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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Poetry, Prose, and Mr Patmore

Poetry, Prose, and Mr Patmore.

Every poet pleads, and every critic laments, the difficulties opposed by modem habits of thought, and the constitution of modern society, to the production of substantial works of poetic art—such, we mean, as affect an independent concrete existence, instead of merely serving to express the feelings of the writers as individuals. If, it is said, the author resorts for his page 122 subject to the antique or the ideal world, the degree of his success does but serve to measure the remoteness of his exile from contemporary interests and sympathies; if, on the other hand, he endeavours to reflect the life around him, he can no more escape alloying his strain with the transitory and accidental than the diver can avoid bringing up the oyster with the pearl. This is true; but it cannot be said that the unhappy divorce between the real and ideal is the especial disaster of our times. Few and brief have been the periods in human history when a vital belief in a mythology capable of supplying art with the most exalted themes has co-existed with the ability to apply it to poetic usages. The reason is evident—that such a degree of ability implies a degree of culture and intelligence in presence of which the most picturesque legends disappear like

"A withered morn,
Smote by the fresh beam of the springing East."

For two generations only was it possible for the Greeks to retain, along with the civilization which permitted their tragic poets to exemplify the perfection of artistic skill no less than of native power, the simple traditional belief which gave their dramas a root in the national life as well as the national sense of beauty. Dante's contemporaries readily explained the gloom of his aspect as the effect of his Stygian experiences; but the Cardinal of Este, two hundred and fifty years later, would probably have referred the Divine Comedy to the same category as the Orlando Furioso. In fact, the difficulty of accomplishing the task on which modern criticism rather vociferously insists, of finding imaginative expression for the interests, aspirations, and social peculiarities of our own age, is so far from being any special characteristic of the age in question that it would be hard to point out any writers who have more unequivocally succumbed to it than the great Italian pair of the sixteenth century,—Ariosto and Tasso. The contemporaries of the Constable Bourbon can hardly have cared much about Orlando; and, in Tasso's day, the Holy Sepulchre, so far from being the goal of a crusade, would not even answer as a pretext for replenishing the Papal coffers. If, then, the universal witness of the human heart justified Mrs. Browning in her "Distrust" of

"The poet who discerns
No character or glory in his times,
And trundles back his soul five hundred years,
Past moat and drawbridge, into a castle court,"

the successive laureates of that lucky house of Este ought to have been poetically dead and buried long ago. The notoriety of the contrary fact suggests that the utilitarian theory of poetry may perhaps be less sound than specious. "We see (and, if further example be required, Spenser, Keats, Shelley, and Schiller are at hand) that it is quite possible for genius to disdain the ground of realities and yet exist—though, it may be but as a wild, wandering beauty, a

"Strange bird of Paradise
That floats through Heaven and cannot light."

The modern impatience of the indirect operation of the humanizing and harmonizing influences of art—the confusion of the poet's function with that of the philosopher, the legislator, the reformer—have only tended to make writers conceited and readers unjust

Still, however extravagant the form in which it may sometimes find expression, the desire to see poetry brought into a more intimate relation with the practical needs of the age is in itself laudable and legitimate. In proportion to our appreciation of the elevating and refining character of its influences must be our unwillingness to contemplate these as necessarily limited in their operation to a small literary class. It cannot be said that contemporary poets have, as a body, shown any indisposition "to grapple with the questions of the time." On the contrary, their mistake has rather consisted in the failure to discriminate between those vitally and eternally significant and the merely trans- page 123 ient and accidental features of the age. We live in times exceedingly favourable to the development of the speculative faculty—a period in which it is hardly possible to reflect seriously on any important topic without encountering some problem in urgent need of solution. The answers which for so many centuries have more or less contented the inquiring mind of man are now found to have been merely provisional; and, while old questions are being reopened on all sides, the gigantic development of physical and political science has suggested an infinity of new ones. By virtue of its peculiar sensitiveness, the poetic is even more likely than the ordinary mind to conceive an intense interest in some of these problems; and it is the very law of its being to reproduce its impressions in its creations. Unfortunately, nothing but an instinctive sense of artistic fitness will enable it to distinguish the permanent from the accidental features of its fascinating environment We might mention two contemporary poets who possess this delicate tact, but doubt if the list could be extended.

