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enough," said the squire, "but permit me to show you my grapes." Conducted into an old-fashioned little greenhouse, which served as a vinery, my Lord gazed, with mortification and envy, on grapes twice as fine as his own. "My dear friend," said my Lord, "you have a jewel of a gardener; let me see him!" The gardener was called— the single gardener—a simple-looking young man under thirty. "Accept my compliments on your flowerbeds and your grapes," said my Lord, "and tell me, if you can, why your flowers are so much brighter than mine, and your grapes so much finer. You must have studied horticulture profoundly." "Pleaseyour Lordship," said the man, "I have not had the advantage of much education; I ben't no scholar; but as to the flowers and the vines, the secret as to treating them just came to me, you see, by chance."
"By chance ] explain."
"Well, my Lord, three years ago, master sent me to Lunnon on business of his'n; and it came on to rain, and I took shelter in a mews, you see."
"Yes; you took shelter in a mews;—what then?
"And there were two gentlemen taking shelter too; and they were talking to each other about charcoal."
"About charcoal ?—go on."
"And one said that it had done a deal o' good in many cases of sickness, and specially in the first stage of the cholera, and I took a note on my mind of that, because we'd had the cholera in our village the year afore. And I guessed the two gentlemen were doctors, and knew what they were talking about."
"I dare say they did; but flowers and vines don't have the cholera, do they?"
"No, my Lord; but they have complaints of their own; and one of the gentlemen went on to say that charcoal had a special good effect upon all vegetable life, and told a story of a vinedresser, in Ger
many, I think, who had made a very sickly poor vineyard one of the best in all these parts, simply by charcoal-dressings. So I naturally pricked up my ears at that, for our vines were in so bad a way that master thought of doing away with them altogether. 'Ay,' said the other gentleman, 'and see how a little sprinkling of charcoal will brighten up a flower-bed.'
"The rain was now over, and the gentlemen left the mews; and I thought, ' Well, but before I try the charcoal upon my plants, I'd best make some inquiry of them as aren't doctors, but gardeners ;' so I went to our nurseryman, who has a deal of book-learning, and I asked him if he'd ever heard of charcoal-dressing being good for vines, and he said he'd read in a book that it was so, but had never tried it. He kindly lent me the book, which was translated from some forren one. And, after I had picked out of it all I could, I tried the charcoal in the way the book told me to try it; and that's how the grapes and the flowerbeds came to please you, my Lord. It was a lucky chance that ever I heard those gentlemen talking in the mews, please your Lordship."
"Chance happens to all," answered the peer, sententiously; " but to turn chance to account is the gift of few."
His Lordship, returning home, gazed gloomily on the hues of his vast parterres; he visited his vineries, and scowled at the. clusters; he summoned his head gardener— a gentleman of the highest repute for science, and who never spoke of a cowslip except by its name in Latin. To this learned personage my Lord communicated what he had heard and seen of the benignant effects of charcoal, and produced in proof a magnificent bunch of grapes, which he had brought from the squire's.
"My Lord," said the gardener, scarcely glancing at the grapes,
"Squire 's gardener must be a
poor ignorant creature to fancy ho had discovered a secret in what is so very well known to every professed horticulturist. Professor Liebig, my Lord, has treated of the good effect of charcoal-dressing, to vines especially; and it is to be explained on these chemical principles "—therewith the wise man entered into a profound disputation, of which his Lordship did not understand a word.
"Well, then," said the peer, cutting short the harangue, "since you know so well that charcoal-dressing is good for vines and flowers, have you ever tried it on mine?"
"I can't say I have, my Lord; it did not chance to come into my head."
"Nay," replied the peer, " chance put it into your head, but thought never took it out of your head."
My Lord, who, if he did not know much about horticulture, was a good judge of mankind, dismissed the man of learning; and, with many apologies for seeking to rob his neighbour of such a treasure, asked
the squire to transfer to his service the man of genius. The squire, who thought that now the charcoal had been once discovered, any new gardener could apply it as well as the old one, was too happy to oblige my Lord, and advance the fortunes of an honest fellow born in his village. His Lordship knew very well that a man who makes good use of the ideas received through chance, will make a still better use of ideas received through study. He took some kind, but not altogether unselfish, pains with the training and education of the man of genius whom he had gained to his service. The man is now my Lord's head forester and bailiff. The woods thrive under him, the farm pays largely. He and my Lord are both the richer for the connection between them. He is not the less practically painstaking, though he no longer says "ben't" and "his'n;" nor the less felicitously theoretical, though he no longer ascribes a successful experiment to chance.
