Abbildungen der Seite
[merged small][ocr errors]

never flagged anywhere and more than once rose to an enthusiasm that made him read aloud. There are few surer tests of fine verse than that-that it insists upon being read aloud. Take such a passage as this from what is unquestionably the finest book, the eleventh. It is the night after the Armada has been sighted, and Drake has had his six little ships hauled down to the sea, and they are out of Plymouth Sound at last with the cry

Let God arise, And let His enemies be scattered!

And now the moon began to wane; the

West With slow rich colors filled and

shadowy forms, Dark curdling wreaths and fogs with

crimsoned breast, And tangled zones of dusk like frozen

storms, Motionless, flagged with sunset, hulled

with doom! Motionless? Nay, across the darken

ing deep Surely the whole sky moved its gor

geous gloom Onward; and like the curtains of a

sleep The red fogs crumbled, mists dissolved

away! There, like death's secret dawning

thro' a dreain, Great thrones of thunder dusked the

dying day, And, higher, pale towers of cloud be

began to gleam. There, in one heaven-wide storm, great

masts and clouds Of sail crept slowly forth, the ships

of Spain! From North to South, their tangled

spars and shrouds Controlled the slow wind as with

bit and rein; Onward they rode in insolent disdain Sighting the little fleet of England

there, While o'er the sullen splendor of the

main Three solemn guns tolled all their

host to prayer, And their great ensign blazoned all the

doom-fraught air,

[ocr errors]

Under the leaden fogs of that new

dawn, Empty and cold, indifferent as death, The sea heaved strangely to the sea

men's eyes, Seeing all round them only the leaden

surge Wrapped in wet mists or flashing here

and there With crumbling white. Against the

cold wet wind Westward the little ships of England

beat With short tacks, close inshore, striving

to win The windward station of the threaten

ing battle That neared behind the veil. Six little

ships, No more, beat Westward, even as all

mankind Beats up against that universal wind Whereon like withered leaves all else

is blown Down one wide way to death: the soul

alone, Whether at last it wins, or faints and

fails, Stems the dark tide with its intrepid



[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

The break into rhyme is certainly more than sudden, and, unjustified as it is by any emotional change in the situation (for it continues after the simile), is open to grave objection. But, the abruptness of the change once forgotten, the rhymed verse is too fine to need forgiveness.

Castille, Blazon the skies with royal Aragon, Beneath Oquendo let old ocean reel, The purple pomp of priestly Rome

bring on; And let her ceusers dusk the dying sun, The thunder of her banners on the

breeze Following Sidonia's glorious galleon Deride the sleeping thunder of the

seas, While twenty thousand warriors chant

her litanies. Lo, all their decks are kneeling! Sky

to sky

Responds! It is their solemn even- in the harbor of Syracuse. Mr. Noyes ing hour.

is not Thucydides, but at any rate be Salve Regina, though the daylight die,

does not disgrace the courage which Salve Regina, though the darkness

made him attempt his splendid task. lour;

He has at his command a style which Have they not still the kingdom and the power?

in the whole long poem never once, Salve Regina, hark, their thousands perhaps, falls below a certain high level cry,

of dignity and force. Actually to the From where like clouds to where like highest heights he has scarcely yet mountains tower

learned to climb, but it is a great Their crowded galleons looming far

achievement to write twelve books of or nigh,

verse with scarcely a single lapse into Salve Regina, hark, what distant seas reply!

sheer dulness; scarcely one into mere verbiage of word-spinning rhetoric.

The poem is always advancing; someThe sun of Rome goes down; the night thing is always being done, and neither is dark!

the action nor the verse ever sink below Still are her thousands praying, still their cry

the epic level, Ascends froin the wide

The most serious defect in the treat

waste of waters, hark!

ment is a strange one to allege against Ave Maria, darker grows the sky! a poem with Drake for its subject. But Ave Maria, those about to die

it is true, nevertheless. Alive as the Salute thee! Nay, what wandering story is, it has not enough action. winds blaspheme

What it has is all of one kind. There With random gusts of chilling prophecy

is no Æneas and Dido in it, still less Against the solemn sounds that heaven ward stream!

any Hector and Andromache. Indeed, The night is come at last. Break not in spite of a transient glimpse or two of the splendid dream.

