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de Gama and Columbus undertook their whether mental or physical. For the voyages, and, as it would seem, to en- reasoned thought of the philosopher apable them to do so. Newton wrought peals only to the intellect, and does not out his system of Fluxions, and published flood the spirit ; the great poet touches his “ Principia," with its announcement a deeper part of us than the mere philosof the law of gravitation, at a time when opher ever reaches, for he is a philosophysical inquiry must have remained at pher and something more—a master of a standstill had these discoveries been thought, but it is inspired thought, withheld. In the last generation James thought filled and made alive with emoWatt's great invention and, within liv- tion. He makes his appeal, not to inteling memory, Robert Stephenson's, ap- lect alone, but to all that part of man's peared, just at the time when society was being in which lie the springs of life. ready to assume a new phase, but could If it be true that not have assumed it till these discoveries
We live by admiration, hope, and lovewere perfected.
But there are other social changes, that it is the objects which we admire, niore impalpable but not less real, more love, hope for, that determine our charsubtle but piercing deeper than the phys- acter, make us what we are—then it is ical ones. These last, wrought on the the poet, more than any other, who holds world's surface, are visible and tangible, the key of our most secret being. For and all can appreciate them. But the in- it is he who, by virtue of inspired insight, visible changes wrought in men's minds, places before us in the most true and atthe revolutions in sentiment which dis- tractive light the highest things which tinguish one age from another, are so we can admire, hope for, love ; and this silent and so subtle that the mere prac- he does mainly by unveiling some new tical man entirely ignores or despises truth to men, or, which is the same them. Mere sentiment, forsooth ! who thing, by so quickening and vivifying cares for sentiment ? But let the prac- old and neglected truths that he makes tical man know, those sentiments he de- them live anew. To do this last requires spises are in human affairs more potent quite as much of prophetic insight as to than all the physical inventions he so see new truths for the first time. rnuch venerates.
This is the poet's highest office-to How these changes of feeling arise, be a prophet of new truth, or at least an from what hidden springs they come, unveiler of truths forgotten or hidden who shall say? But that they do come from common eyes. There is another forth and make themselves widely felt, function which poets fulfil—that of setand in the end change the whole face ting forth in beautiful form the beauty of society, none can doubt. They come, which all see, or giving to thoughts and as changes in the weather come, as the sentiments in which all share beautiful sky changes from bright to dark and and attractive expression. This last is from dark to bright, from causes which the poet's artistic function, and that we cannot penetrate, but with effects which some would assign to him as his which all must feel.
only one. “ The thoughts they had were the par- These two aspects of the poet, the ents of the deeds they did ; their feelings prophetic and the artistic, coexist in difwere the parents of their thoughts." So ferent proportions in all great poets ; in it always has been and shall be. In the one the prophetic insight predominates, movements of man's being, the first and in another the artistic gift. In the case deepest thing is the sentiment which pos- of any single poet it may be an interestsesses him, the emotional and moral at- ing question to determine in what promosphere which he breathes. The causes portions he possesses each of these two which ultimately determine what this at- qualities. But without attempting this mosphere shall be are too hidden, too I shall now only try to show by examples manifold and complex, for us to grasp, of some of the greatest poets, ancient but among the human agents which pro- and modern, that to each has been duce them none are more powerful than granted some domain, of which he is the great poets. Poets are the rulers of men's supreme master ; that to each has been spirits more than the philosophers, vouchsafed a special insight into some
aspect of truth, a knowledge and a love self from these entanglements, and risof some side of life or of nature not ing to the purer and higher idea of the equally revealed to any other ; that he Unity of Zeus, the one all-powerful and has taken this home to his heart and all-wise Ruler of heaven and earth'; till made it his own peculiar possession, and in Sophocles he stands forth as the then uttered it to the world in a form “centre and source” of all truth and more vivid and more attractive than had righteousness. ever been done before.
