Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

served to make or mar. His own nature was of this primitive humanity :

' Long have I loved what I behold

The night that calms, the day that cheers ;
The common growth of mother earth
Suffices me--her tears, her mirth,

Her humblest mirth and tears." He knew how these simple influences could not be received into the heart without receiving also

“ a spirit strong,
That gives to all the selfsame bent

Where life is wise and innocent;" he knew that no heart which "watches and receives” what quiet nature gives, can have any of the preoccupying restlessness which evil brings; he knew that he

“Who affronts the eye of solitude, shall learn

That her mild nature can be terrible." And thus we have a set of characters of simple grain, all of them fed by the life of nature, but all religious, spiritual, and free,such as Michael, the Leech-gatherer, and the Wanderer in “The Excursion;" while we have Peter Bell, and, in part, the Solitary, on the other hand, whose personal strength had been spent in "affronting the eye of solitude."

суе The result of almost all Wordsworth's universal experience of the influences of nature acting alone on man is gathered up into his three poems, “Lucy," "Ruth," and "The Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle" (the last, perhaps, the most perfect effort of his genius) : the first being his conceptions of the plastic influences of Nature in moulding us into beauty; the second, of her exciting influences in awakening the passions; the last, of her tranquillising influences on a mind of thought. If we take with these the poem on the lonely Leech-gatherer, in which he contrasts the instinctive joy and life of nature with the burden of human free-will; the great“Ode on Immortality,” in which he brings natural life into contrast with the supernatural, speaking of “those high instincts before which our mortal nature doth tremble like a guilty thing surprised ;” and finally, the lines in which he draws together Nature, free-will

, and God into one of the sublimest poems of our language, the “Ode to Duty,”—we have in essence nearly all the truth that Wordsworth anxiously gleaned from a life of severe meditation, though a very slight epitome indeed of the innumerable living influences from which that truth was learned. If any one doubts the real affinity between the expressions written on the face of Nature and those human expressions which so early interpret themselves to even infants that to account for them except as a natural language

seems impossible, the exquisite poem on “Lucy” ought to convert him. The contrast it illustrates between Wordsworth's faith in real emanations from all living or unliving "mute insensate”

" things, and the humanised “spirits” of life in the Greek mythological poetry, is very striking. Influences come from all these living objects, but personified influences never.

“Three years she grew in sun and shower ;
Then Nature said, ' A lovelier flower

On earth was never sown.
This child I to myself will take,
She shall be mine, and I will make

A lady of my own.
Myself will to my darling be
Both law and impulse ; and with me
The girl, in rock and plain,
In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,
Shall feel an overseeing power

To kindle or restrain.
She shall be sportive as the fawn
That wild with glee across the lawn

Or up the mountain springs ;
And hers shall be the breathing balm,
And hers the silence and the calm

Of mute insensate things.
The floating clouds their state shall lend
To her; for her the willows bend :

Nor shall she fail to see
Even in the motion of the storm
Grace that shall mould the maiden's form

By silent sympathy.
The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her; and she shall lean her ear

In many a secret place
Where rivulets dance their wayward round ;
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall
pass

into her face.
And vital feelings of delight
Shall rear her form to stately height-

Her virgin bosom swell :
These thoughts to Lucy I will give,
When she and I together live

Here in this happy dell.'
Thus Nature spake-the work was done.
How soon my Lucy's race was run !

She died; and left to me
This heath, this calm and quiet scene,
This memory of what hath been

And never more will be.” But we must not linger longer on an endless theme. Of the poetry of Wordsworth that may, perhaps, never be said which

[ocr errors]

Wordsworth truly said of Burns, that “deep in the general heart of man his power survives;” for his is the poetry of solitude, and the “general heart of man" cannot bear to be alone. But there are some solitudes that cannot be evaded.

“ Amid the groves, under the shadowy hills

The generations are prepared; the pangs,
The internal pangs, are ready—the dread strife

Of poor humanity's afflicted will,"'—and then we leave the greatest poets of the great world, and look to one who was ever glad to gaze into the deepest depths of his own heart, of Nature, and of God. “The pangs, the internal pangs,” were not ready for him. Bright, solemn, and serene," perhaps he alone, of all the great men of that day, had seen the light of the countenance of God shining clear into the face of Duty:

“Stern Lawgiver! Yet thou dost wear

The Godhead's most benignant grace;
Nor know we any thing so fair

As is the smile upon thy face.
Flowers laugh before thee in their beds :
And fragrance in thy footing treads.
Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong;

And the most ancient Heavens through thee are fresh and strong.” And therefore in his poems there will ever be a spring of some

a thing even fresher than poetic life-a pure, deep well of solitary joy.

ART. II.—THE RELATIONS OF ART TO RELIGION.

The Poetry of Christian Art. By A. F. Rio (English Translation).

