Imágenes de páginas

of the music of the Northland crept into the music of Gade,-the melancholy brooding inspired by the deep fiords and frowning cliffs, the naïve, sunny pleasures of the mountain pastures, but the feelings lacked frankness of proclamation. Chopin laid the dance-forms of Poland under tribute, and Liszt, the prince of transcribers, made the melodies of Hungary native to the pianoforte. But Chopin was most national in the stately measures of the aristocratic polonaise, and Liszt sang the melodies of the Magyar in the vernacular of the ubiquitous gipsy.

Meanwhile the cry was universal for new paths and new sources in the larger forms of music. The answer has come from the Slavonic school, which is youthful enough to have preserved the barbaric virtue of truthfulness and fearlessness in the face of convention. This school seeks to give free expression to the spirit which originally created the folk-songs of the Slavonic peoples. Its characteristics are rhythmic energy and harmonic, daring. The development of orchestral technic has placed in its hands the capacity for instrumental coloring, which not only helps to accentuate the native elements of the music, but lends it that barbaric vividness in which Tschaikowsky and Rimsky-Korsakow delight. There are many places in which the folk-songs and dances of Bohemians and Russians touch hands, but the more ancient culture of the Czechs is seen in the higher development of their forms and rhythms, as it is also manifest in the refinement of Dvořák's treatment of the national elements in his compositions. The Bohemian language is unique among modern languages, in that, like Latin and Greek, it possesses both accent and quantity independent of each other. This circumstance may have had something to do with the development of the varied rhythms which a study of Dvořák's music reveals. More than melody, rhythm proclaims the spirit of a people. If you wish to study a splendid illustration of this truth,-a truth significant enough to demand the attention of ethnologists,-listen to a performance of Dvořák's "Husitská" overture. It is one of the few compositions by the Bohemian master in which he has treated a

melody not his own. He is not a nationalist in the Lisztian sense; he borrows not melodies but the characteristic elements of melodies from the folk-songs of his people. In the "Husitská," however, he has made use of an old battle-song of the Hussites, which dates back to the fifteenth century. "Ye warriors of the highest God and his laws, pray to him for help, and trust in him, that in the end ye always triumph with him;" thus run the words. Think of them in connection with those fierce fighters, of whom it is related that they went down upon their knees, whole armies of them, and chanted such prayers before attacking their enemies! But your imagination will not be able to conjure back the spirit of such a battle-hymn unless it is helped by the music. Try the opening phrase, then,-the phrase which lies at the foundation of Dvořák's overture,-upon the pianoforte :

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T is worth while to reflect for a moment upon the characteristics of recent poetry. Take, for example, the verse of our language produced during the laureateship of Tennyson, and since the rise, let us say, of Longfellow and his American compeers. In much of this composition you detect an artistic convergence of form, sound, and color -a nice adjustment of parts, a sense of craftsmanship, quite unusual in the impetuous Georgian revival-certainly not displayed by any poets of that time except those among whom Keats was the paragon and Leigh Hunt the propagandist. You find a vocabulary far more elaborate than that from which Keats wrought his simple and perfected beauty. The conscious refinement of our minor lyrists is in strong contrast with the primitive method of their romantic predecessors. Some of our verse, from "Woodnotes" and "In Memoriam" and "Ferishtah's Fancies" down, is charged with wholesome and often subtile thought. There has been a marked idyllic picturesqueness, besides a variety of classical and Preraphaelite experiments, and a good deal of genuine and tender feeling. Our leaders have been noted for taste or thought or conviction-often for these traits combined. But we obtain our average impression of a literary era from the temper of its writers at large. Of late our clever artists in verse -for such they are-seem with a few exceptions indifferent to thought and feeling, and avoid taking their office seriously. A vogue of light and troubadour verse-making has come, and now is going as it came. Every possible mode of artisanship has been tried in turn. The like conditions prevail upon the Continent, at least as far as France is concerned; in fact, the caprices of our minor minstrelsy have been largely the outcome of a new literary Gallomania.

youth to be impressed by the latest models, to catch the note of its own morntime. Many know the later favorites by heart, yet perhaps have never read an English classic. We hear them say, "Who reads Milton now, or Byron, or Coleridge?" It is just as well. Otherwise a new voice might not be welcomed-would have less chance to gain a hearing. Yet I think that even the younger generation will agree with me that there are lacking qualities to give distinction to poetry as the most impressive literature of our time; qualities for want of which it is not now the chief force, but is compelled to yield its eminence to other forms of composition, especially to prose fiction, realistic or romantic, and to the literature of scientific research.

If you compare our recent poetry, grade for grade, with the Elizabethan or the Georgian, I think you will quickly realize that the characteristics which alone can confer the distinction of which I speak are those which we call Imagination and Passion. Poetry does not seem to me very great, very forceful, unless it is either imaginative or impassioned, or both; and in sooth, if it is the one, it is very apt to be the other.

The younger lyrists and idyllists, when finding little to evoke these qualities, have done their best without them. Credit is due to our craftsmen for what has been called "a finer art in our day." It is wiser, of course, to succeed within obvious limits than to flounder ambitiously outside them. But the note of spontaneity is lost. Moreover, extreme finish, adroitness, graces, do not inevitably betoken the glow of imaginative conception, the ecstasy of high resolve.

