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gave time and pains to turn my work into what the many might — instead of what the few must — like; but, after all, I imagined another thing at first, and therefore leave as I find it."
This, on the whole, he has done; for, though a prose heading runs before every page, with a knowing wink to the reader, the mystery is not cleared up. As the view dissolves with every turn of a leaf, the showman says, confidentially,—" Now you shall see how a poet's soul comes into play, — how he succeeds a little, but fails more,—tries again, is no better satisfied,—
"Because perceptions whole, like that he
To clothe, reject so pure a work of thought As language: thought may take perception's
But hardly coexist in any cane,
We fear so : at any rate, the exhibition fails, because the showman cannot furnish brains to his commentary. The man who can read " Sordello" is little helped by these headings, and the man who cannot is soon distracted by continual disappointment. We think he will end by reading only the headings. And they doubtless are the best for him. Otherwise, under the cerebral struggle to perceive how the prose interprets the poetry, he might become the idiot that Douglas Jerrold exclaimed that ke was at his first trial of " Sordello."
There has been a careful overhauling of the punctuation, with benefit to the text. Many lines have been altered, sometimes to the comfort of the reader; and about a hundred fresh lines have been interpolated here and there, to the weakening, we think, of the dramatic vigor of nearly every place that is thus handled. Many readers will, however, find this compensated by an increased clearness of the sense. On page 131 (page 162, first edition) there is an improved manipulation of the simile of the dwarf palm; and four lines before the last one on page 147 (page 171, first edition) lighten up the thought. So there are eight lines placed to advantage after " Sordello, wake! " on page 152 (page 176). But, on the whole, what Mr. Browning first imagined cannot be tampered with, and he must generously trust
the elements of his own fine genius to do justice to his thought with all people who would not thank him to furnish an interpreter.
One day we argued earnestly for Browning with a man who said it was fatal to the poetry that it needed an argument, and that he did not want to earn the quickening of his imagination by the sweat of his brow,
— he could gather the same thought and beauty in less break-neck places,— all th« profit was expended in mental gymnastiia,
— in short,
"The man can't stoop To sing us out, quoth he, a mere romance; He .l fain do better than the best, enhance The sublects' rarity, work problems out Therewith: now,you 're a bard, a bard past
And no philosopher; why introduce Crotchets like these? fine, surely, but no us« In poetry, — which still must be, to strike, Based upon common sense; there 's nothing
Appealing to our nature!"
Find the rest of Mr. Average's argument on page 67.
These objections to the poetry of Mr. Browning, which the dense, involved, and metaphysical treatment of " Sordello" first suggested to the public, are made to apply to all his subsequent writings. We concede that "Sordello " over-refines, and that, after reading it, "who imuld has heard Sordello's story told," but who would not and could not has probably not heard it. The very time of the poem, which is putseveral centuries back amid the scenery of the Guelph and Ghibelline feuds, as if to make the struggle of a humane and poetic soul to grow, to become recognized, to find a place and purpose, seem still more premature, puzzles the reader with remote allusions, with names that belong to obscure Italian narrative, with motives and events that require historical analysis. The poem is impatient with those very things which make the environment of the bard Sordello, and treats them in curt lines. A character is jammed into a sentence, like a witch into a snuff-box, the didactic parts grow metaphysical, and the life of Sordello does not fuse the events of the poem into one long rhythm. He thinks and dreams apart, and Palma's ambition for him is an aside, and the events swing their arms and strike fiery and cruel blows with Sor
dello absent. Considering Mr. Browning's intent, there is a fine poetic success in this very fault of the poem, but it is not a plain one, and is an after-thought of the critic. The numerous splendid pages in "Sordello" do nothing towards making one complete impression which cannot be evaded. Naddo, the genius-haunter, would complain, that, in struggling out towards these aisles of beauty, he had seriously compromised his clothing in the underbrush.
