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PRK8KNTK1> BV 
TIIK m'I{l.IHIIKK 



**77us work is full of a young man^s generous enthu- 
siasm for everything that is beautiful in poetic thought 
and dainty i?i expression. The cpnversatto?ial form 
allows of discursiveness; and, whatever may be the 
cHtical de/tciencies of the book, it has the freshness 
of youthful delight, and justifies its author^ s claim of 
being * spontaneous and honest.'^ " 

The London Spectator of April 22, 1893. 



Conversations 



ON SOME OF 



THE OLD POETS 



BY 

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL. 

Mitb an Intto&uction 

BY 

ROBERT ELLIS THOMPSON, S. T. D. 



** Or, if I would delight my private hours 
With music or with poem, where, so soon 
As in our native language, can I find 
That solace?" — Paradise Regained. 



THIRD EDITION ENLARGED. 



PHILADELPHIA: 
DAVID McKAY, PUBLISHER, 

2} South Ninth Street. 
1893. 



• 



Copyright, 1893, by DAVID McKAY. 



. TO 

MY FATHER, 

CHARLES LOWELL, D.D., 

WHOM, IF I HAD KOT THS 

HIGHER PRIVILEGE OF REVERING AS A PARENT, 

I SHOULD STILL HAVE 

HONORED AS A MAN AND LOVED AS A FRIEND, 

THIS VOLUME, 

CONTAINXNG MANY OPINIONS FROM WHICH HE WILL 

WHOLLY, YET WITH THE LARGE CHARITY OF 

A CHRISTIAN HEART, DISSENT, 

IS INSCRIBED 

BY HIS 

YOUNGEST CHILD. 



V-^ >M Kj m icj^ .? 



" Hail, bards of mightier grasp I on you 
I chiefly call, the chosen few, 
Who cast not off the acknowledged guide, 
Who faltered not, nor turned aside ; 
Whose lofty genius could survive 
Privation, under sorrow thrive." 

Wordsworth. 



' .. .; 



fh 



r 
t 









■'/ .r </ 



8 



EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION. 



These "Conversations on the Old Poets" wei 
published early in 1845, and appeared again in a r 
vised edition in 1846. They also were reprinted i 
London in 1845, but have been out of print f« 
many years. In his " Lectures on the Old Englif 
Dramatists" (delivered in 1887, and published, aft 
his death, in 1892), Mr. Lowell speaks of the "Coi 
versations" as "now a rare book" which he himse 
had not seen " for many years." He added that " 
was mainly about the Old English dramatists, if I a 
not mistaken," and gives 1843 as its date. This avoi 
edly imperfect recollection of the book qualifies \ 
adverse criticism of it. As it was then more than for 
years since he had published it, and as not less th; 
fifteen volumes of his verse and prose had appeared 
the mean time, he well might forget other mfngs th; 
its date. 

To the editor it was a day to be marked with 
white stone when he first met with it, and his delig 
was shared by others of his age. In our college yea 



vi EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION. 

which coincided with those of the War, we quarrelled 
amicably over the relative claims of Mr. Lowell and 
of Mr. Longfellow to the first place among the Ameri- 
can poets. Those of us who held by the less popular 
poet of course were in the minority ; but we made up 
in emphasis what we lacked in numbers. This little 
, volume of twenty years before was a godsend to us, as 
showing in what fields our master had nourished his 
genius. We shared in that glow Mr. Steadman speaks 
of as felt by students of a still earlier time, when Mr. 
Lowell's " early lectures and essays directed them to 
a sense of what is best in English song." Maturer 
judgment brings us to see, as did its author, the defects 
of the book. But we would deprecate the notion that 
even his later survey of the same fields has superseded 
the first and freshest of his labors as a critic. 

As for the faults of the book, Mr. Lowell's reputa- 
tion can better afibrd them than our literature can 
afford its suppression. The work of a writer in his 
twenty-fifth year might be expected to contain imma- 
ture judgments, such as that on Ford, which he reverses 
with emphasis in his " Lectures.'' There is also a super- 
abundance of epigrammatic point, which characterized 
his prose to the last. He never took to heart Corinna's 
advice to Pindar, to " sow with his hand, and not with 
the sack's mouth." 

The merits of these " Conversations," however, are 



EDITOB'S INTRODUCTION. vil 

such as would countervail greater faults than these. 
One is their freshness of impression. " The work/' says 
The London Spectator of April 22, 1893, " is full of a 
young man's generous enthusiasm for everything that 
is beautiful in poetic thought and dainty in expression. 
The conversational form allows of discursiveness ; and, 
whatever may be the critical deiSciencies of the book, 
it has the freshness of youthful delight, and justiiSes its 
author's claim of being ^spontaneous and honest."' 
Mr. Lowell never was a critic of the " scientific " 
type Matthew Arnold bade us admire in Sainte-Beuve. 
So much might be inferred from the repugnance to the 
French critic's method he expresses in his Lectures. He 
himself always was guided in criticism rather by his love 
of things noble and beautiful, and his hatred of things 
base and ugly, than by the canons of any aesthetic 
system. This did not involve any carelessness or slov- 
enliness in his method of procedure. His greater 
essays represent an amount of labor in preparation far 
in excess of the week's work which preceded each of 
Sainte-Beuve's Oauseries du Lundi. It would have been 
quite impossible for him to fill thirty-six volumes with 
essays of literary criticism. With all this thorough- 
ness, however, Mr. Lowell may be called an impres- 
sionist critic. He is never impersonal. He gives us 
the thought and emotion which is produced in him by 
contact with a work of literary art, while he spares no 



viii EDITORS INTRODUCTION. 

pains that this coDtact may be as complete and as intel- 
ligent as possible. And these " Conversations," while 
they fall far short of his later essays in the matter of 
exhaustive preparation, do report for us what he 
received from our earlier writers at a time when his 
mind was most susceptible to impression. 

They also are of permanent value because of the 
place they iSll in the development of literary criticism 
in America. During the jSret quarter of the century 
The PoHfolio (Philadelphia, 1800-1827) was the chief 
authority in such matters, and represented, in rather a 
feeble way, the canons laid down by Dr. Johnson, scoff- 
ing at Wordsworth and his fellow-innovators. Dr. 
Channing, with his three magnificent essays on " Mil- 
ton,'' " Bonaparte,'^ and " Fenelon " (ip The Christian 
Examiner for 1826-1829), illustrated the large and 
broad-minded criticism of the best English school. 
More directly literary was the work done in The New 
York Review (1837-1841) by Ton-ey, Allen, Shedd, 
and others of the young Coleridgeans, who had sat at 
the feet of Dr. James Marsh at Middlebury. Then 
came the little group of Transcendentalists with their 
remarkable quart^erly, TAeDiaZ (1840-1 843), who rep- 
resented new influences from German culture, and pro- 
claimed emancipation from all traditions. 

It was in this literary spring-time that Mr. Lowell 
began to write, and he was the first in America to 



EDITORS INTRODUCTION. ix 

exemplify that new interest in early English literature 
which Coleridge, Lamb, Southey, Hazlitt, and others 
had awakened in England. These " Conversations,'' I 
believe, were our earliest important and intelligent 
venture in that iSeld. They were the forerunner of 
the labors of Childs, Hudson, Whipple, Lounsbury, 
and other American scholars, and of the Boston 
edition of the British poets, in which Mr. Lowell 
was to edit the works of Donne, Marvell, Keats, 
Wordsworth, and Shelley. And no field of study 
outside our own literature can equal this in inter- 
est and importance to Americans. Whilst English 
literature since Milton has flowed in a channel diflerent 
from American, in Milton and all that precedes him, 
back even to "Beowulf," we have the succession of 
writers who are our own intellectual ancestry, and who 
belong to us as much as to the later English people, 
In some respects even more, for the traditions of old 
English speech have been better maintained in Ameri- 
can than English use ; and phrases in Shakespeare and 
Massinger, which call for explanatory notes in English 
editions, often need none for Americans. And what is 
true of the speech may be true often of the mood also. 
In our less conventional world Chaucer ought to be 
more intelligible than in a society which has lost fluid- 
ity and spontaneity. 

It was therefore no small service to direct American 



X EDITORS INTRODUCTION, 

readers to their birthright in the older English litera- 
ture. And when this was done with a charm of 
manner, a keenness of wit, and a beauty of literary 
form which made the criticism itself a work of art, the 
service was the greater. 

An admiring critic of these "Conversations'' re- 
marks that they should be read in connection with Mr. 
Lowell's essays on kindred themes in The Pioneer. 
That short-lived monthly, " edited by James Eussell 
Lowell and Robert Carter," ran through three numbers 
in the opening months of 1843, but is now very scarce. 
To this edition of the "Conversations" have been 
appended the two papers on "Middleton" and on 
" The English Song- Writers " which Mr. Lowell con- 
tributed to the first two numbers. The third number 
contains nothing of his but a brief poem and an 
apology for his failure to supply an essay — ^an omis- 
sion, he says, due to the condition of his eyes. 



TO THE READER 



A PREFACE is always either an apology or an ex- 
planation ; and a good book needs neither. That I 
write one, then, proves that I am diflSdent of the 
merit of this volume, to a greater degree, even, than 
an author must necessarily be. 

For the minor faults of the book, the hurry with 
which it has been prepared must plead in extenuation, 
since it was in proceas of writing and printing at the 
same time, so that I could never estimate its propor- 
tions as a whole. This must excuse the too great 
length of the First Conversation, which I should have 
divided, had I known in time how it would have 
grown under my hands. Some repetitions may also 
occur, which I trust the candid reader will refer to the 
same exculpatory cause. 

The substance of the two other Conversations ap- 
peared more than two years ago in the " Boston Mis- 
cellany,^' a magazine conducted by my friend N* 
Hale, Jjp., Esq. The articles, as then written, met 

xi 



xii TO THE READER. 

with some approbation, and I had often been urged to 
reprint them by friends with whose wishes it was as 
well my duty 9^ my delight to comply. Yet, I con- 
fess, I felt strongly reluctant in this matter ; and ray 
reluctance increased, after looking over the articles 
and seeing how imperfect they were. 

It then occurred to me, that, by throwing them into 
the form of conversations, greater freedom would be 
given them, and that discursiveness, which was their 
chief fault, (among many others, of style,) would iSnd 
readier pardon. Some of the deepest as well as the 
most delightful books have been written in this form 
in our own language, not to speak of its prevalent use 
among the Greeks and Latins. I need only mention 
the names of Izaak Walton, Walter Savage Landor, 
and Home Tooke, to recall to mind three of the most 
prominent among many English examples.* 

I had no intention of giving them anything like a 
dramatic turn, and trust I shall not so be censured. 
They are merely essays, divided in this way to allow 
them greater ease and frankness, and the privilege of 
wandering at will. That this license has not been 
carried to a greater degree than is warranted by the 
usual suggestiveness of conversation will, I trust, be 
conceded. If some of the topics introduced seem 

*Among the pleasantest i^ent writings in this form, I would 
mention "The Philosophy of Mystery," by W. C. Dendy, M. D. 



TO THE READER, xiii 

foreign to the subject, I can only say, that they are 
not so to my mind, and that an author's object in 
writing criticisms is not only to bring to light the 
beauties of the works he is considering, but also to ex- 
press his own opinions upon those and other matters. 

Wishing, as I did, to preserve as far as possible 
unaltered, whatever had given pleasure to others in 
the articles as already written, I experienced many 
difficulties. It is impossible to weld cast-iron, and I 
had not time to melt it and recast it. 

I am not bold enough to esteem these essays of any 
great price. Standing as yet only in the outer porch 
of life, I cannot be expected to report of those higher 
mysteries which lie unrevealed in the body of the 
temple. Yet, as a child, when he has found but a 
mean pebble, which differs from ordinary only so 
much as by a stripe of quartz or a stain of iron, calls 
his companions to behold his treasure, which to them 
also affords matter of delight and wonder ; so I cannot 
but hope that my little findings may be pleasant and 
haply instructive to some few. 

An author's opinions should be submitted to no 
arbitration but that of solitude and his own conscience ; 
but many defects and blemishes in his mode of ex- 
pressing^hem may doubtless be saved him by submit- 
ting his work, before publication, to the judgment of 
some loving friend, — and if to the more refined eye 



xiv TO THE READER. 

of a woman, the better. But the haste with which 
these pages have been prepared and printed has pre- 
cluded all but a very trifling portion of them from 
being judged by any eye save my own. 

ElmwooD) Cambridge, Mass. 



t 



CONVEKSATIONS. 



FIRST CONVERSATION. 



CHAUCER. 

JOHN. 

Here, you are, I see, as usual, ramparted around 
with musty volumes of the old poets. I remember 
how you used to pore over them in the college 
library. Are you not afraid that the wheels of your 
mind will get choked with the dust that rises out of 
these dry mummy-pits ? 

PHILIP. 

Even if I were to allow the justice of your last 
metaphor, I could reply that the dust is at least that 
of kings. You must remember, also, that even this 
dust is not without its uses. The rich brown pigment 
which our painters use is made out of it; — ^another 
material illustration of the spiritual truth, that nothing 
which ever had a meaning for mankind loses it by 
the lapse of years. 

JOHN. 

It may, however, become so overgrown -s^lih moes aa 
hardly to repay the labor of the restoring chisel. But 

1 



2 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

to return to our mummies. Our modem poets seem 
fully aware of the fact, that what is true of one art is 
true also of all the others. They are as fond of using 
this coloring, made out of dead men's bones, as the 
painters. One must be turning at every stanza to his 
glossary, in order to understand them, so full are they 
of archaisms. They seem to have plagiarized from the 
cheesemongers, who inoculate their new cheeses with a 
bit of mould, to give them the flavor of old ones, 

PHILIP. 

An imitation of style is one thing ; the use of the 
same material is quite another. The marble of Pen- 
telicus may be carved into other shapes as noble as 
the Phoebus or the Jupiter. It has no prejudice in 
favor of the Greek mythology ; and Hiram Powers, I 
fancy, can persuade it to look godlike even in a coat 
and pantaloons. Language is the marble in which the 
poet carves ; and, if he find that which the old poets 
used aptest to his hand, let him not mar his work from 
an idle prejudice in favor of the quarries of Berkshire 
or Vermont. You find no fault with Crawford's 
Orpheus, which sends you to your Lempri^re, as you 
complain that the modern poets do to your glossary. 
Yet that statue is the more guilty of the two ; for that 
is an attempt to resuscitate the Greek spirit, while 
these only use what they think the best material in 
which to convey an idea of to-day, Pericles would 
be the fittest critic of that ; but one of our old dra- 
matists would soon find himself beyond his depth in 
these. 



CHA UCEE. 3 

JOHN. 

You have touched me in a tender spot. I admit 
that the fault is not confined to our poets. Our sculp- 
tors run to Greece, and our painters to Italy. Our 
Quincy stonecutters, in their Corinthian columns, show 
almost as much originality of design. I have seen 
portraits of New York ladies after the Fomarina, and 
the Washington in our State-house has borrowed the 
toga of Fabius to hide his continental uniform under. 
This is what is called being classical ; and it is so in- 
deed, after " the high Roman fashion ;" for the Romans 
plundered a temple of its gold and its gods at the same 
time, stealing the ideas as well as the freedom of the 
nation they subjugated. This gave point to the saying 
of one of their countrymen, that Greece had made a 
slave of her conqueror. I see the distinction you 
would make between the poets and their brother artists, 
but I am not yet ready to admit its justice. 

PHILIP. 

If you have seen the distinction, you have already 
admitted its justice. I would find no fault with the 
painter who should draw the Virgin with a glory about 
her head ; for that is as easily credible now as in Giot- 
to's day. The intellect may be skeptical, but the heart 
will believe any beautiful miracle in behalf of what 
it loves or reveres ; and the heart, afler all, will have 
the last word in such matters. So the naked figure is 
in itself beautiful ; but that would be no apology for 
putting Franklin's head upon the shoulders of the An- 
tinous. Yet there are examples enough of such fool- 
ishness. Our artists seem to think that none but a 



4 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

'Greek or Roman costume is admissible at the court of 
posterity. Yet posterity is delighted to greet Bums in 
his clouted shoon, and I am sure would never receive 
Washington (who knew better) in the indecent undress 
of a Roman statue. With our poets the case is differ- 
ent. They have adopted the style of those who used 
our noble language ere it had been crossed with the 
French. The dialect, too, which was contemporary 
with our translation of the Bible, will for that reason, 
if for no other, carry a greater solemnity with it than 
that of any later period. The English of that day is 
racy with the old Saxon idiom, which was dear to the 
mass of the people, and which still maintains its gripe 
upon all the natural feelings, with which poetry has 
most to do. Forms and conventionalities put on, as a 
matter of course, the court-dress of the Norman con- 
querors ; but the heart clung sturdily to its old Saxon 
homespun, and felt the warmer for it. You talk about 
the golden age of Queen Anne. It was a French 
pinchbeck age. 

JOHN. 

Stay, not so fast. I like the writers of that period, 
for the transparency of then- style, and then- freedom 
from affectation. If I may trust my understanding of 
your meaning, our modern versifiers have only made 
the simple discoveiy, that an appearance of antiquity is 
the cheapest passport to respect. But the cheapest 
which we purchase with subservience is too dear. Yoa 
yourself have no such prejudice against the Augustan 
age of English literature. I have caught you mor^ 



CHA UCER. 5 

than once "With the Tatler in your band^ and have 
heard you praising Dryden's prefaces, 

PHILIP. 

You and I have very different notions of what 
poetry is, and of what its object should be. You may 
claim for Pope the merit of an envious eye, which 
could turn the least scratch upon the character of a 
friend into a fester, — of a nimble and adroit fancy, and 
of an ear so niggardly that it could afford but one 
invariable caesura to his verse; but when you call him 
poet, you insult the buried majesty of all earth's no- 
blest and choicest spirits. Nature should lead the true 
poet by the hand, and he has far better things to do 
than to busy himself in counting the warts upon it, as 
Pope did. A cup of water from Hippocrene, tasting, 
as it must, of innocent pastoral sights and sounds, of 
the bleat of lambs, of the shadows of leaves and 
flowers that have leaned over it, of the rosy hands of 
children whose privilege it ever is to paddle in it, of 
the low words of lovers who have walked by its side in 
the moonlight, of the tears of the poor Hagars of the 
world who have drunk from it, would choke a satirist. 
His thoughts of the country must have a savor of Jack 
Ketch, and see no beauty but in a hemp-field. Poetrjr. 
is something to make us wiser and better, by contini 
ually revealing those types of beauty and truth whicli 
God has set in all men's souls ; not by picking out tha 
petty faults of our neighbors to make a mock ofl/ 
Shall that divine instinct, which has in all ages con- 
cerned itself only with what is holiest and fairest in 
life and nature, degrade itself to go about seeking for 



6 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

the scabs and ulcers of the putridest spirits, to grin 
over with a derision more hideous even than the 
pitiful quarry it has moused at ? Asmodeus's gift, of 
unroofing the dwellings of his neighbors at will, would 
be the rarest outfit for a satirist, but it would be of no 
worth to a poet. To the satirist the mere outward 
motives of life are enough. Vanity, pride, avarice, — 
these, and the other external vices, are the strings of 
his unmusical lyre. But the poet need only unroof his 
own heart. All that makes happiness or misery under 
every roof of the wide world, whether of palace or 
hovel, is working also in that narrow yet boundless 
sphere. On that little stage the great dmma of life is 
acted daily. There the creation, the tempting, and the 
fall may be seen anew. In that withdrawing closet, 
solitude whispers her secrets, and death uncovers his 
face. There sorrow takes up her abode, to make ready 
a pillow and a resting-place for the weary head of love, 
whom the whole world casts out. To the poet nothing 
is mean, but everything on earth is a fitting altar to 
the supreme beauty. 

But I am wandering. As for the poets of Queen 
Anne's reign, it is enough to prove what a kennel 
standard of poetry was then established, that Swift's 
smutchy verses are not even yet excluded from the 
collections. What disgusting stuff, too, in Prior and 
Parnell ! Yet Swift, perhaps, was the best writer of 
English whom that period produced. Witness his 
prose. Pope treated the English language as the! 
image-man has served the bust of Shakespeare yonder. 
To rid it of some external soils, he has rubbed it down 
till there is no muscular expression left. It looks very 



CHA UCEB. 7 

much as his own " mockery king of snow" must have 
done after it had begun to melt. Pope is for ever 
mixing water with the good old mother's milk of our 
tongue. You cannot get a straightforward speech out 
of him. A great deal of his poetry is so incased i 
verbiage, that it puts me in mind of those important 
looking packages which boys are fond of sending 
their friends. We unfold envelope after envelope, an 
at last find a couple of cherry-stones. But in Pope we 
miss the laugh which in the other case follows the cul- 
mination of the joke. He makes Homer lisp like the 
friar in Chaucer, and Ajax and Belinda talk exactly 
alike. 

JOHN. 

Well, we are not discussing the merits of Pope, but 
of the archaisms which have been introduced into 
modern poetry. What you say of the Bible has some 
force in it. The forms of speech used in our version 
of it will always impress the mind, even if applied to 
an entirely different subject. What else can you bring 
forward ? 

PHILIP. 

Only the fact, that, by going back to the more nat- 
ural style of the Elizabethan writera, our verse has 
gained in harmony as well as strength. No matter 
whether Pope is describing the cane of a fop or the 
speech of a demigod, the pause must always fall on 
the same syllable, and the sense be chopped off by the 
same rhyme. Achilles cannot gallop his horses round 
the walls of Troy, with Hector dragging behind his 
chariot, except he keep time to the immitigable seesaw 
of the couplet. 



8 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

JOHN. 

But all verse and rhyme are as artificial as you say 
Pope's csesura is. Conceive of Macbeth, a monarch 
who classed "fools, minstrels, and bards" together in 
one penal enactment, delivering himself in blank 
verse ! * 

PHILIP. 

Shakespeare knew better than he did how he ought to 
have talked. But I do not agree with you that either 
rhyme or verse is unnatural. In tlie mind and utter- 
ance of the true poet, every thought and feeling as 
necessarily and unpremeditately takes it proper metre 
and its rhymed or unrhymed shape, as a flower takes 
its peculiar mould of stem and leaf, and entices to its 
petals from the sunshine tlieir foreordained color and 
expression. Nor are rhyme and metre without their 
originals in the landscape. The eye which fails to per- » 
ceive them there will be equally incapable of receiving 
from them in poetry their proper impulses and eflects. . 
So surely does Nature furnish us with symbols and 
indices of whatever is true and legitimate in Art. 
Some of our thoughts refuse to be written except in 
rhyme, and, in the hands of a true poet, this is no 
hindrance, but the rhyme seems always to have a mean- 
ing of its own, and to add to, or at least confirm, the 
sentiment. Metre and rhyme are like the skin of the 
grape. The thought is the pulp. The one is needed 
to hold the other together in a compact and beautiful 
shape. We may throw it away, if we will ; but often 

* See Bellenden's translation of Boece^s Chronicle. The histo- 
rian adds, " Thir and siclik lawis war usit by King Makbeth ; throw 
quhilk he govemit the realme X yens in gvd justiceJ^ 



CHA UCER. 9 

the chief spirit and flavor of the fruit is to be pressed 
out of it 

Without doubt, the fittest vehicle for grave and 
stately thoughts is the blank verse ; and that has not 
been improved in the dramatic form since the old 
dramatists, nor in the epic since Milton. Wprdswoxth 
has been satisfied with giving us fresh combinations of 
thought, and with reasserting the dignity and worth of 
the poet's calling. As far as metre is concerned, he.ig 
the l^ist original of writers. He has imitated all our* 
masters in turn. In his sonnets he has sometimes 
emulated successfully the condensed gravity of Milton ; 
but his blank verse seldom rises to the majestic level 
of his great precursor. He often reminds us of Cowper, 
who introduced a new and more conversational manner. 
Milton's verse suggests nothing meaner than the ocean ; 
Cowper's has that easy dignity which does not become 
trivial, even when it describes the simmering of the tea- 
kettle. I think that Keats saw deeper into the mystery 
of this noble metre than any modern poet. Tennyson 
has, perhaps, added another grace to it. 

JOHN. 

You attribute a greater state and importance not 
only to the poet's art, but even to the mere mechanical 
details of it, than I should be willing to allow. You 
sometimes remind me of that sect of sonneteers, whom 
Charles Lamb, in a letter to Coleridge, humorously 
describes as attributing a mystical importance to a 
capital O. You have, however, the great mass of the 
critics with you, who usually pay more heed to the 
material than to the idea which it conveys, and who do 



10 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

not scruple to bi*eak off the uose from a statue, and 
present it to you as a proof of the excellence of the 
marble. Beauty of form, correctness of outline, and 
aptness for use (which last, indeed, demands the other 
two) seem to be of no account with them. Is it ma- 
hogany or veneering ? is the question witli them, and 
they settle the matter by a slash with their penknives. 

PHILIP. 

The zest with which you ran down your last meta- 
phor persuades me that you agree with me at heart. 
The great poets, it is true, have not usually at first 
received the imprimatur of the critics, for it demands 
more faith and more labor than they have to spore, to 
get at the secret of anything that is greatly worth. We 
must wrestle with these messengers of heaven, as Jacob 
did, ere we obtain their blessing ; and then they some- 
times make a slave of our judgment, so that we halt 
for it ever after, Richter has lamed Carlyle a little. 

JOHN. 

All great ideas come to us, at first, like the gods of 
Homer, enveloped in a blinding mist ; but to him whom 
their descent to earth concerns, to him who stands most 
in need of their help, the cloud becomes luminous and 
fragrant, and betrays the divinity behind it. At pres- 
ent, these old poets of yours are in the cloudy state to me. 
Perhaps you can show me that I am also included in 
the benefit of their errand. Perhaps you can justify to 
me, out of their mouths, what now seems to me your 
extravagant estimate of the rank which belongs to 
poetry. 



CHAUCER. 11 



PHILIP. 



Before attempting it, let me axJd something which 
occurs to me on the subject of a metrical disposition of 
our words. Whether it be an argument in its favor or 
not I shall not take upon myself to say. At least, the 
reflection has been forced upon me many times, and 
not without some touch of painfulness. Even in my 
slight commerce with society, I have been obliged to 
notice a certain bashfulness which seems to clog men in 
the utterance of a noble or generous thought. We 
have become such ephemerides, such hangers-on of 
King To-day, that we seem hasty to smother with a 
judicious cough any allusion to our dethroned monarch, 
God. A harmless kind of dinner-table loyalty, like 
that of the old Jacobites, may be winked at ; but thor- 
ough piety, which is the element wherein all good 
thought and action can alone subsist, is quite out of 
fashion. We hoard our paltry nutshells of forms after 
the kernel of truth which they were designed to shelter, 
and without which they are worthless, has quite with- 
ered out of them. We spend all our pains in preserv- 
ing the offcast garments of faith, and take care to trans- 
mit to our children precisely whatever must ask leave 
of existence from the moth and the rust. Now verse j 
seems to furnish men with a sufficient apology for/ 
giving way to their holy enthusiasm. It is the poll-' 
tician's vocation to give us only homoeopathic doses of 
tnith, a grain of the medicine to a whole Niagara of 
water and froth. The priest is fashioned by his hear- 
ers, and is too often rather the pillow of down for their 
consciences, than the conductor of the arrowy lightnings 



12 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

of God's wrath. He values Christ's words at more 
than his heart, and will denounce what he, but not what 
his doctrines, condemned. He remembers his meek- 
ness, and takes care to remember the whip of small 
cords. But the poet can echo the eternal harmonies in 
the very face of the prodigal world, without winking 
or stammering. The tar is always hot and the feather- 
bed ready unripped for him who utters his conscience 
in plain prose ; but there is a charm in verse, which 
saves scathless the preacher of those most ancient doc- 
trines which are termed new whenever they are revived. 
George Herbert says, 

" A verse may find him who a sermon flies^ 
And turn delight into a sacrifice." 

JOHN. 

Your notion is a fanciful one. It is only because the 
poet is nearer to a state of nature in spiritual things 
than other men, and because his natural instinct for 
truth is keener, that he is the master of a more inspired 
utterance. We stupidly call the life of savages a state 
of nature, as if Nature loved our bestial qualities better 
than our divine ones. The condition of the poet may be 
more truly named so, in whom the highest refinement 
of civilization consists with the utmost simplicity of 
the unblunted spiritual instincts. He is weatherwise 
in the signs of Providence. The dense, hot air, which 
foretells the coming earthquake of a revolution in the 
moral world, grows painful to his lungs, while other 
men can yet breathe freely in it. Trifles, which other > 
natures pass by unheeded, are to him unerring finger- i 
posts. He can trace God's footsteps by a broken twig j 



CHAUCEB, 13 

[ or a misplaced leaf. But, after all, it is only the music 
of the verse, and not the mere form of verse itself, that 
makes the poet's truths more welcome. Music under- 
stands all languages, and she interprets between him 
and his hearers. You see I have been tearing a leaf 
out of your own book. The truth is, that tlie world 
cares very little about the matter. It has become a 
mercantile world, and if some murmur of the poet's 
song creep into the counting-room, it thinks of the 
Insane Asylum and runs up another column of figures. 
But when a rude fellow pushes in, and becomes down- 
right abusive in every-day speech, and gives die respect- 
able world the lie without scruple, why then, if the 
constable be not at hand, a writ of trespass is sued out 
in Judge Lynch's court! So, too, of the preacher. 
The world goes to chm'ch to be quiet, and takes it amiss 
to be interrupted in a calculation of the price of cotton by 
a personal reference to any of its own bosom-sins. The 
world has engaged the preacher to abuse the Scribes 
and Pharisees, and not to be looking too nicely after its 
own conscience. The world believes firmly that the 
whole race of Scribes and Pharisees was dead and 
buried two thousand years ago, and sees no harm in 
being a little severe upon their foibles, especially as 
there are no surviving relatives whose feelings can be 
set on edge by it. But let us come back to the poets. 

PHILIP. 

With all my heart. You smile when my hobby 
takes the bit between his teeth, but seem unconscious 
of your own John Gilpin excursions. My first thought 
was to have read you only some passages from the 



14 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

Elizabethan dramatists ; but I have changed ray mind. 
I remember hearing you say that the obsoleteness of 
Chaucer's dialect had deterred you from the attempt to 
read him. 

JOHN. 

Yes, I was desirous of a further acquaintance with 
a poet whom Diyden and Pope esteemed worthy of 
their toil in translating. But he is impregnably 
hemmed in from me by a quickset hedge of obscure and 
antiquated phrases. 

PHILIP. 

So it seems, at first sight. But if you had the stout 
heart of the prince in the fairy tale, you would soon 
have broken the charm, and would have found the 
deserted old palace suddenly full of all the noise and 
bustle of every-day employment, as well as the laugh- 
ter and tears of every-day life. You must put no faith 
at all in any idea you may have got of Chaucer from 
Dryden or Pope. Dryden appreciated his original 
better than Pope ; but neither of them had a particle 
of his humor, nor of the simplicity of his pathos. The 
strong point in Poi)e's displays of sentiment is in the 
graceful management of a cambric handkerchief. You 
do not believe a word that Heloise says, and feel all the 
while that she is squeezing out her tears, as if from a 
half-dry sponge. Pope was not a man to understand 
the quiet tenderness of Chaucer, where you almost, 
seem to hear the hot tears fall, and the simple, choking 
words sobbed out. I know no author so tender as he ; 
Shakespeare himself was hardly so. There is no decla- 
mation in his grief. Dante is scarcely more downright 



CHAUCER. 16 

and plain. To show you how little justice Dryden has 
done him, I will first read you a few lines from his 
version of " The Knight's Tale/' and then the cor- 
responding ones of the original. It is the death-scene 
of Arcite. 

" Conscience (that of all physic works the last) 
Caused him to send for Emily in haste ; 
With her, at his desire, came Palamon. 
Then, on his pillow raised, he thus begun : 
' No language can express the smallest part 
Of what I feel and suffer in my heart 
For you, whom best I love and honor most. 
But to your service I bequeath my ghost ; 
Which, from this morrUd body when untied, 
Unseen, unheard, shall hover at your side, 
Nor fright you waking, nor your sleep offend, 
But wait, officious, and your steps attend. 
How I have loved / Excuse my faltering tongue ; 
My spirifs feeble and my pains are strong ; 
This I may say : I only grieve to die, 
Because I lose my charming Emily J " 

JOHN. 

I am quite losing my patience. The sentiment of 
Giles Scroggins, and the verse of Blackmore ! Surely, 
nothing but the meanest servility to his original could 
excuse such slovenly workmanship as this. 

PHILIP. 

There is worse to come. Of its fidelity as a transla- 
tion you can judge for yourself, when you hear Chaucer. 

" ' To die when Heaven had put you in my power, 
Fate could not choose a more malicious hour I 
What greater curse could envious Fortune give 
Than just to die when I began to live ? 



16 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

Vain merif how vanishing a bliss we cra/oe / 
Now warm in love, now withenng in the grave/ 
Never, 0, never more to see the sun I 
Still dark in a damp vauU, and still alone I 
This fate is common.' " 

I wish you especially to bear in mind the lines I 
have emphasized. Notice, too, how the rhyme is 
impertinently forced upon the attention throughout. 
We can hardly help wondering if a nuncupatory testa- 
ment were ever spoken in verse before. There is none 
of this French lustre in Chaucer. 

" Arcite must die ; 
For which he sendeth after Emily, 
And Palamon, that was his cousin dear ; 
Then spake he thus, as je shall after hear : 
* Ne'er may the woful spirit in my heart 
Declare one point of all my sorrow's smart 
To you, my lady, that I love the most ; 
But I bequeath the service of my ghost 
To you aboven any cre-a-ture. 
Since that my life may now no longer dure. 
Alas, the woe ! alas, the pains so strong, 
That I for you have suffered, — and so long I 
Alas, the death I alas, mine Emily ! 
Alas, the parting of our company I 
Alas, my hearths true queen, alas, my wife I 
My heart's dear lady, ender of my life I 
What is this world ? What asketh man to have ? 
Now with his love, — ^now in his cold, cold grave, 
Alone, withouten any company I 
Farewell, my sweet I farewell, mine Emily I 
And softly take me in your armds twey (two arms), 
For love of God, and hearken what I say/ " 

JOHN. 

Perfect ! I would not have a word changed, except 



— ^ m m 



CHAUCER. 17 

the second "coW before "grave/' It takes away 
from the simplicity, and injures the effect accordingly. 
In the lines just before that, I could fancy that I heard 
the dying man gasp for breath. After hearing this, 
Dryden's exclamation-marks savor of the play-bills, 
where one sees them drawn up in platoons, as a body- 
guard to the name of an indifferent player, — their 
number being increased in proportion as the attraction 
diminishes. And in that seemingly redundant line, 

" Alone, withouten any company," 

how does the repetition and amplification give force and 
bitterness to the thought, as if Arcite must need dwell 
on his expected loneliness, in order to feel it fully! 
There is nothing here about " charming Emily," " en- 
vious Fortune," — no bandying of compliments. Death 
shows to Arcite, as he does mostly to those who are cut 
off suddenly in the May-time and blossom of the senses, 
as a bleak, bony skeleton, and nothing more. Dryden, 
I remember, in his " Art of Poetry," says, 

" Chaucer alone, fixed on this solid base, 
In his old style conserves a modem grace ; 
Too happy, if the freedom of his rhymes 
Offended not the method of our times." 

But if what you have read (unless you have softened 
it greatly) be a specimen of his rudeness, save us from 
such " method" as that of Dryden ! 

PHILIP. 

I hardly changed a syllable. The word to which 
you objected, as redundant, was an addition of my own 

2 



18 FIRST CONVERSATION, 

to eke out the measure ; " cold^" being pronounced as 
two syllables in Cliaueer^s time. The language of the 
heart never grows obsolete or antiquated, but falls as 
musically from the tongue now as when it was first 
uttered. Such lustiness and health of thought and 
expression seldom fail of leaving issue behind them. 
One may trace a family likeness to these in many of 
Spenser's lines, and I please myself sometimes with 
imagining pencil-marks of Shakespeare's against some 
of my favorite passages in Chaucer. At least, the 
relationship may be traced through Spenser, who calls 
Chaucer his master, and to whom Sliakespeare pays 
nearly as high a compliment. 

JOHN. 

I suppose you refer to the sonnet, usually printed 
with his, but now generally ascribed to some one else. 

PHILIP. 

To Barnaby Barnes ; but hardly, I would fain be- 
lieve, on sound authority. At any rate, there is enough 
in Shakespeare's earlier poems to prove that he admired 
Spenser fully to the measure of that sonnet. I know 
nothing more full of delight and encouragement than 
to trace the influence of one great spirit upon another. 
It adds to the dignity of both, and gives our love for 
them a nobler argument. How must Chaucer have 
become, for a moment, sweetly conscious of his laurel, 
even in paradise, at hearing his name spoken reverently 
by Spenser and Milton and Wordsworth ! 



CHAUCER. 19 

JOHN. 

I doubt if he were out of purgatory by the time 
Spenser wrote. You would pardon anything to a poet 
whom you love, and imagine him in paradise forthwith, 
when very likely his teeth are chattering on this side 
of the door. Chaucer had his sins to answer for. 

PHILIP. 

Nay, I fancy that, if the priests, whose cassocks he 
stripped from their shoulders, had the arrangement of 
the afterpiece, we must look for him where his bays will 
hardly keep him cool. It is true that I would pardon 
more to a poet, because he needs pardon the most. If 
he be not excellent, he needs it, because he has keener 
perceptions of goodness ; and if he be sinful, he needs 
it, because his temptation to evil is in like manner 
stronger, and his own imagination sometimes unlocks a 
postern for vice to enter at. God does not weigh crim- 
inality in our scales. We have one absolute standard, 
with the seal of authority upon it; and with us an 
ounce is an ounce, and a pound a pound. If we have 
winked while Bigotry and Superstition were tampering 
with the weights, adding a little to one, and stealing as 
much from another, to suit their convenience, it is our 
own fault. But God's measure is the heart of the 
offender, — a balance which varies with every one of us, 
a balance so delicate that a tear cast in the other side 
may make the weight of error kick the beam. The 
recording angel had but little trouble in footing 
Chaucer's account. The uncleanness of his age has left 
a smutch here and there upon his poems ; but it is only 
in the margin, and may be torn off without injuiy to 



20 FIRST CONVERSATION, 

\ the text. His love of beauty was too sincere not to 
; have made him truly pious. It was not a holyday 
dress^ folded up and lavendered for one day in the 
week ; but his singing-robe, which he wore into the by- 
lanes and hovels of every-day life. 

JOHN. 

After all, your Chaucer was a satirist, and you 
should, in justice, test him with the same acid which 
you applied so remorselessly to Pope. 

PHILIP. 

Chaucer^s satire is of quite another complexion. A 
hearty laugh and a thrust in the ribs are his weapons. 
He makes fun of you to your face, and, even if you. 
wince a little, you cannot help joining in his mirth. 
He does not hate a vice because he has a spite against 
the man who is guilty of it. He does not cry, " A rat 
r the arras ! '^ and run his sword through a defenceless 
old man behind it. But it is not for his humor, nor, 
indeed, for any one quality, that our old Chaucer is 
dear and sacred to me. I love to call him old Chaucer. 
The farther I can throw him back into the past, the 
dearer he grows ; so sweet is it to mark how his plain- 
ness and sincerity outlive all changes of the outward 
world. Antiquity has always something reverend in/ 
it. Even its most material and perishable form, which 
we see in pyramids, cairns, and the like, is brooded over 
by a mysterious presence which strangely awes us. 
Whatever has been hallowed by the love and pity, by 
the smiles and tears of men, becomes something more 
to us than the moss-covered epitaph of a buried age. 



CHA UCER, 21 

There was a meaning in the hieroglyphics, whidi 
ChampoUion could not make plainer. It is only from 
association with Man that anything seems olcL The 
quarries of the Nile may be coeval with the plant 
itself, yet it is only the still fresh dints of the Coptic 
chisel that gift them with the spell of ancientness. Let 
but the skeleton of a man be found among the remains 
of those extinct antediluvian monsters, and straightway 
that which now claimed our homage as a triumph of 
comparative anatomy shall become full of awe and 
mystery, and dim ii-ith the gray dawnlight of time. 
Once, from those shapeless holes, a human soul looked 
forth upon its huge empire of past and future. Once, 
beneath those crumbling ribs, beat a human heart, that 
seeming narrow isthmus between time and eternity, 
wherein there was yet room for hope and fear, and love 
and sorrow, to dwell, ^vith all their wondrous glooms 
and splendors. Before, we could have gone no farther 
back than Cuvier. Those mighty bones of ichthyr>«auri 
JEuid plesiosauri seemed rather a record of liis energy and 
patience, than of a living epoch in eartll^s history. 
Now, how modem and of to-day seem Slemnon and 
Elephanta ! If there be a venerablcness in any out- 
ward symbols, in which rude and dumb fashion the 
soul of man first strove to utter itself, how much more 
is there in the clearer and more inspired sentences of 
ancient lawgivers and poets ! 

JOHN. 

• 

You have contrived very adroitly to get the Deluge 
between us. I shall not attempt the perilous naviga- 
tion to your side, and can only wish you a safe return 



22 FIBST CONVERSATION. 

to mine. Camoens swam ashore from a shipwreck^ 
with the Lusiad in his teeth ; and I hope you will do 
as much for Chaucer. I long to hear more of him. 

PHILIP. 

It would be easier for me to emulate Waterton^s ride 
on the alligator's back^ and make an extempore steed 
of the most tractable-looking ichthyosaurus I can lay 
hands on. However, here I am safely back again. 
But before I read you anything else from Chaucer, I 
must please myself by praising him a little more. His 
simplicity often reminds me of Homer ; but, except in 
the single quality of invention, I prefer him to the 
Ionian. Yet we must remember that he shares this 
deficiency with Shakespeare, who scarcely ever scrupled 
to run in debt for his plots. 

JOHN. 

I cannot allow any poverty in Shakespeare. Writing, 
as he did, with hardly any aim beyond an immediate 
effect upon the stage, he instinctively felt how much 
easier it was to interest his audience in real charac- 
ters, and in stories with which they were familiar. 
Invent the moat ingenious plots for plays and panto- 
mimes, and give all the advantage of more exuberant 
decoration, yet the old stories of the Forty Thieves and 
Jack the Giant-killer will win the unanimous verdict 
of the nursery. 

PHILIP. 

I do not believe that Shakespeare never thought of 
posterity, nor that any man was ever endowed with 
marvellous powers without being conscious of it, and 



en A UCEB. 23 

desiring to make them felt. No man of genius was 
ever so fully appreciated by contemporaries as to make 
him forget the future. A poet must needs be beforel 
his own age, to be even with posterity. There wiUJ 
always be an uncomfortable simper and constraint 
about a man who is aware of the presence of a living 
audience ; but when he appeals to the future, he selects 
his hearers wholly from the noble and magnanimous,! 
and there is a grandeur in the eyes that look upon! 
him, which renders anything but sincerity and great- 
mindedness impossible. There is ample proof in 
Shakespeare's sonnets, the most private and personal 
record of himself which he has left us, and in the care 
with which he corrected his plays, that he wrote more 
for readers than for play-goers. 

But we must come back to Chaucer. There is in 
him the exuberant freshness and greenness of spring. 
Everything he touches leaps into full blossom. His 
gladness and humor and pathos are irrepressible as a 
fountain. Dam them with a prosaic subject, and they 
overleap it in a sparkling cascade that turns even the 
hindrance to a beauty. Choke them with a tedious 
theological disquisition, and they bubble up forthwith, 
all around it, with a delighted gurgle. There is no 
cabalistic Undine-stone or seal-of-Soloraon that can 
shut them up for ever. Beading him is like brushing 
through the dcAvy grass at sunrise. Everything is new 
and sparkling and fragrant. He is of kin to Belphoebe, 
whose 

" Birth was of the womb of morning dew, 
And her conception of the joyous prime." 



24 FIBST CONVERSATION. 

I speak now of what was truly Chaucer. I strip 
away from him all that belonged to the time in which 
he lived, and judge him only by what belongs equally 
to all times. For it is only in as far as a poet advance^ 
into the universal, that he approaches immortality/ 
There is no nebulosity of sentiment about him, no 
insipid vagueness in his sympathies. His first ^erit, 
the chief one in all art, is sincerity. He does not 
strive to body forth something which shall have a 
meaning; but, having a clear meaning in his heart, he 
gives it as clear a shape. Sir Philip Sydney was of his 
mind when he bade poets look into their own hearts and 
write. He is the most unconventional of poets, and the 
frankest. If his story be dull, he rids his hearers of 
all uncomfortable qualms by being himself the first to 
yawn. He would have fared but ill in our day, when 
the naked feelings are made liable to the penalties of 
an act for the punishment of indecent exposure. Very 
little care had he for the mere decencies of life. Were 
he alive now, I can conceive him sending a shudder 
through St. James's Coffee-house, by thrusting his knife 
into his mouth ; or making all Regent Street shriek for 
hartshorn, by giving a cab-driver as good as he sent, in 
a style that would have pleased old Burton. The 
highest merit of a poem is, that it reflects alike the 
subject and the poet. It should be neither ob- 
jective nor subjective exclusively. Reason should 
stand at the helm, though the wayward breezes of 
feeling must puff the sails. Nature has hinted at this 
by setting the eyes higher than the heart. Chaucer's' 
poems can claim more of the former than of the latter . 
of these excellencies. Observation of outward nature ' 



CHA UCEB. 26 

and life is more apparent in them than a deep inward 
experience, and it is the observation of a cheerful, un- 
wearied spirit. His innocent self-forgetfulness gives 
us the truest glimpses into his own nature, and, at the 
same time, makes his pictures of outward objects won- 
derfully clear and vivid. Though many of his poems/ 
are written in the first person, yet there is not a shade 
of egoism in them. It is but the simple art of the 
story-teller, to give more reality to what he tells. 

JOHN. 

Yes, it was not till our own day that the poets dis- 
coverjed what mystical significance had been lying dor- 
mant for ages in a capital I. It seems strange that a 
letter of such powerful bewitchment had not made part 
of the juggling wares of the Cabalists and Theurgists. 
Yet we find no mention of it in Kabbi Akiba or Cor- 
nelius Agrippa. Byron wrought miracles with it. I 
fear that tlie noble Stylites of modern song, who, from 
his lonely pillar of self, drew crowds of admiring vota- 
ries to listen to the groans of his self-inflicted misery, 
would have been left only to feel the cold and hunger 
of his shelterless pinnacle in Chaucer's simpler day. 

PHILIP. 

Yes, Byron always reminds me of that criminal 
who was shut in a dungeon, the walls of which grew 
every day narrower and narrower, till they crushed 
him at last. His selfishness walled him in, from the 
first ; so that he was never open to the sweet influences 
of nature, and those sweeter ones which the true heart 
finds in life. The sides of his jail were semi-transpa^ 



26 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

ent, giving him a muddy view of things immediately 
about him; but selfishness always builds a thick roof 
overhead, to cut off the heavenward gaze of the spirit. 
And how did it press the very life out of him, in the 
end! 

JOHN. 

Byron's spirit was more halt than his body. It had 
been well for him had he been as ashamed, or at least as 
conscious, of one as of the other. He should have been 
banished, like Philoctetes, to some Isle of Lemnos, where 
his lameness should not have been offensive and con- 
tagious. As it was, the world fell in love with the 
defect. Some malicious Puck had dropped the juice 
of love-in-idleness upon its eyes, and limping came 
quite into fashion. We have never yet had a true 
likeness of Byron. Leigh Hunt's, I think, is more 
faithful than Moore's. Moore never forget that his 
friend was a lord, and seemed to feel that he was pay- 
ing himself a side-compliment in writing a life of him. 
I always imagine Moore's portrait of Byron with an 
" I am, my dear Moore, youra &c.," written under it, 
as a specimen of his autography. But to our poet. 
You have given me a touch of his pathos ; let me hear 
some of the humor which you have commended so 
highly. 

PHILIP. 

Praise beforehand deadens the flavor of the wine ; so 
that, if you are disappointed, the blame must be laid 
upon me. I will read you a few passages from his 
" Nun's Priest's Tale." It has been modernized by 
Dryden, under the title of " The Cock and the Fox ;" 



CHA UCER. 27 

but he has lost much of the raciness of the original. I 
have chosen this tale, because it will, at the same time, 
give you an idea of his minute obsei'vation of nature. 
I shall modernize it as I read, preserving as much as 
possible the language, and, above all, tlie spirit of the 
original. But you must never forget how much our 
Chaucer loses by the process. The story begins with a 
description of the poor widow who owns the hero of 
the story, Sir Chaunticlere. Then we have a glimpse 
of the hero himself. The widow has 

" A yard enclose aU about 
With sticks, and also a dry ditch without, 
In which she had a cock hight Chaunticlere ; 
In aU the land for voice was not his peer ; 
Not merrier notes the merry organ plays 
"Within the churches upon holydays ; 
And surer was his crowing in his lodge 
Than is a clock, or abbey horologe : 
He knew by nature every step to trace 
Of the equinoctial in his native place, 
And when, fifteen degrees it had ascended, 
Then crew he so as might not be amended. 
His comb was redder than the fine corlLl, 
Embattled as it were a castle-wall ; 
His biU was black, and like the jet it shone ; 
Like azure were his legs and toes each one ; 
His nails were white as lilies in the grass, 
And like the burned gold his color was." 

JOHN. 

What gusto ! If he had been painting Arthur or 
Charlemagne, he would not have selected his colors 
with more care. Witliout pulling out a feather from 
his hero's cockhood, he contrives to give him a human 
interest. How admirable is the little humorous thrust 



28 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

at the astronomers, too, in restricting Sir Chaunticlere's 
knowledge of the heavenly motions to his own village ! 

PHILIP. 

Yes, Chaucer has the true poet's heart. One thing 
is as precious to him in point of beauty as another. 
He would have described his lady's cheek by the same 

! flower to which he has here likened the nails of Chaun- 

; ticlere. To go on with our story. 

" This gentle cock had in his governance 
Seven wifely hens to do him all pleasaunce, 
Of whom the fairest-colored in the throat 
Was known as the fair damsel Partelote ; 
Courteous she was, discreet and debonair, 
Companionable, and bore herself so fair, 
Sithence the hour she was a seven-night old, 
That truly she the royal heart did hold 
Of Chaunticlere bound fast in every limb : 
He loved her so, that it was well with him : 
But such a joy it was to hear them sing 
When that the bright sun in the east 'gan spring. 
In sweet accord I" 

Chaunticlere, one morning, awakens his fair wife 
Partelote by a dreadful groaning; and, on her asking 
the cause, informs her that it must have been the effect 
of a bad dream he had been haunted by. 

" * I dreamed, that, as I roamM up and down. 
Within our yard, I there beheld a beast. 
Like to a hound, that would have made arrest 
Upon my body, and have had me dead. 
His color Hwixt a yellow was and red, 
And tipped were his tail and both his ears 
With black« unlike the remnant of his hairs. 
His snout was small, and glowing were his eyes : 
Still, for his look, the heart within me dies.' " 



CHA UCEB. 29 

Partelote treats bis fears with scorn. She asks^ in- 
dignantly, 

" 'How darst you now for shame say to your love 
That anything could make you feel afeard ? 
Have you no manly heart, yet have a beard ? ' " 

She then gives him a lectins on the physiological 
causes of dreams, hints at a superfluity of bile, and 
recommends some simple remedy which her own house- 
wifely skill can concoct from herbs that grow within 
the limits of his own manor. She also quotes Cato's 
opinion of the small faith to be put in dreams. Her 
lord, who does not seem superior to the common preju- 
dice against having his wife make too liberal a display 
of her learning, replies by overwhelming her with an 
avalanche of weighty authorities, each one of which, 
he tells her, is worth more than ever Cato was. He 
concludes with a contemptuous defiance of all manner 
of doses, softening it toward his lady by an adroit 
compliment. 