Some writers not merely by preference adopt a metrical form as the vehicle of thought, but are before all things poets. Their conception of a poet is not that of one writing to instruct, to refine, to expound a plan of life, to accomplish any end whatever capable of being expressed with logical precision in words; but whose aim, or rather call it instinct, is simply to compose poetry. If you ask what this poetry is, they cannot tell you; they are only sure that it is an actual entity, as real an existence as painting or music. As painting, they would say, is not outline and colour, so neither is poet's language and rhythm; these are simply the vesture of the spirit else invisible. As music is not an ingenious way of moving the passions, but a something which possesses this among other properties, so the power of poetry to exalt or admonish is indeed an inherent quality, but not the essence of poetry itself. A writer who has risen to this conception of his art will neither make perfection of form nor practical utility his main object, for his instinct assures him that the soul of poetry lies elsewhere. As the painter does not conceive the universe to be all colour, as the musician has eyes as well as ears, so he himself does not regard poetry as sunlight, steeping the universe in a flood of monotonous radiance, but as the intense electric beam, whose splendid concentration on some objects only serves to isolate them from the surrounding darkness. Consequently, he will be an eclectic, content with selecting from the mass of contemporary interests those themes alone which appear to him susceptible of poetic treatment; like a bee, he alights only upon flowers. Thus, though Mr. Tennyson is one of the most thoughtful of men, familiar with every branch of ethical and abstract speculation, it is impossible to extract anything like a theory of life from his writings, simply because such a theory must necessarily take cognisance of a multitude of details which he has intuitively perceived to be unpoetical. The same might have been said even of so eminent a thinker as Goethe, had he never written in prose.

But, it may be asked, is the reader dependent on the fidelity of the writer's intuitions? Can he not determine for himself when he is or is not reading poetry? We might reply that he is himself frequently a participant in "the vision and the faculty divine," even though "the channels between thought and expression may have been obstructed." Perhaps, however, it may be possible to discover a less abrupt Gradus ad Parnassum. Painting, sculpture, music, are found to agree in the common aim of raising man above himself—of substituting a state of emotion for one of tranquillity. If no emotion be excited by the sight of a painting or a statue, or the hearing of a piece of music, then either the spectator or listener is naturally insensible to the influence of art, or has temporarily become so through satiety, pre-occupation, or infirmity, or else the merits of the work itself are merely of a technical character. Poetry, in the proper sense of the term, page 124 is attended by the same effect, and maybe discovered by the same criterion. The range of the poetic is indeed more extensive than that of the sister arts. Emotion may be aroused by an appeal to the affections, as in Moore's—

"I know not, I ask not, if guilt's in that heart;
I but know that I love thee, whatever thou art;"

—to the imagination, as in Shelley's description of the waning moon:—

"Like a (lying lady, lean and pale,
Who totters forth, wrapt in a gauzy veil,
Out of her chamber, led by the insane
And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,
The moon arose up on the murky earth,
A white and shapeless mass;"

or, finally, by the enunciation of some grand moral or philosophical truth, such as Wordsworth's—

"Sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things"

This latter sublime passage is to be rather apprehended intuitively than by a conscious effort of the understanding; and so in every case the appeal is addressed to feeling of some sort;1 and, therefore, poetry, in the highest sense, cannot undertake the construction of a theory of life or the universe, on which the logical faculty alone is competent to pronounce. Yet this is the very work which each successive generation requires and attempts to accomplish. The highest kind of poetry, then, cannot fulfil the wants and wishes of contemporaries; and it even requires self-discipline and watchfulness, and an ambition of achieving practical results, to prevent its wandering off altogether into the ideal regions which are after all most congenial to its nature. Mrs. Shelley has recorded the difficulty her husband experienced in composing political songs, political zealot as he was.

