They consist of the "Bride of Lammermuir," "Ivanhoe," the "Monastery," the "Abbot," "Kenilworth," and the "Pirate." The marks of broken health on all these are essentially twofold—prevailing melancholy, and fantastic improbability. Three of the tales are agonizingly tragic, the "Abbot" scarcely less so in its main event, and "Ivanhoe" deeply wounded through all its bright panoply; while even in that most powerful of the series the impossible archeries and ax-strokes, the incredibly opportune appearances of Locksley, the death of Ulrica, and the resuscitation of Athelstane, are partly boyish, partly feverish. Caleb in the "Bride," Triptolemus and Halcro in the "Pirate," are all laborious, and the first incongruous; half a volume of the "Abbot" is spent in extremely dull detail of Roland's relations with his fellow-servants and his mistress, which have nothing whatever to do with the future story; and the lady of Avenel herself disappears after the first volume, "like a snaw-wreath when it's thaw, Jeanie." The public has for itself pronounced on the "Monastery," though as much too harshly as it has foolishly praised the horrors of "Ravenswood" and the nonsense of "Ivanhoe"; because the modern public finds in the torture and adventure of these, the kind of excitement which it seeks at an opera, while it has no sympathy whatever with the pastoral happiness of Glendearg, or with the lingering simplicities of superstition which give historical likelihood to the legend of the White Lady.
But both this despised tale and its sequel have Scott's heart in them. The first was begun to refresh himself in the intervals of artificial labor on "Ivanhoe." "It was a relief," he said, "to interlay the scenery most familiar to me with the strange world for which I had to draw so much on imagination." Through all the closing scenes of the second he is raised to his own true level by his love for the queen. And within the code of Scott's work to which I am about to appeal for illustration of his essential powers, I accept the "Monastery" and "Abbot," and reject from it the remaining four of this group.
27. The last series contains two quite noble ones, "Redgauntlet" and "Nigel"; two of very high value, "Durward" and "Woodstock"; the slovenly and diffuse "Peveril," written for the trade; the sickly "Tales of the Crusaders," and the entirely broken and diseased "St. Ronan's Well." This last I throw out of count altogether, and of the rest, accept only the four first named as sound work; so that the list of the novels in which I propose to examine his methods and ideal standards, reduces itself to these following twelve (named in order of production): "Waverley," "Guy Mannering," the "Antiquary," "Rob Roy," "Old Mortality," the "Heart of Midlothian," the "Monastery," the "Abbot," "Redgauntlet," the "Fortunes of Nigel," "Quentin Durward," and "Woodstock."
28. It is, however, too late to enter on my subject in this article, which I may fitly close by pointing out some of the merely verbal characteristics of his style, illustrative in little ways of the questions we have been examining, and chiefly of the one which may be most embarrassing to many readers, the difference, namely, between character and disease.
One quite distinctive charm in the Waverleys is their modified use of the Scottish dialect; but it has not generally been observed, either by their imitators, or the authors of different taste who have written for a later public, that there is a difference between the dialect of a language, and its corruption.
A dialect is formed in any district where there are persons of intelligence enough to use the language itself in all its fineness and force, but under the particular conditions of life, climate, and temper, which introduce words peculiar to the scenery, forms of word and idioms of sentence peculiar to the race, and pronunciations indicative of their character and disposition.
Thus "burn" (of a streamlet) is a word possible only in a country where there are brightly running waters, "lassie," a word possible only where girls are as free as the rivulets, and "auld," a form of the southern "old," adopted by a race of finer musical ear than the English.
On the contrary, mere deteriorations, or coarse, stridulent, and, in the ordinary sense of the phrase, "broad" forms of utterance, are not dialects at all, having nothing dialectic in them; and all phrases developed in states of rude employment, and restricted intercourse, are injurious to the tone and narrowing to the power of the language they affect. Mere breadth of accent does not spoil a dialect as long as the speakers are men of varied idea and good intelligence; but the moment the life is contracted by mining, millwork, or any oppressive and monotonous labor, the accents and phrases become debased. It is part of the popular folly of the day to find pleasure in trying to write and spell these abortive, crippled, and more or less brutal forms of human speech.