Then, as to the life of man, we see in To begin with Homer. It was no Æschylus and Sophocles the Greek mind merely artistic power, but a true and for the first time at work upon those deep insight into human nature, which great moral problems which at an earlier enabled him to be the first of his race, date had engaged the Hebrew mind in as far as we know, who saw clearly, and the Book of Job. The mystery of sufferdrew with firm hand, those great types ing, especially the suffering of the guiltof heroic character which have stamped less, is ever present to them. The poputhemselves indelibly on the world's im- lar conception held that such innocent agination. Achilles, Ulysses, Nestor, suffering was the mere decree of a dark Ajax, Hector, Andromache, Priam- and unmoral destiny. Æschylus was these, while they are ideal portraits, are not content with this, but taught that at the same time permanent outstanding when the innocent man forms of what human nature is. The suffers it is because there has been Homeric vision of Olympus and its im- wrongdoing somewhere. He sought to mortals, splendid though it be, was still give a moral meaning to the suffering, but transient. It had no root in the by tracing it back to sin, if not in the deepest seats of human nature. For sufferer himself, at least in some one of even in his own land a time came when, his ancestors. The father has sinned, in the interest of purer morality, Plato the son must suffer. 'YBpis there has wished to dethrone Homer's gods. But been in some progenitor, åtn and ruin his delineation of heroes and heroines fall on his descendants. remains true to human feeling as it exists Sophocles looks on the same spectacle to-day. Even Shakespeare, when, in of innocent suffering, but carries his inhis "'Troilus and Cressida," he took up terpretation of it a step farther, and those world-old characters and touched makes it more moral. Prosperity, he them anew, was still constrained to pre- shows, is to the individual not always serve the main outlines as Homer had truly gain, but often proves itself an evil left them. It is this permanent truthful- by the effects it produces on his characness and consistency in the human char- ter. Neither is adversity entirely an evil, acters of the “Iliad" which makes one for sometimes, though not always, it acts believe, in spite of all the critics, that as a refining fire, purifying and elevating one master hand was at the centre of the the nature of the sufferer. Its effects, at work, and that it performed that which least in noble natures, are self-control, no agglomeration of bards could ever prudence, contentment, peace of soul. have achieved.
Philoctetes, after being ennobled by the Again, Æschylus and Sophocles were, things he had suffered, has his reward each in their day, revealers of new even here in being made the means of and deeper truth to their generation. destroying Troy and then returning The Greek world, as it became self-con- home healed and triumphant. Cdipus, scious and reflective, had no doubt in his calm and holy death within the grown much in moral light since the shrine of the Eumenides, and in the time of Homer, and that light, which honor reserved for his memory, finds a their age inherited, these two poets recompense for his monstrous sufferings gathered up and uttered in the best form. and his noble endurance. Antigone, But, besides this, they added to it some though she has no earthly reward for her thing of their own. In the religion of self-sacrifice, yet passes hence with sure their poems, though the mythologic and hope--the hope that in the life beyond polytheistic conceptions of their country she will find love waiting her, with all are still present, you can perceive the the loved ones gone before. poet's own inner thought disengaging it- These few remarks may recall to some who read them some suggestive thoughts who else among ancient poets has felt so which fell from Professor Jebb in his two deeply and expressed so tenderly the concluding lectures on Sophocles, given pathos of human life, or so gathered up last summer in the hall of New College, and uttered the highest sentiment toward Oxford. And all who desire to follow which the world's whole history had been out this subject I gladly refer to the ad- tending--sentiment which was the best mirable essay on “ The Theology and flower of the travail of the old world, Ethics of Sophocles," which Mr. Abbot, and which Christianity took up and carof Balliol, has recently contributed to ried on into the new ? In these two dithe book entitled “Hellenica."
