페이지 이미지

grooming his horse; the horrible 'Jour des Rois;' the knight-errant series. There is nothing in all such of oversystematisation, over-logic, Hugo's and the Frenchman's usual failing. It is the verse in which they are told that gives to these legends their force: verse by no means equal in merit (like the verse of Milton for example), but so full of excellences that it is almost impossible to make a choice for quotation. Take this passage, for example, on the knightserrant as a class:

'Leur seigneurie £tait tutrice des chaumieres;lis etaient justes, bona, lugubres, tenebreux;
Quoique garde1 par eux, quoique vengé par eux,

Le peuple en leur presence avait l'inqui&ude

I)e la foule devant la pale solitude;

Car on a peur de ceux qui marchent en songeant.'

Would it be possible to give more finely what in cant phrase one is constrained to call the psychology of such beings and of their times ?' La foule devant la pale solitude' is not less than magnificent; so is the final line. And take the beggar on the bridge of Crassus in the ' Jour des Rois,' him first (but all that passage is too long for quotation) and next what he sees—

'Flamme au septentrion. C'est Vich incendiee.

Flamboiement au midi. C'est Girone qui brule.
Le roi Bias a jadis eu d'Inez la matrulle
Deux batards, ce qui fait qu'a cette heure Ton a
Gil, roi de Luz, avec Jean, due de Cardona.'

'Rougeur a 1'orient. Cest Lambier en feu;
Ariscat Test venu piller pour se distraire;' &c.

—a passage which gives excellent example of Hugo's originality and boldness in rhyming.

For a tour de force take the description of the figures in armour in 'Eviradnus.' In themselves they were not, perhaps, much more miraculous—those hollow armours upon wooden horses—than what one may see any day in the Tower of London. But read Hugo's description, the things become sepulchral, monstrous. It is absolutely true, as De Banville says, that this ' Legende des Siecles' alone constitutes a revolution in French literature; the mixture in the whole of a lyrical and an epic element likewise forms a new departure altogether. The wondrous asides, the little incidental images that slip from our poet almost unconsciously, who shall count them? Here is Balaam cursing vaguely:

'Sans savoir si des mains dans les tenebres blemes
S'ouvraient pour recevoir ses vagues anathemes.'

This of Iblis the fire-god:

'. . . Le feu lui sortait des naseaux,
Avec un bruit pareil au bruit des grandes eaux,
Dans la saison livide ou le cicogne Emigre.'

The last line is splendid and Homeric.

'On entend dans les pins, que l'age use et mutile,
Lutter le rocher hydre et le torrent reptile.'

There is nothing of the obvious in such a simile, which is yet so utterly appropriate to the passage. Or again:—

'I/herbe en &ait I'mue et le nuage et Pombre,
Et memo le rocher, qui songe et qui se tait.'

In quite unexpected ways, in his prose as in his verse, Hugo springs upon you a trope or simile, which, simple in itself, is on the occasion immensely striking. There is a moment when Claude Frollo, seeking relief from his passion for Esmeralda, opens the Bible at a passage in 'Job,' and receives a shock 'such as that a blind man feels who finds 'his hand pricked by the stick he has picked up.' The image is curiously apt and quaint.

'A chaque fois que l'heure sonne
Tout ici-bas nous dit adieu ' *

is not strikingly original in sentiment, but the • tout ici-bas' is a surprise. Unhappily, in the succeeding passage the poet overdoes his refrain of 'demain.' In mere narration Hugo can be—though, it must be confessed, only in his more blessed moods—as simple as Tennyson, yet without the affectation of simplicity which Tennyson inherited from Wordsworth, and without Tennyson's monotony. And this is a great achievement; for the alexandrine verse lends itself either to monotony or artificial fireworks to ward off that monotony. The description of Isara's toilette in 'Ratbert' in the 'Legende' is an example in point.

