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Fifth Series, Volume XXXV.
No. 1936. — July 23, 1881.
CONTENTS. 1. A TALK ABOUT ODES, .
Adrien Robert, VI. AMONG THE DICTIONARIES,
Cornhill Magazine, VII. CONSOLATIONS,
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AN OLD SONG.
Little the singer guessed the power that lay “God hath chosen the weak things of the world."
Beneath the accents of her simple song;
Its soothing words should haunt him day by It was an old and once familiar strain, A distant echo from the years gone by ;
And make him strong.
The lengthening twilight stole into the room A company of strangers, met to part,
And wrapped us in its mantle cold and grey ; Spending an evening in the same hotel,
But from the listener's heart the deeper gloom And soft as dew upon each weary heart
Had passed away. The sweet notes fell. She was a fair and gentle maid who sang, The song was ended, and the singer rose, Who summers seventeen had scarcely told,
And lights were brought, and books and And deftly from her practised hand and tongue
work resumed ; The music rolled.
His spirit tasted long.denied repose We hushed our busy talk to hear her sing,
By hope illum'd; The earnest student laid his book aside, While memory bore us on her noiseless wing And when the morning dawned he homeward O'er ocean wide.
Back to his father's house beyond the sea, To that far distant land beyond the sea,
The dear old homestead where his spirit Which we had left on foreign shores to
Once more to be.
O happy maid ! Go singing thus through life, Back to the land which we had left behind,
Bidding the lost return, the weak be strong ; The land of love, and hope, and faith, and Thine is a gift with heavenly comfort rife, prayer,
The gift of song. And showed the faithful hearts and faces kind
LYDIA HOPE, That loved us there.
And one there was who heard that soothing
song, Whose heart was heavy with its weight of
(NEAR MONMOUTH.) Silently, proudly, had he borne his pain,
A LAND of hills and woods and yew-crowned Crushed from his wounded heart each soft
rocks, ening thought;
All scarred and furrowed by primeval food; But the sweet tones of that forgotten strain With many a bastion, grim and bare, which New feelings brought.
The anger of the storm-god's fiercest mood. Strange longings rose once more to see the
Above, the oak stands as it long has stood place Which in his boyhood he had held so dear,
Through winter's tempests; and, adown, the
green, To see once morc his aged father's face, His voice to hear;
The rich dark green of ivy that has woocd
The time-worn limestone, trails; and all be. To meet again his gentle sister's smilc ('Twas she who used to sing this self-same The rifts and sheltered nooks, the fern's chaste song),
form is seen. Would not her love his thoughts from sorrow wilc,
Below, the slow, broad-curving river; herc, And soothe his wrong?
The willows lie reflected in the stream,
Placid and deep; and there, the noisy weir, How would their faithful hearts rejoice to
Where tiny wavelets in the sunlight glcam. greet Their prodigal's return from distant shore,
Hard by, a loiterer, lying in a dream And bind his heart by many a welcome sweet
Upon the bank : far off, a bare hillside ; To roam no more!
And farther, boundless forest growths which Thus he resolved that, when the morning came, Most solemn and most calm, as far and wide
He would arise and homeward wend his way, They stretch majestic arms, in all their sum. And, hecdless of the harsh world's praise or mer pride. blame,
GEORGE WOOSUNG WADE. No more would stray.
From Blackwood's Magazine. of the many hues which variegated the A TALK ABOUT ODES. *
Florentine's green herbage? But it is Geoffrey. So we three have met again! yet early afternoon, and he visited his Basil
. Yes; and not "in thunder, light- glen at nightfall: our trees are yet leafning, or in rain,” but on an April morn- less; his waved fresh and tender green ing, when spring looks like herself. We over the angels who descended at the can gaze upwards and feast our eyes on sound of the “Te lucis ante." Dante's “ dolce color del oriental zaffiro;'
Bas. We, too, have a winged choir, or downwards to mark on our beloved and a better one than we deserve, to lake his “tremolar della marina.” Look listen to. Hear how the thrushes and how its waters quiver with trenulous the blackbirds are paying us for the pains light as the sunbeam smites them; and with which we fed them through the break forth into that " many-twinkling winter! And if the larch plumelets are smile” which Æschylus saluted long be- all the greenery that we can boast of, fore!
still Geof. Will you accept this little wood, Gentle western blasts, with downy wings through which our upward path goes, as Hatching the tender springs, a representative of the glade to which
To the unborn buds with vital whispers say, Sordello guided Virgil and Dante? If
“Ye living buds, why do ye stay?” so, our young friend here shall “ "disfigure
The passionate buds break through the bark or present” the person of the last-named ; for I know that he has been reading very One can almost hear them at it. hard for his degree, and so conversing
Hen. English verse sounds pleasant to more with the dead than the living. my ears after hard searchings into the
Henry. I have emerged from that meaning of difficult Greek choruses. under-world “with slow, faint steps and Which of our poets are you quoting? much exceeding pain." Do not remind Bas. Cowley: I think, but I am not me of my sufferings ; for the hour is fast sure, that those lines are in his “ Ode on approaching when I must plunge in again. Life.”
