A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century
by Henry A. Beers
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In 1824 the Academy, which was slowly constructing its famous dictionary of the French language, happened to arrive at the new word romanticism which needed defining. This was the signal for a heated debate in that venerable body, and the director, M. Auger, was commissioned to prepare a manifesto against the new literary sect, to be read at the meeting of the Institute on the 24th of April next. It was in response to this manifesto that Stendhal wrote the second part of his "Racine et Shakspere" (1825), attached to which is a short essay entitled "Qu'est ce que le Romanticisme?" [37] addressed to the Italian public, and intended to explain to them the literary situation in France, and to enlist their sympathies on the romantic side. "Shakspere," he says, "the hero of romantic poetry, as opposed to Racine, the god of the classicists, wrote for strong souls; for English hearts which were what Italian hearts were about 1500, emerging from that sublime Middle Age questi tempi della virtu sconosciutta." Racine, on the contrary, wrote for a slavish and effeminate court. The author disclaims any wish to impose Shakspere on the Italians. The day will come, he hopes, when they will have a national tragedy of their own; but to have that, they will do better to follow in the footprints of Shakspere than, like Alfieri, in the footprints of Racine. In spite of the pedants, he predicts that Germany and England will carry it over France; Shakspere, Schiller, and Lord Byron will carry it over Racine and Boileau. He says that English poetry since the French Revolution has become more enthusiastic, more serious, more passionate. It needed other subjects than those required by the witty and frivolous eighteenth century, and sought its heroes in the rude, primitive, inventive ages, or even among savages and barbarians. It had to have recourse to time or countries when it was permitted to the higher classes of society to have passions. The Greek and Latin classics could give no help; since most of them belonged to an epoch as artificial, and as far removed from the naive presentation of the passions, as the eighteenth century itself. The court of Augustus was no more natural than that of Louis XIV. Accordingly the most successful poets in England, during the past twenty years, have not only sought deeper emotions than those of the eighteenth century, but have treated subjects which would have been scornfully rejected by the age of bel esprit. The anti-romantics can't cheat us much longer. "Where, among the works of our Italian pedants, are the books that go through seven editions in two months, like the romantic poems that are coming out in London at the present moment? Compare, e.g., the success of Moore's 'Lalla Rookh,' which appeared in June, 1817, and the eleventh edition of which I have before me, with the success of the 'Camille' of the highly classical Mr. Botta!'"

In 1822, a year before the appearance of Stendhal's "Racine et Shakspere," Victor Hugo had published his "Odes et Poesies Diverses," and a second collection followed in 1824. In the prefaces to these two volumes he protests against the use of the terms classic and romantic, as mots de guerre and vague words which every one defines in accordance with his own prejudices. If romanticism means anything, he says, it means the literature of the nineteenth century, and all the anathemas launched at the heads of contemporary writers reduce themselves to the following method of argument. "We condemn the literature of the nineteenth century because it is romantic. And why is it romantic? Because it is the literature of the nineteenth century." As to the false taste which disfigured the eighteenth-century imitations of Racine and Boileau, he would prefer to distinguish that by the name scholastic, a style which is to the truly classic what superstition and fanaticism are to religion. The intention of these youthful poems of Hugo was partly literary and partly political and religious: "The history of mankind affords no poetry," he says, "except when judged from the vantage-ground of monarchical ideas and religious beliefs. . . . He has thought that . . . in substituting for the outworn and false colours of pagan mythology the new and truthful colours of the Christian theogony, one could inject into the ode something of the interest of the drama, and could make it speak, besides, that austere, consoling, and religious language which is needed by an old society that issues still trembling from the saturnalia of atheism and anarchy. . . . The literature of the present, the actual literature, is the expression, by way of anticipation, of that religious and monarchical society which will issue, doubtless, from the midst of so many ancient debris, of so many recent ruins. . . . If the literature of the great age of Louis XIV. had invoked Christianity in place of worshipping heathen gods . . . the triumph of the sophistical doctrines of the last century would have been much more difficult, perhaps even impossible. . . . But France had not that good fortune; its national poets were almost all pagan poets, and our literature was rather the expression of an idolatrous and democratic, than of a monarchical and Christian society." The prevailing note, accordingly, in these early odes is that of the Bourbon Restoration of 1815-30, and of the Catholic reaction against the sceptical Eclaircissement of the eighteenth century. The subjects are such as these: "The Poet in the Times of Revolution"; "La Vendee"; "The Maidens of Verdun," which chants the martyrdom of three young royalist sisters who were put to death for sending money and supplies to the emigres; "Quibiron," where a royalist detachment which had capitulated under promise of being treated like prisoners of war, were shot down in squads by the Convention soldiery; "Louis XVII."; "The Replacement of the Statue of Henry IV."; "The Death of the Duke of Berry"; "The Birth of the Duke of Bourdeaux" and his "Baptism"; "The Funeral of Louis XVIII."; "The Consecration of Charles X."; "The Death of Mlle. de Sombreuil," the royalist heroine who saved her father's life by drinking a cupful of human blood in the days of the Terror; and "La Bande Noire," which denounces with great bitterness the violation of the tombs of the kings of France by the regicides, and pleads for the preservation of the ruins of feudal times:

"O murs! o creneaux! o tourelle! Remparts, fosses aux ponts mouvants! Lourds faisceaux de colonnes freles! Fiers chateaux! modestes couvents! Cloitres poudreux, salles antiques, Ou gemissaient les saints cantiques, Ou riaient les banquets joyeux! Lieux ou le coeur met ses chimeres! Eglises ou priaient nos meres Tours ou combattaient nos aieux!"

In these two ode collections, though the Catholic and legitimist inspiration is everywhere apparent, there is nothing revolutionary in the language or verse forms. But in the "Odes et Ballades" of 1826, "the romantic challenge," says Saintsbury, "is definitely thrown down. The subjects are taken by preference from times and countries which the classical tradition had regarded as barbarous. The metres and rhythm are studiously broken, varied, and irregular; the language has the utmost possible glow of colour, as opposed to the cold correctness of classical poetry, the completest disdain of conventional periphrasis, the boldest reliance on exotic terms and daring neologisms." This description applies more particularly to the Ballades, many of which, such as "La Ronde du Sabbat," "La Legende de la Nonne," "La Chasse du Burgrave," and "Le Pas d'Armes du Roi Jean" are mediaeval studies in which the lawless grotesquerie of Gothic art runs riot. "The author, in composing them," says the preface, "has tried to give some idea of what the poems of the first troubadours of the Middle Ages might have been; those Christian rhapsodists who had nothing in the world but their swords and their guitars, and went from castle to castle paying for their entertainment with their songs." To show that liberty in art does not mean disorder, the author draws an elaborate contrast between the garden of Versailles and a primitive forest, in a passage which will remind the reader of similar comparisons in the writings of Shenstone, Walpole, and other English romanticists of the eighteenth century. There is as much order, he asserts, in the forest as in the garden, but it is a live order, not a dead regularity. "Choose then," he exclaims, "between the masterpiece of gardening and the work of nature; between that which is beautiful by convention and that which is beautiful without rule; between an artificial literature and an original poetry. . . . In two words—and we shall not object to have judgment passed in accordance with this observation on the two kinds of literature that are called classic and romantic,—regularity is the taste of mediocrity, order is the taste of genius. . . . It will be objected to us that the virgin forest hides in its magnificent solitudes a thousand dangerous animals, while the marshy basins of the French garden conceal at most a few harmless creatures. That is doubtless a misfortune; but, taking it all in all, we like a crocodile better than a frog; we prefer a barbarism of Shakspere to an insipidity of Campistron." But above all things—such is the doctrine of this preface—do not imitate anybody—not Shakspere any more than Racine. "He who imitates a romantic poet becomes thereby a classic, and just because he imitates." In 1823 Hugo had published anonymously his first prose romance, "Han d'Islande," the story of a Norwegian bandit. He got up the local colour for this by a careful study of the Edda and the Sagas, that "poesie sauvage" which was the admiration of the new school and the horror of the old. But it was in the preface to "Cromwell," published in 1827, that Hugo issued the full and, as it were, official manifesto of romanticism. The play itself is hardly actable. It is modelled, in a sense, upon the historical plays of Shakspere, but its Cromwell is a very melodramatic person, and its Puritans and Cavaliers strike the English reader with the same sense of absurdity produced by the pictures of English society in "L'Homme qui Rit." But of the famous preface Gautier says: "The Bible among Protestants, the Koran among Mahometans are not the object of a deeper veneration. It was, indeed, for us the book of books, the book which contained the pure doctrine." It consisted in great part of a triumphant attack upon the unities, and upon the verse and style which classic usage had consecrated to French tragedy. I need not repeat the argument here. It is already familiar, and some sentences[38] from this portion of the essay I have quoted elsewhere.