** * But let us speak of mirth, and stint of this : 
Dame Partelote, as I have hope of bliss, 
Of one thing God hath sent me largest grace ; 
For, when I see the beauty of your face, 
You are so scarlet red about your eyes, 
That, when I look on you, my terror dies ; 
For just so sure as in principio 
Midier est hominis covfuaio 
(Madam, the meaning of this Latin is. 
Woman is man's chief joy and sovereign bliss), 
Whene'er I feel at night your downy side, 
I am so full of solace and of pride, 
That I defy the threatenings of my dream.* 
And, with that word, he flew down from the beam,^- 



30 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

For it was day, — and eke his spouses all ; 
And with a chuck he 'gan them for to call, 
For he had found a corn lay in the yard : 
Royal he was, and felt no more afeard ; 
He looketh as a lion eyes his foes, 
And roameth up and down upon his toes ; 
Scarcely he deigneth set his feet to ground ; 
He chucketh when a kernel he hath found, 
And all his wives run to him at his call." 

JOHN. 

What an admirable bam-yard picture ! The very- 
chanticleer of our childhood, whose parallel Bucks 
county and Dorking have striven in vain to satisfy our 
maturer vision with! A chanticleer whose memory 
writes Ichabod upon the most populous and palatial 
fowl-houses of manhood ! Chaucer's Pegasus ambles 
along as easily, and crops the grass and daisies of the 
roadside as contentedly, as if he had forgotten his wings. 

PHILIP. 

Yes, the work in hand is, for the time, noblest in the 
estimation of our poet. His eye never looks beyond 
it, or cheats it of its due regard by pining for 
something fairer and more worthy. The royalty is 
where he is, whether in hovel or palace. Nothing that 
God has not thought it beneath him to make does he 
deem it beneath him to study and prove worthy of all 
admiration. Wordsworth is like him in this. 

JOHN. 

True, but in Wordsworth the faculty was s( conscious 
acquisition, while in Chaucer it was an inborn gift. 



^ 



CHA UCER. 31 

"Wordsworth attained to it analytically, and so became 
a philosopher. Chaucer is always a poet. 

PHILIP. 

The artificial style of writing, which tyrannized when 
Wordsworth first became sensible of his own powers, so 
disgusted him as to wai'p his inborn poetical faith into 
a fanaticism. That which should have retained the 
flexible sensibility of a feeling became stiffened into a 
theory. He has beheld nature through a loophole, 
whence he could see but on one side of him, though 
there the view was broad and majestic. His eye 
has glorified whatever it looked upon, and tlie clod 
and the bramble have shared equally in transfiguration 
with the mountain and the forest. The cloud which 
the sun's alchemy transmutes to gold is, perhaps, not 
more grateful for that light than the smallest grass- 
blade which he shines upon ; but the eye reaps a richer 
harvest of consolement from it. I cannot look the gift- 
horse in the mouth, especially when he is the true steed 
of the Muses, but I should have been more grateful to 
Wordsworth for a larger bunch of lilies and less darnel. 
Yet his reducing the movements of his poetical nature 
to a principle, if it has straitened his revenues from 
some sources, has not been without its rewards also. It 
gave surety and precision to his eye, so that it looked at 
once through all outward wrappages to the very life 
and naked reality of things, and he has added more to 
our household words than any other poet since Shake- 
speare. Most of his work is solid, of the true Cyclopean 
build. There is no stucco about it, and it will bear the 
rudest weather of time. Of his defects 



32 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

" Kon ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa/' 

Chaucer reminds me oftenest of Crabbe, in the 
unstudied plainness of his sentiment, and the minute- 
ness of his descriptions. But, in Crabbe's poetry, 
Tyburn-tree is seen looming up in the distance, and 
the bell of the parish workhouse is heard jangling. It 
had been better for Crabbe if he had studied Chaucer 
more and Pope le&s. The frigid artificiality of his 
verse contrasts almost ludicrously with the rudeness of 
his theme. It is Captain Kidd in a starched cambric 
neckcloth and white gloves. When Chaucer describes 
his Shipman, we seem to smell tar. 

** There was also a shipman from far west, 
For aught, I know, in Dartmouth he abode ; 
"Well as he could upon a hack he rode, 
All in a shirt of tow-cloth to the knee ; 
A dagger hanging hj lace had he. 
About his neck, under his arm adown ; 
The summer's heat had made his hue all brown. 
He was a right good fellow certainly. 
And many a cargo of good wine had he 
Run from Bordeaux while the tidewaiter slept ; 
Of a nice conscience no great care he kept, 
If that he fought and had the upperhand, 
By water he sent them home to every land ; 
But in his craft to reckon well the tides, 
The deep sea currents, and the shoals besides, 
The sun's height and the moon's, and pilotage, — 
There was none such from Hull unto Carth^ ; 
Hardy he was and wise, I undertake ; 
His beard has felt full many a tempest's shake ; 
He knew well all the havens as they were 
From Gothland to the Cape de Finisterre, 
And every creek in Brittany and Spain ; 
His trusty bark was named the Magdelaine." 



CHA UCEB. 38 

JOHN. 

The "savage Rosa" never dashed the lights and 
shades upon one of his bandits with more bold and 
picturesque effect. How that storm-grizzled beard 
stands out from the canvass! The effect is so real 
that it seems as if the brown old sea-king had sat for 
his portrait, and that every stroke of the brush had 
been laid on within reach of the dagger hanging at his 
side. Witness the amiable tints thrown in here and 
there, to palliate a grim wrinkle or a shaggy eyebrow. 
The poet takes care to tell us that 

" He was a right good fellow certainly," 

lest his sitter take umbrage at the recital of his smug- 
gling exploits in the next ver^ And then with what j 
a rough kind of humor he lets us into the secret of his i 
murderous propensities, by hinting that he gave a passage 
home by water to those of whom he got the upperhand ! ( 
In spite of the would-be good-humored leer, the cut- 
throat look shows through. It may be very pleasant 
riding with him as far as Canterbury, and we might 
even laugh at his clumsiness in the saddle, but we feel 
all the while tliat we had rather not be overhauled by 
him upon the high seas. His shoii: and easy method 
of sending acquaintances thus casually made to their 
respective homes, by water, we should not be inclined 
to admire so much as he himself would ; especially if, 
as a preliminary step, he should attempt to add to the 
convenience of our respiratory organs with that ugly 
dagger of his, by opening a larger aperture somewhere 
nearer to the lungs. We should be inclined to distrust 

3 



34 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

those extraordinary powers of natation for which he 
would give us credit. Even Lord Byron, I imagine, 
would dislike to mount that steed that " knew its rider ^' 
so well, or even to " lay his hand upon its mane/' if 
our friend, the Shipman, held the stirrup. 

PHILIP. 

The whole prologue to the Canterbury Tales is 
equally admirable, but there is not time for me to read 
the whole. You must do that for yourself. I only 
give you a bunch or two of grapes. To enjoy the fruit 
in its perfection, you must go into the vineyard yourself, 
and pluck it with the bloom on, before the flavor of 
sunshine has yet faded out of it ; enjoying the play of 
light upon the leaves also, and the apt disposition of the 
clusters, each lending a grace to the other. 

JOHN. 

Your metaphor pleases me. I like the grapes better 
than the wine which is pressed out of them, and they 
seem to be a fitting emblem of Chaucer's natural inno- 
cence. Elizabeth Barrett, a woman whose genius I 
admire, says very beautifully of Chaucer, 

" Old Chaucer, with his infantine, 
Familiar clasp of things divine, — 
That stain upon hie lips is wineJ* 

I had rather think it pure grape-juice. The fii*st two 
lines take hold of my heart so that I believe them intu- 
itively, and doubt not but my larger acquaintance with 
Chaucer will prove them to be true. 



t 
\ 



I 
\ 



CHA VCER 36 

PHILIP. 

I admire them as much as you do, and to me they 
seem to condeose all that can be said of Chaucer. But 
one must know him thoroughly to feel their truth and 
fitness fully. At the first glimpse you get of his face, 
you are struck with the merry twinkle of his eye, and 
the suppressed smile upon his lips, which betrays itself 
as surely as a child in playing hide-and-seek. It is 
hard to believe that so happy a spirit can have ever felt 
the galling of that 

"Chain wherewith we are darkly bound," 

or have beaten its vain wings against the insensible 
gates of that awful mystery whose key can never be 
enticed from the hand of the warder. Death. But 
presently the broad, quiet forehead, the look of patient 
earnestness, and the benignant reverence of the slightly 
bowed head, make us quite forget the lightsome impres- 
sion of our fii-st look. Yet in the next moment it 
comes back upon us again more strongly than ever. 
Humor is always a main ingredient in highly poetical 
natures. It is almost always the superficial indication 
of a rich vein of pathos, nay, of tragic feeling, below. 
Wordsworth seems to be an exception. Yet there is a 
gleam of it in his sketch of that philosopher 

" Who could peep and botanize 
Upon his mother's grave," 

and of a grim, reluctant sort in some parts of Peter 
Bell and the Wagoner. But he was glad to sink a 
shaft beneath the surface, where he could gather the 



36 FIBST CONVERSATION. 

more precious ore, and dwell retired from the jeers of 
a boorish world. In Chaucer's poetry the humor is 
playing all the time round the horizon, like heat-light- / 
ning. It is unexpected and unpredictable ; but, as soon 
as you turn away from watching for it, behold, it 
flashes again as innocently and softly as ever. It 
mingles even with his pathos, sometimes. The laugh- 
ing eyes of Thalia gleam through the tragic mask she 
holds before her face. In spite of your cold-water 
prejudices, I must confess that I like Miss Barrett^s 
third line as well as the others. But while we are 
wandering so far from the poor old widow^s yard, that 
fox, " full of iniquity," 

" That new Iscariot, new Ganelon, 
That false dissimulator, Greek Sindn." 

as Chaucer calls him, may have made clean away with 
our noble friend Sir Chaunticlere. 

JOHN. 

Now, Esculapius defend thy bird! The Romans 
believed that the lion himself would strike his colors at 
the crowing of a cock, — a piece of natural history to 
which the national emblems of England and France 
have figuratively given the He. But cunning is often 
more serviceable than bravery, and Sir Kussel the fox 
may achieve by diplomacy the victory to which the 
lion was not equal. 

PHILIP. 

We shall see. Diplomatists are like the two Yankees 
who swapped jacknives together till each had cleared 



CHA UCEB. 37 

five dollars. Such a Sir Philip Sydney among cocks, 
at least, could not fall without a burst of melodious 
tears from every civilized barnyard. The poet, after 
lamenting that Sir Chaunticlere had not heeded better 
the boding of his dream, warns us of the danger of 
woman's counsel, from Eve's time downward; but 
takes care to add, 

" These speeches are the cock's, and none of mme ; 
For I no harm of woman can divine." 

He then returns to his main argument; and no one, 
who has not had poultry for bosom-friends from child- 
hood, can appreciate the accurate grace and pastoral 
humor of his descriptions. The fox, meanwhile, has 
crept into the yard and hidden himself. 

" Fair in the sand, to hathe her merrily, 
Lies Partelote, and all her sisters by, 
Against the sun, and Chaunticlere so free 
Sang merrier than the mermaid in the sea 
(For Physiologus saith certainly 
How that they sing both well and merrily), 
And so befell, that, as he cast his eye 
Among the worts upon a butterfly, 
'Ware was he of the fox that lay full low ; 
Nothing it lists him now to strut or crow, 
But cries anon, Cuk ! cuk I and up doth start. 
As one that is aflrayM in his heart.'' 

The knight would have fled, as there are examples 
enough in Froissart to prove it would not have dis- 
graced his spurs to do, considering the greatness of the 
odds against him, but the fox plies him with courteous 
flattery. He appeals to Sir Chaunticlere's pride of 
birth, pretends to have a taste in music, and is desirous 



38 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

of hearing him sing, hoping all the while to put his 
tuneful throat to quite other uses. A more bitter fate 
than that of Orpheus seems to be in store for our 
feathered son of Apollo; since his spirit, instead of 
hastening to joi.n that of his Eurydice, must rake for 
corn in Elysian fields, with the bitter thought, that not 
one but seven Eurydices are cackling for him " superia 
in auris.'^ The fox 



" Says, ' Gentle Sir, alas ! what will 70U do ? 
Are you afraid of him that is your friend? 
Now, certes, I were worse than any fiend, 
If I to you wished harm or villany ; 
I am not come your counsel to espy. 
But truly all that me did hither bring 
Was only for to hearken how you sing ; 
For, on my word, your voice is merrier even 
Than any angel hath that is in heaven. 
And you beside a truer feeling show. Sir, 
Than did Boece, or any great composer. 
My Lord, your father (God his spirit bless ! 
And eke your mother, for her gentleness) 
Hath honored my poor house to my great ease, 
And, certes. Sir, fuU fain would 1 you please. 
But, since men talk of singing, I wiU say 
(Else may I lose my eyes this very day), 
Rave you, I never heard a mortal sing 
As did your father at the daybreaking ; 
Certes, it was with all his heart he sung. 
And, for to make his voice more full and strong. 
He would so pain him, that with either eye 
He needs must wink, so loud he strove to cry, 
And stand upon his tiptoes therewithal, 
And stretch his comely neck forth long and smalL 
Discretion, too, in him went hand in hand 
With music, and no man in any land 
In wisdom or in song did him surpass.' " 



CHA UCEB. 39 

JOHN. 

I thought Chaucer's portrait of the son perfect, till 
Sir Russel hung up his of the father beside it. Why, 
Vandyke himself would look chalky beside such flesh 
and blood as this. Such a cock, one would think, might 
have served a score of Israelites for a sacrifice at their 
feast of atonement, or have been a suflScient thank- 
offering to the gods for twenty Spartan victories. 
Stripped of his feathers, Plato would have taken him 
for something more than human. It must have been 
such a one as this that the Stoics esteemed it as bad 
as parricide to slay.* 

PHILIP. 

The fox continues. 



«( ( 



Let's see, can you your father counterfeit ? * 
This Chaunticlere his wings began to beat, 
As one that could not his foul treason spy, 
So was he ravished by his flattery. 

Sir Chaunticlere stood high upon his toes. 
Stretched forth his neck and held his eyes shut close. 
And 'gan to crow full loudly for the nonce. 
When Dan Eussel, the fox, sprang up at once, 
And by the gorget seized Sir Chaunticlere, 
And on his back toward the wood him bare.'' 

Forthwith the seven wives begin a sorrowful ulula- 
tion ; Dame Partelote, in her capacity as favorite, 
shrieking more sovereignly than the rest. Another 
Andromache, she sees her Hector dragged barbarously 
from the walls of his native Ilium, whose defence and 

* Cicero, Orat. pro L. Muraend., J XXIX. 



40 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

prop he had ever been. Then follows a picture which 
surpasses even Hogarth. 

" The luckless widow and her daughters two, 
Hearing the hens cry out and make their woe, 
Out at the door together rushed anon, 
And saw how toward the wood the fox is gone, 
Bearing upon his back the cock away ; 
They cried, ' Out, out, alas ! and welaway I 
Aha, the fox I * and after him they ran. 
And, snatching up their staves, ran many a man ; 
Ran Col, the dog, ran Talbot and Gerlind, 
And Malkin, with her distaff in her hand ; 
Ran cow and calf, and even the very hogs, 
So frighted with the barking of the dogs, 
And shouting of the men and women eke. 
Ran till they thought their hearts would break, 
And yelled as fiends in hell have never done ; 
The ducks screamed, thinking that their sand was run ; 
The geese, for fear, flew cackling o'er the trees ; 
Out of their hive buzzed forth a swarm of bees ; 
So hideous was the noise, ah, benedvcUe ! 
Certes, not Jack Straw and his varletry 
Raised ever any outcry half so shrill. 
When they some Fleming were about to kill, 
As that same day was made about the fox : 
Vessels of brass they brought forth and of box. 
And horns and bones, on which they banged and blew ; 
It seemed the very sky would split in two. 



The cock, who lay upon the fox's back. 

In all his dread unto his captor spake. 

And said : * Most noble Sir, if I were you, 

I would (as surely as God's help I sue) 

Cry, " Turn again, ye haughty villains all I 

A very pestilence upon you fall ! 

Now I am come unto the forest's side, 

Maugre your heads, the cock shall here abide ; 

I will him eat, i' faith, and that anon.' " 

Answered the fox, * Good sooth, it shall be done I ' 



CHAUCER. 41 

And, as he spake the word, all suddenly, 
The cock broke from his jaws deliverly. 
And high upon a tree he flew anon. 
And when the fox saw that the cock was gone, 
^ Alas I O Chaunticlere, alas I ' quoth he, 

* I have, 't is true, done you some injury, 
In that I made you for a while afeard. 

By seizing you from forth your native yard ; 
But, Sir, I did it with no ill intent ; 
Come down, and I will tell you what I meant, 
God help me as I speak the truth to you ! ' 

* Nay,' quoth the other, * then beshrew us two, 
But first beshrew myself both blood and bones, 
If thou beguile me oftener than once ; 
Never again shalt thou by flattery 

Make me to sing and wink the while mine eye ; 
For he that winketh, when he most should see. 
Deserves no help from Providence, pardie.' " 



JOHN. 

So our friend Sir Chaunticlere escapes after all. The 
humorous moral of the stoiy is heightened by the cun- 
ning Reynard's being foiled with his own weapons. 
The bare fact of enduing animals with speech and] 
other human properties is, in itself, highly ludicrous, 1 
Fables always inculcate magnanimity. To see our ) 
weaknesses thus palpably bodied forth in their appro- / 
priate animal costume brings them down fi'om the false ■ 
elevation to which their association with ourselves had 
raised them. The next time we meet them in life 
their human disguise drops off, and the ape or the owl 
takes our own place or that of our friend. That trea- 
tise of Baptista Porta's, in which he traces the likeness 
between men's faces and those of animals, is painful 
and shocking; but when we casually note a human 



42 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

expression in the countenance of a brute, it is merely 
laughable. In the former instance the mind is carried 
downward, and in the latter upward. To children there 
is nothing humorous in JEsop. They read his fables 
as soberly as they afterwards read Scott's novels. The 
moral is always skipped, as tedious. The honey-bag is 
all they seek ; the sting is of no use, save to the bee. Yet, 
afterwards, we find that Lucian and Eabelais are dull 
beside ^sop ; and the greater the seeming incongruity 
the greater the mirth. 

PHILIP. 

Chaucer was aware of this, when he put so much 
pedantry into the mouth of Chaunticlere ; and the fox's 
allusion to Boethius makes me laugh in spite of myself. 
Chaunticlere's compliment to Dame Partelote, too, 
where he expresses the intense satisfaction which he 
feels in observing that 

" She is so scarlet red about her eyes," 

is the keenest of satires upon those lovers who have 
sung the bodily perfections of their mistresses, and who 
have set their affections, as it were, upon this year's 
leaves, to fall off with them at the bidding of the first 
November blast of fortune. It was a Platonic notion, 
to which Spenser gave in his allegiance, that a fair 
spirit always chose a fair dwelling, and beautified it the 
more by its abiding. It is the sweetest apology ever 
invented for a physical passion. But I do not like this 
filching of arrows from heavenly love, to furnish forth 
the quiver of earthly love withal. Love is the most 
hospitable of spirits, and adorns the interior of his home 



CHA UCER. 43 

for the nobler welcome, not the exterior for the more 
lordly show. It is not the outside of his dwelling that 
invites, but the soft domestic murmur stealing out at 
the door, and the warm, homely light gushing from the 
windows. No matter into what hovel of clay he enterS| 
that is straightway the palace, and beauty holds her 
court in vain. I doubt if Chaucer were conscious of ' 
his sarcasm, but I can conceive of no more cutting 
parody than a sonnet of Chaunticlere's upon his mis- 
tress's comb or beak, or other gallinaceous excellency.] 
Imagine him enthusiastic over her sagacity in the hunt- 
ing of earthworms, and her grace in scratching for them 
with those toes 

" White 83 lilies in the grass/' 

standing upon one leg as he composed a quatrain upon 
her tail-feathers, and finally losing himself in the 
melodious ecstasy of her cackle ! 

There is certainly, as you have said, something ludi- 
crous in the bare idea of animals indued with human 
propensities and feelings, and the farther away we get 
from any physical resemblance, the more keenly moved 
is our sense of humor. That king-making jelly of the 
bees strips Nicholas and Victoria of their crowns and 
ermine, and makes them merely forked radishes, like 
the rest of us. And when I learned that there was 
domestic slavery among certain species of the ants, I 
could not but laugh, as I imagined some hexapodal 
McDuffie mounted upon a cherry-stone, and convincing 
a caucus of chivalrous listeners of their immense supe- 
riority to some neighboring hill, whose inhabitants got 



44 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

in their own harvest of bread-crumbs and dead beetles, 
unaided by that patiiarchal machinery. 

JOHN. 

The passage you first read me from the death-scene 
of Arcite moved me so much that I cannot help wish- 
ing you would read me something more in the same 
kind. 

PHILIP. 

I were no true lover, if I were to express any fear 
of your being disappointed. Yet I know not if you 
and I shall be equally pleased. The very gnarliest and 
hardest of hearts has some musical strings in it. But 
they are tuned differently in every one of us, so that 
the selfsame strain, which wakens a thrill of sympa- 
thetic melody in one, may leave another quite silent 
and untouched. For whatever I love, my delight 
mounts to an extravagance. There are verses which 
I cannot read without tears of exultation, which to 
others are merely indifferent. These simple touches, 
scattered here and there by all great writers, which 
make me feel that I, and every most despised and 
outcast child of God that breathes, have a common 
humanity with those glorious spirits, overpower me. 
Poetry has a' key which unlocks some more inward 
cabinet of my nature than is accessible to any other 
. power. I cannot explain it, or account for it, or say 
what faculty it appeals to. The chord which vibrates 
strongly becomes blurred and invisible in proportion to 
the intensity of its impulse. Often the mere rhyme, 
the cadence and sound of the words, awaken this 



€HA UCEB. 46 

strange feeling in me. Not only do all the happy 
associations of my earthly life, that before lay scat- 
tered, take beautiful shapes, like iron dust at the 
approach of the magnet; but something dim and 
vague, beyond these, moves itself in me, with the 
uncertain sound of a far-off sea. My sympathy with 
remotest eld becomes that of a bystander and an actor. 
Those noble lines of Shakespeare, in one of his sonnets, 
drop their veil of mysticism, and become modern and 
ordinary : — 

''No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change, 
Thy pyramids, built up with newer might, 
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange ; 
They are but dressings of a former sight." 

The grand symphony of Wordsworth's Ode rolls 
through me, and I tremble, a^ the air does with the 
gathering thunders of the organ. My clay seems to 
have a sympathy with the mother earth whence it was 
taken, to have a memory of all that our orb has ever 
witnessed of great and noble, of sorrowful and glad. 
With the wise Samian, I can touch the mouldering 
buckler of Euphorbus and claim an interest in it deeper 
than th^t of its antiquity. I have been the bosom- 
friend of Leander and of Romeo. I seem to go behind 
MussBUs and Shakespeare, and to get my intelligence at 
first hand. Sometimes, in my sorrow, a line from 
Spenser steals in upon my memory as if by some 
vitality and external volition of its own, like a blast 
from the distant trump of a knight pricking toward 
the court of Faerie ; and I am straightway lifted out 
of that sadness and shadow into the sunshine of a 



46 FIRST CONVERSATION. 

previous and long-agone experience. Often, too, this 
seemingly lawless species of association overcomes me 
with a sense of sadness. Seeing a waterfall or a forest 
for the first time, I have a feeling of something gone, a 
vague regret, that, in some former state, I have drunk 
up the wine of their beauty, and left to the defrauded 
present only the muddy lees. Yet, again, what divine 
over-compensation, when the same memory (shall I call 
it?), or fantasy, lets fall a drop of its invisible elixur into 
my cup, and I behold to-day, which before showed but 
forlorn and beggared, clothed in the royal purple, and 
with the golden sceptre of a line of majestical ancestry ! 

JOHN. 

If I do not understand all that you say, I can at 
least prove my superiority to vulgar prejudice by be- 
lieving in your sincerity. A base mind always takes 
that for cant in another, which would be such in itself, 
and is apt to blame any innocent assertion of peculiar- 
ity for assumption. Yet, in fact, what is peculiar to 
any one is not only all that is of worth in him, but is 
also the most likely to be showing itself on all occa- 
sions. Poetry does not convey the same impressions to 
my mind as to yours, but other things have sometimes 
given me a feeling akin to what you describe. 

PHILIP. 

When you speak thus of poetry, you restrict it to 
what has been written by the poets, which is but a 
small part of it yet. In attributing a certain mystical 
influence to peculiar associations, I said more than I 
meant to have done. But it is better to say more than 



CHA UCEB. 47 

less, and, if I err, may it always be rather upon the 
side of confidence tlian of suspicion. I intended to 
imply that our tastes are so arbitrary as entirely to 
forbid the establishment of a code of criticism. I 
doubt if any better reasoning can be given for our 
likings than the Latin poet gave for his dislikes. We 
can assert them, but when we strive to explain and 
apologize for them, we are quite likely to lose ourselves 
in a mire of cant and conventionality. It may be said 
that it is truth in every case that delights us ; but the 
next question is Pilate's — " What is truth ? '^ It is a 
different thing (let me rather say it assumes a different 
aspect) to each of us, and thus is equally amiable to 
all. How shall we explain it ? Here is a man who is 
a scholar and an artist, who knows precisely how every 
effect has been produced by every great writer that 
ever lived, and who is resolved to reproduce them. 
But the heart passes by his pitfalls and traps and care- 
fully planned springes, to be taken captive by some 
simple fellow, who expected the event as little as did 
his prisoner. The critics fix upon one writer as a 
standard, and content themselves for a century or two 
with measuring everybody else by him. They justly 
enough consider that criticism should be conservative ; 
but their idea of conservatism is that of a Fakir, who 
deems it religion to stand upon one l^g till all its 
muscles become palsied and useless. In the course of 
time, their system, if it ever had vitality, becomes 
effete. If they commend Hercules, it is for his skill 
at Omphale's distaff, till the delightful impropriety of 
their criticism gets them laughed off the stage. Criti- 
cism seems to be the only profession into which men 



48 FIRST CONVERSATION, 

can jump without any training, and have their judg- 
ments allowed. Yet the criticism of any work of art 
demands not only greater natural abilities, but more 
strenuous and self-sacrificing previous study, than that 
of an essay in physical or astronomical science. Men, 
whose capacity for the divine eloquence of music could 
be filled to overflowing with the muddy inspirations of 
a barrel-organ, undertake to pronounce off-hand upon 
the melody of Apollo's lute. Most professional criticsi 
are endowed with the ears of Midas without the trans- 
forming properties of his touch, and they emulate thei 
taste of the animal whose most striking outward cha-l 
racteristic they wear in choosing only the burdocks and^. 
tliistles of an author for their critical aliment. If a^ 
man must hang his nest in the boughs of a poem, let 
him rather imitate the oriole, which adds a beauty to 
the tree, than the woodpecker, which gains its liveli- 
hood by picking it full of holes. 

In fact, the only safe method is to point out what 
parts of a poem please the critic, and to let the rest go. 
Posterity will reverse our judgments ninety-nine times 
in the hundred, and it is certainly better to be censured 
for kindness than for severity. If the poets have not 
been dull, they have at least been the causes of a lavish 
prodigality of dulness in other men. Taste is the next 
gift to genius. They are the Eros and Anteros of Art. 
Without his brother, the firet must remain but a child 
still. Poets are vulgarly considered deficient in the; 
reasoning faculty ; whereas none was ever a great poet, 
without having it in excess, and, after a century or two, 
men become convinced of it. They jump the middle ' 
terms of their syllogisms, it is true, and assume pre- 



CHA UCER 49 

mises to which the world has not yet arrived ; but time 
stamps their deductions as invincible. Taste is ihat\ 
faculty which at once perceives, and hails as true, ideas 
which yet it has not the gift of discovering itself. It 
is not something to be educated and fostered, but is as 
truly innate as the creative fiiculty itself. A man with 
what is blunderingly called an educated taste is inca* ■ 
pable of aught but the classic ; that is, he recognizes iii / 
a new work that which makes the charm of an oldy 
one, and pronounces it worthy of admiration accord-' 
ingly. Put the right foot of the Apollo forward in- 
stead of the left, and call it Philip of Pokanoket, and 
he is in ecstasies over a work at once so truly national 
and classic. He would have stood dumb, and with an 
untouched heart, before the Apollo fresh from the chisel 
of the sculptor. 

JOHN. 

Very likely. This faculty of taste, which I agree 
with you in thinking innate, is the fii'st great requisite 
of a critic. Learning, ingenuity, and boldness are 
merely itsjiandmaidens. Our critics have been inter- 
esting in one regard ; they have experimentally demon- 
strated how long a man will live after the brains are 
out This aspect, however, is for the physiologists. 
No critic tliat ever lived would have the hardihood to 
foretell the precise hues of to-morroVs sunset, and 
then tor complain if it gave him an acre of purple and 
gold more or less. Yet the same man would confi- 
dently reduce Art to a chessboard, upon which all the 
combinations are mathematically calculable and ex- 
haustible, and compel genius, whose very essence is 



50 FIRST CONVERSATION, 

freedom, to confine itself to these little arbitrary 
squares of black and white. 

PHILIP. 

And yet the next development of genius is as unpre- 
dictable as the glory of the next sunset. The critics 
tell us the day for epics has gone by. Wait till the 
master comes, and see. Everything is impossible till 
it is done ; and when the man has come and accom- 
plished his work, the world says. Am I thousands of 
years old, to he gravelled in my horn-book? The 
world has been to blame in this matter. It has allowed 
those to be critics who were unfit for anything else. 
Criticism has been the manor and glebe of those who 
had no other inheritance, as the Church used to be to 
the younger sons of the aristocracy in England. And 
the lion's hide of anonymousness, through which only 
the judicious catch sight of the betraying ears, has 
often endued Zoilus with a terror not his OAvn. 

JOHN. 

After all, they have only interfered with the larder 
of genius. They keep it upon a spare diet, that it may 
sup the more heartily with the Muses. Hunger has 
WTcnched many a noble deed from men ; but there is a 
corrupting leaven of self in all that Ambition can 
caress out of them, which soon turns it quite stale and 
musty. Impieties venter non vult studere libenter was 
the old monkish jingle, and let us be grateful in due 
measure to the critics who have made the poets unwill- 
ingly illustrate it. 



CHAUCEB. 51 

PHILIP. 

Surely, you jest. A greasy savor of the kitchen 
intrudes itself into whatever is done for the belly's 
sake. No. What a man pays for bread and butter is 
worth its market value, and no more. What he pays 
for love's sake is gold indeed, which has a lure for 
angels' eyes, and rings well upon God's touchstone. 
And it is love that has inspired all true hearts. This 
is the ample heritage of the poets, and it is of this they 
have made us heirs. When the true poet is bom, a 
spirit becomes incarnate which can embrace the whole 
rude earth as with the soft arms of a glorifying atmo- 
sphere. The inarticulate moan of the down-trodden 
he shall clothe in language, and so wing it with divine 
music that the dullest heart shall look up to see it 
knocking at heaven's gate. The world's joy, erewhile 
a leaden cloud, shall turn golden under his sunlike look. 
And when such a spirit comes forth from its heavenly 
palace, where it had been wrapped softly in the impe- 
rial purple of noble purposes and happy dreams, and 
tended by all the majestical spirits of the past, — when 
it comes forth in obedience to the beckonings of these 
its benignant guardians, saying, " Behold, my brethren 
are ahungered and I will feed them ; they are athirst 
and I will give them drink ; my plenty is for them, 
else is it beggary and starving," — and is jeered at and 
flouted because it can speak only the tongue of the 
heaven whence it came, now foreign and obsolete, — 
what bewildering bitterness, what trembling even to 
the deep Godward bases of faith, what trustfulness 
mocked into despair, become its portion ! The love, 



52 FmST COSTEESATIOS: 

die hapCy the fiuth, wlikii it Ind sent out before it to 
bing it tidii^ of tlie &ir Imd of pronude, oome back 
pak and weaij, and cnr for food in vmin to the fiunish- 
ii^ heart which oooe so rojalhr entertaiDed them. The 
beautiful humanin', a visioD o£ which had braced the 
^news of its nature, and had made all thii^ the vas- 
sals of its monarch ere, seems to it now but as a 
sphinx, fix>m whose unchangeable and stcHij orbs it can 
win no look of recognition, and whose granite lips 
move not at its despoirii^ or. You smile, but let me 
think it is for sympathy. A sne^ is the weapon of 
the weak. Like other devil's weapons, it is always 
canningly ready to our hand, and there is more poison 
in the handle than in tlie point But how many noble 
hearts have writhed with its venomous stab, and fes- 
tered >vith its subtle malignity ! 

JOHN. 

Yet from some of its hurts a celestial ichor flows, as 
from a wounded god. I would hardly change the sor- 
rowful words of the poets for their glad ones. TSiirs 
dampen the strings of the lyre, but they grow the 
tenser for it, and ring even the clearer and more rav- 
ishingly. We may be but the chance acquaintance of 
him who has made us the sharer of his joy, but he who 
has admitted us to the sanctuary of his grief has made 
us partakers also of the dignity of friendship. Sori'ow, 
you will allow, if not scorn or neglect, is a good school- 
master for poets. Why, it has wrenched one couplet 
of true poetry out of Dr. Johnson. 



CHA UCEB. 53 

PHILIP. 

You mean that one in his "Vanity of Human 
Wishes," 

"There mark what ills the scholar's life assail, — 
Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail." 

You might have instanced, too, his letter to Lord 
Chesterfield, though it be not in verse. But ill-for- 
tune, if it bring out the poetry of a prosaic nature, 
will but deaden a highly poetical one. 

JOHN. 

Our conversation must here end for to-day. To- 
morrow I will give you a chance to lecture farther 
upon your favorite topics. 

PHILIP. 

In spite of the covert satire conveyed in your allu- 
sion to lectures, I will readily forgive it in consideration 
of the commendable patience you have displayed. 
Till to-morrow, then, farewell. 



SECOND CONVERSATION. 



CHAUCER. 

PHILIP. 

Good morning. Your experience of my laboratory, 
I am glad to see, has not made you miwilling to become 
my prisoner again. 

JOHN. 

I only ask, most enthasiastic alchemist, that, in your 
search after gold, you will not put any such explosive 
material into your crucible as shall send us on a voyage 
through the roof in search of our El Dorado. With 
this proviso, let us to our experiments again. 

You agreed with me in my praise of Elizabeth 
Barrett's lines; can you give me an illustration of 
Chaucer's 

" Infantine, 
Familiar, clasp of things divine"? 

PHILIP. 

It would be difficult. An author's piety cannot be j 
proved from the regular occurrence of certain decorums / 
and respectabilities of religion in his works,' but from a! 
feeling which permeates tlie whole. I have read books 
in which the name of God was never once so much as 
alluded to, which yet irresistibly persuaded me of the 

54 



CHA UCEB, 55 

writer's faith in him and childlike love of him. And 
I have read others, where that blessed name, with a 
parenthetical and systematic piety, made part of every 
sentence, and only impressed me like the constantly 
recurring figures upon calico. There is no intentional 
piety about Chaucer, no French collar-and-wristband 
morality, too common in our day. Now, certain days of 
the week, and certain men, seem to claim a monopoly in 
religion. It is something quite too costly and precious 
to make part of every day's furniture. We must not 
carry it into the street or the market, lest it get soiled. 
We doff it and hang it up as easily as a Sunday suit. 
The ancients esteemed it sacrilege to touch what was 
set apart for the gods. Many of our own time imitate 
that ethnic scrupulousness, and carefully forbear religi- 
on, yet are deemed pious men, too. In Chaucer, you 
will find a natural piety everywhere shining through, 
mildly and equably, like a lamp set in an alabaster 
vase. The wise man maintains a hospitable mind. He 
scruples not to entertain thoughts, no matter how 
strange and foreign they may be, and to ask news of 
them of realms which he has never explored. He has 
no fear of their stirring any treason under his own 
roof. Chaucer apparently acted upon this prinjciple. 
He loved speculation, and, when he was running down 
some theological dogma, he does not mind leaping the 
church inclosure, and pursuing his prey till it takes 
refuge under the cassock of the priest himself. But, 
though he seems not to set much store by forms and 
outward observances, he is quite too near the days of 
wonder and belief and earnestness not to be truly 
religious. 



56 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

The earliest poetry of all countries is sacred poetry, 
or that in which the idea of God predominates and is 
developed. The first effort at speech which man's 
nature makes in all tongues is, to pronounce the word 
" Father." Reverence is the foundation of all poetry. 
From reverence the spirit climbs on to love, and thence 
beholds all things. No matter in what Scythian 
fashion these first recognitions of something above and 
beyond the soul are uttered, they contain the germs of 
psalms and prophecies, Whetlier, for a while, the 
immortal guest rests satisfied with a Fetish or an 
Apollo, it has already grasped the clew which leads 
unerringly to the very highest idea. For reverence is 
the most keen-eyed and exacting of all the faculties, 
and, if there be the least flaw in its idol, it will kneel 
no longer. From wood it rises to gold and ivory; 
from these, to the yet simpler and more majestic mar- 
ble ; and, planting its foot upon that, it leaps upward to 
the infinite and invisible. Let our external worship be 
paid to what gods you will, the soul is restless and 
dissatisfied until she has soared into the higher region 
of that true piety in whose presence creeds and forms 
become mere husks and straw. Always in her intimate 
recesses the soul builds an altar to the unknown God, 
and it is here that Poesy makes her sacrifices and 
officiates as authorized priestess. When I assume rev- 
erence, then, as the very primal essence and life of 
poetry, I claim for it a nobler stirp than it has been 
the fashion to allow it. Beyond Adam runs back its 
illustrious genealogy. It stood with Uriel in the sun, 
and looked down over the battlements of heaven with 
the angelic guards. In short, it is no other than the 



CHA UCEB, 57 

religious sentiment itself. That is poetry which makes 
sorrow lovely, and joy solemn to us, and reveals to us 
the holiness of things. Faith casts herself upon her 
neck as upon a sister's. She shows us what glimpses 
we get of life's spiritual face. What she looks on 
becomes miraculous, though it be but the dust of the 
wayside ; and miracles become but as dust, for their 
simpleness. There is nothing noble without her; with 
her there can be nothing mean. What songs the 
Druids sang within the sacred circuit of Stonehenge we 
can barely conjecture ; but those forlorn stones doubt- 
less echoed with appeals to a higher something ; and 
are not even now without their sanctity, since they 
chronicle a nation's desire after God, Whether those 
forest-priests worshipped the strangely beautiful ele- 
ment of fire, or if the pilgrim Belief pitched her tent 
and for a night rested in some ruder and bleaker creed, 
there we may yet trace the light footsteps of Poesy, as 
she led her sister onward to fairer fields, and streams 
flowing nearer to the oracle of God. 

JOHN. 

With you, then, the reading of any poet must begin, 
like the Romish missal, with a sursum corda. It is no 
wonder that you are so sore against the critics, for they 
usually reverse the rule. The poets, however, have 
given them some reason for it. They have seldom 
been such religious teachers as I should wish to be 
guided by. Byron seems to have written by a I'edder 
light than usually comes from above ; and Milton and 
Bumsi show a very anomalous sympathy for that 



58 8EC0SD COSVEBSATIOS. 



trnforttmate personage whom Ladmer calls the only 
biftbop faithful in his diocese. 

PHIUP. 

Byron might have made a great poet As it Ls, his 
pocrtry is the record of a straggle between his good and 
)m Immrr nature, in which the latter wins. The fall is 
fp'ceii in proportion to the height from which one is 
hurled. An originally beautiful spirit becomes the 
tnmi degraded when perverted. It would fain revenge 
iiff^Af nf)on that purity from which it is an unhappy and 
f^flfw exile, and drowns its remorse in the drunken- 
fi^w and vain bluster of defiance. There is a law of neu- 
fmlization of forces which hinders bodies from sinking 
i)p.y()U(\ a certain depth in the sea; but in the ocean of 
liflHoneas the deeper we get the easier is the sinking. As 
for the kindness which Milton and Bums felt for the 
J)evil, I am sure God thinks of him with pity a thousand 
time5? to iheir once, and the good Origen believed him 
n^rt incapable of salvation. 

JOHN. 

We have forgotten Chaucer. 

PHILIP. 

We plinll come to him presently. The straight line 
Jfl not the line of beauty. There is an oak-wood a mile 
or two hen(»e, whither I often walk, but I never make 
for it with thn fltraightforward pertinacity of a turnpike. 
A f^liimp of golden-rods, or a sprig of succory, is 
fettofijrli in dmw rae aside; and when I reach my oaks, 
t firing them a heart more open, and a keenar sym- 



CHA UCEB. 69 

pathy. Once there, I am not locked up in them, but 
seek out glimpses of landscape on every side, the enjoy- 
ment of which I seem to owe to their hospitality. The 
rustle of their leaves makes my ear sympathize in the 
happiness of my eye ; and when I turn wholly back to 
them again, their shade seems thicker, their vistas more 
warmly sprinkled with sunshine, and their trunks more 
royally mantled with moss. Let Chaucer be our oak- 
wood to-day. There is nothing that does not harmonize 
with and illustrate what we have most at heart, and 
one key will open all the doors of nature. No man, if 
he try, can enjoy one thing at a time ; nor can he love 
one thing truly, and be indifferent to any other the 
most remote. 

JOHN. 

It is a bad sign when a man is skilful in apologies. 
But I shall accept your excuse, since w^e are met to 
converse, and not to argue. So now to Chaucer again. 

PHILIP. 

I am ready. But this attempting to illustrate a great 
poet by specimens is like giving an idea of Niagara by 
a bottle-full of water brought thence, or of Wachuset 
by a fragment of its granite. I sliall read you now an 
extract from the " Clerk^s Tale.*' It is the story of 
" patient Grizzel," and interests me the more from his 
telling us that he 

" Learned it at Padua of a worthy clerk, 
So proven by his word and by his work ; 
He is dead now, and nailed in his chest, 
I pray to God to give his soul good rest; 
Francis Petrarch, the poet laureate. 
This scholar hight." 



60 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

JOHN. 
But was Chaucer ever in Italy ? 

PHIUP. 

It is highly probable, though not certain. It is not 
likely that Chaucer would have quoted Petrarch as his 
authority rather than Boccace, unless the fact be as he 
states it. I see no reason to doubt it. Besides, incre- 
dulity robs us of many pleasures, and gives us nothing 
in return. It is well to distrust what we hear to make 
us think worse of a man, and to accept a story's pleas- 
antness as primdfaeie evidence of its truth. 

JOHN. 

It is certainly agreeable to imagine Petrarch and 
Chaucer togetlier ; and who knows but Boccace filled 
up the number of the classic feast? I wonder there 
is no tradition concerning our poet's journey to Italy, 
as there is about Milton's, The graves of poets 
seem to be the natural soil out of which such sweet 
legendary flowers grow, 

PHILIP. 

The Italians would have had one. They are either 
very scrupulous, or deficient in originality of invention 
in such matters ; for precisely the same story is told of 
Tasso and Pulci, and, I think, of Ariosto. 

JOHN. 

You mean that of the bandit's dismissing them 
courteously, on learning their names, A very Claude 
Duval of ruffians I One finds it hard to believe, in 



ns-awaww*-*'*" 



CHA UCEB. 61 

three such. Yet it may be true. It could never have 
happened in England or America, where the mass of 
the people know less and care less about their poets 
than in any other countries. Yet our native tongue 
boasts the greatest and most universal of poets. The 
Sicilians paid a finer compliment to Euripides, and 
Milton has immortalized Alexander's homage to the 
memory of Pindar. 

PHILIP. 

The story of Griselda, of course, you know already ; 
so that I shall need but a short preface to what I read. 
The first trial which the husband makes of his wife's 
patience is by taking away her infant daughter (her 
only child), with the avowed purpose of having it 
murdered. A sergeant is sent to take the babe. At 
first, Griselda is silent ; 

'^ But at the last to speak she thus began, 
And meekly she unto the sergeant prayed 
(So as he was a worthy gentleman), 
That she might kiss her child before it died : 
And in her lap the little child she laid, 
With full sad face, and 'gan the child to bliss, 
And lullM it, and after 'gan it kiss." 

JOHN. 

Very sweet and touching. I like, too, what our 
modern critics would, in all probability, find fault with, 
the frequent repetition of the word "child." The 
poet had put himself so in the mother's place that any 
less tender epithet would not satisfy him. Nowadays, 
an author will wade around through a quagmire of 
verbiage to avoid using the same word over again. 
The old poets were more straightforward. 



62 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

PHILIP. 

I am sorry that we have lost the use of the word 
"bliss" as a verb, so much motherliness is conveyed 
by it. 

" And thus she said, in her benignant voice : 

* Farewell, my child 1 I shall thee never see ; 
But, since that I have marked thee with the crofis, 
Of that same father blessed may'st thou be, 
Who died for us upon a cross of tree : 

Thy spirit, little child, his care I make. 
For thou this night must perish for my sake.' 

" I trow that for a nurse, in such a case, 
It had been hard this pity for to see ; 
Well might a mother, then, have cried, alas I 
But ne'ertheless so steadfast-souled was she, 
That she endurM all adversity. 
And meekly to the sergeant there she said, 

* Take back again your little youngling maid.' 

" * Go now,' said she, * and do my lord's behest ; 
But one thing would I pray you of your grace. 
Unless my lord forbid you, at the least. 
Bury this little body in some place 
Where neither birds nor beasts may it displace.' 
But to that purpose he no word would say. 
But took the child and went upon his way." 

You are silent. 

JOHN. 

I was listening to hear the mother's tears fall upon 
the face of her child. The first voice that is heard, 
after the reading of good poetry, comes ordinarily from 
the shallowest heart in the company. Praise follows 
truth afar off, and only overtakes her at the grave; 
plausibility clings to her skirts and holds her back, till 



CHA UCER 68 

then. I never knew a woman who thought well of 
Griselda, and I confess I would not choose that woman 
for a wife who did. Her duty as a mother was para- 
mount to her duty as a wife. As is not uncommon, 
she betrayed a general principle for tlie sake of a par- 
ticular one, which had fastened upon her imagination. 
Patience, when it is a divine thing, is active, not 
passive. Chaucer has so tenderly contrived to en- 
list our pity as to save her from contempt. With 
what motherly endearment she repeats the word 
^WUtle/' as if to move the sympathy of the stone- 
hearted sergeant ! 

PHILIP. 

What you say reminds me of a passage in the 
" Yorkshire Tragedy," one of the plays attributed to 
Shakespeare. I have seen it somewhere quoted as a 
proof that it was his. The touch of nature in it is 
worthy of him, but there is nothing in the rest of the 
drama to sustain the hypothesis. A spendthrift father, 
in a fit of madness, murders his children. As he seizes 
one of them, the little fellow, to appease him, calls him- 
self by the name his father had doubtless given him in 
happier days. " O, what will you do, father ? Jam 
your white boyj^ 

JOHN. 

That is very touching. How is it that this simple- 
ness, the very essence of tragic pathos, has become 
unattainable of late ? I know only one modern drama* 
tist capable of it, though nothing would seem easier ; 
I mean Eobert Browning. Wordsworth has as deep 
glances now and then in his poems, but his tragedy of 



64 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

" The Borderers ^' is as level as a prairie. There is 
scarce anything tragic about it, except the reading of 
it ; yet what insight has he shown in some parts of 
" The Excursion '^ ! Among a thousand such passages 
in Shakespeare, there is one which always struck me as 
peculiarly fine. It is in the first scene of the second 
act of " King John.^' Queen Elinor says to Arthur, 

" Come to thy grandam, child." 

Constance replies with sarcastic bitterness, and yet, I 
fancy, with hot tears in her eyes the while, — 

" Do, child, go to it* grandam, child ; 
Give grandam kingdom, and it' g^ndam will 
Give it a plum, a cherry, and a fig. 
There 's a good grandam." 

Who but Shakespeare would have dared this baby- 
talk in such a place ! Yet how admirable ! 

PHILIP. 

These simplest thoughts, feelings, and experiences, 
that lie upon the very surface of life, are overlooked by 
all but uncommon eyes. Most look upon them as 
mere weeds. Yet a weed, to him that loves it, is a 
flower ; and there are times when we would not part 
with a sprig of chickweed for a whole continent of 
JilicH. No man thinks his own nature miraculous, 
while to his neighbor it may give a surfeit of wonder. 
I Ait him go where he will, he can find no heart so 
worth a study as his own. The prime fault of modern 
\HHr\n i«, that they are resolved to be peculiar. They 
Ufa not content tliat it should come of itself, but they 



CHA UCEB. 65 

must dig and bore for it, sinking their wells usually 
through the grave of some buried orginality, so that if 
any water rises it is tainted. Read most volumes of 
poems, and you are reminded of a French bill of fare, 
where everything is ci la something else. Even a potato 
au naturel is a godsend. When will poets learn that a 
grass-blade of their own raising is worth a barrow-load 
of flowei-s from their neighbor's garden ? 

JOHN. 

Men ordinarily wear as many sets of borrowed 
opinions as the grave-digger in Hamlet wears waist- 
coats. They look quite burly, till you strip them; 
and then, too often, you find but a withered anatomy 
beneath. But, after all, borrowed garments never keep 
one warm. A curee goes with them, as with Harry 
Gill's blankets. Nor can one get smuggled goods 
safely into kingdom-come. How lank and pitiful 
does one of th(^ gentry look, after posterity's cus- 
toms-officers have had the plucking of him ! 

PHILIP. 

It certainly is odd that it should be so hard to get a 
man's natural thought from him. No gift seems to be 
more rare than that of conveying simply and distinctly 
the peculiar impression which any object makes upon 
the mind of the recipient. Give a man anything to 
describe, and he forthwith puzzles himself to talk about 
it as some other admired person would do ; so that we 
get a thousand worthless books for one good one, An<} 
yet the sincere thought wjiich the n^eanest pebble 
gives to a human soul is of great price to us, A fa- 

5 



66 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

miliar instaDoe may be taken from Ossian. Macpher- 
8on^ who has given us some highly original images^ 
8i)oil8 half his work by forgetting that his bard Avas a 
Gael^ and not a Greek, and by endeavoring to make 
Ossian speak like Homer. 

JOHN. 

Like Pope's Homer, you mean. This constant 
reproduction of old thoughts in a new dress recalls to 
my mind a tragic reminiscence of my childhood. At 
a museum, upon which I was in the habit of monthly 
exhausting my childish income with the spendthrift 
ambition of being one day large enough to be charged 
i'ull price for admission, there was a wax representation 
of Othello and Desdemona. Who these mythological 
jHirsonages were, I knew not ; but Othello seemed to 
mo the model of a fairy prince, and I sought always 
vainly, in the real world without, for anything like 
iX'sdeniona. The "Boston Beauty'^ and "Miss 
Mcllea," in the glass case of the next room, could 
never doUiin my feet, or wile my heart from its fealty 
to her. liisten to the catastrophe. Just after a famous 
murder had been perpetrated, my funds had accumu- 
lated sufficiently to enable me to visit the shrine of my 
romance. The pn)prietor of that museum may have a 
HWi^et conscience, but I am jiersuaded that he put a 
ninopence in his pocket that day which made his pillow 
unoaHy. My Desdemona, to glut a depraved public 
appetite, had been metamorphosed into a Mr. Jen- 
kins, and my Othello into his murderer I That divine 
wax, 

" Thttt boon prefigured in my earliest wish/' 



CHA UCER. 67 

which I had worshipped as never Pygmalion did his 
image, or the young Roman his statue of Venus, had 
been violated. Into that room I never ventured again, 
I could have broken the nose off the " Boston Beauty '' 
for her look of attempted unconcern, through which 
the ill-concealed triumph sparkled. With tliat feeling 
of revenge upon itself, with which the heart consoles 
itself for any loss by rushing to the other extreme, I 
thenceforward centred all my adoration upon "the 
great sea-vampire," an entirely original triangular con- 
ception by an ingenious artist in leather, which my 
mind, early disciplined to the miraculous by Gold- 
smith's "Animated Nature," readily accepted as au- 
thentic. 

PHIUP. 

This tragic recollection has, I hope, put your mind 
in tune for hearing more of Griselda's sorrows. But 
you must read the rest of her story for yourself. I 
have many other delicates for you to taste, before we 
part. Let me read you an exquisite stanza from 
"Troilus and Creseide." It tells you how Creseide 
first avowed her love. There is nothing: more tender 
in Coleridge's " Genevieve." 

