« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
surely more than the poet of the Idyls of the probabilities, or criticism, to sift and tell King in common with the artist of the the truth, are failures ; " our human speech is Wandering Jew. But though Mr. Browning naught, our human testimony false;" but has no conventional coarseness, yet be is sart remains the one way possible hardly enough on his guard against man- Of speaking truth,”– nerism. Mannerism of thought is more or less inseparable from individuality of cha. at least, he adds modestly, to mouths like racter; but mannerism of representation is bis. It is fair to say that this truthfulness a routine unworthy of a great artist. No of art does not in his view apply to personal good painter would paint all his reds with satire, but only to such art as speaks not to vermilion ; Mr. Browning can never see the man, but to mankind. The artist, however colour without talking of blood. With him infallible in his analysis of special character, a crimson sun-set is blood-red, tulips are may be mistaken in attributing it to any bubbles of blood. If he introduces us to special person. This saving clause will anything painted red, he must hasten to make it doubtful whether those rehabilitaassure us that it is not painted with blood, tions of men defamed in history, which have as if that thought was an inevitable tempta- lately been so plentiful, would be regarded tion and the first suggestion of Satan.
by Mr. Browning as so many conquests of The satirical element in Mr. Browning's artistic truth. Literary artists have permind is strong; but he is too serious a theo- suaded themselves that there are persons logian and moralist to be a genuine satirist. who have been shamefully calumniated by His humour lacks not only the keen edge the naughtiness of speech and the falsehood and fine incisiveness, but the playful and of testimony-have been limned by contemcareless dallying, of satire. Satire should poraries as devils, when they were angels appeal to the inner consciousness of the disguised. With this conviction, these artists person satirized; he should be made to feel, have projected their own surplusage of soul not only that the cap was made to his meas
into the dead idola, and have presented us ure, but that it fits him. It would be too with new Eighth Henries, new Lucrezia great a stretch of imagination to suppose Borgias, new Neros. Is the fiction which that any prelate could ever in his inmost makes these facts alive fact too ? It heart have recognised Blougram's apology is not clear that Mr. Browning would deny as correctly representing his own moral situ- it. With perfect apparent seriousness he ation. This, and several similar poems, has affirmed that the dramatic scenes of his wherein the speaker is introduced dragging Paracelsus might be slipped between the to public light hidden tendencies and by- leaves of any memoir of the man by way of ways of thought which he could scarcely see commentary, Hitherto he had not ventured clearly enough to confess to himself, are be on dealing thus with any of the more articuyond the range of satire, and come within late and defined characters of history. He the category of casuistry. And they assume had selected its obscure zoophytes, historical quite a prophetic character, when we remem- mists, cloud-forms, like Sordello and Paraber the assumptions and pretensions of the celsus, to try his hand upon. Here he was poet. For Mr. Browning, in analysing as safe; where history is silent, she does not he does the processes and the characters of protest. But in the present poem he has men's minds, attributes to himself a kind of introduced a person as well known as Pope infallibility, which ought to be enough to Innocent xII., and has assigned him a long make his judgments haunt his victims like an and searching soliloquy. The main outlines evil conscience. After giving us his theory of the character show a careful regard of of dead fact restored to life by the alloy of Ranke; the fillings-up smack rather of the poetical fiction, he asks whether this fiction poet's surplusage of soul than of any probis truth:
able opinions of any Pope. Innocent xii. “Are means to the end themselves in part the would hardly have propounded as part of his end ?
creed the opinions of modern Universalism, Is fiction which makes fact alive fact too?"
