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find a perfect balance of the opposing nomenop to be explained ? What was it principles. Many incidental expressions that made a poet like Pope reject on critthroughout his plays, and notably his his-ical grounds the principle of romance, tories, prove his sympathies to have been and men of such robust genius as Fieldmonarchical, and his religious faith Catho. ing and Johnson encounter anything like lic, in the broad sense of the word; while enthusiastic sentiment with dislike and in all his judgments of men and manners contempt? It will not do to say that this he speaks like a typical Englishman of the kind of spirit was in the air, that the eigh. age of Elizabeth. These “Gothic and teenth century was an age of prose and Mookish foundations,” however, are only reason, not of poetry; for that is merely the ground on which, just as Scott did restating the difficulty in other words, beafter him, he took his stand to let his im- sides overlooking the fact that the present agination build with more facility ideal century has been an epoch far more scienstructures out of the materials supplied to tific and critical even than the eighteenth, it by his all-embracing observation. He and yet the present century has witnessed does not, like Chaucer, write as the repre. an extraordinary revival of romance. sentative of a particular order of society; The explanation of the phenomenon he does not, like Spenser, inculcate any that I have offered in the foregoing paspecial ideal; he views pature as she ap- pers, is that men of letters, after the Res. pears in the strongest light of reason, toration, found themselves confronted by common sense, and imagination; in a an imaginative problem exactly analogous word, we feel in his genius, as in that of to the political difficulties that perplexed no other poet, the spirit of humanity. the statesman. Just as Somers and his
Milton's work, too, shows a like har- allies perceived the decline of the feudal monious blending of opposites; but in system as a motive power in the constituhim the centre of gravity has travelled far tion of society, and sought to establish a to the side of realism. His subject matter new order with the least possible sacrifice is Catholic and romantic; witness, the of ancient principle, so Dryden, Addison, whole theme of “Paradise Lost," and and Pope, finding that romance, the ideal those numerous allusions to the books of reflection of the feudal spirit, was no chivalry, survivals of his ideas when it longer a fittiog form for the expression of was in his mind to take King Arthur as the ideas of the age, modelled their style the hero of an epic poem. Who can for- exclusively on forms derived from the get the comparison of the mustering of Renaissance. the fallen angels with
I have called this movement Conservawhat resounds,
tive because it was, in the first place, a In fable or romance of Uther's son,
movement io behalf of order. The last Begirt with British and Armoric knights;
half of the seventeenth century was And all who since, baptized or infidel, period of political and imaginative an. Jousted at Aspramont, or Montalban, archy. When government by prerogative Damasco, or Morocco, or Trebizond, passed from the Tudors to the Stuarts, Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore, the end of government by prerogative was When Charlemagne with all his peerage fell evidently at hand. Similarly, no one can At Fo arabia.
study the poetry of the merely fashionable But the form of his imagination is com- writers of the seventeenth century with. pletely classical, and the whole bent of his out seeing that the spirit of old romance individual prejudice, strongly, Calvinist had ceased to be a living influence on the and republican, is against the feudal and imagination. Whether you turn to the ecclesiastical institutions which are the rants of the romantic drama under Charles cradle of romance.
II. and James 11., or to the witty conceits Now it is a fact which I think will be of the poets of gallantry, like Suckling acknowledged by every careful student of and Rochester, or to the ghosts of chivEnglish literature, that the two opposing alric sentiment in the love-poems of Cowprinciples which, even as late as the pro- ley and Waller, everywhere you find a duction of “Paradise Lost," appear in vapid idealism based on hollowness and barmonious fusion, are, from Milton's unreality. The question for the creative time up to our own, seen in perpetual an- genius of the new age was whether some tagonism. During the eighteenth century Datural ideal could not be constituted be. realism completely overpowers romance; tween this lifeless formalism and realism in the present century Romanticism has of the loathsome kind that throve so shown a constantly increasing hostility to rankly in the comedies of Etherege and reality. How is this remarkable phe. his contemporaries. The answer was pro.
vided by the poets in the characters of he merely signified, by an epigrammatic Achitophel and Zimri; of Atticus and phrase, his view of the kind of developSporus and Atossa; in " The Vanity of ment which the language appeared to him Human Wishes;” in “The Traveller; "to be still capable of receiving at the his. in “The Village,” and “The Borough; "toric stage in which he found it. and by the writers of fiction in the person Now, whatever judgment we may be of Sir Roger de Coverley, and all that inclined to pass on the poetry of the pres. splendid series of pictures representing ent century, I think it will be generally contemporary life and manners_from acknowledged that, in all essential points, “Tom Jones” down to “Vanity Fair." its spirit is radically opposed to the spirit Throughout this series the spirit of the of eighteenth-century verse. The latter Renaissance speaks as clearly in the new reflects the taste of a national aristocracy, order of society as it did in Chaucer under and is colored throughout by the political the feudal system.
