porary interests and sympathies, does Fortunately these feelings, though temnot admit of a satisfactory solution. Aporarily entwined like ivy with much rigid idealist, professing to go round the that is accidental and perishable, have world without transgressing the limits still, like ivy, a root in the solid earth. of pure poetry, is like one endeavouring If we wish to understand Mr. Patmore's to empty the sea with a bucket. A mere merit in this respect, we can compare realist, trying to accomplish the poet's his poem with one partly conceived task with the satirist's tools, would hew in a kindred spirit — Aurora Leigh. an oak with rushes, weave a cable from Each book is occupied with a social sand. The same strictures apply to the problem; but Mrs. Browning's is one to purely didactic poet, who is inevitably which the peculiar aspects of the age driven to adapt his instructions to the have imparted an adventitious imporspecial requirements of his generation. tance, while Mr. Patmore's is invested

with constant freshness by its vital Mr. Patmorel is an admirable example relation to the needs of the human of the second of the poetical classes we heart. The elements of decay in his have endeavoured to discriminate above work—its wood, hay, and stubble—of those, namely, who write poetry appear to us to be not so much inherent not for its own sake, but for that of in its structure as superinduced by his some definite aim ever present to their didactic spirit, his determination to exminds. Mr. Tennyson and Mr. Patmore haust the significance of his theme, inhave each treated of the mission of stead of confining himself to its poetic woman ; but is it possible to imagine aspects as Mr. Tennyson would have two more dissimilar works than the done. In a word, he seems to us to “ Princess" and the “ Angel in the confuse the office of the poet with that House ?Mr. Patmore describes his of the moralist on one hand, and that task as self-imposed, requiring special of the novelist on the other. training, steady purpose, and prolonged This implies that Mr. Patmore is after effort :

all essentially a poet, and moreover that, “The fairest realm in all the earth

when he temporarily ceases to be such, Is counted still a heathen land;

he does but substitute one kind of exSo I, like Joshua, now go forth

cellence for another. His ethics and To give it into Israel's band.

his social delineations are as good in their I've girt myself with faith and prayer,” &c.

way as the inspirations of his loftier And he does indeed go at his work

mood-his precious metal has some alloy, with a simple manly directness that

but little dross. It requires, we are would insure him our respect, even if

sensible, a much finer analysis than his genius did not, as it must, command

ours to discriminate with perfect accuracy our admiration. Mr. Tennyson, too, pro

between his poetry and his prose; and, fesses to have a moral, of which he is con

unlike most treasure-seekers, we are in tinually losing sight, and which cannot much greater danger of parting with the be deduced from the preceding narrative.

object of our quest than of retaining “ Maud” has fifty times the moral signifi

what we do not want. It is curious cance of "The Princess," and for this very

that this enthusiastic singer of domestic

life should himself be one of the last 1 Paithful for Erer. By Coventry Patmore.

writers with whom we can feel thoroughly

is attended by the same effect, and may perienced in composing political songs, be discovered by the same criterion. political zealot as he was. The range of the poetic is indeed more The cultivation of poetry for its own extensive than that of the sister arts. sake is, however, quite exceptional, even Emotion may be aroused by an appeal with poets. With most, when once they to the affections, as in Moore's— have travelled beyond the simple lyrical

expression of their individual emotions, I know not, I ask not, if guilt's in that

the main impulse to the production of heart; I but know that I love thee, whatever thou

poetry has obviously been to afford art;'

the world the benefit of their opinion

on subjects which appear to them of -to the imagination, as in Shelley's importance. Thus, if we are to accept description of the waning moon :

Milton's own account of his aims, his “Like a dying lady, lean and pale,

sublimest flights of imagination are Who totters forth, wrapt in a gauzy veil, merely accessories to the practical end Out of her chamber, led by the insane

of “justifying the ways of God to man. And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,

It is impossible to suppose that the The moon arose up on the murky earth, A white and shapeless mass ;”

architect of Pandemonium took no

pleasure in his work for its own sake, or, finally, by the enunciation of some independent of the value he ascribed to grand moral or philosophical truth, such it as a buttress of theology ; but, with as Wordsworth's

less imaginative writers, the artistic “Sense sublime

motive disappears in the didactic. In Of something far more deeply interfused,

the “Course of Time," for example, the Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, Calvinistic polemic is real and hearty; And the round ocean, and the living air,

the imaginative form a reminiscence of And the blue sky, and in the mind of man : A motion and a spirit, that impels

