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commended " Ernest Maltravers” and “Pelham” to the young men and women of the last generation. Owen Meredith's writings are filled with hot-house passion, - with the radiance, not of stars, but of chandeliers and stage-lights; and in their metaphysical speculations we see a weak reflection of the clearer Tennysonian thought. Indeed, this author, while he interests and amuses us, is a most unblushing imitator. His lyrics are a travesty of Robert Browning's dramatic stanzas ; in his blank-verse he appropriates the breaks and cadences of Tennyson, and ventures on subjects which the Laureate was long known to have in hand. “ The Parting of Lancelot and Guenevere” shows how neatly the younger has caught the trick of the elder poet. His return to a Greek model, in “Clytemnestra,” falls short of the antique unity and passion, and is immeasurably below the “ Agamemnon" of Æschylus, from which its better passages are almost literally taken. We are not versed in Oriental poetry, but suspect that his wanderings on its borders are merely forays in “fresh woods and pastures new.” It is not to Owen Meredith that we look for signs of a coming poetical dawn.
William Morris, never a slovenly worker, gives us pieces which repay close reading, but also compel it, for they smack of the closet and library, rather than the world of men and women, or that of woods, waters, and hills. He too sings the deeds of Arthur and Lancelot, and the beauty of Guenevere ; but the true mediæval purpose eludes him, and its place is supplied with the subtile intricacies of to-day. Frederick Tennyson treats out-door nature with painstaking and curious discernment, repeating every shadow; but the result is a pleasantly illuminated catalogue of scenic details. It is nature trimmed and cut down by a scientific landscape-gardener. Few lato poets, however, have shown more refinement in verse-structure and skill in the management of Englislı rhytlım. This of itself is high praise, and an artistic motive runs through the five selections in this volume. Each of them is harmoniously finished, and not marred by the acrobatism of the spasmodic clique; and if their author could learn to generalize, his position would be enviable and secure.
Arthur Hugh Clough must have been a rare and lovable spirit, else he could never have so twined himself within the heart-strings of the selectest thinkers of our time. Though he did much as a poet, it is doubtful whether his genius found anything like its full development during the brief lapse of years and under the circumstances in which he was permitted to live. His free temperament and radical way of thought, with a manly disdain of all factitious advancement, distinguished him even among the choice companions attached to his side ; and he was valued quite as much for his character, and for what he was able to do, as for the things he actually accomplished.* There was nothing second-rate in his nature, and his “Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich," though bearing the common reader less easily along than the billowy hexameters of Kingsley, is thoroughly faithful to its Highland theme, and has a Doric simplicity and strength. His shorter lyrics imperfectly represent the real felicity of his style. If he could have remained in the liberal American atmosphere, and had been spared his untimely taking off, he would have come to unquestioned greatness; but he is now no more, and with bim departed a living protest against the truckling expedi the mode.
Edwin Arnold is of so little account that associat his brother is all that includes him in our list. Charle (one of the Tennyson brothers who, for some res changed his name) is also utterly below the family Of twelve sonnets composed by him, not one is in ce with either the Italian or English requirements, or of: as an addition to poetry. Dinah Maria Mulock ha many tender verses, somewhat akin to those of Miss and mostly of a natural and acceptable kind. Chris setti demands closer attention. She is a poet of a and sombre cast, whose lips part with the breathings oi spirit within. She has no lack of matter to express. It is that expression wherein others are so adroit, which fails to serve her purpose ; but when, at last, she “ beats her music out,” it has mysterious and soul-felt meaning. She has unwittingly caught the real monastic feeling, and attuned it in unison with the aspirations of her own heart. But her light burns dimly and afar; and as poetry must appeal to the universal brotherhood, Miss Rossetti will never be numbered among the torchbearers of the people.
* Since this was written, Professor Arnold's monody on Clough, entitled " Thyrsis,” has been printed from advance sheets, and is noticeable for its theme and as cxhibiting the precise amount of aid which classicism can advantageously give the modern poet. In the latter respect it is somewhat opposed to its author's early thcory. As a sustained, imaginative elegiac composition, nothing comparable with it bas appeared since the “ Adonais” of Shelley.
The story and writings of poor David Gray — who lived just long enough to exhibit a sorrowful precocity and conceit – add another to the many examples of a sensitive temperament unsustained by adequate poetical power. We can do no more than mention the names of four rlıymesters, of whose compositions Mr. Stoddard avails himself, and who do not seem to ameliorate the condition hitherto set forth. They are George Meredith (of some repute as a novelist), W. C. Bennett, Thomas Westwood, and Frederick Locker, - all of them among the least of minor poets; but the last named is so flippant and shallow that lie almost serves as a foil to the other three.
