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brings us very near to tears. I know, indeed, of hardly any poet in the language who more surely or constantly communicates a sense of tragic pity. There can be no greater praise, and yet I do not think it is too great,
than to say that passages like those quoted, and they are common in Mr. Robinson's work, remind us of the supreme close of 'Samson Agonistes.'
‘Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.' It is not within the scope of this study to make a close analysis of the whole of Mr. Robinson's work in all its many kinds. His 'Collected Poems’ fill six hundred pages and range from the smallest lyric of occasion to narrative poems of three thousand lines in length. Nor, for that matter, is it ever very profitable to explain in detail what a poet is writing about, since what he says can be said only in the way that he says it. One can but point out his general methods and note the tendencies of his moods. 'Flammonde' represents very fairly a common way with Mr. Robinson. The man who is kept from 'the destinies which come so near to being his' is constantly in his thought, and there is a large group of poems in which he figures, in great psychological variety but always with the same poignancy. ‘My dreams have all come true for other men,' says
one of his derelict heroes, and the poet sees character bewildered and mired no less among the romantic glories of Arthur's court than in the slums of New York. With this tragic sense we find nearly always in his work an ironic touch which makes it not only moving but always interesting, or, as Rossetti had it, amusing. Since Mr. Robinson is a poet, it is needless to say that in this irony there is no touch of cynicism, though severity is not unknown to it. He can not only give character single statement, as in the Flammonde poem, but he can show it very finely in conflict, as in ‘Llewellyn and the Tree,' a poem of perfect dramatic proportions with its deft conclusion:
'He may be near us, dreaming yet
Of unrepented rouge and coral;
May be as far off as a moral.' ‘As far off as a moral.' That is one of Mr. Robinson's charming touches of irony. Perhaps the silliest affectation of a rather assertive school of contemporary criticism is that poetry and moral conviction cannot live together, or that, at least, if a a poet has moral convictions the only decent thing he can do is to be quiet about them. One has only to say over to one's self Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Browning, to reduce the whole theory to nonsense, but it is nevertheless one very commonly advanced in these days. A particular critic may have no interest in a particular poet's moral substance, but that has nothing to do with the question. No poet asks the critic's suffrage in this matter, nor is it in any way his purpose to impose his own moral conviction upon anybody else. Wordsworth's moral conviction may or may not be of importance to me, but it is of immense importance to him, and that is what matters in the economy of the world. Without it his poetry simply would not have existed; it is, in fact, the very soil out of which the flowers of that poetry spring. It may be true that the soil here and there runs a little thin, but nobody reasonably looks for uniform perfection even in a great poet. The point is that the critics who accuse a poet like Wordsworth of a too prevalent desire to improve the occasion are mere virtuosi playing with the great passions of the world that Wordsworth so fully lived. It is the old story; it does not matter at all what the particular nature of the poet's moral conclusions may be. No moral worlds could be more dissimilar than those of, say, Wordsworth and Shelley and Swinburne, but in each case the poetry of these men was just a condition of his own moral world informed by genius and nothing else whatever. And every poet of importance from Æschylus down to Mr. Robinson has fearlessly recognized this principle in his art. Mr. Robinson wants to instruct no one; but moral
pity burn passionately, though with a quiet flame, throughout his work, and when a critic tells us that he finds him duller than Wordsworth at his dullest we have a perfect epitome of nearly all that is false in the aforesaid school of criticism.
MR. MASEFIELD'S 'REYNARD' AND
Upon nothing in us, perhaps, do the changes of the years mark themselves more clearly than upon our affection for poetry. In early youth we go to the poets for that glowing aura of romantic sensibility which they most commonly achieve when they themselves are young. It is then that most surely we feel the spell of Byron, of the more ethereal quality in Shelley, of such lesser masters as Poe and Thomas Moore. Shelley, it need not be said, can supply our later needs as well, and superbly, but in much of his work he is with these others as satisfying the desire of youth for that cloudier beauty where clear definition stands for little beside the mere rush of enchantment. As we come to middle age our demand is more and more for the concrete image, the hard outline, the intellectual clarity that is behind all larger vision, be it never so radiant. It is then that we realize the true lyric mastery of such men as Marvell, and Donne, and Wordsworth of the shorter poems, and Blake, and Landor. What happens in old age I cannot say, since with that Time waits upon me yet.
But there is one kind of poetry which, if we care for it at all, we care for always. In its nature it