" And, as the early, bashful nightingale 
Doth hush at first when she begins to sing, 
If chance she heareth any shepherd^s tale, 
Or in the hedges any rusteling, 
And then more boldly doth her voice outring ; 
Cressid right so, when her first dread was spent, 
Opened her heart and gave her love full vent." 

I know not where the nightingale is more sweetly 



68 SECOND CON VERSA TION. 

touched upon. Shakespeare has alluded to it once or 
twice, but not with enthusiasm. Coleridge, in one of 
his early poems, has given us a high strain of music 
about it. Milton's sonnet is not so fine as most of his^ 
though the opening is exquisite. 

JOHN. 

Keats has written, perhaps, the best ode in the lan- 
guage, upon this bird. "Wherever the learned fix the 
site of Eden, it will never be in America, where we 
have neither the nightingale nor the skylark. Yet 
we have the bobolink and the mocking-bird, in rich 
compensation. Nor are our northern nights wholly 
without tlieir music. I have often heard the song- 
sparrow and the robin at midnight ; and what solitude 
would be quite lonely, wanting the mournful plaint of 
the whippoorwill ? The newspapers now and then 
have lent tlieir diurnal immortality to foolish puning 
verses upon this last bird ; but the persons who wrote 
them could never have heard its voice, or they would 
have wasted their time in some less idle manner. In 
Virginia and the Carolinas, too, the mocking-bird sings 
all night, like another Romeo, beneath the leafy bal- 
cony of his betrothed. How much dignity does the 
love of nature give to minds otherwise trivial! 
White's Selborne has become a classic. If he had 
chronicled the migrations of kings and queens and 
dukes and duchesses, he would have deserved only the 
trunkmaker's gratitude. But his court-journal of 
blackbirds and goldfinches has won him an inner nook 
in our memories. 



CHA UCEB. 69 

PHILIP. 

I intend to read you presently another passage from 
"Troilus and Creseide/' which has been excellently 
modernized by Wordsworth. But first I will show 
you that Chaucer's love of nature was a passion with 
him. Listen to his praise of the daisy. It is in the 
prologue to his " Legend of Good Women/' and per- 
haps I am partial to it from its being the favorite of a 
very dear friend. If the passage have no other merit, 
it has at least that of being beloved by one whose love 
is like a crown to whatever it blesses. 

" "WTien the month of May 
Is come, and I can hear the small birds sing, 
And the fresh flowers have begun to spring. 
Good-bye, my book I devotion, too, good-bye I 
Now this peculiar frame of mind have I, 
That, among all the flowers of the mead, 
I love the most that flower white and red, 
Which men in our town the daisy name ; 
And such aflection draws me unto them. 
As I have said before, when come is May, 
That in my bed there dawneth not a day 
But I am up and walking in the mead 
To see this flower against the sunshine spread, 
When it upriseth early by the morrow : 
That blissful sight doth soften all my sorrow ; 
So glad am I, when I have sight of it, 
To pay it fea'ty and reverence fit, 
As one that is of other flowers the flower. 
Having all good and honor for her dower, 
And ever fair alike, and fresh of hue; 
And ever I love it with a passion new, 
And ever shall until my heart shall die : 
I swear it not, and yet I will not lie." 

How like a lover he heaps praise upon praise, and 



70 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

protestation on protestation, as if he were fearful the 
blossom might wither, ere he had done it honor 
enough! Ah, if we would but pledge ourselves to 
truth as heartily as we do to a real or imaginary mis- 
tress, and think life only too short because it abridged 
our time of service, what a new world we should have I 
Most men i>ay their vows to her in youth, and go 
up into the bustle of life, with her kiss warm upon 
their lips, and her blessing lying upon their hearts like 
dew; but the world has lips less chary, and cheaper 
benedictions, and if the broken troth-plight with their 
humble village-mistress comes over them sometimes 
with a pang, she knows how to blandish away remorse, 
and persuades them, ere old age, that their young 
enthusiasm was a folly and an indiscretion. 

JOHN". 

The pillow of their death-bed, however, hears the 
name of the old love again, and is made the confidant 
of some bitter tears to her memory. But you have 
given me your daisy snipped short off by the head, as 
a child does. 

PHILIP. 

** Never man loved more hotly in his life, 
And, when the evening cometh, I run blithe, 
As soon as e'er the sun begins to west, 
For fear of night, darkness so hateth she ; 
Her cheer is in the brightness utterly 
Of the glad sun, for there she will unclose. 
Ah, that I have not English rhyme or prose 
Enough to give this flower its praise aright I 



My busy spirit, that still thirsts anew 

To see this flower so young and fresh of hue, 



CHA UCEB. 71 

Constraint me with such a great desire. 
That in my heart 1 yet can feel its lire, 
And made me rise before the peep of day, 
It being now the morning first of May, 
With glad devotion and heart full of dread, 
To see the resurrection from the dead 
Of this same Hower, when it should unclose 
Againbt the sun that roseas red as the rose 
Which in tlie brea^it was of the beast that day 
He led Agenor^s daughter fair away ; 
And down upon my knees 1 set me right, 
To greet this flower fresh as best 1 might, 
Kneeling alway till it unclosed was 
Among the tender, sweet, and new-sprung grass. 
That was with blossoms sweet embroidered all, 

In which methought that I might, day by day, 
Dwell all throughout the jolly month of May, 
Withouten sleep, withouten meat or drink: 
Adown full softly I began to sink. 
And, leaning on my elbow and my side, 
Through the whole day 1 shaped me to abide, 
For nothing else, and 1 shall tell no lie. 
But on the daisy for to feed mine eye, 
Tliat has good reason why men call it may 
The daisy, otherwise the eye of day. 
The empress and the flower of flowers all : 
I pray to (Jod that fair may it befall. 
And all that love the flowers for her sake !" 

JOHX. 

Happy flower, to have received the homage of 
Chaucer and Wordsworth ! Happier, to have been 
ever the playmate and favorite of childhood ! There 
is a true flavor of piety in the whole of the passage 
you have read ; for he that loves the creature has made 
ready a shrine for the Creator in his heart. The leaf 



72 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

of a tree has a more moving exhortation to the love of 
God written upon it than a leaf of Taylor or Barrow. 

PHILIP. 

Piety is indifferent whether she enters at the eye or 
tlie car. There is none of the senses at which she does 
not knock one day or other. The Puritans forgot this, 
and tlirust beauty out of the meeting-house and 
slammed the door in her face. I love such sensuality! 
as that whicli Chaucer shows in his love of nature.!-' 
Surely, God did not give us these fine senses as so 
many posterns to the heart for the Devil to enter at, 
I believe that he has endowed us with no faculty but 
for his own glory. If the Devil has got false keys to 
them, we must fii^t have given him a model of the 
wards to make a mould by. The senses can do nothing 
unless the soul be an accomplice, and, in whatever the 
soul does, the body wdll have a voice. In all ages, it 
has been deemed a Christian virtue to persecute the 
body. Yet persecution is a sower of dragon^s teeth, 
from which spring armed men to do battle against her. 
We have driven the world and the flesh, against their 
wills, into a leanrne wath the Devil. If we provided 
ourselves with half as many arguments for loving God 
as we have against forgetting him, we should be both 
w^iscr and better. To be a sensualist in a certain kind 
and to a certain degree is the mark of a pure and 
youthful nature. To be able to keep a just balance 
between sense and spirit, and to have the soul welcome 
frankly all the delicious impulses which flow to it from 
without, is a -good and holy thing. But it must wel- 
come them as the endearments of a wife, not of a 



CHA UCEB. 73 

harlot. A Dryad and a Satyr may drink out of the 
same spring. A poet must be as sensitive as the yield- 
ing air, and as pure. To a soul which is truly king 
of itself, and not a prisoner in its desolate palace, the 
senses are but keepers of its treasury, and all beautiful 
things pay their tribute through these, and not to thenx, 
If they are allowed to squander the treasure upon tlieir 
own lusts, the subjects turn niggard and withhold the 
supplies. 

JOHN. 

All things that make us happy incline us also to be 
grateful, and I would rather enlarge than lessen the 
number of these. Morose and callous recluses have 
persuaded men that religion is a prude, and have forced 
her to lengthen her face and contract her brows to suit 
the character. They have laid out a gloomy turnpike 
to heaven, upon which they and their heirs and assigns 
are privileged to levy tolls, and have set up guide- 
boards to make us believe that all other roads lead in 
quite an opposite direction. The pleasanter they are, 
the more dangerous. For my part, I am satisfied that 
I am upon the right path so long as I can see anything 
to make me happier, anything to make me love man, 
and therefore God, the more. God is not far from that 
heart to which man is near. I would stamp God's 
name, and not Satan's, upon every innocent pleasure, 
upon every legitimate gratification of sense; and God 
would be the better served for it. In what has Satan 
deserved so well of us that we should set aside such 
first-fruits for him ? Christianity diflFers not more 
widely from Plato than from the Puritaas. 



74 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

PHILIP. 

The church needs reforming now as much as in 
Luther^s time, and sells her indulgences as readily. 
There are altars to which the slaveholder is admitted^ 
while the Unitarian would be put fortli as unclean. If 
it be God^s altar, both have a right there, — the sinner 
most of all, — but let him not go unrebuked. We hire 
onr religion by tlie quarter, and if it tell any disagree- 
able truths, we dismiss it, for we did not pay it for such 
service a3 this. Christ scourged the sellers of doves 
out of the temple ; we invite the sellers of men and 
women in. We have few such preachers now as 
Nathan was. They preach against sin in the abstract, 
shooting their arrows into the woundless air. Let sin 
wrap itself in superfine broadcloth, and put its name on 
charitable subscription-papers, and it is safe. Mammon 
gets easy absolution by contributing to the missionary 
fund. He knows verv well that the conversion of the 
heathen to our modern Christianity is the first step 
toward deducing them into zealous loyalty to himself. 
We bandy compliments W'ith him instead of saying 
sternly, " Get thee behind me ! " The Devil might 
listen to some preaching I have heard without getting 
his appetite spoiled. There is a great deal of time and 
money expended to make men believe that this one or 
that one will be damned, and to scare or wheedle them 
into good Calvinists or Episcopalians ; but very little 
pains is taken to make them good Christians. 

JOHN. 

You US2 plain words. 



CHA UCEB. 75 

PHILIP. 

Plain words are best. Truth wants no veil; the 
chastity and beauty of her countenance are defence 
enough against all lewd eyes. Falsehood, only, needs 
to hide her face ; for that, unseen, she has learned so 
well to mimic the gait and feign the voice of Truth as 
to counterfeit her with ease and safety. Our tongue 
has become so courtly and polite, as well-nigli to have 
forgotten that it has also words befitting indignation 
and reproof. Some thoughts demand the utmost swell 
and voluptuousness of language; they should float like 
Aphrodite upborne on a summer ocean. For others, 
the words should be jagged and immitigable and 
abrupt as the rocks upon the shore. Let the feeling 
of the moment choose. If melody be needed, the 
chance shell of the tortoise shall become a lyre which 
Apollo might sigh for. 

JOHN. 

It has never been a safe thing to breathe a whisper 
against the church, least of all in this country, where 
it has no prop from the state, but is founded only on 
the love, or, if you will have it so, the prejudices of 
the people. Religion has come to be esteemed synony- 
mous with the church ; there are few minds clear 
enough to separate it from the building erected for its 
convenience and its shelter. It is this which has made 
our Cliristiauity external, a taslc-ceremony to be gone 
through with, and not a principle of life itself. The 
church has been looked on too much in the light of a 
machine, which only needs a little oil, now and then, 



76 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

on its joints and axles, to make it run glibly and per- 
form all its functions without grating or creaking. 
Nothing that we can say will be of much service. The 
reformers must come from her own bosom ; and there 
are many devout souls among her priests now who 
would lay down their lives to purify her. The names 
of infidel and heretic are the 8an benitos in which we 
dress offenders in the nineteenth century, and a bigoted 
public opinion furnishes the fagots and applies the 
match ! The very cross itself, to which the sacred 
right of private judgment fled for sanctuary, has been 
turned into a whipping-post. Doubtless, there are no 
nations on the earth so wicked as those which profess 
Christianity; and the blame may be laid in great 
measure at the door of the church, which has always 
sought temporal power, and has chosen rather to lean 
upon the arm of flesh than upon that of God. The 
church has corrupted Christianity. She has decked 
her person and embroidered her garments with the 
spoils of pagan altars, and has built her temples of 
blocks which paganism had squared ready to her 
hand. We are still Huas and Vandals, and Saxons 
and Celts, at heart. We have carved a cross upon our 
altars, but the smoke of our sacrifice goes up to Thor 
and Odin still. Lately I read in the newspapers a 
toast given at a military festival, by one of those who 
claim to be the earthly representatives of the Prince of 
Peace. England and France send out the cannon and 
the bayonet, upon missionar}'- enterprises, to India and 
Africa, and our modern Eliots and Brainerds among 
the red men are of the same persuasive metal. 



CHA UCEE. 77 

PHILIP. 

Well, well, let us hope for change. There are signs 
of it ; there has been a growling of thunder round the 
horizon for many days. We are like the people in 
countries subject to earthquakes, who crowd into the 
churches for safety, but find that their sacred walls are 
as fragile as other works of human hands. Nay, the 
very massiveness of their architecture makes their de- 
struction more sudden, and their fall more dangerous. 
You and I have become convinced of this. Both of 
us, having certain reforms at heart, and believing them 
to be of vital interest to mankind, turned first to the 
church as the nearest helper under God. We have 
been disappointed. Let us not waste our time in 
throwing stones at its insensible doors. As you have 
said, the reformer must come from within. The 
prejudice of position is so strong that all her servants 
will unite against an exoteric assailant, melting up, if 
tieed be, the sacred vessels for bullets, and using the 
leaves of the holy book itself for wadding. But I 
will never enter a church from which a prayer goes up 
for the prosperous only, or for the unfortunate among 
the oppressors, and not for the oppressed and fallen ; 
as if God had ordained our pride of caste and our dis- 
tinctions of color, and as if Christ had forgotten those 
that are in bonds. We are bid to imitate God ; let us 
in this also follow his example, whose only revenge 
upon error is the giving success to truth, and but strive 
more cheerfully for the triumph of what we believe to 
be right. Let us, above all things, imitate him in 
ascribing what we see of wrong-doing to blindness stod 



78 SECOND coy VERS ATION. 

error, rather than to wilful sin. The Devil loves noth- 
ing better than the intolerance of reformers, and dreads 
nothing so much as their charity and patience. The 
scourge is better upon our backs than in our hands. 

JOHN. 

When the air grows thick and heavy, and the clouds 
gather in the moral atmosphere, the tall steeples of the 
church are apt to attract the lightning first. Its pride 
and love of high places are the most fatal of conduc- 
tors. That small upper room, in which the disciples 
were first gathered, would always be safe enough. 

PHILIP. 

We have wandered too far among these thorns and 
briers ; let us come back to smoother ground. There 
are one or two passages in the "Legend of Good 
Women " which I will read to you. My translations 
are bald enough, but I adhere as closely as I can to the 
very M^ords of my author. The number of accented 
syllables and terminations used in Chaucer's time ren- 
ders any translation from his poems necessarily less 
compact and precise than the original. I must often, 
too, lose much of the harmony of the verse ; but I 
shall not try to conciliate your ear at the expense of 
faithfulness. Here is a fragment from his story of 
Thisbe. Pyramus has found her bloody wimple. 

" He smote him to tho heart ; 
The hlood out of the wound as broad did start 
As water when the conduit broken is. 
Now Thisbe, who knew nothing yet of this, 
But sitting in her dread, bethought her thus : 
' If it 80 full out that my Pyramus 



CHA UCEB, 79 

Have hastened hither and may me not find. 
He may esteem me false or eke unkind.' 
And out she comes, and after him espies 
Both with her anxious heart and with her eyes, 
And thought, * Now will I tell him my distress, 
For fear of death and of the lioness/ 
And, at the last, her lover hath she found, 
Abeating with his heels upon the ground. 
All bloody ; and therewith she back doth start, 
And like the waves to heave began her heart. 
And, in a moment, pale as box she grew ; 
Then looking steadily, right well she knew 
That it was Pyramus, her own heart's dear. 

** Who could write ever what a deadly cheer 
Hath Thisbe now, and how her hair she rent. 
And how herself began she to torment. 
And how she lies and swoons upon the ground, 
And how with tears she fillM full his wound, 
How clippeth she the blood-red corse, aids I 
How doth the woful Thisbe in this case ! 
How kisseth she his frosty mouth so cold I 

* Who hath done this ? O, who hath been so bold. 
To slay my love ? O, speak, my Pyramus I 

I am thy Thisbe that calleth thee thus ! ' 
And therewithal she lifted up his head 
This woful man, who was not wholly dead. 
Hearing that one the name of Thisbe cries. 
On her cast up hLs heavy, deadly eyes, 
Then down again, and yielded up the ghost. 
Thisbe rose up withouten noise or boast. 
And saw her wimple and his empty sheath. 
And eke his sword that him hath done to death ; 
Then spake she thus : * My woful hand,' quoth she, 

* Is strong enough in such a work for me ; 
For love will give me strength and hardiness 
To make my wound full large enough, I guess. 
I will thee follow dead, and I will be 
Partaker of the death I caused,' quoth she ; 

' And although nothing but the death could ever 
Have force enough thyself and me to sever. 



80 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

Thou sBalt no more be parted now from me. 
Than from thy death ; for 1 will follow thee.*" 

In choosing my extracts, I have endeavored to avoid 
those M'hieh have already been modernized by others. 
A volume was published in London, three or four 
years ago, by R. H. Home, containing new versions of 
some of the best of Chaucer's poems. Many of these 
are excellent, those by Wordsworth especially. The 
original plan seems to have been to publish other vol- 
umes, till a complete translation should be accom- 
plished. As no continuation has appeared, we must 
presume that flie English have not yet awakened to the 
merits of their first great poet. Mr. Charles Cowden 
Clarke deserves well of the lovers of our language for 
his excellent little volumes, entitled " The Riches of 
Chaucer,'' which contain all the better parts of his 
poems. 

JOHN. 

He has another claim upon our esteem also, as hav- 
ing been the earliest friend and admirer of Keats. 

PHILIP. 

In the next legend, of Dido, there are a few lines 

which I must read you for their delightful freshness 

and spirit. 

" Uj)on a lowly palfrey, paper-white, 
With saddle red, embroidered with delight. 
Of gold the bars, upward embossed high, 
Sat Dido, rough with gold and jewelry ; 
And she is fair as is the bright to-morrow. 
That healeth sick folk of the night's long sorrow. 
Upon a courser, startling as the fire. 
Though men might turn him with a little wire, 
^neas sat, like Phcebus." 



CHA UCEE. 81 

JOHN. 

How delicious is that comprebensive description of 
Dido's beauty ! It fills the heart at once with a thou- 
sand images and forewarnlngs of deliglit, as the sight 
of beauty itself does. 

PHILIP. 

Yes, beauty seldom affects us so much in the present, 
as by a prophecy of some yet unfulfilled satisfaction 
which she has in store for us. She seems to beckon us 
ever into yet more Elysian realms of quiet and serenity, 
and is but the guide to something higher and beyond. 

JOHN. 

" Startling as the fire " gives us such a picture as 
inspires and dilates the imagination. Shakespeare's 
famous description of a horse, in his "Venus and 
Adonis," with all its minuteness, does not satisfy me as 
W'cll as this. It seems rather like the fine frenzy of an 
inspired jockey. In such slight and ordinary touches 
the power of the poet is best shown. A great subject 
may lift up a common and even earthy mind, and give 
it an inspiring breadth of view. But it is only from 
isolated peaks and summits, in climbing to ^yhich the 
enthusiasm wearies and flags. The strength of a great 
poet is in his own magnificent eye, which borrows not 
from without, but lends whatever it looks on a dignity 
and an untiring grace from within. Every word of 
his is like a new-created star or flower, or a new-found 
one, and sets all our nature astir, as the spring wakes 
and enlivens the sluggish earth. The heart grows 
green again and blossoms ; the old tendrils of childish 
6 

/ 

/ 
/ 



82 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

sympathy become as supple and delicate as ever, and, 
reaching out, grasp and cling to whatever they first 
chance to touch. 

PHILIP. 

You will never describe it. We can never say why 
we love, but only that we love. The heart is ready 
enough at feigning excuses for all that it does or 
imagines of wrong ; but ask it to give a reason for any 
of its beautiful and divine motions, and it can only 
look upward and be dumb. When we are in the right, 
we can never reason, but only assert. A weak cause 
generally has the best in an argument. As you have 
been so much struck with some isolated expressions 
used by Chaucer, I will glean a few others for you. It 
is a pity to knock the jewels out of their setting, but 
they will shine notwithstanding. Here is a passage, 
from '' The Knight's Tale," describing the Temple of 
Mars. 

" A forest first was painted on the wall, 
In which there dwells nor man nor beast at all, 
With trees all knotty, knarry, barren, old. 
With sharp, dead limbs and hideous to behold, 
Through which ran a rumble and a sough. 
As if the wind would shatter every bough." 

There is no such desolation as this in all Lord 
Byron's nightmare " Darkness." 

" There saw I first the dark imagining 
Of Felony and all the compassing ; 
The cruel ire, as any coal aglow ; 
The pickpurse, and the palefaced dread alsft ; 
The smiler with the knife under the cloak ; 
The stables burning in the ink-black smoke ; 



CHA VCEB. 83 

The treason of the murdering in the bed ; 
The open war with wounds all overbled ; 
Contest with bloody knife and sharp mend^se; 
And full of ill sounds was that sony place. 
The slayer of himself| too, saw I there, 
His thick heart's blood hath bathM all his hair, 
The nail fast-driven through the hair beside, 
The cold death with the mouth all gaping wide: 
And in the temple's midst there sat Mischance, 
With pain at heart and sorry countenance ; 
There saw I madness, laughing in his rage; 
Arm^d complaint, outcries, and fierce outrage ; 
The carrion in the bush with throat cut through ; 
A thousand slain whom sickness never slew ; 
The tyrant with the prey his force had reft ; 
The town destroyed, that there was nothing left ; 
There burned the ships that danced upon the main ; 
There lay the hunter by the wild bears slain ; 
The sow tearing the child right in the cradle ; 
.The cook scalded, in spite of his long ladle ; 
Naught was forgot of all the woes of war, 
The charioteer, o'erridden by his car, 
Under the wheel full low was cast adown. 
There also were, of Mars' division, 
The armorer, the bowyer, and the smith. 
Who forgeth the sharp swords upon his stith ; 
And, painted in a tower that rose on high. 
Conquest I saw, that sat in sovereignty, 
W^hile that keen blade did waver o'er his head, 
A hanging by a slender strand of thread." 

Mars is described as standing upon a chariot, — 

" A wolf there stood before him at his feet, 
With fire-red eyes, and of a man did eat." 

You will hardly find in Spenser a catalogue like 
this, so grim and so straightforward. Here is no 
flourish ; but Chaucer only tells us, or tries to tell us, 



84 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

what he saw. It is abrupt and disjointed, as if recalled 
piecemeal by an effort of memory. 

JOHN. 

I do not overlike personifications, as they are called, 
yet I shall not soon forget this one of Conquest, sitting 
under the sword of Damocles. But what have the 
sow, and the cook with his long ladle, to do in the 
picture ? 

PHILIP. 

Tyrwhitt is as much puzzled as you, but hazards a 
conjecture that Chaucer was having a sly laugh at the 
tedious particularity of the Romancei-s. But I hardly 
think so, since to me this couplet adds a certain tang 
and pungency to the taste of the whole passage. It 
gives it reality, and makes it seem less like a work of 
the imagination. We are loath to fancy so dainty a 
faculty as tlie imagination sweeping the greasy floor of 
the kitchen with her majestic robes, and &o are fain to 
believe that the poet is merely giving us a literal ac- 
count of what he saw. 

JOHN. 

You have made me a little more liberal in these 
matters of taste than I once was. The sow eating the 
child, which the nurse has left deserted in the cradle, 
gives me as intense an idea of the horror of war and 
of the selfishness which danger inculcates, as it is pos- 
sible to conceive. Horror is poetical. It is the gin 
and opium of the Muse; the excitement and thrill are 
not unpleasing, for once or twice. But a ludicrous 
idea is inadmissible; it must smooth the grin and 



•:^*s;^T^^-^»» ■>■ 



CHA UCER 85 

smirk off its face, before it can get entrance into the 
silent and serene temple. of, .aopg. 

PHILIP. 

Ay, but there is no court-dress there. Words and 1 
phrases are vulgar or trivial, accoixling to the ear on ( 
which they fall. I confess that I have an ear that will 
gladly entertain anytliing that comes plainly and un- 
masked, and does not impose itself as something supe- 
rior to what it truly is. There are Nimrods enough of 
words and syllables, without my joining in the hunt. 
The Muse can breathe as august melodies through an 
oaten straw as she can win from Apollo's lute. Chau-\ 
cer is never very choice in his language for the mere '■ 
sake of being so. He is so rich that he can afford a ; 
plain simpleness which would be the badge of l>eggary 
in a poorer man. He is plain and blunt, and speaks 
to the point. He thrusts his foot remorselessly through 
the gossamera of sentimental fancy, though he might 
have spared them for their making the dew of heaven 
more visible. When Arcite is dead, 

" * Why wouldest thou be dead,' the women cry, 
That haddest gold enough, and Emily?* " 

" That haddest gold enough — ^and Emily.'* See how 
the actual life, the life of debtor and creditor, of the 
butcher and baker, intrudes itself upon the life of ro- 
mance, nay, takes precedence of it in the mind of this 
unartificial man. The means first, be they never so 
humble and prosaic ; and then the poetic end, which 
casts backward a lustre and a glory upon them. This 
simplicity of his reminds me of Homer, who gives a 



86 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

bill of fai*e of all the feasts, as one whose calliDg had 
made him sensible of the merits of such delieates by 
their infrequency. 

In the " Pardoner's Tale " there is a most graphic 
simile, which modern taste would probably censure as 
deficient in dignity. The Pardoner is describing his 
style of preaching. 

" Then do I preach as ye have heard before, 
And tell a hundred idle stories more ; 
Then do I pain me to stretch forth my neck, 
And east and west upon the people I beck, 
As doth a dove sitting upon a bamJ* 

Here is another specimen of his simplicity, from the 
third book of his " Troilus and Creseide." 

" Ck)nsider now if they be not to blame, 
This kind of folk,— what shall I call them, what?— 
That boost of women's favors, and by name, 
Who yet have granted them nor this nor that, 
Nor think more of them than of my old hat" 

And, a little further on, 

" But if a fool were in a jealous rage, 
I would not set his sorrow at a mite." 

Speaking of oracles, Pandarus says, 

" As for Apollo, and his servants* laws, 
Or oracles, they are not worth three straws ; 
For the gods speak in amphibologies, 
And for one truth they tell us twenty lies." 

Describing Cressid, too, his frankness creeps out : 

** Somewhat too low might Cressid's stature be, 
But for her shape and face, and eke her cheer, 



CHA UCER, 87 

Creature there never was more fair than she ; 
And oftentimes her manner was, to appear 
With all her hair hanging in tresses clear 
Down by her collar o'er her neck behind, 
Which with a thread of gold she would upbind. 
And, saving that her brows icere joined too near^ 
There was no lack in aught I can espy." 

JOHN. 

Chaucer is as close and determined an imitator of 
nature as Poussin, who used to bring home stones and 
moss in his handkerchief, in order to paint them ex- 
actly. Such scrupulous honesty betokens the true 
artist, who is a mathematiciau in his details, and only 
lays claim to the title of creator by his fresh and beau- 
tiful combinations. 

PHILIP. 

Now let me glean a few striking expressions which 
you cannot but admire. When Cressid was carried to 
the Grecian camp, she had promised Troilus to steal 
back to him upon a certain evening, and for some time 
clings to her promise. But Chaucer says, that, ere two 
full months, the thought of Troilus and Troy 

" Througlioui her heart shall hwiless slide.** 

We never feel the whole bitterness of a sorrow at the 
fii'st blow. It is after we have recovered from the 
sudden shock of it, and the imagination has leisure to 
concern itself with details, that we know its whole 
depth and breadth. Then we find that the little cloud, 
no bigger than a man's hand, has spread itself over our 
whole heaven. Chaucer has hinted at this in what he 
says of Troilus. 



88 SECOND CON VERS ATJON. 

» 

" And, as in winter, when the leaves are reft, 
Ea<?h after other, till the trees are bare, 
So that there are but bark and branches left, 
So Troilus, bereft of each welfiLre, 
Lies bounden in the ugly bark of care." 

When Troilus is first brought to an interview with 
Cressid, Pandarus 

" Drew him to the fire. 
And by that light beheld his countenance. 
As 't were to look upon an old romance." 

JOHN. 

That last is exquisite. The eager flush of love, and 
the warm, flickering light of the fire upon Troilus's 
face, scarcely more wavering and uncertain than the 
expression there, — the whole picture, in short, seems 
like an old romance with its illuminated borders and 
capitals, and its stories of love and soitow. You will 
not easily find me another comparison like this. 

PHILIP. 

At least here is one that touches me more. It is in 
" The Complaint of Annelida," who has been deserted 
by the " false Arcite.'* She says, 

" Arcite hath borne away the key 
Of all my worlds and my good hap to comeJ* 

There is something very pathetic in this. 

JOHN. 

Yes. As if she stood in sight of the fair maiden 
world she had left for the sake of Arcite, and but just 
on the outside of happiness, yet was irrevocably locked 
out. 



CHAUCER. 89 

PHILIP. 

In " The Book of the Duchess " there is one of the 
most beautiful portraits of a woman that were ever 
drawn. Full of life it is, and of graceful health, with 
no romantic hectic, or sentimental languish. It is such 
a figure as you would never look for in a ball-room, 
but might expect to meet in the dewy woods, just after 
sunrise, when you were hunting for late violets. The 
lover, who tells Chaucer of her, says, 

" I was caught 
So suddenly, that I ne'ertook 
Counsel of aught but of her look, 
And of my heart : for her kind eyes 
So gladly on my heart did rise, 
That instantly my inmost thought 
Said it were better to serve her for naught, 
Than with another to be well.'* 

It is too long for me to read you the whole of it, but 
I will gladden your heart with a few lines here and 
there. I shall hardly more than modernize the woi'ds. 
I should spoil it were I to attempt to translate it into 
smooth verses. See how joyfully it opens. 

" I saw her dance so comely, 
Carol and sing so sweetly. 
Laugh and play so womanly, 
And look so debonairly. 
So goodly speak, and so friendly, 
That, certes, I trow that nevermore 
Was seen so blissful a treasdre ; 
For every hair upon her head, 
Sooth to say, it was not red, 
And neither yellow nor brown it was, 
Methought most like to gold it wa« ; 



90 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

And such eyes my lady had, 
Debonair, good, steady, and glad, 
Simple, of good size, not too wide ; 
And then her look was not aside, 
Nor wandering, but so right and true, 
That, certes, it took up and drew 
All that upon her *gan behold. 



Even when moat full of joy was she, 
She never could look foolishly, 
Nor wildly, even when she played ; 
But ever, methought, her kind eyes said, 
* Par /ay, my wrath is all forgiven/ 



I have not wit that can suffice 
Her beauty to speak properly, 
But thus much I dare say, that she 
Was white, fresh, ruddy, and lively-hued, 
And every day her beauty newed. 

And thereto she could so well play 
Whate'er she list, that I dare say 
That she was like a torch-flame bright. 
Whence every man can take of light 
Enough, and it hath never the less 
Of lustre and of comeliness. 

She had a wit so general. 
So whole-inclinM to all good, 
That it was ever set by the rood, 
To swell the store of happiness ; 
Moreover, I ne'er saw one less 
Harmful than she to say or do ; 
I say not that she did not know 
What evil was, or else had she 
Known naught of good, as seems to me. 

Methought all fellowship was naked 
Without her, having seen her once. 
As is aisrown without the stones.^' 



V 

\ 



CHA UCER. 91 

JOHN. 

It is like sunshine. It awakens all the dearest and 
sweetest recollections of the heart. The best poetry 
always comes to us leading by the hand the holy asso- 
ciations and tear-strengthened aspirings of youth, as 
Volumnia brought to Coriolanus his little children, to 
plead reproachfully with us, to be tender, and meek, 
and patient. " Chevy Chase " was like the blast of a 
trumpet to Sir Philip Sydney ; the passages I love in 
the poets give me back an hour of childhood, and are 
like a mother's voice to me. They are as solemn as the 
rusfle of the Bible-leaves in the old family-prayers. 
The noisy ocean of life hushes, and slides up his beach 
with a soothing and slumberous ripple. The earth be- 
comes secluded and private to me as in childhood, when 
it seemed but a little meadow-green, guarded all round 
with trees, for me to pick flowers in ; a play-room, 
whose sole proprietor and manager I was. When 
Chaucer wrote this poem, he must have been musing 
of his early love. How could critic ever grow so 
leathern-hearted as to speak sneeringly of love- verses? 

PHILIP. 

I cannot guess. They are often blamed for their 
egoism, when, in fact, they are the least egoistical of all 
writing. If self is anywhere forgotten, it is in these. 
They are all liymns to the supreme beauty. In all of 
them the lover would only remind the beloved that 
their trysting-place is at the foot of that divine altar. 
The one I have just read a fragment of reminds me of 
a passage in George Wither^s ^^ Philarete," which, both 



92 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

in metre and expression, is brimful of the most joyous 
simplicity and extravagant fancy. All through it the 
poet's heart seems to dance for glee, like a child. A 
truly Arcadian sunshine broods over it. I could think 
it written before such a thing as sorrow was invented. 
It is one of those sweet nooks into wliich the mind can 
withdraw from the turmoil and hurry of life, and play 
with the grass and flowers in ungirt ease. 

Let me read you now, from the " Legend of Cleo- 
patra," something of a very different kind. It is a 
bustling description of a sea-fight. 

" And in the middle sea they chanced to meet ; 
Up goes the trump ; with shots and shouts they greet, 
And hasten them to set on with the sun ; 
With grisly sound ontgoeth the great gun, 
And heartily they hurtle in all at once ; 
And from the top down tumble the great stones ; 
In go the grappling-irons full of crooks ; 
Among the thick ropes run the shearing-hooks ; 
In with the pole-axe presseth he and he ; 
Behind the mast beginneth he to flee, 
And out again, and overboard him drives ; 
Through this one's side the ragged spear-point rives ; 
This rends the sail with sharp hooks like a scythe, 
This brings the cup and biddeth them be blithe, 
This on the hatches poureth slippery pease. 
With pots of lime together struggle these. 
And thus the whole long day in fight they spend." 

In " The Knight's Tale '^ there is another very much 
like this, except that the scene is on land. 

" The heralds leave their pricking up and down, 
And rings the trumpet loud and clarion ; 
There is no more to say, but, east and west, 
Down ^o the lances to their stubborn rest, 



CHA VCEB, 93 

Plunges the sharp spur in the horse^s side, 
Now see we who can joust and who can ride ; 
There shiver shafts upon the bucklers thick, 
And through the heart is felt the deadly prick; 
Up spring the lances twenty feet in height, 
Out go the sword-blades as the silver bright ; 
The helmets tough they hew and hack and shred, 
Out bursts the heart's blood in stern torrents red ; 
AVith mighty maces through the bones ihey crush, 
And 'mid the thickest of the throng 'gin rush ; 
There stumble the strong steeds, and down goes all. 
And under foot they roll as doth a ball ; 
One with a truncheon foileth at his foe, 
And one him hurleth from his horse full low ; 
One through the body is hurt, and they him take, 
Maugre his head, and bear him to the stake 
As was agreed, and there he must abide," 

JOHN. 

They remind me of some of Leigh Hunt's descrip- 
tions, though he sometimes dwindles a little too much 
into the inventory style, and counts the nails in the 
horses* shoes, and the. wrinkles in the knights' tunics. 
Yet no man has ever understood the delicacies and lux- 
uries of language better than he, and his thoughts often 
have all the rounded grace and shifting lustre of a dove's 
neck. 

PHILIP. 

He is often too refined to be easily understood by the 
mob of readers. He is tracing out the nerves and vein- 
lets, when it had been better for his popularity if he 
had developed only the muscles and arteries. There 
is a great difference between being too refined and too 
minute ; and he is as often the one as the other. He 
gathers together, kernel by kernel, a bushel of corn, 



94 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

and then wonders why we do not admire his picture of 
a cornfield. Keats and Tennyson are both masters of 
description, but Keats had the finer ear for all the nice 
analogies and suggestions of sound, while his eye had 
an equally instinctive rectitude of perception in color. 
Tennyson's epithets suggest a silent picture; Keats's 
the very thing itself, with its sound or stillness. 

JOHN. 

I remember a stanza of Tennyson's which unites 
these excellences. 

"A still, salt pool, locked in with bars of sand, 
Left on the shore ; which hears all night 
The plunging seas draw backward from the land 
Their moon-led waters white." 

PHILIP. 

That XB one of the most perfect images in any lan- 
guage, and, as a picture of a soul made lonely and 
selfish by indulgence in over-refined philosophizing, it 
is yet more exquisite. But, if Tennyson's mind be 
more sensitive, Keats's is grander and of a larger grasp. 
It may be a generation or two before there comes an- 
other so delicate thinker and speaker as Tennyson ; but 
it will be centuries before another nature so sponta- 
neously noble and majestic as that of Keats, and so 
tender and merciful, too, is embodied. What a scene 
of despair is that of his where Saturn finds the van- 
quished Titans ! 

"Scarce images of life, one here, one there. 
Lay vast and edgeways, like a dismal cirque 
Of Druid-stones upon a forlorn moor. 
When the chill rain begins at shut of evei 
In dull November." 



CHAUCER, 96 

And what can be more perfect than this? 

" So far her voice flowed on, like timorous brook, 
That, lingeriDg along a pebbled coast, 
Doth fear to meet the sea ; but sea it met, 
And shuddered ; for the overwhelming voice 
Of huge Enceladus swallowed it in wrath : 
The ponderous syllables, like sullen waves 
In the half-glutted hollows of reef-rocks, 
Came booming thus.'' 

JOHN. 

The world is not yet aware of the wonderful merit 
of Keats. Men have squabbled about Chatterton, and 
written lives of Kirke White, while they have treated 
with contempt the rival, and, I will dare to say, the 
sometimes superior, of Milton. The critics gravely 
and with reverence hold up their bit of smoked glass 
between you and the lantern at a kite's tail, and bid 
you behold the sun, undazzled ; but their ceremonious 
fooleries will one day be as ridiculous as those of the 
Tahitian priests. Keats can afford to wait, and he will 
yet be sacred to the hearts of all those who love the 
triumphs and ovations of our noble mother-tongue. 

PHILIP. 

I must please myself with one more quotation from 
his " Hyperion." After the murmur among the Titans 
at Saturn's entrance has ceased, 

" Saturn's voice therefrom 
Grew up like organ, that begins anew 
Its strain, when other harmonies, stopped shorty 
Leave the dinned air vibrating silverlyP 

Could sound and sense harmonize more fitly? In 
reading it, the voice flows on at first smoothly and 



96 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

equably. At tlie end of the third verse it pauses ab- 
ruptly in spite of itself, and in tlie last vibrates and 
wavers in accordance with the meaning. You see the 
art with which the word " vibrating " is placed so as 
to prevent you from reading the word monotonously. 
Among the ancient poets I can seldom detect any of 
the nic*e feeling of language which distinguishes many 
of our own. I recognize it in that oft-quoted passage 
in -^chylus, where Prometheus invokes 

" novriuv re KVfiaTuv 
av^piO/iov yiXaafia^" 

in which the long roll of the first syllables, tlie liquid 
sound of di'ijpcdfLOi^y and the plashing ripple of yikaa/iay 
seem to convey some audible suggestion of the sea. 
Now and then, I fancy I can tmce a few similar 
glimpses in Ovid, who is to me the truest poet among 
the Latins, but they would probably elude any but a 
partial ear. Beside this passage of ^Ischylus I would 
set one from Spenser. 

" With that rolling sea, resounding soft, 
In his big base, them fitly answered, 
And on the rocks the waves breaking aloft 
A solemne meane unto them measured, 
The whiles sweet Zephyrus loudly whisteled 
His treble." 

I cannot doubt but the hissing sound given to the 
fifth verse by the number of s-s was intentional. 

JOHN. 

There is a line in Longfellow's ballad of "The 
Wreck of the Hesperus" which has always pleased 
both my imagination and my ear. 



CHA UCEB, 97 

PHILIP. 

I think I know which one you mean. I will repeat 
it at a venture. It is the last of these two : 

" And a whooping billow swept her crew 
Like icicles from her deck." 

Am I right? 

JOHN. 

Yes. I do not like the epithet " whooping " in the 
first verse, but I consider the whole of the last admi- 
rable. A single happy epithet is always worth a folio 
of description ; and in this the word " icicle '^ tells the 
whole story. 

PHILIP. 

I like it as much as you do. 

JOHN. 

In Leigh Hunt's " Hero and Leander " there is a 
descriptive verse which I esteem one of the rarest of 
its kind. Hero is expecting Leander on the last fatal 
night. 

" Hero looked forth, and trembling augured ill, 
Uie darkness held its breath so very siilV* 

PHILIP. 

In this there is the great merit that the ideas sug- 
gested give vigor and support to the mere external 
significance. It is very natural that Hero should per- 
sonify the darkness, and attribute an evil intent to it j| 
and one who meditates or strikes a revengeful blow 
holds in his breath. There is another version of 
7 



98 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

Musseus's story, by Marlow and Chapman, which is 
crowded full of beauties. Here are a few lines in 
point. 

" Buskins of shells all silvered usM she 
And branched with blushing coral to the knee, 
Where sparrows perched, of hollow pearl and gold, 
Such as the world would wonder to behold ; 
These mth sweet water oft her handmaid fills, 
Whkhy as she wetUy loould cherup through their bills" 

This is a gift of Marlow's luxurious fancy. He 
throws down such by the handful. The last verse, 
you see, illustrates the topic we have sauntered to. I 
remember that John S. Dwight, who has a very refined 
insight in such matters, commends Bryant for his 
excellence in descriptive epithets, and quotes, in sup- 
port of his opinion, this verse : 

" With valleTs scooped between." 

This is one of those epithets whose beauty lies in its 
simplicity and plainness. OrdinaryjK)etSj having a 
natural fellow-feeling with ordinary objects, strive to 
elevate them by a lofty scaffolding of words, not being 
able to conceive that the most natural image (so it be 
drawn from nothing in itself base) is always the most 
noble. They buckle the cothurni upon the feet of a 
dwarf, and make him ridiculous by the enforced maj- 
esty of his gait. The true poet picks up a common 
reed and entices ravishing melody from ft. Humble- 
ness is always grace, always dignity. The propriety 
and force of the epithet quoted above is confirmed by 
its having occurred to another mind, also a highly 
poetical one. Wesley, in his Journal, says : 



CHA UCER. 99 

" The place in which I preached was an oval spot of ground, 
surrounded with spreading trees, scooped out^ as it were, in the side 
of a hill, which rose round like a theatre." — Soutk&kfs Life oj Wedey 
(American edition), II. 49. 

Before we lay down Chaucer, let me read a few more 
passages. In " The Man of Law's Tale," there is a 
terribly graphic stanza. 

^* Have je not sometimes seen a. pallid face, 
Among a press, of him that hath been led 
Toward his death, where he can hope no grace, 
And such a color in his face hath had. 
That men might know him that was so bested, 
Among the crowd of faces in that rout ? 
So Constance stands and looketh her about." 

Chaucer had a great deal of what is called know- 
ledge of the world, but it never rendered him sour or 
contemptuous. Whenever he turns his eye that way, 
his glance softens with pity or with a good-humored 
smile. In " The Story of Cambuscan bold," he de- 
scribes the crowd who gathered about the wonderful 
brazen horse, each one of whom, in proportion to his 
ignorance, is anxious to express an opinion about it. 
He ends by saying, 

** As unlearned people fancy commonly 
Of whatsoever thing may chance to be 
More subtly made than they can comprehend, 
They glcuUy set it dovm for some had end" 

I am merely reading at random such passages as 
strike me. In " The Pardoner's Tale,'* Chaucer de- 
scribes Death as a weary old man, in a compassionate 
kind of way that makes us pity him. Three riotous 
fellows have sworn to be revenged upon Death, if they 



J -» ^ 



100 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

can find him. Presently, they meet an old man (Death 
himself), who says to them, — 

" For I cannot find 
A man, thougli I should walk to farthest Ind, 
Either in any city or villlige, 
That would exchange his youth for my old age; 
And therefore must I keep mine old age still, 
As long a time as it is God's good will ; 
Even Death, alas ! my poor life will not have. 
Thus do I wander like a restless slave, 
And on the earth, which is my mother's gate, 
Thus knock I with my staff, early and late. 
And say to her, * Dear mother, let me in ; 
Lo, how I vanish, flesh, and blood, and skin I 
Alas ! when shall my old bones be at rest?'" 

JOHN. 

Death has been hardly ever so tenderly spoken of. 
It is singular what ugly portraits of him are ordinarily 
given as. There seems to be but little living faith in 
the immortality of the soul ; so soon does any idea be- 
come formal and external, when diluted by the cus- 
tomariness of a creed. Men do not believe in the next 
world as they do in London or Boston ; they do not 
launch upon the ignotum mare with a shadow of that 
prophetic belief which girded up the heart of Colum- 
bus. Most religion-mongers have baited their paradises 
with a bit of toasted cheese. They have tempted the 
body with large promise of possessions in their trans- 
mortal El Dorado. Sancho Panza will not quit his 
chimney-corner but under promise of imaginary islands 
to govern. For my own part, I think it wi^r to make 
the spirit a staff for the body than the body for the 
spirit. When the vessel casts off for the voyage, and 



. ■_.i. ll ii»^4LJ 



CBA UCEB. 101 

the body finds itself left behind, it may well cry oat 
and disturb the whole vicinage with the story of its 
wrong. 

PHILIP. 

I agree with you that the body is treated with quite 
too much ceremony and respect Even religion has 
veiled its politic hat to it, till, like Christopher Sly, it 
is metamorphosed, in its own estimation, from a tinker 
to a duke. Men who would, without compunction, 
kick a living beggar, will yet stand in awe of his poor 
carcass, after all that rendered it truly venerable has 
fled out of it. We agree with the old barbarian epi- 
taph which affirmed that the handful of dust had been 
Ninus ; as if that which convicts us of mortality and 
weakness would at the same time endow us with our 
high prerogative of kingship over them. South, in one 
of his sermons, tells us of certain men whose souls are 
of no worth, but as salt to keep their bodies from 
putrefying. I fear that the soul is too often regarded 
in this sutler fashion. Why should men ever be afraid 
to die, but that they regard the spirit as secondary to 
that which is but its mere appendage and conveniency, 
its symbol, its word, its means of visibility ? If the 
soul lose this poor mansion of hers by the sudden con- 
flagration of disease, or by the slow decay of age, is she 
therefore houseless and shelterless? If she cast away 
this soiled and tattered garment, is she therefore naked? 
A child looks forward to his new suit, and dons it joy- 
fully ; we cling to our rags and foulness. We should 
welcome Death as one who brings us tidings of the 
finding of long-lost titles to a large family estate, and 



102 SECOND C0NVEB8ATI0N. 

set out gladly to take possession, though, it may be, not 
without a natural tear for the humbler home we are 
leaving. Death always means us a kindness, though 
he has often a gruff way of offering it. Even if the 
soul never returned from that chartless and unmapped 
country, which I do not believe, I would take Sir John 
Davies's reason as a good one : 

" But, as Noah's pigeon, which returned no more, 
Did show she footing found, for all the flood ; 
So, when good souls, departed through death's door, 
Come not again, it shows their dwelling good." 

The realm of Death seems an enemy's country to 
most men, on whose shores they are loathly driven by 
stress of weather ; to the wise man it is the desired 
port, where he moors his bark gladly, as in some qniet 
haven of the Fortunate Isles ; it is the golden west in 
which his sun sinks, and, sinking, casts back a glory 
upon the leaden cloud-rack which had darkly besieged 
his day. 

After all, the body is a more expert dialectician than 
the soul, and buffets it, even to bewilderment, with the 
empty bladders of logic ; but the soul can retire from 
the dust and turmoil of such conflict, to the high tower 
of instinctive faith, and there, in hushed serenity, take 
comfort of the sympathizing stars. We look at Death 
through the cheap-glazed windows of the flesh, and 
believe him for the monster which the flawed and 
crooked glass presents him. You say truly that we 
have wasted time in trying to coax the body into a faith 
in what, by its very nature, it is incapable of compre- 
hending. Hence, a plethoric, short-winded kind of 



CHA UCEB. 103 

belief, that can walk at an easy pace over the smooth 
plain, but loses breath at the first sharp uphill of life. 
How idle is it to set a sensual bill of fare before the 
soul, acting over again the old story of the Crane and 
the Fox ! 

JOHN. 

I know not when we shall hear pure spiritualism 
preached by the authorized expounders of doctrine. 
These have suffered the grain to mildew, while they 
have been wrangling about the husks of form ; and the 
people have stood by, hungry and half-starved, too 
intent on the issue of the quarrel to be conscious that 
they were trampling the forgotten and scattered bread 
of life in the mire. Thank Heaven, they may still 
pluck ripe ears, of God's own planting and watering, 
in the fields ! 

In the conclusion to Raleigh's "History of the 
World " there is a passage concerning Death, which 
rolls on with the muffled grandeur of a funeral march. 
There is something in it which always affects me 
strangely. I must repeat it to you. 

" O eloquent, just, and mighty Death I whom none could advise, 
thou hast persuaded ; what none hath dared, thou hast done ; and 
whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the 
world and despised; thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched 
greatne&s, all the pride, cruelty, and amhition of man, and covered 
it all over with these two narrow words, — Ilic jacet I " 

PHILIP. 

Magnificent truly ! — I have but one more promise 
yet to fulfil, and that is, to read you an extract from 
" Troilus and Creseide,'^ modernized by Wordsworth. 



104 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

I shall select a few verses, leaving you to read the rest 
at your leisure. After Cressid has left Troy, Troilus 
goes in secret to see once more her house, where they 
had been wont to meet. 

" Then said he thus : — * O palace desolate I 
O house of houses, once so richly dight I 
O palace empty and disconsolate 1 
Thou lamp, of which extinguished is the light I 
O palace, whilom day, that now art night 1 
Thou ought*st to fall, and I to die, since she 
Is gone who held us both in sovereignty. 

" ' O of all houses once the crowned boast I 
Palace illumined with the sun of bliss 1 
O ring, of which the ruby now is lost I 
O cause of woe, that cause has been of bliss! 
Yet, since I may no better, would I kiss 
Thy cold doors ; but I dare not for this rout : 
Farewell, thou shrine, of which the saint is out I * " 



** Forth from the spot he rideth up and down, 
And everything to his remember^nce 
Came, as he rode by places of the town 
Where he had felt such perfect pleasure once» 
* Lo, yonder saw I mine own lady dance. 
And in that temple she with her bright eyes, 
My lady dear, first bound me captivewise ; 

" * And yonder, with joy-smitten heart, have I 
Heard my own Cressid's laugh ; and once at play 
I yonder saw her eke full blissfully ; 
And yonder once she unto me *gan say, 
" Now, my sweet Troilus, love me well, I pray I " 
And there so graciously did me behold, 
That hers unto the death my heart I hold. 

'' ' And at the comer of that selfsame house 
Heard I my most beloved lady dear, 



CHA UCEB. 106 



So womanly, with voice melodious 
Singing so well, so goodly, and so clear, 
That in my soul, methinks, I yet do hear 
The blissful sound ; and in that very place 
My lady first me took unto her grace/ 



'* Another time he took into his head 
That every wight, who in the way passed by, 
Had of him ruth, and fancied that they said, 

* I am right sorry Troilus will die 1 ' 

" And every night, as he was wont to do, 
Troilus stood the bright moon to behold ; 
And all his trouble to the moon he told. 
And said, * I wis, when thou art homed anew, 
I shall be glad if all the world be true/ 

" Upon the walls fast also would he walk, 
To the end that he the Grecian host might see ; 
And ever thus he to himself would talk : — 

* Lo, yonder is mine own bright lady free ; 
Or yonder is it that the tents must be ; 

And thence doth come this air, that is so sweet 
That in my heart I feel the joy of it. 