genius of the men who effected the RevoAgain, the imaginative movement after lution of 1688; the former has a thousand the Restoration and in the eighteenth points of contact and sympathy with the century may be justly called Conservative, democratic movement culminating in the because it ained at preserving the princi. French Revolution, which roused such ple of literary continuity. When Carlyle, vehement antipathy in the mind of a typiin his anger with the shams and conven- cal Englishman like Burke. The literary tionalities of English life, calls out in movement in the eighteenth century was a “Sartor Resartus” for “old sick society constructive movement in behalf of social to be burned," and when in an analogous order in the sphere of imagination; tbe spirit, in order to emphasize his own indi- movement of the nineteenth century was viduality and genuineness, he imports into a practical assertion of the unfettered lib. the language all kinds of Teutonic mon. erties of the individual imagination. And strosities, we see that we are face to face while the eighteenth century employed the with literary Radicalism. The Conserva- classical forms familiar to the Renais. tive reformers of the eighteenth century sance to embody its positive and direct never strained after individualism of this judgments on life and manners, the ninekind. Though they felt that a great part teenth century has striven to express the of the old religious and military frame. vague and unsatisfied cravings of imagi. work of society was gone forever, they pation, by reviving forms of romance pe. sought to establish the new social ideals culiar to the language in the earlier stages on historic foundations, and to preserve of society. For all these reasons I have whatever was noble in the life of the past. transferred from politics the term usually Everybody will acknowledge the truth of opposed to the word Conservative, and this observation as applied to Addison. have called the imaginative revolution of But it is applicable even to Dryden, at this century the Liberal movement in Enleast in his views as to the development glish literature. of language. The idea of inheritance, We are in the habit of thinking of this which is so prominent in all the political great change in taste as the work of a few speculations of Burke, is constantly crop. men of genius, who arbitrarily turned the ping up in Dryden's literary criticism. imagination into new channels; but the Here, for instance, is a passage strongly closer we look into the question, the more illustrative of the poetical Conservatism clearly we see that there was an influence of which I am speaking.
"in the air," and the general causes which Milton was the poetical son of Spenser and were at work in society disclose themMr. Waller of Fairfax, for we have our lineal selves as plainly as those which operated descents and classes as well as other families. after the Restoration. The ruling force of Spenser more than once insinuates that the the eighteenth century, as has been said, soul of Chaucer was transfused into his body, was aristocracy, an aristocracy which pre. and that he was begotten by him two hundred served the social order produced spoota. years after his decease. Milton has acknowl. Deously under the feudal régime, while it edged to me that Spenser was his original, and discarded the outward forms which ex. many besides myself have heard our famous pressed the Catholic and chivalric expres, Waller own that he derived the harmony of sions of life. Dryden and Addison, and his numbers from the Godfrey of Bulloigne, which was turned into English by Mr. Fairfax: Pope and Fielding and Johnson, are tbe
faithful representatives of their
age; their Pope was, in like manner, the poetical style exhibits many of the essential qualison of Dryden ; and when he announced ties of the elder writers whose laoguage “correctness to be his aim in writing, they inherit; vigor, distinctoess of out
line, unerring observation of nature, bril- general results of the movement and its
an ever surer and surer stay. There is not a like “ Absalom and Achitophel” or the dogma which is not shown to be questionable, “ Epistle to Arbuthnot” or “ The Travel- not a received tradition which does not threaten ler,” we feel how feeble has become the to dissolve. Our religion has materialized impulse of the once abundant fountains of itself in the fact, in the supposed fact, and now the classical school, and that the poets the fact is failing it. But for poetry the idea who drink from them are in the same ex. is everything; the rest is a world of illusion, of hausted case as the last representatives divine illusion. Poetry attaches its emotions of mediævalism in the seventeenth cen.
to the idea; the idea is the fact. The strong.
est part of our religion to-day is its uncon. tury.