Milton, as conventional as a red pettiAll thinking things, all objects of all thought, coat in a landscape. The same assertion, And rolls through all things."

mutatis mutandis, may be made with

reference to Cowper, Young, Crabbe, &c. This latter sublime passage is to be Almost all Wordsworth's poems stand rather apprehended intuitively than by in direct and calculated relation to his a conscious effort of the understanding ;

theories of life and art. Even Mrs. and so in every case the appeal is ad

Browning tells us that she intends dressed to feeling of some sort ;1 and,

" Aurora Leigh" as the exponent of therefore, poetry, in the highest sense,

her own.

Now we think we may vencannot undertake the construction of a

ture to assume as axiomstheory of life or the universe, on which

1. That every system of thought is the logical faculty alone is competent to

in some way the offspring of the age in pronounce. Yet this is the very work

which it makes its appearance. Thus which each successive generation requires Wordsworth's anti-conventionalism was and attempts to accomplish. The highest

at bottom merely another manifestation kind of poetry, then, cannot fulfil the

of the same spirit that was contempowants and wishes of contemporaries; raneously overthrowing the thrones of and it even requires self-discipline and

the continent. The Tractarian protest watchfulness, and an ambition of achiev

against the tendencies of the age was ing practical results, to prevent its wan

virtually as much the creature of the dering off altogether into the ideal

age as those tendencies themselves. regions which are after all most con

2. The poets who frame such systems genial to its nature. Mrs. Shelley has

are necessarily better exponents of the recorded the difficulty her husband ex

special characteristics of their times than i See Mr. Mill's masterly essay on Poetry

those who restrict themselves to the and its . Varieties (“Dissertations and Discus- essentially poetical ; for this is the sions,” vol. i.).

common property of all ages. But, the

more completely they express these reason, that Mr. Tennyson has not gone characteristic features, the more certainly out of his way in quest of anything, but, do they reproduce the frivolous casual allowing free play to his artistic instincts, aspects of the age, as well as those of has evolved an ethical lesson as well. serious and permanent significance. Con Mr. Patmore could not write with this sequently, the problem, how to adapt abandon; he speaks by the intellect, the eternal spirit of poetry to contem- though, it may be, often to the feelings. porary interests and sympathies, does Fortunately these feelings, though temnot admit of a satisfactory solution. Aporarily entwined like ivy with much rigid idealist, professing to go round the that is accidental and perishable, have world without transgressing the limits still, like ivy, a root in the solid earth. of pure poetry, is like one endeavouring If we wish to understand Mr. Patmore's to empty the sea with a bucket. A mere merit in this respect, we can compare realist, trying to accomplish the poet's his poem with one partly conceived task with the satirist's tools, would hew in a kindred spirit — Aurora Leigh. an oak with rushes, weave a cable from Each book is occupied with a social sand. The same strictures apply to the problem; but Mrs. Browning's is one to purely didactic poet, who is inevitably which the peculiar aspects of the age driven to adapt his instructions to the have imparted an adventitious imporspecial requirements of his generation. tance, while Mr. Patmore's is invested

with constant freshness by its vital Mr. Patmorel is an admirable example relation to the needs of the human of the second of the poetical classes we heart. The elements of decay in his have endeavoured to discriminate above work—its wood, hay, and stubble--of those, namely, who write poetry appear to us to be not so much inherent not for its own sake, but for that of in its structure as superinduced by his some definite aim ever present to their didactic spirit, his determination to exminds. Mr. Tennyson and Mr. Patmore haust the significance of his theme, inhave each treated of the mission of stead of confining himself to its poetic woman ; but is it possible to imagine aspects as Mr. Tennyson would have two more dissimilar works than the done. In a word, he seems to us to “Princess" and the “ Angel in the confuse the office of the poet with that House ?” Mr. Patmore describes his of the moralist on one hand, and that task as self-imposed, requiring special of the novelist on the other. training, steady purpose, and prolonged This implies that Mr. Patmore is after effort :

all essentially a poet, and moreover that, “The fairest realm in all the earth

when he temporarily ceases to be such, Is counted still a heathen land;

he does but substitute one kind of exSo I, like Joshua, now go forth

cellence for another. His ethics and To give it into Israel's hand.