nor have gone far towards identifying God
with Nature; nor, because he was the first He gives no very coherent answer to the of his line who exhibited either justice or question; but he makes it very evident that mercy to the Jansenists, would be necessarily he considers that the artist is the real and have proceeded to compare an
- irregular only truth-teller. For him the fictions of noble scapegrace," whom he meant to praise, art, combined with the facts of nature, are with Augustine, or a " fox-faced horrible of a higher grade of truth than the facts priest,” whom he abhorred, with Loyola; by themselves. Moreover, all human at- nor, without the gift of prophecy, would he tempts, by means of logic' or theories of | have alluded to and joined in the condemnation of modern civilisation in the Syllabusrity of friends enough to encourage him, of Pius ix.; nor, without a kind of presenti- while the majority of foes have at last ment of Hegel's doctrine of the genesis of chastened him into tolerable sobriety. In being out of not-being, would he have formu- deference to them he has, as it were, cast lated his fine theory of the restoration of his skin, and has made an effort for which faith in the latter days through the antago- he clearly anticipated the rare success it has nism of doubt. The poet knows how far be gained,—the success of pleasing his revilers is here wandering from probability; and be- and turning them into admirers. Perhaps fore the end of the poem he harks back to the spirt of acid which he speaks of is this this supposed Papal doctrine, and says,- suppression of the individual and secret per• If he thought doubt would do the next age found to be incommunicable, and the deter
sonality which, after so many efforts, he has good, 'Tis pity he died unapprised what birth
mination only to communicate so much of His reign may boast of, be remembered by
himself as he can render intelligible in the Terrible Pope, too, of a kind, -Voltaire." common tongue. But it was not only the
wish to tell his dreams in his own dreamThe alloy which attributes an elaborate language which made him bard to be undertheory to a historical person, followed by the stood : bis theory of metaphor, and bis inspirit of acid which washes out the fiction volved grammar, added the difficulties of with an “if,” is perhaps the most notewor- construction to the difficulties of interpretathy exhibition of this typical process of ring- tion. His character led him to the uncouthmaking to be found in the whole poem. ness and abruptness of a style full of breach
The artistic truth, then, which is brought es and pitfalls, just as his appreciation of out in such an exhibition of a historical cha- | the value of what he had to communicate racter, is not historical truth or verity of led him into amplification and repetition, and fact, but that verity of congruity which al- the spreading of his thoughts prosaically lows one to say that if it was not so it ought thin over his poetical pages. He is not a to have been so. By this rule, the artist poet who sings by ear only; and he thoroughshows us not what a man was, but what he ly well knew what he was doing when ought to have been, in order to place him in be wove the loose texture of his style. It conformity, not with the moral law, but with was the proper raiment of his thoughts
. He the artist's ideal. For, after all, the truth is too good a critic, and has too habitually which the artist contends for is his own criticised himself, not to be entirely conideal-himself. Much must be forgiven to scious of the coarse grain of his composition. genius; the superior man may well be sup. He wished to impose himself-his own posed to have also a superior Ego, besides views, his own language, his own sense of higher motives to thrust bis own personali- the beautiful and the congruous,
his own ty upon others. But the man of genius appreciation of himself and others-upon should be the first to find out that of all hu- bis audience. Knowing well what he did, man qualities personality is at once the most but not knowing what he could do best, he familiar and the least communicable, that a always tried to be a dramatist; but he is man's intercourse with himself, if it is the and ever will be, a critical poet. The aufirst object of his own intelligence, is the thor is never off the scene. Like Thackeray, last object for the intelligence of other peo- he is always commenting on the sayings and ple. He that speaketh in this unknown doings and meanings of his dramatic persontongue edifieth himself, for in the spirit he ages. And when he is not formally doing speaketh mysteries; but he is a barbarian to so his readers feel that the process is still others. He speaks, but says nothing; his going on underground. He is his own puzzling no-meaning is as hopeless an enigma chorus, the ideal spectator of his own draas a bankrupt's books. There are thoughts mas; and the chorus is often, perhaps genwhich are not transferable, autochthons that erally, more important than the dialogue. can only live where they are born, and can- Such appear to be a few of the main chanot be naturalized in another soil. The racteristics of the poet who infuses his suryouth of genius often makes volcanic efforts plusage of soul into the tale told in the The to colonize with such thoughts. The effort | Ring and the Book. And they show how it is excellent to teach him negatively the lim- is that, in spite of his theological bias and its of his power; but its positive results are undeniable Christianity, he is acceptable to worthless. Mr. Browning continued his the materialistic and positivist thought of youth far into his age, and for too long a time the day. The man whose imagination can gave too many occasions to ask whether his interpret the soul of brute matter seems to lines were philosophy gone mad or madness show to other imaginations how thought philosophizing. But there were always oases and soul may be only secretions of matter in his desert; and they gained him a mino- l specially organized, while his decided con
