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printed, the original “Modern Love," balance effected by the new method, the which was selected by the author for new choice of subject. Or rather let us republication as a separate volume in say that with each original poet a novel 1892, accompanied by some new poems. aspect of things is brought into the forc
The best order in which first to read ground, a new predominant purpose is Mr. Meredith's poetry is not, I think, the displayed. With Tennyson the main chronological order. If one begins with purpose was to bend his language to his "A Reading of Earth,” and passes to the thought so that no verse should escape remaining volumes by way of the him unenriched by a musical cadence, “Poems and Lyrics of the Joy of Earth,” that no arrow unfeathered with melody one moves more easily, receives a more should leave his bow. With Mr. Merc. continuous, a more unbroken impres- dith the main purpose is achieved if no sion, and enters at once into sympathy line, no phrase escape him uninformed with the attitude of the author. And by force, if he discharge no shaft unMr. Meredith's attitude, his choice of winged or unweighted with thought, subject, and his method require to be Hence obscurity is the charge brought acquiesced in—"not to sympathize is not against him; he has been called an inarto understand.” A poet commonly ticulate poet, and indisputably he is at places himself en rapport with his audi- times obscure. But like Browning's, ence by his choice of subject or by the Mr. Meredith's obscurity arises out of adoption of a familiar method, and he is the number and fervency of his ideas; accustomed as artist to retire to a dis- he is obscure because he has so much to tance from his work and to contemplate say and is in such haste to say it, and its effect from a point of view not en- moreover insists upon his own point of tirely his own. He has during the crea- view and demands from his reader that tive process his audience in his eye. If flexibility of intelligence, that intelleche is unable or unwilling to gain this tual activity necessary to the appreciaremoteness from his own creation, if ne tion of an unfamiliar poetic method. declines to place himself either by And obscurity is after all the vaguest of choice of subject or by the adoption of charges. Gray was accounted obscure; a familiar method at the universal point Shelley intolerably obscure; Tennyson, of view, he demands an unusual intel even our popular Tennyson, in the days lectual activity from his readers, and of his early triumphs was censured for wins his way with them certainly more his obscurity. And if the readers of gradually, perhaps not at all. Approval Browning are content to travel far, and of his choice of subject, approval of bis at times even with lagging step, to catch method, are not assured him until it be sight of splendors such as this, granted that the effect has justified the means. For a law of parsimony holds
I shall keep your honor-safe;
With mine I trust you, as the sculptor in art: the old methods are sealed by
trust acceptance, and a new, if not successful, Yon marble woman with the marble rose, is an impertinence.
Loose on her hand, she never will let fall, The onus probandi rests with such a
In graceful, slight, silent security. poet to show good reason for his departure from accredited poetic example, then the readers of Mr. Meredith may The progress of Wordsworth through well be content to undergo occasional ridicule to fame was the progress of a mental fatigue for the sake of, let us poet of determined independence in say, such a magnificent "Meditation choice of subject as well as in poetic under Stars” as thismethods. Yet opposition once come, it is the poet with the note of We who reflect those rays, though low our
place strangeness in his voice to whom we re
To them are lastingly allied. turn-the note of strangeness is the note of individuality. In poetry, too, as in all Not frosty lamps illumining dead space,
So nay we read, and little find them cold; art, there is a compromise effected, and Not distant aliens, not senseless powers, the note of strangeness is the mark of The fire is in them whereof we are born; the fresh compromise, the alteration of The music of their motion may be ours.
Spirit shall deem them beckoning Earth usually, though with brilliant instances and voiced
to the contrary, lacks the sensuous eleSisterly to her, in her beams rejoiced.
ment, usually fails to express that eleOf love, the grand impulsion we bebold
ment as vividly as it expresses the inThe love that lends her grace
tellectual. Language, especially the Among the starry fold. Then at new flood of customary morn.
language of poetry, has an office other Look at her through her showers,
than that of mirroring with precision a Her mists, her streaming gold.