29. Abortive, crippled, or brutal, are however not necessarily "corrupted" dialects. Corrupt language is that gathered by ignorance, invented by vice, misused by insensibility, or minced and mouthed by affectation, especially in the attempt to deal with words of which only half the meaning is understood or half the sound heard. Mrs. Gamp's "aperiently so"—and the "underminded" with primal sense of undermine, of—I forget which gossip, in the "Mill on the Floss," are master-and mistress-pieces in this latter kind. Mrs. Malaprop's "allegories on the banks of the Nile" are in somewhat higher order of mistake: Mrs. Tabitha Bramble's ignorance is vulgarized by her selfishness, and Winifred Jenkins' by her conceit. The "wot" of Noah Claypole, and the other degradations of cockneyism (Sam Weller and his father are in nothing more admirable than in the power of heart and sense that can purify even these); the "trewth" of Mr. Chadband, and "natur" of Mr. Squeers, are examples of the corruption of words by insensibility: the use of the word "bloody" in modern low English is a deeper corruption, not altering the form of the word, but defiling the thought in it.
Thus much being understood, I shall proceed to examine thoroughly a fragment of Scott's Lowland Scottish dialect; not choosing it of the most beautiful kind; on the contrary, it shall be a piece reaching as low down as he ever allows Scotch to go—it is perhaps the only unfair patriotism in him, that if ever he wants a word or two of really villainous slang, he gives it in English or Dutch—not Scotch.
I had intended in the close of this paper to analyze and compare the characters of Andrew Fairservice and Richie Moniplies, for examples, the former of innate evil, unaffected by external influences, and undiseased, but distinct from natural goodness as a nettle is distinct from balm or lavender; and the latter of innate goodness, contracted and pinched by circumstance, but still undiseased, as an oak-leaf crisped by frost, not by the worm. This, with much else in my mind, I must put off; but the careful study of one sentence of Andrew's will give us a good deal to think of.
30. I take his account of the rescue of Glasgow Cathedral at the time of the Reformation.
Ah! it's a brave kirk—nane o' yere whigmaleeries an curliewurlies and opensteek hems about it—a' solid, weel-jointed mason-wark, that will stand as lang as the warld, keep hands and gunpowther aff it. It had amaist a douncome lang syne at the Reformation, when they pu'd doun the kirks of St. Andrews and Perth, and thereawa', to cleanse them o' Papery, and idolatry, and image-worship, and surplices, and sic-like rags o' the muckle hure that sitteth on seven hills, as if ane wasna braid eneugh for her auld hinder end. Sae the commons o' Renfrew, and o' the Barony, and the Gorbals, and a' about, they behoved to come into Glasgow ae fair morning, to try their hand on purging the High Kirk o' Popish nicknackets. But the townsmen o' Glasgow, they were feared their auld edifice might slip the girths in gaun through siccan rough physic, sae they rang the common bell, and assembled the train-bands wi' took o' drum. By good luck, the worthy James Rabat was Dean o' Guild that year—(and a gude mason he was himsell, made him the keener to keep up the auld bigging), and the trades assembled, and offered downright battle to the commons, rather than their kirk should coup the crans, as others had done elsewhere. It wasna for luve o' Paperie—na, na!—nane could ever say that o' the trades o' Glasgow—Sae they sune came to an agreement to take a' the idolatrous statues of sants (sorrow be on them!) out o' their neuks—And sae the bits o' stane idols were broken in pieces by Scripture warrant, and flung into the Molendinar burn, and the auld kirk stood as crouse as a cat when the flaes are kaimed aff her, and a'body was alike pleased. And I hae heard wise folk say, that if the same had been done in ilka kirk in Scotland, the Reform wad just hae been as pure as it is e'en now, and we wad hae mair Christianlike kirks; for I hae been sae lang in England, that naething will drived out o' my head, that the dog-kennel at Osbaldistone-Hall is better than mony a house o' God in Scotland.
31. Now this sentence is in the first place a piece of Scottish history of quite inestimable and concentrated value. Andrew's temperament is the type of a vast class of Scottish—shall we call it "sow-thistlian"—mind, which necessarily takes the view of either Pope or saint that the thistle in Lebanon took of the cedar or lilies in Lebanon; and the entire force of the passions which, in the Scottish revolution, foretold and forearmed the French one, is told in this one paragraph; the coarseness of it, observe, being admitted, not for the sake of the laugh, any more than an onion in broth merely for its flavor, but for the meat of it; the inherent constancy of that coarseness being a fact in this order of mind, and an essential part of the history to be told.
