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violability, listen carefully to the dictates of profoundest reve-
“I am not sure whether it will not be much more advisable in the present day to discourse on poetry in the Latin than in the English tongue. I cannot, indeed, deny, the grief and vexation I am myself almost every hour experiencing—that whatever genius one is possessed of is thus in a manner kept down and shackled; that invention is dulled; that the whole mind more quickly becomes languid and weary; that whilst we are on the hunt for words and phrases, and are seeking to produce something in a knowing [scite] and really Latin dress, we are in great danger of receding from the actual truth of things. It is so. Yet I would not, therefore, wish any change herein to be made, because I think, that from the opposite side there are evils yet greater and yet more incompatible with the spirit of our present pursuit. . Matters are now come to this pass, that in writing poetry he is thought to achieve just nothing, who does not contrive to dazzle the eyes of his readers by a never-ceasing recurrence of splendid passages. There is now nothing sedate, simple, unaffected; everything which is said is destitute of all repose, and extravagant, and turbid, not to say, unnatural, and revolting. One may fancy himself listening to the singing of a number of little boys who have not been trained to the practice, and whose only effort seems to be, to sing each as loud as he can ;-how harmoniously, with what propriety, or with what sweetness, they neither care nor indeed know.
“In this decline of poetry, it could hardly be expected that criticism would maintain its own functions in unimpaired efficiency; for in a most
corrupt condition of a commonwealth who would hope to find the judges
free from corruption ? In the present day, at any rate, it has come
these Reviewers. Some of them once a week, -others, more modest, once a month, those, who exercise the greatest self-denial, at any rate four times in the year, come back upon you boasting in the name and position of critics. Very small is the number of those, who, in such rapidity of composition, do not say very manythings in a manner quite different from what is alone right. But however absurd they may be, they almost all of them find some to support them, and, which is worst of all, some to read and to buy their effusions. ‘Such being the case, I do not think it has fallen out amiss, that in the discharge of a very important work we are bound to such regulations, as have more regard to your dignity and to the interests of that severer kind of learning which belongs to this place, than either to the short-lived gratification of the ear or to the judgment of men more remarkable for acuteness than for depth. We shall bear without repining the absence of some things, which on other occasions are most desired and most advantageous, such as reputation, popularity, crowded benches; further, we shall be resigned to a more serious inconvenience than this, the loss of many admirable topics of discourse such as might in the very highest degree assist us in the successful achievement of our work;provided only, as on a matter so sacred, nothing is uttered which is marked by affectation, nothing which is tinctured with a false colouring for the sake of mere effect, nothing which is not characterised by ancient truthfulness and simplicity.”—vol. i. pp. 6–8.
To the inconveniences, which Mr. Keble enumerates in the earlier part of this extract, we think he might fairly have added that which arises from the imperfection of the Latin language, when employed as a vehicle of philosophical investigation. We know that Cicero judged very differently of his mother-tongue; but the consideration of what he has himself achieved in his attempt to express in Latin the refinements of Grecian philosophers, is enough, one would have thought, to deter any modern from the attempt to write in that language on subjects requiring any degree of philosophical nicety. And further, would not a greater service have been done to English criticism, if Mr. Keble, for instance, had published in his own tongue discourses on the subject of poetry, conceived with the same regard to ‘ancient truthfulness and simplicity,” which he has propounded to himself as his aim in the above extract? There are, we believe, but few readers, however well versed in Latin, ancient or modern, who would not have understood his precise meaning far better, than when put, as it now has been, into the disguise of a Latin dress.
But taking matters as we find them, and waiving the remark which we might urge respecting reviews, that they are very often the means of introducing into the world the most effective and deeply-weighed productions of our best writers, and that Mr. Keble ought not to suppose, as he seems to do, that the same persons write every month or every quarter, waivingall this, the observations made in the passage just translated are deserving of the most serious consideration. That affectation of point and study of making the diction striking—that continual aiming at something especially clever or strong—that absence of the repose and symmetry which are the proper concomitants of a well developed intellect and a perfectly educated tastethat want of simplicity, in short, in words and sentiments, of which Mr. Keble so strongly expresses his abhorrence, may be regarded as the most crying sin in our ordinary literature. It is probably, in most cases, only the result of imperfect mental culture: in some, however, it is mere affectation. But, even when associated, as in a very few it may be, with ability, it is always repulsive. We have ourselves been greatly struck by the simplicity, in some instances almost approaching to baldness, which characterises the writings of men of thorough education when dealing with topics which really interest them; and after perusing the plain, manly, and yet often beautiful and deeply moving language of Mr. Newman, or other leaders of that school, we have almost sickened in heart at the reflexion, how much their severe taste would be at once offended—we might almost say disgusted, by the style employed by some of our most popural modern authors,— by some even of those who, not without due qualifications, have challenged their attention as opponents. And if the defects of style referred to are thus prejudicial to the influence of such writers, what are we to say of the large and everincreasing class who have little or nothing to set against the deep demerits of flippancy, rhetorical inflation, or anxious grasping at striking points ?