If anything great has been achieved without exercise of the imagination, I do not know of it. I am referring to striking productions and achievements, not to acts of virtue. Nevertheless, at the last analysis, it might be found that imagination has impelled even the saints and martyrs of humanity.

Imagination is the creative origin of what is fine, not in art and song alone, but also in all forms of action-in campaigns, civil triumphs, material conquest. I have mentioned its indispensability to the scientists. It takes, they surmise, four hundred and ninety years for the light of Rigel to visit us. Modern imagination goes in a second to the darkness beyond the utmost star, speculates whether the ether itself may not 1 Copyright, 1892, by Edmund Clarence Stedman.

Now, I think you will feel that there is something unsatisfactory; something much less satisfactory than what we find in the little prose masterpieces of the new American school; that from the mass of all this rhythmical work the higher standard of poetry could scarcely be derived. To be sure, it is the providential wont of

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Yet if there is one gift which sets Shakspere peter at a distance even from those who approach rown him on one or another side, it is that of his pos imagination. As he is the chief of poets, we pen infer that the faculty in which he is superemithe nent must be the greatest of poetic endowally, ments. Yes; in his wonderland, as elsewhere, The imagination is king.

merchant There is little doubt concerning the hold of Estrena Shakspere upon future ages. I have someakes times debated whether, in the change of dravapor matic ideals and of methods in life and thought, ty; he may not become outworn and alien. But er, and the purely creative quality of his imagination rcise is renders it likely that its structures will endure. Prehistoric Hellas is far removed from our exPagation perience; yet Homer, by force of a less affluve atten- ent imagination, is a universal poet to-daySibitors, to-day, when there is scarcely a law of physics estruc- or of art familiar to us that was not unknown World to Homer's world. Shakspere's imagination e instru- is still more independent of discovery, place, In a de- or time. It is neither early nor late, antiquated en has the nor modern; or, rather, it is always modern evement, and abiding. The beings which he creates, if 1. our re- suddenly transferred to our conditions, would make themselves at home. His land is one wherein the types of all ages meet and are contemporary. He created beings, and took cirimpulse cumstances as he found them; that is, as his human- knowledge enabled him to conceive of them a munifi- at the time. The garb and manners of his pergocentries from sonages were also a secondary matter. Each successive generation makes the acquaintance of these creatures, and troubles itself little about their fashions and acquirements. Knowledge is progressive, communicable: the types of soul are constant, and are sufficient in themselves.

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Ir does no harm, as I said at the outset of A forth the this course, for the most advanced audience rough the to go back now and then to the primer of art -to think upon the meaning of an elementary term. Nor is it an easy thing to formulate nothing clear statements of qualities which we instantly recognize or miss in any human production, and for which we have a ready, a traditional, Nose lectures, nomenclature. So, then, what is the artistic imgas to na- agination, that of one who expresses his conxox the chief ceptions in form or language? I should call X, »ay arise, but it a faculty of conceiving things according to ses in com- their actualities or possibilities—that is, as they Coat and vari- are or may be; of conceiving them clearly; of descriptive seeing with the eyes closed, and hearing with h-than the ears sealed, and vividly feeling, things and more art, in which exist only through the will of the artist's ve disdain-the genius. Not only of conceiving these, but of e nature's own. holding one's conceptions so well in mind as e : whole attention to express them-to copy them-in actual strate a special language or form. sve dependent upon it.

The strength of the imagination is propor

tioned, in fact, to its definiteness, and also to the stress of its continuance-of the memory which prolongs it for utilization. Every one has more or less of this ideal faculty. The naturalness of children enables us to judge of their respective allotments. A mother knows which of her brood is the imaginative one. She realizes that it has a rare endowment, yet one as perilous as "the fatal gift of beauty." Her pride, her solicitude, are equally centered in that child. Now the clearer and more self-retentive this faculty, the more decided the ability of one in whom it reaches the grade at which he may be a designer, an artist, or a poet.

Let us see. Most of us have a sense of music. Tunes of our own "beat time to nothing" in the head. We can retain the theme, or opening phrase, at least, of a new composition that pleases us. But the musician, the man of genius, is haunted with unbidden harmonies; besides, after hearing a difficult and prolonged piece he holds it in memory, perhaps can repeat it, as when a Von Bülow repeats offhand an entire composition by Liszt. Moreover, his mind definitely hears its own imaginings; otherwise the sonata, the opera, will be confused and inferior. Again: most of us, especially when nervous or half asleep, find the "eyes make pictures when they are shut." Faces come and go, or change with startling vividness. The face that comes to a born painter does not instantly go; that of an angel is not capriciously transformed to something imp-like. He sees it in such wise that he retains it and can put it on his canvas. He has the clear-seeing, the sure-holding, gift which alone is creative. It is the same with the landscape-painter, the sculptor, the architect. Artistic ability is coördinate with the clearness and staying-power of the imagination.

