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“ Lively feeling for a situation, and power to express it, constitute the poet,” said Goethe. “The power of clear and eloquent expression is a talent distinct from poetry, though often mistaken for it,” says Dr. Newman. Into this large question, whether he can be called a poet who lacks the power of expressing the poetic thought that is in him, I shall not enter. On the one hand you have Goethe and Coleridge maintaining that poetic conception and expression are inseparable-powers born in one birth. On the other hand, Wordsworth and Dr Newman agree in holding that

“Many are the poets sown by Nature,

Yet wanting the accomplishment of verse."

As, however, the “vision," even if it exist, cannot reveal itself to others without the “accomplishment” of expression, there is little need further to discuss the question. But while both of these powers are indispensable, they seem to exist in various proportions in different poets. One poet is strong in thought and substance, less effective in form and expression. In another the case is exactly reversed. It is only in the greatest poets, and in those when in their happiest mood, that the two powers are seen in perfect equipoise—that is, that we find the highest thoughts wedded to the most perfect words. Among wellknown poets, Cowper and Scott have been noted as stronger in substance than in form; Pope and Gray as poets in whom finish of style exceeds power of thought; Moore as hiding commonplace sentiment under elaborate ornament. On the whole, it may be said that the early poets of any nation are for the most part stronger in substance than in style; whereas, as time goes on, power of expression grows, style gets cultivated for its own sake, so that in later poets expression very often outruns thought.

As an illustration of the wide limits within which two styles of expression, each perfect after its kind, may range, take two poems, well known to every one-Wordsworth's “Resolution and Independence," and Tennyson's “Palace of Art." Each poem well represents the manner of its author. In one thing only they agree that each contains a moral truth, though to teach this is not probably the main object of either. In all other respects—their manner of conveying the truth, the form, coloring, style of diction-no two poems could well be more unlike.

Wordsworth's poem sets forth the alternation of two opposite moods, to which imaginative natures are exposed—the highest exaltation and rejoicing in sympathy with the joy of Nature, quickly succeeded by the deepest despondency. These two moods powerfully depicted, admonition and restoration come from the sight of a hard lot patientiy, even cheerfully, borne by a poor leech-gatherer, who wanders about the moors, plying his trade. This sight acts as a tonic on tie poet's spirit, bracing him to fortitude and content.

The early poem of the Laureate begins by personifying the Spirit of Art, who speaks forth her own aims and desires, her own purpose to enjoy beauty always and only by herself, for her own selfish enjoyment, the artistic temptation to worship beauty apart from truth and goodness. Every one remembers how she describes the palace, so royal rich and wide, with which she surrounded herself, the life she led there; then, after a time, how, smitten to the core with sense of her own inward poverty and misery, she loathes herself in despair.

Wordsworth's "plain imagination and severe" moves rapidly from the most literal everyday commonplace into the remotest distance of brooding phantasy, before which the old man and the plain visible scene entirely disappear, or are transfigured. And the diction moves with the thought, passing from the barest prose to the most elevated poetic style. Thus, if on the one hand you have such lines as

“To me that morning did it happen so,"


“How is it that you live, and what is it you do?"

you have, on the other,

“I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous boy,

The sleepless soul that perished in his pride ;
Of him who walked in glory and in joy,
Following his plough, along the mountain side :
We poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness."

You have also the strong lines, likening the sudden apparition of the old man on the moor to a huge boulder stone,

“Couched on the bald top of an eminence ;" then to a sea beast that has crawled forth on a sandbank or rock-ledge, to sun itself. Then rising into

“Upon the margin of that moorish food,

Motionless as a cloud, the old man stood;
That heareth not the loud winds when they call ;

And moveth all together, if it move at all."
Many may object to the appearance of the bald lines in the
poem as blemishes. To me, while they give great reality to the
whole, they enhance, I know not how much, the power of the
grander lines. I would not, if I could have them otherwise.

Mr. Tennyson again from end to end of his poem pitches the style at a high artistic level, from which he never once descends. Image comes on image, picture succeeds picture, each perfect, rich in color, clear in outline. When you first read the poem, cvery stanza almost startles you as with a new and brilliant surprise. There is not a line which the most fastidious could wish away.