But the faults which characterize "Sordello" are not prevalent in the subsequent writings which are loosely accused of them. They become afterwards exceptional, they vein here and there the surface, and Mr. Average stumbles over them and proceeds no farther. Still, Mr. Browning's verse is not easy reading. He is economical of words to the point of harmony; but what a hypocrite he would be, if he used more! He brings you meaning, if you bring him mind; and there is - I-upper outside, if you don't care to trouble yourself. In saying this we are not arrogant at all, for there is a large and widening sympathy with Mr. Browning's thought. Perhaps a whole generation of readers will fretfully break itself upon his style, and pass away, before the mind hails with ease his merits. But is Shakspcnre's verse easy reading? Not to this day, in spite of his level of common sense, the artlessness of his passion, and the broad simplicity of a great imagination, that causeth it« sun to shine on the evil and the good. It was easy reading to Ben Jonson, to Milton, and to Chapman; it took "Eliza and our James "; it had more theatrical success than the scholarly plays of Jonson : but two or three centuries have exhausted neither his commentators nor the subtile parts that need a comment . A good deal of Shakspeare is read, but the rest is caviare to the multitude. We need not comfort ourselves on the facility with which we take his name in Tain. We venture to say that the whole of Shakspeare's thought is inwardly tasted by as many people as enjoy the suhtilty of Robert Browning. Shakspeare has broader places over which the waters lie, sweet and warm, to tempt disporting crowds, and places deep as human nature, upon whose brink the pleasure-seekers peer and shudder. But if Mr. Browning had a theatrical ability equal to his dramatic, and were content to exhibit a greater number of
the stock-figures of humanity, men would say that here again they had love that maddened and grief that shattered, murdering ambition, humorous weakness, and imagination that remarries man and Nature.
Mr. Browning's literary and artistic allusions prevent a ready appreciation of his genius. "Sordello" needs a key. How many friends, "elect chiefly for love," have spent time burrowing in encyclopav <11>1-.. manuals of history, old biographies, dictionaries of painting, and the like, for explanations of the remote knowledge which Mr. Browning uses as if it had been left at the door with the morning paper! On the very first page, who is "Pentapolin, named o' the Naked Arm "? If a man had just read Don Quixote, he might single out J'entapolin. Taurello and Ecelin were not familiar, — nor the polities of Verona, Padua, Ferrara, six hundred years ago. There was not a lively sympathy with Sordello himself. Who were the "Pisan pair "? Lanzi's pages were turned up to discover. And Greek scholars recognized the "Loxian." But any reader might be pardoned for not at once divining that the double rillct of minstrelsy, on page 37, was the Troubadour and the Trouvcre, nor for refusing to read pages 155 and 150 without a tolerable oufit of information upon the historical points and personages there catalogued.
There are not a few pages that appear like a long stretch of prose suddenly broken up and jammed in the current; some of the ends stick out, some have gone under, the sense has grown hummocky, and the reader's whole liiculty turns to picking his way. Take, for instance, page 96, of which we have prepared a translation, but considerately withhold it.
But turn now to the famous marble font, sculptured afresh in those perfect lines which begin at the middle of page 16, with the picture of the Castle Goito and the maple -panelled room. Here the boy Sordello comes every eve, to visit the marble standing in the midst, to watch the mute penance of the Caryatides, who flush with the dawn of his imagination. Read the description of his childhood, from page 25, and the delights of his opening fancy : —
"He o'er-festooning every interval, As the adventurous spider, making light Of distance, shoots her threads from depth to height,
From barbican to battlement; so flung Fantasies forth and in their centre swung Our architect, — the breezy morning fresh Above, u 1' d merry, — all his waving mesh Laughing with lucid dew-drops rainbowedged."
All these pages are filled with poetry; the reflective element does not dominate severely. Bordello's youthful gouius craves sympathy, and he finds it by investing Nature with fanciful forms and attributes. He is Apollo,—" that shall be the name." How he ransacks the world for his youth's outfit, as he climbs the ravine in the June weather, and emerges into the forest, which tries "old surprises on him," amid which he lingers, deep in the stratagems of his own fancy, till
"aloft would hang
White summer-lightnings; as it sank and sprang
To measure, that whole palpitating breast
Of heaven, 't was Apollo, Nature prest
At eve to worship."
Then comes a portrait of Palmn, done with Titian's brush and manner. As we turn the leaves where favorite passages lie brilliantly athwart the faded polities of an old story, we are tempted to try spinning its thread again for the sake of holding up these lines, which are among the most delicate and sumptuous that Mr. Browning ever wrote. But room is at present dear as paper. Only turn, for instance, to pages 39-45, 72-74, the picturesque scenes on pages 84, 85, the opening of Book IV., Salinguerrn's portrait, like an old picture of Florence, on page 127, and lines single and by the half-dozen everywhere.
