events, not from an historical and the dream “rounded by a sleep.” The archæological point of view. It was lesson drawn is to make life as full and natural in Mr. Morris to "envisage” the as beautiful as may be, by love, and Greek heroic age in this way, but it adventure, and art. The hideousness would not be natural in most other of modern industrialism was oppresswriters. The poem is not much shorter ing Mr. Morris; that hideousness he than the “Odyssey," and long narrative was doing his best to relieve and repoems had been out of fashion since deem, by poetry, and by all the many “The Lord of the Isles” (1814).

arts and crafts in which he is a master. All this was a little disconcerting. His narrative poems are, indeed, part We read “Jason,” and read it with of his industry in this field. He was pleasure, but without much of the more not born to slay monsters, he says, “the essential pleasure which comes from idle singer of an empty day.” Later he magic and distinction of style. The has set about slaying monsters, like peculiar qualities of Keats, and Tenny, Jason, or, unlike Jason, scattering son, and Virgil are not among the gifts dragon's teeth to raise forces which he of Mr. Morris. As people say of Scott cannot lay, and cannot direct. I shall in his long poems, so it may be said of go no further into politics or agitation, Mr. Morris—that he does not furnish and I say this much only to prove that many quotations, does not glitter in Mr. Morris's “criticism of life," and pro“jewels five words long."

longed, wistful dwelling on the thought In “Jason” he entered on his long of death, ceased to satisfy himself. career as a narrator; a poet retelling the His own later part, as a poet and an immortal primeval stories of the human ally of Socialism, proves this to be true.

In one guise or another the It seems to follow that the pecullegend of Jason is the most widely dis- iarly level, lifeless, decorative effect tributed of romances; the North Amer- of his narratives, which remind ican Indians have it, and the Samoans rather of glorious tapestries than and the Samoyeds, as well as all Indo- of pictures, is no longer wholly European peoples. This tale, told satisfactory to himself. There is briefly by Pindar, and at greater length plenty of charmed and delightful readby Apollonius Rhodius, and in the ing—"Jason" and the "Earthly Para“Orphica,” Mr. Morris took up and dise” are literature for “The Castle of handled in a simple objective way. Indolence," but we do miss a strenuous His art was always pictorial, but, in rendering of action and passion. “Jason” and later, he described more. These Mr. Morris had rendered in "The and was less apt, as it were, to flash Defence of Guinevere;” now he gave us a picture on the reader, in some incom- something different, something beautimunicable way.

ful, but something deficient in dramatic In the covers of the First Edition vigor. Apollonius Rhodius is, no doubt, were advertisements of the “Earthly much of a pedant, a literary writer of Paradise;" that vast collection of the epic, in an age of criticism. He dealt world's old tales retold. One might als with the tale of “Jason," and conmost conjecture that “Jason" had ceivably he may have borrowed from originally been intended for a part of older minstrels. But the Medea of the "Earthly Paradise,” and had out- Apollonius Rhodius, in her love, her grown its limits. The tone is much the tenderness, her regret for home, in all same, though the “criticism of life" is her maiden words and ways, is un. less formally and explicitly stated. deniably a character more living, more For Mr. Morris came at last to a

more passionate, and “criticism of life.” It would not have sympathetic, than the Medea of Mr. satisfied Mr. Matthew Arnold, and it Morris. I could almost wish that he did not satisfy Mr. Morris! The burden had closely followed that classical of these long narrative poems is vanitas original, the first true love story in vanitatum; the fleeting, perishable, un- literature. In the same way I prefer satisfying nature of human existence, Apollonius's spell for soothing the



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dragon, as much terser and more to seek the Earthly Paradise, and the somniferous than the spell put by Mr. land where Death never comes. Much Morris into the lips of Medea. Scholars more dramatic, I venture to think, than will find it pleasant to compare these any passage of "Jason," is that where passages of the Alexandrine and of the the dreamy seekers of dreamland, London poets. As a brick out of the Breton and Northman, encounter the vast palace of “Jason" we may select stout King Edward III., whose kingthe song of the Nereid to Hylas-Mr. dom is of this world. Action and Morris is always happy with his fantasy are met, and the wanderNymphs and Nereids.

