And so in Art,

“the incomplete More than completion matches the immense.” Witness Michael Agnolo, witness Andrea del Sarto. Giotto's Belltower's incompletion constitutes its greatness.

As closely connected with this point of view, I pass to what I consider another great feature of Browning's philosophy.



The Truth of Love, in order to assert itself, requires a medium of negation or falsehood, in contrast with which it may shine out and show itself to be the Truth. If there were not falsehood or show, there would be no means for Truth's revelation. For if Truth existed alone, pure and unclouded, its end is already obtained, and there is no room for process or progress; in fact, there would be no meaning in the term “ truth.” As Jacob Böhme showed, Yes would have no meaning if there were not the possibility of saying No. Pure truth with no falsehood we could not distinguish from pure falsehood with no truth. Sludge, the Medium, was not altogether wrong when he said,

“ Don't let truth's lump rot stagnant for the lack 1

1 Of a timely helpful lie to leaven it!” On the one hand, “everybody can, will, and does cheat;" on the other, "every cheat's inspired, and every lie quick with a germ of truth.” And Ogniben said, “There is truth in falsehood, falsehood in truth.” To use an illustration that is common to Hegel and Browning, it is as little possible to see in absolute unlimited light as in absolute unlimited darkness ; vision is only possible when one is tempered by the other :

“ Clouds obscure-
But for which obscuration all were bright?
Too hastily concluded! Sun-suffused,
A cloud may soothe the eye made blind by blaze,-

Better the very clarity of heaven.(R. & B., Pope, p. 71.)
And in Aristoph. Apol., p. 90, we read :

“No sun makes proof of his whole potency,
For gold and purple in that orb we view ;
The apparent orb does little but leave blind
The audacious, and confused the worshiping.
But, close on orb's departure, must succeed
The serviceable cloud,-must intervene,
Induce expenditure of rose and blue,

Reveal what lay in him, was lost to us.” Thus we have the raison d'être of evil and falsehood and pain; without them, good and truth and pleasure were not possible.

“ The evil is null and nought, silence implying sound.”

“Why rushed the discords in, but that harmony should be prized ?Even a heaven cannot be conceived without at least the possibility of pain and ill.

The virtue of a sheathed flower may be drawn forth by a " thundrous midnight.” Mistake for man is “midway help till he reach fact indeed," and error is in the world in order that he may look above its scope

and “ see the love." Care and doubt are symbols and pledges of the love that is his soul, pledges of his alliance with Divinity:

6 Irks care the cropful bird ? frets doubt the maw.crammed beast ?“For mankind springs salvation by each hindrance interposed.” Hear Paracelsus's regrets

“In my own heart love had not been made wise
To trace love's faint beginnings in mankind.
To know, even hate is but a mask of love's,
To see a good in evil, and a hope
In ill-success; to sympathize, be proud
Of their half-reasons, faint aspirings, dim
Struggles for truth, their poorest fallacies,

Their prejudice and fears and cares and doubts."
I may quote two out of many pertinent passages in Sordello

• Where the salt marshes stagnate, crystals branch ;
Blood dries to crimson ; Evil's beautified
In every shape. Thrust Beauty then aside
And banish Evil! Wherefore? After all,
Is Evil a result less natural

Than Good ?” (Book 6.)

“ Venice seems a type
Of Life—'twixt blue and blue extends, a stripe,
As Life, the somewhat, hangs 'twixt nought and nought:
'Tis Venice and 'tis Life : as good you sought
To spare me the Piazza's slippery stone
Or keep me to the unchoked canals alone,
As hinder Life the evil with the good

Which make up Living, rightly understood.” (Book 3.) I could fill pages more with quotations to the same effect. On the use of doubt does Browning everywhere especially insist (cf. e. g. Rabbi Ben Ezra). It is a kind of spiritual purgatorio for souls di farsi belle. Even pessimism is not to be condemned without qualification ; for it implies a high standard of good in the pessimist.

But it is in Fifine that far the longest and fullest exposition of this principle is to be found.

I refer particularly to the simile of the swimmer in the ocean, one of the very greatest of Browning's many great similes.

