chancing to be a little concreter and denser, has presented the illusive appearance of rock. Wher; we have redescended the turrets that we have mounted under Browning's guidance, and “stand on alien ground”; when we sink to the common chord of this life-sorrow that is hard to bear, and doubt that is slow to cure—we cannot but question the objective permanence of the heights that we "rolled from into the deep”; we feel sober acquiescence very difficult; it is hard to find our resting-place. Is the poet in possession of a point or peak that can fix the wandering star of immortality ? has he found a real spark on earth that reflects the ideal “ ball of blaze” in heaven? Or, dropping inetaphor, has he established a tenable basis for this great hope, if indeed he holds it, without any aid from that unfortunate dogmatism which is so often made to serve for reasoned truth?

Such questions as these will seem of course irrelevant to orthodox Christians, but it is not for “maw-crammed," “ crop-full” Christians, who never feel doubt, that Browning writes; it is for men and women, whom 'indeed he endeavours to make Christian in the widest sense of the word, but not by forcing dogma down their throats by

"method abundantly convincing, But scarce to be swallowed without As I say, to those convinced before, By the not-as-yet-convinced.” [wincing Let us try then to see Browning's "scheme of the weal and woe,” that we may, if we can, understand the hope of Caponsacchi, and see the possibility of “worlds not a few” wherein our hopes shall be realized, and their impersonations, our Evelyn Hopes, be revived for us.

1. BROWNING'S POINT OF VIEW : INDIVIDUAL. Philosophers, strictly so called, set themselves the problem of explaining the universe, the spheres of Abstract Thought, of Nature, and of Spirit, whose inner bond they try to discover; and this bond constitutes the metaphysics of their system. But history tells us that every system that has yet been elaborated has, in a generation or two, when weighed in the balance, been found wanting, and been superseded by a new system which its author in turn fancied was the “key to all the knowledges"; but soon gates were found with locks of too complicated wards for it, and a new key must be forged. This is the natural consequence of the growth and progress of the human spirit, its increase of knowledge and civilization; and new philosophical schemes must arise till the end of things. But great world-schemes are universal, not individual, and philosophers like Epictetus or Epicurus speak to individuals more than Plato or Aristotle. Individuals, though they may grasp a system with eagerness, as giving them a wide and satisfactory view of the mysteries of mind and nature, must go back into the individual again and ask, What is the meaning of this for me? And this question the universal systems do not solve; and when they try, cannot solve quite adequately or self-consistently: this is a question on which poets give us deeper hintings, on which music gives us momentary revelations.

It were possible to class human souls in genera and species, classes and varieties, yet none the less each individual soul is individual, and life has a different meaning for each. No spiritual kernel can get free of the nut-shell it is bounded in, though it count itself a king of infinite space. The coefficients of refraction vary with the media : the “natural fog” of a good pastor's mind augments his truths to double their size, and the pearl of price lies on a professor's table “ dust and ashes levigable.” It is from the individual that Browning starts : “ Meantime I can but testify

The world rolls witnessing around me God's care for me—no more, can I- Only to leave me as it found me." It is but for myself I know ;

(Chr. Ere.) As Mr. Arnold expresses it,

“ Thou hast been, shalt be, art alone.” (Switzerland.) The human world is a collection of units, each by himself and for himself; and, because they coexist, externally dependent on one another : it is like a sea studded with “ pin-point rocks." Each man's mind is like a

convex glass To reunite there, be our heaven on Wherein are gathered all the scattered earth, points

Our known unknown, our God revealed Picked out of the immensity of sky,

to man. (Ring and Book, iv. 57.) But there are two sides to an individual's Weltanschauung, the individual and the universal. From the individual side he considers the universe as his own world ; from the universal he looks upon

himself as a single unit of that world. Now it is the individual side that comes prominently forward in Browning ; but to understand it we must take it in its context; and as the universal side, being less obtrusive, is very likely to escape notice, I shall occupy myself first and principally with it, and afterwards take it in connection with the individual side.

II. BROWNING'S FIRST PRINCIPLE, OR GOD. Browning's first principle or absolute Truth is Love: that which abideth one and the same, the subject and substance of all change, the permanence by which alone change is possible, whose sum ever remains what it was before,” in short, God or Truth ; for, as he tells us in Fifine, “falsehood is change,” and “ truth is permanence.” In the whole realm of thought, including the laws of nature and the course of history, and especially the lots of souls, Browning has essayed to pierce through the phenomenal exterior, and the abiding reality that he reaches and brings back tidings of is Love: Love is the Truth.

It is naturally asked, How does Br: wning arrive at this first concrete principle? how does he support the claims of Love as that in terms of which the universe is to be ultimately explained? The answer is, he derives it from experience. His poems are dramatic pictures of life drawn in such a way as to let us detect Love as the permanent spiritual unity underlying the manifold changing variety of circumstances, which are merely the modes in which Love's power compels it to reveal itself. Hence most of his works have two sides : (1) they contribute severally to establish the great tenet of his teaching, that Love is God; (2) they at the same time exhibit conclusions deducible from this hypothesis ; and thus (3) the doctrine itself may be looked upon as the pervading and unifying fluid, which gives to all his poems, as a whole, an organic life.

It is, perhaps, scarce necessary to remark that this procedure of Browning is most strictly philosophical. Such an objection as that he himself imports Love into the circumstances would tell as much or as little against all science. Theory is as necessary to interpret facts as facts are to support theory.




