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worse.

of the material. Instead of allowing the that series of unrhymed lyrics of myth to develop in imagination until which Ganymed, Prometheus, and Mait has assumed the meaning and shape homet's Gesang are the most famous. natural to the modern poet, he may

Let us dwell for a moment on the first introduce into it ready-made modern

of these and ask, for the purposes of ideas, and force it to express them. our subject, what Goethe has accomAnd it will be able to express them plished. On the basis of a subject only through a highly symbolical or unpromising enough for a modern poet even allegorical treatment. In this he has produced a lyric which hardly case only half the problem is solved, stands second to any even of his own and the half by itself is worth little. songs in its glowing ardour and pasThe idea has an interest for us, but its sionate directness. The reason is that, expression is not the natural expres- paying no regard to historical exactsion. Matters may be even

ness, he has seized in the myth what We may feel that its expression is the is of lasting import, the idea (if we form appropriate to some other idea or must put it in a theoretical shape) of experience, and consequently we be- a yearning towards the life or love or come aware of an incongruity fatal to spirit that is in nature and beyond it. poetic enjoyment. Or, worse still, it It is not that in his mind the idea has may be that the idea presented to us this meagre form, and that he forces has not a poetic interest for us at all, the myth to express it; but the myth but a directly moral or religious one; means that to him, is that to him; and in this case we complain that a that and the myth are one and the beautiful story has been spoilt for pur- same thing. Probably it was so when poses not poetical. But, whether this first he heard the story. Perhaps, as be so or not, the idea introduced by time went on, its old shape died more the allegory almost always has this in and more out of his mind, until at common with moral ideas, that it is last, under the influence of not produced by the poetic imagina- special occasion, this essence of it took tion, and therefore inseparable and a new shape in that song of Ganymed, indistinguishable from its embodiment, which certainly would have been but is a current idea, due in a greater astonishing to a Greek, but which is or less degree to abstraction, and none the worse for that. The song therefore capable of only an artificial gives utterance to an idea or mood connection with the myth which is which, in Wordsworth and Shelley, supposed to express it. The conse- produced poems of the most various quences of this procedure can be best kinds. It was a mood which coloured explained by illustration. Here we a whole period of Goethe's life and may at once state our second requisite some of his best verse; the mood for this kind of poetry :—in the new which during his year's sojourn in poem, as in the old myth, the meaning Italy seemed to bathe his whole nature and the form should be completely in sunlight; the mood which produced harmonious, and form a natural unity. poems so perfect, yet so different, as

The species of verse which seems the seventh of the Roman Elegies and to offer the greatest obstacle to success the Proæmion to Gott und Welt. But of this kind is the pure lyric. For in the first of these Goethe has given here the poet, instead of writing about the feeling a strictly classical form ; a myth, has to speak the language of and in the latter the classical associait, to utter as the direct outcome of tions have quite disappeared. At this his own personal feeling what he earlier time the ancient form was not nevertheless puts into the mouth of yet natural to him, and the meaning some mythological figure. Yet this is he divined in the legend found a more what Goethe has actually done in more purely lyrical expression. It melted than one instance. I am thinking of

I am thinking of so completely into his own joy and

some

It was

ear.

we

longing that it could not be described, worth they have not.

And in so far it could only sing itself out.

as their prominence in a poem interno dead and soulless prospect that met feres with the purely poetic impression, his eye, no “senseless gust” that so that our judgment expresses itself called to him in the wind. One spirit in words which are not æsthetic, their was moving within him and without effect is as perverting as considera him, panting for union, incarnate in tions of beauty would be in a judicial light and sound and in the eye and sentence or in the giving of alms. It

It is at such moments that for is the same with political and with men of all times the earth in sprin; simply intellectual interests. That seems to thrill towards her lover the political feelings sometimes produce sun; possibly some such feeling may fine poetry is certain, but they cannot have underlain the original myth; do so without losing their directly and, however that may be, it found in practical character : it is no praise to Goethe's case no utterance so natural say of a poem that it is on the right as words which he could connect with side.