The preface also contained a plea for another peculiarity of the romantic drama, its mixture, viz., of tragedy and comedy. According to Hugo, this is the characteristic trait, the fundamental difference, which separates modern from ancient art, romantic from classical literature. Antique art, he says, rejected everything which was not purely beautiful, but the Christian and modern spirit feels that there are many things in creation besides that which is, humanly speaking, beautiful; and that everything which is in nature is—or has the right to be—in art. It includes in its picture of life the ugly, the misshapen, the monstrous. Hence results a new type, the grotesque, and a new literary form, romantic comedy. He proceeds to illustrate this thesis with his usual wealth of imaginative detail and pictorial language. The Middle Ages, more than any other period, are rich in instances of that intimate blending of the comic and the horrible which we call the grotesque; the witches' Sabbath, the hoofed and horned devil, the hideous figures of Dante's hell; the Scaramouches, Crispins, Harlequins of Italian farce; "grimacing silhouettes of man, quite unknown to grave antiquity"; and "all those local dragons of our legends, the gargoyle of Rouen, the Taras of Tarascon, etc. . . . The contact of deformity has given to the modern sublime something purer, grander, more sublime, in short, than the antique beauty. . . . Is it not because the modern imagination knows how to set prowling hideously about our churchyards, the vampires, the ogres, the erl-kings, the psylles, the ghouls, the brucolaques, the aspioles, that it is able to give its fays that bodiless form, that purity of essence which the pagan nymphs approach so little? The antique Venus is beautiful, admirable, no doubt; but what has spread over the figures of Jean Goujon that graceful, strange, airy elegance? What has given them that unfamiliar character of life and grandeur, unless it be the neighbourhood of the rude and strong carvings of the Middle Ages? . . . The grotesque imprints its character especially upon that wonderful architecture which in the Middle Ages takes the place of all the arts. It attaches its marks to the fronts of the cathedrals; enframes its hells and purgatories under the portal arches, and sets them aflame upon the windows; unrolls its monsters, dogs, demons around the capitals, along the friezes, on the eaves." We find this same bizarre note in the mediaeval laws, social usages, church institutions, and popular legends, in the court fools, in the heraldic emblems, the religious processions, the story of "Beauty and the Beast." It explains the origin of the Shaksperian drama, the high-water mark of modern art.

Shakspere does not seem to me an artist of the grotesque. He is by turns the greatest of tragic and the greatest of comic artists, and his tragedy and comedy lie close together, as in life, but without that union of the terrible and the ludicrous in the same figure, and that element of deformity which is the essence of the proper grotesque. He has created, however, one specimen of true grotesque, the monster Caliban. Caliban is a comic figure, but not purely comic; there is something savage, uncouth, and frightful about him. He has the dignity and the poetry which all rude, primitive beings have: which the things of nature, rocks and trees and wild beasts have. It is significant, therefore, that Robert Browning should have been attracted to Caliban. Browning had little comic power, little real humour; in him the grotesque is an imperfect form of the comic. The same criticism applies to Hugo. He gave a capital example of the grotesque in the four fools in the third act of "Cromwell" and in Triboulet, the Shaksperian jester of "Le Roi s'Amuse." Their songs and dialogues are bizarre and fantastic in the highest degree, but they are not funny; they do not make us laugh like the clowns of Shakspere—they are not comic, but merely queer. Hugo's defective sense of humour is shown in the way in which he frequently takes that one step which, Napoleon said, separates the sublime from the ridiculous—exaggerating character and motive till the heroic passes into melodrama and melodrama into absurdity. This fault is felt in his great prose romance "Notre-Dame de Paris" (1831), a picture of mediaeval Paris, in which the humpback Quasimodo affords an exact illustration of what the author meant by the grotesque; another of the same kind is furnished by the hero of his later romance "L'Homme qui Rit."

Gautier has left a number of sketches, written in a vein lovingly humorous, of some of the eccentrics—the curiosites romantiques—whose oddities are perhaps even more instructive as to the many directions which the movement took, than the more ordered enthusiasm of the less extreme votaries. There was the architect Jule Vabre, e.g., whose specialty was Shakspere. Shakspere "was his god, his idol, his passion, a wonder to which he could never grow accustomed." Vabre's life-project was a French translation of his idol, which should be absolutely true to the text, reproducing the exact turn and movement of the phrase, following the alternations of prose, rime, and blank verse in the original, and shunning neither its euphemistic subtleties nor its barbaric roughnesses. To fit himself for this task, he went to London and lived there, striving to submit himself to the atmosphere and the milieu, and learning to think in English; and there Gautier encountered him about 1843, in a tavern at High-Holborn, drinking stout and eating rosbif and speaking French with an English accent. Gautier told him that all he had to do now, to translate Shakspere, was to learn French. "I am going to work at it," he answered, more struck with the wisdom than the wit of the suggestion. A few years later Vabre turned up in France with a project for a sort of international seminary. "He wanted to explain 'Hernani' to the English and 'Macbeth' to the French. It made him tired to see the English learning French in 'Telemaque,' and the French learning English in the 'Vicar of Wakefield.'" Poor Vabre's great Shakspere translation never materialised; but Francois-Victor Hugo, the second son of the great romancer, carried out many of Vabre's principles of translation in his version of Shakspere.

Another curious figure was the water-colour painter, Celestin Nanteuil, who suggested to Gautier the hero of an early piece of his own, written to accompany an engraving in an English keepsake, representing the Square of St. Sebald at Nuremberg. This hero, Elias Wildman-stadius, or l'Homme Moyen-age, was "in a sort, the Gothic genius of that Gothic town"—a retardataire or man born out of his own time—who should have been born in 1460, in the days of Albrecht Duerer. Celestin Nanteuil "had the air of one of those tall angels carrying a censer or playing on the sambucque, who inhabit the gable ends of cathedrals; and he seemed to have come down into the city among the busy townsfolk, still wearing his nimbus plate behind his head in place of a hat, and without having the least suspicion that it is not perfectly natural to wear one's aureole in the street." He is described as resembling in figure "the spindling columns of the church naves of the fifteenth century. . . . The azure of the frescoes of Fiesole had furnished the blue of his eyes; his hairs, of the blond of an aureole, seemed painted one by one, with the gold of the illuminators of the Middle Ages. . . . One would have said, that from the height of his Gothic pinnacle Celestin Nanteuil overlooked the actual town, hovering above the sea of roofs, regarding the eddying blue smoke, perceiving the city squares like a checkerboard, the streets like the notches of a saw in a stone bench, the passers-by like mice; but all that confusedly athwart the haze, while from his airy observatory he saw, close at hand and in all their detail, the rose windows, the bell towers bristling with crosses, the kings, patriarchs, prophets, saints, angels of all the orders, the whole monstrous army of demons or chimeras, nailed, scaled, tushed, hideously winged; guivres, taresques, gargoyles, asses' heads, apes' muzzles, all the strange bestiary of the Middle Age." Nanteuil furnished illustrations for the books of the French romanticists. "Hugo's' Notre-Dame de Paris' was the object of his most fervent admiration, and he drew from it subjects for a large number of designs and aquarelles." Gautier mentions, as among his rarest vignettes, the frontispiece of "Albertus," recalling Rembrandt's manner; and his view of the Palazzo of San Marc in Royer's "Venezia la bella." Gautier says that one might apply to Nanteuil's aquarelles what Joseph Delorme[39] said of Hugo's ballads, that they were Gothic window paintings. "The essential thing in these short fantasies is the carriage, the shape, the clerical, monastic, royal, seignorial awkwardness of the figures and their high colouring. . . . Celestin had made his own the angular anatomy of coats-of-arms, the extravagant contours of the mantles, the chimerical or monstrous figures of heraldry, the branchings of the emblazoned skirts, the lofty attitude of the feudal baron, the modest air of the chatelaine, the sanctimonious physiognomy of the big Carthusian Carmelite, the furtive mien of the young page with parti-coloured pantaloons. . . . He excelled also in setting the persons of poem, drama, or romance in ornamented frames like the Gothic shrines with triple colonettes, arches, canopied and bracketed niches, with statuettes, figurines, emblematic animals, male and female saints on a background of gold. He entered so deeply into the sentiment of the old Gothic imagery that he could make a Lady of the Pillar in a brocade dalmatica, a Mater Dolorosa with the seven swords in her breast, a St. Christopher with the child Jesus on his shoulder and leaning on a palm tree, worthy to serve as types to the Byzantine painters of Epinal. . . . Nothing resembled less the clock face and troubadour Middle Age which flourished about 1825. It is one of the main services of the romantic school to have thoroughly disembarrassed art from this." Gautier describes also a manuscript piece of Nerval, for which he furnished a prologue, and which was an imitation of one of the Diableries, or popular farces of the Middle Ages, in which the devil was introduced. It contained a piece within the piece, in the fashion of an old mystery play, with scenery consisting of the mouth of hell, painted red and surmounted by a blue paradise starred with gold. An angel came down to play at dice with the devil for souls. In his excess of zeal, the angel cheated and the devil grew angry and called him a "big booby, a celestial fowl," and threatened to pull his feathers out ("Le Prince des Sots").

In France, as in England and Germany, the romantic revival promoted and accompanied works of erudition like Raynouard's researches in Provencal and old French philology and the poetry of the troubadours (1816); Creuze de Lesser's "Chevaliers de la Table Ronde"; Marchangy's "La Gaule Poetique." History took new impulse from that sens du passe which romanticism did so much to awaken. Augustin Thierry's obligations to Scott have already been noticed. It was the war chant of the Prankish warriors in Chateaubriand's "Les Martyrs"—

"Pharamond! Pharamond! nous avons combattu avec l'epee"—

which first excited his historical imagination and started him upon the studies which issued in the "Recits Merovingiens" and the "Conquete d'Angleterre." Barante's "Ducs de Bourgogne" (1814-28) confessedly owes much of its inception to Scott. Michaud's "History of the Crusades" (1811-22) and the "History of France" (1833-67) by that most romantic of historians, Michelet, may also be credited to the romantic movement. The end of the movement, as a definite period in the history of French literature, is commonly dated from the failure upon the stage of Victor Hugo's "Les Burgraves" in 1843. The immediate influence of the French romantic school upon English poetry or prose was slight. Like the German school, it came too late. The first generation of English romantics was drawing to its close. Scott died two years after "Hernani" stormed the French theatre. Two years later still died Coleridge, long since fallen silent—as a poet—and always deaf to Gallic charming. We shall find the first impress of French romance among younger men and in the latter half century.

In France itself the movement passed on into other phases. Many early adherents of Hugo's cenacle and entourage fell away from their allegiance and, like Sainte-Beuve and Musset, took up a critical or even antagonistic attitude. Musset's "Lettres de Dupuis et Cotonet" [40] turns the whole romantic contention into mockery. Yet no work more fantastically and gracefully romantic, more Shaksperian in quality, was produced by any member of the school than Musset produced in such dramas as "Fantasio" and "Lorenzaccio."

