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"Carlyle deals with history; Emerson, with moral law; and Browning, with the individual man as a soul, distinct and unique." He quotes, as in point, the language of Shelley, that "in our approach to the poetry, we necessarily approach the personality of the poet." In poetry as in prose, "the style is the man himself." The law reveals the lawgiver; the art, an artist; while this is a principle especially true in all superior natures. Such masters soon make their own world or environment. They look at men and things, at truth and beauty, through their own media, so that if they fail in their inferences and represent themselves more than the truth, they are not ignorant of the occasion of the alleged error, and, in a kind of obstinate independence, are ready to defend it.


If we were obliged to reduce all of Browning's characteristics as a poet to one, it would be this. Various terms have been used to express it. It is to this that Domett has reference when he speaks of him as "the sublimest asserter of the soul in song." It is in the light of this quality that nearly all modern commentators have placed him in the realistic school, as distinct from the romantic and

classical schools. He is, thus, called "the poet of psychology.". Were there now, as in the days of Bishop Donne, a metaphysical school of English poets, his name would be prominent therein. Mr. Stedman calls him "the most intellectual of poets," while he may be said to sustain, in this respect, the same relation to his poetic contemporaries that George Eliot did to her fellow-authors in the province of the English novel. It is this feature in Browning's work that opens anew the question, "ill to solve," of the true relation of poetry to mental power-a question partly literary, and partly philosophic, and one as to which. the ablest critics persist in differing. While conceding that there must be, in all true verse, the mental element as supreme, we hold it to be demonstrable that, in poetry as distinct from prose, the impassioned and imaginative elements should be prominent to an unusual degree. We can scarcely say, with Carlyle, "Poetry is nothing but higher knowledge." Its chief end is pleasure. Its very form as metrical is unsuited to the more didactic process of the reason, while the liberty of range open to the poet is based more on fancy and feeling than upon any specifically mental law. When Wordsworth speaks of "the vision and faculty di

vine" as essential to the poet, the faculty to which he refers is the imagination, and not the higher reason. Hence the question whether didactic verse is indeed verse, inasmuch as instruction is the final end of it. Hence the substantial failure of such poets as Gifford, Rogers, Pollok, Tupper, and Akenside, in that the reflective controls the æsthetic and emotional. Even in the sphere of epic and dramatic verse, where genius prevails and pronounced creative ability is expected, the passionate element must be conspicuous, as also the imaginative. Too much thought cannot be embodied in verse, if it be secured that it always be mediated to the reader through taste, sensibility, and imagination. Browning is not only intellectual as a poet, he is scarcely anything else. He is what Wordsworth has ironically called an intellectual all-in-all." "The poet's function," he says, "is that of beholding, with an understanding keenness, the universe, nature, and man." The subordination of form to idea is carried to the farthest extreme, so as to overreach its own best ends, and thus secures neither clearness of idea nor grace of form. Mrs. Browning marks, at this point, a higher type of conception and execution. No one would deny to her the possession of intellectuality, and yet so


adjusted to other gifts as to work in harmony with them and make the ultimate product symmetrical and effective. The mental never so overshadowed the emotional as to concentrate attention upon it. When we are told, for example, of "The Ring and the Book," that it is "the product of sheer intellect," we see the salient feature of most of Browning's verse, and add that whatever else the statement means or does not mean, it is not the definition of a poem. Browning's failure, as a poet, lies at this point. We must not be misunderstood when we say of him, as Brutus says of Cassius, "He thinks too much." There is too much of the abstract, philosophic method of the schools. Ratiocination, even in prose, has its limits, and may defeat its own ends. In verse it should be so concealed as to be known only by its fruits. When it is said that Browning "speaks the word of poetry for a scientific age"; that his supreme purpose is synthetic"; that "he has the analytic spirit," we are using phrases whose primary meaning is applicable outside the sphere of verse, within the more dispassionate area of prose. Nor is this all. Intellectuality, in the best sense, means clear thinking; the faculty of mental insight and sustained mental power, the result of

which is the elucidation of truth. With Browning, it is something different from this. Thinking takes the form of the speculative and abtruse. Instead of philosophy, pure and simple, we too often find psychology, subtle and acute. Abstract and involved introspection often takes the place of lucid reasoning until we forget that we are dealing with poetry at all. In a word, Browning's intellectuality in verse is not of the most satisfactory order; so that, conceding that thought is the first element in verse, we do not thereby concede to the poetry before us the highest merit. Thought is one thing; abstraction is another. Creative genius is one thing, as in Milton; "sheer intellect" is another. Thinking is one thing; thinking clearly, logically, and toward a definite end and an ever-visible end, is another. It is not altogether unfortunate, however, that in the prevailing tendency of the verbal and superficial, the school of Browning should have arisen to check its progress by emphasizing the mental side of verse. It is still unfortunate that if the mental is to be made conspicuous, it should be magnified to a fault, and thus be made to mystify and discourage rather than attract and inspire. It is here justly questionable whether an average order of

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