« PreviousContinue »
Post. Approach me not, man of cold, steadfast eye and com. pressed lips. At thy coming nature shrouds herself in dull mist; fain would she hide her sighs and smiles, her buds and fruits even in a veil of snow. For thy unkindly breath, as it pierces her mystery, (destroys its creative power. The birds draw back into their nests, the sunset hues into their clouds, when vou are seen in the distance with your tablets all ready to write them into prose.
CRITIC. O my brother, my benefactor, do not thus repel me. Interpret me rather to our common mother; let her not avert her eyes from a younger child. I know I can never be dear to her as thou art, yet I am her child, nor would the fated revolutions of existence be fulfilled without my aid.
Poet. How meanest thou? What have thy measurements, thy artificial divisions and classifications, to do with the natural revolutions? In all real growths there is a.“ give and take” of unerring accuracy ; in all the acts of thy life there is falsity, for all are negative. Why do you not receive and produce in your kind, like the sunbeam and the rose ? Then new light would be brought out, were it but the life of a weed, to bear witness to the healthful beatings of the divine heart. But this perpetual analysis, comparison, and classification, never add one atom to the sum of existence.
Critic. I understand you.
PAPERS ON LITERATURE AND ART.
Poet. Yes, that is always the way. You understand me, who never have the arrogance to pretend that I understand my
Critic. Why should you ?—that is my province. I am the rock which gives you back the echo. I am the tuning-key, which harmonizes your instrument, the regulator to your watch. Who would speak, if no ear heard ? nay, if no mind knew what the ear heard ?
Poet. I do not wish to be heard in thought but in love, to be recognised in judgment but in life. I would pour forth my melodies to the rejoicing winds. I would scatter my seed to the tender earth. I do not wish to hear in prose the meaning of my melody. I do not wish to see my seed neatly put away beneath a paper label. Answer in new pæans to the soul of our souls. Wake me to sweeter childhood by a fresher growth. At pres. ent you are but an excrescence produced by my life ; depart, self-conscious Egotist, I know you not.
Critic. Dost thou so adore Nature, and yet deny me? Is not Art the child of Nature, Civilization of Man ? As Religion into Philosophy, Poetry into Criticism, Life into Science, Love into Law, so did thy lyric in natural order transmute itself into my review.
Poet. Review! Science ! the very etymology speaks. What is gained by looking again at what has already been seen ? What by giving a technical classification to what is already assimilated with the mental life ?
Critic. What is gained by living at all ?
Poet. Yes! consciousness of Truth manifested in the indi. vidual form.
CRITIC. Since consciousness is tolerated, how will you limit it?
Poet. By the instincts of my nature, which rejects yours as arrogant and superfluous.
CRITIC. And the dictate of my nature compels me to the processes which you despise, as essential to my peace. My brother (for I will not be rejected) I claim my place in the order of nature. The word descended and became flesh for two purposes, to organize itself, and to take cognizance of its organization. When the first Poet worked alone, he paused between the cantos to proclaim, “ It is very good.” Dividing himself among men, he made some to create, and others to proclaim the merits of what is created.
Poet. Well ! if you were content with saying, “it is very good ;” but you are always crying, “ it is very bad,” or ignorantly prescribing how it might be better. What do you know of it ? Whatever is good could not be otherwise than it is. Why will you not take what suits you, and leave the rest ? True communion of thought is worship, not criticism. Spirit will not flow through the sluices nor endure the locks of canals.
Critic. There is perpetual need of protestantism in every church. If the church be catholic, yet the priest is not infalli. ble. Like yourself, I sigh for a perfectly natural state, in which the only criticism shall be tacit rejection, even as Venus glides not into the orbit of Jupiter, nor do the fishes seek to dwell in fire. But as you soar towards this as a Maker, so do I toil towards the same aim as a Seeker. Your pinions will not upbear you towards it in steady flight. I must often stop to cut away the brambles from my path. The law of my being is on me, and the ideal standard seeking to be realized in my mind bids me demand perfection from all I see. To say how far each object answers this demand is my criticism.
Poet. If one object does not satisfy you, pass on to another and say nothing.
Critic. It is not so that it would be well with me. I must
PAPERS ON LITERATURE AND ART.
penetrate the secret of my wishes, verify the justice of my reasonings. I must examine, compare, sift, and winnow ; what can bear this ordeal remains to me as pure gold. I cannot pass on till I know what I feel and why. An object that defies my utmost rigor of scrutiny is a new step on the stair I am making to the Olympian tables.
Poet. I think you will not know the gods when you get there, if I may judge from the cold presumption I feel in your version of the great facts of literature.
Critic. Statement of a part always looks like ignorance, when compared with the whole, yet may promise the whole. Consider that a part implies the whole, as the everlasting No the everlasting Yes, and permit to exist the shadow of your light, the register of your inspiration.
As he spake the word he paused, for with it his companion vanished, and left floating on the cloud a starry banner with the inscription “ AFFLATUR NUMINE.” The Critic unfolded one on whose flag-staff he had been leaning. Its heavy folds of pearly gray satin slowly unfolding, gave to view the word Notitia, and
Causarum would have followed, when a sudden breeze from the west caught it, those heavy folds fell back round the poor man, and stifled him probably, at least he has never since been heard of.
THE TWO HERBERTS.
The following sketch is meant merely to mark some prominent features in the minds of the two Herberts, under a form less elaborate and more reverent than that of criticism.
A mind of penetrating and creative power could not find a better subject for a masterly picture. The two figures stand as representatives of natural religion, and of that of the Son of Man, of the life of the philosophical man of the world, and the secluded, contemplative, though beneficent existence. .
The present slight effort is not made with a view to the great and dramatic results so possible to the plan. It is intended chiefly as a setting to the Latin poems of Lord Herbert, which are known to few,-a year ago, seemingly, were so to none in this part of the world. The only desire in translating them has been to do so literally, as any paraphrase, or addition of words impairs their profound meaning. It is hoped that, even in their present repulsive garb, without rhyme or rhythm, stripped, too, of the majestic Roman mantle, the greatness of the thoughts, and the large lines of spiritual experience, will attract readers, who will not find time misspent in reading them many times..
George Herbert's heavenly strain is better, though far from generally, known.
There has been no attempt really to represent these persons speaking their own dialect, or in their own individual manners. The writer loves too well to hope to imitate the sprightly, fresh, and varied style of Lord Herbert, or the quaintness and keen sweets of his brother's. Neither have accessories been given,