Page images

the money


[ocr errors]

my fingers, so that it followed them a sale and brought us in heaps of as I took them away, and fell with a money. When Lord Selcover behaved crash to the floor. “'It was never so badly about your African journals intended for publication," I succeeded and got all the profit of them—a great in saying.

deal more than he paid us altogether “For publication ! of course not. -people said to me it was such a pity But nobody knew that you had it in that there was nothing else of yours you to do it at all—a feeble sort of to be published for my benefit. I good-natured fellow like you! Your knew that you were always taking wife's made money by it, I suppose; notes of things, and that they were paid the mortgage off your house and so clever, so shrewd, as people say. invested a lot, so they say."

So I showed them to a publisher, and " Then Lord Selcover did not find he said they would sell like wildfire ?

if brought out at once. And so they “No, Lord Selcover had a row with did, to be sure, and made you quite them to begin with; kept your journal famous, and relieved of all and papers

all to himself, said it was anxiety.” in the contract. Your death and But the personal allusions, those those journals sold his book fast should have been left out." enough, but this one has quite put Well, some one did suggest it; but it out of court."

the publisher said the market value of “He deserves what I said of him," the book would be destroyed. We I declared ; “but there was nothing were very careful not to print names in those journals like this ! ”

when it was better not, and I am "No, there wasn't. Well, how do sure it is wonderful how nobody can you enjoy your welcome home ? Every- contradict anything that is in the body glad to see you ?” And the book. It was so clever of you to find fellow grinned in an ecstasy of en- out so much!" joyment.

“Why was I not told at once, “I have only just discovered this," yesterday!” I answered abruptly, with my hand “Well, Willie would have it that on the second volume, “and I think you would be angry, so I left it for I had better go home.”

a little. But I was sure you would Perhaps you are wise ; I can't ask not, because you never wrote anyyou to lunch. I don't mind for my- thing, or could write anything, of self, but my wife wouldn't stand it. which you would be ashamed.” She has never got over that about the I did not know what to answer, but dirty house. Our servants have had I sighed a little. a sad time since; and it's the very “You always intended to write a same wine, I intend to stick to it great work,” my wife went on, “and now; famous brand.” He showed now it is done, and no trouble, and me off the premises with the air of a it has made a little fortune for us; man enjoying a capital joke.

and you ought not to mind what When I reached home I sought an jealous people say. People are always interview with my wife. I tore her jealous of a great man.' abruptly from the occupation of super- “I am afraid my success has driven intending the removal of Lucinda's me out of England for ever,” was all travelling-trunks from my dressing. I could answer her. room into which they had mysteri- And so it proved to be. I had not ously intruded.

a real friend left, but I had made a “So you have published my diaries thousand enemies. Every opening was and private notes,” I said to her with closed to me, every door was kept shut a groan.

in my face. There was not a house “Yes, dear, and they have had such except my own in which I could sit

[ocr errors]


down and feel that I was welcome. write of bim in that way–for his Even my son turned sulky because nose is hardly crooked at all and his Lucinda quarrelled with him on my manners quite good—I don't think account. They had a stormy inter- mamma ought to have let that senview before her departure, which took tence be published. But she is so place the day after my return.

blind and so careless, she never notices “I forgave him when I thought he anything ! was dead, but now that he is alive I Many people who had forborne to ca-an't." So I heard her sobbing quarrel with my wife on my account through the open door as I went down now turned their backs upon both of the passage.

Sundry threats reached me of “He didn't mean you,” said Willie, impending prosecutions for libel, and valiantly.

my position was altogether an un“ Who could he mean by 'the cal- enviable one. culating little simpleton with some- I got out of it as soon as I could. body else's hair,' except me?" wept My son-in-law bought my house in the Lucinda.

hope of facilitating my departure from “It's uncommonly hard on a fellow England; I sold my goods, left my to have to go through this sort of son to be married to his Lucinda, and thing,” Willie said to me reproachfully carried off my wife and younger afterwards. “I don't know anybody children to Australia. The threats of else whose father ever put him into prosecution came to nothing ; nobody such a hole. When people go in for liked to take the initiative. My being dead and all that, they don't account of my late adventures in usually make

after- Africa sold well, following the masterwards !"

piece, and I was told by the publisher I thought the remark unfeeling, that further books of travel would be but I was prepared to make allow- favourably looked upon. ance for the awkwardness of the boy's I shall have to spend the rest of my position.

life as a traveller. Nobody who knows My married daughter Clara came me will have anything to do with me. over to see me, and her visit did not Wherever I go my book follows me, give me unmitigated pleasure.

both visibly in its stout volumes, and “I am very glad you are alive and invisibly in its influence. It is only as at home," she assured me, with an a nameless stranger that I can get air of injury, “but I can never ask welcome or admittance anywhere. No you to my house any more. I had to beauty is so certain of her charms, make Edward promise to say nothing no sage is so confident of his wisdom, to you that first day in town. He is as voluntarily to risk an interview certain that that remark about the

with me.