[ocr errors]




(Kead at the 6th Meeting of the Browning Society, Friday, April 28, 1882.)

p. 266.

p. 261.

ary, p. 268.

p. 262.

p. 263.

Introduction, p. 259.

necessity of Falsehood and Evil, I. Br.'s point of view : individual,

V. Love and Knowledge complementII. Br.'s First Principle, or God,

VI. Comparisons with Hegel, p. 270. III. Hon Love manifests itself in the VII. Personal God : Christianity, Inworld : Power and Knowledge,

dividuals, p. 272.

VIII. Immortality, p. 275. IV. The implication of opposites :

I start with the distinction which Browning has himself drawn in his Essay on Shelley between the objective and the subjective poet. The former is he who is impelled to embody his perceptions with reference to the many below ;(the latter to embody them with reference to the One above him, " the supreme Intelligence which apprehends all things in their absolute truth,—an ultimate view ever aspired to, if but partially attained, by the poet's own soul. Not what man sees, but what God sees—the Ideas of Plato, seeds of creation lying burningly on the Divine Hand—it is towards these that he struggles.”

We are tempted to ask, Is Browning himself an objective or a subjective poet? The dramatic form of such a large majority of his works might induce some on superficial consideration to decide that he belongs to the former class. But lovers of Browning who go beyond the external form will recognize, along with his objectivity, that power “to lift his fellows, with their half-apprehensions, up to his own sphere, by intensifying the import of details and rounding the universal meaning," which marks the subjective poet. Whilst he supplies us with “the fresh and living swathe,” whilst he represents to us separately and analytically the facts of experience, he is not carelessly content to be ignorant of laws for recombining them, but seeks to bring them under a universal and harmonizing synthesis. In this view then he is at once a subjective and objective poet; he has in fact transcended the one-sided standpoints of both classes, and if he does not succeed in striking the highest notes of the greatest singers of either, yet he has attained to a



fuller and more steadfast view of the universe and its problems, because on the one side his objective faculty both moderates the extravagance of spiritual intuition and gives it solid as well as airy material for its use, and on the other side his subjective faculty supplies wings to soar above the immediate world of experience and demonstrate its affinity to something higher. And this is just the poet that men seemed to be in need of. Considering that the poet's function is to find and show us Truth, the objective poet tries to fulfil this function by presenting to us in poetical dress nature and life as they immediately seem to be; the subjective poet by transcendent acts of insight apprehends transcendent Truth, he rises as on the waves of Abt Vogler's music to heights which many indeed of his hearers, borne along with him, may catch sight of for a moment, but when they sink again to the common chord, and are bereft of his assistance, they are liable to apprehensions that the vision may have been an illusive dream. We want then a poet who will use understanding as well as insight, and instead of taking a giant leap-a lead which few can follow—from the objectivity of experience to an absolute Truth like Plato's Ideas, will condescend to help those Jacobs not endowed with his own wings of spiritual intuition up the several steps of a ladder. This is what Browning does; he supplies mediating links between experience and the absolute Truth. It is this discursive reasoning element in Browning which makes us associate philosophy with him more than with most poets, for they are content to see; he seeks to explain.

The aim of this paper is to give in a connected form the general bearings of his philosophical teaching. In the belief that the thoughts of a philosopher often illustrate, and so help us to pierce more clearly, the perceptions of a poet, I had intended to draw some parallels as I went along between Browning and Hegel. But when I came to write, I found that the compass of a single essay would not admit of it, and so I shall merely indicate some general points of comparison with Hegel, after I have first exhibited Browning's doctrines.

But, to begin, I must insist on the necessity of clearly comprehending Browning's theory, in order to understand what are the practical conclusions which he draws: especially, does he believe in immortality of the individual. And supposing such immortality to be the high hope upon which he has fixed his eyes, and at the same time the corner-stone on which he has raised the towers of philosophical optimism over the turf of doubt, yet inasmuch as doubt is our lot as the sparks fly upward, inasmuch as we are still of the turf turfy, we are forced to pause and consider whether this corner-stone is firm and deeply enough sunk to bear up the edifice, or whether it is but a turf-clod which,

« ͹˹Թõ