tempt for reason in comparison with the sen- mits simple repetition, even in its highest timents must endear him to all friends of works. In music, the repetition of the tune, Comte's law, "que l'esprit doit être subor- the subject, or the figure, is one of the most donné au cour. If we turn to the form imperative rules of the art. In Beethoven's into which he has moulded his story, we pastoral symphony a single bar is repeated must be struck with a novelty which has at ten times successively; fugues, imitations, the same time the merit of simplicity and variations, figures of accompaniment, are all obvious naturalness. In some respects the instances of the same law. In architecture, design follows the plan of Chaucer's Canter- the ranges of repeated members—arcades, bury Tales ; there is a similar prologue, columns, pinnacles, the arrangement of the which introduces to the reader the narrators elevation, where mass answers to mass, and of the poem, followed by a series of cantos tower is flanked with tower—are examples or idyls, in which each of them tells his tale. of repetition as simple as that of music. But Mr. Browning's design has a more com- When we advance to the higher efforts of pressed unity than Chaucer's; for in the sculpture, painting, and poetry, we find the twelve books of this poem there is only one repetitions veiled, as they are in the differcomplete action, one tune, the subject of .entiated segments of a highly organized vertwelve variations. He has a theory that tebrate, though in their lower examples, the life of a fact consists in the variety of the frieze, the arabesque, the ballad with its ways in which it is regarded. A truth in | burden—we find the same simplicity as in which all are agreed gradually fades and the less articulate arts. But the same rule dies. A living fact looks differently to each of repetition holds good throughout; all the beholder. The " variance and eventful uni- subtleties of rhythm, proportion, and meaty
of opinion regarding it make up its sured flow, depend or the law of repetition tbread of life ; and therefore the poet, who and variation. One of the most honoured has to quicken a dead fact, must, as it were, traditions of the Elizabethan dramatists was throw its carcass into the arena to be fought the composite plot, in which the subsidiary over and dragged hither and thither by the action answered to the main one as its suplions of thought.
plement, its contradictory, or its parody. " See it for yourselves,
Much of the stereoscopic solidity of their This man's act, changeable because alive.” work may be due to this binocular vision
which they afford us of it. The law of reThe poet has forgotten to tell us how it is petition applies not only to the creation but that human speech and human judgment, to the enjoyment of art. A thing of beauty which he thinks are naught, and which prove is a joy forever, not for a moment merely, their naughtiness by their inconstancy, are like a peach, which is eaten and done with; able by this very inconstancy to rise to the the picture, the play, the poem, is visited most sublime function of humanity-poeti- and revisited, heard and reheard, read and cal creation. But perhaps this is only one re-read, by the same people, and by their instance out of many where our weakness children, generation after generation. If is our strength. Perhaps generalization rests Raphael never wearied of repeating his Maon confusion of memory and forgetfulness of donnas, the public have never grown tired of special details; and the absence of logical gazing on them. Poet after poet, tragedian accuracy and metaphysical abstraction may after tragedian, has taken up the same tale ; be a condition for the picturesqueness of and the masterpieces of literature have been metaphor and abundance of imagery which written on stock stories, familiar as nursery distinguish the poet. It is however a truth, tales. If Mr. Browning's design is new, it that facts, as mirrored in men's minds, are is founded on old analogies, and obeys a infinitely variable; and it is this change well-known law. ableness which makes judicial investigations Another trait of this poem is its hybrid so interesting, and makes it possible to write character. Mr. Browning, in his essays to a great poem on the present plan. To tell be a dramatist, bas gradually been sliding the same story in the same way a dozen back till he has landed in the archaic simplitimes over would be to overdo the loqua- city of Thespis. His drama is long monocious imbecility of Mrs. Quickly or Juliet's logue, only made dramatic by faithfully pornurse. But, in its place, repetition is one of traying the actual and present workings of the fundamental laws of art. As nature be the speaker's passions and intellect. But gins with uniform repetition, and ends with this vitality at once gives the monologue or differentiated repetition, so does art. In- | the narrative a lyric character. The monodeed, a scale of arts might be constructed on logues are dramatic, because the speakers this principle. The less articulate and in- are placed in dramatic situations, where the tellectual the art is, the more readily it ad- | event depends upon their suasive power.