More than one painter has declared that when a sitter was no longer before him, he could still lift his eyes, and see the sitter's image, and go on copying it as before. Often, too, the great painter copies better from some conception of his own brain than from actual nature. His mind's eye is surer than his body's. Blake wrote: "Men think they can copy Nature as correctly as I copy imagination. This they will find impossible." And again, "Why are copies of Nature incorrect, while copies of imagination are correct? This is manifest to all." Of course this statement is debatable; but for its philosophy, and for illustrations alike of the definite and the sublime, there is nothing later than Michelangelo to which one refers more profitably than to the life and letters, and to the titanic yet clear and beautiful designs, of the inspired draftsman William Blake. Did he see his visions? Undeniably. Did he call them into absolute existence ? Sometimes I think he did; that all soul is endowed with the divine

power of creation in the concrete. If so, man will realize it in due time. The poetry of Blake, prophetic and otherwise, must be read with discrimination, for his linguistic execution was less assured than that of his brush and graver; his imagination as a painter, and his art-maxims, were of the high order, but his work as a poet was usually rhapsodical and ill-defined.

But, as I have said, the strength and beauty. of any man's poetry depend chiefly upon the definiteness of his mental vision. I once knew a poet of genuine gifts who did not always "beat his music out." When I objected to a feeble, indistinct conception in one of his idyls, "Look you," said he, "I see that just as clearly as you do; it takes hold of me, but I have n't" (he chose to say) " your knack of definite expression." To which I rejoined: "Not so. If you saw it clearly you would express it, for you have a better vocabulary at your command than I possess. Look out of the window, at that building across the street. Now let us sit down, and see who can make the best picture of it in fifteen lines of blank verse — you or I." After a while our trial was completed. His verse, as I had expected, was more faithful and expressive than mine, was apter in word and outline. It reinforced my claim. "There,” said I, "if you saw the conception of your other poem as plainly as you see that ordinary building, you would convey it definitely. You would not be confused and obscure, for you have the power to express what your mind really pictures."

The true poet, said Joubert, "has a mind full of very clear images, while ours is only filled with confused descriptions." Now, vagueness of impression engenders a kind of excitement in which a neophyte fancies that his gift is particularly active. He mistakes the wish to create for the creative power. Hence much spasmodic poetry, full of rhetoric and ejaculations, sound and empty fury; hence the gasps which indicate that vision and utterance are impeded, the contortions without the inspiration. Hence, also, the "fatal facility," the babble of those who write with ease and magnify their office. The impassioned artist also dashes off his work, but his need for absolute expression makes the final execution as difficult as it is noble. Another class, equipped with taste and judgment, but lacking imagination, proffer as a substitute beautiful and recondite materials gathered here and there. Southey's work is an example of this process, and that of the popular and scholarly author of "The Light of Asia" is not free from it; indeed, you see it everywhere in the . verse of the minor art-school, and even in Tennyson's and Longfellow's early poems. But the chief vice of many writers is obscure expression. Their seeming depth is often mere turbidness, though it is true that thought may be

must be novel belonging completely to the present." But neither has occasion to originate his story; his concern is with its ideal reconstruction.

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The imagination, however, is purely creative in the work to which I have just said that it is not restricted, viz., the conception of beings not drawn from experience, to whom it alone can give an existence that is wondrous yet seemingly not out of nature. Such are the forms which Shakspere called "from the vasty deep": the Weird Sisters, the greenwood sprites, the haunted-island progeny of earth and air. Such are those quite differing creations, Goethe's mocking fiend and the Mephistophilis of Marlowe's "Faustus." Milton's Satan, the grandest of imaginary personages, does not seem to belong to the supramortal class; he is the more sublime because, though scaling heaven and defying the Almighty, he is so unmistakably human. Shakspere is not strong in the imaginative construction of many of his plays, at least not in the artistic sense,- with respect to that the "Edipus at Colonos" is a masterpiece,but he very safely left them to construct themselves. In the conception of human characters, and of their thoughts and feelings, he is still sovereign of imagination's world. In modern times the halls of Wonder have been trodden by Blake and Coleridge and Rossetti. The marvelous "Rime," with its ghostly crew, its spectral seas, its transformation of the elements, is pure and high-sustained imagination. In "Christabel" both the terror and the loveliness are haunting. That beauteous fragment was so potent with the romanticists that Scott formed his lyrical method, that of "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," upon it, and Byron quickly yielded to its spell. But Coleridge's creative mood was as brief as it was enrapturing. From his twentysixth to his twenty-eighth year he blazed out like Tycho Brahe's star, then sank his light in metaphysics, exhibiting little thenceforth of worth to literature except a criticism of poets and dramatists that in its way was luminous and constructive.

The poet often conveys a whole picture by a single imaginative touch. A desert scene by Gérôme would give us little more than we conceive from Landor's suggestive detail —

And hoofless camels in long single line
Stalk slow, with foreheads level to the sky.

This force of suggestion is nevertheless highly effective in painting: as where the shadow of the cross implies the crucifixion, or where the cloudphantoms seen by Dore's "Wandering Jew" exhibit it; and as when, in the same artist's designs for Don Quixote, we see visions with the mad knight's eyes. Of a kindred nature is the prevision, the event forestalled, of a single word

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