[1] It is scarcely necessary to say that no full-length picture of the French romantic movement is attempted in this chapter, but only such a sketch as should serve to illustrate its relation to English romanticism. For the history of the movement, besides the authorities quoted or referred to in the text, I have relied principally upon the following: Petit de Julleville: "Histoire de la Litterature Francaise," Tome vii., Paris, 1899. Brunetiere: "Manual of the History of French Literature" (authorized translation), New York, 1898. L. Bertrand; "La Fin du Classicisme," Paris, 1897. Adolphe Jullien: "Le Romantisme et L'Editeur Renduel," Paris, 1897. I have also read somewhat widely, though not exhaustively, in the writings of the French romantics themselves, including Hugo's early poems and most of his dramas and romances; Nodier's "Contes en prose et en verse "; nearly all of Musset's works in prose and verse; ditto of Theophile Gautier's; Stendhal's "La Chartreuse de Parme," "Le Rouge et le Noir," "Racine et Shakespeare," "Lord Byron en Italie," etc.; Vigny's "Chatterton," "Cinq-Mars," and many of his Scriptural poems; Balzac's "Les Chouans"; Merimee's "Chronique de Charles IX.," and most of his "Nouvelles "; Chateaubriand's "Le Genie du Christianisme"; some of Lamartine's "Meditations"; most of George Sand's novels, and a number of Dumas'; many of Sainte-Beuve's critical writings; and the miscellanies of Gerard de Nerval (Labrunie). Of many of these, of course, no direct use or mention is made in the present chapter.

[2] "Il a pour l'art du moyen age, un mepris voisin de la demence et de la frenesie. . . . Voir le discours ou il propose de mutiler les statues des rois de la facade de Notre-Dame, pour en former un piedestal a la statue du peuple francais." Bertrand: "La Fin du Classicisme," pp. 302-3 and note.

[3] But see, for the Catholic reaction in France, the writings of Joseph de Maistre, especially "Du Pape" (1819).

[4] "Histoire du Romantisme" (1874).

[5] ibid., 210.

[6] Heine counted, in the Salon of 1831, more than thirty pictures inspired by Scott.

[7] Also "Le Roi Lear" (Salon of 1836) and "La Procession du Pape des Fous" (aquarelle) for Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris."

[8] Recall Schlegel's saying that the genius of the classic drama was plastic and that of the romantic picturesque.

[9] Gautier, 192.

[10] This is a distinction more French than English: la tragedie vs. le drame.

[11] Preface to "Hernani."

[12] Preface to "Cromwell."

[13] "Histoire du Romantisme," p. 64.

[14] "Primer of French Literature," p. 115.

[15] One of the principles of the romanticists was the melange des genres, whereby the old lines between tragedy and comedy, e.g., were broken down, lyricism admitted into the drama, etc.

[16] Stendhal, writing in 1823 ("Racine et Shakspere"), complains that "it will soon be thought bad form to say, on the French stage, 'Fermez cette fenetre' [window]: we shall have to say, 'Fermez cette croisee' [casement]. Two-thirds of the words used in the parlours of the best people (du meilleur ton) cannot be reproduced in the theatre. M. Legouve, in his tragedy 'Henri IV.,' could not make use of the patriot king's finest saying, 'I could wish that the poorest peasant in my kingdom might, at the least, have a chicken in his pot of a Sunday.' English and Italian verse allows the poet to say everything; and this good French word pot would have furnished a touching scene to Shakspere's humblest pupil. But la tragedie racinienne, with its style noble and its artificial dignity, has to put it thus,—in four alexandrines:

"'Je veux enfin qu'au jour marque pour le repos, L'hote laborieux des modestes hameaux, Sur sa table moins humble, ait, par ma bienfaisance, Quelques-uns de ces mets reserves a l'aisance.'"

It was Stendhal (whose real name was Henri Beyle) who said that Paris needed a chain of mountains on its horizon.

[17] Gautier, 188.

[18] "Cromwell," 1827,

[19] Gautier, 107.

[20] Musset's fantastic "Ballade a la Lune," exaggerates the romantic so decidedly as to seem ironical. It is hard to say whether it is hyperbole or parody. See Petit de Julleville, vol. vii., p. 652.

[21] See vol. i., pp. 372-73.

[22] Gautier, 163.

[23] "Des Knaben Wunderhorn."

[24] Charles Nodier vindicated the literary claims of Perrault.

[25] Gautier, 93.

[26] Rue Jean-Gougon, where the cenacle met often.

[27] Nerval hanged himself at Paris, in January, 1855, in the rue de la Vielle Lanterne.

[28] Gautier, 167.

[29] The romanticism of the Globe was of a more conservative stripe than that of the Muse Francaise, which was the organ of the group of young poets who surrounded Hugo. The motto of the latter was Jam nova progenies coelo demittitur alto. The Globe defined romanticism as Protestantism in letters. The critical battle was on as early as 1824. On April 24, in that year, Auger, director of the Academy, read at the annual session of the Institute a discourse on romanticism, which he denounced as a literary schism. The prospectus of the Globe, an important document on the romantic side, dates from the same year. The Constitutionnel, the most narrowly classical of the opposing journals, described romanticism as an epidemic malady. To the year 1825, when the Cenacle had its headquarters at Victor Hugo's house, belong, among others, the following manifestoes on both sides of the controversy; "Les Classiques Venges," De la Touche; "Le Temple du Romantisme," Morel; "Le Classique et le Romantique" (a satirical comedy in the classical interest), Baour-Lormian. Cyprien Desmarais' "Essais sur les classiques et les romantiques" had appeared at Paris in 1823. At Rouen was printed in 1826 "Du Classique et du Romantique," a collection of papers read at the Rouen Academy during the year, rather favorable, on the whole, to the new movement.

[30] This is now a somewhat rare book; I have never seen a copy of it; but it was reviewed in The Saturday Review (vol. lxv., p. 369).

[31] Part ii., Book iii., chap ix.

[32]Part ii., Book iv., chap. i.

[33] For Chateaubriand and Ossian see vol. i., pp. 332-33. He made translations from Ossian, Gray, and Milton.

[34] "Victor Hugo," par Paul Boudois, p. 32.

[35] Vol. i., p. 10.

[36] See vol. i., p. 379.

[37] The use of this form instead of romantisme is perhaps worth noticing.

[38] See vol. i., pp. 19-20.

[39] Sainte-Beuve's "Confessions de Joseph Delorme," 1829.

[40] See vol. i., pp. 18-23.


Diffused Romanticism in the Literature of the Nineteenth Century.

Most of the poetry of the century that has just closed has been romantic in the wider or looser acceptation of the term. Emotional stress, sensitiveness to the picturesque, love of natural scenery, interest in distant times and places, curiosity of the wonderful and mysterious, subjectivity, lyricism, intrusion of the ego, impatience of the limits of the genres, eager experiment with new forms of art—these and the like marks of the romantic spirit are as common in the verse literature of the nineteenth century as they are rare in that of the eighteenth. The same is true of imaginative prose, particularly during the first half of the century, the late Georgian and early Victorian period. In contrast with Addison, Swift, and Goldsmith, De Quincey, Carlyle, and Ruskin are romanticists. In contrast with Hume, Macaulay is romantic, concrete, pictorial. The critical work of Hazlitt and Lamb was in line with Coleridge's. They praised the pre-Augustan writers, the Elizabethan dramatists, the seventeenth-century humorists and moralists, the Sidneian amourists and fanciful sonneteers, at the expense of their classical successors.

But in the narrower sense of the word—the sense which controls in these inquiries—the great romantic generation ended virtually with the death of Scott in 1832. Coleridge followed in 1834, Wordsworth in 1850. Both had long since ceased to contribute anything of value to imaginative literature. Byron, Shelley, and Keats had died some years before Coleridge; Leigh Hunt survived until 1859. The mediaevalism of Coleridge, Scott, and Keats lived on in dispersed fashion till it condensed itself a second time, and with redoubled intensity, in the work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which belongs to the last half of the century. The direct line of descent was from Keats to Rossetti; and the Pre-Raphaelites bear very much such a relation to the elder group, as the romantic school proper in Germany bears to Buerger and Herder, and to Goethe and Schiller in their younger days. That is to say, their mediaevalism was more concentrated, more exclusive, and more final.

We have come to a point in the chronology of our subject where the material is so abundant that we must narrow the field of study to creative work, and to work which is romantic in the strictest meaning. Henceforth we may leave out of account all works of mere erudition as such; all those helps which the scholarship of the century has furnished to a knowledge of the Middle Ages; histories, collections, translations, reprints of old texts, critical editions. Middle English lexicons and grammars, studies of special subjects, such as popular myths or miracle plays or the Arthurian legends, and the like. Numerous and valuable as these publications have been, they concern us only indirectly. They have swelled the material available for the student; they have not necessarily stimulated the imagination of the poet; which sometimes—as in the case of Chatterton and of Keats—goes off at a touch and carries but a light charge of learning. In literary history it is the beginnings that count. Child's great ballad collection is, beyond comparison, more important from the scholar's point of view than Percy's "Reliques." But in the history of romanticism it is of less importance, because it came a century later. Mallet's "Histoire de Dannemarc" has been long since superseded, and the means now accessible in English for a study of Norse mythology are infinitely greater than when Gray read and Percy translated the "Northern Antiquities." But it is not the history of the revival of the knowledge of mediaeval life that we are following here; it is rather the history of that part of our modern creative literature which has been kindled by contact—perhaps a very slight and casual contact—with the transmitted image of mediaeval life.