Geof. Your look is not such as to be- Geof. That is the ode which perhaps speak compassion. You have not been gave Blake his fine idea of “The Gate of down to the lower circles. Your stay has Death,” which his old man, bowed down been chiefly, I trust, in those “open and with years, creeps through, to emerge luminous"
spaces where Dante walked vigorous and youthful on the farther side. among the great Greeks and Romans, I mean the words, the wide plains of philosophy stretched When we by a foolish figure say, out beneath the empurpled ether of poetry. “ Behold an old man dead !" then they
Bas. (from the wood). Come in and Speak properly, and cry, “ Behold a man-child admire, instead of talking nonsense out
born!” side. This is of a surety that mountain
Hen. Who are
they” ? glade where Dante saw the holy kings Geof. The angels; those same who and princes resting: the white cherry-bear Faust's new-born soul, and find it a blossom floats overhead, underneath the sore burden even for their loving arms. black-thorn spreads out the white coral of Bas. Cowley expresses the same idea its little branches; the violet and the in another good simile, primrose peep forth from the bright green We seek to close and plaster up by art moss; here and there the celandine paves The cracks and breaches of the extended the floor with gold, and the wood anemone opens its starry petals to their widest, And, in their narrow cell, and gems every spot in the grove.
Would rudely force to dwell Geof. Not a bad Northern version, is it, The noble, vigorous bird already winged to
part. See“ A Talk about Sonnets," LIVING AGE, No.
Hen. Is Cowley a favorite poet of 1892, Sept. 18, 1880.
Bas. At one time of my life he was; some dignified cause; whether it swell, and though his odes do not, any one of like the Greek choric song, in praise of them, live in my memory as a whole, yet god or hero, as a complicated chant, with many lines of his still linger there. Some part answering to part, now soft and futenovels, and some poetry, of the present like, now with a thunderous roll of many day, make me exclaim with him, – voices, then at last leaving the ear satis
fied with a grand final strain; or whether, The author blush there where the reader must, like the odes in which, as we know, Horand long for a critic, with words suffi- ace imitated the lost Greek lyrists, it is ciently scathing, to compel him to the content throughout with one style of muunwonted exercise. Cowley's words, too,
sic, stanza responding to stanza without rise to my lips at the sight of ambitious any variation. The essential thing, as it pieces of word-painting, where the writer seems to me, is that the theme of an ode
should be an elevated one, that its expreshas left nothing without an ornament,
sion should be vehement and rapturous, Jewels at nose and lips but ill appear; that its singer, though still capable of Rather than all things wit let none be there.
self-control, should be lifted above his And Cowley's echo of Aristophanes rises ordinary self by a strong poetic enthusito my lips when I listen to such a concert asm. As an example of what I mean, of the birds as: saluted us a few minutes take Schiller's short dithyramb. You ago in the wood which we are just leav- know it, Basil, in Coleridge's version, ing,
where it bears its first title, “ The Visit of Now blessings on ye all, ye heroic race ! the Gods.” It consists of three strophes, Who keep your primitive powers and rights so all moulded alike; both the measure and well,
the words bespeak the wildest exciteThough men and angels fell.
ment; and although its muse is exotic, Of all material lives the highest place
yet a true Greek for the moment, you see To you is justly given,
in Schiller, while he sings it, the roseAnd ways and walks the nearest heaven.
chapleted poet rising, goblet in hand, from Hen. I see that Cowley did not wholly the festive couch in Athens. neglect alliteration.
