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WHILE, then, a few modern poets, at times as absorbed as Greeks in their work, have been strenuously impulsive in temper and the conduct of life, among them Alfieri, Foscolo, Mazzeini, Landor, Horne, and various lights of the art-school from Keats onward,- the artist's temperament usually in the end determines the order of his product: clearly so in such cases as those of Leopardi, James Thomson, Baudelaire, Poe. Sympathetic examination of the poetry will give you the poet. A fine recent instance of an introspective nature overcoming the purpose formed by critical judgment was that of Matthew Arnold. A preface to the second edition of his poems avowed and defended his poetic creed. Reflection upon the antique, and the study of Goethe, had convinced him that only objective art is of value, and that the most of that which is infected with modern sentiment is dilettantism. Art must be preferred to ourselves. Action is the main thing; more than human dramatic greatness alone saves even Shakspere's dramas from being weakened by" felicities" of thought and expression. The poet-critic accordingly proffered his two heroic episodes, "Balder Dead" and "Sohrab and Rustum"-both "Homeric echoes," though in their slow iambic majesty violating his own canon that the epic movement should be swift. These are indeed the tours de force of intellect and constructive taste. There are fine things in both, but the finest passages are reflective, Arnoldian, or, like the sonorous impersonation of the river Oxus, and the picture of Balder's funeral pyre, elaborately descriptive, and unrelated to the action of the poems. Now, these blank-verse structures are not quite spontaneous; they do not possess what Arnold himself calls the "note of the inevitable." The ancients, doing by instinct what he bade us imitate, had no cause to lay down such a maxim as histhat the poet "is most fortunate when he most entirely succeeds in effacing himself." They worked in the manner of their time. Schlegel points out that when even the Greeks imitated Greeks their triumph ended. A modern, who does this upon principle, virtually fails to profit by their example. In the end he has to yield. Arnold was beloved by his pupils-by those whom he stimulated as Emerson stimulated American idealists-for the poetry wherein he was in truth most fortunate, that is, in which he most entirely and unreservedly expressed himself; in verse, for the tender, personal, subtly reflective lyrics that seem like tremulous passages from a psychical journal; most of all, perhaps, for those which so convey the spirit of youth-the youth of his own doubting, searching, freedom-sworn Oxonian group-a group among whom he and Clough, his scholargipsy, were leaders in their search for unso
phisticated nature and life, in their regret for inaction, their yearning for new light, their belief that love and hope are the most that we can get from this mortal existence. It was Arnold's sensitive and introspective temperament, so often saddening him, that brought his intellect into perfect comprehension of Heine, Joubert, Sénancour, and, doubtless, Amiel. His career strengthens my belief that the true way is the natural one-that way into which the artist is led by impulse, modified by the disposition of his time. Burns was a force because he was not Greek, nor even English, but Scottish, entirely national, and withal intensely personal. Scott's epics are founded in the true romantic ballads of the North. A few of us read and delight in "Balder Dead"; "Marmion," a less artistic poem, gave pleasure far and wide, and still holds its own. I confess that this again suggests my old question concerning Landor, "Shall not the wise, no less than the witless, have their poets?" and that, whether wise or otherwise, I prefer to read "Balder Dead"; but I have observed that poetry, however admirable, which appeals solely to a studious class, rarely becomes in the end a part of the world's literature. Palgrave, in the preface to "The Golden Treasury," significantly declares that he "has found the vague general verdict of popular Fame more just than those have thought who, with too severe a criticism, would confine judgments on poetry to 'the selected few of many generations.'"
Like Arnold, nearly all his famous peers of the recent composite period have made attractive experiments in the objective and antique fields, though less openly upon conviction. Yet Tennyson and Browning are essentially English and modern, as Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier, are American and New-English, while Lowell's memorable verse is true to the atmosphere, landscape, national spirit, dialect, of his own land, and always true to his ethical convictions. Our minor artists in verse succeed as to simplicity and sensuousness in their renaissance work, but fail with respect to its passion — for to simulate that requires vigorous dramatic power. The latter is rarely displayed; its substitute is the note of Self. If this be so, let us make the best of it, and furnish striking individualities for some future age to admire, as we admire the creations of our predecessors. At all events, the poet must not dare anything against nature. Let him obey Wordsworth's injunction,
If thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven, Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light, Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content.