Nor need we concern ourselves further with literary criticism or the history of opinion. This was worth considering in the infancy of the movement, when Warton began to question the supremacy of Pope; when Hurd asserted the fitness for the poet's uses of the Gothic fictions and the institution of chivalry; and when Percy ventured to hope that cultivated readers would find something deserving attention in old English minstrelsy. It was still worth considering a half-century later, when Coleridge explained away the dramatic unities, and Byron once more took up the lost cause of Pope. But by 1832 the literary revolution was complete. Romance was in no further need of vindication, when all Scott's library of prose and verse stood back of her, and

"High-piled books in charactery Held, like rich garners, the full-ripened grain."

As to Scott's best invention, the historical romance, I shall not pursue its fortunes to the end. The formula once constituted, its application was easy, whether the period chosen was the Middle Ages or any old period B.C. or A.D. Here and there an individual stands forth from the class, either for its excellent conformity with the Waverley type or for its originality in deviation. Of the former kind is Charles Reade's "The Cloister and the Hearth" (1861); and of the latter Mr. Maurice Hewlett's "The Forest Lovers" (1898). The title page of Reade's novel describes the book as "a matter-of-fact romance." It is as well documented as any of Scott's, and reposes especially upon the "Colloquies" of Erasmus, the betrothal of whose parents, with their subsequent separation by the monastic vow of celibacy, is the subject of the story. This is somewhat romanticised, but keeps a firm grip upon historical realities. The period of the action is the fifteenth century, yet the work is as far as possible from being a chivalry tale, like the diaphanous fictions of Fouque. "In that rude age," writes the novelist, "body prevailing over mind, all sentiments took material forms. Man repented with scourges, prayed by bead, bribed the saints with wax tapers, put fish into the body to sanctify the soul, sojourned in cold water for empire over the emotions, and thanked God for returning health in 1 cwt, 2 stone, 7 lbs., 3 oz., 1 dwt. of bread and cheese." There is no lack in "The Cloister and the Hearth" of stirring incident and bold adventure; encounters with bears and with bandits, sieges, witch trials, gallows hung with thieves, archery with long bow and arbalest—everywhere fighting enough, as in Scott; and, also as in Scott, behind the private drama of true love, intrigue, persecution, the broad picture of society. It is no idealised version of the Middle Ages. The ugly, sordid side of mediaeval life is turned outwards; its dirt, discomfort, ignorance, absurdity, brutality, unreason and insecurity are rendered with crass realism. The burgher is more in evidence than the chevalier. Less after the manner of the Waverley novels, and more after that of "Hypatia," "Romola," and "Fathers and Sons," it depicts the intellectual unrest of the time, the conflicting ideals of the old and new generations. The printing-press is being set up, and the hero finds his art of calligraphy, learned in the scriptorium, no longer in request. The Pope and many of the higher clergy are infected with the religious scepticism and humanitarian enthusiasm of the Renaissance. The child Erasmus is the new birth of reason, destined to make war on monkery and superstition and thereby avenge his parents' wrongs. Of quite another fashion of mediaevalism is Mr. Hewlett's story—sheer romance. The wonderful wood of Morgraunt, with its charcoal burners and wayside shrines, black meres frowned over by skeleton castles, and gentle hinds milked by the heroine to get food for her wounded lover, is of no time or country, but almost as unreal as Spenser's fairy forest. Through its wild ways Isoult la Desirous and Prosper le Gai go adventuring like Una and her Red Cross knight, or Enid and Geraint. Or, again, Isoult in her page's dress, and forsaken by her wedded lord, is like Viola or Imogen or Rosalind, or Constance in "Marmion," or any lady of old romance. Or sometimes again she is like a wood spirit, or an elemental creature such as was Undine. The invented place names, High March, Wanmeeting, Market Basing, etc., with their transparent air of actuality, sound an echo from William Morris' prose romances, like "The House of the Wolfings" and "The Sundering Flood." As in the last named, and in Thomas Hardy's "Return of the Native," the reader's imagination is assisted by a map of the Morgraunt forest and the river Wan. Mr. Hewlett has evidently profited, too, by recent romances of various schools: by "Prince Otto," e.g., and "The Prisoner of Zenda," and possibly by others. His Middle Ages are not the Middle Ages of history, but of poetic convention; a world where anything may happen and where the facts of any precise social state are attenuated into "atmosphere" for the use of the imagination. "The Forest Lovers" is nearer to "Christabel" or "La Belle Dame sans Merci" than to "Ivanhoe": is, indeed, a prose poem, though not quite an allegory like "Sintram and his Companions."

Among Scott's contemporaries, Byron and Shelley, profoundly romantic in temper, were not retrospective in their habit of mind; and the Middle Ages, in particular, had little to say to them. Scott stood for the past; Byron—a man of his time, a modern man—for the present; Shelley—a visionary, with a system of philosophical perfectionism—for the future. Memory, Mnemosyne, mother of the muses, was the nurse of Scott's genius. Byron lived intensely in the world which he affected to despise. Shelley prophesied, with eyes fixed upon the coming age. We have found, in Byron's contributions to the Pope controversy, one expression of his instinctive sympathy with the classical and contempt for the Gothic. Shelley, too, was a Hellenist; and to both, in their angry break with authority and their worship of liberty, the naked freedom, the clear light, the noble and harmonious forms of the antique were as attractive as the twilight of the "ages of faith," with their mysticism, asceticism, and grotesque superstitions, were repulsive. Remote as their own feverish and exuberant poetry was from the unexcited manner of classical work, the latter was the ideal towards which they more and more inclined. The points at which these two poets touch our history, then, are few. Byron, to be sure, cast "Childe Harold" into Spenserian verse, and gave it a ballad title.[1] In the first canto there are a few archaisms; words like fere, shent, and losel occur, together with Gothic properties, such as the "eremite's sad cell" and "Paynim shores" and Newstead's "monastic dome." The ballad "Adieu, adieu my native shore," was suggested by "Lord Maxwell's Good-Night" in the "Border Minstrelsy," and introduces some romantic appurtenances: the harp, the falcon, and the little foot-page. But this kind of falsetto, in the tradition of the last-century Spenserians, evidently hampered the poet; so he shook himself free from imitation after the opening stanzas, and spoke in his natural voice.[2] "Lara" is a tale of feudal days, with a due proportion of knights, dames, vassals, and pages; and an ancestral hall with gloomy vaults and portrait galleries, where

"—the moonbeam shone Through the dim lattice o'er the floor of stone, And the high fretted roof and saints that there O'er Gothic windows knelt in pictured prayer. . . . The waving banner and the clapping door, The rustling tapestry and the echoing floor; The long dim shadows of surrounding trees, The flapping bats, the night-song of the breeze, Aught they behold or hear their thought appalls, As evening saddens o'er the dark grey walls."

But these things are unimportant in Byron—mere commonplaces of description inherited from Scott and Lewis and Mrs. Radcliffe. Neither is it of importance that "Parisina" is a tale of the year 1405, and has an echo in it of convent bells and the death chant of friars; nor that the first scene of "Manfred" passes in a "Gothic gallery," and includes an incantation of spirits upon the model of "Faust"; nor that "Marino Faliero" and "The Two Foscari" are founded on incidents of Venetian history which happened in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries respectively; nor yet that Byron translated the Spanish ballad "Woe is me Alhama" and a passage from Pulci's "Morgante Maggiore." [3] Similarly Shelley's experimental versions of the "Prolog im Himmel," and "Walpurgisnacht" in "Faust," and of scenes from Calderon's "Magico Prodigioso" are felt to be without special significance in comparison with the body of his writings. "Faust" impressed him, as it did Byron, and he urged Coleridge to translate it, speaking of the current English versions as wretched misrepresentations of the original. But in all of Shelley's poetry the scenery, architecture, and imagery in general are sometimes Italian, sometimes Asiatic, often wholly fantastic, but never mediaeval. Their splendour is a classic splendour, and not what Milton contemptuously calls "a Hunnish and Norwegian stateliness." His favourite names are Greek: Cythna, Ianthe, and the like. The ruined cathedral in "Queen Mab"—a poem only in its title romantic—is coupled with the ruined dungeon, in whose courts the children play; both alike "works of faith and slavery," symbols of the priestcraft and kingcraft which Shelley hated, now made harmless by the reign of Reason and Love in a regenerated universe. How different is the feeling which the empty cathedral inspires in Lowell; once thronged with worshippers, now pathetically lonely—a cliff, far inland, from which the sea of faith has forever withdrawn! At the time when "Queen Mab" was written, Coleridge, Southey, and Landor's "Gebir" were Shelley's favourite reading. "He was a lover of the wonderful and wild in literature," says Mrs. Shelley, in her notes on the poem; "but had not fostered these tastes at their genuine sources—the romances and chivalry of the Middle Ages—but in the perusal of such German works as were current in those days.[4] . . . Our earlier English poetry was almost unknown to him."

"Queen Mab" begins with a close imitation of the opening lines of Southey's "Thalaba the Destroyer." The third member of the Lake School is a standing illustration of Mr. Colvin's contention that the distinction between classic and romantic is less in subject than in treatment. Southey regarded himself as, equally with Wordsworth and Coleridge, an innovator and a rebel against poetic conventions. His big Oriental epics, "Thalaba" and "The Curse of Kehama," are written in verse purposely irregular, but so inferior in effect to the irregular verse of Coleridge and Scott as to prove that irregularity, as such, is only tolerable when controlled by the subtly varying lyric impulse—not when it is adopted as a literary method. Southey's worth as a man, his indefatigable industry, his scholarship, and his excellent work in prose make him an imposing figure in our literature. But his poetical reputation has faded more rapidly than that of his greater contemporaries. He ranged widely in search of subjects and experimented boldly in forms of verse; but his poems are seldom inspired; they are manufactures rather than creations, and to-day Southey, the poet, represents nothing in particular.