The tragedy of " Strafford" is one of Mr. Browning's earliest compositions. It was once placed upon the stage by Mr. Macready, but it is no more of an acting play than all the oiher pieces of Mr. Browning, and is too political to be good reading. The characters stem to be merely reporting the condition of parties under Charles L; this and the struggle of the King with the Parliament are told, but are not represented, the passions of the piece belong too exclusively to the caucus and the councilchamber, and even the way in which the King sacrifices StrafTord does not.dramatically appear. In the last act, there is much tenderness in the contrast of Stafford's doom with the unconsciousness of his chil
dren, and pathos in his confidence to the last moment that the King will protect him. The dialogue is generally too abrupt and exclamatory. Vane speaks well on page 222, and Hampden on page 231, and there are two good scenes between Charles and Strafford, where the King's irresolution appears against the Earl's dfvotedness. The closing scene of Act IV. has the dramatic form, but it is interfused with mere civil commotion instead of color, and the motive is a transient one, iniliortant only to the historian. But we need not multiply words over that one of all his compositions which Mr. Browning probably now respects the least.
"Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day" is a beautiful poem, filled with thought, humor, and imagination. The mythical theory of Strauss was never so well analyzed as in the tilting lines from page 363 to 361. And there is good theology in this :— "Take all in a word: the truth in God's breut
Lies trace tor trace upon ours impressed;
Though He is so bright and we so dim,
We are made in Ilis image to witness Him;
And were no eye in us to tell,
Instructed by no inner sense.
The light of heaven from the dark of hell,
That light would want its evidence," etc.
Naddo will doubtless tell us that this poem is not built broadly on the human heart; there is- too much discussion about the dit ficulty of becoming a Christian, and the subtile genius flits so quickly through the lines that an ordinary butterfly-net does not catch it. That is well for the genius. But we arc of opinion that the human heart will always find in this great poem the solemn and glorious things that belong to it, and more and more so as new and clearer thought is bora into the world to read it. It is no more difficult to read than " Paradise Lost," while its scenery is less conventional, and the longings of a religious heart are taken by a bold imagination into serene and starry skies.
A History of the Intellectual Development of Eurol*. By John William Draper, M. D., LI,. D. New York: Harper 4 Brothers.
Water and the science of Physiology are both good things. But water is one thing to drink, and another to be drowned in. In like manner, though Physiology is a large and noble science and a yet larger symbol, furnishing analogies to the thinker quite as often as uses to the medical doctor, nevertheless, Physiology in the form of a .>> IriL,.r, overflowing, swamping, drowning almost everything else, and leaving only Body, the sole ark, afloat,— this is a gift which we are able to receive with a gratitude not by any means unspeakable. And such, very nearly, is the contribution to modern thought which the author of the above work endeavors to make. He holds Physiology to be coextensive with Man, and would prove the fact by including History in its laws.
In truth, however, it is a pretty thin sort of Physiology to which this extension is to be given, — resembling water in this respect also. Our physiological philosopher seeks to prove (in 631 octavo pages) that there are in history five perpetually recurring epochs, answering — the reader will please consider — to the Infancy, Childhood, Youth, Maturity, and Old Age of the individual body. So much, therefore, as one would know concerning Physiology in its application to the individual body, in virtue of being aware that men pass from Infancy to age, thus much does Dr. Draper propose to teach his readers concerning the said science in its application to History. Add now that his induction rests almost wholly on two main instances, of which one is yet incomplete! Should one, therefore, say that his logic is somewhat precipitate, and his "science" somewhat lacking in matter, he would appear not to prefer » wholly groundless charge.
Were Dr. Draper simply giving a History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, he could, of course, relate only such facts as exist; and should it appear that this history has but two cycles, one of them incomplete, he would be under no obligation to make more. But such is not the case. His "history" is purely a piece of polemic. His aim is to establish a formula for all history, past, present, and to come ; and, in this view, the paucity of instances on which his induction rests becomes worthy of comment.
And this disproportion between induction and conclusion becomes still more glaring, when it is observed that he expects his formula for all history to carry an inference much larger than itself. Dr.
Draper is devoted to a materialistic philosophy, and his moving purpose is to propagate this. He holds that Psychology must be-an inference from Physiology,—that the whole science of Man is included in a science of his body. His two perpetual aims are, first, to absorb all physical science in theoretical materialism,—second, to absorb all history in physical science. And beside the ambition of his aims one must say that his logic has an air of slenderness.
This work, then, may be described as a review of European history, written in obedience to two primary and two secondary assumptions, as follows : —
Primary Assumptions: First, that man is fully determined by his "corporeal organization "; second, that all corporeal organizations, with their whole variety and character, are due solely to "external situations."
Secondary Assumptions: First, that physical science (under submission to materialistic interpretations) is the only satisfactory intellectual result in history, being the only pure product of " reason "; second, that "reason" alone represents the adult stage of the human mind,—" faith " being simply immature mental action, and "inquiry" belonging to a stage of intellect still less mature,—in fact, to its mere childishness.
