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between a higher and a lower, overruled by Providence. They have two subjects of interest, one the cause, the other the hero through whom the cause works; and between these two interests the epic hovers, seldom if ever identifying them and yet preserving their dual reality.
The “Iliad” has all the traits that have been mentioned, but society is still loose enough in its bonds to give the characters free play; it is, in the main, a hero-epic. The Æneid,” on the contrary, exhibits the enormous development of the social idea; its subject is Roman dominion, which is the will of Zeus, localized in the struggle with Carthage and with Turnus, but felt in the poem pervasively as the general destiny of Rome in its victory over the world; and this interest is so overpowering as to make Æneas the slave of Jove and almost to extinguish the other characters; it is a state-epic. So long as the Divine will was conceived as finding its operation through deities similar to man, the double plot presented little difficulty; but in the coming of Christian thought, even with its hierarchies of angels and legions of devils, the interpretation became arduous. In the “Jerusalem Delivered,” the social conflict between Crusader and infidel is clear, the historical crisis in the wars of Palestine is rightly chosen, but the machinery of the heavenly plot is weakened by the presence of magic, and is by itself ineffectual in inspiring a true belief. So in the “Lusiads,” while the conflict and the crisis, as shown in the national energy of colonization in the East, are clear, the machinery of the heavenly plot frankly reverts to mythologic and pagan forms and loses all credibility.
In the "Paradise Lost" arises the spiritual epic, but still historically conceived; the crisis chosen, which is the fall of man in Adam, is the most important conceivable by man; the powers engaged are the superior beings of heaven and hell in direct antagonism; but here, too, the machinery of the heavenly plot is handled with much strain, and, however strongly supported by the Scriptures, has little convincing power. The truth is that the Divine will was coming to be conceived as implicit in society, being Providence there, and operating in secret but normal ways in the guidance of events, not by special and interfering acts; and also as equally implicit in the individual soul, the influence of the Spirit, and working in the ways of spiritual law. One change, too, of vast importance was announced by the words "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” This transferred the very scene of conflict, the theater of spiritual warfare, from an external to an internal world, and the social significance of such individual battle lay in its being typical of all men's lives. “The Faerie Queene,” the most spiritual poem in all ways in English, is an epic in essence, though its action is developed by a revolution of the phases of the soul in succession to the eye, and not by the progress of one main course of events. The conflict of the higher and the lower under Divine guidance in the implicit sense is there shown; the significance is for mankind, though not for a society in its worldly fortunes; but there is little attempt to externalize the heavenly power in specific action in superhuman forms, though in mortal ways the good knights, and especially Arthur, shadow it forth. The celestial plot is humanized, and the poem becomes a hero-epic in almost an exclusive way; though the knight's achievement is also an achievement of God's will, the interest lies in the Divine power conceived as man's moral victory. In the "Idyls of the King” there are several traits of the epic. There is the central idea of the conflict between the higher and lower, both on the social and the individual side; the victory of the Round Table would have meant not only pure knights but a regenerate state. Here, however, the externalization of the Divine will in the Holy Grail, and, as in the Christian epic generally, its confusion on the marvelous side with a world of enchantment passing here into the sensuous sphere of Merlin, are felt to be inadequate. The war of "soul with sense” was the subject matter, as was Spenser's; the method of revolution of its phases was also Spenser's; but the two poems differ in the point that Spenser's knight wins, but Tennyson's king loses, so far as earth is concerned; nor can it be fairly pleaded that as in Milton Adam loses, yet the final triumph of the cause is known and felt as a divine issue of the action though outside the poem, so Arthur is saved to the ideal by virtue of the faith he announces in the New Order coming on, for it is not so felt. The touch of pessimism invades the poem in many details, but here at its heart; for Arthur alone of all the heroes of epic in his own defeat drags down his cause. He is the hero of a lost cause, whose lance will never be raised again in mortal conflict to bring the kingdom of Christ on earth, nor its victory be declared except as the echo of a hope of some miraculous and merciful retrieval from beyond the barriers of the world to come. But in showing the different conditions of the modern epic, its spirituality, its difficulties of interpreting in sensuous imagery the working of the Divine will, its relaxed hold on the social movement for which it substitutes man's universal nature, and the mist that settles round it in its latest example, sufficient illustration has been given of the changes of time to which idealism is subject, and also of the essential truth surviving in the works of the past, which in the epics is the vision of how the ends of God have been accomplished in the world and in the soul by the union of divine grace with heroic will - the interpretation and glorification of history and of man's single conflict in himself age after age, asserting through all their range the supremacy of the ideal order over its foes in the entire race-life of man.
Out of these changes of time, in response to the varying moods of men in respect to the world they inhabit, arise those phases of art which are described as classical and romantic, words of much confusion. It has been attempted to distinguish the latter as having an element of remoteness, of surprise, of curiosity; but to me, at least, classical art has the same remoteness, the same surprise, and answers the same curiosity as romantic art. If I were to endeavor to oppose them I should say that classical art is clear, it is perfectly grasped in form, it satisfies the intellect, it awakes an emotion absorbed by itself, it definitely guides the will; romantic art is touched with mystery, it has richness and intricacy of form not fully comprehended, it suggests more than it satisfies, it stirs an unconfined and wandering emotion, it invigorates an adventurous will; classicism is whole in itself and lives in the central region, the white light, of that star of ideality which is the light of our knowledge; romanticism borders on something else — the rosy corona round about our star, carrying on its dawning power into those unknown infinities which embosom the spark of life. The two have always existed in conjunction, the romantic element in ancient literature being large. But owing to the disclosure of the world to us in later times, to the deeper sense of its mysteries which are our bound
ing horizons round about, and especially to the impulse given to emotion by the opening of the doors of immortality by Christianity to thought, revery, and dream, to hope and effort, the romantic element has been more marked in modern art, has in fact characterized it, being fed moreover by the ever increasing inwardness of human life, the greater value and opportunity of personality in a free and high civilization, and by the uncertainty, confusion, and complexity of such masses of human experience as our observation now controls. The romantic temper is inevitable in men whose lives are themselves thought of as, in form, but fragments of the life to come, which shall find their completion an eternal task. It is the natural ally of faith which it alone can render with an infinite outlook; and it is the complement of that mystery which is required to supplement it, and which is an abiding presence in the habit of the sensitive and serious mind. Yet in classical art the definite may still be rendered, the known, the conquered. Idealism has its finished world therein; in romanticism it has rather its prophetic work.
Such, then, as best I can state it in brief and rapid strokes, is the world of art, its methods, its appeals, its significance to mankind. Idealism, so presented, is in a sense a glorification of the commonplace. Its realm lies in the common lot of men; its distinction is to embrace truth for all, and truth in its universal forms of experience and personality, the primary, elementary, equally shared fates, passions, beliefs of the race. Shakespeare, our great example, as Coleridge wisely said, “kept in the highway of life.” That is the royal road of genius, the path of immortality, the way ever trodden by the great who lead. I have ventured to speak at times of religious truth. What is