scious poetry. Contrarily, one sees the germs of the new Romantic school far back in the lit. Forbearing any criticism on the charerature of the eighteenth century. They acteristic paradox which places the power are visible in what I have called the of religion in poetry, whereas all history school of the dilettanti, in the poetry of shows that poetry springs out of religion, men of genius like Gray and Collins, what, let me ask, are the grounds for Mr. where the imagination appears brooding Arnold's extraordinary confidence? Holdfondly over the images of bygone times. ing, as he does, that the metrical compoThe active spirit of democracy glows in sitions of the eighteenth century are unthe provincial poetry of Burns. Rous. deserving of the name of poetry, and all seau's spirit of philosophic melancholy his sympathies being given to the poetical transforms itself in England into the reli- movement originating with Wordsworth, gious melancholy of Cowper. But all these it is plain that he must look for the supexternal impulses are at present qualified ply of the poetical ideas of which he speaks and checked by that prevailiog sense of to the Romantic sources in our literature. form which distinguishes the style of the And yet I should think no one can take a
survey of Then comes the French Revolution, Sut being impressed with the large amount and whatever forces are at work in the of what is merely temporary, evanescent, age carry the individual away from so- particular, in the Romantic ideas embod. ciety, or to influence his mind against ex. ied in it. For instance, there was the isting institutions, acquire an enormous romance of what Carlyle calls Wertherism. impetus. Individualism becomes ram- To Byron this was a reality; for the sopant; liberty is everywhere the watch ciety contemporary with Byron it pos. word of generous spirits; it is the mark sessed enough of reality to become a of genius to assail all kinds of tradition fashion; but the poet who should now aod established order. The spirit of the thiok of working the mine would hardly age embodies itself in the philosophic iso- make his fortune. There was, again, the lation of Wordsworth ; in the rebellion romance of Jacobinism. This was, in of Byron against society; in the utopian- Shelley's time, virgin soil, and, as Mr. ism of Shelley; in the artistic reaction of Swinburne has shown us in his “ Songs Coleridge and Keats. I have traced in before Sunrise,” it still produces ideas previous papers the various imaginative available for treatment in verse; but any channels into which the rising waters one may see that the thoughts and feel. forced their way; it is needless to recapit. ings which filled the mind of the elder ulate here what has been said; and it now poet with something like religious belief oply remaios to endeavor to estimate the have changed in the hands of his succes.
sor into a mere theme for metrical rhet. | asks, “Wby were they not written in oric. Once more, there was what Words- prose. worth conceived to be the romance of The movement initiated by Coleridge common life. Yet it is evident that what and Keats was also a rebound from the really iospired Wordsworth was not com- standard of Dryden, but in a totally difmon life, but the particular group of ro- ferent direction. Their aim was to set mantic and patriotic associations con the imagination free by removing it from nected with his own birthplace; nor has all contact with modern life, and they any one since been able to bend the bow therefore looked for literary models as of the Ulysses of the Lakes. Lastly, there free as possible from contemporary assowas romance pure and simple, and those ciations. These they found in the early who would test the difference in Romantic Romantic poetry of the pation, where the temperature between the first and last spirit of feudal romance is still strong, quarters of the century have only to com. and the language, highly charged with pare Marmion and William of Deloraine metaphor, has not yet come to maturity. with the revived knights of the Round Drenching themselves in this atmosphere, Table. In the one case we have the rep- they sought to combine certain dreamlike resentative of the feudal age in England, associations of Romantic ideas in musical a real being, though with a touch of melo- movements of metre aod picturesque comdrama – impiger, iracundus, inexora lis, binations of words. acer; in the other, ideal figures, which One might, indeed, imagine that the had some verisimilitude for the feudal inexhaustible variety of literary Romantic times in which they were conceived, but themes would give scope for an almost which, in these latter days, in spite of boundless extension of the art of poetry their admirably picturesque equipment, to those who simply seek to develop in it can scarcely disguise the democratic and the elements of painting and music. Yet commercial nature of their origin. As though the movement begun by Coleridge far, therefore, as the materials of romance and Keats was continued with exquisite go, there scarcely seems to be promise of skill by Lord Tennyson in his earlier poà boundless future for poetry.