So, then, provided the “thoughts that Geof. What English poet, with any true breathe and words that burn are given fire of genius, could ? It and rhyme are to us — whether it be with the marshalled his two compensations for the loss of the order of Pindar's odes in point of strucexact quantities of classic verse; and he ture, or with the irregular movements of does not know his business if he does not his modern imitators; whether they rush make the most of them. Alliteration is forth with Pindar's startling vehemence the older and the more exclusively En- and abrupt transitions of thought, or move glish resource of the two. From the bard onward more slowly, and more easily apwho sang Athelstan's victory at Brunan- prehended, with the stately majesty of burh, to the poet who sang Nelson's at Horace in his “ Triumphal Ode," or of the Baltic, we find it rise spontaneously Milton in his “ Ode on the Nativity,". to the lips of him who sings before he we have in either case an ode: though writes, which, I take it, is the distinc- perfect success in the more complicated tion of the genuine ode-singer from the and difficult variety being the hardest writer of fine but uninteresting composi- achievement, ought, I suppose, to win tions so styled.
the highest praise. Hen. May I ask you two questions Now for your second question, Henry, about that? First, What is an ode? I provided you let my first answer pass unmean, when we speak of one, are we to opposed. think of Pindar, or of Horace ?
Hen. You distinguished the ode-singer Geof. Of either, or both. At least to from the ode-writer. What English aume that is an ode which is the outpour- thor had you chiefly in your mind as a ing of fceling passionately excited by type of this last?
Geof. Poets like Collins, with his “Mu- close of his ode, to celebrate the peaceful sic, heavenly maid,” his nymph " Cheer- triumphs of song on English ground, fulness," and her companions, “ brown poet singing of poets never sung of in Exercise and Sport.” Sbadowy person- like strains before, — he is at once origages like these may be written about in inal and powerful. You may say that he the study, and read of in the drawing. over-praises Dryden — that he describes room; but they cannot rouse a man's only one side of Shakespeare ; but how spirit till it pours forth floods of song, faultlessly beautiful is his expression ! and sweeps every hearer along rejoicing And when he comes to Milton, what can in its mighty torrent.
be grander than his conception of the Bas. Little rills, that trickle clear and poet, struck blind, like Saul, by the vision tinkling down the hillside, like the one we of the exceeding glory? are just crossing, have their uses. The
Nor second he, that rode sublime moss grows green by them, the primrose
Upon the seraph-wings of Ecstasy, tuft draws life from them, the song.bird The secrets of the abyss to spy : sips them and goes his way happy. A He passed the flaming bounds of place and poet who could write an ode like that of Collins to “Evening," must not be spoken The living throne, the sapphire blaze of with contempt. There is poetic power,
Where angels tremble while they gaze, too, in his “ Ode to Liberty ;” though
He saw; but, blasted with excess of light, imperial Rome and mediæval Venice are
Closed his eyes in endless night. not fortunate examples of freedom, - to Is there anything "languid” here? or which honor he somewhat recklessly ex- anything “conventional”? alts them.
Hen. Just one thing perhaps, – the Hen. I thought, Geoffrey, that perhaps wings of Ecstasy.” As ecstasy simply you were going to give us Gray for your means being carried out of one's self, the instance. One of my tutors used to speak impersonation sounds strange. But I of him as a “languid conventionalist.” always thought that a splendid passage. Bas. Unjust.
Geof. Milton has been fortunate in his Geof. Severe; but with some, though admiring poet of our own century, as well slender, foundation in fact, Gray calls as of the last. Not that I mean to put his two greatest odes“ Pindaric.” So Tennyson's Alcaics on a level with that they are in their abruptness and bold sublime strophe of Gray's. transitions; but Pindar sang of victories Bas. I should think not, indeed. As if which stirred a Greck's heart to its depths, there could be such a thing as real Al
sang of them when they were fresh, caics in English! ere the horses had ceased panting after Geof. No; but lines like that which the chariot-race, the sweat dried off the tells how the plains of heaven victor's brow, sang while above him
Ring to the roar of an angel onset, floated the awe-inspiring forms of the
and those which speak of gods and heroes from whom the conqueror he lauded boasted his descent.
all that bowery loneliness,
The brooks of Eden mazily murmuring, How could Gray feel in like manner im. passioned by an abstract subject like live in one's mind for years; and that is " The Progress of Poesy”? How could no bad test of their excellence. he altogether escape the reproach implied Hen. That ode to Milton of Tennyby the word "conventional”? His fairest son's is at any rate a short one. Mr. similes, his noblest thoughts, are, through Swinburne has recently devoted fifty most of his ode, echoes, more or less con- strophes, each nearly a page long, to celescious, of the great classic poets; only brating the sublime perfections of Walter (for I utterly reject the accusation of Savage Landor. “languid") the strength and sweetness Bas. Don't talk to me about Swinburne. with which they are expressed are his Let us return to Gray. I am inclined to own. However, when be comes, at the think there is more of the vivida vis,