BUT are there, then, no dramatic works in recent literature? Yes; more than in any former time, if you do not insist upon poetic form
and rhythm. While the restriction adopted for these lectures excludes that which is merely inventive composition, you know that prose fiction is now the principal result of our dramatic impulse. The great modern novels are more significant than much of our best poetry. What recent impersonal poem or drama, if you except "Faust," excels in force and characterization "Guy Mannering" and the " Bride of Lammermoor," "Notre Dame de Paris," "Les Trois Mousquetaires," " Père Goriot," "On the Heights,""Dimitri Rubini," "Anna Karenina," "With Fire and Sword," " Vanity Fair," "Henry Esmond," "The Newcomes,"" Bleak House," "The Tale of Two Cities," "The Cloister and the Hearth," "Westward Ho!" "Adam Bede," "Romola," "Lorna Doone," "Wuthering Heights," "The Pilot," "The Scarlet Letter," and other prose masterpieces with which you are as familiar as were the Athenians with the plays of Euripides? Some of them, it is true, reflect their authors' inner life (but so does "Faust"), and are all the more intense for it. The free nature of the novel seems to make subjectivity itself dramatic. Certainly, the individuality of a Bronté, a Thackeray, a Hawthorne, or a Meredith does not lead us to prefer G. P. R. James, or put them on a lower plane than the strictly objective one of De Foe, Jane Austen, Dumas. Our second-rate novels are chiefly mechanical inventions turned off for a market which the modern press has created and is ominously enlarging. However, with such an outlet for the play of the invention which, three centuries ago, spent its strength upon the rhythmical drama, it is no wonder that even our foremost poets look out to rival ranges, with now and then still another peak above them; and these lectures would seem an anachronism were it not that it is a good time to observe the nature of an object when it is temporarily inactive.
Except for this prose fiction superadded to the best poetic achievements of the modern schools, the nineteenth century would not have been, as I believe it to have been, nearly equal in general literary significance (as in science it is superior) to the best that preceded it. It is difficult for critics to project themselves beyond their time; perceiving its shortcomings, they are prone to underestimate what in after time may seem a peculiar literary eminence. To all the splendor of our greatest fiction must be united the romance of the Georgian poetic school and the composite beauty and thought of the Victorian, that this statement may be sound with respect to the literature of our own language. While poetry and fiction both have to do with verities, Mill was not wrong when he said that the novelist gives us a true picture of life, but the poet, the truth of the soul.
From our survey, after granting that only a
few world-poems exhibit the absolute epic and dramatic impersonality, it by no means follows in spite of common assertion-that the worth of other poetry is determined by an objective standard. The degree of self-expression is of less moment than that of the poet's genius. Subjective work is judged to be inferior, I take it, from its morbid examples. The visits of the creative masters have been as rare as those of national demigods, and ordinary composers fall immeasurably short of their station. We have the perfect form, historical or fanciful fmpersonations, but few striking conceptions. The result is less sincere, less inevitable, than the spontaneous utterance of true poets who yield to the passion of self-expression.
YET we have seen that a line can be rather clearly drawn between the pagan and Christian eras, and that there has been a loss. To think of this as a loss without some greater compensation is to believe that modern existence defies the law of evolution and is inferior as a whole to the old; that the soul of Christendom, because more perturbed and introspective, is less elevated than that of antiquity. Contrast the two, and what do we find? First, a willing self-effacement as against the distinction of individuality; secondly, the simple zest of art-creation, as against the luxury of human feeling-a sense that nourishes the flame of consolation and proffers sympathy even as it craves it;
That from its own love Love's delight can tell, And from its own grief guess the shrouded From its own joyousness of Joy can sing; Sorrow;
That can predict so well
From its own dawn the lustre of to-morrow, The whole flight from the flutter of the wing.
This sympathy, this divinely human love, is our legacy from the Teacher who read all joys and sorrows by reading his own heart, being of like passions with ourselves—a process wisely learned by those fortunate poets who need not fear to obey the maxim, "Look in thy heart and write!"
