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critic, his "Lives of the Poets" contain little more than narrow and shallow assertions, supported by prejudice, and expressed with dogmatism. And to think of his omitting many of the greatest names in our literature for the sake of bringing before the world as English poets, such miserable rhymesters as Fenton, Yalden, Hammond, Duke, Smith, Walsh, Sprat, and Lyttleton !

TALBOT. A most unjust estimate of a work which, notwithstanding its defects, could not easily be surpassed. You forget also that Johnson wrote for the booksellers, and was subject to their selection.

HARTLEY. No, I do not forget it; but surely a man who had justly earned a high name in literature, and who was looked upon as a Goliath in criticism,-a man who owed more to his fame than the booksellers could ever owe to him, a man moreover who had reached the ripe age of seventy, might have told those dull booksellers that half the names they had selected did not belong to poets at all, but were the property of miserable versifiers, who tagged dull verses merely because it was the fashion to write in rhyme.

TALBOT. Leave the grand old lion in peace, HARTLEY (if he were alive he would reply to your remarks by a contemptuous roar), and tell us, which you have not yet done, on what ground you demur to the pastoral character of the "Shepherd's Calendar."

HARTLEY. On this ground, that the twelve eclogues which compose the poem, refer in the main to political and religious matters, and contain few passages of rural description.*


* Had I remembered the following suggestive passage, I might have quoted it with advantage in replying to the arguments of Hartley :

TALBOT. Then on the same ground you will object to some of the most noted pastorals in the world—to more than one of Virgil's, to all of Petrarch's, and even to Milton's "Lycidas."

HARTLEY. Yes, I do.

TALBOT. Better, then, give up the pastoral altogether; for there is scarcely one in the language pure enough for your taste.


You mistake me. I would rather read a good poem with a false title, than a bad poem which can be defined without danger of dispute. Now a pure pastoral I take to be one of the most uninteresting poems in the world, and the most unnatural, although its whole talk is of

"A misconception as to the nature of the eclogue, or pastoral, has been very prevalent. No criticism of compositions of this kind, from Virgil's Bucolics downwards, has been more common than that the poets have failed in keeping to the truth of pastoral character and pastoral life, and have made their shepherds and shepherdesses talk a language and express feelings which, neither in Arcadia nor elsewhere, did shepherds and shepherdesses ever know. One is surprised that so gross a view of the matter should so long have been current. There may, of course, be a pastoral of real life, where the purpose is to exhibit rural manners as they actually are among the swains of Greece, Italy, Spain, England, or Scotland. It seems to have been Ben Jonson's intention, in his 'Sad Shepherd,' the last, and one of the most poetical of his works, to come closer to this model of the pastoral than was usual. But the pastoral of real life is one thing, and the pastoral as it was conceived by Spenser and by many of his contemporaries, both in and out of England, was another. The pastoral, with them, was but a device or form, deemed, and perhaps found, advantageous for securing in the poet's own mind that feeling of ideality, that sense of disconnexion from definite time or place, and from all contemporary social facts, which is almost essential to the pure exercise of poetic imagination.”—Masson's Life of Milton, vol. 1, page 411.

nature; and I would rather have a glorious poem like "Lycidas," which is only a semi-pastoral, than the most correct piece of the kind that has ever been written. By the way, do you remember that James Montgomery in his lectures treats the pastoral with unmitigated contempt?

TALBOT. You are too fond, HARTLEY, of backing your own opinions with the authority of some man of mark. Montgomery, like all other poets who have undertaken to expound their art, was liable to dogmatize, and nursed, of course, his own favourite crotchets.

HARTLEY. My dear TALBOT, you cannot venture to affirm that the pastoral, according to Pope's definition of it, is worthy of much attention, or fitted to afford enjoyment to true lovers of poetry. The thing, as our forefathers understood it, is altogether effete; and you might as well attempt to revive the romances of knight-errantry, or the starched politeness of Sir Charles Grandison. I heartily rejoice, indeed, that this is the case. It is not because we love nature less, that we turn away with contempt from the uncouth and affected dialects of amatory shepherds, but because we love her with a more hearty and indeed a wiser affection, than was ever evinced, except by a few select spirits, in the days of old. The man who is thoroughly in love with any woman drops at once all high-flown phrases, and all merely conventional politeness. His language becomes simple without verging on the common-place, and eloquent without effort. If he is silent, it is from feeling, and an honourable reticence; if he reveals his heart's secret, he does it with a marked sincerity which leaves no doubt that he is in earnest, and just so if a poet wooes nature with the ardour of a

first love, he is not likely to deal in quibbles, or to find satisfaction in the idle play of a misdirected fancy. Our poets in modern times, with plenty of faults to answer for, know more of the beauty and variety of God's world, drink in a deeper solace, and find profounder matter of thought in the flowers, the birds, the mountains, the forest trees, in all the animate and inanimate life around them, than was perhaps possible to their gifted predecessors, in whose lives so many distracting elements contended for the mastery.

TALBOT. A nebulous remark, truly. Explain yourself.

HARTLEY. I have said nothing which I cannot justify, and, if need be, prove. Mind you, it is only in one respect that I assert the position of our modern poets to be more favourable than that enjoyed by the greater number of their poetic ancestors. They know more about nature, because they have more leisure to observe her; because they are but seldom actors in the history of their times; because the difficulty of bread-getting does not press them down, and compel them to sing only what they "learn in suffering," or what, to the degradation of their genius, is forced from them to sustain a social status or even a bare existence. The battle of life in this comfortable nineteenth century is not necessarily a hard one for the poets. They can live in well-furnished houses, and accumulate large libraries, and keep an account at their bankers, and walk the streets with the easy and assured step of monied men. The "wind sits in the corner of their sail," and popularity and competence combine to carry them smoothly and pleasantly along.

STANLEY. Too smoothly, perhaps, for their own fame

and the world's advantage. Comfortable and well-to-do men, are not those from whom we expect the noblest flights of genius, or the most pregnant suggestions of wisdom. True greatness is forced out of a man by conflict.

HARTLEY. Granted. I am not arguing as to the greatness of our modern poets, when I affirm that in one respect they have an advantage over their, perhaps, more illustrious predecessors; yet I might reply to you by saying that men who, to outward appearance, live delicately, may know more of stern mental conflicts, and have tougher struggles with foul fiends, than those whose enemies come in a shape more visible and common-place. The man of deep thought—and a great poet is of all men the most profoundly thoughtful-will encounter many an Apollyon with whom he must do battle. But this mental conflict, so far from proving a barrier to intercourse with nature, becomes a powerful incentive to such intercourse.

It is late, exclaimed STANLEY, rising hastily from his chair. I like not late hours, even in London; but in the country all nature summons us to retire to rest betimes, that we may be ready to enjoy her fresh morning fragrance.

A hasty good night was exchanged, an agreement made to meet at an earlier hour the next evening, and away we went down the hill, shouting out snatches of old songs to the silent midnight air.

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