But we must return to the lectures. The question which, in effect, is first discussed is, what is the nature of that gratification which is received from poetry? And justice to our author requires that we should state his views on this point at some length. They are as follows.
Our nature is so constituted, that when we are under the excitement of any strong emotion, itis a great relief and solace to be able to express our feelings in some way or other, whether by words or by gestures. The many forms of passionate exclamation and execration which are common in all languages, however deserving of deep censure the last may be, will serve as examples —their utterance relieves the bosom in some measure of that strong excitement with which it is overcharged. But there is, also, in the minds of all but the most abandoned, an antagonist principle of shame, which tends to check and repress the utterance of our deeper feelings. And this sensibility to shame is often seen to exist in the very highest degree along with keen sensibility in other respects. Men the most susceptible of emotions of ambition, or grief, or desire, are often so strongly inAuenced by this instinct of bashful reserve as to be the most disqualified for their expression. They cannot speak their feelings.
Akin to the emotions just referred to, which are thus checked in their expression, is that of vague aspiration after the achievement of some great thing which, however, as yet, hovers before the mind in a fluctuating and undetermined shape :-Aliquid jamdudum invadere magnum mens agitat ;-an aspiration, which may be drawn forth by the contemplation of human life, or of the beauty of the universe, or of ideal virtue.
Under the influence of such emotions, human nature requires some mode of relieving itself of its overcharged feelings; and that provident and all-merciful God, who tempers not only the heavens and the earth, but also the hearts of men, has provided for us the needed succour in the gift of poetry. And wonderfully does poetry soothe and tranquillise the spirit. Whilst, on the one hand, it leads the mind to linger upon words, and numbers, and measures, it recals it, without seeming to do so, from its cares and anguish; and, on the other hand, whilst occupied in the labours of imagination, whilst recalling the past and presaging the future, and imbuing everything with that colour in which the mind for the time best loves to view it, one feels that it spares and indulges his raging passions, and that at last it has accorded to the soul the boon, the refusal of which proved Dido's ruin-requiem spatiumque furori. And, for those feelings of virtuous reserve, and that fear of the broad daylight, which have been spoken of, how could their indulgence be better provided for, than when, through those indirect methods which poets best know, the mind, whether labouring under the excitement of passion, or exalted by its higher aspirations, finds itself at last enabled to disclose its inward thought? In this occupation, likewise, those vague desires after the great and excellent, of which many are the subjects, meet with their long desired gratification ; before, there was wanting something to determine their choice amidst a thousand paths which presented themselves to their selection; but now this embarrassment is removed in the occupation of working out the forms of poetical composition.
We may therefore regard this most excellent art of poetry as a kind of divinely-infused medicine, designed to heal the secret disorders of the mind without offending the feelings of shame, to give play to the tumult of the passions, and yet at the same time remind them of the necessity of order and moderation.
Our readers will now understand the first words of the titlepage; it is 'On the healing efficacy of Poetry,' that Mr. Keble discourses throughout the whole series of lectures.
The view of the subject now taken, the Professor proceeds to say, is confirmed by the application of the term poetical, in the language of ordinary life. This term is applied to many cases where there is no metrical composition: what is the element present in such cases, to which the epithet especially attaches? When the youthful Perdiccas, mentioned in the eighth book of Herodotus, (chap. 137), together with his brothers, was refused his lawful wages by the king, who answered the demand by pointing to the sunshine streaming into the room through the chimney, (which then admitted air and light, as well as carried off the smoke), and saying, “I give you this sun — they are the wages you deserve,” he replied, “We receive your offer, king;' and forthwith with his dagger he traced a line on the floor, enclosing the sunshine, and, after thrice drawing, as it were, some of the sunshine into his bosom, he left the apartment. No one would have witnessed this scene without recognising in the boy’s behaviour a scintillation of the poetical; and it was indicated in this, that he sought by this singular pantomime to relieve his kingly spirit, eager for distinction, but not yet ripe for the business of actual life. If those aspirations had been checked in the paths of ambition by unfavourable circumstances, one might easily conceive him endeavouring to soothe his disappointed hopes, as he best might, by some such strains as those of Homer, and growing old in singing of battles. Again; take the case of the lower orders, particularly of countrymen. It savours of mere arrogance to deny to the poor a participation in what seems rather to be inherent in human nature as such ; and greatly are those wealthier men mistaken, who, deeming the perception of magnificent and wild scenery to be the principal aliment of the poetical in the contemplation of external nature, are thus led to despise them who familiar only with the homely scenes of agricultural life, as incapable of the poetical sentiment. There is, indeed, good reason for suspecting the genuineness of those feelings of delight, which they themselves so loudly talk of, as felt by them in beholding such Scenes. We must here follow the example of the Professor, who, we fancy, has led us a little out of the direct course of his argument, in order to introduce the following passage, of which the beauty is so conspicuous as, we trust, not wholly to disappear even in our translation. “But grant them (these expressions of delight at wild scenery) to be ever so genuine, and to flow from deepest inward feeling; yet they are not those which best become one truly smitten with the love of streams and woods. By him whose soul has once been touched, as it were from heaven, by the sweetness of external nature, those common delights