It would seem, by recapitulation, that the characteristics of the present English school — distinguished from those of the Elizabethan period and of the revival which ushered in this century — were reflective, scholarly, metaphysical, rather than fruitful, spontaneous, and inspired, and pertaining more to elegant artifice than to the artistic presentment of truth. Its members possess much excellence of expression, but do not render this subordinate to what is to be expressed. The better class, vaguely conscious of this failing, and blind to the riches of our own time, resort to the past for their subjects, and in various ways endeavor to compromise for the absence of genuine imaginative song. Earnest writers perceive and deplore these tendencies. Ruskin, who now seems almost to despair of the frigid, decaying British taste, established a correct rule in the earliest volume of “ Modern Painters," applying it to either of the fine arts.
" Art, with all its technicalities, difficulties, and particular ends, is nothing but a noble and expressive language, invaluable as the vehicle of thought, but by itself nothing. He who has learned what is commonly considered the whole art of painting. that is, the art of representing any natural object faithfully, has as yet only learned the language by which his thoughts are to be expressed. He has done just as much toward being that which we ought to respect as a great painter, as a man who has learned how to express himself melodiously has towards being a great poet. .... Rhythm, melody, precision, and force are, in the words of the orator and poet, necessary to their greatness, but not the tests of their greatness. It is not by the mode of representing and saying, but by what is represented and said, that the respective greatness, either of the painter or the writer, is to be finally determined. .... It is not, however, always easy, either in painting or literature, to determine where the influence of language stops and where that of thought begins. Many thoughts are so dependent upon the language in which they are clothed, that they would lose half of their beauty if otherwise expressed. But the highest thoughts are least dependent upon language, and the dignity of any composition, and praise to which it is entitled, are in eract · proportion to its independency of language or expression. A composition is indeed most perfect, when to such intrinsic dignity is added all that expression can do to attract and adorn ; but in every case of superior excellence, all this becomes nothing."
Mr. Ruskin's own rhetorical gifts are so eminent, leading him often into word-painting for their display, that he pronounces decisively on this point, as one who does penance for his besetting sin.
He might have added, that the highest thought, while least dependent upon language, naturally finds its appropriate vehicle of expression, though the latter does not always include the former. It is so with all the operations of nature. Thus a melodious voice is sometimes useless for the want of fineness of ear; yet we rarely meet the possessor of a delicate ear who has not a voice of tone and compass equivalent to his conceptions. There are plenty who have the appreciative ear, - who enjoy music to the surfeit; but if they have what professors mean by “ear,” the inventive, or even the sharply distinctive genius for music, nature has generally determined that the vocal organs shall be of the same order. This has partially impressed the critic we have cited, as, in drawing a difference (which constantly occurs to the reader of these late English poets) between what is ornamental in language and what expressive, he goes on to say: “ This distinction is peculiarly necessary in painting ; for in the language of words it is nearly impossible for that which is not expressive to be beautiful, except by mere rhythm or melody, any sacrifice to which
is immediately stigmatized as error. Unfortunately, susceptible as many are to the transient effects of sound and color, rather than to the whole tone of a production, this stigma is not always pronounced ; if it were, artists would learn a broader treatment.” On the topic of synthetical design (while we are consulting authorities), let us quote from Mr. Arnold's Preface, to which we have before referred.
"I verily think the majority of critics do not in their hearts believe that there is such a thing as a total impression to be derived from a poem at all, or to be demanded from a poet : they think the term a commonplace of metaphysical criticism. They will permit the poet to select any action he pleases, and to suffer that action to go on at will, prorided be gratifies them with occasional bursts of fine writing, and with a shower of isolated thoughts and images. . . What distinguishes the artist from the amateur, says Goethe, is architectoniké in the highest sense ; that flower of execution which creates, forms, and constitutes : not the profoundness of single thoughts, not the richness of imagery, not the abundance of illustration. .... Two kinds of dilettanti there are in poetry — he who neglects the indispensable mechanical part, and thinks he has done enough if he shows spirituality of feeling; and he who seeks to arrive at poetry merely by mechanism, in which he can acquire an artisan's readiness, and is without soul and matter.”
Judged by the test which requires soul, matter, and expression, all combined, how many of the poets whom we have as yet named give us cause to expect a speedy renewal of the grander imaginative epochs of English literature ?
We discover a moderate relief to this unpromising picture, and in the location where it should naturally appear, to render more complete the parallel between the Alexandrine age and the existing British era. In the former period, while the mass of writers were enforcing attention to their eccentricities, or coldly imitating ancient models, a joyous group of idyllic poets arose in Syracuse, delighting their own and after generations with eclogues of pastoral and city life. Their verses were dialectic, but composed in that new Dorian which added to the majesty of Greece the softness of the balmy Sicilian isles; their refrains were original ; their imagery was classically pure ; and indeed all the remaining idyls of Theocritus and his companions have that beauty about them which is a jog forever. It is a curious symptom of the present English