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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 innocently open their glad wings-'


'And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face;'

'A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller between life and death;'

'They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;'

'The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,

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
Locking towards the golden Eastern air,

H 2


And level with the living winds, which flow
Like waves above the living waves below.
I have sent books and music there, and all
Those instruments with which high spirits call
The future from its cradle, and the past
Out of its grave, and make the present last
In thoughts and joys which sleep, but cannot die,
Folded within their own eternity.


We too will rise, and sit, and walk together,
Under the roof of blue Ionian weather,
And wander in the meadows, or ascend

The mossy mountains, where the blue heavens bend
With lightest winds, to touch their paramour;
Or linger, where the pebble-paven shore
Under the quick faint kisses of the sea
Trembles and sparkles as with ecstacy,
Possessing and possest by all that is
Within that calm circumference of bliss,
And by each other, till to love and live
Be one:

True Love in this differs from gold and clay,
That to divide is not to take
Love is like understanding, that grows bright,
Gazing on many truths;

If you divide suffering and dross, you may
Diminish till it is consumed away;

If you divide pleasure and love and thought,
Each part exceeds the whole; and we know not
How much, while any yet remains unshared,
Of pleasure may be gained, of sorrow spared:
This truth is that deep well, whence sages draw
The unenvied light of hope.'

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

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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,
Neidend singen wir dein Loos:
Dir in klar' und trüben Tagen
Lied und Muth war schön und gross.
Ach! zum Erdenglück geboren,
Hoher Ahnen, grosser Kraft,
Leider früh dir selbst verloren,
Jugendblüthe weggerafft;
Scharfer Blick die Welt zu schauen,
Mitsinn jedem Herzensdrang,
Liebesgluth der besten Frauen
Und ein eigenster Gesang.
Doch du ranntest unaufhaltsam
Frei ins willenlose Netz,
So entzweitest du gewaltsam
Dich mit Sitte, mit Gesetz;
Doch zuletzt das höchste Sinnen
Gab dem reinen Muth Gewicht,
Wolltest Herrliches gewinnen,-
Aber es gelang dir nicht.
Wem gelingt es?-Trübe Frage,
Der das Schicksal sich vermummt,
Wenn am unglückseligsten Tage
Blutend alles Volk verstummt.'

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!
For thy song in grief or gladness,

Like thy soul, was fair and great.
Born to earthly bliss, most rarely

Gifted, of a race subline,
Yet, alas! call'd hence too early,

Nipp'd like blossom in its prime.
Thine a vision was divine, too,

Thine a heart that felt for all;
Woman's fondest love was thine, too,

And a song most magical.
Yet didst thou in wild defiance,

Sway'd by wayward impulse still,
Spurn at rule, and all compliance

With the laws that curb the will;


But thy soul, at length victorious,
Shall from wisdom earn its due;
Thou didst seek the greatly glorious,
But couldst not attain it too.
Who does attain it? Sad inquiry,

Which from Fate wrings no reply,
When, on the day of anguish fiery,
The nations mute and gory lie.'

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;
Thy trumpet voice, though broken now and dying,
The loudest still the tempest leaves behind.'

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,
If Greece one trueborn patriot yet can boast;
Not such as prate of war, but skulk in peace,
The bondsman's peace, who sighs for all he lost,
Yet with smooth smile his tyrant can accost,
And wield the slavish sickle, not the sword;

Ah! Greece! they love thee least who owe thee most;
Their birth, their blood, and that sublime record
Of hero sires, who shame thy now degenerate horde!

When riseth Lacedæmon's hardihood,
When Thebes Epaminondas rears again,
When Athens' children are with hearts endued,
When Grecian mothers shall give birth to men,
Then may'st thou be restored; but not till then.
A thousand years scarce serve to form a state;
An hour may lay it in the dust and when
Can man its shatter'd splendour renovate,
Recall its virtues back, and vanquish Time and Fate?'


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