But, like Taylor of Norwich, Southey, by his studies in foreign literature, added much to the romantic material constantly accumulating in the English tongue. In his two visits to the Peninsula he made acquaintance with Spanish and Portuguese; and afterwards by his translations and otherwise, helped his countrymen to a knowledge of the old legendary poetry of Spain, the country above all others of chivalry and romance. Mention has already been made of his versions of "Amadis of Gaul," "Palmerin of England," and the "Chronicle of the Cid." The last named was not a translation from any single source, but was put together from the "Poem of the Cid," which the translator considered to be "unquestionably the oldest poem in the language" and probably by a writer contemporary with the great Campeador himself; from the prose "Chronicle" assigned to the thirteenth century; and from the ballads, which Southey thought mainly worthless, i.e., from the historical point of view.

Southey's long blank verse poems on mediaeval subjects, partly historical, partly legendary, "Joan of Arc" (1795), "Madoc" (1805), and "Roderick, the Last of the Goths" (1814), like his friend Landor's "Gebir," are examples of romantic themes with classical or, at least, unromantic handling. The last of them was the same in subject, indeed, with Landor's drama, "Count Julian." I have spoken of "Thalaba" and "The Curse of Kehama" as epics; but Southey rejected "the degraded title of epic" and scouted the rules of Aristotle. Nevertheless, the best qualities of these blank verse narratives are of the classic-epic kind. The story is not badly told; the measure is correct if not distinguished; and the style is simple, clear, and in pure taste. But the spell of romance, the witchery of Coleridge and Keats is absent; and so are the glow and movement of Scott.

Southey got up his history and local colour conscientiously, and his notes present a formidable array of authorities. While engaged upon "Madoc," he went to Wales to verify the scenery and even came near to leasing a cottage and taking up his residence there. "The manners of the poem," he asserted, "will be found historically true." The hero of "Madoc" was a legendary Welsh prince of the twelfth century who led a colony to America. The motif of the poem is therefore nearly the same as in William Morris's "Earthly Paradise," and it is curious to compare the two. In Southey's hands the blank verse, which in the last century had been almost an ear-mark of the romanticising schools, is far more classical than the heroic couplet which Morris writes. In the Welsh portion of "Madoc" the historical background is carefully studied from Giraldus Cambrensis, Evans' "Specimens," the "Triads of Bardism," the "Cambrian Biography," and similar sources, and in the Aztec portion, from old Spanish chronicles of the conquest of Mexico and the journals of modern travellers in America. In "The Earthly Paradise" nothing is historical except the encounter with Edward III.'s fleet in the channel. Over all, the dreamlike vagueness and strangeness of romance. Yet the imaginative impression is more distinct, not an impression of reality, but as of a soft, bright miniature painting in an old manuscript.

In common with his literary associates, Southey was prompted by Percy's "Reliques" to try his hand at the legendary ballad and at longer metrical tales like "All for Love" and "The Pilgrim to Compostella." Most of these pieces date from the last years of the century. One of them, "St. Patrick's Purgatory," was inserted by Lewis in his "Tales of Wonder." Another of the most popular, and a capital specimen of grotesque, "The Old Woman of Berkeley," was upon a theme which was also undertaken by Taylor of Norwich and Dr. Sayers of the same city, when Southey was on a visit to the former in 1798. The story, told by Olaus Magnus as well as by William of Malmesbury, was of a witch whose body was carried off by the devil, though her coffin had been sprinkled with holy water and bound with a triple chain. For material Southey drew upon Spanish chronicles, French fabliaux, the "Acta Sanctorum," Matthew of Westminster, and many other sources. His ballads do not compare well with those of Scott and Coleridge. They abound in the supernatural—miracles of saints, sorceries, and apparitions; but the matter-of-fact narrative, common-place diction, and jog-trot verse are singularly out of keeping with the subject matter. The most wildly romantic situations become tamely unromantic under Southey's handling. Though in better taste than Lewis' grisly compositions, yet, as in Lewis, the want of "high seriousness" or any finer imagination in these legendary tales makes them turn constantly towards the comic; so that Southey was scandalised to learn that Mr. Payne Collier had taken his "Old Woman of Berkeley" for a "mock ballad" or parody. He affected especially a stanza which he credited to Lewis' invention:

"Behind a wide column, half breathless with fear She crept to conceal herself there; That instant the moon o'er a dark cloud shone clear, And she saw in the moonlight two ruffians appear, And between them a corpse did they bear." [5]

Southey employs no archaisms, no refrains, nor any of the stylistic marks of ancient minstrelsy. His ballads have the metrical roughness and plain speech of the old popular ballads, but none of their frequent, peculiar beauties of thought and phrase,

Spain, no less than Germany and Italy, was laid under contribution by the English romantics. Southey's work in this direction was followed by such things as Lockhart's "Spanish Ballads" (1824), Irving's "Alhambra," and Bryant's and Longfellow's translations from Spanish lyrical poetry. But these exotics did not stimulate original creative activity in England in equal degree with the German and Italian transplantings. They were imported, not appropriated. Of all European countries Spain had remained the most Catholic and mediaeval. Her eight centuries of struggle against the Moors had given her a rich treasure of legendary song and story. She had a body of popular ballad poetry larger than either England's or Germany's.[6] But Spain had no modern literature to mediate between the old and new; nothing at all corresponding with the schools of romance in Germany, from Herder to Schlegel, which effected a revival of the Teutonic Middle Age and impressed it upon contemporary England and France. Neither could the Spanish Middle Age itself show any such supreme master as Dante, whose direct influence on English poetry has waxed with the century. There was a time when, for the greater part of a century, England and Spain were in rather close contact, but it was mainly a hostile contact, and its tangential points were the ill-starred marriage of Philip and Mary, the Great Armada of 1588, and the abortive "Spanish Marriage" negotiations of James I.'s reign. Readers of our Elizabethan literature, however, cannot fail to remark a knowledge of, and interest in, Spanish affairs now quite strange to English writers. The dialogue of the old drama is full of Spanish phrases of convenience like bezo los manos, paucas palabras, etc., which were evidently quite as well understood by the audience as was later the colloquial French—savoir faire, coup de grace, etc.—which began to come in with Dryden, and has been coming ever since. The comedy Spaniard, like Don Armado in "Love's Labour's Lost," was a familiar figure on the English boards. Middleton took the double plot of his "Spanish Gipsy" from two novels of Cervantes; and his "Game of Chess," a political allegorical play, aimed against Spanish intrigues, made a popular hit and was stopped, after a then unexampled run, in consequence of the remonstrances of Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador. Somewhat later the Restoration stage borrowed situations from the Spanish love-intrigue comedy, not so much directly as by way of Moliere, Thomas Corneille, and other French playwrights; and the duenna and the gracioso became stock figures in English performances. The direct influence of Calderon and Lope de Vega upon our native theatre was infinitesimal. The Spanish national drama, like the English, was self-developed and unaffected by classical rules. Like the English, it was romantic in spirit, but was more religious in subject and more lyrical in form. The land of romance produced likewise the greatest of all satires upon romance. "Don Quixote," of course, was early translated and imitated in England; and the picaro romances had an important influence upon the evolution of English fiction in De Foe and Smollett; not only directly through books like "The Spanish Rogue," but by way of Le Sage.[7] But upon the whole, the relation between English and Spanish literature had been one of distant respect rather than of intimacy. There was never any such inrush of foreign domination from this quarter as from Italy in the sixteenth century, or from France in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and latter half of the seventeenth.

The unequalled wealth of Spanish literature in popular ballads is partially explained by the facility with which such things were composed. The Spanish ballad, or romance, was a stanza (redondilla, roundel) of four eight-syllable lines with a prevailing trachaic movement—just the metre, in short, of "Locksley Hall." Only the second and fourth lines rimed, and the rime was merely assonant or vowel rime. Given the subject and the lyrical impulse, and verses of this sort could be produced to order and in infinite number by poets of the humblest capacity. The subjects were furnished mainly by Spanish history and legend, the exploits of national heroes like the Cid (Ruy Diaz de Bivar), the seven Princes of Lara, Don Fernan Gonzalez, and Bernaldo del Carpio, the leader in the Spanish versions of the great fight by Fontarabbia

"When Rowland brave and Olivier, And every paladin and peer On Roncesvalles died."

