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or Byron's, from the third canto of 'Childe Harold,'
'A populous solitude of bees and birds,
Of fairy-formed and many-coloured things,
or, indeed, the whole description of Lake Leman; or that of the temple near the Clitumnus, in the fourth canto. It is true passages of this kind cannot be regarded as of altogether so high a kind as the perception and expression of the spiritual influences of nature, as they work upon man. In this rare gift of spiritual imagination the poems of Wordsworth and Coleridge abound. It is scarcely necessary to quote such well-known lines as
Who worship him with notes more sweet than words,
'And beauty born of murmuring sound
'A being breathing thoughtful breath,
'They flash upon that inward eye
'The spirit who bideth by himself
He loved the bird who loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.'
It would be extremely unjust to Shelley to deny that he also possessed this gift. Too generally his mind was full of his own troubles; but when he got free of these, as he did sometimes, then his delicacy of nature made itself felt in poetry of the most pure and refined insight. We do not think that he ever wrote an entire poem of the very highest order; but there are passages in him with respect to which praise is felt to be rude and almost insolent, so tender are they, so spontaneous, so little written for admiration, so full of nobility of thought and feeling, so penetrative into the nature of man. His most popular poems can scarcely be said to be of this nature; but many such passages will occur to those who are well acquainted with him. Let us quote some lines from 'Epipsychidion,' the most exquisite, and perhaps the least known, of anything that he ever wrote;
"This isle and house are mine, and I have vowed
Thee to be lady of the solitude.
And I have fitted up some chambers there
And level with the living winds, which flow
We too will rise, and sit, and walk together,
The mossy mountains, where the blue heavens bend
True Love in this differs from gold and clay,
If you divide suffering and dross, you may
If you divide pleasure and love and thought,
It cannot be said that Byron is distinguished for spirituality in any part of his writings. It is the want of this in him that disposes some English critics to undervalue him, as if it was a mere mistake that he was ever thought a poet; and on the other hand, the relatively high rank which is assigned to him on the continent may be partly owing to the fact, that delicate penetrativeness of imagination is apt to evaporate when surveyed through the medium of a foreign language,, whereas the broad effects do not. Yet we cannot admit that the estimate of Byron which has been formed by continental writers
is to be thrown aside as worthless. The greatest of all poets, and of all critics in this century-Goethe-speaks of Byron in almost transcendental terms of admiration; and his opinion is shared by the most eminent German critics of the present day. It is to them simply inexplicable, that any Englishman should fail to appreciate the grandeur and originality of Byron's genius, and should for one moment think of comparing him with Tennyson or Browning, or any of the modern Epigoni.' Very characteristic indeed is the manner in which Goethe, in the 'Lebensverhältniss,' written soon after Byron's death, speaks of the whirl of temper and squabble and abuse' in which many of the great Briton's compatriots had been, as it were, reeling around him during his lifetime. Now,' he says, 'his nation will of a sudden wake, and become sober, and comprehend that all the husks and dross of time and individuality through which and out of which every one of us must work his way, were but things of the moment, most transient in their nature, and of no real account; while the amazing fame to which he has lifted up his country, now and for ever, must remain boundless in its splendour and without limits in its consequences.' 'Assuredly,' he continues, this nation (the English) which may boast of so many great names, will place him, glorified, with those from whom it will ever have to derive its own honour.' Goethe's own attempts, fragmentary though they be, at reproducing Manfred' and 'Don Juan,' are well known. Nay, he actually went so far as to propose to all the most talented translators' of Germany to try their hands in unison on the last-named poem, which he calls a work of unlimited genius.' And almost droll is the way in which he defends himself against the possible outcry of the German Philistines against this proposal. These attempts, he says, need not exactly be printed, but might be used and 'modestly developed as an exercise of good talented heads' among the few. But with a fine homethrust at easily-shocked hypocrisy, he adds: 'Yet, looking closely at the matter, there is scarcely much to be apprehended from a publication of such poems for the cause of public morals. Both poets and prose writers would have to do very extraordinary things indeed if they would be more fraught with corruption than the public journals of the day.'
Never, perhaps, has a great poet immortalised another great poet in the way Goethe has done with regard to Byron. The latter, in the second part of 'Faust,' appears as Euphorion, the offspring of Faust and Helena: or of the depth of the Germanic mind, wedded to the plastic beauty of Hellas. In the Greek myth Euphorion is the son of Achilles and Helena, born on the Isles of the Blessed, winged, and of beautiful stature,
The beautiful youth in
and killed by Jupiter's lightnings. Faust suddenly falls dead at the feet of his parents- the Aureola mounts cometlike heavenwards, the lyre and the mantle remain on the ground,' and the chorus intones this dirge:
'Wüssten wir doch kaum zu klagen,
The beauty and perfume of these lines necessarily evaporate in a translation; but we subjoin Mr. Theodore Martin's version of them :
'Dirges none we'll sing in sadness,
Enviously we chaunt thy fate!
Like thy soul, was fair and great.
Gifted, of a race subline,
Nipp'd like blossom in its prime.
Thine a heart that felt for all;
And a song most magical.
Sway'd by wayward impulse still,
With the laws that curb the will;
But thy soul, at length victorious,
Which from Fate wrings no reply,
That which distinguishes Byron from all other poets of this century, from almost all other poets that have ever lived, is his political poetry. He had little sympathy with man as man, and little sympathy with men as individuals; but he had profound sympathy with nations. For liberty, wherever he saw it, he had an enthusiasm neither fanatical nor theoretical; neither the enthusiasm of a conspirator, nor that of a philosopher; but the enthusiasm of a man who knew something of the breadth of the world, who was not deficient in common sense, and yet had abundant store of feeling. Here was a subject which there was little need of subtlety to appreciate; here his strength of grasp found a fit ally in his magnificent power over imagery :
'Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying,
Streams like the thunderstorm against the wind;
These were lines which even Wordsworth, little as he was disposed to appreciate Byron, acknowledged to be genuine poetry. And can his 'Ode to Greece' be forgotten? or those stanzas in the second canto of Childe Harold ?'
'This must he feel, the trueborn son of Greece,
Ah! Greece! they love thee least who owe thee most;
When riseth Lacedæmon's hardihood,