Purely intellectual ideas and the memory o! Ganymed :

processes, again, only enter into art

by being subordinated to imagination Hinauf, hinauf strebt's.

and “touched with its emotion : Es schweben die Wolken

do not commend a poem when we say Abwarts, die Wolken Neigen sich der sehnenden Liebe.

that it is philosophical, or pay it a Mir! Mir

compliment when we call it clever, In eurem Schoose

It is no æsthetic merit in the second
Aufwärts !
Umfangend unnfangen !

part of Faust that moral and metaAufwärts an deinen Busen,

physical truths can be dug out of those Allliebender Vater !

large portions of it which give no

poetic pleasure. And it is because The sign of excellence in a poem Ganymed, in spite of or in addition to like this is that it gives us a single all its other interest, does produce a total impression, and that a purely complete æsthetic effect, that it offers poetic one.

For this means that the in some respects an ideal example of meaning and form are completely the use of an old myth. fused. Our first thought of Ganymed Our view may perhaps gain in clearis not that it is historically exact or ness if we apply it to a series of poems inexact, moral or immoral, full of re- now widely popular. In the whole ligious meaning or destitute of it; history of English verse Greek myththat it is wonderfully clever or that ology has never been so systematically we have had a new pleasure : our first treated as in the Epic of Harles. One thought is that it is beautiful. Other of its critics has spoken of the author's qualities may be there, second thoughts “enterprise of connecting the Greek may dwell on them; and, if we have myth with the higher and wider meanfaith in human nature, we shall be ing which Christian sentiment natuslow to suppose that a completely rally finds for it;” and the descrip satisfactory poem can be really im- tion is just, if the word “ Christian moral or irreligious. But before the is allowed a

wide enough religion, the morality, the spiritual Whether this enterprise is poetically significance can enter into it, they justified depends entirely on the manhave to pass through imagination, to ner in which the • connection" is lose their individuality, and to issue effected. But before we try to answer as sublimity or pathos or loveliness. this question, let us say at once that If they have not suffered this change, the author of the Epic of Hadles has well, doubtless they retain their origi- done literature a service of a kind nal value --and it may be a value greater especially needed. He has at all events than any æsthetic worth—but æsthetic this great claim on our welcome, that

sense.

a

he does not despair of mythology. His possessed by the general literary book is a practical refutation of the public. Historic truth, as such, is

, idea that the myths of any people can no canon of æsthetic truth ; but it be arbitrary inventions which hap- would be bad art to represent Washpened to please a particular race, but ington as a rogue, or Richard III. which sprang from no abiding ten- as a benevolent man, because a defidency, and have no more significance nite breach would be made between than a brightly-coloured dream. This the knowledge or belief of the general idea stands on a level with the old public and the artistic representation notion that religions are the invention offered to it; a breach which the of priests, and laws the invention of imagination could not ignore or till kings. Yet, however absurd it may up, and which would therefore impede seem to us when we state it baldly, its enjoyment. In the same way it our practical attitude corresponds to would perhaps be better for Schiller's it. Most of us look on religious play in the end if it were not so hismyths very much as we do on the torically inaccurate ; for although most stories of Sindbad or Jack the Giant- of his readers do not now know what killer. And the result is that we de- kind of a person Don Carlos was, prive ourselves not only of an immense it is possible that some day historical asthetic material, but also of some knowledge may be so widely extended valuable elements of culture and pos- that a disagreeable collision between sibly even of religion. In the Epic fact and the drama may be generally of Hades the Greek stories are at least felt. But when so much as this has supposed to embody ideas neither been allowed, the claims of scientific transitory nor absurd.