train of ideas; it must make appeal to A wonder edges the familiar face: the senses, to the eye and to the ear, to She wears no more that robe of printed the memory and its associations, to the hours;
imagination and its dreams. Yet this is Half strange seems Earth, and sweeter
not the day nor the hour to complain of than her flowers.1
poetry in which the intellectual element
outbalances the sensuous; rather we It may freely be granted that in general we have too continuous a strain, too
owe to poetry of which this is true a
debt of gratitude. A little thought goes unrelieved an emphasis in Mr. Meredith's poetry. It lacks breathing
far in modern verse, and the critics as
sure us that even that little is unnecesspaces, points of repose for the imagination. Once we have ascended his po
sary. “Poetry,” Mr. Henley tells us, “is etic car we are borne along at full speed, style.” And in Mr. Meredith's poetry a speed that is rarely slackened until
the very force and intensity of his the goal be reached. Thus it comes that thought communicate a beauty to his
in one cannot read for long in these vol- phrase—the beauty that shines umes, as in Tennyson's; one cannot fleet strength. Take this of Byron's "Madthe time carelessly with this poet is
fred"with Mr. William Morris. Mr. Meredith is not of the singers who simply say the Considerably was the world most heart-easing things, who lead us Of spinsterdom and clergy racked to their favorite haunts by wood or
When he his hinted horrors hurled, stream and discourse music to us that
And she pictorially attacked.
A duel hugeous! Tragic? Ho! we may drink oblivion of care and pass
The cities, not the mountains blow into a many-colored dream of flitting Such bladders; in their shapes confessed shadows. And if he fall short as a poet, An after dinner's indigest.? it is that his poetry is too strenuous to be altogether peaceful, and that the im
But we should wrong Mr. Meredith by pressions received from it are too saying that his is always the music from crowded to permit of that leisurely sip- an iron string. That he is master of a ping of the cup, that tranquil enjoyment manner besides this of rugged force is which is essential to the due apprecia- easily demonstrable. The critic will tion of poetry. Poetry and haste are need to search diligently through Eneternal incompatibles. One cannot bolt glish poetry to discover a poem of more a stanza in the five minutes' interval be- blithe and gracious sweetness, more tween engagements, nor can one find radiant with the dew and sunshine of perfect happiness in the company of a morning, with the captivating joyance poet whose pace is always a gallop. of youth than “Love in a Valley.” The Mr. Meredith's verse has caught conta
measure—and it may be noted that in gion from the hurry and the bustle of
metres Mr. Meredith greatly and sucmodern life. And his utterance, too, is a cessfully dares-the measure itself staccato utterance. It would be untrue dances to the tripping pulses of the to say of him that there was no light
young blood. and shade in his conceptions, but there is often an absence of light and shade in
Cool was the woodside; cool as her white his expression. And though Mr. Mere
dairy dith conceives aright the sensuous as
Keeping sweet the cream-pan; and there well as the intellectual life, his poetry the boys from school,
1 A Reading of Earth, p. 12.
2 Ballads and Poems of Tragic Life, P, 68.
Cricketing below, rushed red and brown But to enter into the true spirit of Mr. with sunshine;
Meredith's poetry of nature, we must () the dark translucence of the deep
come to it by way of “A Reading of eyed cool!
Earth.” We are constantly assured by
modern criticism and by the practice of Could I find a place to be alone with
modern poets that it is no part of the heaven, I would speak my heart out: heaven is poet's duty to be a teacher, that the exmy need.
position of belief lies altogether outside Every woodland tree is flushing like the the province of art. Mr. Meredith dog-wood,
abides by the tradition of the greater Flashing like the white beam, swaying English poets, Spenser and Milton and like the reed.
Wordsworth, and his poetry frankly Fushing like the dog-wood crimson in outlines a faith, delineates a philosophy October;
of life. It is a creed of full and lasting Streaming like the flag-reed south-west blown;
"joy in the old heart of things;" but how Flashing as in gusts the sudden-lighted hold and live by that creed in the face white beam;
of the certain sorrows, the uncertain All seem to know what is for heaven issues, the unavoidable partings of life, alone.
the knowledge that Here, and in a pastoral not reprinted The word of the world is adieu. from his earliest volume, Mr. Meredith's Her word; and the torrents are round verse bubbles, and creams and ripples The jawed wolf-waters of prey ?3 from the very founts of spring and to preserve for the human race during summer.