" * And certainly this wind, that more and more. 
By moments, thus increaseth in my face. 
Is of my lady's sighs heavy and sore : 
I prove it thus ; for, in no other space. 
Of all this town, save only in this place. 
Feel I a wind that soundeth so like pain ; 
It saith, " Alas I why severed are we twain ? " ' " 

I venture to say that you know nothing in English 
(and, if not in that, surely in no other language) rarer 
in its kind than this. I have made only one change 
in it, a merely literal one, substituting "doth** for 
" does/' in the sixth line of the last stanza but one. 
The euphony of the verse seemed to me to demand it. 



106 SkCOND CONVERSATION. 

And this leads us back again to the beginning of our 
conversation. Here is an archaism which the rabble 
of sibilant sounds in our language not only excuses, 
but renders necessary, even if an argument might not 
be legitimately drawn from the loss which melody 
feels in the banishment of the soft termination th. 

JOHN. 

What a sweet fancy is that of Troilus about the 
wind ! It reminds one of Romeo. — I agree with you 
about the termination^^ nor do I think that these 
little niceties and refinements of language are beneath 
tlie dignity of serious study and argument. A stray 
hair, by its continued irritation, may give n^ore annoy- 
ance than a sharp blow. 

PHILIP. 

In many words this termination is necessary to give 
sufficient prolongation to the sound, as in linger-ethy 
murmur-dhy wander-eth, abid-eth, — words denoting a 
continuance of action, and which are defrauded of 
their just amount of expression by being squeezed into 
a compacter form, and set off with the fizz of an a at 
the end, as in wanders^ murmurs^ and lingers. Where 
plaintiveness of tone is demanded, the sweet gravity 
of this termination should always plead for its use. 
It is one of the excellences of our language. In some 
words it were manifestly out of place, as in whistles, 
stops, hisses, slides. In the dramatic form, too, it 
should be sparingly employed. There, we mostly 
want directness, plainness and force, and such exquis- 
iteness would seem like finery and foppishness. The 



CHA UCEB. 107 

sentiment^ demanding^ as it always does, the keenest 
and most delicate sympathy from the diction, most 
decide without appeal in such cases. Milton shows 
the sensitiveness of his ear most in his earlier poems^ 
especially in " Com us" and "Lycidas." It is remark- 
able that his blindness seems rather to have lessened 
than increased this faculty in him. Perhaps our 
noble philanthrope, Dr. Howe, could explain this. 
His " Samson Agonistes " is singularly harsh and un- 
musical, and often far less metrical than the sonorous 
and enthusiastical sentences which jut out continually 
above the level of his prose. Coleridge well expressed 
Shakespeare's mastery over language, when he said that 
you could no more detrude a word from one of his 
verses, than you could push out a brick from the side 
of a house with your finger. Sometimes the language 
of a whole play seems to be pervaded and tempered 
by a prevailing sentiment. I have always thought so 
of that most sombre of his tragedies, *^ Richard the 
Second." There is little of his Titanic, heaven-scaling 
boldness of metaphor and expression in it ; all is grave, 
subdued, and mournful ; and you read it under your 
voice, as if in a funeral chamber. 

I fear that I have spoken too harshly of the letter 
8. It often adds much to the expression of a verse, — 
in the word sUence, for example. It is only by the 
contrast of some slight noise that we can appreciate 
silence. A solitude is never so lonely as when the 
wind sighs through it. This is suggested to the ear, 
and so to the imagination, by the sound of the word. 
Keats, therefore, did well in bringing together such a 
cohort of «-s in the opening of his "Hyperion:" 



108 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

" Deep in the shady stillnes* of a vale, 
Far sunken from the healthy breath of mom, 
Far from the fiery moon and eve's one star, 
Sa.t gray-haired /Sktum, silent as a stone, 
StUl as the silence round about his lair." 

Do you not feel it ? The whole passage, for some 
distance farther on, is full of this sighing melody, and 
so impresses me with its utter loneliness and desertion, 
that, after repeating it to myself when alone, I am 
relieved to hear the companionable flicker of the fire, 
or the tinkling fall of an ember. The same is observ- 
able in the first lines of Drummond's Tenth Sonnet, 
and, indeed, throughout the whole of it : 

" Sleep, Silence, child, sweet father of soft rest, 
Prince whose approach peace to all mortals brings, 
Indifferent host to shepherds and to kings." 

Here we feel a kind of hushing sound, as if pre- 
luding sleep, conveyed by the 8-s and the c-s. You 
must remember that I am speaking of silence as it im- 
presses the ear only; for its effect often receives a, 
reinforcement from the eye also, as in the African 
deserts, which, though they seem the very extreme of 
stillness by day, when the eye can appreciate their 
utter loneliness, would not appear more hushed than 
this room in thorough darkness. In the same way 
that we estimate silence by contrast with the nearest 
possible approach to it in sound, do we measure dark- 
ness by a similar comparison with light. This Milton 
felt, when he said, 

"No light, but rather darkness visible;*' 

which could not be, except for some presence of light, 



CBA UCEB. 109 

like that which Spenser, impressed with the same feel- 
ing, calls 

" A little ghoming light, much like a shade," 

There is a passage also in Thomson, who had a 
very nice ear, which is in point. You will see how 
he changes from the roughness of th^ r to the smooth 
glide of the 8. 

"At last, the roused-up river pours along: 
Eesistless, roaring, dreadful, down it comes 
From the rude mountain and the mossy wild, 
Tumbling through rocks abrupt, and sounding far; 
Then o'er the sanded valley floating spreads, 
Calm, sluggish, silent." 

So, likewise, in the first four stanzas of Collins's 
most delicious " Ode to Evening," an ode impregnated 
with deep calm, and the verses of which seem like the 
arches of some deserted cloister, each growing silenter 
as you enter farther into their dim seclusion. I could 
easily cite passages from Shakespeare and Spenser to 
show that they well understood this secret. In the 
word 7nistle and others of the same kind, the 8 is full 
of meaning. Hawthorne, who has a right in any 
gathering of poets, will give me an example. It is 
from his wonderful " Hollow of the Three Hills.'' 

" Before them went the priest, reading the burial-service, while 
the leaves of his book were rustling in the breeze." 

The expression of the passage suffers by being torn 
away from its context. An air of silence pervades 
the whole. It is this property of the letter 8 to give 
a feeling of stillness, or of such faint sounds as would 



110 SECOND CONVERSATION. 

be heard only when everything else is hushed, that 
takes away all force from words like dissonance, which 
Milton sometimes introduces, as I think, unwisely, — 
as in this passage from " Comus : " 

** The wonted roar was up amongst the woods, 
And fille4 the air with barbarous dissonance : " 

where it does not at all harmonize with the imme- 
diately-preceding " roar." 

After all, it seems to me that there is no European 
language so rich in words that echo the sense and feel- 
ing as the English. The modern French assume a 
great license in inventing words of this kind, but their 
newness and want of previous association rob them of 
much of their force. We, it is true, have cheated the 
r of half of its dignity ; but in the Italian, where it 
is indulged and petted, it often disturbs much better 
company with its licensed brabblings. 

There is no deeper study than this of words ; and I 
have found in many an otherwise dull and muddy old 
folio the amplest repayment, when I have met in it a 
single hint to the clearer understanding of this mystery. 
What book are you searching the shelves for? 

JOHN. 

Gray's Letters. There is a passage in one of them 
on the subject of the resurrection of old words, 
which is to the point. I suppose I must allow the 
authority of so classical a writer, though it tell against 
the opinion I expi'essed in the first part of yesterday's 
conversation. Here it is. 



CHAUCER. Ill 

''Oar poetry has a language peculiar to itself; to which almost 
every one that has written has added something by enriching it 
with foreign idioms and derivatives, nay, sometimes words of their 
own composition or invention. Shakespeare and Milton have been 
g^reat creators this way; and no one more licentious than Pope 
or Dryden, who perpetually borrow from the former. . . . Our 
language, not being a settled thing (like the French), has an 
undoubted right to words of an hundred years old, provided 
antiquity have not rendered them unintelligible. In truth, 
Shakespeare's language is one of his principal beauties, and he has 
no less advantage over your Addisons and Rowes in this, than in 
those other great excellences you mention." * 

PHILIP. 

Had Gray been as untrammelled in his poetiy as in 
his prose, he would have been as delightful as Grold- 
smith. — Well, we have, as usual when we come 
together, talked a little about everything. We should 
hardly have pleased Pythagoras, who enjoined a five 
years' silence, and whose disciples, as Athenseus relates, 
were wont to hold fishes in high esteem for their taci- 
turnity. 

" To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new." 
* Letter LIL, to Mr. West. 



THIED CONVERSATION. 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 

JOHN. 

I BELIEVE it was Dr. Johnson (surely, it was no 
poet) who first said that all good poetry could be 
translated into as good prose. It is plain that he saw 
no distinction between the two, except in the metre 
and rhyme. I should judge so, at least, from his own 
verses. 

PHILIP. 

He meant that all poetry must be translatable into 
" common sense,'' that popular altar upon whose horns 
dulness and prejudice are so ready to cling. But how 
is Pegasus better than a dray-horse, with this market- 
cart trundling behind him? Doubtless, some of the 
truest poetry has been written without either rhyme or 
metre ; but it has lacked one of its highest adornments, 
and one which the most poetical thoughts demand. 
Metre and rhyme are wings to the artist, and crutches 
to the artificer; they may lift the one to a more 
empyreal vantage-ground, but they will only change 
the natural gait of the other for a hobble. The 
grandest and most noble part of poetry is independent 
of them. Yet, wanting these, a poem shall want the 

112 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 113 

completeness of its effect. I believe both of them to 
be the instinctive desires of the most amply poetical 
spirits. I could cite many poems which would 
nothing without them, yet which have the blessed powe 
to lead my heart into the cool stillness of memory, o^ 
to the breezy headlands of hope. 

JOHN. 

Prose may do the same. 

PHILIP. 

Ay, but not so cheaply and simply. It is a great 
gift to be able to conceive and express those thoughts 
which entice us out of the actual into the ideal ; a yet 
greater one, to utter such as teach us to unite the two; 
but, surely, that is the greatest gift of all which super- 
adds to these a keener and more refined delight. 
There are moods, too, in which pleasurable emotion is 
all that the mind is capable of, and the power of 
bestowing this, merely, is not to be contemned. Beauty 
is always use. The acanthus-leaves of the capital do 
not help the pillar as a support, and yet I think that 
even the iconoclastic hammer of strictest utilitai'ianism 
might consistently spare them. There are passages in 
Milton's prose which fall below his poetry only for 
M^ant of the majestic grace of his metre. They make ! 
life seem fairer to me, they give my heart a manlier 
brace; but I am conscious of a barenness in them, 
which I had never known, perhaps, had he not him- , 
self betrayed it to me by that more lavish splendor of 
his verse, ever changeful, ever new, pavilioning hisj 
thoughts like the cloud ai'ches of a sunset. 



114 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

JOHN. 

If Swift were right wlien he called him the greatest 
benefactor of mankind, who made two blades of grass 
grow where one grew before, I would give no mean 
place to the bestower of a new flower Whatever has 
given the spirit a fresh delight has established for itself 
a fair title in fee simple to the room it has taken up on 
our planet. Your business to day is, to prove the title 
of the Old Dramatists. 

PHILIP. 

Those are the greatest poets who have expressed the 
largest number of our common thoughts concisely and 
poii^bly. By conciseness I would not be understood 
to mean a Spartan and niggardly brevity, or that tight- 
laced affectation which puts a full stop in place of a 
comma, and makes expression pant and breathe short. 
If we tie a bundle too tightly, our packthread is apt 
to break, and we loose our pains. Feeling and diction 
soon lose their healthy color, when they are imprisoned 
together in too narrow a cell. That style is the most 
concise which expresses a thought best, whether it bq 
in few or many words. A painter would choose a 
larger canvas, and charge his palette with richer and 
more varied colors, to paint a sunset, than to paint a 
mouse ; yet the one would be as truly concise as the 
other. Simplicity is neither plain nor bald. 

JOHN. 

No. A ray of light seems simple enough, and yet 
is made up of all the primary colore. 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 116 



PHILIP. 



And light is tlie symbol of truth. As every sub- 
stance absorbs that part of the pure ray which its na- 
ture and constitution desire, and becomes colored ac- 
cordingly, so is it with language. Every word has a | 
hue of its own, which is its meaning ; and a just com- ' 
bination of these, whether more or fewer, reproduces! 
that whole of which each is a part, and the general- 
effect is light. The same is true of ideas; and every! 
man is more or less a poet, in proportion as he has anj 
instinctive understanding of this beautiful and har-A 
monious chromatic chord. To refine a little farther, I 
it is also equally true of the sound of words. lEivevyl 
one has its proper correlative in color, and may be alw 
most mathematically demonstrated to be in or out off 
tune. 

JOHN. 

One would think, then, that a mathematical mind 
should excel alike in poetry, painting, and music ; and 
that Euclid, had he been so minded, might have com- 
bined the excellences of Shakespeare, Raphael, and 
Beethoven. 

PHILIP. 

Not more truly than the prism, in giving us the 
same colors, can satisfy and conciliate the eye like the 
rainbow. I am not sure, however, (since the faculty 
of analysis is so main an element in the mind of the 
artist,) that any one of the great trio you have named 
might not have made a good mathematician. Chau- 
cer, when in prison, wrote a treatise on the astrolabe 
for his son. Pythagoras, who seems to have had a 



116 THIRD CONVERSATION, 

truly poetical nature, made discoveries in the science 
of numbers ; Goethe, in colore, in botany, and in anat- 
omy ; and Coleridge tells us, that Davy, if he had not 
chosen to be a great chemist, would have been a great 
poet. But analysis must be a subordinate faculty, or 
the man, instead of being an artist, ])ecomes an imi- 
tator, using the same means which others have era- 
ployed, mathematically rather than instinctively. 

JOHN. 

This harmony between sound and color and (you 
would add) thought is a very enticing one for specula- 
tion. I had often noticed that particular musical notes 
gave me a sensation of colors, and was wont to apply 
it to some action of the associative principle too fine for 
me to trace the links, till I reflected that neither the 
organ of smell (which has the most powerful efiFect on 
our association with places) nor that of taste was at all 
excited. When I afterwards found that there was a 
fixed law in the matter, I was, for a time, in an ec- 
stacy. I could now understand why it was that cer- 
tain pieces of music, though there were no discords in 
the performance of them, were yet very unpleasing to 
me. The want of harmony was between the different 
parts. It was as if, in a large picture, the painter 
should have had the colors of each figure, or of each 
group, in tune, and yet, failing to keep the other grou}>s 
in proper harmony, should make his whole canvass jar 
upon the eye. I remember being very much interested 
in a book upon the theory of colors, in which was a dia- 
gram of the musical chromatic scale.* The illustrations 

* Field's " Theory of Color." 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 117 

were drawn from our English poets, especially Shakes- 
peare, who was shown never to have stioick a false note. 
Truly, as Falstaff says, " this instinct is a great mat- 
ter/^ Many of the great painters have been also musi- 
cians. Raphael and Gerard Douw have painted them- 
selves in this character. Musical concerts were a 
favorite subject of Correggio's pencil. Gainsborough 
was as passionately fond of his viol de gamba as of his 
paints and brushes ; and you would probably say that 
it was the same qndlity of mind that made him a great 
painter, which, possessed in a more limited degree, 
made his younger brother a distinguished mechanician. 
Benvenuto Cellini, I think, mentions Michel Angelo's 
love of music, and was himself no mean performer. 
Salvator Rosa must have had a sensitive ear, or he 
would never have been so expert an improvvissatore. 
Doubtless a book of reference would furnish us with 
many more examples. Allston was as fond of hearing 
the rich voice of his niece, as Luther was of his son 
John's. Page has a delicate appreciation of the finest 
music ; and I know one, of whose genius as a sculptor 
I feel well assured,* who is a proficient in the science. 
The fondue&s of the painters for St. Cecilia, too, should 
not be forgotten. Fuseli understood the chromatic force 
of words as well as of colors, and has left, perhaps, 
the best descriptive criticism on the pictures which we 
have. AUston's forthcoming volume of lectures will, I 
doubt not, prove him also a master of the effects of 
language. Nor have the poets shown less fondness for 
the sister art. Homer several times has a kind word 

* W. W. Story, who, if he keeps the promise of tlie first bust he 
has exhibited, may soon write himself artis rmigisLer, 



118 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

for the singers. In the eighth book of the Odyssey, 
for instance, 

" iraai yap avdpuiroiaiv kirixffovlotaiv^ aoiSol 
Tt/iijg ifi/wpoi elai koI aidovc" 

But this may be professional. Shakespeare betrays it 
often. Milton played upon the organ, a congenial 
instrument. Izaak Walton has recorded Herbert's 
musical propensity and skill, and Cowper himself tells 
of his own fondness for Mrs. Unwin's harpsichord. 
Goldsmith's flute played the interpreter for him, and 
paid his way through France. Collins, one of our 
richest colorists, was passionately f(md of music. Now 
that I have indulged in this refinement of fancy so 
far, why might I not carry it a step farther, and at 
once admit form as well as color into this musical 
party ? 

PHILIP. 

You have unconsciously done so already, by your 
allusions to sculptors. Vitruvius tells us that archi- 
tects should know something of music, and you 
remember Madame De Stael's celebrated fancy. If I 
knew enough of music, I might, perhaps, find nice 
analogies between its styles and those of architecture. 
Dwight, who has at once so profound and refined a 
perception in whatever relates to music, could trace 
them for us with enthusiastic demonstration. The 
parallel between some of the architectural and the 
poetical styles has often struck me. The Grecian cor- 
responds to the Epic in its severe majesty, its regular 
columns, and its images, calm and large like those of 
gods. 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 119 

JOHN. 

I see Milton has usurped to himself the whole defi- 
nition of Epic in your dictionary. Homer's Iliad, 
with its rapidly shifting scenes, its alarums and incur- 
sions, differs from tlie Paradise Lost as widely as 
Mozart's music from Handel's. Still farther apart 
stands the picturesque and romantic Odyssey, with its 
Calypso and Cyrce, its Lotophagi and Lestrygons and 
Cyclops, and the homely glimpse of old Argus, which 
delighted our childhood. The Nibelungen song is 
more like this. It is quite as much Gothic as Grecian. 
By the way, I wish that Professor Felton would give 
us an edition of the Odyssey uniform with his Iliad. 
I cannot help liking it the better of the two. 

PHILIP. 

We should never look below the best for a standard, 
and I shall keep fast hold of Milton still. The 
Drama, in its highest form, the Tragedy, is fitly sym- 
bolled by the Gothic, having its fixed rules indeed, but 
admitting of lyrical adornment, and of the quaint 
corbels of humor here and there, leering, perhaps, 
over a tomb, the proper types of Shakespeare's clown. 
The Lyric, again, may find its parallel among the light 
and graceful buildings of the Moors. 

JOHN. 

We have dwelt long enough among these sublima- 
tions, almost as impalpable as the Greek poet's "dream 
of the shadow of a smoke." It is well enough to 
shape likenesses in the changing outlines of a cloud ; 



/ 



120 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

but if we embrace one, we shall only, like Ixion, 
beget a monster. 

PHILIP. 

I believe that you have been seduced from your 
allegiance solely by that plausible metaphor. But it 
will betray you in turn, for you have forgotten that 
one of the nephelid offspring of that Olympian in- 
trigue was the instructor of the greatest heroes of 
antiquity, nay, of the scientific god of medicine him- 
self. A metaphor, if the correspondence be perfect in 
all its parts, is one of the safest guides through the 
labyrinth of truth ; but, should there chance to be a 
break in the thread, we are left without a clew in the 
more inextricable maze into which we have suffered it 
to lead us. As to our sublimations, I will rebuke you 
out of the mouth of Sir Thomas Browne, who says, " I 
love to lose myself in a mystery ; to pursue my reason 
to an O AUitudo ! ^' — to which I heartily assent. 

JOHN. 

If poetry be not out of place in the train of these 
(shall I call them philosophical?) refinements, I should 
be glad to think myself a day's journey nearer to the 
"golden stronde" of the dramatists. 

PHILIP. 

You might open them almost anywhere, and find an 
oracle to your purpose. True poetry is never out of f 
place, nor will a good word spoken for her ever fail ; 
of some willing and fruitful ear. Even under our 
thin crust of fashion and frivolily throb the undying 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 121 

fires of the great soul of man, the fountain and centre 
of all poetry, and which will one day burst forth to 
wither like gra&s-blades the vain temples and palaces 
which forms and conventionalities have heaped 
smotheringly upon it. Behind the blank faces of the 
weak and thoughtless, I see, sometimes with a kind of 
dread, this awful and mysterious pi'esence, as I have 
seen one of AUston's paintings in a ball-room, over- 
looking with its serene and steadfast eyes the butterfly 
throng beneath, and seeming to gaze, from these 
narrow battlements of time, far out into the infinite 
promise of the future, beholding there the free, erect, 
and perfected soul. 

JOHN. 

Ah, you have climbed upon the saddle of your 
Pegasus again, and will leave me far behind. Men- 
tion poetry, or anti-slavery, and you go suddenly 
mad, though in ordinary matters a reasonable fellow 
enough. They are as fruitful a text to you as the 
" Kaim o' Kimprunes " to Mr. Oldbuck. I like your 
enthusiasm very well, but you sometimes jumble them 
together oddly enough. 

PHILIP. 

You forget that I believe the poetical sentiment and 
what we call the sentiment of natural religion to be 
identical. Both of them are life-memlDcrs of the New 
England Anti-Slavery Society. You are, at heart, as 
much an Abolitionist as I ; and if you were not, I 
should suspect the purity of my own principles, if they 
built up a wall between me and my brother. No sin- 



122 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

cere desire of doing good need make an enemy of a 
single human being ; for that is a capacity in which 
he is by nature unfitted to shine. It may, and must, 
rouse opposition ; but that philanthropy has surely a 
flaw in it, which cannot sympathize with the oppressor 
equally as with the oppressed. It is the high and 
glorious vocation of Poesy as well to make our own 
daily life and toil more beautiful and holy to us by 
the divine ministerings of love, as to render us swift 
to convey the same blessing to our brother. Poesy is 
love's chosen apostle, and the very almoner of God. 
She is the home of the outcast and the wealth of the 
needy. For her the hut becomes a palace, whose halls 
are guarded by the gods of Phidias, and kept peaceful 
by the maid-mothers of Raphael. She loves better 
the poor wanderer whose bare feet know by heart all 
the freezing stones of the pavement, than the delicate 
maiden for whose dainty soles Brussels and Turkey 
have been over-careful ; and I doubt not but some re- 
membered scrap of childish song hath often been a 
truer alms than all the benevolent societies could give. 
She is the best missionaiy, knowing when she may 
knock at the door of the most curmudgeonly hearts, 
without being turned away unheard. The omnipres- 
ence of her spirit is beautifully and touchingly ex- 
pressed in " The Poet,'' one of the divisions of a little 
volume of poems by Cornelius Mathews. Were the 
whole book as simple in thought and diction as the 
most of this particular poem, I know few modem 
volumes that would equal it. Let me read you the 
passage I alluded to. You will see that the poor slave 
is not forgotten. 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS, 123 

" There sits not on the wilderncss's edge. 

In the dusk lodges of the wintry Korth, 
Nor couches in the rice-field's slimy sedge, 

Nor on the cold, wide waters ventures forth, — 
Who waits not, in the pauses of his toil. 

With hope that spirits in the air may sing ; 
Who upward turns not at propitious times, 

Breathless his silent features listening. 
In desert and in lodge, on marsh and main. 
To feed his hungry heart and conquer pain." 

JOHN. 

Worthy of the fine imagination and the classic taste 
of Collins ; though he would have found fault, I sus- 
pect, with the assonance of "sits not" and "waits 
not," coming in as they do, also, in the same place in 
their respective verses. But these are trifles. No 
man ought to stop, looking for motes in such a beaker 
of pure HipiKXjrene as this. These lines express a 
truth, and, in such utterances, the mind does not linger 
daintily picking choice phrase, as it does for the deck- 
ing out of a fancy. Truth comes huddling forth like 
molten iron, which, though it be beautified by the 
little swarms of bee-like sparks which hover around 
it, yet runs into the nearest channel and there soon 
hardens, taking the chance shape of its mould. 
• 

PHILIP. 

Those verses do, indeed, express a truth. The love 
of the beautiful and true, like the dew-drop in the 
heart of the crystal, remains for ever clear and liquid 
in the inmost shrine of man's being, though all the 
rest be turned to stone by sorrow and degradation. 
The angel, who has once come down into the soul, will 



124 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

not be driven thence by any sin or baseness even, mucli 
less by any undeserved oppression or wrong. At the 
soul's gate sits she silently, with folded hands and 
downcast eyes ; but, at the least touch of nobleness, 
those patient orbs are serenely uplifted, and the whole 
spirit is lightened with their prayerful lustre. Over • 
all life broods Poesy, like the calm, blue sky with its 
motherly rebuking face. She is the true preacher of ■ 
the Word ; and when, in time of danger and trouble, f 
the established shepherds have cast down their crooks , 
and fled, she tenderly careth for the flock. On herJ 
calm and fearless heart rests weary Freedom, when all, 
the world have driven her from the door with scofis^ 
and mockings. From her white breasts flows the 
strong milk which nurses our heroes and martyrs ; and 
she blunts the sharp tooth of the fire, makes the axe 
edgeless, and dignifies the pillory or the gallows. She 
is the great reformer, and where the love of her is 
strong and healthy, wickedness and wrong cannot long 
prevail. The more this love is cultivated and refined, 
the more do men strive to make their outward lives 
rhythmical and harmonious, that they may accord 
with that inward and dominant rh}i;hm by whose key 
the composition of all noble and worthy deeds is 
guided. To make one object, in outward or inward 
nature, more holy to a single heart is reward enough 
for a life ; for, the more sympathies we gain or awaken 
for what is beautiful, by so much deeper will be our 
sympathy for that which is most beautiful, — the human 
soul. Love never contracts its circles ; they widen by 
as fixed and sure a law as those around a pebble cast 
into still water. The angel of love, when, full of sor- 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 125 

row, he followed the first exiles, behind whom the 
gates of Paradise shut with that raouraful clang, of 
which some faint echo has lingered in the hearts of all 
their offspring, unwittingly snapped off and brought 
away in his hand the seed-pod of one of the never-fad- 
ing flowera which grew there. Into all dreary and 
desolate places fell some of its blessed kernels ; they 
asked but little soil to root themselves in, and in this 
narrow patch of our poor clay they sprang most quickly 
and sturdily. Gladly they grew, and from them all 
time has been sown with whatever gives a higher hope 
to the soul, or makes life nobler and more godlike ; 
while, from the over-arching sky of Poesy, sweet dew 
for ever falls to nui'se and keep them green and fresh 
from the world's dust. 

JOHN. 

If a drop or two from the phial of my unassisted 
reason, which you, I fear, would leave in some dai*k 
corner upon the shelf, while you are playing off your 
experiments with the brighter-hued fluids of the lab- 
oratoiy, be competent to precipitate the theory which 
you have dissolved in so splendid a commixture, I 
should guess that your notion of the good influence of 
poetry amounts simply to this, — that it maintains the 
sway of the heart over the intellect. The intellect has 
only one failing, which, to be sure, is a very consider- 
able one; it has no conscience. Napoleon is the 
readiest instance of this. If his heart had borne any 
proportion to his brain, he had been one of the greatest 
men in all history. As it is, his triumphs are of the 
intellect merely, which memor}^, indeed may wonder 



126 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

at, but will never love. He will go down to posterity 
as a deformity ; like one of those hideous caricatures in 
plaster of which his countrj^-raen are so fond, (a notice- 
able fact, by the way, and illustrative of national cha- 
racter,) whose chief characteristic is a monstrous head 
out of all proportion to the other membei's. That ath- 
letic intellect, its huge muscles hardened and tutored 
by long training, and grim with the proud dust of 
unnumbered victories in the wrestling-ring, became 
weak as a child in the grip of the sturdy, honest heart 
of England. Whatever magnanimity he has shown 
has in it an ugly, corrupting spot of forethought, and 
seems rather the result of intention than of instinct ; 
as if he were constraining himself into a heroic atti- 
tude, to be modelled in a statue for posterity. 

The intellect can never be great, save in pupilage to 
the heart. Nay, it can never be truly strong but so. 
It suspects and mistrusts itself at every turn, and gives 
way ignominously at last. It sole lust is for power, 
won it matters not how, and of whatever kind or de- 
gree. And it cheats itself, too, fancying its straw a 
spear like a weaver's beam, and strutting ridiculous 
with its twig sceptre and paper crown. It is because 
politics have been regarded as an intellectual science, 
that they have become so proverbially dishonest. The 
politicians juggle on, buying power at any rate, till the 
great lubberly national conscience, which their buzz- 
ings have lulled asleep, wakens with a portentous 
yawn, and brushes the whole infesting swarm into 
blank oblivion. Could we but find a statesman with 
a poet's eye! Burke had but a narrow miss of it. 

It is only the intellect that can be thoroughly and 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 127 

hideously wicked. It can forget everything in the 
attainment of its ends. The heart recoils; in its 
retired places some drops of childhood's dew still 
linger, defying manhood^s fiery noon ; it remembers ; 
it forecasts ; it dares not leap the black chasm of the 
life to come. The intellect is haunted in its lonely 
moments by its weird sisters, whose promises of sway 
entice it on from one foul deed to another. — What an 
intellect was Napoleon's ! He was the Goethe of the 
throne and the camp. And that huge structure which 
he piled with such wasteful pains was but like the 
winter palaces of the Czar, being reared by the intel- 
lect alone, of its icy blocks, crystal, far-shining, yet no 
match for the silent eye of that all-beholding sun of 
mankind's moral sense. What pang of the world's 
sore-distressed heart did he make the lighter? What 
gleam of sunshine streamed into the dim hovel of our 
mce the more freely and bounteously for him ? 

The great intellect dies with its possessor ; the great 
heart, though his name in whose breast it had its ebb 
and flow be buried in the mouldered past, survives for 
ever, beckoning kindred natures to deeds of heroic 
trust and self-sacrifice. Is Luther dead while Garrison 
still lives ? The intellect would fain bargain with and 
outwit the future ; the heart buys acceptance of it with 
a simple smile. This, then, is the great errand of the 
poet; to keep alive our fealty to the heart, and, even 
when it has been banished by the asurping intellect,, 
to rouse our loyalty with the despised, and thereforii 
unmolested, pei'suasion of a song. \ 



128 THIRD CONVERSATION, 

PPIILIP. 

What you say is true. The intellect, so it be at 
work, cares not much for what end. It is for ever 
moulding with its restless fingers the clay within its 
reach, and shapes with almost equal pleasure an Apollo 
or a Priapus. But they err who assert that what we 
humanly call great must of need be virtuous. For 
the intellect may seduce the heart, and so, even by 
wicked means, create something that shall last. This 
was the case with Voltaire, whose omnipotent sneer, 
evil in itself, did good as well as evil. To me, one of 
the most interesting relics of Napoleon is that table- 
talk of his in his island-jail. A kind of Coleridge- 
Machiavel, he says something noticeable about every- 
thing, scrawling the aphoristic commentaries of a 
general with the cramped precision of an orderly-ser- 
geant. — Well, a conversation is like a Classical Dic- 
tionary, where, at the end of every subject, a vide 
directs you to some other, till you might as well 
attempt to read Hesiod's stupid Theogony. Let us 
come back to our old Dramatists. 

JOHN. 

The old English Dramatists ! with what a vague 
feeling of pride and reverence do I utter those four 
words! Entering the enchanted, and to me almost 
iintraveled, realm which tliey " rule as their demense," 
I feel like the awestruck Goth, when his eyes dropped 
beneath the reverend aspects of the Roman senate, and 
he concluded them an assembly of gods ; or more like 
him who, in searching the windings of a cavern, came 
suddenly upon King Arthur and his knights, seated, 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS, 129 

as of yore, about the renowned round-table. Silent 
and severe they sit, those men of the old fearless time, 
and gaze with stern eyes upon the womanly new- 
comer whose limbs have never been galled by the 
weary harness, and whose soft arm has never held the 
lance in rest. 

PHILIP. 

Yes; we feel, when we come among them, as if 
their joys and sorrows were on a more Titanic scale 
than those of our day. It seems as if we had never 
suffered and never acted, and yet we feel a noble spur 
and willingness to endure and to do. They show us 
the dignity and strength of the soul, and, after reading 
them, the men we see in the streets look nobler and 
more manlike, and we find more brotherhood in their 
before unanswering faces. Their works stand among 
those of the moderns like the temples and altars of the 
ancient dwellers on this continent among the rude 
hovels of a race of descendants ignorant of their use 
and origin. Let us muse awhile in this city of the 
past, and sketch roughly some of the mighty monu- 
ments yet standing therein. 

JOHN. 

It is a little strange that the English, all of whose 
glorious past belongs equally to us, should pity us for 
having no antiquity to look back upon, as if that, even 
were it true, would preclude us from having poets. 
Besides sharing their own history and tradition with 
them, we can also claim our share in the anciently of 
thk^, our adopted hemisphere, and point to monuments, 

9 



13Q THIRD CONVERSATION. 

set by which their idle Druid-stones are but things of . 
an hour ago. Not tliat the poet needs any such ob- 
scurities to grope in, or desires a greater antiquity than 
that of his own heart, in which are written the same 
wondrous oracles, uncertain, yet not past finding out, 
of which all his brethren from Eden downward have 
deciphered but a few lines. Wherever Shakespeare 
lays his plots, that ruddy English heart of his was the 
true meridian, whence the degrees of latitude and 
longitude were numbered. Paradise and pandemo- 
nium both found room enough with Milton in that : 
little house in the Artillery Walk. The poet who / 
leans upon the crumbling arm of Eld will never him- 
self bec»ome a part of history. When he crossed the 
threshold of his own heart, he left his strength behind 
him ; and, in proportion as he wanders farther thence, 
he becomes remote from the hearts of all his kind ; his 
words become a dim murmur, with no articulate sylla- 
ble to claim attention from the ear. — But I interrupt. 



PHILIP. 

You interrupt well. In the old dramatists there is ; 
the beauty of health, strength, and invincible sincerity. 
Sorrow there is, as there is in life ; but it is a sorrow : 
that sympathizes with every human being, and is too 
genuine to be warped into a selfish and gloomy misan- 
thropy. They wrote before the good English word, 
feeling J had whined itself into the French one, sentl- 
menU They were too hardy to need shelter themselves 
in the soft cloak of sentimentalism, and thought it a 
worthier and more poetical ambition to emulate the- 



CHAPMAN, 131 

augels in Iovib than the devils in scorn and hate.) 
Byronism would have stood with numbed limbs and 
chattering teeth, in the sharp, bracing mountaiu-air in 
which alone their lungs could find free play. Yet 
there, amid the bare, majestic rocks, bloom tender Al- 
pine-flowers of delicatest hue and rarest fragrance, and 
the sturdy moss creeps everywhere with its heartfelt 
green, which, even in cloudy weather, looks as if it 
had garnered up in itself a store of sunshine. 

I shall make my first selections from George Chap- 
man, author of the best translation of Homer, and the 
friend of Spenser, Shakespeare, Marlow, and other great 
spirits of his day. I shall read to you only those pas- 
sages which have pleased me the most heartily, leaving 
you to suppose at the same time that I leave unread a 
thousand as good, which do not happen to fit my hu- 
mor as well. I shall punctuate and emphasize, and 
even change a syllable, or the order in which it stands, 
to please my own judgment and ear, 

JOHN. 

I like your declaration of independence, for I have 
generally found, when my reading has led me that way, 
that the labors of editors and commentators were like 
the M'ind Csecias, — whose quality it was, according to 
Aristotle, to gather clouds, rather tlian to dispel them. 

PHILIP. 

Chapman is a very irregular writer. I might liken 
him to a hoodwinked eagle, which sometimes, led by 
an ungovernable prompting of instinctive freedom, 
soars far up into the clear ether of song, and floats 



132 TRIED CONVERSATION. 

majestical on level wings where tins world, with its 
fret and turmoil, shows in the blue distance only as a 
silent star ; and which, as suddenly, will dash down 
again, and almost stun himself against the noisy and 
dusty earth. This is very natural in one of so impul- 
sive a temperament. His impetuosity is continually 
bureting out in hot jets, like little geysers, which often 
carry tlie mud and stones along with them toward , 
heaven. So eager is he to give vent to a favorite 
thought or image, that he does not sufficiently heed the 
intermediate steps, plunging along through mud and 
brambles till he reach his object. He has little dra- 
matic power, — that mesmerism by which Shakespeare • 
makes his characters speak and act his own thoughts, 
without letting his own individuality appear in the . 
matter, — and his plays, taken as wholes, are not very ; 
interesting ; but they abound in grand lines, and im- 
ages full of antique and majestic port. In didactic 
and moral passages, he comes nearer to Shakespeare 
than does any one of his contemporaries. 

JOHN. 

I think I have seen Chapman somewhere charged 
with bombast, and with some show of truth, if I may 
trust some passages quoted. 

PHILIP. 

The accusation was probably laid by some critic who 
could pardon nothing which rose above the dead marsh- 
level of Pope. He is rugged enough sometimes, but 
seldom turgid. When his mind has once taken a turn [ 
in any direction, it receives tributary streams and run- • 



) 
/ 



CHAPMAN. 133 

nels from every side, till it foams and rushes along / 
with the turbulent force of a swollen river. There ' 
are some minds to which all true poetry seems inflated, 
—commonwealths, from which poets are excluded with- 
out the artificial help of a Platonic edict The mass of 
men are so fallen from a true state of nature, that 
whatever would fain recall them to it, or presupposes 
it, seems ridiculous and unnatural. Read Milton aloud 
on the Exchange, and you would be laughed at, as 
much for what you read, as for reading at all. The 
multitude take the expression of something they have 
never felt for an absurdity or an affectation, or worse. 
So it is if they hear anything which strokes their prej- 
udices the wrong way. When the king of Denmark 
sent missionaries to convert the Malabarians, the Brah- 
mins expressed their entire satisfaction with the prin- 
ciples of the Christian religion, except inasmuch as it 
allowed its believers to eat cow's flesh and to spit. 
An intelligent Turk, who should come to this country 
with our Declaration of Independence in his head, would 
be delighted and surprised to find that a man may 
carry out in his practice almost any doctrine, save the 
main one which that instrument inculcates, without 
any fear of Autocrat Mob. He may preach despotism 
and be respectable, Mahometanism and he would be 
run after ; but if he preaches Anti-slavery, he loses 
caste at once. To us, on the other hand, this seems 
highly natural and proper, 

JOHN. 

God's livery is a very plain one ; but its wearers 
have good reason to be content. If it have not so 



134 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

much gold lace about it as Satan's, it keeps out foul 
weather better, and is besides a great deal cheaper. — I 
do not think that you do Pope justice. His transla- 
tion of Homer is as bad as it can be, I admit ; but 
surely you cannot deny the merit of lively and inge- 
nious fancy to his " Kape of the Lock," nor of know- 
ledge of life, and a certain polished classicalness to his 
Epistles and Satires. His portraits are like those of 
Copley, of fine gentlemen and ladies, whose silks and 
satins are the best part of them. 

PHILIP. 

I cannot allow the parallel. In Copley's best pict- 
ures, the drapery, though you may almost hear it 
rustle, is wholly a subordinate matter. Witness some 
of those in our college-hall here at Cambridge, that of 
Madam Boylston especially. I remember being once 
much struck with the remark of a friend, who con- 
vinced me of the fact, that Copley avoided the painting 
of wigs wherever he could, thus getting a step nearer 
nature. Pope would have made them a prominent 
object. I grant what you say about the " Eape of the 
Lock ;" but this does not prove that Pope was a poet. 
If you wish an instance of a pod^8 fancy, look into 
the " Midsummer Night's Dream." I can allow that 
Pope has written what is entertaining, but surely not 
poetical. Show me a line that makes you love God 
and your neighbor better, that inclines you to meek- 
ness, charity, and forbearance, and I will show you a 
hundred that make it easier for you to be the odious 
reverse of all these. In many a pagan poet there is 
more Christianity. No poet could write a " Dunciad," 



CHAPMAN. 136 

or even read it. You have persuaded yourself into 
thinking Pope a poet, as, in looking for a long time at 
a stick which we believe to be an animal of some kind, 
we fancy that it is stirring. His letters are amusing, 
but do not increase one's respect for him. When you 
speak of his being classical, I am sure that you jest 
Your favorite, Collins, is truly a classical WTiter. For 
classicalness does not consist in any amount of Latin 
and Greek, nor in a body-snatching of dead forms of 
expression or belief. It is only the plain simplicity 
of a gentleman. A scholarly air of quiet and repose, 
an easy dignity, and an unstrained grace pei'vade it. 
It may consist with the highest gifts of the imagina- 
tion, as in the delightful poet I have mentioned. The 
critics, by a strange kind of metonymy, have applied 
it chiefly to the curious insipidities of the dull, or the 
mechanic inspirations of the pedantic. Chapman, j! 
though a fine scholar, is in no wise classical. His \ 
merriment is quite too boisterous, and his enthusiasm , 
too unrestrained. When we read a classical poet, we ] 
feel as if we had entered a marble temple where a cool j 

I 

silence reigns; a few quiet statues gleam around us,; 
pure and naked ; a few short inscriptions tell of thel 
deeds of heroes; all is calm, grand, and simple to the 
highest perfection of art. But if Chapman be not}' 
classical, he has the higher merit of earnestness, sin-j 
cerity, and rugged heartiness, not without some touchesi 
here and there, of graceful tenderness and fierce sub-^^ 
limity. Now let me read to you the opening of 
" Bussy D'Ambois,'' a tragedy. 



136 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

"Enter BussY lyAMBOis in mean appareL 

" Fortune, not reason, rules the state of things : 
Reward goes backward ; honor on his head 
Who is not poor is monstrous; only need 
Gives form and worth to every human seed. 
As cedars beaten with continual storms, 
So great men flourish ; and do imitate 
Unskilful statuaries, who suppose 
(In forming a Colossus), if they make him 
Straddle enough, strut, and look big and gape, 
Their work is goodly ; so men merely great 
In their affected gravity of voice, 
Sourness of countenance, manners, cruelty. 
Authority, wealth, and all the spawn of fortune, 
Think they bear all the kingdom's worth before them; 
Yet differ not from those Colossic statues. 
Which, with heroic form without o'erspread, 
W^ithin are naught but mortar, flint, and lead. 
Man is a torch borne in the wind ; a dream 
But of a shadow, summed with all his substance; 
And, as great seamen, using all their wealth 
And skills in Neptune's deep, invisible paths. 
In tall ships richly built and ribbed with brass, 
To put a girdle round about the world, — 
When they have done it, coming near their haven, 
Are fain to give a warning-piece, and call 
A poor, stayed fisherman, that never passed 
His country's sight, to waft and guide them in ; — 
So, when we wander farthest through the waves 
Of glassy glory and the gulfs of state. 
Topped with all titles, spreading all our reaches, 
As if each private arm would sphere the earth, 
We must to virtue for her guide resort, 
Or we shall shipwreck in our safest port." 



JOHN. 

I can hardly persuade myself that the grand meta- 
phor of the torch did not come from Hebrew lips. I 



1 > . ' .._ L. - ' X ' -V 



CHAPMAN. 137 

know DO other image that would so well express the 
fickleness and uncertainty of our hold on life as this. 
The likening of virtue, too, to the poor, stayed fisher- 
man that had never been out of his countiy's sight is 
very sweet. With the first part of the passage you 
read I was rather disappointed. But die last made 
up for all. 

PHILIP. 

I read it that the contrast might be the greater, apd 
also to give you a specimen of his language. He does 
not, you see, pick his words much. He was in haste 
to get to the last half of his soliloquy, where he had 
something to say that pleased him better. You will 
find that he himself resembles those " unskilful statu- 
aries" not a little sometimes. The length and in- 
tricacy even, of the last comparison in what I read 
pleases me, perhaps from its putting me in mind so 
much of the golden-mouthed Jeremy Taylor. But 
Taylor always begins his similes with a " so have I 
seen," which gives great liveliness and force to them. 

JOHN. 

Do you remember one? 

PHILIP. 

Many; who that had ever read one could forget it? 

" For so have I seen a lark, rising from his bed of grass ard 
soaring upward, singing as he rises, and hopes to get to heaven, 
and climb above the clouds ; but the poor bird was beaten back 
with the loud sighings of an eastern wind, and his motion made 
irregular and unconstant, descending more at every breath of the 



138 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

tempest than he could recover by the liberation and frequent 
weighing of his wings ; till the little creature was forced to sit down 
and pant, and stay till the storm was over, and did rise and sing as 
if he had learned music and motion of an angel as he passed sometimes 
through the air about his ministries here below; so are the prayers of 
a good man."* 

JOHN. 

What a poet's eye, and heart, and tongue! How 
lovingly he speaks of the ^^ poor bird" and the " liUle 
creature/' and what a soaring melody there is in the 
ending ! Shelley's " Sky lark,'' almast perfect as it is, 
has not the fluttering rise and the ecstatic gush of this. 
No lark ever shook fresher dew from his wings. 

PHILIP. 

I will give you one more. 

" But so have I seen the returning sea enter upon the strand, 
and the waters, rolling toward the shore, throw up little portions 
of the tide, and retire, as if nature meant to play, and not to 
change the abode of waters ; but still the flood crept by little step- 
pings, and invaded more by his progressions than he lost by his 
retreat, and haviYig told the number of his steps, he possesses his 
new portion till the Angel calls him back, that he may leave his 
unfaithful dwelling of the sand: so is the pardon of our sins."t 

I have quoted two of his comparisons to please you ; 
let me quote one passage more to please myself. 

" No man knows, but he that loves his children, how many de- 
licious accents make a man's heart dance in the pretty conversa- 
tion of those dear pledges ; their childishness, their stammering, 
their little angers, their innocences, their imperfections, their ne- 
cessities, are so many little emanations of joy and comfort to him 
that delights in their persons and society ."t 

* Twenty-five Sermons preached at Golden Grove. Sermon V., 
p. 60. Edit. 1653. 

t Sermon VIII., p. 97. t Sermon XVIII., p. 236. 



CHAPMAN. 139 

How I love that dingy old folio, with its huge 
lumps of Greek and Latin, its quaintnesses, its meta- 
physical refinements, its tender sympathies, and, above 
all, its radiant piety, and the poetry which springs out 
of it, goldening the whole ! I can never help looking 
upon Taylor as the last of that noble line of poets who 
consecrated the first half of the seventeenth century. 

Chapman loves to draw his heroes of a defiant and '• 
indomitable spirit, and with a thorough contempt of . 
all fooleries and shams. I suspect that he has uncon- 
sciously given as a glimpse of his own nature. In his ' 
translation of the lUiad, he is said to show a great 
partiality to the rough, straightforward Ajax, and to 
eke out his speeches here and there, with a little added 
fire of his own. Of this spirit here is a specimen. 
The king's brother, who wishes to gain over to his own 
intei'est so brave a man as D'Ambois, finds him lying 
on the ground, and says to him : 

"Turned to earth, alive? 
Up man ! the sun shines on thee. 

" lyAmbovi, Let it shine ; 
I am no mote to play in H, as great men are." 

So, when D'Ambois is killed, he says proudly, that 

" Death and Destiny 
Come behind iyAmbou</* 

as if even they feared to face him. But you will see 
enough of this in all the passages I shall read to you. 
— No man ever had a larger or nobler idea of the 
might and grandeur of the human soul than Chapman. 
He had a great deal of that exulting feeling of strength} 



140 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

and self-help which contemporaries endeavor to par- 
alyze by calling it conceit, but which the heart of pos- 
terity swells over as the instinct and stamp of great- 
ness. It is a something which we find in the lives of 
all great men ; a recollection, as it were, of wings, 
which enables them, in the words of Marvell, 

" Remembering still their former height," 

to rise above these lower regions of turmoil into a 
clearer and serener air. It is a feeling of trustfulness, 
which is needful to those who dare to cast their seed 
upon these waves of time, that it may float down and 
come to fruitage in eternity, and who gladly put by 
the harlot blandishments of to-day, (so bewitching to 
small souls,) and find their strength and solace in the 
approving and prophetic eyes of that infinite to-morrow 
on whose great heart they rest secure, 

" Feeling, through all this fleshy dress, 
Bright shoots of everlastingness." * 

JOHN. 

Yes ; such feelings are the ravens which God sends 
to feed tliese prophets in the wilderness of an unrecog- 
nizing world ; they may seem but unsightly, ill-boding 
birds to everybody else, but to those whom they sus- 
tain they appear gentle as doves. God's messengers 
always look like shabby fellows to the rest of the 
world, and often are not recognized, even by those of 
whom they ask hospitality, till they are gone for ever. 
Entering, they seem simple wayfarers ; it is only when 

* Vaughan. 



CHAPMAN. 141 

they look back upon us that we know the angel-coun- 
tenance, with a pang of unavailing sorrow. 



PHILIP. 

Chapman seems never so well content as when he | 
malies one of his heroes burst forth in an impetuous / 
(and sometimes muddy) flood of scornful indei)endence, 
asserting proudly the dignity of genius, as overtop- j 
ping all other dignities whatever. He was like all! 
his great brethren, (the worthy forerunnei*s of the 
glorious band who set the divine right of all temporal 
power for ever beneath the feet of that diviner right of 
the eternal soul,) ashamed to bend the knee, nay, eveni 
to pay common civility to any conventionality, howso-j 
ever seemingly venerable and august. Indeed, there 
is too much scorn and pride in him to consist with the 
highest genius. For great genius is humble; its con- 
fidence is not in its own sti'cngth, but in that of its 
cause. Pride cannot fly over the great void gulf be- 
tween its performance and its hope ; but, if she tempt 
the perilous voyage, flutters her vain wings, and drops 
exhausted into that unfathomable grave. Chapman^s 
independent bearing often breaks down into a mere 
swagger, and, indeed, is seldom confined within the 
limits of established propriety. Doubtless he was of 
opinion, with Fuller, that " it is better to lap one's 
pottage like a dog, than to eat mannerly with a spoon 
of the Devil's giving ; " and if he is sometimes bent 
on believing that all spoons, save a clumsy horn one 
of his own make, arc presents from that liberal gen- 
tleman, and go about laboriously to lap like a dog 



142 THIRD CONVERSATION, 

when he had better have eaten like a Christian, (like 
some who foolishly think a certain rude ungracious- 
ness of bearing best befitting a radical,) yet we should 
pardon a great deal to a mistaken love of principle, 
when the principle is a good one, remembering that 
the flanks of our own hobbies are bloody with our too 
fiery spurring, and that enthusiasm is the most amiable 
of excei?ses. 

JOHN. 

A long sentence, but safely delivered at last. Those 
radicals you speak of are the deep-seeing philosophers 
who believe that an innate democracy resides in cowt 
hide boots, and that a thorough knowledge of govern- 
ment and a general intelligence upon all subjects soak 
into the brain from the liberal virtue of a roofless hat; 
who suspect good breeding for a monarchist in dis- 
guise ; believe that all white men are their brothers on 
the day before election ; and proudly stand sponsors, 
while Mr. Dorr (a man who, mistakenly, it is true, 
but no less surely, would have stabbed true democracy 
to the heart, by appealing to brute force) is christened 
over again with the abused name of Algernon Sydney. 
And yet such men as these play ofi" the puppet-show 
of our government; such men as these persuade the 
workingmen of our dear New England to rivet the 
chains upon three millions of their fellow-workers, 
and so drug their senses with idle flatteries, as to make 
them forget, that, while the laborer is bought and sold 
in one part of a country, he can never be truly re- 
spected in the other. I can hardly keep my tears 
down, when I think of it. 



■ i_] m l" • ^ ' 



CHAPMAN, 143 



PHILIP. 



