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in art, should be implicit, not explicit; admirably observing, “ From every genuine work of art a good moral is to be drawn; 6 but then this is a deduction, and indeed entirely depends “ upon him who draws it.” It remains then to be seen what the essential position of poetry specially is, and in how far it may be regarded as “the beautiful phasis of a religious Idea."
Religion, philosophy and poetry, intimately as they are connected, have nevertheless distinct forms of existence, and the distinction is almost universally considered to be one of essence. We hold,on the contrary, that they are but the threefold form of the Idea*, that they are identical (in the philosophical meaning of that term) in their subject-matter, but that the various spheres into which their respective elements have forced them, have caused them to be considered as various in their essence. It has been well shown by Ritter, in his Geschichte der Philosophie,' that were religion to acquire a scientific accuracy of statement, it would of necessity cease to be religion, and become philosophy. But religion invariably and necessarily announces its dogmata as at once established and determined by revelation, on the authority of which they possess immediately on their announcement an irresistible claim to assent. Philosophy, on the other hand, draws its assent, its faith from cautious reason; it is continually impelled to comprehend every ascertained result in its dependence and coordination to the universal tendency of reason towards knowledge.
“A toutes les époques de la civilisation règne une pensée obscure, intime, profonde, qui se développe comme elle peut dans l'élément extérieur de cette époque, dans les lois, dans les arts, la religion, lesquels sont pour elle des symboles plus ou moins clairs, qu'elle traverse successivement pour revenir à elle-même, et pour acquérir de soi une conscience et une intelligence complète, après avoir épuisé son développement total. De cette conscience et cette intelligence, elle ne l'acquiert que dans la philosophie. C'est la philosophie qui se charge, pour ainsi dire, de la traduire en une formule abstraite, nette, et précisest."
To this let us add what M. Jouffroyť says of poetry and philosophy :
* Hegel's Grund-princip is very similar, though we met with it long after our own was elaborated, and the coincidence is curious. He says, “ Bei dieser Gleichheit des Inhalts sind die drei Reiche des absoluten Geistes nur durch die Formen unterschieden, in welchen sie ihr Objekt, das Absolute, zum Bewusstseyn bringen." Cousin, Cours de Phil., i.
# Essays on Philos. of Hist.
“The former gives utterance in song to the sentiments of the epoch on the good, the beautiful, and the true. It expresses the indistinct thought of the masses in a manner that is more animated though not more clear, because it feels this thought more vividly, but comprehends it as little. This is comprehended only by philosophy. If poetry comprehended it, poetry would become philosophy, and disappear. The true poets are always children of their age. The philosophers always are so in regard to their point of departure; but as we before said, it is their mission to take the lead of the age, and prepare the way for a future [also the poet's mission). They share the sentiments—this is their point of departure; they reflect upon them, they comprehend them, they express them—this is their work. Then, and by these means, the epoch comprehends what it loves, what it thinks, what it wishes for ; its idea is reduced to a symbol, and with all its power it then tends to its realization.”
To a similar effect Carlyle“He who should write a history of poetry would depict for us the successive revelations which man had attained of the spirit of nature; under what aspect he had caught and endeavoured to body forth some glimpses of that unspeakable beauty, which in its highest clearness is religion, and which in one or other degree must inspire every true singer, were his theme never so humble*.”
And Hegel thus explicitly states the relation of the three : “Art fulfils its highest mission when it has thus established itself with religion and philosophy in the one circle common to all, and is merely a method of revealing the Godlike to man, of giving utterance to the deepest interests, the most comprehensive truths pertaining to mankind. In works of art nations have deposited the most holy, the richest and intensest of their ideas, and for the understanding of the philosophy and religion of a nation, art is mostly the only key we can attaint."
And finally Shelley, in his most profound and beautiful Defence of Poetry,' recently published 1:
"Poets are not only authors of language and of music, of architecture, of statuary and painting, they are the institutors of laws and founders of civil society, and the inventors of the arts of life, and the teachers who draw into a certain propinquity with the beautiful and true, that partial apprehension of the agencies of the invisible world which is called religion. Poets, according to the circumstances of the age and nation in which they appeared, were called in the earlier epochs of the world, legislators or prophets. A poet essentially comprises and unites both these characters ; for he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws
* Miscellanies, vol. ii. p. 256.
+ Æsthetik, b. i. Einleitung, p. 2. 'Essays and Letters from Abroad;' a work no admirer of the poet should be without.