ers explain the nature their

quest. One of them speaks of death I know a little garden-close

in many a form, and of the flight from Set thick with lily and red rose,

death. Where I would wander if I might From dewy dawn to dewy night,

His words nigh made me weep, but And have one with me wandering.

while he spoke And though within it no birds sing, I noted how a mocking smile just broke And though no pillared house is there, The thin line of the prince's lips, and he And though the apple boughs are bare

Who carried the afore-named armory Of fruit and blossom, would to God,

Puffed out his wind-beat cheeks and Her feet upon the green grass trod,

whistled low: And I beheld them as before.

But the king smiled, and said, "Can it be There comes a murmur from the shore, And in the place two fair streams are,

I know not, and ye twain are such as Drawn from the purple hills afar,

find Drawn down unto the restless sea;

The things whereto old kings must needs The hills whose flowers ne'er fed the bee,

be blind. The shore no ship has ever seen,

For you the world is wide—but not for Still beaten by the billows green,

me, Whose murmur comes unceasingly

Who once had dreams of one great vicUnto the place for which I cry.

tory For which I cry both day and night,

Wherein that world lay vanquished by For which I let slip all delight,

my throne, That maketh me both deaf and blind, And now, the victor in so many an one, Careless to win, unskilled to find,

Find that in Asia Alexander died And quick to lose what all men seek.

And will not live again; the world is wide Yet tottering as I am, and weak,

For you I say,-for me a narrow space Still have I left a little breath

Betwixt the four walls of a fighting place. To seek within the jaws of death

Poor man, why should I stay thee? An entrance to that happy place,

live thy fill, To seek the unforgotten face

Of that fair life, wherein thou seest no ill Once seen, once kissed, once reft from But fear of that fair rest I hope to win

One day, when I have purged me of my me Anigh the murmuring of the sea.


Farewell, it yet may hap that I a king "Jason” is, practically, a very long Shall be remembered but by this one tale from the "Earthly Paradise," as thing, the "Earthly Paradise” is an immense That on the morn before ye crossed the treasure of shorter tales in the manner of “Jason." Mr. Morris reverted for an

Ye gave and took in common talk with hour to his fourteenth century, a period But with this ring keep memory of the

me: when London was “clean." This is il

morn, Metic license; many a plague found

O Breton, and thou Northman, by this mediæval London abominably dirty!

horn A Celt himself, no doubt, with the Remember me, who am of Odin's blood." Celt's proverbial way of being impossibilium cupitor, Mr. Morris is in full All this encounter is a passage of sympathy with his Breton squire, who high invention. The adventures in in the reign of Edward III., sets forth Anahuac are such as Bishop Eric may

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to us,

have achieved when he set out to find story of Regin, Otter, Fafnir, and the Vinland the Good, and came back no Dwarf Andyari's Hoard. more, whether he was or was not remembered by the Aztecs as Quetzal. It was Reidmar the Ancient begat me; coatl. The tale of the wanderers was

and now was he waxen old,

And a covetous man and a king; and he Mr. Morris's own; all the rest are of

bade, and I built him a hall, the dateless heritage of our race, fairy And a golden glorious house; and thereto tales coming

now "softly

his sons did he call, breathed through the futes of the And he bade them be evil and wise, that Grecians," now told by Sagamen of

his will through them might be Iceland. The whole performance is wrought. astonishingly equable; we move on a Then he gave unto Fafnir my brother the high tableland, where no tall peaks of soul that feareth nought, Parnassus are to be climbed. Once And the brow of the hardened iron, and more literature has a narrator, a maker

the hand that may never fail, less of songs than of tales; a narrator, And the greedy heart of a king, and the

ear that hears no wail. on the whole, much more akin to Spenser than to Chaucer, Homer, or