Who goes mad now? But I do not wonder. — I 

said that Chapman has little dramatic power. His j 

plays seem rather to be soliloquies, spoken by hiniself / 

from behind the mask of differcnt cliaracters, than ! 

true dramas. Yet he has considerable knowledge of j 

character, and shrewd remarks and little natural I 

. . . . / 

touciies are not infrequent in his plays. Here is an ' 

instance of the last. Tamyra, who is secretly in love 

with D'Ambois, after a speech of his, says, — fearful 

lest her calling him by name might betray her secret, 

and yet unable to let slip a chance of saying something 

in his praise, — 

'^ Methinks die man hath answered for us well." 

The king's brother, who suspects the truth, turns to 
her and asks, 

" The manf Why, Madam, d*ye not know his name?" 

She answers nobly enough, 

"Man is a name of honor for a king; 
AdditioTis lake avxiyfrom ea^h chief thing,'' 

JOHN. 

Yes, she covers her retreat with a true woman's 
skill ; not allowing that she knows D'Ambois, and yet 
satisfying her love by construing the epithet she had 
applied to him into so jealous a tribute of praise as 
would be content with no place lower than the 
highest. 



144 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

PHILIP. 

Something of Beaumont and Fletcher's comes to 
my mind in illustration : 

** I watched how fearfully, 
And yet how suddenly, he cured his lies ; 
The right wit of a woman." 

I shall now go on reading extracts from the rest of 
this play, and from others ; without following the plot, 
or any other order than chance or fancy may dictate. 
Indeed, Chapman's plots are of little importance to 
him, except as threads for his thoughts to crystallize 
around. Here are one or two specimens of his exalted 
notion of greatness, and of the noble vigor and state^ 
liness which animate and expand his verse in the ex- 
pression of it. 

** His words and looks 
Are like the flashes and the bolts of Jove ; 
His deeds inimitable, like tlte sea. 
Which shuts still as it opes, and leave no tracks 
Nor prints of precedent for mean men^s actsJ* 

jyAmboia, 

JOHN. 

Grand, and grandly spoken. 

PHILIP. 

The following is even finer, or at least shows more 
art in expression. 

" His great heart will not down : 't is like the sea, 
That — partly by his own internal heat. 
Partly the stars' daily and nightly motion, 
Their heat and light, and partly by the place 



CHAPMAN. 145 

O* th' divers frames, but chiefly by the moon, 

Bristled with surges — ^never will be won 

(No, not when the hearts of all those powers are burst) 

To make retreat into his settled home, 

TiU he be crowned with hia own quiet foam" 

UAwboiA. 

JOHN. 

If a poet is fond of the sea, it always prepoasesses 
me in his favor. The third verse of what you have 
read has great delicacy and beauty of expression : 

"Partly the stars* daily and nightly motion : " 

there is a waviness in its flow, and, at the same time, 
a gliding melody, which suggests both the stars and 
the ocean. The ending is exquisite ; the whole sen- 
tence seems to swell on and on, like a wave upon the 
beach, till it breaks into the quiet foam of the last 
verse, and slides gently to its rippling close. 

PHILIP. 

Chapman does not often linger to describe outward \ 
nature ; he has more important matters at heart. His 
natural scenery is of the soul, and that mostly of an ; 
Alpine character. There is none of that breezy, sum- 
mer-like feeling in him, which pervaded the verses of/ 
the lyric poets a short time after, and has come near to 
perfection in many descriptive pieces of our own dayi 

" Annihilating all that's made, 
To a green thought in a green shade,'' 

and seeming to be translations from the grasshopper, 
butterfly, locust, bird, and bee languages into the ver- 

10 



146 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

nacular. Yet he has some passages of great merit in 
this kind, and which show a very genial eye and ear. 

JOHN. 

Whose is that couplet you just quoted? 

PHILIP. 

Andrew Marvell's, the generous friend of Milton, 
the kind-hearted satirist, the brave lover and defender 
of freedom, whose commendatory verses, you remem- 
ber, are prefixed to '*' Paradise Lost.^' He had a rare 
vein of poetry in him, delicate, yet vigorously healthy. 
I know no poet who had a greater love of nature, or 
has poured it forth more sweetly. There is a descrip- 
tion of grass by him, in a poem addressed to Lord 
Fairfax, which is full of tlie ripest fancy and feeling. 

" And now to the abyss I pass 
Of that unfathomable grass, 
Where men like grasshoppers appear ; 
Rut grasshoppers are giants there : 
They, in their squeaking laugh, contemn 
Us, as we walk more low than them, 
And from the precipices taU 
Of the green spires to us do call. 
To see men through this meadow dive^ 
We wonder how they rise alive ; 

But, as the mariners who sound. 
And show upon their lead the ground, 
They bring up flowers, so to be seen, 
Afid prove thei/oe at the bottom been. 
No scene that turns with engines strange 
Doth oftener than these mea^lows change ; 
For, when the sun the grass hath vext, 
The tawny mowerti enter next, 



CHAPMAN. 147 

WTio 8eem like IsraelUea to &e, 
Walking on foot through a green sea; 
To them the grassy deeps divide 
And crowd, a lane on either side ; 
With whistling scythe^ and elbow strong. 
These massacre the grass along." 

We cannot pardon extravagance in the imagination ; 
but Fancy would be tame without it, and can never 
assume her proper nature of joyousness, except she 
break into it. I know you will thank me if I read a 
little more. 

" Thus I, easy philosopher. 
Among the birds and trees confer; 
And little now to make me wants 
Or of the fowls or of the plants ; 
Give me but wings as they, and I 
Straight floating on the air shall fly ; 
Or turn me but, and you shall see 
I was but an inverted tree. 
Already I begin to call 
In their most learned original ; 
And where I language want, my signs 
The bird upon the bough divines, 
And more attentive there doth sit 
Than if she were with lime-twigs knit 
No leaf doth tremble in the wind, 
Which I, returning, cannot find : 
Out of these, scattered SybiPs-leaves, 
Strange prophecies my fancy weaves ; 



What Romej Greece, Palestine, ^er said, 
I in this light mosaic read. 

The oak-leaves me embroider all, 
Between which caterpillars crawl, 
And ivy, with familiar traits. 
Me licks and clasps, and curls and hales. 



148 TUIBD CONVERSATION. 

Under this Attic cope, I move 

Like some great prelate of the grove ; 

Then, languishing with ease, I toss 

On pallets swollen of velvet moss, 

While the wind, cooling through the boughs, 

FUsUers with air my panting brows. 



How aafe^ metkinksy and strong behind 
These trees, I have eruximped my mind; 
"Where beauty, aiming at the heart, 
Bends in some tree its useless dart ; 
And where the world no certain shot 
Can make, or me it toucheth not I " 

Old Walton would have clapped his hands at this 

next : 

" No serpent new, nor crocodile, 
Bemains behind our little Nile, 
Ujdesa itself you mill mistake. 
Among these meads the only snake. 
See in what wanton, harmless folds 
It everywhere the meadow holds; 
And its yet muddy back doth lick. 
Till cw a crystal mirror slick, 
Where all things gaze themselves and doubt 
If they be in it or without ; 
And for his shade, which therein shines. 
Narcissus- like, the sun, too, pines. 
O, what a pleasure 't is to hedge 
My temples here with heavy sedge, 
Abandoning my lazy side, 
Stretched as a bank urUo the tide ; 
Or to suspend my sliding foot 
On the osier's undetermined root, 
And in its branches tough to hang. 
While at my lines the fishes twang I " 

Tliomson's Marvell, Vol. III., p. 217. 

Now take one little turn with rae in his " Garden/' 
and we will come back to Chapman. 



CHAPMAN. 149 

'* Fair Quiets have I found thee here, 

And Innocence, thy sister dear? 

Mistaken long, I sought you then 

In busy companies of men. 

Your sacred plants, if here below, 

Only among the plants will grow ; 

Society is all but rude 

To this delicious solitude. 

• •••• ••• 

'' What wondrous life is this I lead I 

Bipe apples drop about my head ; 

The luscious clusters of the vine 

Upon my mouth do crush their wine ; 

The nectarine and curious peach 

Into my hands themselves do reach ; 

Stumbling on melons, as I pass, 

Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass. 

» 

'' Meanwhile, the mind, from pleasure less. 

Withdraws into its happiness ; 

The mind, that ocean where each kind 

Doth straight its own resemblance find ; 

Yet it ereatesy transcending theses 

Far other worlds and other seas, 

Annihilating all thaCs made 

To a green thought in a green shade. 

" Here, at the fountain's sliding foot. 
Or at some fruit-tree's mossy root. 
Casting the body's vest asidcy 
My sold into the boughs doth glide; 
latere, like a bird, it sits and sings. 
Then whets and daps tis silver wings. 
And, till prepared for longer flight, 
Waves in its plumes the various lighL 

** How well the skilful gardener drew. 
Of flowers and herbs, this dial new I 
Where, from above, the milder sun 
Doth through afragraTit todiac run; 



150 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

And, as it works, the industrious bee 
Comjmtes its time as well as we. 
How could such sweet and wholesome hours 
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers f" 

Th(mson's Marvell, Vol. III., p. 412. 



JOHN. 

If Milton had written these^ we should almost have 
set them above the " Allegro " and ^' Penseroso/' 
Cowley's "Grasshopper" and Emerson's "Humblebee** 
must yield to their luxuriant fancy, their delicate 
philosophy, and their fresh aptness of expression. 
They make a summer all roimd us in this bare Decem- 
ber-weather; the roses bloom and the blossoms open 
their startled eyes upon the bleak twigs, as in Corne- 
lius Agrippa's opus magnum of necromancy. And 
then how coolly and silently and fragrantly sweet 
images and calming thoughts drop wavering down, 
one after another, upon the heart, like a snow of blos- 
soms from an overladen bough, making us feel better, 
and, if gentleness be wise, wiser too ! 1 have no doubt 
that these verses were written in winter. The imag- 
ination is' more select than the eye, and we describe 
things best when they are absent. The eye is puzzled 
and confounded with the presence of a beautiful object, 
and is willing to relapse from an analyzing attention 
into a vague delight. After the object is withdrawn, 
the imagination does not recreate, but chooses and 
arranges from the distinctest images of the memory ; 
and this result, presented again to the eye, is more 
clear and satisfying than the original vision. 



CHAPMAN. 151 

PHILIP. 

I am afraid tliat Chapman's landscapes will look 
tame and leaden to you, now that your eye has been, 
put out of tune by such brilliant colors. The follow-' 
ing verses make one feel as if he had suddenly thrown 
up the window of a close and dazzling room, and 
gazed out into the dim, foreboding eyes of Night 
Tamyra is expecting D'Ambois, whom she loves 
unlawfully, at midnight. 

"Now all ye peac^ regefnts of the night, 
Silently gliding exhalcUionSy 
Languishing winds, and murmuring falls of waiers^ 
Sadness of heart, and omitious secureness. 
Enchantments, dead sleeps, all the friends of rest, 
That ever wrought upon the life of man, 
Extend jour utmost strengths, and this charmed hour 
Fix like the centre ; make the violent wheels 
Of Time and Fortune stand ; and great existence 
(The Maker's treasury) now not seem to be 
To all but my approaching friends and me." 

You cannot fail to be struck with the sadness and i 
silence infused into the first five verses by that peculiar- 
property of the letter a which we were speaking of. 

JOHN. 

It seems to me the perfection of descriptive poetry ; 
painting, not the objects themselves, but their effect 
upon the mind reflected back upon them and giving 
them a color of its own. An unhappy man, if he go 
into a wood, shall hear nothing but sad sounds there ; 
the tinkle of the brook, the low, ocean-murmur of the 
cloudy pines, the soft clatter of the leaves, shall all 



152 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

sound funereal to hira; he shall see only the dead 
limbs upon the trees, and only the inhospitable comers 
of the rocks, too churlish even for the hardy lichen to 
pitch his tents upon. For outward nature is but one 
of the souFs retainers, and dons a festal or a mourn- 
ing garment according as its master does. There is 
nothing sad or joyful in nature, of itself. Autumn is 
often called a melancholy season ; I cannot find it so, 
though I have often known the summer lan(}scape to 
seem barer and bleaker than the long gray beach at 
Nantasket. — No ; there hangs the wondrous lyre within 
our reach, its dumb chords bearing the unborn music 
in their womb, which our touch delivers, — a love- 
ditty or a dirge. I have no patience with nine-tenths 
of the descriptive verse I read. It is mere cata- 
loguing, the conciseness and propriety of which an 
auctioneer might admire, and to him I gladly relin- 
quish it. If I wish for an account of our flowers, the 
text-books of Professor Bigelow or Gray will amply 
suiBce me ; if of our trees, I will be content with 
Michanx, one of whose volumes I have often found 
interesting enough to read it through at a single sit- 
ting. 

PHILIP. 

You must make an exception in favor of what the 
mere fancy, in one of her indifferent moods, colors to 
her will. The imagination has no neutralities; it 
takes either one side or the other, as if by a will of its 
own, and brings all its resources to the support of it. 
— Here is something of Fancy's when she was at her 
happiest : 



CHAPMAN. 153 

** Like a calm 
Before a tempest, when the silent air 
Lays her soft ear close to the earth, to hearken 
For what she fears steals on to ravish her." 

lyAmhois. 

This, too, has a sweet airiness about it : 

" As, when the moon hoik comforted the night 
And set the world in silver of her light. 
The planets, asterisms, and whole state of heaven 
In beams of gold descending; all the winds 
Bound up in caves, charged not to drive abroad 
Their cloudy heads ; an universal peace. 
Proclaimed in silence of the quiet earth." 

Byron's Conspiracy, * 

The following is fine in another way : 

*^ Your Majesty hath missed a noble sight : 
The Duke Byron, on his brave beast Pastrana ; 
Who sits him like a full-sailed argosy 
Danced with a lofty billow, and as snug 
Plies to his bearer, both their motions mixed." 

Ibid. 

Chapman excels in metaphors and similes, and as / 
most of them illustrate his descriptive faculty, I will 
read a few of them. 

" We must use these lures when we hawk for friends, 
And wind about them like a subtle river, 

* For this and all my other extracts from Chapman's " Byron's 
Conspiracy," and " The Tragedy of the Duke de Byron," I am 
indebted to the copious and judicious extracts from those plays in 
the " Retrospective Review," Vol. IV. ; they never having been 
separately reprinted, and therefore being inaccessible, in this 
country, in their entire form. 



154 THIRD CONVERSATION, 

That, seeming only to run on his course, 
Doth search still as he runs, and still finds out 
The easiest parts of entry on the shore, 
Gliding so slyly by, as scarce he touched. 
Yet still eats something in it." 

This is still better : 

" And this wind, that doth sing so in your ears, 
I know is no disease bred in yourself. 
But whispered in by others, who, in swelling 
Your veins with empty hopes of much, yet able 
To perform nothing, are like shallow streams. 
That make themselves so many heavens to sight, 
Since you may see in them the moon and stars, 
The blue space of the air, as far from us. 
To our weak senses, in those shallow streams, 
As if they were as deep as heaven is high ; 
Yet, with your middle finger only sound them, 
And you shall pierce them to the very earth." 

The next is worthy of Shakespeare : 



Ibid, 



Ibid. 



" As you may see a mighty promontory 

More digged and under-eaten than may warrant 

A safe supportance to his hanging brows, 

All passengers avoid him, shun all ground 

That lies within his shadow, and bear still 

A flying eye upon him ; — so great men. 

Corrupted in their grounds, and building out 

Too swelling fronts for their foundations. 

When most they should be propped, are most forsaken, 

And men will rather thrust into the storms 

Of better-grounded states than take a shelter 

Beneath their ruinous and fearful weight ; 

Yei they so oversee their favUy bases. 

That they remain securer in conceit, 

And thai security doth toorse presage 

Their near destruction than their eaten grounds" 

Rid. 



CHAPMAN. 165 

The foUowiDg verses, expressing Byron's conduct 
when first imprisoned, are very graphic in idea, and 
have a vast deal of life in the expression. Notice 
what a hurry and flutter there is in the metre ; it jerks 
impatiently to and fro, as the bird would. 

" As a bird, 
Entered a doset, which unawares is made 
His desperate prison, being pursued, amazed 
And wrathful, beats his breast from wall to wall, 
Assaults the light, strikes down himself, not out, 
And, being taken, struggles, gasps, and bites. 
Takes all his taker's strokings to be strokes, 
Abhorreth food, and, with a savage will. 
Frets, pines, and dies, for former liberty.'^ 

Bi^rorCa Tragedy, 

Chaucer has two passages of which this reminds me, 
and, as they are very graphic, and I did not read them 
to you yesterday, I will quote them now. 

" Men, by their nature, love newfangleness 
As do the birds that men in cages feed ; 
For, though thou night and day of them take heed. 
And strew their cages soft and fair as silk, 
And give them sugar, honey, bread, and milk, 
Yet, just so soon as e'er the door is up, 
They with their glad feet will spurn down their cup. 
And to the woods straightway on worms to feed." 

The Squires TaU. 

" Take any bird, and put it in a cage. 
And, though thou hast the forethought of a Mage 
To foster it tenderly with meat and drink, 
And every dainty that thou canst bethink, 
And keep it, too, as cleanly as thou may ; 
Although the cage with gold be never so gay, 
Yet had the bird by twenty thousand fold 



156 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

Be rather in a forest wild and cold, 

To feed on worms and such like wretchedness." 

The Manciples Tale. 

JOHN. 

I love these homely comparisons drawn from the 
humble tragedies of every-day life. A poet who 
shoots all his arrows at the stars may chance to hit us 
now and then, but is only by good luck. The heart, 
which is not so nice in its phrase as the intellect, is 
more likely to be reached by a humbler aim. I never 
shall forget the blind despair of a poor little humming- 
bird which flew through the open window of the 
nursery where I was playing when a child. I knew 
him at once for the same gay-vested messenger from 
Fairy Land, whom I had often watched disputing with 
the elvish bees the treasures of the honeysuckle by the 
door-step. His imprisoned agony scarce equalled my 
own ; and the slender streaks of blood, which his inno- 
cent, frenzied suicide left upon the ceiling, were more 
terrible to me than the red witness which Kizzio left 
on the stair at Holyrood to cry out against his mur- 
derers. 

PHILIP. 

In the poem of " Hero and Leander," begun by 

Marlow, and finished by Chapman, our poet's lighter 

qualities are very attractively displayed. There (as 

how could it be otherwise in such a subject?) lie 

shows more invention and gracefulness of fancy than 

anywhere else; there, as he himself says of Marlow, he 

stands 

" Up to the chin in the Pierian flood.*' 



You remember Burns's admirable simile, — 

" Like snow-flakes falling on a river, 
A moment white, then gone for ever " ? 

Chapman had used it before him, and with the same 
application : 

" Joy graven in sense, like snow in water, wastes ; 
Without preserve of virtue, nothing lasts." 

Warton and the anonymous editor of 1821 would 
have Chapman's share in the poem commence later. 
But I cannot conceive how, with the direct and posi- 
tive testimony of the style before them, they could 
doubt that he began with the third " sestyad " of the 
poem. If this verse, 

" But time and all-states-ordering ceremony," 

cannot claim him for father, I will never more put 
faith in physiognomy. There is too strong a family 
likeness between this and many verses in his transla- 
tions to let us doubt their being of the same parentage. 
For instance : 

" The golden-rod-sustaining-Argus guide : " 

** To horse-breed- varying Phrygia likewise send : " 

** The all-of-gold-made-laughter-loving dame : " 

or, to proceed at once to extremities with the doubter, — 

*^ On IdaVtop-on-top-to-heaven's-pole heaped : '' 

all of which occur in his version of Homer's '^ Hymn 



158 THIRD CONVERSATION, 

to Venus." Or take these from the "Hymn to 
Hermes : " 

" The-that-mom-bom-Cyllenius did attain : " 

" His-born-to-bark-mouth at him, till, in the end : " 

" The more-than-ever-oertain deities." 

Marlow had none of this taste for handcuflSng words; 
together, till they halt along, melancholy and irregular, 
like a coffle of slaves under the eaves of the Capitol. 
I must not leave you to think that the compound 
epithets in Chapman's translations are all like these. 
Most of them are extremely fresh and spirited, and 
the translations are, besides their other great merits, 
full of interest to the student of language. Generally 
his epithets are truly " winged words,'' though his zeal 
sometimes leads him to tie on rather clumsily three or 
four additional pairs of pinions, which hang awk- 
wardly about them and prevent their moving their 
natural wings. 

Here is a beautiful passage, opening with a simile : 

" And all the while the red sea of her blood 
Ebbed with Leander ; hut now turned the flood. 
And all her fleet of spirits came swelling in 
With crowd of sail, and did hot fight begin 
With those severe conceits she too much marked ; 
And here Leander's beauties were embarked. 
He came in swimming, painted all with joys 
Such as might sweeten hell ; his thought destroys 
All her destroying thoughts ; she thought she felt 
His heart in hers ; . 

Her fresh-heat blood cast figures in her eyes, 
A nd she supposed she saw in Neptun^s skies 
How her star wandered, washed in smarting brine, 
For her love's sake, that with inmiortal wine 



•■^«*>wv.^>'^'"^<. 



CHAPMAN. 159 

Should be embathed, arid swim in more heaa-^s-ease 
Than there be waters in the Sestian sea^" 

Hero and Leander, — ^Third Sestjad. 

JOHN. 

I cannot say when I have met with an image that 
so charmed me as this, — 

" She saw in Neptune's skies 
How her star wandered." 

The suggestion of the inverted heaven in the sea, and 
the making Leander, rosy as he was with health and 
youth and love, into a star, bring a truly Grecian 
delight with them. Ah, the poet's heart is an un- 
lighted torch, which gives no help to his footsteps, till 
love has touched it with flame. 

PHILIP. 

You must read the whole poem. If there be a few 
blurs in it, it is yet one of the clearest and most per- 
fect crystals in the language, an entire opal, beautiful 
without the lapidaiy's help; but it will shine with 
true pureness only in 

" the nunnery 
Of a chaste breast and quiet mind," 

like some of Donne's more private and esoteric poems. 
The same candle may light the soul to its chapel of 
devotion or its bed of harlotry. — Most of the dramatists 
of Chapman's time excel in drawing the characters of 
women. This, no doubt, was partly owing to the 
greater freedom of intercourse between the sexes, 
which that less conventional day allowed and en- 



IGO THIRD CONVERSATION, 

couraged. Now we have become deep-versed in forms 
and shallow in realities. We have grown so deli- 
cately decent that we must need apologize for nature, 
and make God himself more comme il faul. 

JOHN. 

And yet our decency is indecent. Fashion, being 
the art of those who must purchase notice at some 
cheaper rate than that of being beautiful, loves to do 
rash and extravagant things. She must be for ever 
new, or she becomes insipid. If to-day she have been 
courteous, she will be rude to-morrow; if to-day 
thinks her over-refined, to-morrow will wonder at see- 
ing her relapsed into a semi-savage state. A few years 
ago, certain elaborate and amorphous structures might 
be seen moving about the streets, in the whole of 
which the only symptom of animated nature to be dis- 
cerned was in the movable feet and ankles which 
conveyed them along. Now, even that sign of vitality 
has vanished ; the amorphous structures move about 
as usual, but their motive principle is as mysterious as 
that of MaelzePs chess-player. My own theory is, 
that a dwarf is concealed somewhere within. They 
may be engines employed for economical purposes by 
the civic authorities, as their use has been conjectured 
by an ingenious foreigner, who observed our manners 
attentively, to be the collection of those particles of 
mud and dust which are fine enough to elude the 
birchen brooms of the police, whose duty it is to 
cleanse the streets. There is more plausibility in this 
theory, as they are actually provided with a cloth train 
or skirt of various colors, which seems very well 



CUAPMAN. 161 

adapted to this end. A city poet, remarkable for the 
boldness of his metaphorical imagery, has given them 
the name of " women," though from so nice an analogy 
as hitherto to have eluded my keenest researches. 

PHILIP. 

It must have been the same who gave the title of 
" full-dress " to the half-dress worn now by females 
of the better sort at pai'ties, the sole object of which 
seems to be to prove the wearer's claim to rank with 
the genus mammifet'ce. One-half of the human mce, I 
see, is resolved to get rid of the most apparent token 
of our great ancestors' fall, and is rapidly receding to 
a paradisaical simplicity of vesture. Already have 
the shoulders emerged from their superstitious enthral- 
ment, and their bold example will no doubt be rapidly 
followed by equally spirited demonstrations from the 
rest of tlie body impolitic. For the sake of con- 
sistency, we must suppose that train-oil will soon 
elbow the ices from the supper- table. — But a truce to 
this cynical vein. It is, nevertheless, mournful, that 
women, who stint not in large assemblies to show that, 
to the eyes of strangere which the holy privacy of 
home is not deemed pure enough to look uix)n, would 
yet grow crimson with modest horror, through the 
whole vast extent of their uncovered superficies, if one 
but dared to call by its dear English name that which, 
in the loved one, is the type of all maidenhood and 
sweetest retirement, — in the wife, of all chastity and 
whitest thoughts, — and in the mother, of all that is 
most tender and bounteous. On such a bosom, me- 
thinks, a rose would wither, and the snowy petals of a 
11 



162 THIRD C02hVERSATI0N, 

lily drop away in silent, sorrowful reproof. We have 
grown too polite for what is holiest, noblest, and kind- 
est in the social relations of life ] but, alas ! to blush, 
to conceal, to lie, to envy, to sneer, to be illiberal, — 
these trench not on the bounds of any modesty, human 
or divine. Yes, our English, which for centuries has 
been the mother- tongue of honest frankness, and the 
chosen phrase of freedom, is become so slavish and 
emasculate, that its glorious Bacons, Taylors, and Mil- 
tons would find their outspoken and erect natures inapt 
to walk in its fetters, golden, indeed, and of cunningest 
Paris workmanship, but whose galling the soul is not 
nice enough to discern from that of baser metal. The 
wild singing brook has been civilized; the graceful 
rudeness of its banks has been pared away to give place 
to smooth-clipped turf; the bright pebbles, which 
would not let it pass without the tribute of some new 
music, have been mked out ; and it has become a 
straight, sluggish canal. 

JOHN. 

Yes ; the language has certainly become more pol- 
ished, and necessarily so. What should you say to a 
naked Pict, in that famous contradictory costume of 
Sir Richard Blackmore's, in your drawing-nx)m ? (By 
the way, I wonder that no critic has discovered that 
the dress alluded to was made of buWa hide.) Any 
writer muscular enough can bend the good old Ulys- 
ses'-bow of our language, and make it hurl its shafts 
with as sharp a twang as ever. It is not our speech 
that has grown cowardly and timeserving, but we our- 
selves ; and we have bribed the language to turn traitor 



CHAPMAN. 163 

with us. Because we do not task it in that cause which ^ 
is the holiest, because the humblest and weakest and 
most despised, of all that call Freedom mother, does it 
therefore refuse its ancient privilege of thunder to the 
lips of Phillips, or Douglass, or Burleigh, or Abby 
Kelly? Let tlie mean apartments into which the 
church and the state have driven the apostles of that 
humanity which Christ preached and practised answer I 
Let the unchartered majesty of the blue heaven which 
has never forbid them the shelter of its soaring canopy, 
when the poor buildings of human hands have been 
scoffingly denied them, answer ! 

PHILIP. 

Nevertheless, you must allow that the language has 
lost much of its pristine lustiness, by the taint of GkJ-i 
licism which is more and more creeping over it. It 
has grown so polite and mincing, and in our brave old 
Saxon-sprung New England, too ! The homely names 
of man and woman, which sought sanctuary in the cot- 
tage and the farm-house, from the luxury, effeminacy, 
and vice of city and court, must now be driven thence 
also, and our veiy dairy-maids and ploughmen must be 
ladies and gentlemen. We may speak of these things 
as unconcerned spectators ah extra, being necessarily 
precluded from the privilege of one of these latter 
titles by virtue of our sex, and from the other by our 
Abolitionism. Perhaps we may ere long be taught to 
call our homes papa-land and mamma-country, leaving 
the uncouth names of father and mother to such as are 
ignorant or gross enough to be natural. Let us forget 
that we ever so far yielded to the demoralizing tend- 



164 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

ency of our baser natures as to have been suckled at 
our mother's breasts, (if we can do so, while the pres- 
ent fashion of feminine full-dress retains its sway,) and 
do penance in white kid gloves and French boots for 
the damnable heresy of our childhood, when we enter- 
tained a theory, unfounded as the Ptolemaic system of 
astronomy, that straightforward truth was respectable, 
and that women had other developments besides head 
and arms, our uninspired eyesight to the contrary not- 
withstanding ! 

JOHN. 

You are getting very merry, and very parenthetical, 
at the same time. Let the original topic of our con- 
versation now edge itself in, by way of parenthesis, and 
let me have a chance of judging for myself of the dig- 
nity of Chapman's ideas of women. 

PHILIP. 

I heartily thank you for distentangling me so 
adroitly. — Hear Chapman: — 

" Noble she is by birth made good by virtue ; 
Exceeding fair ; and her behavior to it 
Is like a singular musician 
To a sweet instrument, or else as doctrine 
Is to the soul, that puts it into act, 
And prints it full of admirable forms. 
Without which 't were an empty, idle flame ; 
Her eminent judgment to dispose these parts 
Sits on her brow and holds a silver sceptre, 
Wherewith she keeps time to the several musics 
Placed in the sacred concert of her beauties : 
Love's complete armory is managed in her 



CHAPMAN. 165 

To stir affection, and the discipline 

To check and to a£&ight it from attempting 

Any attaint might disproportion her, 

And make her graces less than circular : 

Yet her even carriage is as far from coyness 

As from immodesty ; in play, in dancing. 

In suffering courtship, in requiting kindness, 

In use of places, hours, and companies. 

Free as the sun, and nothing more corrupted ; 

As circumspect as Cynthia in her vows. 

As constant as the centre to observe them ; 

Buthful and bounteous, never fierce nor dull, 

In all her courses ever at the full." 

Mofrm&wt U Olive. 

I know what your thoughts are now. You are 
thinking that there is but one to whom the silver- 
flowing lines may be applied. You think that it is 
like the " mantle made amiss " of the old romance, 
which made itself too short for one and too long for 
another, and yet fitted itself to the shape of the true 
maiden like a bridal garment. 

JOHN. 

Nay, you have shot wide. There can be but one in 
whom each of us can trace the likeness of this rare 
portrait ; yet it would be doubting the good providence 
of God, to draw back our heads into the dull tortoise- 
shell of our selfish unbelief, and refuse to think that 
there are many such. It is only in love that the soul 
finds weather as summer-like as that of the clime 
whence it has been transplanted, and can put forth its 
blossoms and ripen its fruit without fear of nipping 
frosts. Never was falser doctrine preached than that 
love's chief delight and satisfaction lie in the pursuit 



166 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

of its object, which won, the charm is already flutter- 
ing its wings to seek some fairer height. This is true 
only when love has been but one of the thousand 
vizards of selfishness, when we have loved ourselves 
in the beautiful spirit we have knelt to ; that is, when 
we have merely loved the delight we felt in loving. 
Then it is that the cup we so tliirsted after tastes 
bitter or insipid, and we fling it down undrunk. Did 
we empty it, we should find that it was the poor 
muddy dregs of self at tlie bottom, which made our 
gorge rise. If it be God whom we love in loving our 
elected one, then shall the bright halo of her spirit 
expand itself over all existence, till every human face 
we look upon shall share in its transfiguration, and the 
old forgotten trace of brotherhood be lit up by it ; and 
our love, instead of pining discomforted, shall be lured 
upward and upwanl by low angelic voices, which 
recede before it for ever, as it mounts from brightening 
summit to summit on the delectable mountains of 
aspiration and resolve and deed. 



PHILIP. 

You are in the mood now to listen to some favorite 
passages of mine in one of Taylor's Sermons, in which 
is a sweet picture of the benign influence of piety in a 
woman. The extract from Chapman which I last 
read always brings these into my mind. Let us open 
the grim-looking old folio once more; there is as much 
true poetry between its shabby covers as may be found 
anywhere out of Shakespeare. 



CHAPMAN. 167 

'' I have seen a female religion that wholly dwelt upon the fiioe 
and tongue ; that, like a wanton and undressed tree, spends all its 
juice in suckers and irregular branches, in leaves and gum, andy 
after all such goodly outsides, you shall never eat an apple, nor be 
delighted with the beauties nor the perfumes of a hopeful bloB- 
som. But the religion of this excellent lady was of another con- 
stitution. It took root downward in humility, and brought forth 
fruit upward in the substantial graces of a Christian ; in charity 
and justice; in chastity and modesty; in fair friendships and 
sweetness of society. She had not very much of the forms and 
outsides of godliness, but she was hugely careful for the power of 
it, for the moral, essential, and useful parts, such which would 
make her be, not seem to be, religious. ... In all her religion, 
and in all her actions of relation toward God, she had a strange 
evenness and untroubled passage, sliding toward her ocean of God 
and of infinity with a certain and silent motion. So have I seen 
a river, deep and smooth, passing with a still foot and a sober 
face, and paying to the fiscus, the great exchequer, of the sea, the 
prince of all the watery bodies, a tribute large and full ; and hard 
by it a little brook, skipping and making a noise upon its unequal 
and neighbor bottom, and, after all its talking and braggM motion^ 
it paid to its common audit no more than the revenues of a little 
cloud or a contemptible vessel. So have I sometimes compared 
the issues of her religion to the solemnities and famed outsides of 
another's piety. It dwelt upon her spirit and was incorporated 
with the periodical work of every day. . . . The other append- 
age of her religion, which also was a great ornament to all the 
parts of her life, was a rare modesty and humility of spirit, a con- 
fident undervaluing and despising of herself. For, though she 
had the greatest judgment and the- greatest experience of things 
and persons, that I ever yet knew in a person of her youth and 
sex and circumstances; yet, as if she knew nothing of it, she had 
the meanest opinion of herself, and, like a fair taper, when she 
shined to all the room, yet, round about her own station, she 
had cast a shadow and a cloud, and she shined to everybody but 
herself. . . . But, so it was that the thought of death dwelt long 
with her and grew, from the first steps of fancy and fear, to a 
consent, from thence to a strange credulity and expectation of it ; 
and, without the violence of sickness, she died, as if she had done 
it voluntarily and by design, and for fear her expectation should 



168 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

have been deceived, or that she should seem to have had an un- 
reasonable fear or apprehension, or rather (as one said of Cato) 
she died as if she were glad of the opportunity." 

JOHN. 

Wlio was this sainted lady ? Such a sermon were 
almost worth dying for. 

PHILIP. 

Frances, Countess of Carberry. A Latin epitaph 
is prefixed to the sermon, doubtless written by Taylor 
himself. The first pail of it is quite graceful, but it 
soon becomes anything l)ut Ciceronian. The great 
advantage of using Latin for such occasions is, that it 
operates in some measure as a check and curb upon 
the wTiter, and makes him dignified in spite of him- 
self; but when he breaks free of all restraint, as here, 
the dead language is more intolerable than the living 
one. Perhaps another advantage of the Latin for this 
proverbial flattering kind of literature may be found 
in the fecundity of its superlatives, there being nothing 
in our own language that may claim comparison with 
its glib and liberal issimuses. — I do not know whether 
one little token of the care with which Taylor regu- 
lated the golden balance of his periods has ever been 
noticed. I mean his frequent elision of the letter e in 
the termination ed, to prevent the reader from accent- 
ing it. In this he is always guided by so delicate an 
ear as stands him in stead of metrical rules. 

JOHN. 

It is certainly woiiih remarking. — By putting Taylor 
and Chapman together, we get such a picture as 



CHAPMAN. 169 

realizes Wordsworth's conception of a perfect womaOi 
such a one as we can love and feel that therein we are 
made in God's image ; such a one as makes love what 
it should be, venerable, reverend, not a thing to be 
lightly treated and put on and off like a glove. 

PHILIP. 

Spenser had a noble idea of love : 

" For love is lord of truth and loyalty, 
Lifting himself out of the lowly dust, 
On golden plumes, up to the highest sky, 
Above the reach of loathly, sinful lust ; 



Such is the power of that sweet passion, 

That it all sordid baseness doth expel, 

And the refined soul doth newly fashion, 

Unto a fairer form." 

Hymn of Love. 

Having made an extract from him whom Milton 
calls " our sage and serious poet Spenser, whom I dare 
be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or 
Aquinas," let me please myself still further by hang- 
ing a sketch of his beside the others, with which it 
harmonizes fitly. He is speaking of a woman's 
'mind : 

" There dwell sweet love and constant chastity. 
Unspotted faith, and comely womanhood, 
Regard of honor, and mild modesty ; 
There virtue reigns as queen in loyal throne. 
And giveth laws alone, 
The which the base affections do obey. 
And yield their services unto her will ; 
Nor thouglit of thing uncomely ever may 
Thereto approach, to tempt her mind to ill." 

EpUhalamion, 



170 THIRD COSVERSATION, 

Now repeat to yourself what you remember of Ten- 
nyson's " Isabel/' and your mind will be as full of 
silent silvery images as the heaven is of stars. 

JOHN. 

If women fulfilled truly their divine errand, there 
would be no need of reforming-societies. The 
memory of the eyes that hung over a man in in- 
fancy and childhood will haunt him through all his 
after life. If they were good and holy, they will 
cheer and encourage him in every noble deed, and 
shame him out of every meanness and compromise. 

PHILIP. 

In spite of the side-thrusts which you sometimes 
make at my Abolitionism, I am persuaded tliat you go 
as far as I do in that matter. I know your humor 
for appearing what you are not, in order, by opposi- 
tion, to draw out opinions upon the side which you 
really espouse. Such is your assumed liking for the 
artificial school of poetry. You are willing to assume 
any disguise in order to get into the enemy's camp, 
and, once there, like Alfred, you sing them a song 
that sends them all to their arms. A little while 
ago you spoke approvingly of Miss Kelly ; if I had 
done it, the Thersites-half of vour nature would have 
been aroused at a breath. Do you really love to hear 
a woman speak in public ? 

JOHN. 

Why not as well as in private, or at all? If any 
have aught worth hearing to say, let them say, it be 



CHAPMAN. 171 

they men or women. We have more than enough 
prating by those who have nothing to tell as. I never 
heard that the Quaker women were the worse for 
preaching, or the men for listening to them. If we 
pardon such exhibitions as those of the dancing- 
females on the stage, surely our prudery need not 
brLstle in such a hedgehog fashion, because a woman 
in the chaste garb of the Friends dares to plead in 
public for the downtrodden cause of justice and free- 
dom. Or perhaps it is more modest and maidenly for 
a woman to expose her body in public than her soul ? 
If we listen and applaud, while, as Coleridge says, 

" Heaves the proud harlot her distended breast, 
In intricacies of laborious song," 

must Me esteem it derogatory to our sense of refine- 
ment to drink from the fresh brook of a true woman's 
voice, as it gushes up from a heart throbbing only 
with tenderness for our neighbor fallen among thieves ? 
Here in Massachusetts we burn Popish nunneries, but 
we maintain a whole system of Protestant ones. If a 
woman is to be an Amazon, all the cloisters in the 
world would not starve or compress her into a Cor- 
delia. There is no sex in noble thoughts, and deeds .■ 
agreeing with them ; and such recruits do equally good ] 
service in the army of truth, whether they are brought 
in by women or men. Out on our Janus-faced virtue, 
with its one front looking smilingly to the stage, and 
its other with shame-shut eyes turned frowningly 
upon the Anti-slavery Convention ! If other reapers 
be wanting, let women go forth into the harvest-field 
of God and bind the ripe shocks of grain ; the com- 



172 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

plexion of their souls shall not be tanned or weather- 
stained, for the sun that shines there only makes the 
fairer and whiter all that it looks upon. Whatever 
is in its place is in the highest place; whatever is 
right is graceful, noble, expedient ; and the universal 
hiss of the world shall fall upon it as a benediction, 
and go up to the ear of God as the most moving 
prayer in its behalf. If a woman be truly chaste^ 
that chastity shall surround her, in speaking to a 
public assembly, with a ring of protecting and rebuk- 
ing light, and make the exposed rostrum as private as 
an oratory ; if immodest, there is that in her which 
can turn the very house of God into a brothel. 

PHILIP. 

I shall not dispute the point with you. I love to 
hear the voices of women anywhere, but chiefly where 
truth is pleaded for; they know a shorter way to the 
heart than those of men do. Chapman valued woman 
as highly as you do. Hear him. 

*' Let no man value at a little price 
A virtuous woman's counsel ; her winged spirit 
Is feathered oftentimes with heavenly words, 
And, like her beauty, ravishing and pure ; 
The weaker body, still the stronger soul. 



O, what a treasure is a virtuous wife, 
Discreet and loving I Not one gift on earth 
Makes a man's life so nighly bound to heaven. 
She gives him double forces to endure 
And to enjoy, by being one with him, 
Feeling his joys and griefs with equal sense ; 
And, like the twins Hippocrates reports, 
If he fetch sighs, she draws her breath as short ; 



CHAPMAN. 173 

If he lament, she melts herself in tears ; 

If he be glad, she triumphs ; if he stir, 

She moves his way ; 

And is in alterations passing strange ; 

Himself divinely varied without change. 

Gold is right precious, but his price infects 

With pride and avarice ; authority lifts 

Hats from men's heads and bows the strongest knees, 

Yet cannot bend in rule the weakest hearts ; 

Music delights but one sense, and choice meats; 

One quickly fades, the others stir to sin ; — 

BiU a true wife both sense and soul deligfiiSf 

And mixeth not her good with any ill; 

Her virtues, ruling hearts, all powers command ; 

AU store without Iier leaves a man but poor^ 

And with her poverty is exceeding store; 

No time is tedious with her ; her true worth 

Makes a true hasband think his arms enfold 

("With her alone) a complete world of gold." 

Gentleman Usher, 

Here is something very beautiful : 

" Exceeding fair she was not, and yet fair 
In that she never studied to be fairer 
Than Nature meant her ; beauty cost her nothing" 

Alll\)0l8. 

Of love he says : 

" Love is nature's second sun. 
Causing a spring of virtues where he shines ; 
And as, without the sun, the world's great eye. 
All colors, beauties, both of art and nature. 
Are given in vain to men ; so, without love, 
AU beauties bred in women are in vain. 
All virtues born in men lie buried ; 
For love informs us as the sun doth colors : 
And, as the sun, reflecting his warm beams 
Against the earth, begets all fruits and flowers, 
So lovCf fair shining in the inwm'd man, 



174 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

Brings forth in him the honorable fruUs 
Of valor ^ witj virtue^ and haughty thoughtSy 
Brave resolution^ and divine discourse" 



Ibid. 



JOHN. 

Yes ; and, wanting love, a man remains nailed to 
the dreadful cross of self without help or hope. I 
begin to feel that Chapman is truly a poet. A tricks- 
ter, a man who loves the art for the applause it wins 
him, or runs about seeking for Apollo's arrows because 
they are of gold, concentrates all our admiration upon 
himself; a true poet makes us forget himself, makes 
life and the whole human race grow more noble in our 
eyes. It is only when the instruments are poor and 
meagre or out of tune, that we think of them, and are 
conscious of aught but the music they give birth to, or 
the divine emotions that rise, like Venus, rosy and 
dripping, from its golden waves. 

PHILIP. 

Chapman's poetry abounds in striking aphorisms, \ 
which often serve to clench and rivet the sense; but he | 
is so fond of them, that he welds them on sometimes I 
as if at random, or even sticks them lightly to the text 
with a frail wafer. In themselves, they are always 
full of earnest sense and philosophy. Here are a few 
examples : 

" Time's golden thigh 
Upholds the flowery body of the earth 
In sacred harmony, and every birth 
Of men and actions makes legitimate, 
Being used aright : the use of time isfateJ* 

Hero and Leander, 



CHAPMAN. 175 



" Oustorrif ichich the apoplexy is 
Of bedrid nature,** 



Ibid. 



" Who knows not 
Venus would seem as fair from any spot 
Of light demeanor, as the very skin 
Twixt Cjmthia's brows I Sin is aehamed of sin," 

Ibid. 

" Ah, nothing doth the world with mischief fill, 

But want of feeling one another's ilU' 

Ibid* 



" That which does good disgraceth no degree.** 

Ibid, 



Before I shut " Hero and Leauder/' I will read you 
a few other passages, though in a wholly different vein. 
They show the author in his most graceful and amiable 
aspect. This is a pretty little rustic landscape : 

" A country virgin, keeping of a vine, 
Who did of hollow bulrushes combine 
Snares for the stubble-loving grasshopper ; 
And by her lay her scrip that nourished her. 
Within a myrtle-shade she sat and sung. 
And tufts of wavering reeds about her sprung. 
Where lurked two foxes, that, while she applied 
Her trifling snares, their thieveries did divide, 
One to the vine, another to her scrip 
That she did negligently overslip ; 
By which her fruitful vine and wholesome fare 
She let be spoiled to make a childish snare." 



After an unpropitious sacrifice, 

" Hero wept ; but her affrighted eyes 
She quickly wrested from the sacrifice, 



176 THIRD CONVERSATION, 

SfivJt thenij and inward for Leander looked^ 
Searched her soft bosom, and from thence she plucked 
His lovely picture ; which when she had viewed, 
Her beauties were with all love's joys renewed ; 
The odors sweetenedy and the fires burned clear; 
Leander' s form left no HI object thereJ* 

This is beautiful, and ends with a fine truth : 

" Her chamber her cathedral-church should be, 
And her Leander her chief deity. 
For, in her love, these did the gods forego ; 
And, though her knowledge did not teach her so, 
Yet it did teach her this, that what her heart 



Did greatest hold 



That she did make her god ; and ^twas less naughi 
To leave gods in profession and in thought 
Than in her love and life ; for therein lie 
Most of her duties and their dignity ; 
Andy rail the brainbald world at what it willf 
Thafs the grand atheism titat reigns in it stHl ! " 

These two similes are very fresh : 

" His most kind sister all his secrets knew. 
And to her J singing^ like a shower he flew" 

*' Home to the mourning city they repair 
With news cw wholesome as the morning air J' 

I must unwillingly lay down the little volume, and 
come back to glean a few more aphoristic sentences. 

" As the light 

Not only serves to show, but render us 

Mutually profitable, so our lives. 

In acts exemplary, not only win 

Ourselves good names, but do to others give 

Matter for virtuous deeds by which we live" 

jyAmbois. 

" Who to himself is law no law doth need, 

Offends no law, and is a king indeed.'' 

Ibid. 



nWl 



CHAPMAN. 177 



^ Each nataral agent works but to this end, 
To render that it works on like itself." 



Ibid. 



'' He that observes bat as a worldly man 
That which doth oft succeed, and by the events 
Values the worth of things, will think it true 

That Nature works at random : 

But, with as much proportion, she may make 
A thing that from the feet up to the throat 
Hath all the wondrous fabric man should have, 
And leave it headless, for a perfect man ; 
As give a full man valor, viitue, learning, 
Without an end more excellent than those 
On whom she no such worthy parts bestows." 

" Virtue is not malicious ; wrong done her 
Is righted ever, when men grant they err." 

Monsieur U Olive, 

" He is at no end of his actions blest. 
Whose ends will make him greatest and not best." 

Byrov^n Tragedy, 

Here is a fine metaphor : 

" Thy impartial words 
Are like brave falcons, that dare truss a fowl 
Much greater than themselves." 

jyAmbois, 

And this : 

" The chain-shot of thy lust is yet aloft, 
And it must murder." 

Ihid. 

And this: 

" As night the life-inclining stars best shows, 
So lives obscure the starriest souls disclose." 

Epilogue to Trcmdation»» 

12 



178 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

The passions he calls 

" Those base foes that insult on weakness, 
And still fight housed behind the shield of nature.^' 

There is something grand and mysterious in tliis 
invocation of a spirit : 

** Terror of darkness I O thou king of flames, 

That witli thy music-footed horse dost strike 

Tlie clear light out of crystal on dark earth, 

And hurl'st instructive fire about the world, 

Wake, wake the drowsy and enchanted night 

That sleeps with dead eyes in this heavy riddle I 

O thou great prince of shades where never sun 

Sticks his far-darted beams, whose eyes are made 

To shine in darkness and see ever best 

AVhere men are blindest ! " 

Ibid. 

The vague terrors of guilt are thus graphically set 
forth : 

" O my dear servant, in thy close embraces 
/ have set open all the doors of danger 
To my encompassed honor and my life I 
Before, I was secure 'gainst death and hell, 
But now am subject to the heartless fear 
Of every shadow and of every breath, 
And would change firmness with an aspen leaf; 
So confident a spotless conscience is, 
So weak a guilty." 

Ibid. 

Chapman's self-reliant nature is continually peeping) 
forth from under every mask it puts on : 

" When men fly the natural clime of truth, 
And turn themselves loose out of all tlie bounds 
Of justice and the straight way to their ends, 
Forsaking all the sure force in themselves, 



L - ■ . ■'«■' 



CHAPMAN. 179 

To seek without them that which is not theirs, 
The forms of all their comforts are distracted." 

Byron's Tragedy, 

He thus gives us his notion of what a man should 
be: 

'* Give me a spirit that on Iife*s rough sea 
Loves to have his sails filled with a lusty wind, 
Even till his sail-yards tremble, his masts crack, 
And his rapt ship run on her sides so low. 
That she drinks water, and her keel ploughs air. 
There is no danger to a man who knows 
What life and death are ; therms not any law 
Exceeds his knowledge ; neither is it lawful 
That he should stoop to any other law : 
He goes before them and commands them ally 
Who to himself is a law rationaL" 

Byron's Conspiracy, 

JOHN, 

Altogether noble! Tlie first few verses illustrate 
well the natural impetuosity which so much distin- 
guished Chapman's character, as I gather it from what 
you have read ; and the last six exhibit the philosophic 
gravity and wisdom to which habits of reflection and 
the life of a scholar had tempered it. He must have 
been one of those incongruities we sometimes meet 
with ; a man, calm and lofty in his theory, but vehe- 
ment and fiery to excess in action, — whose very still- 
ness, like the sleep of tlie top, seems the result of 
intense motion. 

PHILIP. 

The same indomitable spirit shows itself in all Chap- 
man's characters. Even their humility is a kind of 



180 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

repressed and concentrated pride. He makes the 
Duke de Byron say : 

'' To fear a violent good aboseth goodness ; 
'T is immortality to die aspiring^ 
As if a man were taken quick to heaven. 
What will not hold perfection, let it borst : 
Wliat force hath any cannon, not being charged, 
Or being not discharged? To have stuff and form. 
And to lie idle, fearful, and unused, 
Nor form nor stuff shows. Happy Semele, 
That died, compressed with glory I Happiness 
Denies comparison of less or WMwe, 
Andf not ai mjost^ is nothing. — Like the shafts 
Shot at the sun by angry Hercules, 
And inio shivers by the thunder broken, 
WUl I bCy if I burst ; and in my heart 
This shall be written : * Yet 't was high and rightf " 

JOHN. 

/ 

Chapman's pride has at least all the grandeur in it 
that pride can ever have ; but, at best, pride and weak- 
ness are Siamese twins, knit together by an indissol- 
uble hyphen. — What a gloriously exulting comparison 
is that of the shaft of Hercules ! The metre also seems 
to my ear very full and majestic. 

PHILIP. 

Even his devils are still Chapman. The Evil Spirit 
says to D'Ambois : 

" Why call'dst thou me to this accursed light 
For these light purposes ? I am emperor 
Of that inscrutable darkness where are hid 
All deepest truths and secrets never seerij 



CHAPMAN. 181 

All which I know, and command legions 

Of knowing spirits can do more than these. 

Any of this my guard that circle me 

In these blue fires, from oni of whose dimfum^s 

Vast murmurs use to break, and, from these sounds, 

Articular voices, can do ten parts more 

Than open such slight truths as you require,*^ 

I know nothing in Marlow's mighty line grander 
than this. Ford's description of hell, though striking, 
seems too much like a bill of particulars, (if I remember 
it rightly,) and has a kind of ditto-ditto air, which 
looks quite ordinary beside the mysterious and half- 
hidden grandeur of these verses. This is such a pict- 
ure as Fuseli would have painted. — Here is something 
in a softer key : 

" A man that only would uphold 

Man in his native nohless, from whose fall 

All our dissensions rise ; that in himself 

(Without these outward badges of our frailty, 

Riches and honor) knows he comprehends 

Worth with the greatest. King had never borne 

Such boundless empire over other men, 

Had all maintained the spirit and state of D^Ambois ; 

Nor had the full, impartial hand of Nature, 

That all things gave in their original. 