Love is a mere verbal abstraction unless it be conscious of itself; and in order to be conscious of itself, it must reveal itself to itself. Its very nature and essence is to manifest itself; until it do so, it is only a potential idea, not an actual reality. The conditions of its revelation, Browning shows us, are given by its two modes, Power and Knowledge (or Intellect). Power is the mode of Love's manifestation in Nature; Knowledge is Love's recognition of itself through the medium of Power. But it is better to quote some of Browning's own expositions of these principles from the individual point of view. Man, therefore, stands on his own -Advancing in power by one degree ; stock

And why count steps through eternity ? Of love and power as a pin-point rock, But love is the ever-springing fountain : And, looking to God who ordained Man may enlarge or narrow his bed divorce

[tinent, For the waters play, but the waterOf the rock from his boundless con. headSees, in his power made evident, How can he multiply or reduce it? Only excess by a million-fold

As easy create it, as cause it to cease; O'er the power God gave man in the He may profit by it, or abuse it, mould,

But 'tis not a thing to bear increase For, note: man's hand first formed As power does : be love less or more

In the heart of man, he keeps it shut A few pounds' weight, when taught Or opes it wide, as he pleases, but to marry

Love's sum remains what it was before.”' Its strength with an engine's, lifts a

(Chry mountain,

to carry

Here is shown the function of Power : to it are due all apparent changes and quantitative variations of Love. Though Knowledge is not in these lines expressly mentioned, yet it is implied in man, who recognizes Love and Power. Love being the substance, and therefore also the end and purpose of life, Knowledge is the means whereby it perfects and fulfils itself

“why live Except for love-how love unless they know?" (R. & B., Pope.) Truth and Beauty are merely Love revealed as an object to man's Knowledge : “all thou dost enumerate

Inextricably round about.
Of power and beauty in the world, Love lay within it and without

The mightiness of love was curled To clasp thee.” (Easter Day.)

" the truth in God's breast Lies trace for trace upon ours impressed,” &c. (Chr. Ece.) But the fault in men is not to recognize that beauty and truth are manifestations of Love. When Fia Lippo Lippi says

Or say there's beauty with no soul at all —
(I never saw it-put the case the same-)
If you get simple beauty and nought else,
You get about the best thing God invents :
That's somewhat: and you'll find the soul you have missed,

Within yourself, when you return him thanks he means that beauty is always an apparition of Love; for the soul is the faculty of Love, as distinguished from mind the faculty of Knowledge, and from Power. And if any one, though loving the beauty, fail consciously to detect a latent soul, yet the effect it works on his own soul proves the secret presence of Love.

When Love is once free and flowing, having set itself free by means of Power, it manifests itself in advancing stages from “ the extreme of the minute” up to the mind of man “recognized at the height" progressive forms of Beauty. I can only refer- the passage is far too long to quote-to the last speech of Paracelsus, which describes in marvellously vivid poetry the evolution of God, through the stages of nature and spirit. I entreat especial attention to this passage.

As power is thus the vesture, “the suits and trappings" of Love, it follows that Browning considers the natural world-space, our surroundings, our bodies, “this dance of plastic circumstance”—to possess its significance as the sphere wherein Love shows itself and learns to know itself, and which belongs most of all to man, who is the clearest “ facet of reflection of God”; it is the stage on which he is to “ love in turn and be beloved," and be initiated in Godship; it is "machinery just meant to give thy soul its bent."

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“Man appears at last. So far the seal For their possessor dawn those qualities, Is put on life; one stage of being But the new glory mixes with the heaven complete,

And earth; man, once descried, imprints One scheme wound up: and from the

for ever grand result

His presence on all lifeless things : the A supplementary reflux of light

winds Illustrates all the inferior grades, Are henceforth voices, wailing or a shout, explains

A querulous mutter or a quick gay laugh; Each back step in the circle. Not Never a senseless gust, now man is alone

born,” &c. (Paracelsus.) The lower forms of creation are perfect each in its place, each has its “ due facet of reflection” too, each is a mode of the life that God made be, but their very perfection is due to their inferiority in the scale. It is as if we conceive nature developing from an atom-point of force, like a spiral cone which winds round and round in ever-widening circles; but all except the last are shut in, fixed and confined in their positions ; the last alone has an end-point and room for further progress : man is “Lower than God who knows all and Creeps ever on from fancies to the fact, can all,

And in this striving, this converting air Higher than beasts which know and Into a solid he may grasp and use, can so far

Einds. progress, man's distinctive mark As each beast's limit, perfect to an end, alone, Nor conscious that they know, nor Not God's, and not the beasts' : God is, craving more ;

they are, While man knows partly, but con- Man partly is, and wholly hopes to be.” ceives beside,

(Death in the Desert.) This distinction is one of the striking features of Browning's teaching: man's perfection consists in his imperfection, and his consciousness thereof. He is not like a

“ lark emballed by its own crystal song,

Or rose enmisted by that scent it makes !” (Ar. Apol.) These, indeed, God hath pronounced to be very good ; they are good in their degree; but there are degrees higher; and the use of the lower degrees is, that they are modes of Love for man's love to recognize. Man realizes Love by knowledge ; by knowledge, for example, of what “ love can do in the leaf and stone." But the essence of his manhood is “the passion that leaves the ground to lose itself in the sky.” The spark “that disturbs our clod” is the pledge of our divinity. The beasts “partake” and “receive," but think not of the provider and effecter : : we indeed receive gifts too, we are confined in our cistern, we are finite, we are dust as well as they ; but then we can, while they cannot, look from the gift

" to the giver,
And from the cistern to the river,
And from the finite to infinity,
And from man's dust to God's divinity.”

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