« AnteriorContinuar »
Are nigh to smite with death. And o'er the crags
So, too, at the close of the beautiful, and beautifully told myth of Persephone, we have a characteristic gathering-up of the threads, a familiar climax of reflection :
Time calls and Change
And are transformed, clothing themselves with change
The development is finely graduated, from Tartarus on through Hades and up to Olympus, Psyche at the threshold of the highest stage giving to the pilgrims the mystic and thrilling pass
one universal word
To all things living, and the word is 'Love.'
And it is Apollo who urges brave souls to press onward to the ultimate and glorious goal-the merging of their imperfect beings in the perfection of Zeus the Giver-in words that are aglow with gracious impulse and benign wisdom :
There is a Height higher than mortal thought;
There is a Love warmer than mortal love;
There is a Life which taketh not its hues
From earth or earthly things, and so grows pure
In regard to poetical workmanship, the myths that probably stand foremost are Sisyphus, Marsyas, and Helen. The introductory descriptive portion of Sisyphus' is worthy of a theme that Homer glorified by specially careful versification, and it is interesting to mark how very simple but extremely careful diction does a duty not unworthy of comparison with the expressive Greek dactyls. How vivid is this rapidly depicted scene! How well suited every word is to the position it fills! A crash,
A horrible thunderous noise, as down the steep
The shameless fragment leapt. From crag to crag
And wrapt in smoke, as to the lowest depths
I caught, as with the great rock whirled and dashed
'Marsyas' is a triumph of sweet melody, a veritable monument of graceful, chaste, refluent English. The very movement of the young Apollo has music in it, and the passage descriptive of the contest is elaborated and rounded with rare finish and delicacy. Exclusive of Shakespeare, whose onomatopoeic passages (as in the Merchant of Venice on the harmony that is in immortal souls,' and the opening speech of Twelfth Night) are supreme, this description of the expansive reach and the subtle influence of musical sound will bear comparison with anything else in the language. It is quite as effective as the somewhat specialized tributes to the genius of Lawes in Comus, while it is not simply written to order like Mr. Rossetti's 'Sonnet composed during Music,' or Charles Lamb's bright epigrammatic Chapter on Ears.' The Sun-god's instrumental music was of course unusually thrilling and captivating, but it was trifling compared with the ethereal notes of his song.
Oh, to hear the young
Apollo playing! and the hidden cells
With reflex hues of heaven. My soul was rapt
Still the playing itself might have left even the Muses doubtful about judgment, had it not been followed by that glorious heavenly voice!
Oh happiness of him who once has heard
The best portion of Helen' is the romance of her youthful innocence and growth-sweetly idyllic, tenderly sympathetic, gravely foreboding. It quite prepares apt students of the poet for the touching pathos, the long-suffering heroism, the bitter-sweet joys, the hearts heavy laden, the fatal burden and tragic circumstance of 'Gwen, a Drama in Monologue.' In no sense, as the author himself points out, is this little work of fresh lyrical movement and grave sentiment adapted for stage purposes. The title, as usual, is somewhat unfortunate and misleading. It is a poem to read on the hillsides and among the heather, away from the bustle and the jar of worldliness, and with the subtle and penetrating associations of a solitary retreat. It will not endure the flare and the gaudy vulgarity of the crowd. It appeals to the reflective forces; it goes straight to the individual heart. It tells of a secret that courtiers cannot know; it is a story of too touching an interest for the worldling to appreciate. It is the course of true love, thwarted and disturbed and misdirected as from of old, but still steadfast in aim and reaching its destined outlet somehow at the last. Henry, an earl's son, loves Gwen, a clergyman's daughter, among the Welsh hills, and struggles manfully against society for his love; but the contest entails heart-breaking and domestic tragedy, and bitter wrestling of the lone human spirit with the powers of Evil. The lesson taught is a noble and a manly one-there is a heroism of sentiment that stirs to the depths of manhood and proves the purification of the soul.
