« ElőzőTovább »
To revert to the famous theory, what do Messrs. Henley and Henderson make of "Tam o' Shanter" and "The Jolly Beggars?" Do these works of genius help to prove or disprove that Burns was the last expression of the old Scots world and the outcome of an environment plus Scots forebears, rather than a pioneer in poetry, a prophet with a distinct point of view from his predecessors? Well, the "Centenary" edition does not attempt to derive "Tam o' Shanter" at all. Of "The Jolly Beggars" it says frankly: "The Burns of this 'puissant and splendid production,' as Matthew Arnold calls it—this irresistible presentation of humanity caught in the act, and summarized forever in the terms of art-comes into line with divers poets of repute, from our own Dekker and John Fletcher to the singer of les Gueux (1813) and “Le Vieux Vagabond" (1830), and approves himself their master in the matter of such qualities as humor, vision, lyrical potency, descriptive style, and the faculty of swift, dramatic presentation, to a purpose that may not be gainsaid." Does not that give away the whole case? The poet of "The Jolly Beggars" was neither the satirist and singer of a parish, nor the product of a local or traditionary environment, ever so many forebears aiding. He imitated, copied, and stole much; that is proved to the hilt, and never more conclusively or completely than here. But when an attempt is made to place him in the hierarchy of literature, his imitative work must be assigned its proper, recognized value, and that which he invented (in the widest sense of the term, including form and point of view) must be taken as the decisive evidence of distinction. But the note on "The Jolly Beggars" is in itself a monument of knowledge of the literature of mendicancy and knavery, and will be precious to all time.
It is in the third volume, recently published, that Messrs. Henley and Henderson are most successful, as they were bound to be, in proving Burns to be the last expression of the old Scots world, although their theory unquestionably
leads them to exaggerate a little his debt to his "nameless forebears," and to minimize, by ever so little, the broad distinction between him and the writers of the songs which he "passed through the mint of his mind." It is not easy to see how they can prove-and they do not attempt it-that the masterqualities of "fresh and taking simplicity, of vigor and directness, and happy and humorous ease," came to Burns from his nameless forebears, along with "much of the thought, the romance, and the sentiment, for which we read and love him." But theory apart, students are deeply indebted for the study in the origins of Burns's songs which is here presented to them. The editors have utilized a vast mass of material which previous editors have but skimmed-broadsides, chap-books, rare song-books, the great collections of David Herd, including the British Museum manuscripts, even "The Merry Muses," an invaluable guide, rightly used. The Lochryan manuscripts, embracing unpublished letters of Burns to Mrs. Dunlop, have furnished them with a number of interesting facts, such as the poet's explicit statement that "Sweet Afton" was written for Johnson's Musical Museum as a "compliment" to the "small river Afton that flows into the Nith, near New Cumnock, which has some charming wild romantic scenery on its banks." Their treatment of Burns's inheritance from the clandestine literature of Scotland, and of England too, is excellent. The poet's relations with Johnson and Thomson are carefully and accurately set forth, and sufficient proof is furnished from his correspondence in the Hastie manuscripts, and from certain manuscript material in the possession of Mr. George Gray, Rutherglen, that he was virtually editor of the Museum from 1787 till his health began to fail. The Thomson songs are justly placed on a lower level than those which he passed through the mint to Johnson, though one may fairly demur to the sweeping criticism that "they are often vapid in sentiment and artificial in effect."
A good example of the editing of a
the critical appreciation of Burns's song-writing. "Under his hand," say Messrs. Henley and Henderson, "a patch-work of catch-words became a living song. He would take you two fragments of different epochs, select the best from each, and treat the matter of his choice in such a style that it is hard to know where its components end and begin; so that nothing is certain about his result except that it is a work of art. Or he would capture a wandering old refrain, adjust it to his own conditions, and so renew its lyrical interest and significance that it seems to live its true life for the first time on his lips." Their own work supplies, for the first time, sufficient detailed evidence of the truth of that scarcely original thesis. There are errors of taste in the "Centenary Burns," but these and some slips in accuracy apart, it stands forth as the classical edition or the poetry of Robert Burns.