at de The
They are narrative; for they set before us there is no opposition between being and the history, not the actual development, of an seeming. Hence the very first doctrine of event. But they are eminently lyric, because the lyric philosopher is love at first sight. their chief interest is reflective, lying not in No other love is love, as Marlowe declares the deed or narrative itself, but in the psy- in the saw which Shakespeare quotes. A chological states of the speakers, and in the face, as Mrs. Browning says, strikes like a various hues which the history assumes when symbol on a face, and fills with its silent refracted through their various minds. It changour brain and heart, transfiguring the is with reason then that the poet makes an man to music. So it is with the love in this invocation to lyric love the posy of his ring poem. Caponsacchi sees Pompilia once for This invocation has been everywhere quoted, a moment, and she sees him. He describes and everywhere read, rather, probably, for the result: its music than for its intelligence; for it can hardly speak plainly except to those who Barnt to my brain, as sunbeam through shut
“That night and next day did the gaze
enduro know the poem. The poet gazes on lyric
eyes, love, half angel and half bird; and as he And not once changed the beautiful sad smile." gazes its form becomes transfigured, and it seems to be a lost companion, whose presence in that instant he learns her whole characwas once his best gift of song. He still ter. Evil reports come to him; vile papers gazes, and the well-known features are glori- which purport to be her own letters are fied into those of the Redeemer, dropping brought to him. He knows them to be false down “ to toil for man, to suffer or to die." and forged. The lips of one of Raphael's For to him, poetry, love, and religion, are Madonnas might as soon drop scorpions as but three aspects of one great creative force, she be foul. He might say of her, as Perinot logic or reason, though he identifies it cles of Perdita, with the Logos, but “all a wonder and a wild desire," a pure passion, which he en- “Falseness cannot come from thee; for thon
look'st thrones as Queen of man and the world. Lyric love accepts not the world as it is; For the crowned Truth to dwell in.”
Modest as Justice, and thou seem'st a palace that is the dramatist's realm. The dramatist knows that
In the same way Pompilia knows Capou. " there is no art
sacchi at a glance; his face is sufficient To find the mind's construction in the face,” refutation of all scandal against him :
" Thus I know and so employs himself in exposing the con- All your report of Caponsacchi false tradiction between the mask and the brain Folly or dreaming; I have seen so much beneath it. But lyric love spurns
this By that adventure at the spectacle, world, feathered with deceitful promises and The face I fronted that one first, last time: false truths, and makes to itself another He would belie it by such words and thoughts. world, where the inside corresponds to the Therefore while you profess to show him me outside, where the face is the mind, and the I ever see his own face.” grace of the body is the shadow of the grace This love at first sight is but one stone of of the soul. Such a world is the ideal of art; for art itself is but the expression of stitutes a complete philosophy, distilled from
the temple of Lyric Love. The whole contruth in its most natural symbols. Its problem is to make the invisible visible, and
Plato, and coming down to us in a succes*give articulate voice to the mute feelings of sion of poets, of whom Dante, Petrarch, the heart. Shapes and colours, and sounds chief. It is a philosophy which does not fit
and Shakespeare in his sonnets, are the and words, are its only materials. these it has to express the shapeless, colour things as they are, but perhaps would fit less, inaudible, inarticulate motions of the them if they were as they ought to be. If mind; and therefore, in the interests of its applied to life, it sets it to a higher pitch, own lífe, it has to assume a constant rela- translates it to a more refined language, tionship, even an identity, between the con- presenting it not as it is, but “ as you like vex and concave of its world. Words be- it," as it may be supposed to go on in the come things, colours become moral qualities; mythical forest of Arden. It lends itself to the face is no longer merely the index of the the drama, and produces a Romeo and Juliet. heart, but becomes the heart itself. In the himself. "It is the idealism which, joined to
It is the poet's means for raising man above lyric world of art
the realism of natural representation, gives “What the breast forges, that the tongue an elevation more than human to human life must vent;
and human energy. The passion which it
deifies is not blind human craving, but an bited the action of the heroic will or the inideal passion endowed with intuition, and dividual prudence. There is no reason why freed from the roundabout processes of our some of the persons of a drama should not interpretative reason and inferential logic. be collective corporations, organized aggreInspired with this, the poet's heroic men gates of men; and there is no reason why and women rise superior to all the thralls of these composite persons should not be truly blind passion, to the calculating pursuers of poetical. The people is in its way a poct. pleasure or interest, to the astute politicians To it we owe proverbs and ballads. It seizwho direct the storm and thrive on others' es on skeletons of facts, and, like a poet, ruin. The lyric love with which they are projects its “surplusage of soul ”into them, inspired makes them examples to follow, giving them its own colouring, and making touchstones of right and wrong, ideals to them “ alive" with its own fictions. On the guide our judgments, models of martyrdom, narrow basis of a telegram it can set up a and of the supreme happiness of suffering tower of Babel huge enough to cast a shadow and passion.