In another thing the two poems are strikingly contrasted. Wordsworth's is almost colorless: there is only a word or two in it that can suggest color. Mr. Tennyson's is inlaid throughout with the richest hues, yet so deftly as not to satiate, but only to bring out more fully the purpose of the poem. In reading the one you feel as though you were in the midst of a plain, bare moor, out of which the precipiced crags and blue mountain peaks soar suddenly, yet not inharmoniously, all the more im pressive from the dead level that surrounds them. In the other you are, as it were, walking along some high mountain level, without marked elevation or depression anywhere, but yielding on either side wide outlooks over land and sea.

I have alluded to these two poems, not by any means to make estimate of their excellence, but as instances in which two great poets give expression to high thoughts, each in his own characteristic style, and that style perfect according to its kind and aim.

In these two instances the idea and the expression are well

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balanced, in perfect equipoise. But it is otherwise with much of the poetry, or attempts at poetry, of the present time. A tincture of letters is now so common, that the number of those who can versify is greatly increased; but the power of expression often lamentably outruns the thought. The opposite of this is sometimes seen-strong thought with little skill to utter itan instance of which will occur to every one in the case of one of the most prominent living poets, in whom the power of lucid utterance halts breathlessly and painfully behind the jerks and jolts of his subtle and eccentric i thought. But this is not a common fault. Rather, I should say, we are overdone with superabundant imagery and luscious melody. We are so cloyed with the perfume of flowers, that we long for the bare bracing heights where only stern north winds blow. Or, to put it otherwise, in many modern poems you are presented with a richly chased casket; you open it, and find only a common pebble within. This is a malady incident to periods of late civilization and of much criticism. Poetry gets narrowed into an art—an art which many can practise, but which when practised is not worth much. How many are there in the present day of more or less poetical faculty, who can express admirably whatever they have to say, but that amounts to little or nothing. At best it is but a collection of poetic prettinesses, sometimes of hysteric exaggerations and extravagances.

Had these men, with their fine faculty of expression, only made themselves seriously at home in any.one field of thought; if they had ever learned to love any subject for its own sake, and not merely for its artistic capabilities, if they had ever laid a strong heart-hold of any side of human interest, no one can say what they might not have achieved. But for want of this grasp of substance the result is in so many cases what we see. Not by manipulating phrases, and fiddling at expression--not indeed unless some great stirring of the stagnant waters be vouchsafed, some new awakening to the higher side of things—not till some mighty wind blows over the souls of men. will another epoch of great and creative poetry once more arise.

5. The views which I have here set forth will, if they are true, determine what value we ought to place on that modern theory which maintains “the moral indifference of true art." The great poet, we are sometimes nowadays told, must be free from all moral prepossessions: his one business is “to see life steadily, and see it whole," and to represent it faithfully as it is. The highest office of the poet is “to aim at a purely artistic effect.” To him goodness and vice are alike—his work is to delineate each impartially, and let no shade of preference appear.

It is to dramatic poetry, I suppose, that this theory is mainly intended to apply, and from the drama it is supposed to receive most confirmation. Be it so. It is then the aim of the dramatist to delineate truly character of every hue, the base equally with the noble; to represent life in all its variety, just as it is. But is not life itself full of morality? Is not the substance and texture of it moral to the core? Must not the contemplation of human characters as they are, awaken liking or dislike, moral admiration or moral aversion, in every healthy mind? And must not the poetry which represents truly that substance be moral too? Must not the spectacle of the characters depicted stir natural feelings of love or dislike, as well in the poet who draws, as in the reader who contemplates them? Did not Sophocles have more complacence in Antigone than in Ismene? Did not Shakespeare admire and love Desdemona and Cordelia, hate and despise Iago and Edmund ?

This theory of the moral indifference of art originated, I believe, in great measure with Goethe, and has been propagated by his too exclusive admirers. I should be content to rest the whole question on a comparison of the moral spirit that pervades the dramas of Goethe and those of Shakespeare.

It has been asserted,' I believe with truth, that it was the existence of this very theory in Goethe, or rather of that element in him which projected this theory, that shut him out from the highest place as a dramatist, and marks the vast interval between him and Shakespeare. Goethe, whose moral nature was, as has been said, of a somewhat limp texture, having few strong “natural admirations,” is in his dramas wanting in those moral lights and shadows that exist in the actual world, and give life and outline to all strong natures. And so in his groups of characters most of them are morally

*See R. Hutton's Essay on Goethe.

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