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on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Romola (1863), Felix Holt (1866), The Spanish Gipsy, a poem (1868), Middlemarch (1872), The Legend of Jubal, and other poems (1874), and Daniel Deronda (1876).
SILAS MARNER AND HIS GOLD. (From Silas Marner : the Weaver of Raveloe, Part I, chap. ii.)
Gradually the guineas, the crowns, and the half-crowns, grew to a heap, and Marner drew less and less for his own wants, trying to solve the problem of keeping himself strong enough to work sixteen hours a day on as small an outlay as possible. Have not men, shut up in solitary imprisonment, found an interest in marking the moments by straight strokes of a certain length on the wall, until the growth of the sum of straight strokes, arranged in triangles, has become a mastering purpose ? Do we not wile away moments of inanity or fatigued waiting by repeating some trivial movement or sound, until the repetition has bred a want, which is incipient habit? That will help us to understand how the love of accumulating money grows an absorbing passion in men whose imaginations, even in the very beginning of their hoard, shewed them no purpose beyond it. Marner wanted the heaps of ten to grow into a square, and then into a larger square; and every added guinea, while it was itself a satisfaction, bred a new desire. In this strange world, made a hopeless riddle to him, he might, if he had had a less intense nature, have sat weaving, weavinglooking towards the end of his pattern, or towards the end of his web, till he forgot the riddle, and everything else but his immediate sensations ; but the money
had come to mark off his weaving into periods, and the money not only grew, but it remained with him. He began to think it was conscious of him as his loom was, and he would on no account have exchanged those coins, which had become his familiars, for other coins with unknown faces. He handled them, he counted them, till their form and colour were like the satisfaction of a thirst to him; but it was only in the night, when his work was done, that he drew them out to enjoy their companionship. He had taken up some bricks in his floor underneath his loom, and here he had made a hole in which he set the iron pot that contained his guineas and silver coins, covering the bricks with sand whenever he replaced them. Not that the idea of being robbed presented itself often or strongly to his mind : hoarding was common in country districts in those days; there were old labourers in the parish of Raveloe who were known to have their savings by them, probably inside their flock-beds; but their rustic neighbours, though not all of them as honest as their ancestors in the days of King Alfred, had not imaginations bold enough to lay .a plan of burglary. How could they have spent the money in their own village without betraying themselves? They would be obliged to run away'—a course as dark and dubious as a balloon journey.
So, year after year, Silas Marner had lived in this solitude, his guineas rising in the iron pot, and his life narrowing and hardening itself more and more into a mere pulsation of desire and satisfaction that had no relation to any other being. His life had reduced itself to the mere functions of weaving and hoarding, without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions tended. The same sort of process has perhaps been undergone by wiser men, when they have been cut off from faith and love-only, instead of a loom and a heap of guineas, they have had some erudite research, some ingenious project, or some well-knit theory. Strangely Marner's face and figure shrank and bent themselves into a constant mechanical relation to the objects of his life, so that he produced the same sort of impression as a handle or a crooked tube, which has no meaning standing apart. The prominent eyes that used to look trusting and dreamy, now looked as if they had been made to see only one kind of thing that was very small, like tiny grain, for which they hunted everywhere; and he was so withered and yellow, that, though he was not yet forty, the children always called him Old Master Marner.'
The livelong day he sat in his loom, his ear filled with its monotony, his eyes bent close down on the slow growth of sameness in the brownish web, his muscles moving with such even repetition that their pause seemed almost as much a constraint as the holding of his breath. But at night came his revelry; at night he closed his shutters, and made fast his doors, and drew out his gold. Long ago the heap of coins had become too large for the iron pot to hold them, and he had made for them two thick leather bags, which wasted no room in their resting-place, but lent themselves flexibly to every corner. How the guineas shone as they came pouring out of the dark leather mouths ! The silver bore no large proportion in amount to the gold, because the long pieces of linen which formed his chief work were always partly paid for in gold, and out of the silver he supplied his own bodily wants, choosing always the shillings and sixpences to spend in this way. He loved the guineas best, but he would not change the silver—the crowns and half-crowns that were his own earnings, begotten by his labour; he loved them all. He spread them out in heaps and bathed his hands in them; then he counted them and set them up in regular piles, and felt their rounded outline between his thumb and fingers, and thought fondly of the guineas that were only half-earned by the work in his loom, as if they had been unborn children—thought of the guineas that were coming slowly through the coming years, through all his life, which spread far away before him, the end quite hidden by countless days of weaving. No wonder his thoughts were still with his loom and his money when he made his journeys through the fields and the lanes to fetch and carry home his work, so that his steps never wandered to the hedge-banks and the lane-side in search of the once familiar herbs : these too belonged to the past, from which his life had shrunk away, like a rivulet that has sunk far down from the grassy fringe of its old breadth into a little shivering thread, that cuts a groove for itself in the barren sand.
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE.
BORN 1843. ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE is one of the most distinguished of living poets. He has equal claim to distinction on account of his compositions in prose.
Works: The Queen Mother and Rosamond, plays (1860); Atalanta in Calydon, a tragedy in Greek form, and Chastelard, a tragedy (1865); Poems and Ballads (1866); William Blake, a Critical Essay (1868); Songs before Sunrise (1871); Bothwell, a tragedy (1874); Songs of Two Nations, Essays and Studies, in criticism, and George Chapman, a Critical Essay (1875); Erechtheus, a tragedy (1876).
MARLOWE’S EXPRESSION OF IDEAL BEAUTY.
(From George Chapman, a Critical Essay.) In Marlowe the passion of ideal love for the ultimate idea of beauty in art or nature found its perfect and supreme expression, faultless and unforced. The radiant ardour of his desire, the light and the flame of his aspiration, diffused and shed through all the forms of his thought and all the colours of his verse, gave them such shapeliness and strength of life as is given to the spirits of the greatest poets alone. He, far rather than Chaucer or Spenser, whose laurels were first fed by the dews and sunbeams of Italy and France, whose songs were full of sweet tradition from over sea, of memories and notes which came mended from their tongues '—he alone was the true Apollo of our dawn, the bright and morning star of the full midsummer day of English poetry at its highest. Chaucer, Wyatt, and Spenser had left our language as melodious, as fluent, as flexible to all purposes of narrative or lyrical poetry as it could be made by the grace of genius ; the supreme note of its possible music was reserved for another to strike. Of English blank verse, one of the few highest forms of verbal harmony or poetic expression, the genius of Marlowe was the absolute and divine creator. By mere dint of original and godlike instinct he discovered and called it into life; and at his untimely and unhappy death, more lamentable to us all than any other on record except Shelley's, he left the marvellous instrument of his invention so nearly perfect that Shakspeare first and afterwards Milton came to learn of him before they could vary or improve on it. In the changes rung by them on the keys first tuned by Marlowe we trace a remembrance of the touches of his hand ; in his own cadences we catch not a note of any other man's. This poet, a poor
scholar of humblest parentage, lived to perfect the exquisite metre invented for narrative by Chaucer, giving it (to my ear at least) more of weight and depth, of force and fullness, than its founder had to give; he invented the highest and hardest form of English verse, the only instrument since found possible for our tragic or epic poetry; he created the modern tragic drama; and at the age of thirty he went
Where Orpheus and where Homer are. Surely there are not more than two or three names in any literature which can be set above the poet's of whom this is the least that can in simple truth be said. There is no record extant of his living likeness; if his country should ever bear men worthy to raise a statue or monu