My book has brought me broken-nosed young man with the fame and fortune certainly; but it vulgar manners refers to him. And seems to have made me, for the rest of though I am sure you would never my life, a social outcast.

any bother


prose has


The poetry of prose and the poetry of shakes its surface; the Muses themselves verse must not be compared together. approach it with a tardy and a timid step, and

with a low and tremulous and melancholy Their laws of expression are different.

song.That the magic of the power of verse

There is not much in our language is, in its own domain, immensely

which can really rival this. Landor greater than that of prose, is indisputable. Nevertheless, the poetry of

himself rarely broke into such singing.

In truth, the spirit of his prose was very real existence. Without aspiring to the peculiar power

“vowed unto austerity;" it loved the

hermit's cell, the vigil, and the scourge of verse it has its own perfections; it has its own curiosa felicitas of words,

of cords, better than the “


storms of music," and the glow of its own delectable and haunting melodies. It is true that instances of its per

painted panes. His mind was of that fection are extremely rare.

curious cast, in this resembling Mr. Yet these

Browning's, which has the gift of are sometimes to be found ; instances in which a poetic thought is perfectly turning words to music, and which expressed; so that although verse

yet seems careless or disdainful of its might say it differently, it could not power; in consequence of which mis

fortune we are accustomed to receive in that instance say it better, or with more telling power.

from these great men ten volumes of

the words of Mercury to one of Apollo's Such an instance is the brief but

songs. Let us remember, for our exquisitely beautiful prose-poem which Landor puts into the mouth of Æsop. comfort, that the rarity of jewels He, desiring that in the life of Rhodope

makes them of a richer value, and be

thankful even for what we have. “ The Summer may be calm,


But such fragments of poetic prose Autumn calmer, and the Winter never

are not, in the strictest sense, prosecome,” and being answered with a fond remonstrance, “I must die then

poems; for a poem is a work of art, earlier ?” replies-

designed to stand alone, rounded,

complete, and self-sustained. Prose“ Laodameia died ; Helen died ; Leda, the poems of this finished kind are among beloved of Jupiter, went before. There are the rarest forms which literature has no fields of amaranth on this side of the

taken in our language. The specimens grave; there are no voices, O Rhodope, that are not soon mute, however tuneful ; there is

which we possess are scattered through no name, with whatever emphasis of passion- the works of a few great writers.

If ate love repeated, of which the echo is not

we attempt to reckon up the list of faint at last.”

them, we shall find the task before us What verse, except the rarest, was only too brief and easy ; for in truth, ever sweeter or took the ear more we possess no more than a few scatsurely captive ? And this of Landor's tered jewels. It will not, alas ! take also may compare with it. It may be long to count them, though we count called the Depths of Love.

as slowly and as gloatingly as a miser

tells his hoard. “ There is a gloom in deep love, as in deep water: there is a silence in it which suspends

In such a summary as that proposed, the foot, and the folded arms and the dejected

the three Dreams of Landor stand head are the images it reflects. No voice almost at the head, The Dream of Euthymedes,' The Dream of Pe- " The dream commenced with a music trarca,' and, above all, The Dream

which now I often heard in dreams—a music of Boccaccio.' The last, which is too

of preparation and of awakening suspense; a

music like the opening of the Coronation long for purpose of quotation, and too Anthem, and which, like that, gave the feelfine to be disjointed, contains a “Dream ing of a vast march, of infinite cavalcades within a Dream,”—the scenes which

filing off, and the tread of innumerable armies. passed before the eyes of Boccaccio

The morning was come of a mighty day, a day

of crisis and of final hope for human nature, when first he drank the waters of then suffering some mysterious eclipse, and forgetfulness from the vase of Fiam- labouring in some dire extremity. Somemetta. One passage may be cited where, I knew not where—somehow, I knew from the introduction to this Dream,

not how-by some beings, I knew not whom,

—a battle, å strife, an agony, was conducting, as an apt illustration of what prose —was evolving like a great drama or piece of can do, and of what, except in its last music. Then, like a chorus, the passion perfection, it cannot do. It is spoken

deepened. Some greater interest was at stake; by Petrarca to Boccaccio

some mightier cause than ever yet the sword

had pleaded, or trumpet had proclaimed. “Poets know the haunts of poets at first

Then came sudden alarms: hurryings to and sight: and he who loved Laura—0 Laura !

fro : trepidations of innumerable fugitives, I did I say he who loved thee ?-hath whisper

know not whether from the good cause or the ings where those feet would wander which

bad : darkness and lights : tempest and have been restless after Fiammetta.'

human faces : and at last, with the sense that

all was lost, female forms, and the features The very spirit of poetry is in these

that were worth all the world to me and but a words, and yet they seem to fail of

moment allowed-and clasped hands, and

heart-breaking partings, and then-everlastfull perfection; they do not fill the

ing farewells! And with a sigh, such as the soul with music, as does the finest caves of hell sighed when the incestuous verse; they have not the sweet and mother uttered the abhorred name of death, haunting charm, for instance, of

the sound was reverberated-everlasting fare

wells! And again, and yet again reverberated these,

-everlasting farewells !" “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, De Quincey's Dreams, it must not if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him that I am sick of love."

