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There are those of us who would fain sweep the world clear of ills. There are those of us who have dreamed of days not of ease, but of peace and of love, when mankind shall be the brotherhood, the active living brotherhood, which in theory we flatter ourselves to be. Now and again we suffer a rude shock; now and again sin-using the word in its widest ethical meaning—breaks in and shews its terrible power to be not dead but slumbering.
Where Tennyson chose erring Guinevere to be a type of the weakness and danger of emotion as a life guide we may take it farther and use that woman, who by her sin cast into the mire her king's faith and his works, as a type of the inherent incapacity of mankind for the ideal ethical life.
So long as this inherent incapacity remains, it would appear to be vain for us to attempt to clear away the dragons and wild beasts from the land of Leodogran in which we live. How many catchwords have we heard, the very sounding of which, like the “ blessed word Mesopotamia” is to bring release to our souls? How many homeopathic medicines have we brought in our little intellectual phials, one dose of which is to make all men happy? Civilization has been tried. It has abolished slavery, and stuck closely to silk hats and frock coats. Education has been tried ; and manual labour is despised on all hands, our artizans' boys wish to be white-handed clerks, his girls learn to despise the hearth. Then, after all, some of us have tried what we called religion. Very largely it has been a religion of anathema; or worse, a religion of respectable adhesion; or even worse, a religion of indifferent intellectual half-assent. And what of it? Look at its wide growth say some, misled by the old fallacy of headcounting, the old, time-honoured sin of the census. We are willing to look at the growth of religion, Christianity
in particular. Has it grown intensively, ethically? Is there not a smug satisfaction with its imperfections, at least, its imperfections as exemplified in Christian life? We call it toleration, now-a-days; we call it longing for reunion, but under either rose-name it is really indifference to the whole matter, and smells any noxious herb so evilly? I very much fear that the deep innermost faith, which comforts one's bread and butter life, is destined to be crowded out by the triumph of material instincts, and so beaten and despairing, the spirit of righteousness and love passes away. And yet, though our Arthur passes away, though our ideal of social triumph passes away with him, there shall be one great optimistic event in this final catastrophe. There in Time's evening gray, we see the arm, clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, rising above the waters of the mere. Three times — a wondrous declaration of Triune power—it brandishes the Spirit's sword, Excalibur, and then it draws it from sight. Not for that generation, sunk in impurity and selfishness of heart, was the Beatific vision; not for a world which failed to cast its “golden chains about the feet of God; ” not for a world, blind and scornful to the inner things, careful of body-ease, careless of spirit-wealth, was the sword of the Spirit. And we, in an age too eager for material success, too reckless of the “ things that are more excellent,” may perhaps some day learn the real idealistic lesson, the idealism of the spirit of God. When we have seen the results of its wondrous permeation of our art, our literature, our social strivings, our religious ideals, perhaps again the great arm will rise, “ clothed in white samite," above the black mere of these our days, perhaps then another Arthur, wondrous in his spiritual might, will sweep away, not the outward wrong-doing merely, not the
material corruption, but the inner, subtler sin of the Guineveres and Lancelots of our human heart. And for this time our land of Leodogran looks wistfully and even prayerfully towards the eternal East of promise, that weak erring humanity, overcome too often by the dragons of temptation, the swarming heathen of greed and selfishness with their attendant wrong-doings, may find in our great ideal king the hero whom we shall welcome with a great soul-deep acclaim; we shall hear the new consecrationsong, when all the world are the king's white knights, and God Himself is the High Priest, Dubric, who gives us His blessing.
Blow trumpet! for the world is white with May;
TRUTH ENTANGLED-TRUTH TRIUMPHANT.
THE RING AND THE BOOK.-ROBERT BROWNING.*
By Rev. E. N. HOARE, M.A. This extraordinary work—a work in which the genius, the learning, the eccentricities of a master-mind are displayed to the uttermost—had a chance beginning. Browning tells us how that, foraging about one summer day among the booths and stalls in the Piazza San Lorenzo, at Florence, he came on an old vellum-bound book, which at once made him captive. He bought the book for one lira, "eightpence English, just,” and commenced forthwith to devour its contents. It was partly in print, partly in manuscript; partly Latin, partly Italian. The title runs, Romana Homicidiorum. “Better translate,” continues the poet,
A Roman murder case :
Wherein it is disputed if, and when,
The customary forfeit. The story itself—"crude fact”-is soon told. Here are the “ facts of the case,” on which a poem of over 21,000 lines (more than double the length of Paradise Lost) is based :
* This Paper has been shortened by the excision of the introductory matter. Many of the quotations have been compressed, some omitted, and some merely indicated. In the second class we have been obliged to include the sublime Invocation to Lyric Love.
Count Guido Franceschini, the Aretine,
In Book I, the poet describes how he wrought up his material, the various actors are pourtrayed with a few masterly strokes, and the main incidents of the story are vividly brought before us. Here is a vision of the central tragedy.
The solitary villa is seen, standing in “the lone garden