his social delineations are as good in their I've girt myself with faith and prayer,” &c.

way as the inspirations of his loftier And he does indeed go at his work mood—his precious metal has some alloy, with a simple manly directness that

but little dross. It requires, we are would insure him our respect, even if sensible, a much finer · analysis than his genius did not, as it must, command ours to discriminate with perfect accuracy our admiration. Mr. Tennyson, too, pro

between his poetry and his prose; and, fesses to have a moral, of which he is con

unlike most treasure-seekers, we are in tinually losing sight, and which cannot much greater danger of parting with the be deduced from the preceding narrative. object of our quest than of retaining “Maud” has fifty times the moral signifi- what we do not want. It is curious cance of “The Princess," and forthis very that this enthusiastic singer of domestic

life should himself be one of the last 1 Faithful for Erer. By Coventry Patmore.

writers with whom we can feel thoroughly

ble impression we have derived from painters of the final triumph of the every reperusal of the "Angel in the righteous make over half their canvas to House” has been one of astonishment the demons. But Mr. Patmore appears at the amount of beauty which the last to have felt, with the delicate tact we reading had left for us to discover. We so often admire in him, that pathos may say of Mr. Patmore's book, as he misses its effect when joy is a foregone says of his heroine, that we have found conclusion, and that it would be better it “more to us”

to reserve it as the leading motive of a

new work. In the present poem, acYesterday than the day before, And more to-day than yesterday."

cordingly, we are presented with a. new

protagonist in the person of Frederick Any opinion, therefore, that we may Graham, Vaughan's moral and spiritual express respecting the poem under con- fac-simile, and whose preferences and sideration must be taken as subject to antipathies necessarily correspond to revision ; yet there are principles of those of his counterpart. It follows criticism which we may venture to apply that both are attracted by Honoria boldly. If we find, for example, any Churchill, and it falls to the rejected particular passage to be-leaving its Graham to teach what the fortunate metrical form out of account-exactly Vaughan could not know. The task such as we should have expected to meet which Mr. Patmore has thus prescribed with in a novel, we can hardly consider to himself, of representing the demeanour it to be in its place where we find it; of a mind of unusual nobility under a often, on the other hand, when the theme trial of which even his eloquence cannot is apparently little calculated to arouse exaggerate the bitterness, is one already our sympathies, the poet's lyrical fervour attempted by Mr. Tennyson in Love and indicates that its significance has been Duty. The laureate, however, only gives more truly revealed to him than to us. us the result; Mr. Patmore, a master of In the first book, more especially, the analysis rather than of generalisation, is fountains of the great deep of feeling more particularly occupied with the are broken up with tempest; the subse- process. Every phase of feeling through quent calm is indeed a falling-off, but we which the lover has to struggle is seized are in more danger of tedium than of at the culminating point, and reproduced shipwreck.

with a pathos which nothing can exceed, « Faithful for Ever” is not, as we because nothing can surpass its fidelity. have seen it described, an episode in It would be great injustice to Mr. Pat“The Angel in the House;" it is rather more not to allow him to speak here for a supplement, representing some of the himself. Laying a good foundation, aspects of the philosophy of love and Frederick thus describes the lady of his marriage, excluded by the plan of the heart in the first canto:former work. In “The Angel in the

“The noble girl ! With whom she talks House,” the course of true love runs

She knights first with her smile; she walks, exceedingly smooth. Intended as in

Stands, dances, to such sweet effect troductory to a comprehensive treatment Alone she seems to go erect. of the whole theory of married life, it

The brightest and the chastest brow

Rules o'er a cheek which seems to show necessarily excluded the idea of any but

That love, as a mere vague suspense a fortunate catastrophe. To have con- Of apprehensive innocence, ducted Vaughan's suit to an unpros- Perturbs her heart; love without aim perous termination would have been to Or object, like the holy flame

That in the Vestals' temple glowed have shut the door in the poet's own Without the image of a god.” face; the “betrothal” was the necessary condition of the “espousals.” It would, The gradual ascent of admiration of course, have been possible to have into passion is portrayed with the most subjected the hero to violent alternations delicate accuracy. The transient and of hope and tear, joy and bitterness, as contradictory emotions of the lover's

« ZurückWeiter »