The position thus assigned to inquiry is very significant of the theoretic precipitancy which is one of Dr. Draper's prominent characteristies. His mind is afflicted with that disease which physicians call "premature digestion." Inquiry, which is the perpetual tap - root of science, he separates wholly from science, stigmatizes it as the mere token of intellectual childhood; and this not in the haste of hn epithet or heat of a paragraph, but as a fixed part of his scheme of history and of mind. The reason is found in his own intellectual habits. And the savage fury with which he plies his critical bludgeon upon Lord Racon is due, not so much to that great man's infirmities, nor even to his possession of intellectual qualities which our author cannot appreciate and must therefore disparage, as to the profound consecration of Inquiry, which it was one grand aim of his life to make.
His assumptions made, Dr. Draper proceeds to "break" and train history into their service, much after the old fashion of " breaking " colts. First, he mounts the history of Greece. And now what a dust I What are centaurs to a savant on bis hobby? To see him among the mythic imaginations of the sweet old land! He goes butting and plunging through them with the hcadiness of a he-goat, another monster added to those of which antique fancy had prattled.
He has collected many facts respecting ancient thought, (for his industry is laudable,) but the evil is that he has no real use for his facts when obtained. Think of finding in an elaborate " History of the Intellectual Development of Europe " no use for the "Iliad" and " Odyssey" but that of bolstering up the proposition that there was in Greece an age of unreasoning credulity 1 It is like employing Jove to turn a spit or to set up tenpins. Everywhere, save in a single direction, and that of secondary importance with respect to antique thought, he practises tin- same enormous waste of material. Socrates is a mere block in his way, which he treats with nothing finer than a crow-bar. Socrates had set a higher value on ethical philosophy, derived from the consciousness of man, than on physical science; consequently, Dr. Draper's choice must be between treating him weakly and treating him brutally; he chooses the latter, and plays his rile with vigor, — talks of his "lecherous countenance," and calls him "infidel" and "hypocrite." Plato he treats with more respect, but scarcely with more intelligence. He makes an inventory of Plato's opinions, Bs a shopman might of his goods ; and does it with an air which says, "He who buys these gets cheated," while occasionally he cannot help breaking out into an expression of impatience. Indeed, not only Plato, but Athens itself, represents to Dr. Draper's mind the mere raw youth, the mere ambitious immaturity of Grecian intellect, amusing itself with "faith " because incapable of " reason." He finds its higher and only rational stage at Alexandria, at Syracuse, or wherever results in physical science were attained. In Aristotle, indeed, he is able to have some complacency, since the Stagirite is in a degree "physiological." But this pleasure is partial, for Aristotle has the trick of eminent intelligences, and must needs presently spread his pinions and launch forth into the great skies
of speculation; whereupon, albeit he flies low, almost touching the earth with the tips of his wings, our physiological philosopher begins to pish and pshaw.
In his treatment of modern or post-Roman history. Dr. Draper goes over new ground in much the same spirit. He seems, indeed, nearer to his facts, deals more with actual life, is more lively, graphic, engaging, and has not that air of an intellectual shopman making an inventory. Considered as a general review of the history of Europe, written chiefly in the interest of physical science, but also in marked opposition to Roman Catholicism, it might pass unchallenged and not without praise. But considered as a final scientific interpretation of the last'fifteen centuries, its shortcomings are simply immeasurable. The history of Europe, from the fusion of the Christian impulse with Roman imperialism to the time of Columbus, Copernicus, and Luther, is the history of a grand religious idealism established over men's heads in the form of an institution, because too great to be held in solution by their thoughts. Of such a matter the writer in question could give no other than a very inadequate account. Wanting tl>.it which is highest in the reason of man, namely, imaginative intellect, he has no natural fitness for explaining such a fact; while his unconsciousness of any such deficiency, his persuasion that an iiaayination and a delusion are one and the same, and his extreme dogmatic momentum cause him to handle it with all the confidence of commanding power.
Considered, again, as a polemic to the point that history revolves forever through five recurring epochs, and that, as our civilization has been now four centuries in the "age of reason," it must next (and probably soon) pass into the fifth stage, that of decrepitude, and thence into infantile credulity and imbecility once more,—as a demonstration that history is such a Sisyphus, his induction is weak even to flimsiness.
But on approaching times yet more modem, the dominating predilection of the writer no longer misleads him; it guides him, on the contrary, to the truth. For of the last four centuries the grand affirmative fact is the rise of physical science. Or rather, perhaps, one should say that it oat the grand fact until some fifty yean ago.