Without these definite terms of mine and thine, 

Been turned unjustly to the hand of Fortune, 

Had all preserved her in her prime like D* Ambois ; 

No envy, no disjunction, had dissolved 

Or plucked one stick out of the golden fagot 

In which the world of Saturn bound our lives. 

Had all been held together by the nerves, 

The genius, and the ingenious soul of jyAmbois/' 

You have by this time got a very good idea of Chap- 
man's more prominent and worthy characteristics. 



182 THIRD CONVERSATION, 

His comedies show him to have been not altogether 
devoid of humor, though he does not possess the faculty 
in that exuberance without which it has too much appar- / 
ent machination to be interesting. Monsieur D'Olive is 
an amusing character, but his fun is chiefly traditional. 
There is one interesting point in Chapman's comedies, ■ 
and that is, a trace, discernible here and there, of his ,- 
admiration for Shakespeare, showing itself in a word i 
or turn of expression suggested by him. There are 
several examples in his tragedies, too, some of which 
are remarkable. I confess I love Chapman the better 
for it. — I must give you one more example of his fine 
poetic instinct. Just before a ghost appears to D'Am- 
bois, he says : 

" What violent heat is this? Methinks the fire 
Of twenty lives doth, on a sudden, fash 
Through aU my faculties : the air goes high 
In this dose chamber , and the frighted eaji'th 
Trembles and shrinks beneaih me." 

This is excellent. — It would be unfair not to show / 
you the enthusiastic love which Chapman felt for our , 
native language, hallowed, as it has been, by the use | 
of the noblest poets that ever dignified the earth. In • 
his address to the reader, prefatory to his translation 
of the Iliad, he says: 

" And for our tongue, thai still is so impaired 
By travelling linguists, I can prove it clear 
That 710 tongue hath the Muse^s utterance heired — 
For verse, and that sweet music to the ear, 
Struck out of rhyme — so naturally as this ; 
Our monosyllables so kindly fall, 
And meet, opposed in rhyme, as they did kiss,** 



CHAPMAN. 183 

So in his " Hymnua in Cynthiam " .• 

" Sweet Poesy 
Will not be clad in her supremacy 
With these strange garments (Rome's hexameters), 
As she is English ; but in right prefers 
Our native robes, put on with skilful hands/' 

Chapman's vigor of thought and expression may be 
seen in every page of his writing. Here is a fragment 
of his prose ; he is speaking of critics. 

"How, then, may a man stay his marvelling to see passion* 
driven men, reading bid to curtail a tedious hour, and altogether hide^ 
bound with affection to great inen^ s fancies, take upon them as killing 
censures a» if they were judgments butchers, or as if the life of truth 
lay tottering in their verdicts ? 

"Now what a supererogation in wit this is, to think skill so 
mightily pierced with their loves that she should prostitutely show 
them her secrets, when she wUl scarcely be looked upon by others buJt 
with invocation, fasting, watching, yea, not without having drops of their 
souls, like a heavenly familiar / " * 

JOHN. 

This has a taste of Milton in it. That metaphor of 
the heavenly familiar is exceedingly beautiful. It is 
no wonder that men wrote well who looked upon their 
art with such religion. 

PHILIP. 

It reminds me rather of Samuel Daniel's " Defense 
of Rime," one of the noblest pieces of prose in the 
language, dignified, eloquent, enthusiastic, and full of 
rich thoughts, richly clad in the singing-robes of 

* Dedicatory Epistle to his Original Hymns. 



184 THIRD CONVERSATION, 

choicest speech. — Now let us see how such a man as 
Chapman would die. 

" I^t me alone in peace ; 
Leave my soul to me whom it most concerns ; 
You have no charge of her; I fed her free : 
How she doth "rouse, and, like a falcon, stretch 
Her silver wings, as threaiening Death with death. 
At whom I joyfully will cast her off I 
I know this body but a sink of folly ; 
The groundwork and raised frame of woe and frailty ; 
The bond and bundle of corruption ; 
A quick corpse, only sensible of grief; 

A walking sepulchre ; 

A glass of air, broken with less than breath ; 

A slave hound face to face with Death, till deaih : 

And what said all you more ? I know, besides, 

That life is but a dark and stormy night 

Of senseless dreams, terrors, and broken sleeps ; 

A tyranny devising but to plague. 

And make man long in dying, rack his death, — 

And death is nothing : what can you say more ? 

/ being a little earth. 

Am seated J like earth, betwixt both the heavens. 

That, if 1 rise, to heaven I rise ; if fall, 

I likewise fall to heaven: what stronger faith 

Hath any of your souls ? What say you more ? 

Wliy lose I time in these things f Talk of knowledge. 

It serves for inward use. I will not die 

Like to a clergyman, but like the captain 

That prayed on horseback, and, with sword in hand, 

Threatened the sun." 

ByrovC^ Tragedy, 

JOHN. 

That is not unlike Byron ; but there is a finer and 
more untrammelled enthusiasm about it than he could 
rise to without effort. The melody of some verses in 



CHAPMAN, 185 

it is enchanting. What an airinesSy as of the blue, 
unbounded sky^ there is in that passage about the 
falcon ! One feels as if it oould not have been spokeo 
but on a loffy scaffold with only the arch of heaven 
overhead. The whole is very grand, but there is too 
much defiance in it. It is not so grand as would be 
the death of one who had learned, with Leigh Hanty 
to know that 

** Patience and gentleness are power/' 

The great spirit does not fling down the gauntlet to 
Death, but welcomes him as a brother-angel, who^ 
knowing the way better, is to be his guide to his Dew- 
working-place, and who, perchance, also led him hither 
from some dimmer sphere. ^' The great good man/' 
says Coleridge, has 

" three erne friend- : 
Himself, his Maker, and Ike angd DtathJ^ 

PHILIP. 

You must remember, however, that Chapman's hero 
was a soldier. Let us read another death-scene. 

" Let mv death 
Define life nothing but a courtier* breath ; 
Nothing is made of naught ; of all thin??; znade, 
The abstract is a dream but of a sha/!e. 
I'll not complain to earth jet, but to hearen. 
And (like a man) look upward eren in de&iL : 
And if Vespasian thought in maje<>tT 
An emperor might die standing, whj not I ? 

( Om offers to hJp him. 
Nay, without help, in which I will exceed him ; 
For he died splinted with his chambergrooma. 
Prop me, true sword, as thou hset erer ^oat : 



186 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

The equal thought I bear of life and death 
Shall make me faint on tw side ; I am up 
Here like a Roman stalue ; I wiU stand 
TiU death have made me m<irblej* 



JOHN. 



jyAmbois. 



This is great, but it is the greatness of a heathen ; 
of one who would, no doubt, maintain an aristocracy 
in dying, and prefer the traditionary respectability of 
the axe to the degradation of the cross, and could not 
be decently choked out of existence but with a cord 
of silk. For there are those who would carry only 
the vanities and titles of life out of it with them, and 
would have a blazon of arms from the Herald's Col- 
lege buried with them, (as the red men do arms of a 
more serviceable kind,) to be a certificate of admission 
to the higher circles in the next world. How truly 
ludicrous, by the way, is this claim of subterranean 
precedence, this solicitude of epitaphs to be exact in 
giving their due titles to the deceased, as if the poor 
ghost were to lug about his tombstone as a visiting- 
card or a diploma ! And if this were the case, how 
contradictory would some of our titular dignitaries 
look, (stripped, as they would be there, of all outward 
apj)liances,) whose grandeur is determinable by paral- 
lels of latitude, and, who, though " Honorables " in 
their own state, may become quite dis-honorable by 
simply stepping across the border! Would not the 
shade of a general, for instance, which should come 
staggering to the gate of immortality under the weight 
of marble renown piled over his ashes by a grateful 
country, with such letters of introduction as an epitaph 



CHAPMAN, 187 

detailing his numerous services would supply, be 
ranked side by side with that of a Pawnee brave, 
which should rush whooping in with its equally 
civilized recommendations in the shape of a string of 
scalps ? It is lucky that we are not taxed to believe 
the stories which epitaphs tell us, or we should be in 
despair of the world, thinking that all the good and 
great had gone out of it. But whither have I wan- 
dered in the grave-yard? 

PHILIP. 

We have not got Chapman's hero thither yet. Let 
us hear the last : 

" O frail condition of strength, valor, virtue, 
In me (like warning-fire upon the top 
Of some steep beacon on a steeper hiU) 
Made to express it I like a falling star, 
Silently glanced, that, like a thunderbolt. 
Looked to have struck and shook the firmament I " 

We see that the " equal thought " which he imag- 
ined that he bore of life or death, in the moment of 
inspiring exultation at the idea of dying more impe- 
rially than an emperor, breaks under him as the earth 
crumbles away beneath his feet. This must neces- 
sarily be the case with all greatness whose sustenance 
is drawn from the things of this world. It is but a 
poor weed, which may grow up, in that loose, rich soil, 
in a single night, to wilt and wither as soon. After 
all, the great secret is, to learn how little the world is, 
while we are yet living in it. It is no hard lesson after 
we are i^moved from it, and it l(k>k8 but like a grain 



188 THIRD CONVERSATION, 

of dim gold-dust in the infinite distance. Every day 
of our lives we jostle carelessly by a thousand human 
souls, each one of which is greater and more substantial 
than this tiny cockleshell of a planet, in which we 
cruise so securely through the shoreless ocean of space, 
one larger ripple of which would sink it for ever. And 
yet we build monuments and scratch inscriptions upon 
its thin deck, and garner stores in its slender-ribbed 
hold, as for an eternal voyage ; and shout our nothings 
into the tired ear of the great Silence round about us, 
as if our jackstraw controversies were worth breaking 
its august slumbere with. 

JOHN. 

A morality whose strict application would put an 
end to our conversations for the future. But I am not 
80 easily silenced. — To all men the moment of death is 
one of inspiration ; a feeling of sublimity must enlarge 
the heart and deepen the utterance of the meanest, as 
earth swims away from under, and leaves him 
alone, on his new-born wings, in the great void infinite. 
It were harder, I imagine, to talk basely than nobly, 
when the soul is waiting but for her green and callow 
pillions to toughen, and already forecasts her majestic 
flight. There are souls whose chrysalides seem to have 
burst and their wings to have expanded in this life, so 
that they can at any time lift themselves to that clear- 
aired point of vantage to which deatli only raises the 
vulgar ; souls, whose flesh seems to have been given 
them but to make them capable of action while they 
are the ministers of God's providence to their brothers 
upon earth. 



CHAPMAN. 189 

PHILIP. 

Bat Chapman does not seem to have been one of 
these 

" world's high-priests who do present 
The sacrifice for all/' 

as George Herbert calls them. He was one of those 
impulsive natures, the fruit of whose age is nowise 
answerable to the abundant blossoming of their youth ; 
who expend, in a few dazzling flashes, that electricity, 
which, if equally dispersed and circulated, might have 
made part of the world's healthful atmosphere. Such 
men must feel, in dying, that their lives have been 
incomplete, and must taste the overwhelming bitter- 
ness of knowing that might have been can bear 
but a moment's semblance of was, from which it dif- 
fers as much as the silent streak of a meteor from the 
perfect circling and fulfilment of a peaceful star. He 
knew not how, in the words of his brother dramatist, 
Ford, 

" to glorify his greatness with humility " ; 

a plant, which, lowly and despised of men, roots itself 
in eternity, and grows to be the lofty and unrivable 
trunk of secure self-sustainment ; while pride can never 
spring in any soil less gross than that of earth. Yet 
Chapman was cast in a huge mould ; there was stuff 
enough in him to have made some half a dozen mod- 
ern poets, and the parings might have been kneaded 
into a novelist or two. 

JOHN. 

That is not like you. It is a mean and fugitive 



190 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

philosophy, that would hush its conscience by pretend- 
ing to believe tliat only the scum and lees of time are 
left to us. Is not Wordsworth a modern poet ? Put 
such a brain as Chapman's inside of Wordsworth's 
skull, and it would have as much room as a mouse in 
the cave of Kentucky ; it would be awed alike by the 
brooding silence and the gigantic whispers, and would 
creep into a dark corner to hide itself. Chapman'sj; 
rude and angry hand would have shivered the thou-' 
sand delicate strings of that wondrous lyre of Rydal, — 
so sensitive, that even the light fingers of the sunshine , 
can make it tremble ; aiad which has a string to answer 
all sounds in nature, from the murmur of the breeze 
and the brook, up to the confused moan of humanity, 
with melody or pathos more ravishing than their own. 
No ; the strength of our old poets lay in their uncon- 
scious independence. Now, most volumes of poems 
have a clipped and suppressed look ; and if there be 
any freedom about them, it has a deprecatory and 
beseeching air, as if it would say, like one of our gov- 
ernor's proclamations, " With the advice and consent 
of the Council.'' Or if they assume an independent 
bearing, there seems to be a consciousness and determi- 
nation about it, which robs it of its dignity and de- 
grades it into a swaggering strut. I dare not say that 
Wordsworth has not sometimes been guilty of this ; 
that he has not sometimes preferred an unconsciousness 
(if I may speak so contradictorily) of his own contriv- 
ing, to that entire unconditional surrender of himself 
which the Muse demands. The oracular voices of the 
deep shun him who follows them for the mere sake of 
being the depositary and organ of their secrets ; as he 



CHAPMAN. 191 

pursues^ they fly before him, and leave him to be de- 
ceived by mocking intelligeuces which he mistakes for 
theirs ; — but they throng around him whose only prayer 
has been for a humble, self-forgetting heart ; him who 
has wrestled in tearful, mad agony with the deceitful 
pride of intellect, and attained at last to that serene 
height of humbleness whence all the kingdoms of this 
world may be seen and rejected, and which give all the 
glory to God. My heart is sick, when I behold the 
gallant vessels and rich-laden argosies which have left 
port with confident cheers and hopes of the multitude, 
to make shipwreck at last, and strew their wasted 
freight upon the bleak strand of Ambition ! 

PHILIP. 

■ 

I believe you are right, when you say that the fault I 
of our modern poets lies in their want of independence . 
and unconsciousness. But how can this be otherwise, 
when criticism has become so personal a matter, — when 
the critic writes always as a friend or enemy, not of the 
book or its principles, but of the author ? How can 
Poesy look or feel unconcerned, when Criticism is con- 
tinually opening the door of her dressing-closet, or at 
least keeping her sedulous eye at the key-hole? But, 
surely, the modern English dramatists are the least 
unconscious of mortals. They own certain qualities 
of mind among them in common, like stage-properties. 
Their whole life as authors seems to consist in pla)ring 
off a farce in which all the Elizabethan dramatists are 
personated in turn. Each selects his character, and isj 
thereafter recognized by the rest only in that assumed- 
garb. Mr. Jenkins has all the tenderness of Ford, 



192 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

Mr. Tompkins has more than the imagination of Web- 
ster, and Mr. Simpkins unites the fire of Marlowe with 
the sound sense of Massinger. This is all very fine, 
and affords the world matter for a laugh ; but it is 
quite idle for them to try to drive life into their dead 
forms by touching them to the bones of those old 
buried prophets. There are men among them who 
would write better plays than Ford or Massinger, if 
they could only forget for a day or two that Foixi and 
Massinger ever lived. If Shakespeare had striven only 
to emulate " Gorboduc/' we should never have heard 
of him. What free motion can we expect to see in a 
man who carries about with him, wherever he goes, a 
pair of funeral urns, one upon each arm ? If I want 
an old dramatist, I have only to turn to my slielves 
and invite myself to be of his company, sure of an 
honest welcome ; but I do not like to find him stand- 
ing, scrimped up as small as possible in order to escape 
notice, behind the side-scenes in a modern play, where 
I must stumble over his toes at every turn. There are 
characters in the British drama, which seem to possess 
the longevity of the Wandering Jew, and the pertina- 
cious vitality of the clown in a pantomime. After 
beholding them, not without secret satisfaction, killed 
in the massacre of the innocents at the end of one tra- 
gedy, they suddenly revive in the middle of another, 
looking as indifferent as if nothing special had liap- 
pencd ; and, to increase the wonder, they commonly 
appear, like the posthumous heroes of a wax-collection, 
in the identical clothes they had on when they were mur- 
dered. Practice has made them perfect in this strange 
accomplishment ; they have died so often as to make 



CHAPMAN. 193 

nothing of it, I have asked my legal friends if some 
process might not be sued out to keep them dead ; but 
the weak point in the case seems to lie in tlie want of 
evidence of any contract on their part to that effect. 
Hermippus might have learned of them the cheapest 
method of prolonging life. Jones, who mimics the 
crowing of a cock so well, suspected a trick. From a 
certain tenuity in their discourse, he surmised that they 
were not really living characters, but only the ghosts 
of such ; and accordingly, on an evening when he knew 
that one of them was to appear, stationed himself in 
the gallery, where zoological imitations and improvisa- 
tions are allowed, to try the effect of the ancient spe- 
cific for putting such vermin to flight. As soon as the 
thing appeared upon the stage, our friend crowed, as 
he avers, with even more than his usual precision ; but 
it remained entirely unmoved, and was soon after run 
through the heart, — to arise again, doubtless, at the 
next blast of the scene-shifter's whistle. Jones con- 
siders this as conclusive for the bodily-existence theory ; 
but without any impugnment of his extraordinary 
powers of imitation, it may be conjectured that the 
phenomenon (if a ghost) understood the hoax and 
despised it. I think a real chanticleer should be tried, 
as that would leave no reasonable doubt. 

JOHN. 

You have had a long chase after your butterfly. 
Have you nothing more to read me from Chapman ? 

PHILIP. 

I will only take leave of him in his own noble 
words : 
n 



194 THIRD CONVERSATION. 

" Farewell, brave relics of a complete man I 
Look up and see thy spirit made a star, 

. . . . and, when thou sett'st 
Thy radiant forehead in the firmament. 
Make the vast crystal crack with thy receipt ; 
Spread to a world of fire, and the aged sky 
Cheer with new sparks of old Humanity ! " 



196 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

tories ; but I would not imprison them within those. 
What has poetry to do with space and time? Past 
iand future are to her but arcs of one horizon, whose 
! centre is the living heart. Yet how much cant do we 
I hear about a national literature ! Let a man make a 
Pequod or a Cherokee bemoan himself through some 
dozen or more stanzas in such a style as neither of 
them ever dreamed of; let him invent a new rhyme 
for Huron, or a new epithet for Niagara, and he has 
done something national. What have we to do with 
a dance of savages more than with one of dervishes, or 
that of the planets which Pythagoras fancied ? Our 
notion of an Indian is about as true as that which 
the Europeans have of us. In all the situations 
which are proper to poetry one man will feel precisely 
like another; and to the poet it is quite indifferent 
whether his scene be in Congo or Massachusetts, 
unless, indeed, he be not strong enough to walk firmly 
without the external support of old associations or 
magnificent ones. An Indian, whose child dies, 
mourns the loss of one who would have been a great 
brave and an expert hunter ; a tradesman in the same 
case laments that of a lineal successor behind the 
counter. Where is the difference in the feeling? Yet, 
in writing about the firet, one would be bolstered up 
with rocks, woods, rivers, lakes, wigwams, scalping^ 
parties, and the whole machinery of savage life, — 
things merely extraneous and cumbrous, and not at all 
belonging to the bare feeling one is trying to repro- 
duce. It is merely because of our arbitrary and un- 
natural associations with different callings or modes of 
life, — associations unworthy of men, much more, then, 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 197 

unworthy of poets, — that we esteem the savage more 
picturesque (or whatever you choose to call it) than 
the tradesman. In all the feelings with which Poesy 
concerns herself, the latter may be, and ought to be, 
superior. The savage has had, it is true, the limbs of 
the oak-tree for his cradle; the primeval forest and 
the lonely prairie have been his playmates and nurses; 
the sky, the waterfall, the thunder, the stars, the 
legends of his forefathers, these have been his letters 
and his poetry. But the other, if he has not been 
dandled by the forest Titan, has had the nobler 
tutelage of a mother's arms ; nature denies herself to 
him no more than to his savage brother ; the stars, 
and the forest, and the waterfall have their secrets for 
him as well ; and in books he can converse with yet 
higher company, the ever-living spirits of the brave 
and wise. Methinks the account between the two is 
well balanced, or, if not, that the debit is on the side 
of him whom we idly call the child of nature, as if 
we dwellers in cities were but her foster-sons. — ^A man 
is neither more nor less a poet because he chooses one 
subject or another. Did not the cast-away shell of a 
tortoise become Apollo's lute? 

JOHN. 

Yes, but it was the shell of a large one ; a mud- 
turtle's would not have served his turn as well. Time' 
and place ai'e of no consequence to a poet ; but his eye 
should be as poetical in choosing a subject, as after- 
wards in detecting its nice relations and its happy 
aspects. He should avoid awakening a predisposed • 
sense of the ludicrous in his readers. No man admires ; 



198 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

" The Excursion ^^ more than I ; to none has it givfen 
a truer comfort ; yet I never think of its hero as a 
pedler. Costume is not to be despised. Heroines, 
you know, according to Mr. Puff, cannot go safely 
mad but in white satin. 

PHILIP. 

We should only think of the pedler as a man, with- 
out regard to the petty accidents of outward circum- 
stance. The heart is the same in all ; else were the 
poet's power of enchantment gone for ever. The soul 
is indifferent what garment she wears, or of what color 
and texture ; the true king is not unkinged by being 
discrowned. 

JOHN. 

Rather made more truly so. But Wordsworth's 
pedler, with the soul he had, would have been Words- 
worth, and an act of parliament could not have made 
a pedler of him. As the j^edler-element is not pre- 
dominant in him, there was no necessity for making 
him one ; for it is exactly in proportion as any element 
of character is predominant that it is poetical. Shakes- 
peare's Autolycus is a tnie pedler; yet his character 
is as ideal as that of Hamlet, only not in the same 
kind. The manufacturer's heart becomes poetical, 
when he looks upon Niagara as a mill-privilege. The 
whole drama of the factor}'^, with the strange hum of 
its inanimate engines and the stranger silence of its 
living ones, the unresting toil of its Titan wheels, that 
turn with gigantic sluggishness to their task in the 
gloomy prisons below, is acted over in his mind. The 
manufacturing nature in him is what makes bim a • 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 199 

poet, and it is in this light that he presents a poetic 
phase. Wordsworth's syllogism is logically defective. 
It does not follow, because the poetical faculty or sense 
is independent of circumstances, that a pedler must be 
a poet. It would be as reasonable to say that a poet 
must be a pedler. True, a pedler must be a poet to a 
certain degree; every man must; but it is only to the 
degree of having the poetic sense. When he possesses 
the faculty y he will be pedler no longer. 

PHILIP. 

Perhaps you are right in an artistic point of view ; 
but I will not quarrel with my ambrosia because it 
comes to me in an earthen vessel ; its fragrance and 
its gift of immortalizing are the same as if it were 
sent in Jove's own beaker. It is possible that Words- 
worth might have illustrated his noble theory more 
logically, if he had made his hero rise out of his low 
estate to the higher one of a poet ; if, as Willis has 
exquisitely expressed it in one of his dramas, (perhaps 
the best in their kind since Fletcher,) he had made 

him 

" By force of heart, 
And eagerness for light, grow tall and fair." 

But why need we consider the pedler in " The Ex- 
cursion '' as anything more than the mouthpiece of 
Wordsworth himself? He might, as you admit, have 
possessed the poetic sense as well, being a pedler, as in 
any other condition of life ; and Wordsworth has only 
put himself in his place, and endowed his dumb 
images with his own poetic faoviUy of speech. The 
mind that flieis high enough cannot see the pigmy dis- 






200 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

tinctions which we make between different professions ; 
from a true elevation all look of equal height. Milton 
was a schoolmaster, and might have been a cobbler, 
like Jacob Behmen, without derogation to his dignity. 

JOHN. 

Not till he had ceased to be Milton. Behmen 
mended shoes, and Bunyan soldered pans, only so long 
as they were not yet waited upon by troops of winged 
visions. If Milton had stitched and patched as well 
as he built immortal rhyme, he would have deserved 
equal honor for his fidelity in that humbler duty ; but 
such honor had been husks and chaff to him, if he 
must meanwhile refuse to bear the heavenly message 
w^hich had been intrusted to him. The lark rises 
from a lowly clod of earth, but he bears it not with 
him to the eaves of heaven. Whatever a man^s in- 
ward calling is, that will have undivided possession of 
him, or no share at all in him. If a thought or wish 
stray from its entire fealty and surrenderment to that 
divine presence in him, his vision of it becomes 
straightway clouded; its oracles become indistinct to 
his ear; and his utterance of them unintelligible, or 
but faint reminiscence, instead of obedient and literal 
report. A virtue goes away from him, whenever any 
other desire touches but the hem of his mantle. That 
alone must be the Egeria of the restless fountain of 
his heart, to which he turns, in solitude and silence, 
for wisdom and for consolement. True it is that any 
worldly avocation that may further him in the service 
of this miraculous intelligence, which has conde- 
scended to make him its slave, becomes not only 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 201 

tolerable, but holy. If Milton must get bread to 
keep the spirit in him till it have uttered itself, would 
not every poor crust, though earned by the meanest 
employment, have a flavor and fragrance of Eden 
in it? 

" His humblest duties that hath clad with wings." 

If this Wordsworthian pedler had been the man^ 
his speech betrays him for, we should not have first i 
heard of him from under the laurels of Royal Mount ^ 
After once becoming aware of those strong wings of 
his, after once balancing himself upon them in the 
illimitable air of song, he would never have borne pack 
and measured tape again. As soon might you entice 
the butterfly back into his old hovel in the dingy 
grub, after he had tasted all those nectarous delights 
which Spenser so lusciously describes in his ^^ Muiopot- 
mos." If he had looked on nature with a pedler^s 
eye, the character would have been w^ell enough ; but 
he was all poet. — We have talked about this longer 
than was necessary. We do not agree, nor should we 
be pleasant companions if we did. This would be a 
dull world indeed, if all our opinions must bevel to 
one standard; when all our hearts do, we shall see 
blue sky, and not sooner. 

PHILIP. 

A part, certainly, of what you have said jumps 
with my opinions precisely. It is true that every man 
has his infallible and inexorable monitor witliin, — a 
conscience that forewarns, as well as one that reproves ; 
and it were hard to tell which wields the sharper lash. 



202 FOURTH COSVERSATION. 

Nature throws the tools of whatever art she destines 
a select soul for invitingly in his way. The burnt 
stick from the hearth must be the pencil, and the wall 
the canvas, for the future painter. There must be a 
linkboy wanted at "the Globe," when the young 
Shakespeare runs away to London. Somehow or 
other, there chances to be a clay-pit or a pottery near 
the birthplace of the young sculptor ; and wherever a 
poet or a musician is born, there will be an odd 
volume of Spenser, or a cracked spinnet, in the house. 
There is something more than a mere predisposition 
in the soul of a great genius, (if, without offence, we 
may guess at these cryptic mysteries,) which compels 
him into the path he must tread. If he deny and 
frustrate it, the whole face of nature looks at him sor- 
rowfully and with a tender yet half-contemptuous 
reproach. He cannot cast away from him this badge 
of the friendship of the supernal powers ; if he try, it 
is brought back to him next day, like the ring of 
Polycrates. " Here stand I : I cannot help it,'' says 
stout Martin Luther, almost regretfully, exiled from 
his quiet convent-cell by this superior will. Is not 
this the meaning of having a genius, — an expression 
of a truth which has had all its sharp edges worn off 
and has become a mere phrase, in coming down to us 
from the simpler and more inseeing day when it was 
invented? — The supernatural calling carries a pain 
with it, too. The ancients were wont to say that he 
who saw a god must die. Perhaps this 'only meant 
that he who has gazed deepest into the vast mysteries 
of being, and held closest converse with the Eternal 
Lovfe, is o^^e^powe^€!d by the yearning and necessity to 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 203 

speak that which can never be wholly spoken, and 
which yet seems ever hovering in fiery words upon the 
tongue. The music of the mighty universe crowds 
through the slender reed, and shatters it with the very 
excess of quivering melody. 

JOHN. 

Certain it is, that without this law of genius, which 
compels it to utter itself as it best may, veiy few great 
words have been spoken or great deeds done. Every 
great man is more or less tinged witli what the world 
calls fanaticism. Fanaticism, in its ill sense, is that 
which makes a man blind to perceive the falseness of 
an error ; the fanaticism of genius will not let him be 
persuaded that there is any lie in truth. The disbe- 
lief of the whole world cannot shake his faith that he 
is God's messenger, which upbears him as upon the 
Kock of Ages. He knows that the whole power of 
God is behind him, as the drop of water in the little 
creek feels that it is moved onward by the whole 
weight of the rising ocean. Unsupported by any of 
earth's customs or conventions, he learns to lean wholly 
on the Infinite. The seal of God's commission is set 
within, and has no ribbons about it to make it respect- 
able in the eyes of the many. Most men are fearful 
of visitings from the other world, and, set on by those 
whose interest lies mainly in this, they look with dis- 
trust, and often with ignorant hate, on him who con- 
verses with spirits. 

PHILIP. 

Yes, men always deny the messenger of God at 



204 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

first. The spiritual eye, like that of the body, until 
taught by experience, sees objects reversed, and makes 
that seemingly come from hell, which has in truth but 
just descended, warm and fragrant, from the heart of 
God. But Time can never put Eternity off more than 
a day ; swift and strong comes the fair to-morrow, and 
wifch it that clearer perception of the beautiful, whidi 
sets another fixed star in the bright coronet of Truth. 

JOHN. 

But when the world is at last forced to believe the 
message, it despitefully entreats the bearer of it. " In 
most cases men do not recognize him, till the disguise 
of flesh has fallen off, and the white wings of the angel 
are seen glancing in the full sunshine of that peace, 
back into whose welcoming bosom their flight is turned. 
If they recognize him earlier, it is with a scurvy grace. 
Knowing that hunger is the best taskmaster for the 
body, and always using to measure spirit by the laws 
of matter, they conclude that it must be the sharpest 
spur for the soul also. They hold up a morsel of 
bread, as boys do to their dogs, and tell the prophet to 
speak for it. They know that he has a secret to tell 
them, and think they can starve it out of him, as if it 
were an evil demon. 

PHILIP. 

It is time enough that hunger is the best urger of 
the soul ; but it is the hunger, not of the body, but of 
the soul, — which is love. A state of rest and quietude 
in the body is the most conformable to the happiness 
and serenity, and so to the undisturbed utterance, of 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 205 

the soul. Love, which is its appetite, quickens the 
soul of the seer, 

" A'nd then, even of itselfy it high doth dimh ; 
What erd wa8 dark becomes all eye, all sight," 

as Dr. Henry More phrases it. The distracting cares 
and dunnings of want are not the best nurses of genius; 
it has self-dependence enough without their prompting. 
It may take other sorrows and thank God for them, 
for sorrow alone can unlock the dwelling of the deeper 
heavenly instincts; but there is bitter enough in its 
cup, always, without the world's squeezing its spare 
drops of rue in. 

JOHN. 

Perhaps actual want may be inconsistent with that 
serenity of mind which is needful to the highest and 
noblest exercise of the creative power ; but I am not 
ready to allow that poverty is so. Few can dignify it 
like our so admirable prose-poet, whose tales are an 
honor even to the illustrious language they are written 
in ; few can draw such rich revenues of wise humble- 
ness from it as our beloved R. C. ; few can win a smile 
from it by his Lambish humor, and that generous 
courtesy which transmutes his four-pence into a bank- 
note in the beggar's eyes, like S. ; but there is none for 
whom it has not some kind lesson. Poverty is a rare 
mistress for the poet. She alone can teach him what 
a cheap thing delight is ; to be had of every man, 
woman, and child he meets ; to be gathered from every 
tree, shrub, and flower ; nay, to be bought of the surly 
northwestern wind himself, by the easily-paid instal- ■ 



206 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

raents of a cheerful, unhaggling spirit. Who knows 
the true taste of buns, but the boy who receives the 
annual godsend of one with Election-day ? Who ever 
really went to the theatre, but Kit Nubbles? Who 
feels what a fireside is, but the little desolate bare- 
footed Ruths, who glean the broken laths and waste 
splinters after the carpenters have had a full harvest? 
Who believes that his cup is overflowing, but he who 
has rarely seen anything but the dry bottom of it? 
Poverty is the only seasoner of felicity. Except she 
be the cook, the bread is sour and heavy, and the joint 
tough or overdone. As brisk exercise is the cheapest : 
and warmest overcoat for the body, so is poverty for ': 
the heart. But it must be independent, and not of 
Panurge's mind, — that to owe is a heroic viii;ue. 
Debt is like an ingenious mechanical executioner I 
have read of somewhere, which presented the image of 
a fair woman standing upon a pedestal of three steps. 
When the victim mounted the first, she opened her 
arms ; at the second, she began to close them slowly 
around him ; and at the third, she locked him in her 
iron embrace for ever. 

On the other hand, however, poverty has its bad 
side. Poverty in one hour's time shall transport a 
man from the warm and fruitful climate of sworn 
brotherhood with the world into the bare, bleak, desert, 
and polar ice-field of distant country-cousinship ; and 
the world's whole duty of man towards him becomes 
on a sudden the necessity of staving off asking him to 
dinner. Then, for the first time, he gets an insight 
into the cfiicacy of buttons, and discovers, to his great 
surprise, that the world has one at each pocket 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 207 

This gives him an excellent hint for a sonnet to a but- 
ton, comparing it to the dragon of the Hesperides, in 
which he gets no farther than the end of the second 
quatrain, finding it impossible to think of any body or 
any thing analogous to Hercules in his victory over the 
monster. Besides, he now learns that there are no 
golden apples to be guarded, the world assuring him 
on its honor that it has enormous sums to pay and not 
a cent to meet them with. In a fit of inspired despair 
he writes an elegy, for the first two stanzas of which 
(having learned economy) he uses up the two quatrains 
already adjusted for his sonnet. By employing the 
extremely simple process of deduction invented by the 
modern expounders of old myths, he finds that Her- 
cules and Ouzt^ are identical, and that the same word 
in the Syro-Phoenician language imports a dragon and 
a button. The rest of the elegy is made easy by merely 
assuming the other steps of the proposition, as every 
expounder of old myths has a clear right to do, by a 
rule of logic founded on the usage of the best writers 
in that department. He therefore considers the heart 
in the poetical light of a pocket or garden of Hesper- 
ides, buttoned up tight against all intruders. As Scrip- 
ture is always popular, he ends by comparing it also 
to that box which Jehoiada set at the gate of the 
Temple, which had a hole in the top ample enough to 
admit the largest coins, though you might shake till 
you were tired without getting the smallest one out of 
it. Having now commenced author, we may as well 
leave him ; for, at that lowest ebb of fortune, the bare^ 
muddy flats of poverty lie exposed, and the tide must 
soon turn again. 



208 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

PHILIP. 

That poverty may be of use to the poet, as you 
have said, may be granted, without allowing that it 
must come to the actual pinch and gripe of want with 
him. The man of genius surely needs it not as a 
spur, for his calling haunts him from childhood up. 
He knows that he has that to say that will make the 
great heart of the universe beat with a more joyous 
peaceful u ess and an evener motion. As he grows to 
man's estate, the sense of a duty imposed on him by 
nature, and of a necessary obedience to heavenly mes- 
sengers, which the world neither sees nor acknow- 
ledges, grows stronger and stronger. The exceeding 
brightness of his countenance weaves a crown around 
his head out of the tliick air of earth ; but earthlings 
cannot see it. He tells his errand, and the world 
turns its hard face upon him and says, " Thou art a 
drone in my busy hive; why doest thou not some- 
thing?'' Alas! when the winter season comes, the 
world will find that he had been storing honey for it 
from heavenly flowers, for the famishing heart to feed 
upon. He must elbow through the dust and throng 
of the market, when he should be listening to the still, 
small voice of God; he must blaspheme his high 
nature, and harden his heart to a touchstone to ring 
gold upon, when it is bursting with the unutterable 
agony of a heavenly errand neglected, — that bitterest 
feeling of having "once had wings." The world has 
at last acknowledged his sovereignty, and crowned hira 
with a crown of thorns. Thomson, in one of his 
letters, says : 



TUE OLD DRAMATISTS. 209 

" The great fat doctor of Bath told me that poets should be kept 
poor, the more to animate their genius. This is like the cruel 
custom of putting a bird's eyes out, that it may sing the sweeter." 

The world plays the great fat doctor very well. 
Milton tells us that 

" Fame is the spur which the clear spirit doth raise 
To scorn delights and live laborious days ; " 

but the greater part of mankind, having more sym- 
pathy with the body than with its heavenly tenant, 
seem to derive the word fame from the Latin fames. 
They would have the alleged temperate habits of the 
chameleon held up to poets, as that of the busy bee is 
to good little Jackies and Tommias. But it may well 
be doubted whether a forced Pythagoreanism would 
lead to the same happy results as a willing one. The 
system has, moreover, been often exaggerated into the 
lamentablest fanaticism. A contempt of the body has 
been gradually engendered in the soul, which has 
sometimes overpersuaded her to break her way out, as 
in Chatterton, — or to carry her zeal to the extent of 
not eating at all, and so forcing the spirit by slowly 
wasting away the flesh, as in Otway and others. This 
species of devotion, moreover, seems to meet with the 
hearty approbation of the reading public, who usually 
commemorate such by the rather incongruous ceremony 
of placing a huge monument to mark the resting-place 
of that very body whose entire subjection by sudden 
conquest or gradual overthrow they had regarded with 
so much satisfaction. In England, men of this pro- 
fession seem to be erected into a distinct caste or guild, 

14 



210 FOURTH CONVERSATION, 

and the practice of its mysteries is restrained by 
statute to geniuses and operatives ; for an unprincipled 
vagrant named Cavanagh was sentenced, a few years 
ago, to the treadmill, for pretending to live without 
eating, he having no license so to do. . 

JOHN. 

Mr. Putnam, in his late oration, made himself 
merry over the complainings of genius } and the com- 
fortable audience laughed pleasantly as he told genius 
to take its lazy hands out of its pockets and go to 
work. " Do the duty that lies nearest thee,'' said he, 
enlisting Goethe's brave word for the occasion, but 
forcing it to a new service. Nothing is so apt to lead 
men astray as their sense of the ludicrous ; no kindly 
feeling is so apt to make them say harsh things. To 
judge by the fine face of the orator, none would have 
been readier than he to have dropped a quiet drachma 
into the hat of the blind old Maeonides, or to hiave 
thought a song of his too ample payment for a week's 
lodging. It has not been the men of genius who 
have whined and whimpered ; it has been those who 
have mistaken their own vague longings and pitiful 
ambitions for the summonses of the true voice. 
Genius locks its sorrows in its own invincible heart; 
from those awful deeps a moan may sometimes wander, 
but no complaint; the voice may become sadder and 
the face more care-worn, but that noble pity is not for 
itself; — it is because of the adder-deafness which seals 
the ears of the world against the entrance of the 
eternal melodies of which it believes itself the instru- 
ment; its lips are ever 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS, 211 

" As Cumie*s cavern close, 
Its cheeks with fast and sorrow thin, 
Its rigid front almost morose, 
But for the patient hope within." * 

PHILIP. 

Mr. Putnam forgot that the duty which lies nearest 
a man of genius is to be a man of genius ; and it is a 
duty which no one else can perform for him. That is 
the firet duty ; after that is well done, he may think 
of other subordinate ones. God did not lay it upon 
him that it might starve or isokte him. Whatever 
idiosyncrasies he endows his creatures with, he intends 
them as the tools for them to earn their bread. The 
same wings on which the bobolink hangs vibrating, 
rapturous with song, bear it also in search of the grub 
and the rice-field ; the same structure which gives the 
swan his frigate-like majesty upon the water enables it 
also to pursue and secure its food. The world owes 
all created beings a living, not in return for any per- 
formance it has laid upon them, but for doing what 
they are intended and foreordained to do. The man of 
genius has an injunction laid upon him to fulfil a cer- 
tain destiny ; if he neglect it, bread will not quench 
liis hunger nor water his thirst ; he is wholly cut off 
from the great catholic communion of nature; if he 
obey it, there seems to be no such thing as starving 

*From a fine poem "On the Bust of Dante," (its metre as 
severe, and its images as stem and sharp-cut, as the lines in the 
bust it commemorates,) prefixed by T. W. Parsons, one of our 
roost truly classic and delightful poets, to his translation of the 
first ten cantos of the " Inferno." It is to be hoped, for the honor 
of our literature, that the translator may be encouraged to proceed 
in his excellent undertaking." 



212 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

liiin till it be accomplished. The poet will and must j 
sing, in spite of want or any other misery ; but we /; 
know not how much sweeter and clearer his voice/- 
would have been but for these. The infinite beauty' 
and harmony w^hich he sees and hears force him to 
give vent to the glorious agony which swells his 
breast : 

" The sweetness hath his heart ypierced no, 
He cannot stint of shiglng by the way." 

He has no choice in the matter ; the crown will find 
out David while he tends his flocks ; the javelin hurled 
at him will quiver harmless in the wall. There w 
such a thing as peculiarity of temperament, and you 
shall not find one of the thousand crafts in which men 
are employed but has one of its own. How came 
Mr. Putnam to be delivering that very oration ? 

JOHN. 

I will propose to you another question equally easy 
of solution. How comes it that Italians have a 
patent-right to suffer by convulsions of nature ? Yet 
such is the fact. Let there be an eruption of Cotopaxi 
or Hecla, let the earth turn in its sleep and shake 
itself in the Society Islands, and in less than a week 
an Italian shall thrust into your hand a certificate, 
properly authenticated, that he has lost his all by one 
of them. How does it chance, also, that these true 
pensioners of nature (for they undoubtedly get a 
living that way, benevolence serving as a kind of in- 
surance-policy) have always large families of children ? 
You speak of nature's providence in her endowment 



THE OLD DRAMATISTS. 213 

of the bobolink and the swan ; but what is it in com- 
parison with the forethouglit she employs to the fur- 
nishment of these ? An eruption is a year's support to 
them ; an earthquake more destructive than common 
is a life-annuity. Whenever she is about to touch a 
match to one of her underground magazines, she sets 
them down just over it; she saves them from the 
destructive wrath of the explosion, and then supplies 
them with some means of locomotion to the abodes of 
the charitable which transcends any swiftness of man's 
device. Before tlie news of the catastrophe, they are 
at our doors. This peculiar ^ift of that nation may 
perhaps be yet turned to account in the forwarding of 
despatches. It is worth considering, at least. — Again, 
how comes it to pass that none but destitute Irishmen 
are ever desirous of obtaining the means of reaching 
equally destitute wives and children at Halifax, and 
that they are sometimes yeare in performing that deso- 
late and pious pilgrimage, being inexplicably detained 
for months in any village where there are believing 
ears and generous hearts? Some philosophers will 
have it that the tools of every animal and vegetable 
are the forced productions of self-preserving instinct ; 
— that the grapevine was set to climb the tree till its 
despair had escaped in prehensile tendrils; that the 
duck was tossed into the sea to drown, till its fears had 
found a vent and a remedy in webbing its feet. Was 
it some such instinct which provided the emigrant 
Switzer with that natural excresence of his tyran- 
nous, indefatigable, tax-gathering barrel-organ ? 



214 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

PHILIP. 

I see that you are weary of our discussion. Let me 
put in two more pieces of evidence before the case 
goes to the jury. They are the depositions of Ed- 
mund Spenser and James Thomson. The first testifies 
to this effect : 

" O, what avails it of immortal seed 
To bin ybred, and never born to die ? 
Far better I it deem to die with speed, 
Than waste in woe and wailful misery 1 " 

He gives the same testimony more at full in his 
"Mother Hubbard's Tale." Nor is the other less 
explicit : 

" To every labor its award accrues, 
And they are sure of bread who swink and moil ; 



But while the laws not guard that noblest toil, 

Ne for the Muses other meed decree, 

They praisM are alone, and starve right merrily." 

JOHN. 

. Now let US open Ford's Plays, which, I see, is the 
volume in your hand. 

PHILIP. 

Ford's dramatic abilities have, I think, been rated 
too highly. He has a great deal of tragic excitability 
and exUhusiasm, and a good knowledge of stage-effect ; 
but these are the predominant qualities of his nature. 
In the strong mind they are always subservient. Foid 
can see the proprieties and beauties of a fine situation ; 



FORD, 215 



but he lias not that dignity m him which can create 
them out of its own substance. His poetic faculty 
leans upon the tragic element in his stories for support, 
instead of being the foundation of it. Tender and / 
graceful he always is, almost to excess; never great : 
and daring. He does not seem to me to deserve the 
high praise which, if I remember rightly, Lamb be- 
stows upon him, and which other less judicious critics 
have repeated. 

JOHN. 

The sweet lovinffness of Lamb's nature fitted him 
for a good critic ; but there were knotty quirks in the 
grain of his mind, which seemed, indeed, when 
polished by refined studies, little less tlian beauties, 
and which we cannot help loving, but which led him 
to the worship of strange gods, and with the more 
scrupulous punctuality that the mass were of another 
persuasion. No field is so small or so barren but there 
will be grazing enough in it to keep a hobby in ex- 
cellent case. Lamb's love was of too rambling and 
wide-spreading a kind to be limited by the narrow 
trellises which satisfy a common nature. It stretched 
out its feelers and twined them around everything 
within its reach, clipping with its tender and delicate 
green the fair tree and unsightly stump alike. Every- 
thing that he loved was, for the time, his ideal of 
loveliness. Even tobacco, when he was taking leave 
of it, became the very " crown of perfumes," and he 
affirmed 

" Roses and violets but toys 
For the greener sort of boys 
Or for greener damsels meant." 



216 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

PHILIP. 

In this, and in the finer glimpses of his humor, and 
in the antique richness of his style in the best parts, 
he reminds me of Emerson ; but he had not the divine 
eye of our American poet, nor his deep transparency 
and majestic simpleness of language, full of images 
that seem like remembrance-flowers dropped from 
between the pages of Bacon, or Montaigne, or Browne, 
or Herbert; reminding us of all felicitous seasons in 
our own lives, and yet infused with a congenial virtue 
from the magic leaves between which they had been 
stored. 

John Ford, though he cannot rank with the first 
order of minds, yet claims an instinctive deference, as 
one of that glorious brotherhood who so illustrated 
and dignified our English tongue at the beginning of 
the seventeenth century. Set beside almost any of 
our moderm dramatists, there is certainly sometliing 
grand and free about him ; and though he has not 
that " large utterance '^ which belonged to Shakespeare, 
and perhaps one or two others of his contemporaries, 
he sometimes rises into a fiery earnestness which falls 
little short of sublimity, and proves that he had in 
him, as Drayton said of Marlowe, 

" Those brave translunary things 
That our first poets had." 

It is this abandoned earnestness and willingness 
and simplicity which so much elevate the writers of 
that age above nearly all succeeding ones. In their 
companionship, a certain pardoning and compromising 



FOBD. 217 

restraint, which hampers us in the society of less 
unconscious writers, seems to be thrown off the mind. 
Here, at last, we find frankness, contempt of conse- ■ 
quences, dignity that finds graceful sustenance in the ', 
smallest and most ordinary events of to-day, as well 
as in the greatest, or in prophecies of a nobler to- 
morrow. They laid the deep-set bases of their works 
and thoughts in the cheap but eternal rock of nature, 
not idly writing their names upon the shifting and 
unstable sands of a taste or a prejudice, to be washed 
out by the next wave, or blurred and overdrifted by 
the first stronger breeze. Pegasus is the most unsafe 
of hobby-horses. The poet whose pen is governed 
by any self-built theory (even if he persuade men to 
believe in it) will be read only so long as that theory 
is not driven out by another. 

JOHN. 

Yet a creed or theory may sometimes be of good 
service in the cause of truth. It may concentrate the 
will and energy of a strong mind upon one point, and 
so lead to the discovery of such facts as intersect at 
that point in their revolutions ; as the wells of the old 
astronomers, by shutting out all light from around, 
enabled them to see the else invisible stars. 

PHILIP. 

But the credit should rather be given to the concen- 
trated resolution than to the creed or theory. Resolu- 
tion is the youngest and dearest daughter of Destiny, 
and may win from her fond mother almost any favor 
she chooses to ask, though in very wantonness. The 



218 FOURTH CONVERSATIOy. 

great spirits of that day were of do school, except 
that in which their own soul was mistress. The door 
to the temple of any creed was too low to admit men 
of their godlike stature without stooping, and that 
they could not do. They scorned those effeminate 
conventionalities which, half a century later, decked 
our ruddy English Muse in the last Paris mode, 
bound up and powdered her free golden hair, and so 
pinched her robust waLst that she has scarce borne a 
healthy child since. Poesy, with them, was not an 
artifice in the easy reach of any whose ear could detect 
the jingle of two words, and who had arithmetic ! 
enough to count as high as ten on their finger-ends. ' 
They believed that Poesy demanded the enthralling 
and ennobling toil of a whole life, the heart, soul,/ 
will, life, everything, of those who professed her ser-' 
vice. They esteemed her the most homelike andj 
gentle of spirits, and would not suffer her to travel] 
abroad to bring home licentiousness veiled under aj 
greater precision of manner, at the expense of all' ' 
freedom and grace. The innocent artlessness of her 
face looked sweetest to them in the warm fire-light i 
upon the hearth at home. They knew that all the \ 
outward forms of poetry are changeable as those of a ■ 
cloud. These fall away like the petals of a flower, 
but they leave the soul, the plain sober seed-vessel 
which most men pass by unregarded. Parnassus is 
now shrunk to a modern mountain; Hippocrene has 
dwindled to a scant rill, which the feet of a single ox 
can make muddy through its whole course ; but while 
the heart remains, the poet's fountain bubbles up as 
clear and fresh as ever. 



FORD. 219 



JOHN. 



Only that part of a form which is founded in nature 
can survive ; the worth of the statue of Memnon as an 
oracle died with the wise priest who spoke through it, 
but, after three thousand years, it still recognizes its 
ancient god, and grows musical under the golden fin- 
gers of sunrise. — I confess I can hardly shake off the 
influence of early education in favor of the French 
school of poets. I admire the others with a kind of 
reverence, as grand, natural, unpruned spirits ; but I 
find my entertainment, too, in these, as in the society 
of elegant gentlemen with whom artificiality has been 
carried well-nigh to the unconscious ease of nature. 
Dryden 

PHILIP. 

But I will not grant him for one of them. He 
could not smother his sturdy English spirit. His Gal- 
licism is ridiculous, as in his plays. It is not ingrained. 
I will give you an example of what English-French 
must be, by quoting a specimen of French-English. 
Here is a French translation of Gray's Odes, published 
at Paris, in the sixth year of the Republic. 

JOHN. 

Without allowing it to be an argument, I can con- 
ceive that it must be a great curiosity. Let me hear 
some of it. 

PHILIP. 

You will not be disappointed. It is in prose, and 
the translator avows that his sole object has been to be 
literally exact. Fidelity first, then elegance, is his 



220 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

motto ; but you will see that he has not forgotten the 
lessons of the posture-master. He tells us in his pref- 
ace that he undertook the enterprise, 

" autant pour faciliter rintelligence de la langue Anglaise, que 
pour faire connoltre en France un digne rival cP Ossiauj de Dryden, 
et de Milton, Exactitude rigoureuse ^ la lettre et au sens, yoil& la 
syst^me qu'on a cm devoir adopter. Mais en s'attachant d. rendre 
litt<^ralement les pensdes, les expressions, les images, et les figures 
d'3 Tauteur Anglais, on n'en a pas moins senti la n^cessit^ d'^crire 
avee puret^, Elegance, et precision." 

In the First Ode, the line, 

" Disclose the long-expecting flowers," 

is rendered, 

" Elles ouvrent le bouton des fleurs impatientes." 