its dark hours the heart of hope, the Come, and like bees will we gather the
faith that there is some soul of goodness rich golden honey of noontide in things evil, that evil itself is not imDeep in the sweet summer meadows, mortal, and that the destiny of man is
bordered by hill-side and river. . something more than to die, to preserve O joy thus to revel all day in the grass of this heart of hope and this faith is not our own belov'd country,
the meanest achievement of the poet. Revel all day till the lark mounts at eve
Yet, when this faith and this hope are with his sweet "tirra-lirra;"
threatened, so exclusively does the Thrilling delightfully.
poetic spirit seem to feed upon the The lyric beauty of poems such as these beauty and the pathos of life that the will recall to readers of the novels the poets often offer us no more than a sad passion-brimming lyrical enchantments philosophy of inaifference," or a fuller woven in the “Ferdinand and Miranda” life of the senses, the worship of the chapters of “Richard Feverel,” beside flesh in despair of soul. But Mr. Merewhich I do not know that there is any- dith in this also abides by the poetic thing in literature to be placed since tradition of the greater poets and re“Romeo and Juliet” itself. In others of fuses to despair of soul. The resurgeut the “Poems and Lyrics of the Joy of brood of questions to which earth, our Earth” is heard the same clear lark-like mother, replies not are but the brood of trill of gladness, a music as of the early unfaith, and earth's silence argues no world untouched by human pain or sor- indifference to her children. Of those row, a song of the elements,
who ask them Water, first of singers, o'er rocky mount Earth whispers they scarce have the and mead,
thirst, First of earthly singers, the sun-loved Except to unriddle a rune; rill
And I spin none; only show, Sang of him, and flooded the ripples on the Would humanity soar from its worst, reed
Winged above darkness and dole, Seeking whom to waken and what ear How flesh unto spirit must grow. fill.?
Spirit raves not for a goal. 1 Poems and Lyrics of the Jog of Earth, p. 05.
it trusts 2 Ibid. p. 73.
3 A Reading of Eartb, p. 71.
Uses my gifts yet aspires
Nothing harms beneath the leaves Dreams of a higher than it."
More than waves a swimmer cleaves.
Toss your head up with the lark, In "A Faith on Trial" and in "Earth
Foot at peace with mouse and worm, and Man" Mr. Meredith sets forth a
Fair you fare. spiritual philosophy of courageous faith, Only at a dread of dark a philosophy akin in some respects to Quaver, and they quit their form, that of Wordsworth, but informed by Thousand eyeballs under hoods the later spirit of scientific realism. Have you by the hair. The poet is now, as the man of the fu
Enter these enchanted woods,
You who dare.“ ture will be, as we are all fast becoming, neither idealist nor realist, neither Few among Mr. Meredith's poems are one nor the other, because both. If Mr. more quaintly, and at the same time Meredith in his poetry rejects with the more powerfully, conceived than this, unalterable mien of physical science "The Woods of Westermain." The very any mystical explanation of things spirit of the forest is abroad in it, a which leaves the facts and laws of the mystery of life lurks in the thicket and great external world of our physical na- among the leaves. With it should be ture out of account, he rejects with read “Melampus”– equal firmness the philosophy of immediate conclusions based upon the Where others hear but a hum and see but
a beam, slight and meagre knowledge we pos- The tongue and eye of the fountain of life sess. Like the Christian's, Mr. Mere
he knew.' dith's word is “Faith till proof be
Here, as in all his nature-poems, Mr. ready." Only when the lesson of
Meredith moves with the firm step of A fortitude quiet as Earth's
one to whom the path is a familiar one; At the shedding of leaves
a subtle accuracy of observation shines has been duly learned, only when the the death of Wordsworth for whom na
in every epithet. There is no poet since attitude of
ture has meant so much as for Mr. unfaith clamoring to be coined Meredith. From many of his poems one To faith by proof
might conceive him as entirely preoccu
pied with nature, a close and eager stuhas been abandoned, can the inheritance dent, to whom the world of individual of the children of Earth be entered
men and women was little more than a upon, the children whose love is with- shadowland. How far this is wide of out fear, who have taken to heart the truth readers of Mr. Meredith's Earth's counsel,
novels are indeed aware; and perhaps
we need go no further for convincing “And if thou hast good faith, it can re
proof, if any were needed, of the mental pose,” She tells her son.3
grasp and breadth displayed in his
work, a breadth and grasp unmatched The poem which stands first in the
in the work of any living man. The volume of “Poems and Lyrics of the Joy place occupied by nature in modern of Earth” conveys a warning on the poetry since the advent of Wordsworth threshold to those about to enter on the
must in large measure be associated inheritance, the harvest of full delight with the growth of a knowledge of nain companionship with Earth. These ture, and the desire for that knowledge are enchanted woods, and the only displayed in scientific investigation. charm that affords protection is a spirit
With Mr. Meredith nature is not so of courageous confidence.