according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, and his thoughts are the germs of flower, and the fruit of latest time. The most unfailing herald, companion and follower of the awakening of a great people to work a beneficial change in opinion or institution is poetry. Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle and feel not what they inspire. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
We have cited these passages for the weight of their authority; when we consider how different the men, the nations, the habits of thought, and the philosophy from which they sprung-Ritter, Cousin, Jouffroy, Carlyle, Hegel, and Shelley, it would be difficult to select names more opposed thus agreeing. They all, as it seems to us, felt and expressed very vividly separate portions of the truth; an eclectic patience evolves the whole of the truth, i. e. that “poetry is the beautiful phasis of a religious Idea.” The poet must ever be the great teacher of his age; he stands at the altar rapt, holy, impassioned, prophet-like, giving utterance to the inarticulate yearnings, feelings and wants of his brethren; embodying their tendencies, mirroring all and mirrored in all the age produces; the myriad hopes and doubts that sway their minds to and fro, break forth from his lips in passionate music. He speaks in beauty, but mistake not that beauty for his end! Assert no such atheistic, epicurean creed! He makes you in love with the truth and virtue which religion has ordained and philosophy proved; he sets before you splendid pageants of heroic endurance, of patient suffering, of unexampled fortitude and struggling; he reveals the riches lying within you and around you, in the exercise of your soul in the free converse with nature; he points to a future brighter than the past, happier than the present; he couches your eye from the thick film of selfishness, and by keeping the ideal to which all aspire constantly before your eyes, he leads you to the goal of religion, and opens in your heart the wellspring of happinesshappiness which is as the psalm of thanksgiving from man to nature—the realization of that righteousness, of which it is written, “all its paths are pleasantness, and all its ways are peace.” Thus the three Ideas of faith, science and virtue become realized in religion, philosophy and art. “Je définis
“donc la métaphysique l'idée de Dieu, et la poésie le senti6 ment de Dieu*.”
If our theory be false, if there be no idea lying beneath the expression, and if poetry be the mere expression of feeling for feeling's sake, how comes it that all times do not alike produce poets? How is it that poetry arises in cycles, gets its doctrine uttered by half a dozen men, and then slumbers for centuries, to arise again with pristine vigour? Accident is a favourite theory, but an untenable one. Look at history, and see if the indications be not too universal and too regular for accident. It has been repeatedly remarked, that it is not in times of luxurious idleness and fat peace, but in those of conflict and trouble, that the arts have been most flourishing. Look at Athens, that perpetual struggle of men. Look at Italy in the days of Dante and Petrarca, distracted by factions, wars and contentions of all kinds. Look at England under Elizabeth and James (which was the new birth of an era,--Protestantism accepted and believed after its fierce struggle), also after the Rebellion, and after the French revolution. Wherever you cast your eyes, the same phenomenon presents itself. The reason is, that every revolution or internal change is the birth of a creed which is felt by the whole mass ; the philosophers have long known the ideas contained therein, but the revolution is the result of the participation of the mass of mankind; the poet arises to utter the collective creed, with its hopes for the future. He does not, as we before hinted, give this Idea its naked expression; and indeed (unless the word poet be used as the abstract and expression of the whole voice of poetry at any time) he does not either feel or comprehend this Idea in its completeness, but only in one or more phases thereof: hence the necessity for more than one singer; hence Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Rogers, Campbell, Keats, Moore,
• George Sand, 'Les Sept Cordes de la Lyre.' And Hegel says, “Da wir von der Kunst als aus der absoluten Idee selber hervorgehend gesprochen, ja als ihren Zweck die sinnliche Darstellung des Absoluten selber angegeben haben," which is the metaphysical expression of our opinion, " the representation of the godlike, or of the idea," seems the very formula wanted; and the hervorgehend, does it not also express the varieties, i.e. nature (Idee) working through her various gradations and phases, and thus presenting different aspects, to which artists successively give die sinnliche Darstellung ?
Crabbe, etc. were each necessary to the completing of the Idea of their epoch; and hence also the reason of the crowds of imitators, successful and otherwise, who walk in the footsteps of a newly arisen poet. Their inarticulate yearnings and thoughts they have found articulate in his works, and they join their voices in the plaintive wail, the Titanic struggle, or jubilant hope, uttering similar thoughts rather than imitating his. Every man that has a real insight of more or less depth, is something more than an imitator; for he helps to complete that portion of the Idea at which he works. An Idea is not the work of one man, but of many; not of one day, but of an epoch; and each one gives it his own imperfect formula. The great poet may feel it in its totality more intensely than another, but no one man can complete it. If then, as Hegel says, the key to the philosophy and religion of a nation is to be found in its poetry, so we may reverse it, and say that the philosophical Idea of an epoch being given, we have at once the key to its poetry. Indeed no criticism on a past epoch's poetry can be significant without a clear conception of the dominant Idea of that epoch, and it is owing to the neglect of this that so much nonsense has been written on the ancients. Let us not be misunderstood : we repeat again and again, that the poet does not, cannot give the scientific accuracy or expression to the Idea—this is the province of philosophy; but the Idea must ever, in one of its grand or minute phases, be the basis of his poem; and moreover as there are many conflicting Ideas in every epoch, the various poets will severally express them, but the dominant one alone carries immortality with it*.
Holding these opinions, we cannot but look favourably on the fact of the march of intellect having been followed by the diffusion of poetry, and however we may be for the moment irritated at the self-sufficiency and presumption of the dii minores, whose verses manufactured for the day are forgotten on the morrow, and whose “ pretensions widen every smile
* It will have been apparent that we have used the word 'Idea' in its European philosophical sense, as the synthetical expression of each great element of the spirit of the age. Thus analysis was the dominant Idea of the eighteenth century; humanity (liberty, progression of the nineteenth. Feudalism, monarchism, protestantism, catholicism, etc. are but formulas which we name Ideas.