" Some show their gayly-gilded trim, 
Quick glancing in the sun," 

" D^autres, dans leurs jeux vifs et lagers, font ^tinceler au soleil 
I'or de leur ilegante parureJ* 

In the " Ode on a Distant View of Eton College,^' 
"Father Thames" is translated "fleuve patemel;'* 
and the lines, 

" This racks the joints, this fires the veins. 
That every laboring sinew strains," 

are thus given : 

" Uune torture les articulations, Tautre allume le sang, celled 
tiraille douloureusement tons les nerfs." 

In the Fourth Ode, 

" Stem, rugged nurse I thy rigid lore, 
With patience many a year she bore," 



FOBD. 221 

IS rendered, 

*^ Austere et rude institutrice, c^est sous ta discipline s^vte 
qu'elle apprit k exercer sa patience pendant nombre cPanrUes," 

In the Fifth Ode, 

" To brisk notes in cadence beating, 
Glance their many twinkling feet," 

" Rapides eomme le dinrd^adlf leur pieds brillans r^pondent ea 
cadence k la vivacity des airs;'' 

^ With arms sublime that float upon the air, 
In gliding state she wins her easy wav/' 

^' Les bras ^lev^ et flottans dans les airs, elle s'avance avec une 
noble aisance et gluis6 Icgh-cment vers la terre; " 

** She deigns to hear the savage youth repeat 
In loose numbers, wildly sweet," 

**^ Elle ne dedaigne pas d*^couter les metres incorrects des jeunes 
sauvages qui chantent en refrains grossi^rement cadences ; " 

" Yet shall he mount and keep his distant way 

Beyond the limits of a vulgar fate, 
Beneath the good how far, — ^but far above the great," 

" Cependant il s'^lSvera, et il a marqu^ sa place k une grande 
distance des bornes dun destin vulgaire, trop peut-^tre audessoiu 
des boTis poUes, mais bicn au dessus des grands " I 

I have spared you the trial of the Scandinavian 
Odes ; but hardly think you will desire more. Those 
from which I have quoted are the most French of 
Gray's odes. I only wish the translator had attempted 
them in verse. 

JOHN. 

At the worst, it is a pleasure to have one's old asso- 
ciations revived by the line or two here and there 



222 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

which you have quoted from the original poems. The j 
annotators may convince us that Gray never used a 
thought, image, or word, of his own, in. all his verses ; 
we should like him still as a delicate worker in mosaic, j 
and skip all the accusatory notes at the bottom of the 
page. So much originality is there always in grace ! 
Gray is the Barrington of poets ; but who shall get 
him convicted and transported? And what place is 
good enough to be a Botany Bay for him? Nihil 
sunipuit quod non oiiiavit, 

PHILIP. 

Gray came when the British Muse was in a deli- 
quium; and while she was lying as if in articulo 
raortiSj the critics rushed in and took possession of the 
house as sole legatees. They locked up everything 
and put their seals upon it; nothing must be used, 
without a written order from them ; not a meal must 
be served up, except it be a hash of yesterday's leav- 
ings. Things must take a new turn now ; they had 
no notion of seeing their soon-to-be-sainted kins- 
woman's substance wasted as it had been, especially 
when one Shakespeare was major-domo ; they would 
soon have order among the servants in the house, or 
somebody would smart for it ; everything had been 
too long at sixes and sevens. But, in the midst of 
their predacious technicalities, in stalks the undoubted 
eldest son, not a very polished personage, and with 
hands hardened by coarse familiarity with Mossgiel 
ploughtails, but the true heir nevertheless. He slaps 
the powdered wigs of the technical gentlemen in their 
eyes, and they vanish, like Aubrey's ghost, " with a 



FORD, 223 

melodious twang/^ vowing to take the law of him. It 
was a great mercy that he did not serve them as 
Ulysses did the waiting-maids. 

JOHN. 

To open a volume of Burns, after diluting the mind 
with the stale insipidities of the mob of rhymers who 
preceded him, reminds me of a rural adventure I had 
last summer. Skirting, in one of my walks, a rocky 
upland which hemmed in the low salt-marsh I had 
been plashing over, I came, at a sudden turning, upon 
a clump of wild red-lilies, that burned fiercely in a 
kind of natural fire-place, shaped out for them by an 
inward bend of the rock. How they seemed to usurp 
to themselves all the blazing July sunshine to comfort 
their tropical hearts withal I How cheap and colorless 
looked the little bunch of blossomed weeds I had been 
gathering with so much care ! How that one prodigal 
clump seemed to have drunk suddenly diy the whole 
overrunning beaker of summer, to keep their fiery 
madness at its height! 

PHILIP. 

The poets had been afraid that the light of the 
natural sun would put their fires out, and kept the 
shutters fast barred accordingly. Burns, with one 
lusty spurn of his foot, got rid of all the old clumsy 
machinery. Men began to fall in love with being 
natural, and to grow unaffected to the extreme point 
of affectation. But there is such a thing as being too 
natural ; we must remember that it was with a twig 
of green mistletoe that Baldur, the Scandinaviian 



224 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

Apollo, was slain. Delighted to see Burns whistling 
and singing after his plough, and wearing his clouted 
shoon into the Edinburgh drawing-rooms, some inge- 
nious gentlemen, resolved to possess themselves of his 
secret, whistled and sang louder than he, wore thicker 
soles, and dragged a plough after tliem wherever they 
went. The old poets lived in too sincere an age, and 
were too truly independent, to think independence a 
virtue. To try to be independent is to acknowledge 
our slavery. It was not from ignorance of rules aud 
unities that the old dramatists committed anachron- 
isms, made islands of countries set in the heart of 
continents, and put English oaths into the mouths of 
Roman mobs; they broke through such critical cob- 
webs, for they were never spun to catch eagles in. 
The laws of poetry, as they are called, are only deduc- 
tions drawn by certain mathematical minds from the 
works of established authors; let a new genius come, 
and these are incompetent to measure him. There is 
a most delicate, yet most unbending conscience, in the 
heart of every \xnQ poet, from whose approval or 
rejection of all pre-established laws he feels tliat there 
is no appeal. If he prefer the verdict of the world to 
that of this instinctive voice, it is all over with him ; 
thenceforth he is but an echo, and his immortality as 
fmil as that. What cared our old dramatists for 
Aristotle's Poetics; They laid tlieir scenes in the un- 
changeable heart of man, and so, like Donne's fiincy, 

" Made one little room an everywhere." 

They scorned to bow the knee to any authority whose 
feet wei'e of clay. They knew tliat he who strives to 



FORD, 225 

keep an act of fealty to slavery secret, defies his own 
consciousness. Some strange providence always makes 
it public and open as the prastration of King Ottocar. 
The homage that a man does in his secretest soul is 
visible to all time ; there will be a cringe and stoop in 
his shoulders, in spite of him. The galling mark of 
the fetter will never out ; men read it in every line he 
writes, hear it in every word he speaks, and see it in 
every look he looks. Though he be no longer the 
slave of a coward deference to the opinion of the 
many, merely because they are the many, he is still 
the bondman of Memory, who can make him crouch 
at her bidding. You may think that the writers of 
that day had no daws to peck at them ; but hear the 
admired Sir John Harrington, who, in his " Apology 
for Poesy," says : 

" We live in such a time in which nothing can escape the 
envious tooth and backbiting tongue of an impure mouth ; and 
wherein every comer hath a squint-eyed Zoilus that can look 
aright on no man's doings.'' 

Even King James, whose authorship was most likely 
as secure from such rubs as any, prefixes this quotation 
to his " Rules for Scottish Verse : '* 

" To ignorants obdurde, where wilful error lies, 
Nor yet to carping folks, whose malice may deject thee, 
Nor to such folks as think them only wise, 
But to the docile bairns of knowledge I direct thee." 

I have quoted these royal rhymes from memory, and 
may not have done them full justice; but I am sure I 
have given them with enough exactness, 

15 



226 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

But a subject on which I love to talk has led me 
astray ; let us return to Ford. His dramatic power / 
consists mainly in the choice of his plots. His cha- 1 
racters, as is often the case with those of retired} 
students, are rather certain turns of mind or eccentrici-j 
ties put into a body, than real men and women. 

JOHN. 

He does not carry matters quite so far as some later i 
writers, who go to the expense of a whole human 
frame for the mere sake of bringing a single humorous j 
phrase upon the stage, — ^the sole use of the legs being > 
to carry about the body, that of the body to sustain 
the head, and that of the head to utter the said humor- 
ous phrase at proper intervals. Friar Bacon's head, 
or one of those " airy tongues " which Milton bor- 
rowed of Marco Polo, would save these gentry a great 
waste of flesh and bone, if it could be induced to go 
upon the stage. 

PHILIP. 

No; Ford is not quite so spendthrift in human ' 
beings as that. Guardians should be appointed for 
such authore, as for those who cannot take care of 
their estates. — His plots raise him and carry him along 
with them whither they please, and it is generally 
only at their culminating points that he shows much 
strength ; and then it is the strength of passion, not of . 
reason. Indeed, I do not know but it should rather 
be called weakness. He puts his characters in situ- 
ations where the heart that has a drop of hot blood in 
it finds it easier to be strong than weak. His hejroes 



FORD. 227 

show that fitful strength which grows out of intense 
excitement, rather than healthy muscular action; it 
does not rise with the difficulty or danger they are in, 
and, looking down on it, assert calmly the unusurpable 
sovereignty of the soul, even after the flesh is over- 
come, but springs forward in an exulting gush of 
glorious despair to grapple with death and fate. In a 
truly noble bravery of soul, the interest is wholly the 
fruit of immortality ; here, it is the Sodom-apple of 
mortality. In the one case, we exult to see the infinite 
overshadow and dwarf the finite; in the other, we 
cannot restrain a kind of romantic enthusiasm and 
admiration at seeing the weak clay 90 gallantly defy 
the overwhelming power which it well knows mud 
crush it. High genius may be fiery and impetuous, 
but it can never bully and look big ; it does not defy 
death and futurity, for a doubt of its monarchy over 
them never overflushed its serene countenance. 

JOHN. 

Shakespeare's characters seem to modify his plots as 
much as they are modified by them in turn. This 
may be the result of his unapproachable art ; for art in 
him is but the tracing of nature to her primordial 
laws, — is but nature precipitated, as it were, by the 
infallible test of philosophy. In his plays, as in life, 
there is a perpetual seesaw of character and circum- 
stance, now one uppermost, now the other. Nature is 
never afraid to reason in a circle; we must let her 
assume her premises, and make our deductions logical 
accordingly. The actors in Shakespeare's dramas are \ 
only overcome by so touch as they fall below their. '' 



V 

I 



228 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

ideal and are wanting in some attribute of true man- 
hood. Wherever we go with him, the absence of a 
virtue always suggests its presence, the want of any 
nobleness makes us feel its beauty the more keenly. 

PHILIP. 

But Ford's heroes are strong only in tlieir imperfec- 
tions, and it is to these that whatever admiration we 
yield them is paid. They interest us only so far as 
they can make us forget our quiet, calm ideal. This 
is the very stamp of weakness. We should be sur- 
prised if we saw them show any natural greatness. 
They are morbid and unhealthy ; for, in truth, what 
we call greatness and nobleness is but entire health ;\ 
to those only who are denaturalized themselves do they 
seem wonderful ; to the natural man they are as cus- 
tomary and unconscious as the beating of his heart or 
the motion of his lungs, and as necessary. Therefore 
it is that praise always surprises and humbles true 
genius ; the shadow of earth comes then betweea it 
and its starry ideal with a cold and dark eclipse. In ^ 
Ford's characters, the sublimity, if there be any, is^ 
that of a defiant despair. 

JOHN. 

The great genius may fail, but it is never thus. In 
him the spirit often overbalances the body, and sets its 
ideal too far beyond the actual. Unable to reach that, 
he seems to do less than many a one of less power ; 
for the performance of anything lower than what he 
has marked out for himself carries with it a feeling 
almost of degradation, that dispirits him. His wings 



FORD. 229 

may be too weak to bear him to that infinite height; 
but, if he fail, he is an angel still, and falls not so low 
as the proudest pitch of talent. His failures are suc- 
cessful, compared with the successes of others. But 
not to himself do they seem so ; though, at his earth- 
dwindling height, he show like a star to the eyes of 
the world, what is it to him, while he beholds the 
golden gates of his aspiration above him still, fast shut 
and barred immitigably ? Yet high genius has that 
in it which makes that its longings can never be 
wholly fruitless; its utmost imperfection has some 
touch of the perfect in it. 

PHILIP. 

The slavery of the character to the incident in 
Ford's plays has often reminded me of that story of 
the travellers who lost their way in the mummy-pits, 
and who were all forced to pass through the same 
narrow orifice, which gave ready way to the slender, 
but through which the stout were obliged to wriggle 
and squeeze with a desperate forgetfulness of bulk. 
It may be foolish for a philosopher, but it is wisdom 
in a dramatist, to follow the example of nature, who 
always takes care to make large holes for her large, 
cats and small holes for her small ones. — Ford, per- '- 
haps, more than any of his contemporaries deserves | 
the name of sentimental. He has not the stately 1 
gravity and antique majesty of Chapman, the wild i 
imagination or even the tenderness of Webster, the ; 
precise sense of Jonson, the homeliness of Heywood, \ 
nor the delicate apprehension and silver tongue of j 
Fletcher; but he has more sentiment than all of them ' 



230 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

put together. The names of his plays show the bent 
of his mind ; " Love's Sacrifice/* " The Lover's Melan-- 
choly," and " The Broken Heart/' are the names of 
three of the best ; and there is another in which tlie 
doctrine of the elective affinities is laid down broadly 
enough to have shocked even Goethe. His personal 
appearance seems to have answered well enough to 
what I have surmised of his character. A contem- 
porary thus graphically describes him: 

" Deep in a dump John Ford was alone gat, 
With folded arms arid melancholy hoL" 

A couplet which brings up the central figure on the 
title-page to the old edition of the "Anatomy of Mel- 
ancholy " very vividly before our eyes. His depend- 
ence on things out of himself is sliown also in his his- 
torical play of " Perkin Warbeck/' in which, having 
no veiy exciting plot to sustain him, he is very gentle- 
manly and very dull. He docs not furnish so many I 
isolated passages which are complete in themselves, — I 
a quality remarkable in the old dramatists, among' 
whom only Shakspeare united perfectness of the parts 
with strict adaptation and harmony of the whole. A 
play of Shakspeare's seems like one of those basaltic 
palaces whose roof is supported by innumerable pillars, 
each formed of many cr}^stals perfect in themselves. 
To give you a fair idea of Ford, I will sketch out the 
plot of his most famous tragedy, with a few extracts. 
The plot of " The Broken Heart " is simply this. 
Ithoclcs, the favorite of Amyclas, king of Laconia, 
instigated by an ancient feud with Orgilus, the be- 
trothed of his sister Penthea^ has forced her to break 



FORD, 231 

the match and marry Bassanes. Orgilus, full of an 
intent to revenge himself at the first chance, pretends 
a reconcilement with Ithocles, who, meanwhile, has 
repented of the wrong he had done, and moreover 
loves and is beloved by Calantha, the king's daughter. 
Penthea dies mad. Orgilus murders Ithocles on the 
eve of his marriage with Calantha, who dies of a 
broken heart, after naming Nearchus, a former suitor, 
her successor to the tlirone. The following scene has 
great purity and beauty, and withal much sentimen- 
talism in it. Orgilus, in the disguise of a scholar (a 
disguise as common now as then), has gained speech of 
Penthea. I read only the last part of the scene : 

" Org. All pleasures are but mere imagination, 
Feeding the hungry appetite with steam 
And sight of banquet, whilst the body pines, 
Not relishing the real taste of food ; 
Such is the leanness of a heart divided 
From intercourse of troth-contracted loves ; 
No horror should deface that precious figure 
Sealed with the lively stamp of equal souls. 

*" Pen. Away ! some fury hath bewitched thy tongue: 
The breath of ignorance that flies from thence 
Ripens a knowledge in me of afflictions 
Above all RuflTerance. Thing of talk, begone,— 
Begone without reply I 

" Org. Be just, Penthea, 
In thy commands ; when thou send*st forth a doom 
Of banishment, know first on whom it lights. 
Thus I take off the shroud in which my cares 
Are folded up from view of common eyes. 

['i%ro«7« off his scholar's dre89» 

What is thy sentence next? 

" Pen. RaKh man ! thou lay'st 
A blemish on mine honor, with the hazard 



232 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

Of thj too desperate life; yet I profess. 
By all the laws of ceremonious wedlock, 
I have not given admittance to one thought 
Of female cliange, since cruelty enforced 
Divorce betwixt my body and my heart 
Why would you fall from goodness thus? 

" Org. O, rather 
Examine me, how I could live to say 
I have been much, much wronged ! 'T is for thy sake 
I put on this imposture ] dear Penthea, 
If thy soft bosom be not turned to marble, 
Thou 'It pity our calamities ; my interest 
Confirms me, thou art mine still. 

" Pen, Lend your hand ; 
With both of mine I clasp it thus, thus kiss it, 
Thus kneel before ye. 

[Penthza ibMefaL 

" Org, You instruct my duty. 

[Orgilus hnddt, 

^^ Pen, We may stand up. [Theyrise,'] Have yea auc^t 
else to urge 
Of new demand ? as for the old, forget it ; 
'T is buried in an everlasting silence, 
And shall be, shall be ever : what more would you? 

" Org, I would possess my wife ; the equity 
Of very reason bids me. 

" Pm. Is that all ? 

" Org, Why, 't is the all of me, myself. 

" Pen, Remove 
Your steps some distance from me ; at this pace 
A few words I dare change ; but first put on 
Your borrowed shape. 

" Org, You are obeyed ; 't is done. 

[He remmes his disgwiae, 

" Peru How, Orgilus, by promise, 1 was thine. 
The heavens do witness ; they can witness, too, 
A rape done on my truth : how I do love thee 
Yet, Orgilus, and yet, must best appear 
In tendering thy freedom ; for I find 



FORD. 233 

The constant preservation of thy merit, 
£7 thy not daring to attempt my fame 
With injury of any loose conceit, 
Which might give deeper wounds to discontents. 
C!ontinue this fair race ; then, though I cannot 
Add to thy comfort, yet I shall more often 
Bemember from what fortune I am fallen. 
And pity mine own ruin. Live, live happy, 
Happy in thy next choice, that thou may'st people 
This barren age with virtues in thy issue I 
And, O, when thou art married, think on me 
With mercy, not contempt I I hope thy wife, 
Hearing my story, will not scorn my fall. — 
Now let us part. 

" Org, Part ? yet advise thee better : 
Penthea is the wife to Oi^gilus, 
And ever shall be. 

" Pen. Never shall, nor will. 

"0»7. Howl 

" Pen. Hear me ; in a word 1 11 tell thee why. 
The virgin-dowry which my birth bestowed 
Is ravished by another ; my true love 
Abhors to think that Orgilus deserved 
No better favors than a second bed. 

'^ Org, I must not take this reason. 

" Pen. To confirm it, — 
Should I outlive my bondage, let me meet 
Another worse than this, and less desired, 
If, of all men alive, thou shouldst but touch 
My lip or hand again I 

" Org, Penthea, now 
I tell you, you grow wanton in my sufferance ; 
Come, sweet, thou art mine. 

" Pen. Uncivil Sir, forbear. 
Or I can turn affection into vengeance : 
Your reputation, if you value any. 
Lies bleeding at my feet Unworthy man, 
If ever henceforth thou appear in language, 
Message, or letter, to betray my frailty. 



234 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

1 41 call thy former protestations lust, 
And curse my stars for forfeit of my judgment 
Go thou, fit only for disguise and walks 
To hide thy shame ; this once I spare thy life. 
I laugh at mine own confidence ; my sorrows 
By thee are made 'inferior to my fortunes : 
If ever thou didst harbor worthy love, 
Dare not to answer. My good genius guide me. 
That I may never see thee more I — Go from me ! 
" Org. I '11 tear my veil of politic French ofl^ 
And stand up like a man resolved to do : 
Action, not words, shall show me. — O Panthea ! 

[BkiL 

" Pen, He sighed my name, sure, as he parted from me ; 
I fear I was too rough. Alas, poor gentleman I 
He looked not like the ruins of his youth, 
But like the ruins of those ruins. Honor, 
How much we fight with weakness to preserve thee I 

[ Walks aside." 

To my mind, Panthea's last speech is the best part 
of the scene. In the first part, she shows an appar- 
ently Roman virtue ; but there seems to be in it a 
savor of prudery, and a suspicion of its own strength, 
which a truly courageous honor and chastity would 
be the last to entertain. 

None of our dramatists but Shakespeare have been 
able to paint madness. Most of their attempts that' 
way are failures ; they grow silly and mopingly senti- 
mental ; they utter a great deal of such stuff as nobody 
in his senses would utter, and as nobody out of them 
could have the ingenious leisure to invent. Here is a' 
specimen of Ford's mania : 

" Pen. Sure, if we were all sirens, we would sing pitifully ; 
And 't were a comely music, when in parts 



FORD. 235 

One snng another's knell : the tartle sighs 

When he hath lost his mate ; and yet some say 

He must he dead first T is a fine deceit 

To pass away in a dream 1 indeed, I 've slept 

With mine eyes open a great while. No falsehood 

Equals a broken faith ; there *8 not a hair 

Sticks on my head but, like a leaden plummet, 

It sinks me to the grave ; I must creep thither ; 

The journey is not long, 
• • • • 

" PeTL Spare your hand ; 
Believe me, I '11 not hurt it 

" Org, My heart too. 

" Pen. CJomplain not, though I wring it hard ; I '11 kiss it: 
O, 't is a fine, soft palm I—Hark, in thine ear; 
Like whom do I look, prithee ?— nay, no whispering. 
Goodness I we had been happy ; too much happiness 
Will make folk proud, they say,— but that is he, — 

[Pointing to Ithocles. 
And yet he paid for 't home ; alas I his heart 
Is crept into the cabinet of the princess : 
We shall have points and bride-laces. Kemember, 
When we last gathered roses in the garden, 
I found my wits ; but truly you lost yours. 
That 's he, and still 't is he. 

[Again pointing to Ithocles." 

Now let us turn to the catastrophe. Calantha, after 
settling the succession of the kingdom, turns to the 
body of Ithocles. 

" Oal. Forgive me : — ^now I turn to thee, thou shadow 
Of my contracted lord I Bear witness all, 
I put my mother's wedding-ring upon 
His finger ; 't was my father's last bequest. 

[Peaces a ring on the finger of Ithocles. 
Thus I new-marry him whose wife I am ; 
Death shall not separate us. O my Lords, 
I but deceived your eyes with antic gesture. 



236 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

When one news straight came huddling on another, 

Of death 1 and death I and death I still I danced forward ; 

But it struck home, and here, and in an instant. 

Be such mere women, who with shrieks and outcries 

Can vow a present end to all their sorrows. 

Yet live to [court] new pleasures, and outlive them : 

Thej are the silent griefs which cut the heartHstrings ; 

Let me die smiling. 

** Near, 'T is a truth too ominous. 

" Cal, One kiss on these cold lips, my last I — [f isses Itho- 
CLES,] — crack, crack, — 
Argos now 's Sparta's king. Command the voices 
Which wait at th' altar now to sing the song 
I fitted for my end." 

Lamb speaks of this death-scene as "carrying us 
back to Calvary and the cross " (or uses words to that 
eifect) ; but this, it seems to me, is attributing too much 
importance to the mere physical fact of dying. 



JOHN. 

What one dies for, not his dying, glorifies him. The 
comparison is an irreverent one, as that must need be 
which matches a selfish love with a universal. Love's 
nobility is shown in this, that it strengthens us to 
make sacrifices for others, and not for the object of our 
love alone. All the good we do is a service done to 
that, but that is not the sole recipient. Our love for 
one is only therefore made pre-eminent, that it may 
show us the beauty and holiness of that love whose 
arms are wide enough for all. It is easy enough to 
die for one we love so fiercely ; but it is a harder and 
nobler martyrdom to live for others. Love is only 
then perfected, when it can bear to outlast the body, 



FORD. 237 

which was but its outward expression and a prop for 
its infant steps, and can feel its union with the beloved 
spirit in a mild serenity, and an inward prompting to 
a thousand little unrewarded acts of every-day brother- 
hood. The love of one is a mean, not an end. 

PHILIP. 

Another objection which I should feel inclined to 
bring against this scene is, that the breaking of Calan- 
tha's heart seems to be made too palpable and anatom- 
ical an event. It is too much like the mere bursting 
of a blood-vessel, which Smith or Brown might 
accomplish, though wholly incapable of rendering 
themselves tragically available by the breaking of 
their hearts. It is like that stanza of the old ballad, 

" She turned her back unto the wall, 
And her face unto the rock ; 
And there, before her motfiet^s eye«. 
Her very heart it broke,'* 

In the ballad, however, there is more propriety ; the 
heroine's heart gives way suddenly, under a sudden 
blow. But Calantha saves up her heart-break, as it 
were, until it can come in with proper effect at the end 
of the tragedy. 

Ford sometimes reminds one of the picturesque 1 
luxuriance of Fletcher. The following exquisite pas- * 
sage is very like Fletcher, and is a good specimen 
of Ford's lighter powers. When we read it, we 
almost wish we had written masques or pastorals, 
rather than plays. The story is an old one^ and 
was paraphrased by Crashawe, in a poem which, for 



238 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

exquisite rhythm and diction, can hardly be paralleled 
in the language. Ford brings it in in his " Lover^s 
Melancholy/' 

" One morning early, 
This accident encountered me : I heard 
The sweetest and most ravishing contention 
That art and nature ever were at strife in. 
A sound of music touched mine ears, or rather, 
Indeed, entranced my soul. As I stole nearer. 
Invited by the melody, I saw 
This youth, this fair-faced youth, upon his lute, 
With strains of strange variety and harmony, 
Proclaiming, as it seemed, so bold a challenge 
To the clear choristers of the woods, the birds, 
That, as they flocked about him, all stood silent, 
Wondering at what they heard ; I wondered too. 

A nightingale. 

Nature's best-skilled musician, undertakes 

The challenge, and, for every several strain 

The well shaped youth could touch, she sang her own ; 

He could not run division with more art 

Upon his quaking instrument, than she, 

The nightingale, did with her various notes 

Keply to ; for a voice and for a sound, 

Amcthus, 'tis much easier to believe 

That such they were, than hope to hear again. 

Some time thus spent, the young man grew at last 

Into a pretty anger, that a bird, 

Whom art had never taught clefs, moods, and notes, 

Should vie with him for mastery, whose study 

Had busied many hours to ]>erfect practice : 

To end the controversy, in a rapture 

Upon his instrument he plays so swiftly, 

So many voluntaries and so quick. 

That there was curiosity and cunning. 

Concord and discord, lines of differing method, 

Meeting in one full centre of delight. 

The bird, ordained to be 



FORD. 239 

Music's first martyr, strove to imitate 
These several sounds ; which when lier warbling throat 
Failed in, for grief, down dropped she on his lute 
And brake her heart I " 

I miist give you a short passage from Crashawe's 
poem, which I cannot help thinking the best music in 
words I ever read. Crashawe was himself an exquisite 
musician. After the lutanist has played a strain, the 
nightingale answers. 

" She measures every measure, everywhere 
Meets art with art ; sometimes, as if in doubt 
Not perfect yet, and fearing to be out. 
Wails her 'plain ditty in one long-spun note^ 
Thr(mgh the sleek passage of her open throaif 
A dear, unwrinJded song ; then doth she point it 
With tender accents, and severely joint it 
By short diminutives, that, being reared 
In controverting warbles evenly shared, 
With her sweet self she wrangles 



" Her supple breast thrills out 
Sharp airs, and staggers in a warbling dovht 
Of dallying suoeetne^, hovers oW her skill, 
And folds in waved notes, with a trembling bill, 
The pliant series of her slippery song : 
Then starts she suddenly into a throng 

Of short, thick sobs, 

That roll themselves over her lubric throat 
In panting murmurs 'stilled out of her breast. 
That ever-bubbling spring, the sugared nest 
Of her delicious soul, that there doth lie, 
Bathing in streams of liquid melody ; 
Music's best seed-plot, where in ri^^ened airs 
A golden-headed harvest fairly rears 
Its honey-dropping tops, ploughed by her breath." 



240 FOURTH CONVEBSATION. 

JOHN. 

May we neither of us ever hear a nightingale ! — 
No, I recall so rash a prayer ; but, after this, we should 
surely think his music harsh. Even the extravagant 
metaphor with which your extract ended is forced 
upon us as natural and easy by the foregoing enthusi- 
asm. 

PHILIP. 

Now that the nightingale has enticed us out of 
doors, you will like to hear Ford's praise of Spring. 
Raybright asks Spring, 

" What dowry can you bring me ? 
" Spnng. Dowry ? 
Is 't come to this? am I held poor and base? 
A girdle make, whose buckles, stretched their length, 
Shall reach from the Arctic to the Antarctic pde? 
What ground soe'er thou canst with that indoee 
I'll give thee freely. Not a lark that calls 
The morning up shall build on any turf 
But he shall be thy tenant^ call thee lord, 
And for his rent pay thee in change of songs*' 

The Sun's DarHng. 

And again : 

" O my dear love, the Spring, Pm cheated of thee I 
Thou hadst a body, the four elements 
Dwelt never in a fairer ; a mind princely ; 
Thy language, like thy singers, musical. 
How cool wast thou in anger I In thy diet 
How temperate and yet sumptuous ! thot^dst not watU 
The weight of a sad violet in excess, 
Yet still thy board had dishes numberless. 
Dumb beasts, even, loved thee ; once a young lark 
Sat on thy hand, and, gazing on thine eyes, 
Mounted and sang, thinking them moving skies." 

Ibid. 



FORD, 241 

Now I will gather you a handful of iBiowers from 
the rest of the plays and close the volume. Here is a 
pretty illustration of the doctrine of sympathies : 

" The constant loadstone and the steel are found 

In several mines ; jet there is such a league 

Between these minerals, as if one vein 

Of earth had nourished hoth. The gentle myrtle 

Is not engraft upon the olive's stock ; 

Yet nature hath between them locked a secret 

Of sympathy, that, being planted near. 

They will, both in their branches and their roots, 

Embrace each other ; twines of ivy round 

The well-grown oak ; the vine doth court the elm ; 

Yet these are different plants." 

The Lover's Mekmcholy, 

The end of a wasted life is thus touchingly set 
fortli : 

" Minutes are numbered by the fall of sands, 
As by an hour-glass ; the span of time 
Doth waste us to our graves, and we look on it ; 
An age of pleasures revelled out comes home 
At last and ends in sorrow ; but the life. 
Weary of riot, numbers every sand. 
Wailing in sighs until the last drop down 

So to conclude calamity in rest'' 

Ibid. 
JOHN. 

The rhythm of these lines is finely managed ; there 
is a sadness and weariness in the flow of the verse^ 
which sinks gradually into the quiet of the exquisitely 
modulated last line. 

PHILIP. 

I will read a few more fragments without remark. 

" Busy opinion is an idle fool, 
That, as a school-rod, keeps a child in awe, 
Frights the inexperienced temper of the mind.'' IbicL 
16 



242 FOURTH CONVERSATION. 

'* Let upstarts exercise unmanly roughness ; 
Oear spirits to the humble will be humbleJ* 

" The sweetest freedom is an honest heart" 

Ibid. 

You will relish this itemed account of a poor man's 
revenues : 

" What lands soe'er the world's surveyor, the sun. 

Can measure in a day, I dare call mine; 

All kingdoms I have right to ; I am fre« 

Of every country ; in the four elements 

I have as deep share as an emperor ; 

All beasts which the earth bears are to serve me. 

All birds to sing to me ; and can you catch me 

With a tempting golden apple ? " 

The Sun's Darling. 

This thought is noble : 

" He cannot fear, 

Who builds on noble groimds ; sickness or pain 

Is the deserver's exercise/' 

The Broken HearL 

And, with this good speech on his lips, John Ford 
makes his exit from the stage of our little private 
theatre. 

JOHN. 

I have spent a pleasant evening ; and, if I do not 
yet admire your old favorites as much as you do, it is 
because I do not know them so well. It has been my 
happy experience in life to find some lovable quality 
in every human being I have known, and to find more 
with more knowledge; may it be so with the Old 
Dramatists. 



THE PLAYS OF THOMAS MIDDLETON. 



"A great poem is a fountain for ever overflowing with the 
waters of wisdom and delight, and after one person and one age 
have exhausted all of its divine effluence which their peculiar 
relations enable them to share, another and yet another succeeds, 
and new relations are ever developed, the source of an unforeseea 
and unconceived delight." 

ShdhfB D^&Mt of Poetry, 

■ 

Poets are the forerunners and prophets of changes | 
in the moral world. Driven, by their fine nature, to 
search into and reverently contemplate the universal 
laws of soul, they find some fragment of the broken 
tables of God's law, and interpret it, half conscious of 
its mighty import. While philosopher are wrang- ^ 
ling, and politicians playing at snapdragon with the j 
destinies of millions, the poet, in the silent deeps of 
his soul, listens to those mysterious pulses which, from 
one central heart, send life and beauty through the 
finest veins of the universe, and utters truths to be 
sneered at, perchance, by contemporaries, but which 
become religion to posterity. Not unwisely ordered is 
that eternal destiny which renders the seer despised of 
men, since thereby he is but the more surely taught to 
lay his head meekly upon the mother-breast of 
Nature, and hearken to the musical soft beating of her 
bounteous heart. 

243 



244 THE PLAYS OF 

That Poesy, save as she can soar nearer to the bliss- 
ful throne of the Supreme Beauty, is of no more use 
than all other beautiful things are, we. ATfi. Jam to 
grant. That she does not add to the outward wealth; 
of the body, and that she is only so much more excel- 
lent than any bodily gift, as spirit is more excellent | 
than matter, we must also yield. But, inasmuch as all 
beautiful things are direct messages and revelations of 
himself, given us by our Father, and as Poesy is the 
searcher out and interpreter of all these, tracing by 
her inborn sympathy the invisible nerves which bind 
them harmoniously together, she is to be revered and 
cherished. The poet has a fresher memory of EdenJ 
and of the path leading back thereto, than other men y 
so that we might almost deem him to have been con- 
ceived, at least, if not born and nursed, beneath the 
ambrosial shadow of those dimly remembered bowers^ 
and to have had his infant ears filled with the divine 
converse of angels, who then talked face to face witli 
his sires, as- with beloved younger brethren, and of 
whose golden words only the music remained to him, 
vibrating for ever in his soul, and making him yearn 
to have all sounds of earth harmonize therewith. In 
the poet's lofty heart Truth hangs her aery, and there = 
Love flowers, scattering thence her winged seeds over . 
all the earth with every wind of heaven. In all ages 
the poet's fiery words have goaded men to remember 
and regain their ancient freedom, and, when they had 
regained it, have tempered it with a love of beauty, 
so as that it should accord with the freedom of Nature, 
and be as unmovably eternal as that The dreams of ■ 
poets are morning-dreams, coming to them in the early 



THOMAS MIDDLETON. 245 

dawn and day-breaking of great truths, and are surely \ 
fulfilled at last. They repeat them, as children do, ' 
and all Christendom, if it be not too busy with quar- 
relling about the meaning of creeds, which have no 
meaning at all, listens with a shrug of the shoulders 
and a smile of pitying incredulity ; for I'eformers are 
always madmen in their own age, and infallible saints 
in the next. 

We love to go back to the writings of our old poets, \ 
for we find in them the tender germs of many a 1 
thought which now stands like a huge oak in the r 
inward world, an ornament and a shelter. We cannot 
help reading with awful intei'est what has been 
written or rudely scrawled upon the walls of tliis our 
earthly prison-house, by former dwellers therein. 
From that which centuries have established, too, we 
may draw true principles of judgment for the poetry 
of our own day. A right knowledge and apprehen- 
sion of the past teaches humbleness and self-sustain- 
ment to the present. Showing us what has been, it 
also reveals what can be done. Progress is Janus- 
faced, looking to the bygone as well as to the coming ; 
and Radicalism should not so much busy itself with 
lopping off the dead or seeming dead limbs, as with 
clearing away that poisonous rottenness around the 
roots, from which the tree has drawn tlie principle of 
death into its sap. A love of the beautiful and har- 
monious, which must be the guide and forerunner to 
every onward movement of humanity, is created and 
cherished more surely by pointing out what beauty 
dwells in anything, even the most deformed, (for there 
19 something in that, also, else it dbuld not ev^en Sc,) , 



246 THE PLATS OF 

than by searching out and railing at all the foulnesses 
in nature. Not till we have patiently studied beauty 
can we safely venture to look at defects, for not till 
then can we do it in that spirit of earnest love, which 
gives more than it takes away. Exultingly as we hail 
all signs of progress, we venerate the past also. The 
tendrils of the heart, like those of ivy, cling but the 
more closely to what they have clung to long, and 
even when that which they entwine crumbles beneath 
them, they still run greenly over the ruin, and beautify 
those defects which they cannot hide. The past, as 
well as the present, moulds the future, and the features 
of some remote progenitor will revive again freshly in 
the latest offspring of the womb of time. Our earth 
hangs well-nigh silent now, amid the chorus of her 
sister orbs, and not till past and present move har- 
moniously together will music once more vibrate on 
this long silent chord in the symphony of the uni- 
verse. 

Of Thomas Middleton little is known. Indeed, it f 
seems to be the destiny of poets that men should not j 
be familiar with their personal history — a destiny } 
which to the thoughtful has a true and beautiful 
meaning. For it seems meant to chide men for their 
too ready preference of names and persons to things, by 
showing them the perishableness of the one and the 
immortality of the other, and to give to those divine 
teachings of theirs which remain to us something of a 
mysterious and oracular majesty, as if they were not 
truly the words of men, but only more distinct utter- 
ances of those far-beard voices which, in the too 
fleeting moments of a higher and dearer being, oome 



THOMAS MWDLETON, 247 

to us from the infinite deep with a feeling of some* 
thing heard in childhood, but long ago drowned in the 
din of life. It is a lesson, also, for those who would 
be teachers of men that theirs must be rather the 
humbly obedient voice than the unconquerable will, 
and that he speaks best who has listened longest. And 
yet there is something beautiful, too, in the universal 
longing which men feel to see the bodily face of that 
soul whose words have strengthened or refreshed them. 
It is, perhaps, the result of an unconscious remem- 
brance of a perished faith in the power of spirit over 
matter, whereby the beautiful soul builds for itself out 
of clay a dwelling worthy and typical of its majesty. 
Let Orpheus, then, be a shadow. Homer a name, and 
our divine Shakespeare a mystery ; — we might despise 
the ambrosia if we saw too plainly the earthen dish in 
which it was offered to us. Their spirits are a part of 
the air we breathe. Nothinoj that was truly theirs has 
perished, or ever can perish. If a sparrow fall not to 
the ground without His knowledge, shall a word of 
truth be of less esteem in His eyes than a sparrow ? 
No, buffeted and borne about as it may be, by the 
shifting winds of prejudice, that deathle&s seed always 
takes root in the warm bosom of the earth at last :— 
buried for centuries haply in the dark and dreary cata- 
combs of superstition, the life is yet new and strong 
within it, and in God's good time it springs up and 
blossoms, in an age to which it was more needful than 
to that in which it was entombed. 

It is of Middleton's tragedies chiefly that we shall , 
speak, both because they are very fine ones, and 
because from them we can more safely draw an esti- 



248 THE PLAYS OF 

mate of his character. A good tragedy is, perhaps^ 
the hardest thing to write. Nothing is easier than to 
draw tears from the reader; nothing surely is more 
rare than the power of drawing them rightly, or of 
touching that deepest string of our being which God, 
that he might give us the most meaning lesson of uni- 
versal brotherhood, has ordained should never quiver 
at the touch of our private sorrows, how soul-piercing 
soever. There are a thousand who can write patheti- 
cally, for one who has in any measure of fulness 
the tragic faculty. Many may touch the heart, but 
none save a master can bring up for us the snowy 
pearls which sleep in the deep abysses and caverns of 
the soul. That our tears are so ready has a beautiful 
significance, — for they are the birthright of angelic 
natures, while it is the curse of utterly fallen spirits 
that none of this sweet dew should ever shed its cool- 
ness upon their parched and burning cheeks. Viewed 
rightly, every fact of our being enfolds a clear recog- 
nition of the divinitv of our nature. In childhood 
we see this more readily, though unwittingly ; — every 
flower which we pluck at random in the pure morning 
of life, and cast from us with a prodigality of beauty 
which we grow charier of in more thoughtful years, 
circles in its fragrant heart the dew-drop which, small 
as it is, rairroi^ the universe. In childhood, too, and 
in women, (who never wander far thence,) the source 
of this never turbid fountain of our tears is nearer 
the surface. Tlie drifting sands of a life which our 
own selfishness makes a desert slowly choke it as we 
grow older, till at last that which was once a gentle 
outlet of the oro'wded heart becomes in itself a m6re 



THOMAS MIDDLETOK 249 

bitter agony. Beautiful, therefore, and blessed is the 
power of calling forth these pledges of a tenderest 
purity which lingers life-long, fluttering ancar its scat- 
tered nest, and will not be scared away. How more 
beautiful and blessed it is so to summon them as that 
they shall give back to us, though only for a moment^ 
those holy impulses and gracious instincts of which 
they were once both the proof and the fulfilment. 
And this last belongs wholly to tragedy, — wherein we 
weep rather for the universal than the particular, — for 
the blight which we sometimes in madness think to fall 
always on the purest aspiration and the tenderst faith, 
— for that blindness and weakness which we find also 
in our own hearts, ready at any moment to mislead us 
into unconscious sin, or to give way, (for in our 
greatest strength we are readiest to lean upon reeds,) 
and to plunge us headlong and dizzy into the same 
dreary void with those imaginary woes which so 
move us. But the wounds which Nature gives us 
are always to free us from some morbid humor ; and 
tragedy, in proving to us the weakness of humanity, 
shows us at the same time its glorious strength, and 
that if lower, we are but a little lower than the angels, 
— a majestic height, where we may poise serenely, if 
we clog not our silver plumes with clay. In tragedy, 
moreover. Destiny always hangs like a thunder-cloud, 
vague and huge, upon the horizon, with an awful 
grandeur, and we hear afar its ominoas mutterings, 
and see its lightning reflected on the blue craggy mass 
which it reveals to us, hanging dimly over our own 
heads. Shapes float around us, and voices are heard 
from another life, and we are awed into- an unwilling. 



250 THE PLAYS OF 

consciousness of the workings of an unseen and in- 
scrutable power. But in writings strictly pathetic our 
sympathies are moved either for the individual saffer- 
ing, or against the power (always a definite one) which 
inflicts it unjustly. Pathos deals with unnatural 
causes; tragedy with those mysterious exceptions to 
tlie laws of nature which are no less natural than 
those laws themselves with which they make such 
seeming discord. Pathos is wholly the more outward 
of the two ; it may be founded on the elegancies or 
conventionalities of life, on the vices and wrongs of a 
wholly artificial system of society. But tragedy can 
only take root in the deepest and most earnest realities 
of a nature common to us all, the same CEdipus and 
Othello. The master of pathos must be minute and 
circumstantial, he must tell us all he knows, and 
depend on a cumulative effect ; while for the higher 
ti'agic there are many things too real and common- 
place ; — the naked skeleton, which leaves the imagina- 
tion free to work, is more effective and apalling, — ^the 
undefinable shadow, whose presence we feel, but 
toward which we dare not turn our heads. Pathos 
clings close to the body, and death is one of its. 
favorite and most moving themes. The interest of 
tragedy is one with life, and touches us through our ■ 
sense of immortality. Tragedy has to do with the j 
deepest and holiest part of our nature, and breathes ; 
over strings which echo dimly far away in the infinite ] 
and eternal. It lifts us above the pent-up horizon of I 
the body, and unfolds to us wider and more spiritual I 
relations, so that we wonder not when Prometheus 
calls up'on the sea for sympathy, or when Tjasir finds a 



THOMAS MIDDLETON. 261 

hainanity in the elements^ and in that gray heaveii 
which, like himself, was full of years. Disease^ 
poverty, death, which tears away from us the body of 
those whom we had loved, — ^that body round whioh 
our spirits had twined themselves, hiding it with their 
luxuriant leaves and tendrils, till we believed that it 
could not but partake somewhat of that deathless 
essence, — these and many more woes is our frail 
humanity incident to ; but there are anguishes of our 
immortal nature deeper than life and death ; — Laocoon 
struggles with the entwining folds of destiny, doubts 
that hurry to and fro in bewildered hopelessness, — 
loss of faith in good, and seemingly forced belief in 
an overruling evil, when Truth shows but as a painted 
mask over the stony face of Falsehood, when a damp 
mist of despair swathes the beautiful in its icy shroud, 
and Love, which we had deemed unchangeable, hides 
its eyes from us, — and these belong to Tragedy, which 
always shows us that the finite can never be an inde- 
pendent existence, but is ever overruled by the infinite, 
to which it is knit by unseen but never-to-be-sundered 
bands. To write a good tragedy, therefore, demands, 
if not the greatest of poets, certainly some of the 
highest elements of one. 

The plot of " The Changeling," the most powerful 
of Middleton's tragedies, is briefly this. DeFlores, a 
deformed and ugly villain, loves Beatrice, the heroine 
of the play, who has an unconquerable loathing of 
him. She has been betrothed by Vermandero, her 
father, to Alonzo de Piracquo, a noble gentleman, but 
whom she cannot love, having already given all her 
heart to Al^mero. DeFloree first' tempts her to the 



252 THE PLAYS OF 

murder of Piracquo, and then offers himself as the 
instrument of that hideous guilt The murder is suc- 
cessfully accomplished without the knowledge of 
Alsemero, and Beatrice, no obstacle now remaining, is 
maiTied to him. On the day of her wedding she 
deems it high time to get DeFlores out of the way, 
but he refuses any other reward than the satiation of 
his hellish passion for Beatrice, to the gratification of 
which he compels her by a threat of disclosing all to 
her husband. Alsemero at length is led to suspect his 
wife, the whole ghasitly story is laid bare, and De 
Flores, after slaying his unwilling paramour, prevents 
the revenging steel of Tomaso, Piracquo's brother, by 
stabbing himself to the heart. The tragedy takes its 
name from the chief character in an under-plot, which, 
as is usually the case in the old drama, has nothing 
whatever to do with the action of the piece. 

In the opening of the play, Beatrice thus strongly 
expresses her avereion to DeFlores: 



(( ) 



Tis my infirmity ; 



Nor can I other reason render you 

Than his or liers of some particular thing 

They must abandon as a deadly poison, 

"Which to a thousand other tastes were wholesome ; 

Such to mine eyes is that same fellow there, 

The same that report speaks of the basilisk." 

It was a fine thought in our author thus to give a 
dim foreshadowing of tlmt bloody eclipse of her better 
nature which Beatrice was to suffer from DeFlores. 
It is always an unacknowledged sense of our own 
weaknesses that gives birth to those vague feelings 
and presentiments which warn us of an approaching 



THOMAS MJDDLETON. 2S3 

calamity, and when the blow has fallen, we soothe our 
wounded self-respect by calling it Fate. We cheat 
our sterner reason into a belief that some higher power 
has interfei*ed to bring about that blight in us whose 
steady growth always circles outward from some hid- 
den meanness in our own souls. Our woes are oar 
own offspring, and we feed our hungry brood, as was 
once fabled of the pelican, with our best hearths blood ; 
— ^alas I they never become fledged, like hers, and fly 
away from us, but raven till the troubled fountain 
runs dry ! The shafts of destiny never rend through 
buckler and breast-plate, but reach oiu* hearts with an 
awful and deadly certainty, through any chink in our 
armor which has been left unbraced by our own sin or 
recklessness. Beatrice would make us believe that 
she has a natural autipathy to DeFlores. But antip- 
athies are only so many proofs of something wanting 
in ourselves, whereby we are hindered of that perfect 
sympathy with all things, for which we were created^ 
and without which that life, whicli should be as har- 
monious as the soft consent of love, becomes harsh and 
jarring. The thought of DeFlores is to Beatrice 
what the air-drawn dagger was to Macbeth ; she fore- 
sees in her own heart the crime yet uncommitted, and 
trembles at the weapon even while she stretches her 
quivering hand to grasp it. A terrible fascination 
seems to draw us on to the doing of ill deeds, the fore- 
consciousness whereof, graciously implanted in our 
natures by God as a safeguard, we misconstrue into 
the promptings of our evil demon. We brood over 
the gloomy thought in an agony of fierce enjoyment. 
Infidels to our own holy impulses, we blaspheme the 



254 THE PLATS OF 

eternal benignity which broods for ever on its chosen 
nest in the soul of man^ giving life to all beauty and 
all strength. We go apart from the society of men 
that we may hold converse with our self-invoked and 
self-created tempter. Always at our backs it dogs na, 
looming every hour higher and higher, till the damp 
gloom of its shadow hems us wholly in. We feel it 
behind us like the fearful presence of a huge hand 
stretched forth to gripe us and force us to its wither- 
ing will. One by one the dark, vague fingers close 
around us, and at last we render ourselves to its 
fancied bidding in a gush of wild despair which 
vibrates in us with a horrid delight.* 

We sign our deeds of sale to the fiend with a 
feather self-torn from our own wings. It is the curse 
of Adam in us that we can no longer interpret the 
tongue of angels, and too often mistake the tender fore- 
thought of our good spirit concerning us, for the foul 
promptings of an evil demon which we would fiiin 
believe is permitted to have dominion over us. In 
another place Beatrice says of DeFlores: 

** I never see this fellow but lUiink 

Of some harm towards me; danger's in my mind still; 
I scarce leave trembling for an hour after,** 

Here we have a still clearer omen of what is to 
follow. 

* We need only refer to the masterly illustration of this thought 
in Mr. Dana's " Paul Felton," a tale of wonderful depth and power. 
The spiritual meaning of the witches in Macheth is doubtless this 
tampering of a soul with its warnings against, which it mbtakeB 
for ominous suggestions to, evil. 



THOMAS MIDDLETON. 2S6 

Our poet drops a few " lilies in the mouth of his 
Tartarus," but there is ever a dark sprig of night- 
shade amoDg them. In the scene we next quote, the 
bloody dawning of the thought of Piracquo's murder 
in the soul of Beatrice blots out luridly the tender 
morning-star of love which still trembles there, 
making us feel yet more thrillingly the swiftly near- 
ing horrors which it betokens. The scene is between 
Beatrice and Alsemero. 

" Beat. I have within mine eyes all my desires : 
Bequests, that holy prayers ascend heaven for, 
And bring them down to furnish our defects, 
Come not more sweet to our necessities 
Than thou unto my wishes. 

" Ah. We are so like 
In our expressions, lady, that unless I borrow 
The same words, I shall never find their equals. 

** Beat How happy were this meeting, this embrace. 
If it were free from envy 1 this poor kiss, 
It has an enemy, a hateful one, 
That wishes poison to it : how well were I now, 
If there were none such name known as Piracquo, 
Nor no such tie as the command of parents I 
I should be too much blessed. 

" Als. One good service 
Would strike off both your fears, and I'll go near it, too, 
Since you are so distressed, remove the cause. 
The command ceases ; so there's two fears blown out 
With one and the same blast. 

" Beat Pray, let me find you, sir : 
What might that service be, so strangely happy ? 

" Als, The honorablest piece about man, valor; 
ni send a challenge to Piracquo instantly." 



256 THE PLATS OF 

With what exquisite naturalness is this drawn I 
The heart of Beatrice, afraid of itself^ would fitin 
cheat itself into the belief that Alsemero gave it that 
dark hint which its own guilty wishes had alteadj 
forestalled. To return — 

*' Beat, How? call you that extingukhing of fear, 
When 'tis tlie only way to keep it flaming ? 
Are not you ventured in the action, 
That's all my joys and comforts? pray, no more, sir:" 

Though she seemingly rejects the offer, yet she goes 
on weighing the risk in her own mind. 