But next unto Otter my brother he gave Sir Walter. Humor and action are not

the snare and the net, So prominent as contemplation of a

And the longing to wend through the wildpageant reflected in a fairy mirror. wood, and wade the highways wet: But Mr. Morris has said himself, about And the foot that never resteth, while his poem, what I am trying to say:

aught be left alive

That hath cunning to match man's cunDeath have we hated, knowing not what ning or might with his might to it meant;

strive. Life have we loved, through green leaf and through sere,

And to me, the least and the youngest, Though still the less we knew of its in

what gift for the slaying of ease? tent:

Save the grief that remembers the past, The Earth and Heaven through countless and the fear that the future sees; year on year,

And the hammer and fashioning-iron, Slow changing, were to us but curtains and the living coal of fire; fair,

And the craft that createth a semblance, Hung round about a little room, where and fails of the heart's desire; play

And the toil that each dawning quickens Weeping and laughter of man's empty and the task that is never done; day.

And the heart that longeth ever, nor will

look to the deed that is won. Mr. Morris had shown, in various ways, the strength of his sympathy Thus gave my father the gifts that might with the heroic sagas of Iceland. He I never be takeu again; had rendered one into verse, in “The Far worse were we now than the Gods, Earthly Paradise," above all, “Grettir and but little better than men. the Strong" and "The Volsunga” he But yet of our ancient might one thing had done into English prose. His next

bad we left us still: great poem was “The Story of Sigurd.

We had craft. to change our semblance,

and could shift us at our will a poetic rendering of the theme which is, to the North, what the Tale of Troy Into bodies of the beast-kind, or fowl, or

fishes cold; is to Greece, and to all the world. Mr.

For belike no fixed semblance we had in Diorris took the form of the story which

the days of old, is most archaic, and bears most birth- Till the Gods were waxen busy, and all marks of its savage origin-the version

things their form must take of the “Volsunga," not the German That knew of good and evil, and longed shape of the "Nibelungenlied." Не

to gather and make. showed extraordinary skill especially in making human and intelligible the

But when we turn to the passage of the éclaircissement between Sigurd But the third stroke fell on his helmand Brynhild, that most dramatic and crest, and he stooped to the ruddy most modern moment in the ancient dust, tragedy, the moment where the clouds And uprose as the ancient Giant, and of savage fancy scatter in the light of

both his hands were wet: a hopeless human love, then, I must Red then was the world to his eyen, as confess, I prefer the simple, brief prose Swords shook and fell in his pathway,

his hand to the labor he set; of Mr. Morris's translation of the "Volsunga” to his rather periphrastic Harsh girded shield and war-helm like the

huge bodies leapt and fell, paraphrase. Every student of poetry

tempest-smitten bell, may make the comparison for himself,

And the war-cries ran together, and no and decide for himself whether the old

man his brother knew, or the new is better. Again, in the final And the dead men loaded the living, as he fight and massacre in the Hall of Atli, went the war-wood through; I cannot but prefer the Slaying of the And man 'gainst man was huddled, till no Wooers, at the close of the “Odyssey," sword rose to smite, or the last fight of Roland at Ronces- And clear stood the glorious Hogni in an

island of the fight, vaux, or the prose version in the "Volsunga.” All these are the work of And there ran a river of death 'twixt the

Niblung and his foes, men who were war-smiths as well as

And therefrom the terror of men and the song-smiths. Here is a passage from

wrath of the Gods arose. the “murder grim and great:"

I admit that this does not affect me So he saith in the midst of the foemen

as does the figure of Odysseus raining with his war-flame reared on high, But all about and around him goes up a

his darts of doom, or the courtesy of bitter cry

Roland when the blinded Oliver smites From the iron men of Atli, and the him by mischance, and, indeed, the bickering of the steel

Keeping of the Stair by Umslopogaas Sends a roar up to the roof-ridge, and the appeals to me more vigorously as a Niblung war-ranks reel

strenuous picture of war. To be just Behind the steadfast Gunnar; but lo, to Mr. Morris, let us give his rendering have ye seen the corn,

of part of the Slaying of the Wooers, While yet men grind the sickle, by the

from his translation of the “Odyswind streak overborne

sey:"— When the sudden rain sweeps downward, and summer groweth black,

And e'en as the word he uttered, he drew And the smitten wood-side roareth 'neath

his keen sword out the driving thunder-wrack?