Southey thought the Spanish ballads much inferior to the English and Scotch, a judgment to which students of Spanish poetry will perhaps hardly agree.[8] The Spanish ballads, like the British, are partly historical and legendary, partly entirely romantic or fictitious. They record not only the age-long wars against the Saracen, the common enemy, but the internecine feuds of the Spanish Christian kingdoms, the quarrels between the kings and their vassals, and many a dark tale of domestic treachery or violence. In these respects their resemblance to the English and Scotch border ballads is obvious; and it has been pointed out that they sprang from similar conditions, a frontier war for national independence, maintained for centuries against a stubborn foe. The traditions concerning Wallace and the Bruce have some analogy with the chronicles of the Cid; but as to the border fights celebrated in Scott's "Minstrelsy," they were between peoples of the same race, tongue, and faith; and were but petty squabbles in comparison with that epic crusade in which the remnants of the old Gothic conquerors slowly made head against, and finally overthrew and expelled, an Oriental religion, a foreign blood, and a civilisation in many respects more brilliant than anything which Europe could show. The contrast between Castile and Granada is more picturesque than the difference between Lothian and Northumberland. The Spanish ballads have the advantage, then, of being connected with imposing passages of history. In spirit they are intensely national. Three motives animate them all: loyalty to the king, devotion to the cross, and the pundonor: that sensitive personal honour—the "Castilian pride" of "Hernani,"—which sometimes ran into fantastic excess. A rude chivalry occasionally softens the ferocity of feudal manners in Northern ballad-poetry, as in the speech of Percy over the dead Douglas in "Chevy Chase." But in the Spanish romances the knightly feeling is all-pervading. The warriors are hidalgos, gentlemen of a lofty courtesy; the Moorish chieftains are not "heathen hounds," but chivalrous adversaries, to be treated, in defeat, with a certain generosity. This refinement and magnanimity are akin to that ideality of temper which makes Don Quixote at once so noble and so ridiculous, and which is quite remote from the sincere realism of the British minstrelsy. In style the Spanish ballads are simple, forcible, and direct, but somewhat monotonous in their facility. The English and Scotch have a wider range of subject; the best of them have a condensed energy of expression and a depth of tragic feeling which is more potent than the melancholy grace of the Spanish. Women take a more active part in the former, the Christians of the Peninsula having caught from their Saracen foes a prejudice in favour of womanly seclusion and retirement. There is also a wilder imagination in Northern balladry; a much larger element of the mythological and supernatural. Ghosts, demons, fairies, enchanters are rare in the Spanish poems. Where the marvellous enters into them at all, it is mostly in the shape of saintly miracles. St. James of Compostella appears on horseback among the Christian hosts battling with the Moors, or even in the army of the Conquistadores in Mexico—an incident which Macaulay likens to the apparition of the "great twin Brethren" in the Roman battle of Lake Regillus. The mediaeval Spaniards were possibly to the full as superstitious as their Scottish contemporaries, but their superstitions were the legends of the Catholic Church, not the inherited folklore of Gothic and Celtic heathendom. I will venture to suggest, as one reason of this difference, the absence of forests in Spain. The shadowy recesses of northern Europe were the natural haunts of mystery and unearthly terrors. The old Teutonic forest, the Schwarzwald and the Hartz, were peopled by the popular imagination with were-wolves, spectre huntsmen, wood spirits, and all those nameless creatures which Tieck has revived in his "Maehrchen" and Hauptmann in the Rautendelein of his "Versunkene Glocke." The treeless plateaus of Spain, and her stony, denuded sierras, all bare and bright under the hot southern sky, offered no more shelter to such beings of the mind than they did to the genial life of Robin Hood and his merry men "all under the greenwood tree." And this mention of the bold archer of Sherwood recalls one other difference—the last that need here be touched upon—between the ballads of Spain and of England. Both constitute a body of popular poetry, i.e., of folk poetry. They recount the doings of the upper classes, princes, nobles, knights, and ladies, as seen from the angle of observation of humble minstrels of low degree. But the people count for much more in the English poems. The Spanish are more aristocratic, more public, less domestic, and many of them composed, it is thought, by lordly makers. This is perhaps, in part, a difference in national character; and, in part, a difference in the conditions under which the social institutions of the two countries were evolved.

Spain collected her ballads early in numerous songbooks—cancioneros, romanceros—the first of which, the "Cancionero" of 1510, is "the oldest collection of popular poetry, properly so-called, that is to be found in any European literature." [9] But modern Spain had gone through her classic period, like England and Germany. She had submitted to the critical canons of Boileau, and was in leading-strings to France till the end of the eighteenth century. Spain, too, had her romantic movement, and incidentally her ballad revival, but it came later than in England and Germany, later even than in France. Historians of Spanish literature inform us that the earliest entry of French romanticism into Spain took place in Martinez de la Rosa's two dramas, "The Conspiracy of Venice" (1834) and "Aben-Humeya," first written in French and played at Paris in 1830; and that the representation of Duke de Rivas' play, "Don Alvaro" (1835), was "an event in the history of the modern Spanish drama corresponding to the production of 'Hernani' at the Theatre Francais" in 1830.[10] Both of these authors had lived in France and had there made acquaintance with the works of Chateaubriand, Byron, and Walter Scott. Spain came in time to have her own Byron and her own Scott, the former in Jose de Espronceda, author of "The Student of Salamanca," who resided for a time in London; the latter in Jose Zorrilla, whose "Granada," "Legends of the Cid," etc., "were popular for the same reason that 'Marmion' and 'The Lady of the Lake' were popular; for their revival of national legends in a form both simple and picturesque." [11] Scott himself is reported to have said that if he had come across in his younger days Perez de Hita's old historical romance, "The Civil Wars of Granada" (1595), "he would have chosen Spain as the scene of a Waverley novel." [12]

But when Lockhart, in 1824, set himself to

"—relate In high-born words the worth of many a knight From tawny Spain, lost in the world's debate"—

her ballad poetry had fallen into disfavour at home, and "no Spanish Percy, or Ellis, or Ritson," he complains, "has arisen to perform what no one but a Spaniard can entertain the smallest hope of achieving." [13] Meanwhile, however, the German romantic school had laid eager hands upon the old romantic literature of Spain. A. W. Schlegel (1803) and Gries had made translations from Calderon in assonant verse; and Friedrich Schlegel—who exalted the Spanish dramatist above Shakspere, much to Heine's disgust—had written, also in asonante, his dramatic poem "Conde Alarcos" (1802), founded on the well-known ballad. Brentano and others of the romantics went so far as to practise assonance in their original as well as translated work. Jacob Grimm (1815) and Depping (1817) edited selections from the "Romancero" which Lockhart made use of in his "Ancient Spanish Ballads." With equal delight the French romanticists—Hugo and Musset in particular—seized upon the treasures of the "Romancero"; but this was somewhat later.

Lockhart's "Spanish Ballads," which were bold and spirited paraphrases rather than close versions of the originals, enjoyed a great success, and have been repeatedly reprinted. Ticknor pronounced them undoubtedly a work of genius, as much so as any book of the sort in any literature with which he was acquainted.[14] In the very same year Sir John Bowring published his "Ancient Poetry and Romance of Spain." Hookham Frere, that most accomplished of translators, also gave specimens from the "Romancero." Of late years versions in increasing numbers of Spanish poetry of all kinds, ancient and modern, by Ormsby, Gibson, and others too numerous to name, have made the literature of the country largely accessible to English readers. But to Lockhart belongs the credit of having established for the English public the convention of romantic Spain—the Spain of lattice and guitar, of mantilla and castanet, articles now long at home in the property room of romance, along with the gondola of Venice, the "clock-face" troubadour, and the castle on the Rhine. The Spanish brand of mediaevalism would seem, for a number of years, to have substituted itself in England for the German, and doubtless a search through the annuals and gift books and fashionable fiction and minor poetry generally, of the years from 1825 to 1840, would disclose a decided Castilian colouring. To such effect, at least, is the testimony of the Edinburgh reviewer—from whom I have several times quoted—reviewing in January, 1841, the new and sumptuously illustrated edition of "Ancient Spanish Ballads." "Mr. Lockhart's success," he writes, "rendered the subject fashionable; we have, however, no space to bestow on the minor fry who dabbled in these . . . fountains. Those who remember their number may possibly deprecate our re-opening the floodgates of the happily subsided inundation."

The popular ballad, indeed, is, next after the historical romance, the literary form to which the romantic movement has given, in the highest degree, a renewal of prosperous life. Every one has written ballads, and the "burden" has become a burden even as the grasshopper is such. The very parodists have taken the matter in hand. The only Calverley made excellent sport of the particular variety cultivated by Jean Ingelow. And Sir Frederick Pollock, as though actuated by Lowell's hint, about "a declaration of love under the forms of a declaration in trover," cast the law reports into ballad phrase in his "Leading Cases Done into English (1876):

"It was Thomas Newman and five his feres (Three more would have made them nine), And they entered into John Vaux's house, That had the Queen's Head to sign. The birds on the bough sing loud and sing low, What trespass shall be ab initio."

Of course the great majority of these poems in the ballad form, whether lyric or narrative, or a mixture of both, are in no sense romantic. They are like Wordsworth's "Lyrical Ballads," idyllic; songs of the affections, of nature, sentiment, of war, the sea, the hunting field, rustic life, and a hundred other moods and topics. Neither are the historical or legendary ballads, deriving from Percy and reinforced by Scott, prevailingly romantic in the sense of being mediaeval. They are such as Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient Rome," in which—with ample acknowledgment in his introduction both to Scott and to the "Reliques"—he applies the form of the English minstrel ballad to an imaginative re-creation of the lost popular poetry of early Rome. Or they continue Scott's Jacobite tradition, like "Aytoun's Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers," Browning's "Cavalier Tunes," Thornbury's "Songs of the Cavaliers and Roundheads" (1857), and a few of Motherwell's ditties. These last named, except Browning, were all Scotchmen and staunch Tories; as were likewise Lockhart and Hogg; and, for obvious reasons, it is in Scotland that the simpler fashion of ballad writing, whether in dialect or standard English, and more especially as employed upon martial subjects, has flourished longest. Artifice and ballad preciosity have been cultivated more sedulously in the south, with a learned use of the repetend, archaism of style, and imitation of the quaint mediaeval habit of mind.

Of the group most immediately connected with Scott and who assisted him, more or less, in his "Minstrelsy" collection, may be mentioned the eccentric John Leyden, immensely learned in Border antiquities and poetry, and James Hogg, the "Ettrick Shepherd." The latter was a peasant bard, an actual shepherd and afterward a sheep farmer, a self-taught man with little schooling, who aspired to become a second Burns, and composed much of his poetry while lying out on the hills, wrapped in his plaid and tending his flocks like any Corydon or Thyrsis. He was a singular mixture of genius and vanity, at once the admiration and the butt of the Blackwood's wits, who made him the mouthpiece of humour and eloquence which were not his, but Christopher North's. The puzzled shepherd hardly knew how to take it; he was a little gratified and a good deal nettled. But the flamboyant figure of him in the Noctes will probably do as much as his own verses to keep his memory alive with posterity. Nevertheless, Hogg is one of the best of modern Scotch ballad poets. Having read the first two volumes of the "Border Minstrelsy," he was dissatisfied with some of the modern ballad imitations therein and sent his criticisms to Scott. They were sound criticisms, for Hogg had an intimate knowledge of popular poetry and a quick perception of what was genuine and what was spurious in such compositions. Sir Walter called him in aid of his third volume and found his services of value.