The cultivation of poetry for its own sake is, however, quite exceptional, even with poets. With most, when once they have travelled beyond the simple lyrical expression of their individual emotions, the main impulse to the production of poetry has obviously been to afford the world the benefit of their opinion on subjects which appear to them of importance. Thus, if we are to accept Milton's own account of his aims, his sublimest flights of imagination are merely accessories to the practical end of "justifying the ways of God to man." It is impossible to suppose that the architect of Pandemonium took no pleasure in his work for its own sake, independent of the value he ascribed to it as a buttress of theology; but, with less imaginative writers, the artistic motive disappears in the didactic. In the "Course of Time," for example, the Calvinistic polemic is real and hearty; the imaginative form a reminiscence of Milton, as conventional as a red petticoat in a landscape. The same assertion, mutatis mutandis, may be made with reference to Cowper, Young, Crabbe, &c. Almost all Wordsworth's poems stand in direct and calculated relation to his theories of life and art. Even Mrs. Browning tells. us that she intends "Aurora Leigh" as the exponent of her own. Now we think we may venture to assume as axioms—

1. That every system of thought is in some way the offspring of the ago in which it makes its appearance. Thus Wordsworth's anti-conventionalism was at bottom merely another manifestation of the same spirit that was contemporaneously overthrowing the thrones of the continent. The Tractarian protest against the tendencies of the ago was virtually as much the creature of the age as those tendencies themselves.

2. The poets who frame such systems are necessarily better exponents of the special characteristics of their times than those who restrict themselves to the essentially poetical; for this is the common property of all ages. But, the

1 See Mr. Mill's masterly essay on Poetry and its Varieties ("Dissertations and Discussions," vol. i.).

page 125 more completely they express these characteristic features, the more certainly do they reproduce the frivolous casual aspects of the age, as well as those of serious and permanent significance. Consequently, the problem, how to adapt the eternal spirit of poetry to contemporary interests and sympathies, does not admit of a satisfactory solution. A rigid idealist, professing to go round the world without transgressing the limits of pure poetry, is like one endeavouring to empty the sea with a bucket. A mere realist, trying to accomplish the poet's task with the satirist's tools, would hew an oak with rushes, weave a cable from sand. The same strictures apply to the purely didactic poet who is inevitably driven to adapt his instructions to the special requirements of his generation.
Mr. Patmore1 is an admirable example of the second of the poetical classes we have endeavoured to discriminate above—of those, namely, who write poetry not for its own sake, but for that of some definite aim ever present to their minds. Mr. Tennyson and Mr. Patmore have each treated of the mission of woman; but is it possible to imagine two more dissimilar works than the "Princess" and the "Angel in the House?" Mr. Patmore describes his task as self-imposed, requiring special training, steady purpose, and prolonged effort:—

"The fairest realm in all the earth
Is counted still a heathen land;
So I, like Joshua, now go forth
To give it into Israel's hand.
I've girt myself with faith and prayer," &c.

And he does indeed go at his work with a simple manly directness that would insure him our respect, even if his genius did not, as it must, command our admiration. Mr. Tennyson, too, professes to have a moral, of which he is continually losing sight, and which cannot be deduced from the preceding narrative. "Maud" has fifty times the moral significance of "The Princess," and for this very reason, that Mr. Tennyson has not gone out of his way in quest of anything, but, allowing free play to his artistic instincts, has evolved an ethical lesson as well. Mr. Patmore could not write with this abandon; he speaks by the intellect, though, it may be, often to the feelings. Fortunately these feelings, though temporarily entwined like ivy with much that is accidental and perishable, have still, like ivy, a root in the solid earth. If we wish to understand Mr. Patmore's merit in this respect, we can compare his poem with one partly conceived in a kindred spirit—Aurora Leigh. Each book is occupied with a social problem; but Mrs. Browning's is one to which the peculiar aspects of the age have imparted an adventitious importance, while Mr. Patmore's is invested with constant freshness by its vital relation to the needs of the human heart. The elements of decay in his work—its wood, hay, and stubble—appear to us to be not so much inherent in its structure as superinduced by his didactic spirit, his determination to exhaust the significance of his theme, instead of confining himself to its poetic aspects as Mr. Tennyson would have done. In a word, he seems to us to confuse the office of the poet with that of the moralist on one hand, and that of the novelist on the other.