truth on art seem to be satisfied. What In another respect, too, the author is of moment to the imagination is the seems to have taken the right course : truth which appeals to it, and "facts," he has treated the stories freely. So as such, are not of moment to it. We much confusion prevails on this sub- may safely deny that there ever was ject that I venture to return to it for a Wandering Jew, or that the Greek a moment. If the myths of any people gods existed or exist; of the real are to have an esthetic value for us, originals of Achilles, of Arthur, of and possibly a religious value also, Don Juan, of Faust, we know nothing, they must be treated as mere materials or next to nothing. And for the purwithout historic scruple. What the poses of imagination we desire to know origin of the story of Ganymede may nothing of all this. It is not the facts have been, what different shapes it asserted in these myths or legends takes, these are questions of interest that have value for us, but the living for science, historical, linguistic, philo- spirit, the human soul, that mirrors its sophical. But for the imagination nature in them. It may be that but they matter no more, they matter for the existence of a real Doctor even less, than does the question as Faustus the legend would not have to the real cbaracter of Egmont or arisen. But we have the legend and Don Carlos. Don Carlos was not a the

poem

that sprang from it; and, high-souled enthusiast, but a ruffian; for poetry, it matters absolutely nobut for the purpose of the dramatist thing now whether he was ever born the problem is not what Don Carlos or not, and whether he was torn to was, but what can be made of him. pieces by the devil or died quietly in It is true that the freedom of art in his bed. this point has its limits, and that it The author of the Epic of Hades is would be better if historical truth therefore, as it seems to us, not going could be preserved. But that limit beyond the unwritten laws of verse is to be looked for, not in scientific when he refuses to treat the Greek knowledge, but in the information myths as facts, and invests them with

No. 259.-- VOL. XLIV.

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a meaning which they did not origin- affection (pp. 145–154). It is most ally possess. But has he succeeded distressing that Actæon should “somein so fusing together the old form times think” that “all his days were and the new spirit that the effect is shadows, all his life an allegory " poetically right? If not, then it must (p. 116), and should deliberately sugbe maintained that however much our gest various answers (and good ones) to other feelings may be moved, the poetic his own riddle. What Medusa says of worth of this emotion is at best mixed. nunneries and seduction (p. 195) is No one can read this book without sound doctrine, but surely she is not being struck by the enthusiasm which the person to enforce it. In these seizes on a moral or religious meaning cases, and in others, we feel that vioin the myths, and often enforces it lence has been done to myths which with real eloquence. And sometimes have a meaning more impressive, if the effect is successful poetry, as, for vaguer, than that given to them. In instance, in the case of myths which them, too, the meaning is one thing obviously spring from a moral experi- with the tale, and therefore they are ence not seriously affected by time, beautiful. But here we have moral and such as those of Tantalus or Sisyphus. religious ideas which, however truly But too often the story and its felt, have not been able to transform

meaning” refuse to combine ; the themselves into sensuous life. They experience which should be the soul themselves have not become imaginadoes not form for itself a body in tion, and therefore they do not satisfy which it lives and through which it imagination. speaks to us, but a certain material It is this very fact, this prominence is given us and we have to be told of an enthusiasm directly moral and what it signifies. And this “meaning" reflective, which suits the Epic of is something with which we are already Hades to the taste of so many readers. more or less familiar in an abstract No great poetic demand is made on shape. On the one side stands the us, far less than is made by Goethe's story; on the other we have reflections or Mr. Tennyson's poems on these subobviously belonging to the present jects. At the same time we are stand

. time and impossible to a Greek, and ing on solid ground. Our moral and these are placed with very little ado religious beliefs have a strength and in the mouths of gods and heroes. value which, fortunately, in most cases The result is not satisfactory. How- far exceed the strength and requireever eloquent the reflections may be, ments of our imagination. We seem to it is not these lips that should utter have much more offered to us when they them. The right place for the sections are put before us in a clear and indeabout Zeus and the Unknown would pendent form, than when the vital be a modern symposium in the Nine- experience

experience from which they spring is teenth Century. It is not Psyche who incorporated in a shape apprehensible should explain to us that we have seen only by poetic insight, and is refused in the series of divinities only

a distinct theoretical expression. Most

of us, to put an extreme case, get “Those fair forms Which are but parts of Him, and are indeed

more from practical eloquence on free Attributes of the Substance which supports

will and irresolution illustrated by the The Universe of Things." (P. 274.)