ems, and though it has received a yet fur. If we look at the form in which the ther development in the hands of Mr. ideas of romance are expressed, in other Swinburne and the late Mr. Rossetii, no words, at the question of poetical diction, one, I should think, can fail to be struck our conclusions will not be very different. with the fact that in the works of the two Dryden, after the Restoration, had sought latest representatives of the Romantic to fix the standard of poetic diction by school there is far less liberty of imagi. modelling it on the style of the best au nation. lo “The Ancient Mariner" and thors in the language qualified by the lan- lin “St. Agnes' Eve" the rapid succession guage of the best society of the time. He of musical ideas, or the rich coloring thus provided for the principles both of of the verbal imagery, carries us away stabilty and development. To Words into dreamland. But in a ballad of worth, however, this literary and social Mr. Swioburne or Mr. Rossetti, the effect standard appeared too artificial. He is quite different. What primarily imwanted a larger liberty. It was his ob. presses the reader is the extraordinary ject,
skill shown by the poet in the imitation along Life's common way of antique forms; we are always conscious With sympathetic heart to stray, of the presence of the artist; it is plain And with a soul of power,
that he is thinking less of the theme itself As a follower of Rousseau, he held that than of its capacities for enabling bini to the language of poetry should be founded display his powers of word-painting or of not on literature or the forms of refined metre-music. society, but on the idiom of the peasantry. All these symptoms seem to me to point As a philosopher, desiring to make poetry to but one conclusion. As the classical reflective, he sought to break down the and Conservative movement in English distinctions between the language of po- literature exhausted itself at the end of etry and the language of prose. He has the last century, so the inspiration of the had many followers, and a generation ago Romantic school is now failing, and the volumes of philosophy in verse were much Liberal movement in our literature, as more common than they are at present. well as in our politics, is beginning to But the movement was contrary to the languish. Nor are the causes of this de. genius of the art. Of metrical composi- cline at all difficult to comprehend. The tions of this kind the reader instinctively Liberal movement was a practical protest
on behalf of the liberty of the individual | Newton, as well as the Reformation and imagination a protest against the tram. the Revolution of 1688, could not find mels of form and convention which, at adequate expression in those romantic the end of the eighteenth ceotury, were forms which the fashionable poets of the stifling life and nature and simplicity. seventeenth century employed to decorate But owing to the force of circumstances the expiring spirit of mediævalism. They it has grown to be a revolt against soci- faced nature boldly, and wrote about it in ety. Forgetful that the source of poetry, metre directly as they felt it; hence their as of the language which is its vehicle, conception, such as it is, is founded on lies not only in themselves, but in the reality; the portraits of Zimri the states. pation to which they belong, our latter- man, and Atticus the man of letters, are, day poets have sought to turn poetry into in their own kind, as ideally true as Chau. the ideal of the individual, instead of cer's good parson and Shakespeare's Hambeing what it once was, the ideal of soci- let. The ideal was, no doubt, too cold, ety. Hence the revival of forms and unemotional, and repressive, nor is it at methods of poetical diction proper to by: all wonderful that the men who lived gone ages. The present direction of the through the fever of the Revolutionary movement is contrary to nature. In its period should have rebounded into Rocraving for unlimited liberty of imagina. manticism. That period was essentially tion our latest school of metrical writing a lyrical one, when poets were moved to is aiming at an unattainable ideal. The write about their own feelings and ideas, author of “ Marius the Epicurean” - a rather than about things. But now that book full of fine genius and imagination the atmosphere has sensibly cooled; now himself a Liberal in the region of art, that the poet is beginning to aim again at shows a far truer perception of the nature invention and creation, it is all-important of the problem which the modern poet has to be sure that we have solid and positive to solve.
conceptions of nature on which to build Homer had said (so he writes] :
On the other hand, if we are simply and Οι δ' ότε δή λιμένος πολυβενθέος εντός ίκοντο, “Ιστία μεν στείλαντο, θέσαν δ' εν νηί μελαίνη,
solely positive, we shall not be able to 'Εκ δε και αυτοί βαινον επί ρηγμίνι θαλάσσης.
create at all. The exclusively scientific
order which the philosophers who have And how poetic the simple incident seemed told just thus : Homer was always telling things appropriated the title of positive would in this manner.
And one might think there impose upon society is more remote from had been no effort there : that it was but the the reality of nature, or, at least of human almost mechanical transcript of a time intrin- nature, than the wildest extravagances of sically and naturally poetic, in which one could the “ Arabian Nights.” The revolt of the hardly have spoken at all without ideal effect, Romantic school against the excessive or the sailors have pulled down their boat realism of the eighteenth century, ought without making a picture “in the great style,” to prove that, a fortiori, men will not tol. against a sky charged with marvels. Must not erate an intellectual system from which an age, itself thus ideal, have counted for more the mystical and religious element is alto. than half of the whole work?
gether excluded. Undoubtedly it must; in the early ages lo an ancient nation like ours, moved of society the atmosphere of imagination by instincts and beliefs of which the is universal and its pressure is equal on origin lies far beyond the reach of analy. all sides. In later times, as science and sis, the progress of imagination keeps refinement advance, the pressure dimin. pace with the development of society; ishes; but in every age there are certain and just as in the political world it is be. ideal perceptions of nature which are com- coming more and more evident that a mon to every individual; and he who union must be effected between the prinrealizes these most strongly and expresses ciples of Liberalism and Conservatism, so them in metre most naturally, is the clas- the best hopes for the future of poetry
seem to lie in a reconciliation between It is this positive ideal spirit, prevailing the positive and romantic elements of in the best poetry of the eighteenth cen the imagination. There is no essential tury, which all metrical composers of the contradiction between the two principles. rising generation might study with advan- Mr. William Morris, indeed, one of those tage. The men of genius in that age felt who has done the most to develop the that the spirit which had produced the Romantic movement pure and simple, philosophy of Bacon, the psychological urges as an apology for reviving the exspeculations of Locke, the discoveries of ternal manner of Chaucer that the present