There is always something doubtful about the apparition of a new poet. In all the realms of art no gift is less easy to make sure of than this, which is the quintessence and torown of literary gifts. Those very delicacies of soul and sense which distinguish from all others the poetic temperament are confusing influences to the poet himself, and bewilder his aspect as he first appears before the world. Admiration and worship are so much of the essence of his nature, that it is harder for him than for another man to elude the echoes which fill the earth, and to demonstrate the individuality of his own voice; and the probationary process to which he must first submit is obscured by a deeper perplexity than that which attends the beginning of any other aspirant to fame. Perhaps a certain rebellion and revolution is necessary in every branch of the arts, before the novice can vindicate and distinguish his own personality; but the throes are volcanic in the case of the poet. The light that is in him is underground, and has somehow to make its own individual way to the surface. Safety shafts and openings which have served once will not answer a second time —a separate outgate must be burst through the earth for every new illumination. The rocks must be rent, the landmarks removed, even the immediate skies unroofed over him, and the nearest stars thrust out of his way, before the Genie comes fairly above ground, throwing the light of his separate lamp upon the new heavens and the new earth, which it is his to recreate every time he comes into being, and with the glory of his new eyes making all things new. These eyes are always lighted up with a certain half-divine surprise, as the son of inspiration looks round upon the miraculous earth, which would forget the marvel of its own existence
were not he ever present in a new avatar to recall to its dulled recollection that morning glory, the primal ecstasy of wonder and joy. But before he can fulfil this end of his being, he has to work against the very influences that make him what he is. Whether the struggle is through heaps of learning, the accumulated inheritance of the past, or whether it is merely through the thinner shroud of local tradition and admiration, which is bound and re-bound over him by every delicate instinct of his nature, it must be a warfare and conflict; and only in proportion as this is sharp, short, and decisive, is identification possible, and due reception into the glittering ranks to be afforded to the new minstrel. Hosts of singers are in the world at the present day, as everybody knows, not without melody of voice or gifts of mind, who will never get beyond the Tennyson channel, which was made for Tennyson alone, and not for another; and who, consequently, cannot count for anything—now or ever; and multitudes of laureated scholars fill the lower ranks of literature, of whom nobody can pronounce distinctly whether they utter echoes solely, or have, at the bottom, if these echoes could but be got rid of, something, not perhaps either Homeric or Horatian, but their own. A man who has a complete acquaintance with all the world's stores of poetry in all the ages— who has the retentive ear and the ready utterance of youth, and that grace of apparent thoughtfulness which a well-cultivated mind confers,—how are we to tell, when he issues his first volume of poems, whether or not he is a poet i Just in proportion to his advantages are the chances against him. All the examples and models which crowd his mind are so many deadweights upon his own faculty. The culture
which will stand him mightily in him in the beginning of his career. stead, when his independent course He has before him, in closer conis fairly inaugurated, envelopes in tact than any which connects the a perplexing mist the beginning of scholar with the glittering crowds his way. We watch him doubt of the old poets, a single example, fully, afraid to utter judgment, re- overpowering and absolute. The membering how, before now, some greatest peasant-poet ever born out have been hailed with flourish of of the heart of nature dominates trumpets, who were destined never the land before him. To be born to be heard of afterwards, and how a Scotsman in the humbler classes one of the cleverest critics of the of society and not to believe past generation covered himself in Burns is a simple impossibility. with ridicule, by inscribing his con- That great apparition meets the temptuous certainty that “ This young singer wherever he goes, will never do," upon the shield of breathing echoes into every incident the young writer who was to be of his humble life. His memory at the greatest poet of his age. The once inspires and enthrals the laterbest thing we can do is to stand still born. It is hard to believe that in and wait. The poet is no poet, but any other vein than his, or in a a versemaker, if he do not establish track not previously marked by the individuality of his own voice. his footsteps, any after excellence