tragedy of Hamlet than by reading the

tragedy itself. If the effect we desire is Orpheus and Eurydice ought not to tell a practical effect, we do well to prefer us (if I understand them rightly) that the exhortation. And, even in the they typify a mistaken marriage, interests of poetry, if we cannot appreowing to which a man of genius has hend Hamlet without the eloquence, renounced his higher place to walk in if we cannot appropriate the myths the oomfortable plain of household without an allegory, it is better that

)

we should have it. But it remains made distinct. The cause of failure none the less true that eloquence is is not that a Greek myth is treated eloquence, and poetry poetry; and without historical respect; nor that that, when we use poetry as a stimu- its forms are used for the expression lant to moral feelings, we do not use

of ideas different from, and in many it as poetry. A glance at the notices respects superior to those of the

, of the press appended to the Epic of Greeks. If our poetic ideas are Hades and the Songs of Two Worlds capable of so revivifying these forms will show how much of the pleasure that the impression they make on the which these works give is only partly imagination is æsthetically right, a æsthetic. We read sentence after real achievement has been effected, a sentence praising the author (quite real addition of the greatest value to truly) for qualities which are not the world of our imagination and poetic at all. An ecclesiastical paper possibly also to our moral and religimay talk of “that particularly imagi- ous life. We may go farther. It is native lustre which belongs to the not even the gross historical incontruly poetic mind,” but journals not gruity of the substance of a poem ecclesiastical take up the position thus with the figures in which it is worked basely deserted. It is "the depth and out, that is fatal or even greatly truth of its purgatorial ideas that harmful to the aesthetic result; for really attracts them to the Epic of then these figures are really mere Hades. Does any one take the Bishop accessories, and we treat them as of Gloucester's declaration that he has such. But the problem takes quite "derived from it a deep pleasure and another shape when a poet, instead refreshment such as he never thought of using an ancient form as a mere modern poetry could give" for a judg- accident, attempts to make it the real ment on the poetic merits of the poem? embodiment of his ideas. In this Something at least nearer the point case he may express what modern ex: might be expected from the Saturday perience he chooses, so long as he can Review. But that champion of our make it live in its mythical embodispiritual welfare is absorbed in the ment; but that he cannot do, if he noble purpose and high ideal” of leaves it in the form of a conscious the author, and, carried into higher current idea and merely inserts it spheres by an ode in his volume of into the story. The first requisite is lyrics, bursts forth—“We cannot find that the impression given should be too much praise for its noble assertion æsthetically right; and no impression of man's resurrection.”

is so which is double, not single, and The author of the poems is not re- the double elements of which refuse sponsible for this irrelevant approval, to give up their separate existence. but it is invited by that defect in his If we examined the many successful works which I have criticised. Whether poems which have been written on the criticism is well founded in this mythical and legendary subjects durparticular case or not, the grounds on ing the last hundred years, I think we which it is based have a general appli- should find this point of view concation, and I hope they have been firmed. But, we may be told, there

is a very great difference between a 1 I do not say, nor in the least mean to im- lyric like Ganymed, and the poems ply, that they are anti-poetic. On the con

we have criticised. What Goethe has trary-we are so often told that the subject of a work of art is a matter of indifference, that expressed is only a relation of our it may be as well to add this—it is surely the minds to nature, à relation which has fact that deep and true ideas have a natural not been materially altered in the affinity to poetry which shallow and false ideas have not. But they ought to show it by

course of 2,000 years. (I do not becoming poetry; if they do not, their depth accept this statement. There is no

) and truth are not poetic qualities at all. difficulty, it will be added, in pro

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