over a whole empire. It can be as wayward Lyric art, in embodying this ideal, has to and wilful as a baby; it can also be patient deal with many other things besides lyric and persevering as a spider. As the poet love. Like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, strives to enter into the minds of his heroes, it has to be the supposed spectator of all to possess himself of their springs of acthat happens, and to convey to the spectator tion, to think and feel in their grooves, so, of the play a lyrical and poetical expression when he makes public opinion bis hero, he of the emotions which he ought to feel. It can possess himself of its national spirit, of contrasts not only the doings of men with its corporate logic, and represent collective the lyric ideal, but much more their feel. humanity as easily as he can represent indi. ings. It has to trace the various ways in viduals. Collective humanity individualizes which Job's comforters judge him, and to itself in the average man, and in him mani. judge their judgments. The Greek chorus fests its way of looking at things. And in represented a whole population; and Mr. an age of democratic advance the average Browning introduces populations -- half man's toe comes so near the heel of the hero Rome, and the other half Rome-delivering that he galls his kibe. Some people think their sentiments upon the actors and action that the day of novelists has passed its meof his story. In this again his ideal ap- ridian, and that the sun of journalists is proaches that of the earliest Greek drama. about to rise. For society, they suppose, is There is no such popular running commenta- growing tired of the exceptional, and is bery on the action in Shakespeare, except some ginning to feel its interest centre in the comtimes in the observations of the fool or mon action of mankind. The age of chivalclown. We know of nothing quite like it in ry is gone, when one man engrossed all inmodern literature, except perhaps the social terest, and the rest were only chaff and opinion which comes in as Chorus in George bran, porridge after meat. The hero has alEliot's novels, and gives the judgment of ready been served up in every variety of the Raveloe alehouse or the Florentine bar- cookery—plain for simple palates, deviled ber's shop upon the action and persons of for the uncertain feverish appetite, minced the history. The parliamentary and repre- for children to swallow. There is no more sentative fancy that makes an idyl of popu- gold to be found in these diggings. Those lar opinion, though a novelty, is yet an ad- who still work at them are apt to give us vance in the grooves of the great movement the strained products of an imagination of thought. When philosophical criticism groping in the sewers for new spawn of Beregards the hero of literature simply as the lial, new networks of improvised fatalities, spokesman of his age, it proposes to writers new atrocities of noble-minded crime. Men the problem of making the characters they turn from this to the dull matter-of-fact of reinvent not individual and idiosyncratic, but porters and correspondents and journalists, samples of common opinion. We have in and find it more interesting. There is on deed crowds and mobs and citizens in Shake the whole a movement of thought among speare; but they are rather yielding material those who feed on light literature, similar in the hands of the individual demagogue or to that which has changed the aspect of hisorator than masters of the situation. Public torical books. The novel of exceptional opinion has now become a constraining force, character and intrigue is analogous to the as often directing as following those whose history which makes the world depend on hands turn the wheels of society and the politicians and diplomatists, and governs the State. Literature can represent all that is, chariot of progress by the will of the strong and after a time will be able to embody checked by the plots of the wise. The hispublic opinion as poetically as it has exhi- | tory, on the other hand, which no longer
STE rhaber illeder