Drake's “Bess," and that greater Bess

under whose flag Drake fought, there Mr. W. P. Ker has well said that may be said to be no mention of a “whatever epic may mean it implies woman in all the twelve books. And some weight and solidity." It must one might even go further, and say that have action for its subject, and great there is scarcely a man except Drake. action; and its manner must have a Sidney appears, but only once as corresponding weight and dignity. No momentary foil to Drake, and not much one will accuse “Drake” of failing in more can be said of those who appear these respects. If ever there was a more often. The whole poem falls beheroic moment in the world's history it low that other half of the true epic was that in which England stood face ideal, “The whole business of life comes to face with the Armada. Others there bodily into the epic.” Only its heroics are as great, but none greater. An epic come into the epic of Mr. Noyes. He poet could not have a greater theme. makes no attempt to follow Homer The tremendous odds, the tremendous and Homer's imitators in using the simissues at stake, the tremendous and ir- ile as a means of bringing all the doremediable catastrophe, give him the ings and sufferings of men, all their opportunity, if he has the power, of lives, and arts, and pleasures, and making us think of the tragedy that pains, small as well as great, into an deals with Salamis, or the two immor- action whose own direct business is tal books that tell the story of the confined to the single activity of tightAthenians who fought their last fight ing. His work, in consequence, is LIVING AGE. VOL.


[ocr errors]


Empire of Englishmen" that shall, they trust, one day be founded.

A small and weather-beaten band they

stood, Bronzed seamen by the laughing res

cued slaves, Ringed with gigantic loneliness and

saw An Empire that should liberate the

world; A Power before the lightning of whose,

arms Darkness should die and all oppression

cease; A Federation of the strong and weak, Whereby the weak were strengthened

and the strong Made stronger in the increasing good

of all: A gathering up of one another's loads; A turning of the wasteful rage of war To accomplish large and fruitful tasks

of peace, Even as the strength of some great

stream is turned To grind the corn for bread.

lacking in variety, lacking in charm, lacking in human sympathy and tenderness. It is too overwhelmingly political. The great forces of Nature are the only actors that share its stage with Spain and England, Protestantism and Rome. These are serious limitations. But, it must be admitted, the accepted limits are admirably used. It is the accepted tradition, and probably the necessary law, of the epic that it should graft a contemporary interest on to an ancient story. A modern story would lack the remoteness demanded by the higher tragic or epic dignity. An ancient story left to itself in pure antiquity lacks the living interest needed by all art; it becomes a mere piece of archeological pedantry. So the far-off ancient tale must somehow be united with the stir of some contemporary emotion. So Virgil filled the legend of Eneas with all the new interest that belonged to the foundation of the empire and the fresh glory of the Julian house. So Milton filled heaven and hell and even the very Garden of Eden itself with the ethical, political, and theological problems that had just shaken the England in which he wrote to its very foundations. And so Mr. Noyes makes of Drake, the private adventurer, not merely the incarnation of the spirit of Protestantism and Liberty, but the conscious architect of the foundations of the sea-built worldwide British Empire of to-day. He does not venture on such direct modern references as the Imperial compliments which play such a conspicuous part in the Æneid; but the thought of the great sea-empire as we know it to-day, its perils, its possibilities, the great ideal that seers of visions shape for it in the future-all this is never absent from “Drake" for many consecutive pages. The Indians of the Pacific would have Drake stay and rule them, and his men, as they hear the prayer, have a glimpse of “the great

There is the ideal, very far beyond Drake, no doubt, and far beyond the present too, or any future we can expect to live to see; but not less worth listening to than Virgil's idealized Rome. And here are the conditions on which alone it has a chance of being realized. Drake is face to face with the Armada. The first day's fight is done, and Howard thinks it dangerous to risk a fresh attack. Drake pleads for instant action, as he had before pleaded that the Armada should be attacked on the Spanish coast. His plea is for

The first poor thought which now and

evermore Must be the sceptre of Britain, the

steel trident Of ocean-sovereignty. That mighty

fleet Invincible, inpregnable, omnipotent, Must here and now be shattered, never

be joined With Parma, never abase the wind.

swept sea,

With oaken roads for thundering le presence of the sea. We go round the gions

world with Drake and the whole world To trample in the splendor of the sun

seems one immense and boundless sea. From Europe to our island.

The sea is the spirit that broods everyHere is surely enough to make an Eng.

where over "Drake," as the spirit of lishman throb at once with love and

Rome broods over the Æneid. pride and with the "unnamed fears"

Onward they surged, ... which even the steadfast faith of

And there was nought around them but Wordsworth could not escape.


the gray air we are breathing is great air, and Ruin and roar of the huge Atlantic political issues become for once eternal

seas, things. And they are given an eternal Gray mounded seas, pursuing and purstage for their battle. Everywhere


That fly, hounded and hounding on forthrough this poem the big things of Na

ever, ture are with us—the air and the

From empty marge to merge of the clouds, the dawn and the night, the sun

gray sky. and the stars, above all, the mighty

The Times.