The Christian motive has intensified the selfexpression of the modern singer. That he is subject to dangers from which the pagan was exempt, we cannot deny. His process may result in egotism, conceit, the disturbed vision of eyes too long strained inward, delirious extremes of feeling, decline of the creative gift. Probably the conventual, middle-age Church, with its retreats, penances, ecstasies, was the nursery of our self-absorption and mysticism, the alembic of the vapor which Heine saw infolding and chilling the Homeric gods when the pale Jew, crowned with thorns, entered and laid
his cross upon their banquet-table. It is not the wings alone of Dürer's mystic "Melencolia" that declare her to be a Christian figure. She sits among the well-used emblems of all arts, the ruins of past achievements, the materials for effort yet to come. Toil is her inspiration, exploration her instinct: she broods, she suffers, she wonders, but must still explore and design. The new learning is her guide, but to what unknown lands? The clue is almost found, yet still escapes her. Of what use are beauty, love, worship, even justice, when above her are the magic square and numbers of destiny, and the passing-bell that sounds the end of all? Before, stretches an ocean that hems her in. What beyond, and after? There is a rainbow of promise in the sky, but even beneath that the baneful portent of a flaming star. Could Dürer's “Melencolia" speak, she might indeed utter the sweet and brave, yet pathetic, poetry of our own speculative day. Our view of the poetic temperament is doubtless a modern conceit. The ancient took life as he found it, and was content. Death he accepted as a law of nature. Desire, the lust for the unattainable, aspiration, regret,— these are our endowment, and our sufferings are due less to our slights and failures than to our own sensitiveness. Effort is required to free our introspective rapture and suffering from the symptoms of a disease. It is in modern song that great wits to madness nearly are allied. In feverish crises a flood of wild imaginings overwhelms us. Typical poets have acknowledged this Coleridge, Byron, Heine, who cite also the cases of Collins, Cowper, Novalis, Hoffman, and other children of fantasy and sorrow. Coleridge pointed to those whose genius and pursuits are subjective, as often being diseased; while men of equal fame, whose pursuits are objective and universal, the Newtons and Leibnitzes, usually have been long-lived and in robust health. Bear in mind, however, the change latterly exemplified by Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning, Hugo, and our vigorous American Pleiad of elder minstrels, who have exhibited the sane mind in the sound body. But the question of neurotic disorder did not occur to the age of Sophocles and Pindar. Impersonal effort is as invigorating as nature itself: so much so that Ruskin recognizes the great writer by his guiding us far from himself to the beauty not of his creation; and Couture, a virile figure, avowed that "the decline of art commenced with the appearance of personality." Goethe, in spite of his own theory, admitted that the real fault of the new poets is that "their subjectivity is not important, and that they cannot find matter in the objective." The young poets of our own tongue are not in a very different category. The best critic, then, is the
If we have lost the antique zest, the animal happiness, the naïveté of blessed children who know not the insufficiency of life, or that they shall love and lose and die, we gain a new potency of art in a sublime seriousness, the heroism that confronts destiny, the faculty of sympathetic consolation, and that "most musical, most melancholy" sadness which conveys a rarer beauty than the gladdest joy—the sadness of great souls, the art-equivalent of the melancholy of the Preacher, of Lincoln, of Christ himself, who wept often but was rarely seen to smile. The Christian world has added the minor notes to the gamut of poesy. It discovers that if indeed "our sweetest songs are those which tell of saddest thought," it is better to suffer than to lose the power of suffering.
Commonplace objective work, then, is of no worth compared with the frank revelation of an inspiring soul. Our human feeling now seeks for the personality of the singer to whom we yield our heart. Even Goethe breaks out with "Personality is everything in art and poetry," Schlegel declares that "A man can give nothing to his fellow-man but himself," and Joubert — whom Sainte-Beuve has followed-says, "We must have the man . . . It is human warmth and almost human substance which gives to all things that quality which charms us." This fact is a stronghold for the true impressionists. The special way in which his theme strikes the artist is his latter-day appeal. And what is style? That must be subjective. Some believe it to be the only thing which is the author's own. The modern mind understands that its compensation for the loss of absolute vision is the increase of types, the extension of range and variousness. These draw us nearer the plan of nature, that makes no two leaves alike. The value of a new piece of art now is the tone peculiar to its maker's genius. Death in art, as in nature, is now the loss of individuality—a resolution into the elements. We seek the man behind the most impersonal work; more, the world conceives for itself ideals of its poets, artists, and heroes, plainly different from what they were, yet adapted to the suggestions received from their works and deeds.
My summary, then, is that the test of poetry is not by its degree of objectivity. Our inquiry concerns the poet's inspiration, his production of beauty in sound and sense, his imagination, passion, insight, thought, motive. Impersonal
work may be never so correct, and yet tame and ineffective. Such are many of the formal dramas and pseudo-classical idyls with which modern literature teems. Go to, say their authors, let us choose subjects and make poems. The true bard is chosen by his theme. Lowell "waits" for "subjects that hunt me." Where the nature of the singer is noble, his inner life superior to that of other men, the more he gives us of it the more deeply we are moved. We suffer with him; he makes us sharers of his own joy. In any case the value of the poem lies in the credentials of the poet.