This implies that Mr. Patmore is after all essentially a poet, and moreover that, when he temporarily ceases to be such, he does but substitute one kind of excellence for another. His ethics and his social delineations are as good in their way as the inspirations of his loftier mood—his precious metal has some alloy, but little dross. It requires, we are sensible, a much finer analysis than ours to discriminate with perfect accuracy between his poetry and his prose; and, unlike most treasure-seekers, we are in much greater danger of parting with the object of our quest than of retaining what we do not want. It is curious that this enthusiastic singer of domestic life should himself be one of the last writers with whom we can feel thoroughly at home; but assuredly the most sensi-

1 Faithful for Ever. By Coventry Patmore. J. W. Parker and Son.

page 126 ble impression we have derived from every reperusal of the "Angel in the House" has been one of astonishment at the amount of beauty which the last reading had left for us to discover. We may say of Mr. Patmore's book, as he says of his heroine, that we have found it "more to us"

"Yesterday than the day before,
And more to-day than yesterday."

Any opinion, therefore, that we may express respecting the poem under consideration must be taken as subject to revision; yet there are principles of criticism which we may venture to apply boldly. If we find, for example, any particular passage to be—leaving its metrical form out of account—exactly such as we should have expected to meet with in a novel, we can hardly consider it to be in its place where we find it; often, on the other hand, when the theme is apparently little calculated to arouse our sympathies, the poet's lyrical fervour indicates that its significance has been more truly revealed to him than to us. In the first book, more especially, the fountains of the great deep of feeling are broken up with tempest; the subsequent calm is indeed a falling-off, but we are in more danger of tedium than of shipwreck.

"Faithful for Ever" is not, as we have seen it described, an episode in "The Angel in the House;" it is rather a supplement, representing some of the aspects of the philosophy of love and marriage, excluded by the plan of the former work. In "The Angel in the House," the course of true love runs exceedingly smooth. Intended as introductory to a comprehensive treatment of the whole theory of married life, it necessarily excluded the idea of any but a fortunate catastrophe. To have conducted Vaughan's suit to an unprosperous termination would have been to have shut the door in the poet's own face; the "betrothal" was the necessary condition of the "espousals." It would, of course, have been possible to have subjected the hero to violent alternations of hope and fear, joy and bitterness, as painters of the final triumph of the righteous make over half their canvas to the demons. But Mr. Patmore appears to have felt, with the delicate tact we so often admire in him, that pathos misses its effect when joy is a foregone conclusion, and that it would be better to reserve it as the leading motive of a new work. In the present poem, accordingly, we are presented with a new protagonist in the person of Frederick Graham, Vaughan's moral and spiritual facsimile, and whose preferences and antipathies necessarily correspond to those of his counterpart. It follows that both are attracted by Honoria Churchill, and it falls to the rejected Graham to teach what the fortunate Vaughan could not know. The task which Mr. Patmore has thus prescribed to himself, of representing the demeanour of a mind of unusual nobility under a trial of which even his eloquence cannot exaggerate the bitterness, is one already attempted by Mr. Tennyson in Love and Duty. The laureate, however, only gives us the result; Mr. Patmore, a master of analysis rather than of generalisation, is more particularly occupied with the process. Every phase of feeling through which the lover has to struggle is seized at the culminating point, and reproduced with a pathos which nothing can exceed, because nothing can surpass its fidelity. It would be great injustice to Mr. Patmore not to allow him to speak here for himself. Laying a good foundation, Frederick thus describes the lady of his heart in the first canto:—

"The noble girl! With whom she talks
She knights first with her smile; she walks,
Stands, dances, to such sweet effect
Alone she seems to go erect.
The brightest and the chastest brow
Rules o'er a cheek which seems to show
That love, as a mere vague suspense
Of apprehensive innocence,
Perturbs her heart; love without aim
Or object, like the holy flame
That in the Vestals' temple glowed
Without the image of a god."

The gradual ascent of admiration into passion is portrayed with the most delicate accuracy. The transient and contradictory emotions of the lover's page 127 mood are arrested and recorded in the very act of passing into their opposites; the contending billows of his breast are shown by sudden flashes, as he himself picturesquely says of the waves of an actual storm—

"Standing about in stony heaps."