The matter is somewhat different can be obtained. The influence is when the neophyte is a poor man, single, but stronger than any single destitute of education and its ad- influence which can act upon the vantages ; here, at least, one may educated mind. It is too keen a conclude that it will be easy to re- stimulant, too close a model. In cognise the individual inspiration, love or in thought, wherever the and that the mere fact of singing poetic youth may wander, one has at all, which in the case of a young been before him over the same soil, man of elegant and cultivated mind “in glory and in joy ;” and the is an almost inevitable necessity, is very means which bring inspiration enough of itself, in a class unac- and emulation to his heart, and customed to such music, to stamp open his eyes to the value of his as real the pretensions of the poet; gift, hamper that gift with tradibut the conclusion would be rash tions and echoes, difficult to escape and unjustifiable. Perhaps, indeed, and impossible to forget. Had it may be true that his native soil there been no Burns, there would, lies more lightly upon the divine doubtless, have been not only much seed when it is contained in the less poetry in his country, but an bosom of a Scotch peasant, than it infinitely smaller impulse toward does upon the breast of the scholar song ; yet, with Burns there is an where Pelion is piled upon Ossa, influence too prevailing, a shadow and all the great thoughts of all the too grand, a certain bondage upon great dead overpower, even while the lesser lights which are indigenthey stimulate, the native impulse; ous to the soil. The fact of his exbut the different circles of human istence sets the balance almost experience and circumstance differ straight between the humble Scotch from each other much less than, singer and the scholar bewildered looking on the mere appearances with many authorities, and makes of things, we might be disposed to it as necessary in one case as the allow. The Peasant-Minstrel does other that, before he can be acnot possess that appalling wealth knowledged and identified as free of example which overshadows the of his noble craft, the poet should path of the winner of the Newde- demonstrate his own individuality, gate ; but he has advantages and and make the personal music of his models of his own which are equal separate voice distinct to the ears disadvantages and hindrances to of the world.
VOL. XCII.—NO. DLXI.
This question, which it is so difficult to resolve at first asking, has just been offered manfully and modestly to the consideration of all readers, by David Wingate, the author of the little volume now in our hands.* The first words addressed to his audience by this new candidate for public regard propitiate and prepossess us in his favour, in a manner which it is quite impossible to resist. "If I have sung badly or thought sillily," he says, in his preface, "let it be no excuse for me that I am, and have been, a collier since my ninth year. ... If the book has any merit apart from whatever that fact may suggest, it may live; if not, it deserves to die. . . . God save me from that charity which refrains from calling me a blockhead because my face is covered with coalgum!" We will not do the honest and manful debutant such indignity. Critics enough there may be yet to be found who will condescendingly admit his poems to be very good for a collier; but there were also critics who smiled benignly upon the early efforts of Byron as very creditable for a lord. With Wingate, we are disposed to believe that these facts have very little to do with the matter, either one way or another. Education itself is one of the most variable of terms. There is a sense in which it is incomplete, when it has massed together every possible collection of learning, and instructed its subject to the utmost limit of human capacity; and there is a sense in which it is perfect, when that reading and writing which come by nature are the extent of its acquirements. Poetry comes of the heart, not of the training, and in its highest development is of the heart, and of the human passions and emotions which are common to all men. Learning which could read the secrets of ages is nothing in this region in comparison with the insight which can penetrate and
realise the secrets of the soul; and we have as little right to insist that the man whose faculty it is to open up the hearts of other men, and give utterance to their inarticulate agonies, should be trained in all the learning of the Egyptians, as to demand surgical skill from the soldier, or knowledge of the craft of war from the priest. The power of the poet is incommunicable, unteachable. All that we can do in the matter is to find out whether it is genuine, and possesses that divine intuition which is its title-deed and guarantee to the confidence of men. He who throws light to us upon the heart of life—who discloses out of the darkness the thoughts that lie unspoken, the trembling thrills of passion and human sentiment whicli are to the soul of humanity what air and breath are to its outward frame—who breathes a miraculous breath of revelation over the speechless souls and places in which hitherto no utterance has been—is, whether scholar or collier, a true poet. No trick of verse or melody of word can make up for the want of this insight. It is the true and sole test of poetic genius; and by this individual power of elucidation and revelation,-the new singer, like all his brethren before him, must stand or fall.
We will not, accordingly, attempt to prove that Wingate is wonderful because he is a collier. He has borne his collier burden like a man —which is far higher praise—and vindicated his higher nature and office by steadfastly and courageously holding up, high above the damps and darkness of his surroundings, the gentle lamp of genius which God has confided to his hands. It is not to the credit of his poetry that he was born and bred and has toiled all his life in the Lanarkshire mines; but it is to the credit of his manhood that, being a collier, with hard work enough, Heaven knows, to keep life afloat in that dusky world, he has braced his heart and
• 'Poems and Songs.' By David Wingate. Wm. Blackwood and Sons. 1862.