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Whether he desires us to contract it to sprit or to spirt I have no means of knowing, but in any case this seems to convert into a rule that which is only permissible as a licence.
As to England's ungodly prosperity let me quote Mr. Watson against Mr. Watson (Ver Tenebrosum, sonnet vii) :
0, England, should'st thou one day fall,
It has been already pointed out that Mr. Watson set out both in religion and art from a Puritan basis. But already in youth we see his religious feelings growing pale with the anæmia of agnosticism, and the poems of his early manhood have sometimes all the deathly colour of that mental ailment. Take these verses from the poem called World-Strangeness (Poems, p. 7).
In this house with starry dome,
Floored with gemlike plains and seas,
Never wholly be at ease ?
Yet my Host can ne'er espy,
Whether guest or captive I.
And the floor of plains and seas,
Never wholly been at ease.
Or take the following lines referring to a gentleman who had climbed an Alpine summit, and was there found dead, after having written as his last message, “ It is cold, and clouds shut out the view" (Poems, p. 43).
So mounts the child of ages of desire,
And clouds shut out the view."
And clouds shut out the view."
Mr. Watson is no mocking sceptic. The Voltairean spirit is as utterly alien to him as it is to the most orthodox of Christians. On the question of the future life he expresses his feelings in the poem called The Great Misgiving, and asks himself seriously the question, whether there be a future life or no,
And whether, stepping forth, my soul shall see
New prospects, or fall sheer—a blinded thing!
And there, 0 death, thy sting.
One of his finest sonnets is written To One who had written in Derision of the Belief in Immortality. (Odes, p. 88).
Dismiss not so, with light, hard phrase and cold,
Ev'n if it be but fond imagining,
The hope whereto so passionately cling
Of mistress lost, or riches taken wing;
And is Eternity a slighter thing,
Say, tenderly, if needs though must, disprove
To see this curtain lift, these clouds retire,
and round me; and to ask of my dead sire
A like attitude is indicated in the sonnet To Aubrey de Vere (Odes, p. 98), which ends thus :
Sot mine your mystic creed; not mine, in prayer
And worship, at the ensanguined Cross to kneel;
How based on love, on passion for man's weal,
Reveres the reverence which it cannot feel.
But Mr. Watson has not in later years consistently maintained the agnostic position. So long as that position is consistently maintained it is quite unassailable. The man who says I know nothing at all about God, or about Heaven, or about any revelation, and who consistently refuses to say or think anything about them, either one way or other, is simply outside the pale both of belief and disbelief. It is very noticeable that the Ver Tenebrosum sonnets of 1885 contain no appeal to Divine power. But no real Agnostic could write the sonnet to The Russ at Kara, beginning “O, King of kings,” and asking of Him “Why waits Thy shattering arm ? ” And we have seen already that the Armenian sonnets contain passionate, and not always despairing, appeals to the power and wrath of God. Moreover, the world is never to Mr. Watson, in any mood, a chaos : it is always an order, even if it seem at times to be severe and inscrutable; and it is most often a cosmos, ordered not only with strictness, but also with harmony and beauty. In these moods he can sing (Lachr. Mus., p. 64), that
God on His throne is
These extracts taken together will serve to give a much juster idea of Mr. Watson's religious outlook than some parts of his latest poem.
Mr. Watson is still only in his fortieth year. His career up to this point has been one of growth, unchequered by retrogression or failure. There is, therefore, little reason to doubt that some of his best work is yet to come, and that his ultimate place in the roll of future fame will be a high one. I will conclude by expressing the hope that all those in whom this brief sketch may have aroused an interest in William Watson, will be encouraged thereby to keep up their acquaintance with his writings, in the sure expectation that they will therein find a manifold reward.