At one moment he exclaims—

"Blest is her place! blissful is she!
And I, departing, seem to be
Like the strange waif that comes to run
A few days flaming near the sun,
And carries back through boundless night
Its lessening memory of light"

But the next—

"What! and, when some short months are o'er,
Be not much other than before?
Decline the high harmonious sphere
In which I'm held but while she's dear?
In unrespective peace forget
Those eyes for which mine own are wet
With that delicious fruitful dew
Which, check'd, will never flow anew?
For daily life's dull senseless mood
Slay the sharp nerves of gratitude
And sweet allegiance, which I owe
Whether she cares for me or no?
Nay, mother, I, forewarned, prefer
To want for all in wanting her.
For all? Love's best is not bereft
Ever from him to whom is left
The trust that God will not deceive
His creature, fashion'd to believe
The prophecies of pure desire.
Not loss, nor death, my love shall tire.
A mystery does my heart foretell;
Nor do I press the oracle
For explanations. Leave me alone,
And let in me love's will be done."

What that will was is known to all readers of the "Angel in the House." The final overthrow of such hope as Graham had ventured to entertain, is expressed in perhaps the finest simile Mr. Patmore has yet made. His rival Vaughan enters while he is sitting with Honoria:—

"And, as the image of the moon
Breaks up within some still lagoon
That feels the soft wind suddenly,
Or tide fresh flowing from the sea,
And turns to giddy flames that go
Over the water to and fro,
Thus, when he took her hand to-night,
Her lovely gravity of light
Was scattered into many smiles
And flattering weakness. Hope beguiles
No more my heart, dear mother; He
By jealous looks, o'erhonoured me!"

We know not whether Mr. Patmore, who has finely said in "The Angel in the House" that

"Love in tears too noble is
For pity, save of Love in smiles,"

has since so far modified his opinions as to intentionally represent an unfortunate as the legitimate object of envy instead of compassion to a successful lover. We remember, indeed, Vaughan in one place expressing himself as if his being less "hapless" necessarily implied that he was less "great" than his rival; and assuredly the enthusiasm of possession falls short of the fervour with which Graham,

"Nursing the image of unfelt caresses
Till dim imagination just possesses
The half-created shadow,"

celebrates the object of his affection and despair. He dreams that—

As moisture sweet my seeing blurs
To hear my name so linked with hers,
A mirror joins, by guilty chance,
Either's averted, watchful glance!
Or with me in the ball-room's blaze
Her brilliant mildness thrids the maze;
Our thoughts are lovely, and each word
Is music in the music heard,
And all things seem but parts to be
In one persistent harmony,
By which I'm made divinely bold;
The secret, which she knows, is told;
And, laughing with a lofty bliss
Of innocent accord, we kiss;
About her neck my pleasure weeps;
Against my lip the silk vein leaps.

* * * * *

Or else some wasteful malady
Devours her shape and dims her eye;
No charms are left, where all were rife,
Except her voice, which is her life,
Wherewith she, in her foolish fear,
Says trembling. 'Do you love me, dear?
And I reply, 'Ah, sweet, I vow
I never loved but half till now.'
She turns her face to the wall at this,
And says,'Go, love, 'tis too much bliss.'
And then a sudden pulse is sent
About the sounding firmament
In smitings as of silver bars
The bright disorder of the stars
Is solved by music, far and near,
Through infinite distinctions clear
Their two-fold voice's deeper tone
Thunders the Name which all things own,
And each ecstatic treble dwells
On that whereof none other tells;
page 128 And we, sublimed to song and fire,
Take order in the wheeling quire,
Till from the throbbing sphere I start,
Waked by the beating of my heart."

All his visions, however, are far from resembling this:—

"When I lay me down at even
'Tis Hades lit with neighbouring Heaven.
There comes a smile acutely sweet
Out of the picturing dark; I meet
The ancient frankness of her gaze,
That simple, bold, and living blaze
Of great goodwill and innocence
And perfect joy proceeding thence,
Ah! made for Earth's delight, yet such
The mid-sea air's too gross to touch.
At thought of which, the soul in me
Is as the bird that bites a bee,
And darts abroad on frantic wing
Tasting the honey and the sting;
And, moaning where all round me sleep
Amidst the moaning of the deep,
I start at midnight from my bed,
And have no right to strike him dead."