rections Virgil made his own contribuWe would not naturally turn to Roman tion to human progress. literature to find the prophetic element. If any other poet deserves the name Speculation and imaginative dreaming, of prophet, it is he whose voice was whence new thoughts are born, were heard the earliest in the dawn of mod. alien to the genius of that practical race. ern poetry. In the “ Divine Comedy,' But there is at least one of Rome's poets Dante gave voice to all the thoughts who is filled with something like true and speculations, as well as to the acprophetic fire. On the mind of Lucretius tion, of the stirring thirteenth century. there had dawned two truths, one learned I suppose that no age has ever been from his own experience, the other from summed up so fully and melodiously by Greek philosophy ; and both of these any singer. On Dante's work I cannot inspired him with a deep fervor, quite do better than quote the words in which unlike anything else to be met with in one of the most accomplished of its inhis country's literature. One truth was terpreters has expressed his feeling rethe misery and hopelessness of human garding it. Dean Church, in his welllife around him, as it still clung to the known essay on Dante, has said : decaying phantoms of an outworn my
Those who have studied that wonderful thology, and groped its way through poem know its austere yet subduing beauty : darkness with no better guides than these. they know what force there is in its free and The other truth, gained from the teach
earnest yet solemn verse, to strengthen, to ing of Democritus and Epicurus, was the tranquillize, to console. It is a small thing that
it has the secret of nature and man ; that a few vision of the fixed order of the universe, keen words have opened their eyes to new the infinite sweep, the steadfastness, the sights in earth, and sea, and sky ; have taught immutability of its laws. As he con- them new mysteries of sound ; have made templated the stately march of these fugitive feelings, or their unheeded expression
them recognize, in distinct image and thought, vast, all-embracing uniformities, he felt by look, or gesture, or motion ; that it has en. as though he were a man inspired to riched the public and collective memory of soutter to the world a new revelation. ciety with new instances, never to be lost, of And the words in which he does utter it human feelings and fortune ; has charmed ear often rise to the earnestness and the
and inind by the music of its stately march, and
the variety and completeness of its plan. But, glow of a prophet. He was, as far as I
He was, as far as I besides this, they know how often its seriousknow, the earliest and most earnest ex- ness has put to shame their trifling. its magna pounder in ancient times of that truth nimity their faint-heartedness, its living energy which has taken so firm hold of the
their indolence, its stern and sad grandeur remodern mind. In the full recognition by
buked low thoughts, its thrilling tenderness
overcome sullenness and assuaged distress, its men of the new truth which he preached, strong faith quelled despair and soothed perhe seemed to himself to see the sole plexity, its vast grasp imparted harmony to the remedy for all the ills which crush hu
view of clashing truths. man life.
To review the great poets of our own Again, Virgil, though with him the country, and consider what new elements love of beauty, as all know, and the ar- of thought and sentiment each in his tistic power of rendering it, are para- turn imported into the minds of his mount, yet laid hold of some new truth countrymen, would be an interesting which none before him had felt so study, but one not to be overtaken in a deeply. No one had till then conceived single essay, if it could be in many. . I so grandly of the growth of Rome's shall therefore pass at once to that great greatness, and the high mission with outburst of song which ushered in the which heaven had intrusted her. And dawn of the present century in England, and try to show, somewhat more in de- centrate within himself the whole force tail, some of the original and creative im- of this retrospective tendency, and to pulses which the poets of that time let pour it in full flood upon the heart of loose upon society. This I shall do by European Society. More profoundly taking the examples of two poets of that than any other man or poet he felt the generation. Other poets, their contem- significance of the past, brooded over it, poraries, were not without some touch was haunted by it, and in his poems and of the prophetic gift; but the two I romances expressed it so broadly, so shall naine have exerted an influence, felicitously, with such genial human inthe one wider, the other more deep, and terest, that even in his own lifelime he both more distinctly healthful, than any won the world to feel as he did. One of their brethren.
among many results of Scott's work was It was nothing short of a new revela- to turn the tide against the Illumination, tion when Scott turned back men's eyes of which Voltaire, Diderot, and the on their own past history and national whole host of encyclopædists were the life, and showed them there a field of high priests.
Another result was that human interest and poetic creation that he changed men's whole view of history, had long lain neglected. Since the days and of the way in which it should be of Shakespeare a veil had been upon it, written ; recalled it from pale abstracand Scott removed the veil. Quinet has tions to living personalities, and peopled spoken of the impassable gulf which the the past no longer with mere phantoms, age of Louis Quatorze has placed be- or doctrinaire notions, but with men and tween mediæval France and the modern women in whom the life-blood is warm. time. It has parted the literature of If you wish to estimate the change he France, he says, into two distinct pe- wrought in this way, compare the hisriods, between which no communion is toric characters of Hume and Robertson possible. Bossuet, Corneille, Racine, with the life-like portraits of Carlyle and Molière, Voltaire, owe nothing to the Macaulay. Though these two last have earlier thought of France, draw nothing said nasty things of Scott, it little became