be forgotten, though now embedded in

the substance of other work, were Nothing in Landor's work quite separately written, and designed to equals this. But then-what does ? stand alone. The one above given,

Among English authors of prose- together with the three from "Suspiria poems, three names, after Landor's, de Profundis' the “Mater Lacrystand out pre-eminent, the names of marum' above all—touches the highDe Quincey, Poe, and Ruskin. Each water mark of poetic prose. And, of these writers is possessed of a power like Landor's, De Quincey's highest and charm peculiarly his own. Neither flights are dreams; a fact which leads has much in common with the others. one to remark the curious fondnessThe change from Landor to De Quincey curious, that is, in extent, though in. is immense; from Landor's idiom, brief, itself most natural—which minds of self-restrained, even when (too rarely) great imaginative power have felt for “musical as is Apollo's lute," to De embodying their conceptions in the Quincey's Nile-like overflow, at times form of dreams and visions. In all in its diffuseness spreading like waste ages has this been the case. waters, yet rising (at its best) into a vision Isaiah saw the Seraph flying movement almost like the “ solemn with a coal from off the altar. planetary wheelings ” of the verse of vision the Spirit stood before Job. Milton. Compare a Dream of his In a vision the author of the Apowith one of Landor's.

Both are

calypse saw the woman clothed in scarnoble; but the difference is world- let, and Apollyon cast into the pit, wide.

and Death on the pale horse. So also

In a

In a


in a vision Bunyan saw his pilgrim, looked again upon the rock and upon the

characters ; and the journeying through perils. So Nova


Desolation.lis saw visions, so Richter dreamed dreams. In a vision (recorded in the Poe's other work in this direction, only prose-poem he has left us) Lamb

prose-poems which may stand in the saw the Child-Angel-most beautiful

same rank with “Silence,' are “The of apparitions—who keeps in heaven

Island of the Fay,' and 'Eleanora.' perpetual childhood, and still goes But all his poetry, whether prose or lame and lovely.

verse, is such as has no counterpart Poe's prose-poems stand apart. In

elsewhere. Alike at its best and at their peculiar characteristics no other

its weakest it bears the recognised writings in the world resemble these.

impression of his mind. It breathes Nor is this wonderful — for what

in every line its own peculiar framortal ever resembled their extra

grance, not to be mistaken-as the ordinary creator ? His was a cast of

honey of Hymettus tasted of the wild mind beyond all other men's unearthly. thyme. His spirit set up her abiding house in Mr. Ruskin comes into our category a strange and weird land.

It was a

by reason rather of his unrivalled land haunted by shapes of loveliness

mastery of poetic prose than for any and by shapes of terror; a land in

deliberate prose-poem, which, indeed, which were sights and sounds to freeze he has never set himself to write. the blood; but a land which also held

There are passages without number in in its odd angles the Island of the his works in which word-painting (to Fay and the Valley of the Many.

use a phrase which would be hateful coloured Grass. His style became,

were it not so convenient), and even when he so desired, a power which

eloquence—two things vastly different added a deeper colour of romance to

from poetry, however often they are what was in itself romantic, as sunset confused with it—are made poetical wraps some wild land of ruins in its

by sheer excess of beauty. This disglow of sombre fires. Undoubtedly

Undoubtedly tinction between description which is Poe's finest effort is the piece called

poetical, and description which, how•Silence.' It is a piece which stands

ever fine, is merely graphic, is a disamong the finest specimens existing tinction which, if rigorously applied, of the power of prose to take poetic at once puts out of court nine-tenths tone, the power which loads a sentence of what is generally called poetic prose. with impressiveness. The sweet and

An illustration here is far better than limpid music of Landor's Depths of Love' is far away.

any argument, for the distinction is

The words move one that must be felt, not argued. forward, in the phrase of Casca, like

Compare, then, together these two a tempest dropping fire." Take any

descriptions of the same

scene—the paragraph, at random

scene of Turner's picture of Chryses “And, all at once, the moon arose through

on the Shore.' The first is by a recent the thin ghastly mist, and was crimson in critic, the second is Mr. Ruskin's. colour. And mine eyes fell upon a huge grey rock which stood by the shore of the river, “The large picture of Chryses merits attenand was lighted by the light of the moon.

tion not only from its fine drawing of rocks, And the rock was grey and ghastly, and tall

trees, and above all of waves, but also from its and the rock was grey. Upon its front were

departure from the conventional brown landcharacters engraven in the stone ; and I scape-manner of the time. We have here walked through the morass of water-lilies,

warm and noble colour ; the golden light of until I came close unto the shore, that I

sunset suffuses the whole scene, and turns might read the characters upon the stone.

from blue to green the sea round the path of But I could not decipher them. And I was

the sun.” going back into the morass when the moon shone with a fuller red, and I turned and

This is a fair instance of the de

« PreviousContinue »