Nor any wish, before long. Vaughan and his bride visit Graham's ship, and the effect of his observation is to compel the latter to resign "the ultimate hope I rested on:"—

"The hope that in the heavens high
At last it should appear that I
Loved most, and so, by claim divine,
Should have her, in the heavens, for mine,
According to such nuptial sort
As may subsist in the holy court,
Where, if there are all kinds of joys
To exhaust the multitude of choice
In many mansions, then there are
Loves personal and particular,
Conspicuous in the glorious sky
Of universal charity
As Hesper in the sunrise."


"Standing beneath the sky's pure cope
Unburdened even by a hope,"

he is able to feel—

"That I have known her, that she moves
Somewhere all-graceful; that she loves,
And is beloved, and that she's so
Most happy; and to heaven will go,
Where I may meet with her (yet this
I count but adventitious bliss),
And that the full, celestial weal
Of all shall sensitively feel
The partnership and work of each,
And thus my love and labour reach
Her region, there the more to bless
Her last, consummate happiness,
Is guerdon up to the degree
Of that alone true loyalty
Which, sacrificing, is not nice
About the terms of sacrifice,
But offers all, with smiles that say,
'Twere nothing if 'twere not for aye!"

O si sic omnia! In that case, indeed, "Faithful for Ever" would be no illustration of our doctrine that poetry parts with its essential characteristics in proportion as it undertakes to teach otherwise than indirectly, or concerns itself with the mutable superficies of contemporary life. So far, however, though Frederick Graham is a very substantial personality—a thoroughly imaginable man—his expressions of feeling have been as purely lyrical and subjective as the lamentations of Clymene or Œnone. He has, as before remarked, had to learn the same lesson of self-renunciation as the anonymous hero of "Love and Duty," with this very important difference, that the latter has but succumbed to external circumstances as independent of the will of his beloved as of his own; he has yielded nothing to any rival; what he has acquired is after all more precious than what he has been compelled to forgo. Mr. Tennyson, therefore, is not asking too much when he would have us contemplate the "streaming eye" as finally dried, the "broken heart" as eventually bound up; we not merely acquiesce in the propriety, but have faith in the permanence, of the conclusion at which his hero arrives. The infinitely greater severity of Graham's trial perhaps justifies Mr. Patmore in considering that, had the mood of our last extract been represented as permanent, had the curtain fallen then and there upon his hero's folded arms of humility and upward gaze of ineffable aspiration, our torpid imaginations would have seen nothing but a stage-effect, and expected, could we pierce behind the scenes, to find Graham rather prostrate beneath, than

"Growing, like Atlas, stronger from his load."

At all events, he has not chosen to task our faith so heavily. In the second section of the next canto we find Honoria's lover—married! Yes, and to a page 129 very unattractive personage. Of course, he has a thousand good reasons for maintaining that he has committed no treason against love; that his bride is at worst but as one of Voltaire's oignons, qui n'étaient pas des dieux tout-a-fait, mais qui leur ressemblaient beaucoup:—

"As to the ether is the air
Is her good to Honoria's fair;
One place is full of both, yet each
Lies quite beyond the other's reach
And recognition. Star and star,
Rays crossing, closer rivals are."

Mr. Patmore is now fully in his element, with a triple moral problem before him. He has to make his hero's paradox good, to show the effect on Jane (the unattractive wife) of being thus caught up into a sphere so much above her, and to determine the proper relation of Honoria to her married lover. This involves the necessity of a copious and minute delineation of manners and customs, since (to name but one aspect of the problem) it is impossible to depict Frederick and Jane's mutual relation and interaction without entering fully into the details of their domestic life. Behold us, then, alike from the didactic and the descriptive point of view, fairly committed to a course of what, we say, is substantially prose; not that the writing is not, for the most part, very clever, but this is not the question; not that we are not continually encountering passages of the most exquisite poetry, but these are not the rule. We are content to stake the whole theory of this paper on a single issue,—"Is or is not the first book of 'Faithful for Ever' incomparably the best of the three?" It would be a cheap triumph to produce some of the passages (excellent as these are in their way) in which Mr. Patmoro furls the poet's wing on the essayist's perch; but these separate bricks could at best bear witness to the material, not to the style of the building.