Brazen, on each side shearing, and with So before the wise-heart Hogni shrank

a fearful shout the champions of the East

Rushed on him; but Odysseus that very As his great voice shook the timbers in

while let fly the ball of Atli's feast.

And smote him with the arrow in the

breast, the pap hard by, There he smote and beheld not the And drove the swift shaft to the liver, and

smitten, and by nought were his adown to the ground fell the sword edges stopped;

From out of his hand, and doubled he He smote and the dead were thrust from hung above the board,

him; a hand with its shield he And staggered; and whirling he fell, and lopped;

the meat was scattered around, There met him Atli's marshal, and his And the double cup moreover, and his arm at the shoulder he shred;

forehead smote the ground; Three swords were upreared against him And his heart was wrung with torment, of the best of the kin of the dead;

and with both feet spurning he And he struck off a head to the rightward, smote

and his sword through a throat he The high-seat; and over his eyen did the thrust,

cloud of darkness float.

And then it was Amphinomus, who drew But Odysseus the mighty-hearted within his whetted sword

he met not there, And fell on, making his onrush 'gainst Who on the beach sat weeping, as oft Odysseus the glorious lord,

he was wont to wear If perchance he might get him out-doors; His soul with grief and groaning, and but Telemachus him forewent,

weeping; yea, and he And a cast of the brazen war-spear from As the tears he was pouring downward behind him therewith sent

yet gazed o'er the untilled sea. Amidmost of his shoulders, that drave through his breast and out,

This is close enough, but And clattering he fell, and the earth all the breadth of his forehead smote. And flowing on in order four ways they

thence did get There is no need to say more of Mr. Morris's “Odyssey." Close to the letter to the Greek he usually keeps, but where is not precisely musical. Why is are the surge and thunder of the music Hermes “The Flitter”? But I have of Homer? Apparently we must ac

often ventured to remonstrate against cent the penultimate in "Amphinomus” these archaistic peculiarities, which to if the line is to scan. I select a passage

some extent mar our pleasure in Mr. of peaceful beauty from Book V.:

Morris's translations. In his version of

the rich Virgilian measure they are But all about that cavern there grew a

especially out of place. The "Æneid” blossoming wood,

is rendered with a roughness which Of alder and of poplar and of cypress might better befit a translation of savoring good;

Ennius. Thus the reader of Mr. MorAnd fowl therein wing-spreading were wont to roost and be,

ris's poetical translations has in his For owls were there and falcons, and

hands versions of almost literal closelong-tongued crows of the sea,

ness, and (what is extremely rare) verAnd deeds of the sea they deal with and sions of poetry by a poet. But his thereof they have a care.

acquaintance with Early English and But round the hollow cavern there spread Icelandic has added to the poet a strain and flourished fair

of the philologist, and his English in the A vine of garden breeding, and in its "Odyssey,” still more in the "Æneid,” grapes was glad;

is occasionally more archaic than the And four wells of the white water their Greek of 900 B.C. So at least it seems heads together had,

to a reader not unversed in attempts to And flowing on in order four ways they fit the classical poets with an English

thence did get; And soft were the meadows blooming rendering. But the true test is in the with parsley and violet.

appreciation of the lovers of poetry in Yea, if thither indeed had come e'en one

general. of the Deathless, e’en he

To them, as to all who desire the Had wondered and gladdened his heart restoration of beauty in modern life,

with all that was there to see. Mr. Morris has been a benefactor alAnd there in sooth stood wondering the most without example. Indeed, did space Flitter, the Argus-bane.

permit and were adequate knowledge But when o'er all these matters in his mine, Mr. Morris's poetry should have soul he had marvelled amain,

been criticised as only a part of the vast Then into the wide cave went he, and industry of his life in many crafts and

Calypso, Godhead's Grace, Failed nowise there to know him as she and literature is unique as it is honor

many arts. His place in English life looked upon his face;

able. He has done what he desired to For never unknown to each other are the Deathless Gods, though they

do-he has made vast additions to sim. Apart from one another may be dwelling ple and stainless pleasures. far away.


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