And what a library of other volumes there are to choose from, each having some great and special qualities of its

* 'Chants du Crepuscule,' Napoleon II.

own! The sad suavity of the 'Contemplations' and the earlier ' Feuilles d'Automne' (though this is not so good, not so sincere as the 'Contemplations'), the bitterness of the 'Chatiments,' and the more declamatory roll of the later 'Legendes,' of ' L'Annee terrible,' and so on. The ' Chants

* des Bois et des Rues ' are the only series which seems to us decidedly inferior. The poet fears no subject and no form of verse. As Swinburne has said, who before ever applied, as Hugo has done in one place, a mythopoeic gift to the mathematical sciences? At places he can be as realistic, and, yes, as much terre a terre as Coppee can be in his more realistic moods. The beginning of' Noces et Festins' reads like a foretaste of those later Parnassians. And he can be, though rarely (for that was least in his nature), as severe and classical as the head and founder of the Parnassians, as Leconte de Lisle. No doubt Hugo's late verse—almost all of that written after his return to Paris in 1870—is too declamatory, too much spoken from a conscious rostrum. There is probably no need to insist on the many beauties of

•L'Annee terrible,' such, for example, as the opening passage on Germany:

'Aucune nation n'est plus grande que toi;
Jadis, toute la terre etant un lieu d'effroi,
Parmi les peuples forts tu fus le peuple juste,
Une tiare d'ombre est sur ton front auguste;
Et pourtant, comme l'Inde, aux aspects fabuleux
Tu brilles; 6 pays des hommes aux yeux bleus.'

But on the whole the poem does not impress one as perfectly genuine. The sense of a need and a desire to pose is visibly weighing on Hugo's genius. We miss the nimble flight of the early ' Legende ' or of 'Contemplations.' We do not find perfect naturalness even in ' L'Art d'etre Grand'pere.' His vein now is to roll out immense and universal ideas in verse which is at times a bathos, at others greatly impressive.

So that here we come back to the primary and essential defect in Hugo's character and genius which we spoke of at the outset, and which, whether or no we are conscious of it the whole time we are reading him, must always affect our judgement and the impression we carry away. He cannot get rid of himself. In his dramas and his novels he cannot utterly lose himself in his creations. In almost all his poetry he has a subconsciousness of an expecting and admiring crowd, and he therefore never reaches the simplicity or the tremendous earth-shaking sincerity and strength of the greatest work. Such lines as—

'Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass 1 he hates
him much
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer;'

'" Quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante!"
Mentre che 1' uno spirto questo disse,
L' altro piangeva sì, che di pietade
Io venni men, cosi com' io morisse'

—were and are, 'both at the first and now,' altogether beyond his compass.

[ocr errors]

Akt. IX.—1. The Theatre: its Development in France and England, and a History of its Greek and Latin Origins. By Charles Hastings. London: Duckworth & Co. 1901.

2. Drame ancien: Drame moderns. Par Emile Faguet. Paris: Armand Colin et Cie. 1898. 8. Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant (1898) and Three Plays for Puritans (1901). By Bernard Shaw. London:Grant Richards.

\\^hat do we mean precisely by ' modern ' and 'ancient'?Each term implies the other, and Messrs. Taper and Tadpole are not the only phrase-mongers who have found it impossible to keep them apart. It was Mr. Taper, according to the author of' Coningsby,' who suggested to Mr. Tadpole the electioneering cry of 'Our Young Queen and our Old 'Institutions.'

'The eyes of Tadpole sparkled as if they had met a gnomic sentence of Periander or Thales; then, turning to Taper, he said:'" What do you think of' ancient' instead of' old '?"'" You cannot have 'Our Modern Queen and our Ancient Institutions,'" said Mr. Taper.'

Ingenious writers sometimes amuse themselves by explaining how many things that pass for ancient are of all things most modern; how the Darwinian hypothesis may be discovered lurking in the speculations of some forgotten Greek philosopher, and how the 'Pickwick Papers' may be discerned, by those who have eyes to see, in the 'Odyssey.' Thus Matthew Arnold exhibited the modernity of the chattering Sicilian women in a Theocritean idyll.* M. Jules Lemaitre points out how Euripides, in 'Ion,' 'meprise 'Scribe vingt-quatre siecles d'avance, ce qui est prodigieux' f —as prodigious it assuredly is—and how (he is speaking of Herondas) 'certains dialogues de la "Vie Parisienne," du '" Journal " ou de " L'Echo de Paris " vous donnent une idee 'fort exacte de ce que furent les mimes grecs.' f And what chiefly interests Mr. Herbert Paul in the 'Poetics ' of Aristotle is the fact that they are ' intensely modern.' §

• Essays in Criticism, first series: 'Pagan and Mediaeval Religious Sentiment.' At the Eton 'Fourth of June' this year Gorgo and Praxiuoe were tricked out with parasols and bonnets.

1 Impressions de Theatre, neuvieme sene, p. 12.

t Impressions de Theatre, huitieme sene, p. 2.

§ Nineteenth Century, February 1902, ' Art and Eccentricity.'

« 이전계속 »