In conclusion, it will be but just to produce the results at which Mr. Patmore appears to have arrived, embodied in two of the most charming passages of his poem. As regards the relation which Honoria ultimately assumes to Graham, contemplated from her point of view, we learn nothing; and, indeed, the problem suggests questions of such infinite delicacy that we cannot wonder at Mr. Patmore's reticence. As we are only concerned with her here in so far as she concerns Frederick, we could well have dispensed with numerous trivial, details relative to her husband and children, which vexatiously conflict with the unity of impression already disturbed by the change of venue in Book II. In fact, the way in which she is trotted out for the admiration of one personage after another is almost comical. That Frederick himself should never tire of praising her is as natural as that we should never tire of listening to passages like this:—

"I kiss'd the kind, warm neck that slept,
And from her side, this morning, stepp'd
To bathe my brain from drowsy night
In the sharp air and golden light.
The dew, like frost, was on the pane.
The year begins, though fair, to wane.
There is a fragrance in its breath
Which is not of the flowers, but death,
And green above the ground appear
The lilies of another year.
I wandered forth, and took my path
Among the bloomless aftermath;
And heard the steadfast robin sing,
As if his own warm heart were spring,
And watch'd him feed where, on the yew,
Hung sugar'd drops of crimson dew;
And then return'd by walls of peach
And pear-trees bending to my reach,
And rose-beds with the roses gone,
To bright-laid breakfast. Mrs. Vaughan
Was there, none with her. I confess
I love her rather more than less!
But she alone was loved of old;
Now love is twain, nay, manifold;
For, somehow, he whose daily life
Adjusts itself to one true wife
Grows to a nuptial, near degree
With all that's fair and womanly.
Therefore, as more than friends, we meet
Without constraint, without regret;
The wedded yoke that each had donn'd
Seeming a sanction, not a bond."

We have undertaken to question the propriety of Mr. Patmore's attempting the solution of moral problems in verse at all, not the logic of the solution itself. Yet we cannot refrain from remarking, that the conclusion expressed in the above most exquisite passage appears to us an unfair deduction from the pre- page 130 mises. On the other hand, the picture of Jane's development from original immaturity, rather than absolute defect, to perfect sweetness and ripeness of character, is as natural as it is captivating. We are indeed reminded at every stroke how much better it would have become the pages of a work like "The Mill on the Floss," where copiousness and minute precision of detail are rather to be cultivated than avoided. Had the writer attempted to rival Miss Evans's exactness, he might have filled two volumes with this single theme; as it is, he is at once too particular for poetry and too superficial for fiction. Yet, as the stalk is forgotten in the flower, we acknowledge a justification of much prose in the lovely poetry that comes to crown it at last.

"Too soon, too soon, comes death to show
We love more deeply than we know!
The rain, that fell upon the height
Too gently to be called delight,
Within the dark vale reappears
As a wild cataract of tears;
And love in life should strive to see
Sometimes what love in death would be.
She's cold. Put to the coffin-lid.
What distance for another did,
That death has done for her!
* * * * *
How great her smallest virtue seems,
How small her greatest fault! Ill dreams
Were those that foil'd with loftier grace
The homely kindness of her face.
'Twas here she sat and work'd, and there
She comb'd and kiss'd the children's hair;
Or, with one baby at her breast,
Another taught, or hush'd to rest.
Praise does the heart no more refuse
To the divinity of use.
Her humblest good is hence most high
In the heavens of fond memory;
And love says Amen to the word,
A prudent wife is from the Lord.
Her worst gown's kept ('tis now the best,
As that in which she oftenest dress'd),
For memory's sake more precious grown
Than she herself was for her own.
Poor wife! foolish it seemed to fly
To sobs instead of dignity,
When she was hurt. Now, more than all,
Heart-rending and angelical
That ignorance of what to do,
Bewilder'd still by wrong from you.
(For what man ever yet had grace
Not to abuse his power and place?)
No magic of her voice or smile
Rais'd in a trice a fairy isle;
But fondness for her underwent
An unregarded increment,
Like that which lifts through centuries
The coral reef within the seas,
Till lo! the land where was the wave.
Alas! 'tis everywhere her grave."

To deny the character of poetry to tenderness and truth like this, would be to rob the Muses of their fairest province—to treat Parnassus as Catherine and her confederates treated Poland.