As a Border minstrel, Hogg ranks next to Scott—is, in fact, a sort of inferior Scott. His range was narrower, but he was just as thoroughly saturated with the legendary lore of the countryside, and in some respects he stood closer to the spirit of that peasant life in which popular poetry has its source. As a ballad poet, indeed, he is not always Scott's inferior, though even his ballads are apt to be too long and without the finish and the instinct for selection which marks the true artist. When he essayed metrical romances in numerous cantos, his deficiencies in art became too fatally evident. Scott, in his longer poems, is often profuse and unequal, but always on a much higher level than Hogg. The latter had no skill in conducting to the end a fable of some complexity, involving a number of varied characters and a really dramatic action. "Mador of the Moor," e.g., is a manifest and not very successful imitation of "The Lady of the Lake"; and it requires a strong appetite for the romantic to sustain a reader through the six parts of "Queen Hynde" and the four parts of "The Pilgrims of the Sun." By general consent, the best of Hogg's more ambitious poems is "The Queen's Wake," and the best thing in it is "Kilmeny." "The Queen's Wake" (1813) combines, in its narrative plan, the framework of "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" with the song competition in its sixth canto. Mary Stuart, on landing in Scotland, holds a Christmas wake at Holyrood, where seventeen bards contend before her for the prize of song. The lays are in many different moods and measures, but all enclosed in a setting of octosyllabic couplets, closely modelled upon Scott, and the whole ends with a tribute to the great minstrel who had waked once more the long silent Harp of the North. The thirteenth bard's song—"Kilmeny"—is of the type of traditionary tale familiar in "Tarn Lin" and "Thomas of Ercildoune," and tells how a maiden was spirited away to fairyland, where she saw a prophetic vision of her country's future (including the Napoleonic wars) and returned after a seven years' absence.

"Late, late in a gloamin' when all was still, When the fringe was red on the westlin hill, The wood was sere, the moon i' the wane, The reek o' the cot hung o'er the plain, Like a little wee cloud in the world its lane; When the ingle lowed wi' an eiry leme, Late, late in the gloamin' Kilmeny came hame."

The Ettrick Shepherd's peculiar province was not so much the romance of national history as the field of Scottish fairy lore and popular superstition. It was he, rather than Walter Scott, who carried out the suggestions long since made to his countryman, John Home, in Collins' "Ode on the Superstitions of the Highlands." His poems are full of bogles, kelpies, brownies, warlocks, and all manner of "grammarie." "The Witch of Fife" in "The Queen's Wake," a spirited bit of grotesque, is repeatedly quoted as authority upon the ways of Scotch witches in the notes to Croker's "Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland." Similar themes engaged the poet in his prose tales. Some of these were mere modern ghost stories, or stories of murder, robbery, death warnings, etc. Others, like "The Heart of Eildon," dealt with ancient legends of the supernatural. Still others, like "The Brownie of Bodsbeck: a Tale of the Covenanters," were historical novels of the Stuart times. Here Hogg was on Scott's own ground and did not shine by comparison. He complained, indeed, that in the last-mentioned tale, he had been accused of copying "Old Mortality", but asserted that he had written his book the first and had been compelled by the appearance of Sir Walter's, to go over his own manuscript and substitute another name for Balfour of Burley, his original hero. Nanny's songs, in "The Brownie of Bodsbeck," are among Hogg's best ballads. Others are scattered through his various collections—"The Mountain Bard," "The Forest Minstrel," "Poetical Tales and Ballads," etc.

Another Scotch balladist was William Motherwell, one of the most competent of ballad scholars and editors, whose "Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern," was issued at Glasgow in 1827, and led to a correspondence between the collector and Sir Walter Scott.[15] In 1836 Motherwell was associated with Hogg in editing Burns' works. His original ballads are few in number, and their faults and merits are of quite an opposite nature from his collaborator's. The shepherd was a man of the people, and lived, so far as any modern can, among the very conditions which produced the minstrel songs. He inherited the popular beliefs. His great-grandmother on one side was a notorious witch; his grandfather on the other side had "spoken with the fairies." His poetry, such as it is, is fluent and spontaneous. Motherwell's, on the contrary, is the work of a ballad fancier, a student learned in lyric, reproducing old modes with conscientious art. His balladry is more condensed and skilful than Hogg's, but seems to come hard to him. It is literary poetry trying to be Volkspoesie, and not quite succeeding. Many of the pieces in the southern English, such as "Halbert the Grim," "The Troubadour's Lament," "The Crusader's Farewell," "The Warthman's Wail," "The Demon Lady," "The Witches' Joys," and "Lady Margaret," have an echo of Elizabethan music, or the songs of Lovelace, or, now and then, the verse of Coleridge or Byron. "True Love's Dirge," e.g., borrows a burden from Shakspere—"Heigho! the Wind and Rain." Others, like "Lord Archibald: A Ballad," and "Elfinland Wud: An Imitation of the Ancient Scottish Romantic Ballad," are in archaic Scotch dialect with careful ballad phrasing. Hogg employs the broad Scotch, but it is mostly the vernacular of his own time. A short passage from "The Witch of Fife" and one from "Elfin Wud" will illustrate two very different types of ballad manner:

"He set ane reid-pipe till his muthe And he playit se bonnileye, Till the gray curlew and the black-cock flew To listen his melodye.

"It rang se sweit through the grim Lommond, That the nycht-winde lowner blew: And it soupit alang the Loch Leven, And wakenit the white sea-mew.

"It rang se sweit through the grim Lommond, Se sweitly but and se shill, That the wezilis laup out of their mouldy holis, And dancit on the mydnycht hill."

"Around her slepis the quhyte muneschyne, (Meik is mayden undir kell), Hir lips bin lyke the blude reid wyne; (The rois of flouris hes sweitest smell).

"It was al bricht quhare that ladie stude, (Far my luve fure ower the sea). Bot dern is the lave of Elfinland wud, (The Knicht pruvit false that ance luvit me).

"The ladie's handis were quhyte als milk, (Ringis my luve wore mair nor ane). Hir skin was safter nor the silk; (Lilly bricht schinis my luve's halse bane)."

Upon the whole, the most noteworthy of Motherwell's original additions to the stores of romantic verse were his poems on subjects from Norse legend and mythology, and particularly the three spirited pieces that stand first in his collection (1832)—"The Battle-Flag of Sigurd," "The Wooing Song of Jarl Egill Skallagrim," and "The Sword Chant of Thorstein Randi." These stand midway between Gray's "Descent of Odin" and the later work of Longfellow, William Morris and others. Since Gray, little or nothing of the kind had been attempted; and Motherwell gave perhaps the first expression in English song of the Berserkir rage and the Viking passion for battle and sea roving.

During the nineteenth century English romance received new increments of heroic legend and fairy lore from the Gaelic of Ireland. It was not until 1867 that Matthew Arnold, in his essay "On the Study of Celtic Literature," pleading for a chair of Celtic at Oxford, bespoke the attention of the English public to those elements in the national literature which come from the Celtic strain in its blood. Arnold knew very little Celtic, and his essay abounds in those airy generalisations which are so irritating to more plodding critics. His theory, e.g., that English poetry owes its sense for colour to the Celts, when taken up and stated nakedly by following writers, seems too absolute in its ascription of colour-blindness to the Teutonic races. Still, Arnold probably defined fairly enough the distinctive traits of the Celtic genius. He attributes to a Celtic source much of the turn of English poetry for style, much of its turn for melancholy, and nearly all its turn for "natural magic." "The forest solitude, the bubbling spring, the wild flowers, are everywhere in romance. They have a mysterious life and grace there; they are Nature's own children, and utter her secret in a way which makes them something quite different from the woods, waters, and plants of Greek and Latin poetry. Now, of this delicate magic, Celtic romance is so pre-eminent a mistress that it seems impossible to believe the power did not come into romance from the Celts."

In 1825 T. Crofton Croker published the first volume of his delightful "Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland." It was immediately translated into German by the Grimm brothers, and was received with enthusiasm by Walter Scott, who was introduced to the author in London in 1826, and a complimentary letter from whom was printed in the preface to the second edition.

Croker's book opened a new world of romance, and introduced the English reader to novel varieties of elf creatures, with outlandish Gaelic names; the Shefro; the Boggart; the Phooka, or horse-fiend; the Banshee, a familiar spirit which moans outside the door when a death impends; the Cluricaune,[16] or cellar goblin; the Fir Darrig (Red Man); the Dullahan, or Headless Horseman. There are stories of changelings, haunted castles, buried treasure, the "death coach," the fairy piper, enchanted lakes which cover sunken cities, and similar matters not unfamiliar in the folk-lore of other lands, but all with an odd twist to them and set against a background of the manners and customs of modern Irish peasantry. The Celtic melancholy is not much in evidence in this collection. The wild Celtic fancy is present, but in combination with Irish gaiety and light-heartedness. It was the day of the comedy Irishman—Lover's and Lever's Irishman—Handy Andy, Rory O'More, Widow Machree and the like. It took the famine of '49 and the strenuous work of the Young Ireland Party which gathered about the Nation in 1848, to displace this traditional figure in favour of a more earnest and tragical national type. But a single quotation will illustrate the natural magic of which Arnold speaks: "The Merrow (mermaid) put the comb in her pocket, and then bent down her head and whispered some words to the water that was close to the foot of the rock. Dick saw the murmur of the words upon the top of the sea, going out towards the wide ocean, just like a breath of wind rippling along, and, says he, in the greatest wonder, 'Is it speaking you are, my darling, to the salt water?'

"'It's nothing else,' says she, quite carelessly; 'I'm just sending word home to my father not to be waiting breakfast for me.'" Except for its lack of "high seriousness," this is the imagination that makes myths.

Catholic Ireland still cherishes popular beliefs which in England, and even in Scotland, have long been merely antiquarian curiosities. In her poetry the fairies are never very far away.

"Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen We daren't go a-hunting For fear of little men." [17]

Irish critics, to be sure, tell us that Allingham's fairies are English fairies, and that he had no Gaelic, though he knew and loved his Irish countryside. He was a Protestant and a loyalist, and lived in close association with the English Pre-Raphaelites—with Rossetti especially, who made the illustration for "The Maids of Elfin-Mere" in Allingham's volume "The Music Master" (1855). The Irish fairies, it is said, are beings of a darker and more malignant breed than Shakspere's elves. Yet in Allingham's poem they stole little Bridget and kept her seven years, till she died of sorrow and lies asleep on the lake bottom; even as in Ferguson's weird ballad, "The Fairy Thorn," the good people carry off fair Anna Grace from the midst of her three companions, who "pined away and died within the year and day."

To the latter half of the century belongs the so-called Celtic revival, which connects itself with the Nationalist movement in politics and is partly literary and partly patriotic. It may be doubted whether, for practical purposes, the Gaelic will ever come again into general use. But the concerted endeavour by a whole nation to win back its ancient, wellnigh forgotten speech is a most interesting social phenomenon. At all events, both by direct translations of the Gaelic hero epics and by original work in which the Gaelic spirit is transfused through English ballad and other verse forms, a lost kingdom of romance has been recovered and a bright green thread of Celtic poetry runs through the British anthology of the century. The names of the pioneers and leading contributors to this movement are significant of the varied strains of blood which compose Irish nationality. James Clarence Mangan was a Celt of the Celts; Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and Aubrey de Vere were of Norman-Irish stock, and the former was the son of a dean of the Established Church, and himself the editor of a Tory newspaper; Sir Samuel Ferguson was an Ulster Protestant of Scotch descent; Dr. George Sigerson is of Norse blood; Whitley Stokes, the eminent Celtic scholar, and Dr. John Todhunter, author of "Three Bardic Tales" (1896), bear Anglo-Saxon surnames; the latter is the son of Quaker parents and was educated at English Quaker schools.

Mangan's paraphrases from the Gaelic, "Poets and Poetry of Munster," appeared posthumously in 1850. They include a number of lyrics, wildly and mournfully beautiful, inspired by the sorrows of Ireland: "Dark Rosaleen," "Lament for the Princes of Tir-Owen and Tir-Connell," "O'Hussey's Ode to the Maguire," etc. The ballad form was not practised by the ancient Gaelic epic poets. In choosing it as the vehicle for their renderings from vernacular narrative poetry, the modern Irish poets have departed widely from the English and Scottish model, employing a variety of metres and not seeking to conform their diction to the manner of the ballads in the "Reliques" or the "Border Minstrelsy." Ferguson's "Lays of the Western Gael" (1865) is a series of historical ballads, original in effect, though based upon old Gaelic chronicles. "Congal" (1872) is an epic, founded on an ancient bardic tale, and written in Chapman's "fourteener" and reminding the reader frequently of Chapman's large, vigorous manner, his compound epithets and spacious Homeric similes. The same epic breadth of manner was applied to the treatment of other hero legends, "Conary," "Deirdre," etc., in a subsequent volume (1880). "Deirdre," the finest of all the old Irish stories, was also handled independently by the late Dr. R. D. Joyce in the verse and manner of William Morris' "Earthly Paradise." [18] Among other recent workers in this field are Aubrey de Vere, a volume of selections from whose poetry appeared at New York in 1894, edited by Prof. G. E. Woodberry; George Sigerson, whose "Bards of the Gael and the Gall," a volume of translations from the Irish in the original metres, was issued in 1897; Whitley Stokes, an accomplished translator, and the joint editor (with Windisch) of the "Irische Texte "; John Todhunter, author of "The Banshee and Other Poems" (1888) and "Three Bardic Tales" (1896); Alfred Perceval Graves, author of "Irish Folk Songs" (1897), and many other volumes of national lyrics; and William Larminie—"West Irish Folk Tales and Romances" (1893), etc.

The Celtism of this Gaelic renascence is of a much purer and more genuine character than the Celtism of Macpherson's "Ossian." Yet with all its superiority in artistic results, it is improbable that it will make any such impression on Europe or England as Macpherson made. "Ossian" was the first revelation to the world of the Celtic spirit: sophisticated, rhetorical, yet still the first; and it is not likely that its success will be repeated. In the very latest school of Irish verse, represented by such names as Lionel Johnson, J. B. Yeats, George W. Russell, Nora Hopper, the mystical spirit which inhabits the "Celtic twilight" turns into modern symbolism, so that some of their poems on legendary subjects bear a curious resemblance to the contemporary work of Maeterlinck: to such things as "Aglivaine et Salysette" or "Les Sept Princesses." [19]

The narrative ballad is hardly one of the forms of high art, like the epic, the tragedy, the Pindaric ode. It is simple and not complex like the sonnet: not of the aristocracy of verse, but popular—not to say plebeian—in its associations. It is easy to write and, in its commonest metrical shape of eights and sixes, apt to run into sing-song. Its limitations, even in the hands of an artist like Coleridge or Rossetti, are obvious. It belongs to "minor poetry." The ballad revival has not been an unmixed blessing and is responsible for much slip-shod work. If Dr. Johnson could come back from the shades and look over our recent verse, one of his first comments would probably be: "Sir, you have too many ballads." Be it understood that the romantic ballad only is here in question, in which the poet of a literary age seeks to catch and reproduce the tone of a childlike, unself-conscious time, so that his art has almost inevitably something artificial or imitative. Here and there one stands out from the mass by its skill or luck in overcoming the difficulty. There is Hawker's "Song of the Western Men," which Macaulay and others quoted as historical, though only the refrain was old:

"And shall Trelawney die? Here's twenty thousand Cornish men Will know the reason why!" [20]

There is Sydney Dobell's "Keith of Ravelston," [21] which haunts the memory with the insistent iteration of its refrain:—

"The murmur of the mourning ghost That keeps the shadowy kine; Oh, Keith of Ravelston, The sorrows of thy line!"

And again there is Robert Buchanan's "Ballad of Judas Iscariot" which Mr. Stedman compares for "weird impressiveness and power" with "The Ancient Mariner." The mediaeval feeling is most successfully captured in this poem. It recalls the old "Debate between the Body and Soul," and still more the touches of divine compassion which soften the rigours of Catholic theology in the legends of the saints. It strikes the keynote, too, of that most modern ballad mode which employs the narrative only to emphasize some thought of universal application. There is salvation for all, is the thought, even for the blackest soul of the world, the soul that betrayed its Maker.[22] Such, though after a fashion more subtly intellectual, is the doctrinal use to which this popular form is put by one of the latest English ballad makers, Mr. John Davidson. Read, e.g., his "Ballad of a Nun," [23] the story of which was told in several shapes by the Spanish poet Alfonso the Learned (1226-84). A runaway nun returns in penitence to her convent, and is met at the gate by the Virgin Mary, who has taken her likeness and kept her place for her during the years of her absence. Or read "A New Ballad of Tannhaeuser," [24] which contradicts "the idea of the inherent impurity of nature" by an interpretation of the legend in a sense quite the reverse of Wagner's. Tannhaeuser's dead staff blossoms not as a sign of forgiveness, but to show him that "there was no need to be forgiven." The modern balladist attacks the ascetic Middle Age with a shaft from its own quiver.

But it is time to turn from minor poets to acknowledged masters; and above all to the greatest of modern English artists in verse, the representative poet of the Victorian era. Is Tennyson to be classed with the romantics? His workmanship, when most truly characteristic, is romantic in the sense of being pictorial and ornate, rather than classically simple or severe. He assimilated the rich manner of Keats, whose influence is perceptible in his early poems. His art, like Keats', is eclectic and reminiscent, choosing for its exercise with equal impartiality whatever was most beautiful in the world of Grecian fable or the world of mediaeval legend. But unlike Keats, he lived to add new strings to his lyre; he went on to sing of modern life and thought, of present-day problems in science and philosophy, of contemporary politics, the doubt, unrest, passion, and faith of his own century. To find work of Tennyson's that is romantic throughout, in subject, form, and spirit alike, we must look among his earlier collections (1830, 1832, 1842). For this was a phase which he passed beyond, as Millais outgrew his youthful Pre-Raphaelitism, or as Goethe left behind him his "Goetz" and "Werther" period and widened out into larger utterance. Mr. Stedman speaks of the "Gothic feeling" in "The Lady of Shalott," and in ballads like "Oriana" and "The Sisters," describing them as "work that in its kind is fully up to the best of those Pre-Raphaelites who, by some arrest of development, stop precisely where Tennyson made his second step forward, and censure him for having gone beyond them." [25] This estimate may be accepted so far as it concerns "The Lady of Shalott," which is known to have worked strongly upon Rossetti's imagination; but surely "The Sisters" and "Oriana" do not rank with the best Pre-Raphaelite work. The former is little better than a failure; and the latter, which provokes a comparison, not to Tennyson's advantage, with the fine old ballad, "Helen of Kirkconnell," is a weak thing. The name Oriana has romantic associations—it is that of the heroine of "Amadis de Gaul"—but the damnable iteration of it as a ballad burden is irritating. Mediaeval motifs are rather slightly handled in "The Golden Supper" (from the "Decameron," 4th novel, 10th day); "The Beggar Maid" (from the ballad of "King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid" in the "Reliques"); and more adequately in "Godiva," a blank-verse rendering of the local legend of Coventry, in which an attempt is made to preserve something of the antique roughness under the smooth Vergilian elegance of Tennyson's diction. "The Day Dream" was a recasting of one of Perrault's fairy tales, "The Sleeping Beauty," under which title a portion of it had appeared in the "Poems Chiefly Lyrical" of 1830. Tennyson has written many greater poems than this, but few in which the special string of romance vibrates more purely. The tableau of the spellbound palace, with all its activities suspended, gave opportunity for the display of his unexampled pictorial power in scenes of still life; and the legend itself supplied that charmed isolation from the sphere of reality which we noticed as so important a part of the romantic poet's stock-in-trade in "Christabel" and "The Eve of St. Agnes"—

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