much, as with Wordsworth, an object of
impassioned contemplation, an enclaspEnter these enchanted woods,
ing presence, the source of spiritual You who dare,
ecstasy. She is rather nature as re1 A Reading of Earth, p. 99. 2 Ibid. p. 67.
4 Poems and Lyrics of the Joy of Earth, p. 1 3 Poems and Lyrics of the Joy of Earth, p. 128 5 Ibid. p. 83.
VOL. XV. 786
vealed to us by science, the eternal ac- own. How much of the poetry of taltivity, the nature that overflows with ent, how much even of the poetry of individual life. And an enduring place genius, fails because it does not go deep among the English poets is assured to enough, because it does not lay hold of Mr. Meredith if for this alone, that he is reality! Mr. Meredith's poetry of nathe first to accept fearlessly the view of ture lays firm hold of reality. Just as
ture offered by modern science, and Browning had no fear of the real, but not to accept it only, but to find that delighted in the uncouth, the forbidding, view vitally poetic and inspiring. For the extravagant natural formsthis he will be remembered. He will be remembered and honored as that coura
See our fisher arrive geous spirit who, when his companions And pitch down his basket before us; all were assailed by fears, embraced with
With pink and gray jellies, your sea-fruit; ready welcome the entire unbroken ring,
you touch the strange lumps, the whole result of science, and, claim
And mouths gape there, eyes open, all ing this too as a province of art, drew
manner of horns and of humpsfrom the new truths fresh auguries and hopes and lessons for humanity.
so Mr. Meredith does not fear the real, Mr. Meredith's study of nature is that and does not reserve himself to celeof the naturalist, the naturalist who brate nature in has become the passionate lover. He would have us believe that a closer inti- Her pomp of glorious hues, macy with nature will serve to prove Her revelries of ripeness, her kind smile.3 her
His “cosmic enthusiasm" is without Mother of simple truth,
reservations, his spiritual freedom unRelentless quencher of lies,
trammelled and entire. Eternal in thought,
"The Ballads and Poems of Tragic and to dispel the unworthy apprehen
Life” display Mr. Meredith in his charsions which, judging her with shrinking acteristic, his unmistakable style, the
style which is the despair of so many nerves, makes her “a cruel sphinx,"
readers. Here are ballads, indeed, but A mother of aches and jests; not of that species which may be defined Soulless, heading a hunt,
as the simplest and most direct form of Aimless except for the meal.
narrative poetry. To disentangle these She is before and above all the Earth tales one must proceed warily, and piece our mother, instructress of her children; reflections, apostrophes, and the future
each together, like a mosaic, from hints, and to prate of other worlds ere we
may not find ballads of this order achave mastered this and its lessons seems to Mr. Meredith the hugest of follies. ceptable. Save in "The Nuptials of Through the knowledge of earth, “never Attila,” the vigor of the manner hardly misread by brain,” we approach a fuller compensates for the harshness of the
narration. But “The Nuptials of Atconsciousness of the issues and mean
tila” is a notable exception, a notable ings of life,
poem. It is not only a notable, it is an Till brain-rule splendidly towers.” altogether marvellous and indescribable
poem. To read it is to hear the tread of Mr. Meredith is at times obscure, but armies, to mingle in the tossing tumult he is never intangible; he is at times of barbarian camps, to catch one's difficult, but he is never unreal. Sure breath in the presence of the queen of ness of grasp, concentration, force, sig- tragedy herself. There is no poem with nificance—these are the splendid quali- which it can to any purpose be comties of his style, and at times one pared. From first to last it displays the catches an accent, a phrase, a verse ex- characteristics of Mr. Meredith at his quisitely tuneful, a melody wholly his best and strongest, and will take rank
among the great achievements of mod1 A Reading of Earth, p, 78. · The Empty Purse, p. 28.
8 Poems and Lyrics of the Joy of Earth, p. 119.