London: 1851. Esthetic Papers. Edited by Elizabeth P. Peabody. Boston:

1819. IIistory of Latin Christianity. By Henry Hart Milman, D.D.

(Volume VI. Chapters viii. ix. x.) London : 1855. Pictures of Europe, framed in Ideas. By C. A. Bartol. Boston:

1855. The Seven Lamps of Architecture. By John Ruskin. Second edi

tion. London: 1855. RELIGION never has cxisted in a state of entire independence upon Art. Art has been the universal language of the spirit of man seeking after God.

It has its origin in the necessity of giving expression to sentiments and desires which are not capable of intellectual utterance, and which find in nature no sensible embodiment. In so far as Art is neither imitation nor handicraft (and in neither sense is it Art at all), it comes to us from the region of the invisible, and is an independent witness, more direct than nature, more positive than the Bible, to man's thirst for, and adaptation to, a spiritual realm of life. It is the supersensual in us making itself visible and audible through sculpture, painting, architecture, music--yearning and striving after manifestation by necessity of its nature, the deepest things that are in us craving most for some shape, symbol, or utterance. God awakens in the spirit of man, immediately from Himself, mediately through Nature, thoughts and visions that transcend reality; and of these, from age to age, Art becomes the language and the record; the language, so long as it satisfies the longing of the inward eye-the record, when the living inspiration demands higher symbols, and the older forms, like seeds, have given birth to the more glorious life in which they lose their own. At each stage of human growth Art reflects the highest spiritual life of the time, so long as that life stops short of the infinite and spiritual God. The Egyptian, who has not yet found himself, nor God in himself, shadows his deity in rocktemples and pyramids and vast mounds of brick and masonryawful images of a material uniformity, of boundless tracts of time in which no change occurs. The Greek, whose mightiest thought and inspiration is not Nature but Man, in the ideal beauty of deified humanity finds the appropriate types of the Religion which mere humanity suggests. The Christian, whose inspiration is neither nature nor man, but nature and man in God, as from Him and carrying up to Him again, has inward wants that require an Art which will meet the needs of spiritual desire, which will both quicken and slake the thirst for a full moral harmony, for the beauty of goodness, for the divine countenance of love, for the human expression of immortal peace. And Christian Art, in each of its periods, down from the Catacombs to Raphael, and to a fuller art than Raphael's, if any such there be, has given form just to that aspect of Religion, to that portion of the perfect goodness and beauty, which was in possession of the heart of the

age. This last position might be illustrated at any length, if our subject was the history of religious Art, and not rather the legitimate relations of Art to Religion--the services which, by her nature, she is capable of rendering back to her divine inspirer. As Literature even when entering on a new birth has to work with the instruments that she finds in existence, and inherits a current coinage of phrases and imagery, which she must make sufficient for her purpose, or displace, without violence, by nobler yet kindred forms; so Religion, the intenseness of her sympathy inclining her to ally herself with the life that is around her, is compelled to put her highest thoughts, dreams, and prophecies into the language of the day, and to unfold her new spirit through the gradual elevation of types and figures that are already understood. Christianity entered into the symbolism of Heathenism just as it entered into the Greek and Latin languages, and changed the significance of the old types as it exalted the meanings of the old words. As the old words, man, God, faith, charity, were made to carry ideas and to breathe sentiments that had no existence before, so the old symbols were made to proclaim the new religion; and by a more magic transformation than that of the palimpsests, without clumsy obliteration or outward change, the original significance faded away, and another soul occupied the unaltered forms. The Good Shepherd conveyed now the assurance of a Fold of which its heathen prototype knew nothing. The representation of immortal youth, the earliest image of the Saviour, though in all outward lineaments the same, now spoke a faith unbreathed by Orpheus or Apollo. The Cross, borne lightly in the hand of Christ, is now a sceptre of power, an emblem of the kingly might of meekness. The Ship toiling in the storm, though the old heathen emblem, now sails for another port. The Palm speaks now of another victory, the Anchor of another hope, the Garland of another glory. And it is remarkable that the early Christians, by the natural demands for an Art-language, were not only compelled in this way to transmute the heathen types, but also to turn the earlier religious history of the Hebrew, which was now transfigured, into typical representations of the fresh world of faith and hope into which they were new born. Abraham's sacrifice now typifies the offering of the well-beloved Son; Jonah, the resurrection; and Elijah, the ascension. Moses and the manna, and Moses striking the rock, no longer signify the bread which their fathers ate and were dead, nor the water of which whosoever drinketh shall thirst again ; but the living bread that came down from heaven, and the river of pure water, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. The Ark is now the church of God; the Wilderness and the Red Sea, its escape from oppression, and its march to the spiritual Canaan ; the three Children in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions? den, the sufferings and the deliverance of the Saints. But though thus with nothing ready to its forming hand but foreign symbols which conveyed repugnant meanings, and old symbols, if not with repugnant at least with far different meanings, how fully did the new Religion breathe a new spirit through subterranean

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »