Imágenes de páginas

or phrase. Leigh Hunt cited the line from Keats's "Isabella," "So the two brothers and their murdered man,”—the victim, then journeying with his future slayers, being already dead in their intention. A striking instance of the swift-flashing imagination is in a stanza from Stoddard's Horatian ode upon the funeral of Lincoln :

The time, the place, the stealing shape,
The coward shot, the swift escape,

The wife, the widow's scream.

What I may call the constant, the habitual, imagination of a true poet is shown by his instinct for words- those keys which all may clatter, and which yield their music to so few. He finds the inevitable word or phrase, unfound before, and it becomes classical in a moment. The power of words and the gift of their selection are uncomprehended by writers who have all trite and hackneyed phrases at the pen's end. The imagination begets original diction, suggestive epithets, verbs implying extended scenes and events, phrases which are a delight and which, as we say, speak volumes, single notes which establish the dominant tone.


This kind of felicity makes an excerpt from Shakspere unmistakable. Milton's diction rivals that of Æschylus, though nothing can outrank the Grecian's ανήριθμον γέλασμα - the innumerous laughter of his ocean waves. But recall Milton's" wandering moon" (borrowed, haply, from the Latin), and his "wilderness of sweets"; and such phrases as dim, religious light," "fatal and perfidious bark," "hide their diminished heads," "the least-erected spirit that fell," "barbaric pearl and gold," "imparadised in one another's arms,"" like an exhalation," "such sweet compulsion doth in music lie"; and his fancies of the daisies' "quaint enameled eyes," and of "dancing in the chequered shade"; and number less similar beauties that we term Miltonic. After Shakspere and Milton, Keats stands first in respect of imaginative diction. His appellatives of the Grecian Urn, "Cold pastoral," and "Thou foster-child of silence and slow time," are in evidence. "The music yearning like a god in pain," and


Music's golden tongue Flattered to tears this aged man and poor,

excel even Milton's "forget thyself to marble." What a charm in his "darkling I listen," and his thought of Ruth "in tears amid the alien corn"! Shelley's diction is less sure and eclectic, yet sometimes his expression, like his own skylark, is an embodied joy." Byron's imaginative language is more rhetorical, but none will forget his "haunted, holy ground," VOL. XLIV.-87.

"Death's prophetic ear," " the quiet of a loving eye" (which is like Wordsworth, and again like Landor's phrase on Milton-" the Sabbath of his mind "). None would forego "the blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone," or "the dead but sceptred sovereigns, who still rule our spirits from their urns," or such a combination of imagination and feeling as this:

I turned from all she brought to those she could not bring.

Coleridge's "myriad-minded Shakspere" is enough to show his mastery of words. A conjuring quality like that of the voices heard by Kubla Khan,

Ancestral voices prophesying war,

lurks in the imaginative lines of our Southern lyrist, Boner, upon the cottage at Fordham, which aver of Poe, that

Here in the sobbing showers
Of dark autumnal hours
He heard suspected powers

Shriek through the stormy wood.

Tennyson's words often seem too laboriously and exquisitely chosen. But that was a good moment when, in his early poem of "Enone," he pictured her as wandering

Forlorn of Paris, once her playmate on the hills.

Amongst Americans, Emerson has been the chief master of words and phrases. Who save he could enveil us in "the tumultuous privacy" of the snow-storm? Lowell has great verbal felicity. It was manifest even in the early pe

riod when he apostrophized the dandelion,— "Dear common flower," "Thou art my tropics and mine Italy,"-and told us of its "harmless gold." But I have cited a sufficient number of these well-wonted instances. Entering the amazing treasure-house of English song, one must remember the fate of the trespasser within the enchanted grotto of the " Gesta Romano

rum," where rubies, sapphires, diamonds, lay in flashing heaps on every side. When he essayed the arrow whizzed, and he met the doom alto fill his wallet with them, the spell was broken, lotted to pickers and stealers.

WITH respect to configuration, the antique genius, in literature as in art, was clear and assured. It imagined plainly, and drew firm outlines. But the Acts and Scenes of our English dramatists were often shapeless; their schemes were full of by-play and plot within plot; in fine, their constructive faculty showed the caprice of rich imaginations that disdained control. Shakspere, alone of all, never f justify Leigh Hunt's maxim that, in


sper with an unearthly voice of menace warns the Ge voyagers back. I have said that the grandest hedssic of English supernatural creations is Milton's the Satan. No other personage has at once such see the magnitude and definiteness of outline as that compared sublime, defiant archangel, whether in action Christen- or in repose. Milton, like Dante, has to do But whether with the unknown world. The Florentine bard ruralism of soars at last within the effulgence of "the eteras a more awe- nal, coeternal beam." Milton's imagination Ant Italy and broods "in the wide womb of uncreated night." ongs in the classic We enter that " palpable obscure," where there and Furies are less is "no light, but rather darkness visible,” and and the prophetic where lurk many a "grisly terror" and "exe...en in the medie- crable shape." But the genii of wonder and ne damned and their terror are the familiars of a long succession of and materially pre- our English poets. Coleridge, who so had them spoons, like the lovers at his own call, knew well their signs and work; as when he pointed a sure finger to Drayton's etching of the trees which

stoppy bair

mark air.

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amaginative ge-
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awn from the

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ch on man:

As for revenge to heaven each held a withered hand.

Science drives specter after specter from its path, but the rule still holds-omne ignotum pro magnifico, and a vaster unknown, a more impressive vague, still deepens and looms before.

A peculiarly imaginative sense of the beautiful, also, is conveyed at times by an exquisite formlessness of outline. I asked the late Mr. Grant White what he thought of a certain picgir from ture by Inness, and he replied that it seemed polar spaces to be "painted by a blind poet." But no InBarriers, can ness, Fuller, Corot, Rousseau, not even Turextension,im- ner, nor the broad, luminous spaces of Homer ht. The early Martin, ever excelled the magic of the changeys will never ful blending conceptions of Shelley, so aptly termed the poet of Cloudland. The feeling of aevere culminating hold of us as his lyrical passages is all his own. How does the Book of it justify itself and so hold us in thrall? Yield upon him in to it, and if there is anything sensitive in your mold you are hypnotized, as if in truth gazing heavenward and fixing your eyes upon a beauteous and protean cloud; fascinated by its silvery shapelessness, its depth, its vistas, its iridescence and gloom. Listen, and the cloud is vocal with a music not to be defined. There is no appeal to the intellect; the mind seeks not for a meaning; the cloud floats ever on; the music is changeful, ceaseless, and uncloying. Their plumed invoker has become our type of the pure spirit of song, almost sexless, quite removed at times from earth and the carnal passions. Such a poet could never be a sensualist. "Brave translunary things" are to him the true realities; he is, indeed, a creature of air and light. "The Witch of Atlas," an artistic caprice, is a work of imagination, though as transparent as the moonbeams and as unconscious of warmth and cold. Mary Shelley objected to it on the score that it had no human interest. It cer

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tainly is a kind of aër potabilis, a wine that lacks body; it violates Goethe's dictum, to wit: "Two things are required of the poet and the artist, that he should rise above reality and yet remain within the sphere of the sensuous." But there is always a law above law for genius, and all things are possible to it—even the entrance to a realm not ordered in life and emotion according to the conditions of this palpable warm planet to which our feet are bound.

As in nature, so in art, that which relatively to ourselves is large and imposing has a corresponding effect upon the mind. Magnitude is not to be disdained as an imaginative factor. An heroic masterpiece of Angelo's has this advantage at the start over some elaborate carving by Cellini. Landor says that "a throne is not built of birds'-nests, nor do a thousand reeds make a trumpet." Of course, if dimension is to be the essential test, we are lost. Every one feels himself to be greater than a mountain, than the ocean, even than Chaos; yet an imaginative observer views the measureless nebula with awe, conceiving a universe of systems, of worlds tenanted by conscious beings, which is to be evolved from that lambent, ambient star-dust.

Certain it is that when we seek the other extreme, the province of the microscopic, Fancy, the elf-child of Imagination, sports within her own minute and capricious realm. Her land is that of whims and conceits, of mock associations, of Midsummer Nights' Dreams. She has her own epithets for its denizens, for the "green little vaulter," the "yellow-breeched philosopher," the "animated torrid zone," of her dainty minstrelsy. Poets of imagination are poets of fancy when they choose. Hester Prynne was ever attended by her tricksy Pearl. But many is the poet of fancy who never enters the courts of imagination—a joyous faun indeed, and wanting nothing but a soul.

A large utterance, such as that which Keats bestowed upon the early gods, is the instinctive voice of the imagination nobly roused and concerned with an heroic theme. There are few better illustrations of this than the cadences and diction of " Hyperion," a torso equal to the finished work of any other English poet after Shakspere and Milton; perhaps even greater because a torso, for the construction of its fable is not significant, and when Keats produced his effect, he ended the poem as Coleridge ended "Christabel." All qualities which I have thus far termed imaginative contribute to the majesty of its overture: Deep in the shady sadness of a vale Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn, Far from the fiery noon, and eve's one star, Sat grey-hair'd Saturn, quiet as a stone, Still as the silence round about his lair.

Forest on forest hung about his head
Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,—
Not so much life as on a summer's day
Robs not one light seed from the feather'd grass,
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.
A stream went voiceless by, still deaden'd more
By reason of his fallen divinity
Spreading a shade: the Naiad 'mid her reeds
Press'd her cold finger closer to her lips.

Ar the outset of English poetry, Chaucer's imagination is sane, clear-sighted, wholesome with open-air feeling and truth to life. Spenser is the poet's poet chiefly as an artist. The allegory of "The Faerie Queene" is not like that of Dante, forged at white heat, but the symbolism of a courtier and euphuist who felt its unreality. But all in all, the Elizabethan period displays the English imagination at full height. Marlowe and Webster, for example, give out fitful but imaginative light which at times is of kindred splendor with Shakspere's steadfast beam. Webster's "Duchess of Malfi" teaches both the triumphs and the dangers of the dramatic fury. The construction runs riot; certain characters are powerfully conceived, others are wild figments of the brain. It is full of most fantastic speech and action; yet the tragedy, the passion, the felicitous language and imagery of various scenes, are nothing less. than Shaksperean. To comprehend rightly the good and bad qualities of this play is to have gained a liberal education in poetic criticism.

Now take a collection of English verseand there is no poetry more various and inclusive—take, let us say, Ward's “English Poets," and you will find that the generations after Shakspere are not over-imaginative until you approach the nineteenth century. From Jonson to the Georgian School there is no general efflux of visionary power. The lofty Milton and a few minor lights - Dryden, Collins, Chatterton-shine at intervals between. Precisely the most unimaginative period is that covered by Volume III and entitled "From Addison to Blake." We have tender feeling and true in Goldsmith and Gray. There is no passion, no illumination, until you reach Burns and his immediate successors. Then imagination leaped again to life, springing chiefly from subjective emotion, as among the Elizabethans it sprang from young adventure, from discovery and renown of arms, above all from the objective study of the types and conduct of mankind. If another century shall add a third imaginative luster to the poetry of our tongue,- enkindled, perchance, by the flame of a more splendid order of discovery, even now so exalting,—it will have done its equal share.

THE Mercury and Iris of this heavenly power are comparison and association, whose light

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No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees,
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.

The souls of the Hebrew bards, inheritors of pastoral memories, ever consorted with the elements, invoking the "heavens of heavens," "the waters that be above the heavens," "fire and hail; snow, and vapor: stormy wind fulfilling His word." Ofthe Greeks, Æschylus is more elemental than Pindar, even than Homer. Among our moderns, a kindred quality strengthened the imaginations of Byron and Shelley; Swinburne too, whom at his best the Hebraic feeling and the Grecian sway by turns, is most selfforgetful and exalted when giving it full play. I point you to the fact that some of our American poets, if not conspicuous thus far for dramatic power, have been gifted—as seems fitting in respect to their environment-with a distinct share of this elemental imagination. It is the strength of Bryant's genius: the one secret, if you reflect upon it, of the still abiding fame of that austere and revered minstrel. His soul, too, dwelt apart, but like the mountain-peak that looks over forest, plain, and ocean, and confabulates with winds and clouds. I am not sure but that his elemental feeling is more impressive than Wordsworth's, from its almost preadamite simplicity. It is often said that Bryant's loftiest mood came and went with "Thanatopsis." This was not so; though it was for long periods in abeyance. "The Flood of Years," written sixty-five years later than "Thanatopsis" and when the bard was eighty-two, has the characteristic and an even more sustained majesty of thought and diction.

It is easy to comprehend why the father of American song should be held in honor by poets as different as Richard Henry Stoddard and Walt Whitman. These men have possessed one quality in common. Stoddard's random and lighter lyrics are familiar to magazine readers, with whom the larger efforts of a poet are not greatly in demand. But I commend those who care for high and lasting qualities to an acquaintance with his blank verse, and with sustained lyrics like the odes on Shakspere and Bryant and Washington, which resemble his blank verse both in artistic perfection and in imagination excelled by no contemporary poet. Whitman's genius is prodigal and often so elemental, whether dwelling upon his types of the American people, or upon nature animate and inanimate in his New World, or upon mysteries of science and the future, that it at times moves one to forego, as passing and inessential, any demur to his matter or manner. There is no gainsaying the power of his imagination- a faculty which he indulged, having certainly carried out that early determination to loaf, and invite his soul. His highest mood is even more than elemental; it is cosmic. In almost the latest poem of this old bard, addressed "To the Sunset Breeze" (one fancies him sitting, like Borrow's blind gipsy, where he can feel the wind from the heath), he thus expressed it:


northern lakes;

feel the sky, the prairies vast — I feel the mighty I feel the ocean and the forest - somehow I feel the globe itself swift-swimming in space.

Lanier is another of the American poets distinguished by imaginative genius. In his case this became more and more impressible by the sense of elemental nature, and perhaps more subtly alert to the infinite variety within. the unities of her primary forms. Mrs. Stoddard's poetry, as yet uncollected, is imaginative and original, the utterance of moods that are only too infrequent. The same may be said of a few poems by Dr. Parsons, from whom we have that finest of American lyrics, the lines "On a Bust of Dante." There is a nobly elemental strain in Taylor's "Prince Deukalion" and "The Masque of the Gods." I could name several of our younger poets, men and women, and a number of their English compeers, whose work displays imaginative qualities, were it not beyond my province. But many of the newcomers-relatively more, perhaps, than in former divisions of this century-seem restricted to the neat-trimmed playgrounds of fancy and device; they deck themselves like pages, rarely venturing from the palace close into the stately Forest of Dreams. If one should stray down a gloaming vista, and be aided by the powers therein to chance for once upon some fine con

ception, I fancy him recoiling from his own imagining as from the shadow of a lion.

HERE, then, after the merest glimpse of its aureole, we turn away from the creative imagination: a spirit that attends the poet unbidden, if at all, and compensates him for neglect and sorrow by giving him the freedom of a clime not recked of by the proud and mighty, and a spiritual wealth "beyond the dreams of avarice." Not all the armor and curios and drapery of a Sybaritic studio can make a painter; no esthetic mummery, no mastery of graceful rhyme and measure, can of themselves furnish forth a poet. Go rather to Barbizon, and see what pathetic truth and beauty dwell within the humble rooms of Millet's cottage; go to Ayr, and find the muse's darling beneath a strawthatched roof; think what feudal glories came to Chatterton in his garret, what thoughts of fair marble shapes, of casements " innumerable of stains and splendid dyes," lighted up for Keats his borough lodgings. Doré was asked, at the his borough lodgings. Doré was asked, at the flood-tide of his good fortune, why he did not buy or build a château. "Let my patrons do that," he said. "Why should I, who have no need of it? My château is here, behind my forehead." He who owns the wings of imagination shudders on no height; he is above fate and chance. Its power of vision makes him greater still, for he sees and illuminates everyday life and common things. Its creative gift is divine; and I can well believe the story told of the greatest and still living Victorian poet, that once, in his college days, he looked deep and earnestly into the subaqueous life of a stream near Cambridge, and was heard to say, "What an imagination God has!" Certainly without it was not anything made that was made, either by the Creator, or by those created in his likeness. I say "created," but there are times when we think upon the amazing beauty, the complexity, the power and endurance, of the works of human hands-such as, for example, some of the latest architectural decorations illuminated by the electric light with splendor never conceived of even by an ancestral rhapsodist in his dreams of the New Jerusalem-there are moments when results of this sort, suggesting the greater possible results of future artistic and scientific effort, give the theory of divinity as absolutely immanent in man a proud significance. We then comprehend the full purport of the Genesitic record"Ye shall be as gods." The words of the Psalmist have a startling verity-"I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High." We remember that one who declared himself the direct offspring and very portion of

the Unknown Power, and in evidence stood upon his works alone, repeated these words— by inference recognizing a share of Deity within each child of earth. The share allotted to such a mold as Shakspere's evoked Hartley Coleridge's declaration:

The soul of man is larger than the sky,
Deeper than ocean-or the abysmal dark
Of the unfathomed centre.

So in the compass of the single mind
The seeds and pregnant forms in essence lie
That make all worlds.

But what was the old notion of the act of

divine creation? That which reduced divinity to the sprite of folk-lore, who by a word, a spell, or the wave of a wand, evoked a city, a person, an army, out of the void. The Deity whom we adore in our generation has taken us into his workshop. We see that he creates, as we construct, slowly and patiently, through ages and by evolution, one step leading to the next. I reassert, then, that " as far as the poet, the artist, is creative, he becomes a sharer of the divine imagination and power, and even of the divine responsibility." And I now find this assertion so well supported, that I cannot forbear quoting from a "Midsummer Meditation" in a recent volume of American poetry :

Brave conqueror of dull mortality!
Look up and be a part of all thou see'st; -
Ocean and earth and miracle of sky,
All that thou see'st thou art, and without thee
Were nothing. Thou, a god, dost recreate
The whole; breathing thy soul on all, till all
And know that thou, who darest a world create,
Is one wide world made perfect at thy touch.
Art one with the Almighty, son to sire –
of his eternity a quenchless spark.

WE have seen that with the poet imagination is the essential key to expression. The other thing of most worth is that which moves him to expression, the passion of his heart and soul. I close, therefore, by saying that without either of these elements we can have poetry which may seem to you tender, animating, enjoyable, and of value in its way, but without imagination there can be no poetry which is great. Possibly we can have great poetry which is devoid of passion, but great only through its tranquilizing power, through tones that calm and strengthen, yet do not exalt and thrill. Such is not the poetry which stirs one to make an avowal like Sir Philip Sidney's:

I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas, that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet. Edmund Clarence Stedman.

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