The springtide that awakens land and sea,
The spring of Youth and Love, awakens me.
Answers from its dim depths, 'I come, I hear.'
It comes with tremulous, furtive thrills which can
Strip from me all the Past, and leave me man.
And to this there is the gentle and confiding and withal foreboding response :
I do obey. I lay my soul
Low at Love's feet for his control.
Farewell, oh paths half hidden in flowers,
White bed, white room, and girlish home!
Significant are these lines of the concentrated affection and the endearing trials, the smiles that strive with tears and the wellgrounded but chequered hopes, that one and all accompany the struggle with untoward events :—
More dear you are, my love, and sweet,
A thousand times more dear,
Than when my heart forgot to beat
A thousand times more dear, my love,
For the tender pity that you move
The climax of the chastening, the perfection of the discipline, the purification of the fiery trial, compose the acclamations of a glorified epilogue. It is the same familiar exalted goal.
But Love, the Conqueror, Love, Immortal Love,
Spurning the brute earth with his purple wings,
Some radiant beam to light the House of Life ;
And to a Higher Being doth mature
Our lower lives, and calms the ignoble strife,
And raises the dead life with his sweet breath,
And from the arms of Death
Soars with it to the eternal shore,
Where sight or thought of evil comes no more.
The ultimate contribution thus far to this poetical philosophy of continuous change culminating in Love is the Ode of Life.' This is a canticle of odes, just as Mrs. Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese' and Mr. Rossetti's House of Life' are canticles of sonnets. Again, fault may be found with the title the author has chosen, but it is impossible to cavil at the execution of the separate poems, or to deny that they constitute a compact and well-managed series. The work begins with an Ode of Creation,' and traces human experience onwards from Infancy through all the intermediate stages, with their respective joys and sorrows, to Age, Decline, and Change. It is interesting to note here, as in the earlier work, the influence of the poet's master-that unknown poet,' Henry Vaughan-as well as to find a maturity of thought and expression that betoken strong originality and singular devotion to a lofty range of culture. The following lines, for example, from the 'Ode of Infancy,' may be set down by some as an echo of Wordsworth, whereas the fact is that both poets would probably not have written their respective passages but for Vaughan's Silex Scintillans' :
Oh, little child! thou bringest with thee still,
Some dim reflection in thine eyes,
Some sense of Godhead, some indefinite wonder
Who knows no speech of ours, and yet doth keep
Some golden link which nought of earth can sunder,
One would willingly linger over the poet's sympathy with the tenderness and fresh innocence of childhood, his dainty lyrical movement with the lovers, as
Rapt, careless, looking in each other's eyes,
With lingering steps and slow,
The lovers go;
his sense of what is due to the 'perfect years '--especially his worthy tribute to devoted motherhood-his discriminating separation of Good and Evil, and his reverence for declining years, but it is not possible here and now. Suffice it to say, that the Ode of Change' brings us once more nearer a glimpse of the eternities, and leaves us impressed with the supreme importance of Faith by contrast with its handmaiden Knowledge.
Take me, oh infinite Cause, and cleanse me of wrong!
Shall I mourn for those who are not? Nay, while love and regret
If we love, then the souls that we love, they exist and they are,
Finally, then, may we not see some length towards an explanation of our poet's popularity? He has a message for the English reader such as is seldom delivered to him; an appeal to his individual consciousness which he finds it impossible to resist. The Poet speaks as a man to his brother, striking sympathetic chords, stirring tender and far-reaching associations, and ever wisely didactic in the endeavour to point the way to spiritual Truth. These are modes of influence that can never fail. A busy, thronging, money-loving people will still find time-even were it from the commonplace motive of noting contrasts-to see what the author of Songs of Two Worlds' has to depict for them as his ideal of The True Man.' The phenomenon of his popularity is to be explained on the ground of his ability to take his readers into his confidence, and insist, as in these lines, upon their higher perceptions :—
Take thou no care for aught save truth and right;
Wealth palls and honours, Fame may not endure,