song is the note on "M'Pherson's Fare- and invaluable body of contributions to well." The Herd set is traced to an old broadside "The Last Words of James Macpherson, Murderer," with the corollary-"That it is excellent drama that has bred the ridiculous tradition-devoutly accepted by certain editors-that the hero wrote it." And Peter Buchan's copy is declared to be a clumsy vamp from Burns and the original. Take, again, the note on "Up in the Morning Early." D'Urfey's authorship of the original ballad is not assailed, though doubt is cast upon it by the existence of a set in a "Collection of Old Ballads" (London, 1723), described as "said to have been written in the time of James." Hogg and Motherwell's "well known song" is said to be a vamp from Burns, and Burns's chorus at least is clearly traced to its immediate source in a hitherto unknown set in the Herd manuscript. We have remarked the discovery which settles the ancient controversy about "Afton Water." But these are mere tastings of an inimitable
A Queer Friendship.-While visiting in Herefordshire last week I noticed a curious instance of a wild duck having become on friendly terms with a pair of wood pigeons. As I had never heard of such a thing before, I venture to send you an account of the circumstances. A pair of domesticated wild ducks were brought up on a pond last year, and during the winter the duck was accidentally shot by some one. The mallard mained on the pond, but seemed very unhappy, and used to fly around repeatedly, as if looking for his mate. Some two months ago the mallard was frequently seen to be flying around in company with one or two wood pigeons, and would accompany them to the surrounding fields and walk about with them while they fed. Every now and then it would take a flight with them when they rose.
The wood pigeons have established themselves in an oak tree overhanging the pond, and are evidently going to nest there. They have been seen to start off on a flight from the tree, and the mallard would at once rise from the pond and join them, when they would fly round and chase one another as if in play. The wood pigeons frequently visit the garden close by, and have lately been observed feeding on some green peas which are growing there. The mallard walks about the garden with them. At the bottom of the garden is a stone wall about three feet high, with a broad, flat top, and the wood pigeons frequently fly from the garden and perch on the wall; the mallard has been seen to do the same, waddling about on the wall and seeming on the best possible terms with them.-The Field.
PUBLISHED EVERY SATURDAY BY
THE LIVING AGE COMPANY, BOSTON.
FOR SIX DOLLARS remitted directly to the Publishers, THE LIVING AGE will be punctually forwarded for a year, free of postage.
Remittances should be made by bank draft or check, cr by post-office money order, if possible. If neither of these can be procured, the money should be sent in a registered letter. All postmasters are obliged to register letters when requested to do so. Drafts, checks, and money-orders should be made payable to the order of THE LIVING AGE Co.
Single copies of THE LIVING AGE. 15 cents.
From The National Review.
Plutarch has written "Parallel
The most striking resemblance between them is their mastery of style. Newman has long been recognized as one of the crowned and sceptred kings of English prose literature, without a competitor save Ruskin; but as a spiritual teacher, a light in the world of religious development, he is by far the greatest that has risen up during our century. On the other hand,
among illustrious French writers has excelled Renan? I speak of the supreme French achievement, again of prose not of poetry; and I call to mind
1 Letters and Correspondence of J. H. Newman, edited by Anne Mozley. London, 1891.
Lettres Intimes: 842-1845, précédées par Sœur Henriette," par E. Renan. Paris, 1896.
Chateaubriand, George Sand, Victor Hugo-these are the highest modern names-but can we praise them beyond the choice, and music-breathing, and exquisite, and endlessly cunning artist who, by a secret known to himself and none other, has combined the Celtic the and the classic eloquence, stolen hearts of friends and enemies, hidden the charm of his persuasiveness in words as simple as they are touching, and given to a phrase or epithet power so strange, that once heard, it never will be forgotten? What a specious miracle is here, and how slight a value do we set on Hugo's chaotic splendors when this enchantment has taken hold of us! But such was Renan. He has wrapped himself in the cloak of the wizard Prospero, borrowing for the nonce his staff and magic volume, not unsuccessfully. Now, if
we should think of Newman as Ariel, a spirit most delicate, detached, and filled with heavenly light, the terms of our comparison would not be wanting.
I propose to draw out briefly some of the resemblances and the contrasts which have been brought home to me in reading the remains, and especially what is now published from their correspondence, of these memorable per
But I shall not pretend to do more than illustrate a large subject. So little as Shall I accomplish even that? I cannot tell; but if the keen personal feeling which comes over me when I turn to either Newman or Renan be any proof that one has entered into their thought, their way of looking at the nature of things, their peculiar and individual spirit; if to be charmed is the secret of interpretation, and yet to be critical under so mighty a spell is some token of clear-sightedness, then I would take courage from the omens vouchsafed me. Perhaps it is impossible for those who never knew the Catholic Church by experience to understand how Newman came at last to join it, almost in his own despite; and still less, I am confident, will they, without some rare dramatic power, which t comprehend the attraction ceased not to exercise upon Renan, al