When Mr. George Cherry bank came in for the Silverton property on the death of his uncle, he brought with him to the Manor House a keen sense of his responsibilities as landlord and country gentleman. He was not one of those who are convinced that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and, even if he had been, the recent census would have been difficult of digestion; for the recent census made it painfully clear that the population of Silverton parish was drifting away to the towns, and a mere glance at the villagers would have led the most superficial observer to doubt whether the fittest had survived.

How was the débâcle to be checked ? How was village life to be made more attractive? That was the problem which exercised the mind of George Cherry bank; and, as a partial attempt to solve it, he had, with the rector's cordial consent, determined to organize a series of lectures and entertainments for the winter months.

The work of organization was not

a light one, for the amount of local talent that could be relied on was limited. The rector's tour to Palestine had already done duty several times, had also been much exploited in his sermons; still, it could be served up again, and would fill the bill for one occasion. Then Major Bridge was always ready to give his lecture on “Big Game in Borneo"; and Mr. Cherry bank thought that he could himself improvise something on the Principles of Political Economy, though the recent Fiscal Controversy had somewhat confused his ideas. That accounted for three evenings; a concert and a penny reading would bring the total up to five; a little bit of acting at Christmastime might increase it to six. But where were the rest of the entertainments to come from? For Mr. Cherrybank's plan had been to have one per week, and an English winter, unfortunately, extends over a longer period than six weeks.

In this dilemma Mrs. Cherry bank, acting for her husband, entered upon a correspondence with her friend Mrs. St. I am in the same difficulty myself; for Helier, of Balham, an energetic and I fear I shall have to part with Mrs.

Rice. enthusiastic lady, who had espoused

I am practically certain that

she drinks. Isn't it dreadful, for she many causes in her day and sat at the

exactly suited us! feet of many Popes. The following

Your loving, extracts will give the reader a fair idea

Tootoo. of its nature and scope:

T'he Manor, Silverton: The Manor, Silverton:

September 9, 1907. September 3, 1907.

Darling Tootoo,-Thank you so much Darting Tootoo,—You are always so

for your dear 'letter. Yes, I wish you clever and so well informed that I am

could come; but who is Mr. Wetherby? writing to you in a really great diffi

George doesn't remember ever to have culty. Now do help me, like the dear,

heard of him, so it's not likely that poor wise soul that you are. George is try. ignorant little me should be any wiser.

What is his subject, and could we ing to arrange for some entertainments

write to him without knowing him?... for our village this winter-something that will be instructive as well as amus

I am so sorry about Mrs. Rice! When ing, you know. George is going to take

I was with you last spring, Alice told political economy himself, and we have me that she seemed very quieer: I have got promises from the Rector and Ma- asked her to-day whether she meant jor Bridge; but, of course, that isn't drink, and she says, “Yes, that was it; nearly enough. You have such heaps only, of course, she didn't like to say of clever friends! Do you think that so then." you could persuade any of them to take

Your loving, pity on us? Of course we should put

Lulu. them up and give them some shooting or hunting and so on, and George al

Garibaldi Villa, Balham: ways gets on so well with clever peo

September 9, 1907. ple. Now do think of somebody; I

Darling Lulu,—Not know who Horace am sure you must know of heaps. Wetherby is! Wherever have you Your loving,

been living! Why, he is the greatLulu. est and most original thinker of the day

-a prophet, a sort of second Carlyle, PS.--Do you happen to know of a and he writes in all the papers! And cook? I am afraid we are going to lose what is his subject! Well, he can talk Emma, as she can't get accustomed to wisely and wittily about everything, the country.

from the cedar of Libanus to the hys

sop that grows on the wall. You ought Garibaldi Villa, Balham: certainly to get him. An evening in

September 5, 1907. his company will be quite as great a Dearest Lulu,-I am afraid that you revelation to your country squires as vastly exaggerate my talents as a "Uni. to the villagers. ... I find that I was versal Provider." I wish I could come quite mistaken about Mrs. Rice. She myself and talk to your villagers, but, is a teetotaller of the bluest brand; but as you know, James can't spare me; she has suffered a great deal from and it isn't easy to persuade people to her teeth lately, poor thing, and, very lecture. So many men who are bril- unwisely, uses laudanum to allay the liant talkers in a drawing-room lose pain. I am afraid that your Alice must their nerve completely when they get be rather malicious. Mrs. Rice tells me on to a platform, like poor Charles that she was a great mischief-maker in Siackenthorpe. But I wonder that you the servants' hall, and set them all by haven't thought of writing to Horace the ears. I think it is right that you Wetherby; he has no nerves, and an should know this, evening with him is a revelation.

Your loving, Ii s no use asking me about cooks, as


« ZurückWeiter »