It is the same with all other speculations upon art: with that, for instance, concerning realism and romanticism, of late so tediously bruited. Debate of this sort, even when relating to the Southern and the Wagnerian schools of music, or to impressional and academic modes of painting, is often inessential. It has, perchance, a certain value in stimulating the members of opposing schools. The true question is, How good is each in its kind? How striking is the gift of him who works in either fashion? Genius will inevitably find its own fashion, and as inevitably will pursue it. Edmund Clarence Stedman.
MOUNT SAINT ELIAS REVISITED.1
HE National Geographic Society,in connection with the United States Geological Survey, sent a small exploring party to Mount St. Elias, Alaska, in the summer of 1890.2 The country visited during that expedition proved to be so interesting that a second expedition to the same region was decided on. The object of the second expedition was the extension of the surveys previously begun, and the ascent of Mount St. Elias. Like the first, it was placed in my charge. My party consisted of six camp hands, but did not include any scientific assistants. The camp hands were Thomas P. Stamy, J. H. Crumback, Thomas White, Neil McCarty, Frank G. Warner, and Will C. Moore. The first three were also members of the expedition of 1890. The necessary preparations for camp life were made at Seattle, Washington, late in May, 1891. We sailed from Port Townsend early on the morning of May 30, on the United States revenue steamer Bear, in command of Captain M. A. Healy, and after a pleasant voyage reached Yakutat, Alaska, on June 4. Arrangements were made there with the Rev. Karl J. Hendricksen, in charge of the Swedish Mission, to meet us on our return at the head of Yakutat Bay on September 25, with a boat and some provisions which we left at the Mission.
The weather on June 5 being thick and stormy, the Bear remained at her anchorage until early the next morning, when she started toward Icy Bay, fifty miles west of Yakutat, the locality chosen for beginning our work. At nine o'clock we were about a mile off shore at the place designated on the charts as Icy Bay, although, as previously known, no bay now exists there. The weather was calm. Scarcely a ripple disturbed the surface of the sea, but the usual ocean swell was breaking in long lines of foam on the low sandy beach. A boat was lowered, and Lieutenant D. H. Jarvis went shoreward to examine the surf and choose a place for landing. He returned in about an hour, and reported that landing seemed practicable at a point which we found afterward was about a mile east of the principal mouth of the Yahtse River. Owing to the unfavorable
1 The pictures in this article have been drawn from photographs taken by the expedition.
2 A brief account of the expedition of 1890 appeared in THE CENTURY MAGAZINE for April, 1891, and more fully in the National Geographic Magazine for May, 1891.
condition of the surf, except at high tide, the landing of our party with its stores, instruments, etc., was not completed until early on the morning of June 8. As our landing was accompanied by a sad accident, in which the lives of six brave men were lost, I shall pass briefly over the painful incident. The boats that took us ashore were in command of Lieutenants G. McConnell, H. M. Broadbent, D. H. Jarvis, and L. L. Robinson. Three of the boats capsized, one of which was in charge of Lieutenant Robinson, and from that boat only one man reached shore alive. Lieutenant Robinson, four of his boat's crew, and Will C. Moore of my party were drowned. I cannot speak too highly of the kindness we received from Captain Healy and from the officers associated with him, or of the bravery with which the lieutenants I have mentioned, and the men under their command, faced imminent danger and suffered no small hardships in order to facilitate the work of our expedition. Lieutenant Robinson's body was recovered by his comrades and taken to Sitka for interment. The remainder of the men lost were buried near where their bodies were washed ashore.
The Bear steamed away to the southwest about three o'clock in the morning of June 8, leaving my party to begin the work which was to occupy us for several months. Our first effort after landing was to remove our "outfit" from the low sand-bar, where it was liable to be washed away should a high tide be accompanied by a shoreward-blowing gale, to a place of safety in the edge of the forest to the eastward. There we established a camp in a delightful spot, about a mile from the sea, and on the border of an open meadow, which was white with strawberry blossoms. West of the Yahtse, and beyond a plateau of broken ice ten or fifteen miles broad, formed by a lobe of the Malaspina glacier, rises a range of "hills," as we called them, in contrast with the greater mountains near at hand, which present abrupt precipices between three and four thousand feet high, to the south. Their northern slopes are more gentle, and are deeply buried beneath snow-fields which contribute to swell the flood of the great Guyot glacier. This splendid range has been named the Robinson Hills, in memory of Lieutenant L. L. Robinson. Our general line of march from Icy Bay was almost due north. For about five miles we traversed broad, barren openings through the forest, formed by the flood-plains of swift glacial streams. The conditions of travel were very favorable, except where the streams were too swift and too deep