" Say you've prevailed, you're danger's and not mine then ; 
The law would claim you from me, or obscurity 
Be made the grave to bury you alive. 
I'm glad these thoughts come forth; oh, keep not one 
Of this condition, sir I here was a course 
Found to bring sorrow on her way to death ; 
The tears would ne'er had dried till dust had choked them. 
Blood-guiltiness becomes a fouler visage ; — " 

Thus she works herself up to a pitch of horror at 
the fancied guilt of Alsemero, and with half-oonsdous 
cunning renders her own plot, (which she now for the 
first time acknowledges to herself,) less full of loath- 
someness. She continues {aside) : 

^* And now 1 think on one ; I was to blame, 
I've marred so good a market with my scorn ; 
It had been done, questionless : the ugliest creature 
Creation framed for some use ; yet to see 
I could not mark so much where it should be I " 

How full of doubt and trembling hesitation is the 
broken structure of the verse^ too^ and how true to 



THOMAS MIDDLETON. 257 

nature the lie in the last line and a half, which she 
will persist in telling herself. 

''Als. Lady—" 

But she does not hear him; she is too fearfully 
intent with watching a murder even now adoing in 
her own heart. 

" Beat, {aside) Why, men of art make much of poison, 
Keep one to expel another ; where was my art ? " 

The scene which follows, between Beatrice and De 
Flores, is a very powerful one. Not powerful in the 
same degree with Lear and Othello, but yet in the 
same kind, for as much power is needful to the 
making of a violet as of an oak. It is too long for 
us to copy the whole of it. She tries to persuade her- 
self that DeFlores is not so hideous to her after all, 
like a child talking aloud in the dark to relieve its 
terrors. 

" When we are used 
To a hard face it is not so unpleasing ; 
It mends still in opinion, hourly mends, 

I see it by experience 

Hardness becomes the visage of a man well ; 
It argues service, resolution, manhood, 
If cause were of employment." 

DeFlores is led on gradually to the desired end, and 
when he has sworn to devote himself to whatever ser- 
vice she may lay upon him, she exclaims, not daring 
to hear the name of ^^ her murdered mim '^ on her lips 
till emboldened by slow degrees ; 

17 



258 THE PLAYS OF 

" Then take him to tliy fury ! 
" DeR I thirst for him ! 
*^ Beat, Alonzo de Hraoquo I " 

DeFlores murders Piracquo, and brings one of his 
fingers^ with a ring upon it^ as a token of the deed to 
Beatrice. She is startled at sight of him. 

" BeaL DeFlores I 
''DeR Lady?" 

She will not trust her tongue with anything more 
than an allusion to what she so eagerly longed for, 

" Beat, Thy looks promise cheerfully. 

" DeR. All things are answerable, time, drcnmstanoe, 
Your wishes, and my service. 

" BeaL Is it done, then ? 

" DeR, Piracquo is no more. 

** BeaL My joys start at mine eyes ; our sweeftt ddigktt 
Are evermore bom weeping, 

" DeR. I have a token for you. 

" Beat, For me ? 

" DeR, But it was sent somewhat unwillingly : 
I could not get the ring without the finger. 

" BeaL Bless me, what hast thou done I " 

Exclaims the horror-stricken Beatrice, the woman 
reviving again in her. She had hardened herself to 
the abstract idea of murder, but revolts at this dread- 
ful material token of it. 

" DeR Why, is that more 
Than killing the whole man ? I cut his heart-fitrings." 

How finely is the contemptuous coolness of De 
Flores, the villain by calculation, set off by the 
shrinking dread of Beatrice, whose guilt is the child 



THOMAS MIDDLETON. 259 

of a ravished intercourse between her passions and her 
affections. The sight of the ring carries her and us 
back to the sweet days of her innocency, and the 
picture is complete. 

'* "lis the first token my father made me send him." 

She sighs, remembering the calm purity from which 
she has fallen, and yet, at the same time, with the true 
cunning of a guiltiness which only half repents, strives 
to palliate the sin of whose terrible consciousness she 
must evermore be the cringing bondslave, by thinking 
of her father's tyranny. The horror which a mur- 
derer feels of the physical fact of murder and the 
dread which creeps over him from the cold corpse of 
his victim, exemplified by Beatrice in the above quota- 
tion, seem, at first thought, strange phenomena in 
nature. But are they not in truth unwitting recogni- 
tions of the immortality of the soul, as if the wrong 
done were wholly to the body and had no terrors for 
the spiritual part of our being? This feeling may be 
well called bodily remorse^ being clearly of a grosser 
and more outward nature than that strong agony 
which shakes us inwardly when we have done a 
murder upon the soul of our brother, and have been 
marked on our foreheads as spiritual Cains, by in- 
gratitude, hypocrisy, mistrust, want of faith, or any 
other lie against God.* 

The remainder of this scene between DeFlores and 

* This bodily feeling is painted with a terrible truth and dis- 
tinctness of coloring in Hood^s " Dream of Eugene Aram," and 
with no less strength by the powerful imagination of Mr. Poe, in 
his story of the " Tell-tale Heart." 



260 THE PLAYS OF 

Beatrice Is all of it striking^ bat we have not room to 
quote it all. DeFlores tells her the loathsome price at 
which she has bought Piracquo's death and she ex- 
claims: 

" Why 't is impossible thou canst be so wicked, 
Or shelter such a cunning cruelty, 
To make his death the murderer of my honor ! 
Thy language is so bold and vicious, 
I cannot see which way 1 can forgive it 
With any modesty." 

No guilt can ever sear out of a woman's soul the 
essential tenderness and purity of its nature. Dese- 
crated as its dwelling may be by infamy and shame^ 
with meek and silent forgiveness it comes home again 
to its ruined cell, and gently effaces, as far as it can, 
the ruthless traces of the destroyer. Alas ! where the 
celestial whiteness of woman's nature is most be- 
dimmed, she stands most in need of the uplifting 
sympathy of her sisters, who only give her scorn or a 
distant pity, which makes her but the more an outcast. 
How more ennobling and worthy of us it is to seek out 
and cherish the soiled remnant of an angelic nature 
in the lepers of sin against whom the hard world has 
shut its iron doors, than to worship it (which we are 
not over-ready to do) where it shines unclouded in 
the noble and the wise. 

This modesty of Beatrice is one of the most touch- 
ingly natural traits in her character. DeFlores 
spurned it as he would a worthless flower. 

" Pish I you forget yourself ; 
A woman dipped in blood and talk of modesty 1 
" Beat, O, misery of sin! would Pd been bound 



THOMAS MIDDLETON. 261 

Perpetually unto my living hate 

In that Piracquo than to hear these words I 

Think but upon the distance that creation 

Set 'twixt thy blood and mine, and keep thee there." 

She shrinks behind her pride, but the next speech 
of DeFlores drives her forth from her flimsy shelter. 
The speech is a very vigorous one and full of moral 
truth. 

" DeF, Look but into your conscience, read me there, 
*T is a true book ; you'll find me there your equjd: 
Pish I fly not to your birth, but settle you 
In wJmA the act has made you^ yovHre no more now ; 
You must forget your parentage to me ; 
You are the deed^s creature ; by that name 
You lost your first condition, and I challenge you. 
As peace and innoeeney have turned you out. 
And made you one with me, 

" Beat, With thee, foul villain ? 

" DeF. Yes, my fair murderess, do you urge me?*' 

Yes, there are no bounds of caste, no grades of 
rank, in sin. If we may be bom again in virtue, so 
also may we be in sin, and we bear some trace of the 
hideous features of our second mother to our grave. 

A very striking and forcible line is put into the 
mouth of DeFlores when he first meets Tomaso, 
Piracquo's brother, after the murder. 

" I*d fain get off, this man's not for my company, 
J smell his brother's blood when I corns mar him. 

" Tom, Come hither, kind and true one ; I remember 
My brother loved thee well. 

" DeF, O, purely, dear sir ! 
Methinks Pm now again akilling him, 
He brings it so fresh to me. \_Aside.'\ " 



262 THE PLAYS OF 

In another scene between Beatrice and DeFlores ahe 
is made to say something which is full of touching 
pathos. She susj^ects her maid of having betrayed 
her to her husband. DeFlores asks, 

" Who would trust a waiting-woman? 
" Beat, 1 must trust somebody J* 

How truly is here expressed the wilderness of bleak 
loneliness into which guilt drives those it possesses, 
forcing them, when that sweet spring of peacefulness, 
which bubbles up so freshly in the open confidingne&s 
of joy, is cut off, to seek a sympathy in their d^rada- 
tion, and in the bewildering darkness of doubt and 
suspicion, to trust some one, even though it be only 
with the story of their shame. In its lowest and \ 
most fallen estate, the spirit of man cannot shake off \ 
its inborn feeling of brotherhood, which whispers to it 1 
to seek that for sympathy which in happier days it was I 
perhaps too slow to grant. It is sorrow which teaches 
us most nearly how full of sustainment and help we 
may be to our fellows, and how much we in our turn 
stand in need of them ; and that when once selfishness j 
has rusted apart that chain which binds us so closely 
to man, it has also broken the supporting tie which 
links us with uplifting trustfulness to the all-enfolding \ 
sympathy of God. 

In the last act Beatrice confesses her crime to her 
husband, and he cries bitterly: 

" 0, thou art all deformed ! 
" Beat, Forget not, sir, 
It for your sake was done ; shall greater dangen 
Make thee less welcome 7 



THOMAS MIDDLETON. 263 



" Ah, 0, tkou shoulcPst have gone 
A thousand leagues about to have avoided 
This dangerous bridge of blood ! here we are lost I 



It 



There is a sternly truthful naturalness in these 
words of Alsemero. To a soul highly wrought up, 
language resolves itself into its original elements, and 
the relations and resemblances of things present them- 
selves to it rather than the things themselves, so that 
the language of passion, in which conventionality is 
overwhelmed by the bursting forth of the original 
savage nature is always metaphorical.* 

The tragic depth of the climax of this drama can 
only be thoroughly felt in a perusal of tlie whole. 
We can only quote a few sentences. There is much 
pathos in what the broken-hearted Beatrice says to her 
father, as she is dying. 

" O, come not near me, sir, I shall defile you I 
I am that of your blood was taken from you 
For your better health ; look no more upon it, 
But cast it to the ground regardlessly, 
Let the common sewer take it from distinction, 
Beneath the stars, upon yon meteor 
Ever hung my fate, 'mongst things corruptible ; 

[Pointing to DeFloees.] 
I ne'er could pluck it from him ; my loathing 
Was prophet to the rest, but ne'er believed : 
Mine honor fell with him, and now my life." 

The concluding words of the play which Alsemero 

* Coleridge's eloquent reasoning in opposition to this theory 
never seemed to us at all satisfactory, and the very instances he 
adduces are, to our mind, against him. See his " Apologetic Pre- 
face," which, however unconvincing, is certainly a magnificent 
specimen of acute and thorough analysis. 



264 TEE PLAYS OF 

addresses to his bereaved father-in-law are fragrant 
with beautiful and sincere humanity. 

** Sir, you have yet a son*8 duty living, 
Please you, accept it ; let that your sorrow, 
As it goes from your eye, go from your heart ; 
Man and his sorrow at the grave must part. 
All we can do to comfort one another, 
To stay a brother's sorrow for a brother. 
To dry a child from the kind father's eyes, 
It is to no purpose, it rather multiplies : 
Your only smiles have power to cause re-live 
The dead again, or in their rooms to give 
Brother a new brother, father a child ; 
If these appear, all griefs are reconciled." 

The dramatic power of Middleton is rather of the ; 
suggestive kind than of that elaborately minute and • 
finished order, whicli can trust wholly to its own com- 
pleteness for effect. Only Shakespeare can so "on 
horror's head horrors accumulate '^ as to make the over- 
charged heart stand aghast and turn back with 
trembling haste from the drear abyss in which it was 
groping bewildered. Middleton has shown his deep ' 
knowledge of art and nature by that strict apprecia- 
tion of his own weakness, which is the hardest wisdom . 
to gain, and which can only be the fruit of an earnest, ' 
willing, and humble study in his own heart, of thase • 
primitive laws of spirit which lie ai the bottom of all 
hearts. It is much easier to feel our own strength 
than our want of it ; indeed, a feeling of the one 
blinds us to the other. Middleton is wise in choosing 
rather to give mysterious hints which the mind may 
follow out, than to strive to lead the imagination, 
which is most powerful in conjuring up images of 



THOMAS MIDDLETON. 265 

horror, beyond where he could guide it with bold and 
unwavering certainty. With electric sympathy we 
feel the bewilderment of our guide's mind through the 
hand with which he leads us, and refuse to go further, 
when, if left to ourselves, our very doubt would have 
enticed us onward. 

To show our author's more graceful and delicate 
powers, we copy the following from another tragedy : 

" How near am I now to a happiness 
The earth exceeds not I not another like it ; 
The treasures of the deep are not so precious 
As the concealed comforts of man 
Locked up in woman's love. I scent the air 
Of blessings when I come but near the house : 
What a delicious breath marriage sends forth I 
The violet-bed's not sweeter. Honest wedlock 
Is like a banqueting house built in a garden 
On which the spring's chaste flowers take delight 
To cast tljeir modest odors ; when base lust 
With all her powders, paintings, and best pride. 
Is but a fair house built by a ditch side. 

Now for a welcome 

Able to draw men's envies upon man ; 
A kiss now that shall hang upon my lip 
As sweet as morning dew upon a rose, 
And full as long." 

Another from the same play : 

" O, hast thou left me, then, Bianca, utterly ? 
Bianca, now I miss thee I O, return 
And save the faith of woman I I ne'er felt 
The loss of thee till now ; 'tis an affliction 
Of greater weight than youth was made to bear; 
As if a puniakment of after4ife 
Were fallen upon man here, so new it is 
To flesh and blood so strange, so insupportable I 
• • . . . Can'st thou forget 



266 THE PLATS OF 

The dear pains my love took 7 how it has watched 
Wliole nights together, in all weathers, for thee^ 
Yet stood in heart more merry than the tempest 
That sung about mine ears ? *' 

We shall copy a few scattered passages and con- 
clude : 

THE SINS OF GREAT MEN. 

" Every sin thou commit'st shows like a flame 
Upon a mountain; 'tis seen far about, 
And, with a big wind made of popular breath, 
The sparkles fly through cities ; here one takes, 
Another catches there, and in short time, 
Waste all to cinders." 

Our author's aptness in comparison is striking. He 
says of the shameful deed of a great man : 

" Great men are never sound men after it. 
It leaves some ache or other in their names stilly 
Which their posterity feels at every weather" 

CHARITY. 

" You should love those you are not tied to love ; 
Thafs the right trial of a woman*s charity." 

HONOR. 

" The fame that a man wins himself is best ; 
That he may call his own. Honors put to him 
Make him no more a man than his clothes do, 
And are as soon ta'en ofi*." 

WANT OF NOBLENESS. 

"O, what vile prisons 
Make we our bodies to our immortal souls I " 

SENSE OF GUILT. 

" Still my adulterous guilt hovers aloft, 
And with her black wings beats down all mj pnyezs 
Ere they be half-way up." 



THOMAS MIDDLETON. 267 

PRUDENCE. 
" Wisely to fear is to be free from fear." 

PATIENCE. 

" Patience, my lord : why, *tis the soul of peace ; 
Of all the virtues 'tis nearest kin to heaven ; 
It wakes men look like gods. The best of men 
That i^er wore earth about him wis a sufferer 
A softy meekf paiientf humbley tranquil spirit^ 
The first true gentleman thai ever breathed. 
The stock of patience then cannot be poor, 
All it desires it has ; what monarch more ? 

• •••«... 
'Tis the perpetual prisoner's liberty, 
His walks and orchards ; His the bond-slave's freedom. 
And makes him seem proud of each iron chain 
As though he wore it more for state than pain ; 
It is the beggar's music, and thus sings, 
Although our bodies beg, our souls are kings ! 
O, my dread liege, it is the sap of bliss, 
Rears us aloft, makes m^n and angels kiss,^' 

A HAPPY MAN. 

"He that in his coffin is richer than before, 
He that counts youth his sword and age his staff. 
He whose right hand carves his own epitaph." 

Here is the sweetest description of the passage of 
time, expressed by an outward reference, that we recol- 
lect ever to have seen. 

" The moon hath through her bow scarce drawn to the head, 
Like to twelve silver airotoSf all the months. 
Since,—" 

TWILIGHT. 

" I come, dear love, 
To take my last farewell, fitting this hour, 
Which nor bright day will claim, nor pitchy night* 
An hour fit to part conjoinM souls." 



268 THE PLAYS OF 

THE WORLD. 

" Stoop thou to the world, 't will on thy bosom tread ; 
It stoops to thee if thou advance thy head.'' 

The following is a revelation of the spiritual world, 
full of truth and beauty. Men whose material part 
predominates in them are afraid of spirits ; but a body 
walking the earth after its heavenly tenant has left it 
is a more awful sight to spiritual minds. 

" My son was dead ; whoe'er outlives his virtues 
Is a dead man ; for when you hear of spirits 
That walk in real bodies, to the amaze 
And cold astonishment of such as meet them, 

those are men of vices, 

AVho nothing have but what is visible, 
And so, by consequence, they have no souls." 

THE BODY. 

" There's but this wall betwixt you and destruction, 
"When you are at strongest, and but poor thin clay." 

OVER-CUNNING. 

" Grow not too cunning for your aovJj good brother." 

There is a simplicity and manly directness in our ' 
old writers of tragedy, which comes to us with the 
more freshness in a time so conventional as our own. 
In their day, if the barrier l>etween castes was more 
marked than it is now, that between hearts was less so. 
They were seers, indeed, using reverently that rare 
gift of inward sight which God had blessed them 
with, and not daring to blaspheme the divinity of 
Beauty by writing of what they had not seen and 
trulv felt in their own hearts and lives. It is one of 
the refinements of a more modern school which teaches 



THOMAS MIDLLETON, 269 

artists to open their mouths and shvi their eyeSy as chil- 
dren are playfully told to, and wait for some myste- 
rious power to make them wise. They wrote from 
warm, beating hearts, not from a pitiful, dry pericar- 
dium of fashion or taste, "formed after the purest 
models/' They became worthy to lead, by having too 
much faith in nature to follow any but her. We find 
in them lessons for to-day, as fresh as when they were 
spoken, showing us that poetry is true for ever ; that 
the spiritual presences which haunted their lonely 
hours with images of beauty and precious inward 
promptings to truth and love still walk the earth, 
seeking communion with all who are free enough and 
pure enough to behold them. 

In our day the accursed hunger after gold, and the 
no less accursed repletion of it, which brings with it a 
stagnation of life, and ends in an ossification of the 
whole heart, have rendered us less fit for the reception 
and proper cherishing of the wondrous gifts of song. 
But that the day of poetry has gone by is no more 
true than that the day of the soul has gone by, for 
they were bom, and must live and die, together. The 
soul mounts higher and higher, and its horizon widen 
from age to age. Poesy also grows wiser as she growi 
older. Poetry can never be all written. There i^ 
more in the heart of ipan than any the wisest poef; 
has ever seen there, — more in the soul than any has, 
ever guessed. Our age may have no great poets, for 
there are some who have but just now gone forth into; 
the silence, some who yet linger on the doubtful- 
brink, and there are successions in poesy as in natui*e ; \ 
pines spring up where oaks are cut down, — the lyrical' 



270 THE PLAYS OF THOMAS MIDDLETON. 

follows the epic. But of whatever kind or d^ree, 
there will ever yet be some poets. They are needed as 
historians of wonderful facts which, but for tliem, 
would be unrecorded, — facts high above the grasp of 
the diligent recorders of outward events ; and materials 
of history will never be wanting to them, since there 
is nothing so beautiful but has in it the promise of a 
higher beauty, nothing so true but enfolds the elements 
of a wider and more universal truth. 



SONG-WRITING. 



From this to that, from that to this he flies, 
Feels music's pulse in all her arteries. 
• ••••••• 

With flash of high-born fancies, here and there 
Dancing in lofty measures, and anon 
Creeps on the soft touch of a tender tone. 
Whose trembling murmurs, melting in wild airs, 
Kun to and fro complaining their sweet cares ; 
Because those precious mysteries that dwell 
In music's ravished soul he dare not tell, 
But whisper to the world. 

Cbashawe {from Stroda), 

The songs of a nation are like wild flowers pressed, 
as it were, by chance between the blood-stained pages 
of history. As if man's heart had paused for a 
moment in its dusty march, and looked back with a 
flutter of the pulse and a tearful smile upon the simple 
peacefulness of happier and purer days, gathering some 
wayside blossom to remind it of childhood and home, 
amid the crash of battle or the din of the market. 
Listening to these strains of pastoral music, we are 
lured away from the records of patriotic frauds, of a • 
cannibal policy which devours whole nations with the 
refined appetite of a converted and polished Polyphe- 
mus who has learned to eat with a silver fork, and 
never to put his knife in his mouth,— we forget the / 

271 



272 SONQ'WRITINQ. 

!wars and the false standards of honor which have 
cheated men into wearing the fratricidal brand of Cain, 
as if it were but the glorious trace of a dignifying 
wreath, and hear the rustle of the leaves and the inno- 
cent bleat of lambs, and the low murmur of lovers 
beneath the moon of Arcady, or the long twilight of 
the north. The earth grows green again, and flowers 
spring up in the scorching footprints of AlariC| but 
where love hath but only smiled, some gentle trace of 
it remains freshly for ever. The infinite sends its 
messages to us by untutored spirits, and the lips of 
little children, and the unboastful beauty of simple 
nature ; not with the sound of trumpet, and the tramp 
of mail-clad hosts. Simplicity and commonness are 
the proofs of Beauty's divinity. Earnestly and beau- 
tifully touching is this eternity of simple feeling from 
age to age, — this trustfulness with which the heart 
flings forth to the wind its sybilline leaves to be 
gathered and cherished as oracles for ever. The un- 
wieldy current of life whirls and writhes and struggles 
muddily onward, and there in midcurrent the snow- 
white lilies blow in unstained safety, generation after 
generation. The cloud-capt monuments of mighty 
kings and captains crumble into dust and mingle willi 
the nameless ashes of those who reared them ; but we 
know perhaps the name and even the color of the hair 
and eyes of some humble shepherd's mistress who 
brushed through the dew to meet her lover's kiss, 
when the rising sun glittered on the golden images 
that crowned the palace-roof of Semiramis. Fleets 
and navies are overwhelmed and forgotten, but some 
tiny love-fi*eighted argosy, launched (like those of the 



80NG-WPJTING. 273 

Hindoo maidens) upon the stream of time in days 
now behind the horizon, floats down to us with its 
frail lamp yet burning. Theories for which great 
philosophers wore their hearts out, histories over 
which the eyes of wise men ached for weary years, 
creeds for which hundreds underwent an exulting 
martyrdom, poems which had once quickened the 
beating of the world's great heart, and the cei'tainty 
of whose deathlessness had made death sweet to the 
poet, — all these have mouldered to nothing ; but some 
word of love, some outvent of a sorrow which haply 
filled only one pair of eyes with tears, these seem to 
have become a part of earth's very life-blood. They 
live because those who wrote never thought whether 
they would live or not. Because they were the chil- 
dren of human nature, human nature has tenderly 
fostered them, while children only begot to perpetuate 
the foolish vanity of their father's name must trust 
for their support to such inheritance of livelihood as 
their father left them. There are no pensions and no 
retired lists in the pure democracy of nature and 
truth. 

A good song is as if the poet had pressed his heart 
against the paper, and that could have conveyed its 
hot, tumultuous throbbings to the reader. The low, 
musical rustle of the wind among the leaves is song- 
like, but the slow unfolding of the leaves and blos- 
soms, and under them the conception and ripening of 
the golden fruit through long summer days of sun- 
shine and of rain, are like the grander, but not more 
beautiful or eternal' offspring of poesy. The song- \ 
writer must take his place somewhere between tl 

18 



274 SONQ'WBITINQ. 

poet and the musician^ and must form a distinct daas 
by himself. The faculty of writing songs is certainly 
\a peculiar one^ and as perfect in its kind as that of 
Writing epics. They can only be written by true 
poets; like the mistletoe, they are slender and delicate, 
but they only grow in oaks. Burns is as wholly a poet, 
but not as great a poet, as Milton. Songs relate to ud 
the experience and hoarded learning of the feelings/ 
greater poems detail that of the mind. One is the 
result of that wisdom which the heart keeps by 
remaining young, the other of that which it gains by 
growing old. Songs are like inspired nursery-rhymes, 
which make the soul childlike again. The best songs 
have always some tinge of a mysterious sadness in 
them. They seem written in the night-watches of the 
heart, and reflect the spiritual moonlight, or the sbift- 
ing flashes of the northern-light, or the trembling 
lustre of the stars, rather than the broad and cheerfiil 
benediction of the sunny day. Often they are the 
merest breaths, vague snatches of half-heard mnsio 
which fell dreamily on the ear of the poet while he 
was listening for grander melodies, and which he 
hummed over afterward to himself, not knowing how 
or where he learned them. 

A true song touches no feeling or prejudice of edu- 
cation, but only the simple, original elements of OUP: 
common nature. And perhaps the mission of thel 
song-writer may herein be deemed loftier and diviner! 
than any other, since he sheds delight over more 
hearts, and opens more rude natures to tlie advances 
of civilization, refinement, and a softened humanity, 
by revealing to them a beauty in tlieir own simple 



80NQ-WBIT1N0. 275 

thoughts and feelhigs which wins them unconsciously 
to a dignified reverence for their own noble capabilities 
as men. He who aspires to the highest triumphs of 
the muse, must look at first for appreciation and sym- 
pathy only from a few, and must wait till the progress 
of education shall have enlarged the number and 
quickened the sensibility and apprehension of his 
readers. But the song-writer finds his ready welcome' 
in those homespun, untutored artistic perceptions? 
which are the birthright of every human soul, and! 
which are the sure pledges of the coming greatness! 
and ennoblement of the race. He makes men's hearts 
ready to receive the teachings of his nobler brother^ 
He is not positively, but only relatively, a greater 
blessing to his kind, since, in God's good season, by 
the sure advance of freedom, all men shall be able to 
enjoy what is now the privilege of the few, and 
Shakespeare and Milton shall be as dear to the heart 
of the cottager and the craftsman as Burns or 
Beranger. Full of grandeur, then, and yet fuller of 
awful responsibility, is the calling of the song-writer. 
It is no wild fancy to deem that he may shape the 
destiny of coming ages. Like an electric spark, his 
musical thought flits glittering from heart to heart 
and from lip to lip through the land. Luther's noble 
hymns made more and truer protestants than ever did 
his sermons or his tracts. The song hummed by some 
toiling mother to beguile the long monotony of the 
spinning-wheel may have turned the current of her 
child's thoughts as he played about her knee, and 
given the world a hero or apostle. We know not 
when or in what soil God may plant the seeds of our 



276 SONQ-WBrriNQ. 

spiritual enlightenment and regeneration, but vre may 
be sure that it will be in some piece of day common 
to all mankind, some heart whose simple fedings 
call the whole world kin. Not from mighty poet ori 
deep-seeking philosopher will come the word which | 
all men long to hear, but in the lowly Nazareth of i 
some unlearned soul, in the rough manger of rudest,; 
humblest sympathies, shall the true Messiah be bord 
and cradled. In the inspired heart, not in the philo- 
sophic intellect, all true reforms originatej^nd^jtjB 
over this that the song-writer has unbridl£d.jsway. 
He concentrates the inarticulate murmur^f^d longing 
of a trampled people into the lightningTfl^sh of a fiery 
verse, and, ere the guilty heart of the oppressor has 
ceased to flutter, follows the deafening thunderclap of 
revolution. He gives vent to his love of a^ower or 
a maiden, and adds so much to the store of every-day 
romance in the heart of the world, refining men's 
crude perceptions of beauty and dignifying their sweet 
natural affections. Once it was the fashion to write 
pastorals, but he teaches us that it is not nature to 
make all men talk like rustics, but rather to show that 
one heart beats under homespun and broadcloth, and 
that it alone is truly classical, and gives eternity to 
verse. 

Songs are scarcely amenable to the common laws of 
criticism. If anything were needed to prove the 
utter foolishness of the assertion that that only is 
good poetry which can be reduced to good prose, we 
might summon as witnesses the most perfect songs in 
our language. The best part of a song Jies often not 
at all in the words, but in the metre, perhaps^ or the 



SONG-WBITINO. 277 

structure of the verse, in the wonderful melody whidi 
arose of~ itself from the feeling of the writer, and 
which unawares throws the heart into the same frame 
of thought. Ben Jonson was used to write his poems | 
first in prose, and then translate or distil them into! 
verse, and had we not known the fact, we might have/ 
almost guessed it from reading some of his lyrics, the( 
mechanical structure of whose verse is as different 
from the spontaneous growth of a true song (which 
must be written one way or not at all) as a paper 
flower is from a violet. In a good song the words 
seem to have given birth to the melody, and the 
melody to the words. The strain of music seems to 
have wandered into the poet's heart, and to have been 
the thread round which his thoughts have crystallized. 
There is always something of personal interest in 
songs. They are the true diary of the poet's spiritual 
life, the table-talk of his heart. There is nothing 
egoistical in them, for the inward history of a poet is 
never a commonplace one, and egoism can only be a 
trait of little minds, its disagreeable quality lying 
wholly in this, that it constantly thrusts in our faces 
the egoist's individuality, which is really the least 
noticeable thing about him. We love to hear wonder- 
ful men talk of themselves, because they are better 
worth hearing about than anything else, and because 
what we learn of them is not so much a history of self 
as a history of nature, and a statement of facts therein 
which are so many fingerposts to set us right in our 
search after true spiritual knowledge. Songs are 
translations from the language of the spiritual into 
that of the Uc'itural world. • - 



278 SONG'WBITING. 

As love is the highest and holiest of all feeUngs^ so 
those songs are best in which love is the essenoe. All j 
poetry must rest on love for a foundation, or it will . 
only last so long as the bad passions it appeals to, and j[ 
which it is the end of true poesy to root out. If there ' 
be not in it a love of man, there must at least be a love 
of nature, which lies next below it, and which, as is 
the nature of all beauty, will lead its convert upward 
to that nobler and wider sympathy. True poetry | 
is but the perfect reflex of true knowledge, and truQ ; 
knowledge is spiritual knowledge, which oomes only / 
of love, and which, when it has solved the mystery of 
one, even the smallest efiluence of the eternal beauty, 
which surrounds us like an atmosphere, becomes a 
clue leading to the heart of the seeming labyrintb. 
All our syrapathias lie in such close neighborhood, 
that w^lien music is drawn from one string, all the rest 
vibrate in sweet accord. As in the womb the brain of 
the child changes, with a steady rise, through a like- 
ness to that of one animal and another, till it is per- 
fected in that of man, the highest animal, so in this 
life, which is but as a womb wherein we are shaping 
to be born in the next, we are led upward from love 
to love till we arrive at the love of God, which is the 
highest love. Many things unseal the springs of 
tenderness in us ere the full glory of our nature gashes 
forth to the one benign spirit which interprets for ns 
all mystery, and is the key to unlock all the most 
secret shrines of beauty. Woman was given us to 
love chiefly to thi§ end, that the sereneness and 
strength which the soul wins from that full sympathy 
with one, might teach it the more divine excellence 



SONG-WRITING. 279 

of a sympathy with all, and that it was man's heart 
only which God shaped in his own image, which it 
can only rightly emblem in an all-surrounding love. 
Therefore, we put first tliose songs which tell of love, 
since we see in them not an outpouring of selfish and 
solitary passion, but an indication of that beautiful 
instinct whicli prompts the heart of every man to turn 
toward its fellows with a smile, and to recognize its 
master even in the disguise of olay ; and we confess 
that tlie sight of the rudest and simplest love-verses 
in the corner of a .village newspaper oftener bring 
tears of delight into our eyes than awaken a sense of 
tlie ludicrous. In fancy we see the rustic lovers wan- 
dering hand in hand, a sweet fashion not yet extinct 
in our quiet New England villages, and crowding all 
the past and future with the blithe sunshine of the 
present. The modest loveliness of Dorcas has revealed 
to the delighted heart of Eeuben countless other beau- 
ties, of which, but for her, he had been careless. Pure 
and delicate sympathies have overgrown protectingly 
the most exposed part of his nature, as the moss 
covers the north side of the tree. The perception 
and reverence of her beauty has become a new and 
more sensitive conscience to him, which, like the won- 
derful ring in the fairy tale, warns him against every 
danger that may assail his innocent self-respect. For 
the first time he begins to see something more in the 
sunset than an omen of to-morrow's w^eather. The 
flowers, too, have grown tenderly dear to him of a 
sudden, and, as he plucks a sprig of blue succory from 
the roadside to deck her hair with, he is as truly a 
poot as Burns, when he embalmed the "mountaui 



280 SONQ'WRITINQ. 

daisy " in deathless rhyme. Dorcas thrills at sight of 
quivering Hesperus as keenly as ever Sappho did, and, 
as it brings back to her, she knows not how, the 
memory of all happy times in one, she clasps doeer 
the brown, toil-hardened hand which she holds in 
hers, and which the heart that warms it makes as soft 
as down to her. She is sure that the next Sabbath 
evening will be as cloudless and happy as this. She 
feels no jealousy of Keuben's love of the flowers, for 
she knows that only the pure in heart can see Grod in 
them, and that they will but teach him to love better 
tlie wild-flower-like beauties in herself, and give him 
impulses of kindliness and brotherhood to all. Love 
is the truest radicalism, lifting all to the same dear- 
aired level of humble, thankful humanity. Dorcas 
begins to think that her childish dream has come true, 
and that she is really an enchanted princess, and her 
milk-pans are fortliwith changed to a service of gold 
plate, with the family arms engraved on the bottom of 
each, the device being a great heart, and the legend, 
God gives, man only take^ away. Her taste in dress 
has grown wonderfully more refined since her be- 
trothal, though she never heard of the Paris fashions, 
and never had more than one silk gown in her life, 
that one being her mother's wedding dress made over 
again. Reuben has grown so tender-hearted that he 
tliought there might be some good even in "Tran- 
scendentalism," a terrible dragon of straw, against 
which he had seen a lecturer at the village lyceam 
valorously enact the St. George, — nay, he goes so far 
as to think that the slave women (black though they 
be, and therefore not deserving so much happiness) 



SONG'WBITING. 281 

cannot be quite so well off as his sister in^ the factory, 
and would sympathize with them if the constitution 
did not enjoin all good citizens not to do so. But we 
are wandering — farewell Reuben and Dorcas ! remem- 
ber that you can only fulfil your vow of being true to 
each other by being true to all, and be sure that death 
can but unclasp your bodily hands that your spiritual 
ones may be joined the more closely. 

The songs of our great poets are unspeakably 
precious. In them find vent those iri^epressible utter- 
ances of homely fireside humanity, inconsistent with 
the loftier aim and self-forgetting enthusiasm of a 
great poem, which preserve the finer and purer sensi- 
bilities from wilting and withering under the. black 
frost of ambition. The faint records of flitting im- 
pulses, we light upon them sometimes imbedded round 
the bases of the basaltic columns of the epic or the 
drama, like heedless insects or tender ferns which had 
fallen in w^hile those gigantic crystals were slowly 
shaping themselves in the molten entrails of the soul 
all aglow with the hidden fires of inspiration, or like 
the tracks of birds from far-off climes, which had 
lighted upon the ductile mass ere it had hardened into 
eternal rock. They make the lives of the masters of 
the lyre encouragements and helps to us, by teaching 
us humbly to appreciate and sympathize with, as 
men, those whom we should else almost have w^or- 
shipped as beings of a higher order. In Shakespeare's 
dramas we watch with awe the struggles and triumplis 
and defeats, which seem almost triumphs, of his un- 
matched soul ; — in his songs we can yet feel the beat- 
ing of a simple, warm heart, the mate of which can 



282 SONG-WRITING. 

be found under the fii*st homespun frock you meet on 
the high road. He who, instead of carefully pluck- 
ing the fruit from the tree of knowledge, as others are 
fain to, shook down whole showers of leaves and twigs 
and fruit at once ; who tossed down systems of morality 
and philosophy by the handful ; who wooed nature as 
a superior, and who carpeted the very earth beneath 
the delicate feet of his fancy with such flowers of 
poesy as bloom but once in a hundred years, — ^this 
vast and divine genius in his songs and his unequalled 
sonnets, (which are but epic songs, songs written, as it 
were, for an organ or rather ocean accompaniment,) 
shows all the humbleness, and wavering, and self- 
distrust, with which the weakness of the flesh tempers 
souls of the boldest aspiration and most unshaken 
self-help, as if to remind them gently of that brother- 
hood to assert and dignify whose claims they were sent 
forth as apostles. 

We mean to copy a few of the best songs, chiefly 
selecting from those of English poets. To some of 
our readers many of our extracts will be new, and 
those who arc familiar with them will thank us, per- 
haps, for threading so many pearls upon one string. 
We shall begin our specimens by copying the first 
verse of an old English song, the composition of 
which Warton assigns to the beginning of the thir- 
teenth century. There seems to us to be a very 
beautiful and pure animal feeling of nature in it, and 
altogether a freshness and breeziness which is delight- 
ful, after sifting over the curiosse infelicitates of most 
of the later poets. We shall alter the spelUng enough 
to make it intelligible at a glancfe, and change the 



SONG'WBITING. 283 

tense of one of the words to give it the metrical har- 
mony of the original. 

Summer is acoming in, 

Loudly sing cuckoo 1 
Groweth seed, 

And bloweth mead, 
And springeth the wood anew : 

Sing cuckoo I cuckoo! 

There is something in this song to us like the smell 
of a violet, which has a felicity of association to bring 
back the May-day delights of childhood in all their 
innocent simpleness, and cool the feverish brow of the 
present by wreathing around it the dewy flowers of 
the past. There is a straightforward plainness in this 
little verse, which is one of the rarest, as it is also one 
of the most needful, gifts of a poet, who must have a 
man's head and a child's heart. 

Chaucer furnishes us with no specimen of a song, 
which we cannot but lament, since there are verses of 
his, in the " Cuckoo and the Nightingale " and the 
"Flower and the Leaf" especially, which run over 
with sweetness both of sentiment and melody, and 
have all that delightful unintentionalness (if we may 
use the word) which is the charm and essence of a 
true song, in which the heart, as it were, speaks un- 
consciously aloud, and, like Wordsworth's stock dove, 
" broods over its own sweet voice." He is like one of 
those plants which, though they do not blossom, 
sprinkle their leaves with the hues which had been 
prepared in the sap to furnish forth the flowers. 

Although Shakespeare's songs are so familiar, yet 
we cannot resist copying one of them, since we can 



284 SONG'WBITINQ. 

nowhere find such examples .as in him^ who, like 
nature herself, is as minutely perfect in his least as in 
his greatest work. His songs are delicate sea-mosses 
cast up by chance from the deeps of that ocean-like 
heart in whose struggling abysses it seems a wonder 
that such fragile porfectness could have grown up in 
safety. 

** Hark I hark I the lark at heaven's gate sings, 
And Phoebus 'gins arise, 
His steeds to water at those springs 

On chaliced flowers that lies ; 
And winking marybuds begin 

To ope their golden eyes, 
With everything that pretty bin ; 
My lady sweet, arise. 
Arise, arise !*' 

There are some beautiful songs scattered about 
among Beaumont and Fletcher's plays, of which we 
copy one from "The Maid's Tragaly." There is a 
humble plaintiveness in it which is touching. 

" Lay a garland on my hearse 

Of the dismal yew ; 
Maidens, willow-branches bear, 

Say I died true : 
My love was false, but I was firm 

From ray hour of birth : 
Upon my buried bosom lie 

Lightly, gentle earth." 

Ben Jonson was scarcely of fine organization enough 
to write songs of the first order. A vein of prosaic 
common-sense runs quite through him, and he seems 
never to have wholly forgotten his old profession of 



SONO'WEITINO, 286 

bricklaying, generally putting his thoughts together 
with as much squareness and regularity as so many 
bricks. It is only a blissful ignorance which presumes 
that poetic souls want common-sense. In ti*uth^ men 
are poets not in proportion to their want of any faculty 
whatsoever, but inasmuch as they are gifted with a very 
tiTicommon sense, which enables them always to see 
things purely in their relations to spirit, and not matter. 
Rare Ben did not wander musingly up Pai^nassos^ 
lured onward by winding paths and flowery nooks of 
green stillness, and half-glimpses of divine shapes, the 
oreads of that enchanted hill, but, having resolved to 
climb, he struggled manfully up, little heeding what 
flowers he might crush with his stout pedestrian shoes. 
We copy two verses from the " Masque of the For- 
tunate Isles," — merely alluding to his sweet song " To 
Celia,'* as too well known to need quotation. 

" Look forth, thou shepherd of the seas, 
And of the ports that keep'st the keys, 

And to your Neptune tell, 
Macaria, prince of all the isles, 
Wherein there nothing grows but smiles, 

Doth here put in to dwell. 

" The windes are sweet, and gently blow. 
But Zephyrus, no breath they know. 

The father of the flowers : 
By him the virgin violets live, 
And every plant doth odors give 

As new as are the bowers." 

From William Browne, a pastoral j^oet of great 
sweetness and delicacy, we glean the following stanzas. 
They are somewhat similar to those of Jonson, copied 



286 SONQ-WBJTINO. 

above, but are more purely songlike, and more poetical 
in expression. Milton, perhaps, remembered the two 
lines that we have italicized, when he was writing his 
exquisite song in Coraus, a part of which we shall 
presently quote. The verses are from the fifth song 
in the second book of " Brittania's Pastorals.*' 

" Swell then, gently swell, ye floods, 

As proud of what ye bear, 
And nymphs that in low coral woods 

String pearls upon your hair. 
Ascend, and tell if ere this day 

A fairer prize was seen at sea. 

" Blow, but gently blow, fair wind, 

From the forsaken shore, 
And be as to the halcyon kind 

Till we have ferried o'er, 
So may'st thou still have leave to blow 

And fan the way where she shall go.'' 

From Davenant, whose "Gondibert** deserves to 
be better known, if it were only for the excellence of 
its stately preface, we copy the following. It is not a 
very good song, but there is a pleasant exaggeration 
of fancy in it, which is one of the prerogatives of 
knightly lovers, and we can pardon much to a man 
who prevented a dissolute tyrant from "lifting his 
spear against the muse's bower *^ of the blind old 
republican, who was even then meditating Paradise 
Lost. 

" The lark now leaves his watery nest, 
And climbing, shakes his dewy wings ; 
He takes this window for the East, 

And to implore your light he sings : 
' Awake, awake, the mom will never rise 
Till she can dress her beauty at your eyes. 



80NQ-WBITIN0. 287 

" ' The mercHant bows unto the seaman's star, 
The ploughman from the sun his season takes. 
But still the lover wonders what they are, 

Who look for day before his mistress wakes ; 
Awake, awake I break through your veils of lawn. 
Then draw your curtains and begin the dawn I ' '' 

Immediately after the old dramatists come a swarm 
of song-writers, of whom Herrick is perhaps the beefc 
and most unconscious. With great delicacy of senti* 
ment, he often writes with a graceful ease of versifica- 
tion, and a happiness of accent unusual in his time. 
Very aptly did he name his poems " Hesperides/' for 
a huge dragon of grossness and obscenity crawls loath- 
somely among the forest of golden apples. We extract 
his well-known "Night-piece** to Julia, as a good 
specimen of his powers. Many detached fragments 
of his other poems would make beautiful and complete 
songs by themselves. 

" Her eyes the glpw-worm lend thee, 
The shooting stars attend thee, 

And the elves also. 

Whose little eyes glow 
Like sparks of fire, befriend thee. 

"No will-o*-the-wisp mislight thee. 
Nor snake nor slow- worm bite thee ; 

But on, on thy way. 

Not making a stay, 
Since ghosts there's none to afiright thee t 

" Let not the dark thee cumber ; 
What though the moon does slumber, 
The stars of the night 
Will lend thee their light 
Like tapers clear without number ! 



288 SONO-WBITINO. 

" Then, Julia, let me woo thee 
Thus, thus to come unto me ; 

And, when I shall meet 

Thy silvery feet. 
My soul ni pour unto thee I " 

William Habington would deserve a place here, if 
it were only for the tender purity of all his poenis. 
They were addressed to the woman who afterward 
became his wife, and are worthy of a chaste and dig- 
nified love. His poems are scarcely any of them good 
songs, and the one we quote is more remarkable for a 
delicate sympathy with outward nature, which is one 
of the rewai-ds of pure love, than for melody. It is 
*^upon Castara's departure.'' 

" Vows are vain. No suppliant breath 
Stays the speed of swift-heeled death ; 
Life with her is gone, and I 
Learn but a new way to die. 
See, the flowers condole, and all 
Wither in my funeral : 
The bright lily^ as if day 
Parted from her, fades away ; 
Violets hang their heads, lose 
All their beauty ; that the rose 
A sad part in sorrow bears, 
Witness all these dewy tears, 
Which as pearls or diamond like, 
Swell upon her blushing cheek. 
All things mourn, but oh, behold 
How the withered marigold 
Closeth up, now she is gone. 
Judging her the setting sun." 

From Carew's poems we have plucked one little 
flower, fragrant with spring-time and fanciful love. 
It is " The Primrose." 



SONG-WRITING, 289 

" Ask me why I send you here 
This firstling of the infant year, — 
Ask me why I send to you 
This primrose all bepearled with dew, — 
I straight will whisper in your ears, 
The sweets of love are washed with tears : 
Ask me why this flower doth show 
So yellow, green and sickly, too, — 
Ask me why the stalk is weak 
And bending, yet it doth not break, 
I must tell you these discover 
What doubts and fears are in a lover." 

Lovelace is well known for his devoted loyalty as 
well as for the felicity of expression, and occasional 
loftiness of feeling which distinguishes his verses. The 
first stanza of his address to a grasshopper is wonder- 
fully summer-like and full of airy grace. 

" Oh, thou that swingest in the waving hair 
Of some well-filled oaten beard. 
Drunk every night with a delicious tear 
Dropt thee from heaven — '* 

We copy his admired poem, " To Lucasta on going 
to the wars." 

" Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind, 
That from the nunnery 
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind 
To war and arms I fly. 

" True, a new mistress now I chase 
The first foe in the field. 
And with a stronger faith embrace 
A sword, a horse, a shield. 

" Yet this inconstancy is such, 
As you too shall adore ; 
19 



290 SONQ-WBITINO. 

I could not love thee, dear, so much, 
Loved I not honor more." 

Cowley's " Grasshopper," founded on, rather than 
translated from, Anacreon, has all the spontaneous 
merit of an original song. We should quote it had 
we room. Waller, whose fame as a poet far excels his 
general merit, wrote two exquisite songs — "On a 
Rose,'' and "On a Girdle." This last we extract 
The closing lines of the song are in the happiest vein 
of extravagant sentiment. 

" That which her slender waist confined. 
Shall now my joyful temples bind : 
No monarch but would give his crown, 
His arms might do what this has done. 

" It was my heaven's extremest sphere, 
The pale which held that lovely deer: 
My joy, my grief, my hope, my love. 
Did all within this circle move 1 

" A narrow compass I and yet there 
Dwelt all that's good, and all that's fair : 
Give me but what this riband bound. 
Take all the rest the sun goes round I " 

Milton's songs are worthy of him. They are all 
admirable, and we can only wonder how the same 
spirit which revelled in the fierce invective of the 
" Defence against Salmasius" could have been at the 
same time so tenderly sensitive. The lines which we 
copy can scarce be paralleled in any language. 

" Sabrina fair, 
Listen where thou art sitting 
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave, 
In twisted braids of lilies knitting 



SONG'WBITINQ. 291 

I 

The loose train of thine amber-dropping hair ; 
Listen, for dear honor's sake. 
Goddess of the silver lake, 
Listen and save I '' 

The true way of judging the value of any one of 
the arts is by measuring its aptness and power to 
advance the refinement and sustam the natural dignity 
of mankind. Men may show rare genius in amusing 
or satirizing their fellow-beings, or in raising their 
wonder, or in giving them excuses for all manner of 
weakness by making them believe that, although their 
nature prompts them to be angels, they are truly no 
better than worms, — but only to him will death come 
as a timely guide to a higher and more glorious sphere 
of action and duty, who has done somewhat, however 
little, to reveal to its soul its beauty, and to awaken in 
it an aspiration towai'd what only our degradation 
forces us to call an ideal life. It is but a half know- 
ledge which sneers at utilitarianism^ as if that word 
may not have a spiritual as well as a material signif- 
icance. He is indeed a traitor to his better nature 
who would persuade men that the use of anything is 
proportioned to the benefit it confers upon their animal 
part. If the spirit's hunger be not satisfied, the body 
will not be at ease, though it slumber in Sybaris and 
feast with Apicius. It is the soul that makes men 
rich or poor, and he who has given a nation a truer 
conception of beauty, which is the body of truth, as 
love is its spirit, has done more for its happiness and 
to secure its freedom than if he had doubled its 
defences or its revenue. He who has taught a man to 
look kindly on a flower or an insect, has thereby made 



292 soyO' wEiTiyG. 

Lim sensible of the beiiurv of tenderneas toward men, 
aud rendertJ charitv and lovini: kindness so much 
the rat"»re e.isy, and so muoh the more necessary 
to him. To make life more reverend in tlie eyes 
of the redued and tJuoatc\l may be a noble am- 
l»iti'»n in the scholar or the p'.'et, but to reveal to 
the p«x"»r and igruonint and degraded those divine 
arms of the eternal l-cau:v which encircle them 
lovin^rlv hv dav and nich:, i*y tca-.h them that they 
als-.i are ihildrL-u *.>( one Fa:her, and the nearer haply 
to his lu?:ir: f«.^r the ver\- waut and wretchedness which 
half-i>eriruadcd them they wore oq^han and forgotten, 
thi-s, truly, is the r:isk of one who is greater than the 
px?t or the scholar, namely, a true man, — and this 
belong* to the suUir- writer. The jK^et, as he wove his 
simple rhymes of love, or the humble delights of the 
j»)r, dreameil not how many toil-worn eyes brightened 
and how many tyrant lioarts softened with reviving 
memories of childho<xi and innocence. That which 
alone can make men truly hapj>v and exalted in 
nature is freedom : and freedom of spirit, without 
which mere ho^lilv libertv is but vilest slaverv, can 
only l^e ar-hieveil by cultivating men's sympathy with 
the beautiful. The heart that makes free only is free, 

and the tvrant alwavs is trulv the bondman of his 

* . • 

slaves. The longing of every soul is for freedom, 
which it gains only by helping other souls to theirs. 
The power of the song-writer is exalted above others 
in this, that his words bring solace to the lowest ranks 
of men, loosing their spirits from thraldom by cher- 
ishing to life again their numbed and deadened sym- 
pathies, and bringing them forth to expand and purify 



SONO-WBITINQ. 293 

in the unclouded, impartial sunshine of humanity. 
Here, truly, is a work worthy of angels, whose bright- 
ness is but the more clearly visible when they are 
ministering in the dark and benighted hovels of life, 
and whose wings grow to a surer and more radiant 
strength, while they are folded to enter these humblest 
tenements of clay, than when they are outspread 
proudly for tlie loftiest and most exulting flight. . The 
divinity of man is indeed wonderful and glorious in 
the mighty and rare soul, but how much more so is it 
in the humble and common one, and how far greater a 
thing is it to discern and reverence it there ! We hear 
men often enough speak of seeing God in the stars 
and the flowers, but they will never be truly religious 
till they learn to behold him in each other also, 
where he is most easily yet most rarely discovered. 
But to have become blessed enough to find him in 
anything is a sure pledge of finding him in all ; and 
many times, perhaps, some snatch of artless melody 
floating over the land, as if under the random tutelage 
of the breeze, may have given the hint of its high 
calling to many a soul which else had lain torpid and 
imbruted. Great principles work out their fulfilment 
with the slightest and least regarded tools, and destiny 
may chance to speak to us in the smell of a buttercup 
or the music of the commonest air. 

After beginning this article, we soon found that the 
limits of a single number were far too narrow to bring 
down our specimens to the neighborhood of the prefh 
ent day. Many of the modern songs are the best that 
have been written, and will better sustain our high 
estimate than those which we have been obliged to 



294 SONG-WBITINO. 

quofce in order to give our remarks some slight show 
of completeness throughout. We have perhaps spoken 
rather according to our idea of what songs should be, 
than to a strict estimate of what they are. We shall 
resume the subject at some future day, and give some- 
thing toward a more complete analysis of the subject 
than our time has allowed us in this essay. 



THE END. 

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