from it. Because of this separation Qui- them to do so ; for from him alone they · net thinks that all modern French litera- learned that art which gives to their de
ture, both prose and poetry, is more real scriptions of men, and scenes, and events and more fitted to interpret the modern their peculiar charm. If we now look spirit than if it had grown continuously. back on many characters of past ages We may well doubt this, especially with an intimate acquaintance and a whether it has not been the death of personal affection unknown to our grandFrench poetry-the cause why modern fathers, it was Scott who taught us this. France possesses so little that seems to These may be said to be intellectual us poetry at all. It would seem as if results of Scott's ascendency ; but there at one time a like calamily threatened are also great social changes wrought by English literature. In the earlier part his influence, which are patent to every of last century, under the influence of eye. Look at modern architecture. Pope and Polingbroke, a false cosmopoli- The whole mediæval revival, whether tanism seemed creeping over it, which we admire it or not, must be credited might have done for our literature what to Scott. Likely enough Scott was not the French wits of the Louis Quatorze deeply versed in the secrets of Gothic age did for theirs. But from this we architecture and its inner proprieties--as, were saved by that continuity of feeling I believe, his own attempts at Abbotsand of purpose which happily governs ford, as well as his descriptions of casour literary not less than our political tles and churches prove. But it was he life. All through last century the ancient who turned men's eyes and thoughts spirit was never wholly dead in England, that way, and touched those inner and it would have revived. That im- springs of interest from which, in due mense sentiment, that turning back of time, the whole movement came. affection upon the past was coming- Another social result is, that he not no doubt it would have come--even if only changed the whole sentiment with Scott had never been born. But he was which Scotchmen regard their country, the chosen vessel to gather up and con- but he awakened in other nations an in
terest in it which was till his time un- that he most loved in the character of known. When Scott was born, Scotland his countrymen. had not yet recovered from the long de- I have spoken of how Scott has been cadence and despondency into which a power of social and beneficent influshe had fallen after she had lost herence by the flood of fresh sentiment kings and her parliament. Throughout which he let in on men's minds. last century a sense of something like am aware that to your “practical" degradation lay on the hearts of those man, romance is moonshine and sentiwho still loved their country, and could ment a delusion. Such an one may, not be content with the cold cosmopoli- however, be led to esteem them more tanism affected by the Edinburgh wits. highly, when he is made aware how Burns felt this deeply, as his poems much sentiment and romance are worth show, and he did something in his way in the market. The tourists, who to redress it. But still the prevailing from all lands crowd to Scotland every feeling entertained by Englishmen tow- summer, and enrich the natives even in ard Scots and Scotland was that which remotest districts—what was it brought is so well represented in the “ Fortunes them thither? What but the spell of of Nigel.” Till the end of the last cen- Walter Scott ? And, as the late Sir tury the attitude of Dr. Johnson was William Maxwell well expressed it at the still shared by most of his countrymen. Scott Centenary, the fact that Scott has If all this has entirely changed-if Scots in any of his creations named a farm, or are now proud of their country instead a hill, or a stream, that is to their posof being ashamed of it—if other nations sessor as good as a new title-deed, and look at the land with feelings of ro- will be sure to enhance the marketable mance, and on the people themselves value of the spot. This, I think, will with respect if not with interest, this we prove, even to the most sordid, that owe to Scott, more than to any other poetry is a real power in the affairs of human agency:
And not the past only, this working world. with its heroic figures, but the lowly I have been speaking of the power peasant life of his own time he first re- poetry has, by bringing in on men's vealed to the world in its worth and minds new tides of feeling, to effect beauty. Jeanie Deans, Edie Ochiltree, great and visible social changes. Caleb Balderstone, Dandie Dinmont- I shall now turn to another poet, a these and many more are characters contemporary and a friend of Scott's, which his eye first discerned in their whose influence has affected a much quiet commonplacé obscurity, read the narrower area, but who within that area inner movements of their hearts, and has probably worked more intensely. gave them to the world, a possession for Wordsworth is nothing if he is not a reall time. And this he did by his own vealer of new truth. That this was the wonderful human heartedness view he himself took of his office may be broad, so clear, so genial, so humorous, gathered from many words of his own. more than any man since Shakespeare. In the “ Prelude” he speaks of He had in him that touch of nature
the animating faith, which makes the whole world kin, and that poets, even as prophets, he so imparted it to his own creations, Have each his own peculiar faculty, that they won men's sympathies to him
Heaven's gift, a sense that fits them to perceive self not less than to his country and his Objects unseen before. people. Wordsworth has well called And then goes on to express his convicScott “ the whole world's darling.” If tion that to him also had been vouchstrangers and foreigners now look upon safed Scotland and its people with other eyes An insight that in some sense he possesses and another heart, it is because they see A privilege, whereby a work of his, them through the personality of Scott, Proceeding from a source of untaught things, and through the creations with which he
Creative and enduring, may become
A power like one of Nature's. peopled the land ; not through those modern democratic aspects which since If Wordsworth was a revealer, what Scott's day have obliterated so much did he reveal ?