Secondly, observe that this speech, in the religious passion of it, such as there may be, is entirely sincere. Andrew is a thief, a liar, a coward, and, in the Fair service from which he takes his name, a hypocrite; but in the form of prejudice, which is all that his mind is capable of in the place of religion, he is entirely sincere. He does not in the least pretend detestation of image worship to please his master, or anyone else; he honestly scorns the "carnal morality as dowd and fusionless as rue-leaves at Yule" of the sermon in the upper cathedral; and when wrapt in critical attention to the "real savor o' doctrine" in the crypt, so completely forgets the hypocrisy of his fair service as to return his master's attempt to disturb him with hard punches of the elbow.
Thirdly. He is a man of no mean sagacity, quite up to the average standard of Scottish common sense, not a low one; and, though incapable of understanding any manner of lofty thought or passion, is a shrewd measurer of weaknesses, and not without a spark or two of kindly feeling. See first his sketch of his master's character to Mr. Hammorgaw, beginning: "He's no a'thegither sae void o' sense, neither"; and then the close of the dialogue: "But the lad's no a bad lad after a', and he needs some careful body to look after him."
Fourthly. He is a good workman; knows his own business well, and can judge of other craft, if sound, or otherwise.
All these four qualities of him must be known before we can understand this single speech. Keeping them in mind, I take it up, word by word.
32. You observe, in the outset, Scott makes no attempt whatever to indicate accents or modes of pronunciation by changed spelling, unless the word becomes a quite definitely new, and securely writable one. The Scottish way of pronouncing "James," for instance, is entirely peculiar, and extremely pleasant to the ear. But it is so, just because it does not change the word into Jeems, nor into Jims, nor into Jawms. A modern writer of dialects would think it amusing to use one or other of these ugly spellings. But Scott writes the name in pure English, knowing that a Scots reader will speak it rightly, and an English one be wise in letting it alone. On the other hand he writes "weel" for "well," because that word is complete in its change, and may be very closely expressed by the double e. The ambiguous u's in "gude" and "sune" are admitted, because far liker the sound than the double o would be, and that in "hure," for grace' sake, to soften the word; so also "flaes" for "fleas." "Mony" for "many" is again positively right in sound, and "neuk" differs from our "nook" in sense, and is not the same word at all, as we shall presently see.
Secondly, observe, not a word is corrupted in any indecent haste, slowness, slovenliness, or incapacity of pronunciation. There is no lisping, drawling, slobbering, or snuffling: the speech is as clear as a bell and as keen as an arrow: and its elisions and contractions are either melodious, ("na," for "not,"—"pu'd," for "pulled,") or as normal as in a Latin verse. The long words are delivered without the slightest bungling; and "bigging" finished to its last g.
33. I take the important words now in their places.
Brave. The old English sense of the word in "to go brave," retained, expressing Andrew's sincere and respectful admiration. Had he meant to insinuate a hint of the church's being too fine, he would have said "braw."
Kirk. This is of course just as pure and unprovincial a word as "Kirche," or "eglise."
Whigmaleerie. I cannot get at the root of this word, but it is one showing that the speaker is not bound by classic rules, but will use any syllables that will enrich his meaning. "Nipperty-tipperty" (of his master's "poetry-nonsense") is another word of the same class. "Curliewurlie" is of course just as pure as Shakespeare's "Hurlyburly." But see first suggestion of the idea to Scott at Blair-Adam (L. vi. 264).
Opensteek hems. More description, or better, of the later Gothic cannot be put into four syllables. "Steek," melodious for stitch, has a combined sense of closing or fastening. And note that the later Gothic being precisely what Scott knew best (in Melrose) and liked best, it is, here as elsewhere, quite as much himself as Frank, that he is laughing at, when he laughs with Andrew, whose "opensteek hems" are only a ruder metaphor for his own "willow-wreaths changed to stone."
Gunpowther. "-Ther" is a lingering vestige of the French "-dre."
Syne. One of the melodious and mysterious Scottish words which have partly the sound of wind and stream in them, and partly the range of softened idea which is like a distance of blue hills over border land ("far in the distant Cheviot's blue"). Perhaps even the least sympathetic "Englisher" might recognize this, if he heard "Old Long Since" vocally substituted for the Scottish words to the air. I do not know the root; but the word's proper meaning is not "since," but before or after an interval of some duration, "as weel sune as syne." "But first on Sawnie gies a ca', Syne, bauldly in she enters."
Behoved (to come). A rich word, with peculiar idiom, always used more or less ironically of anything done under a partly mistaken and partly pretended notion of duty.
Siccan. Far prettier, and fuller in meaning than "such." It contains an added sense of wonder; and means properly "so great" or "so unusual."
Took (o' drum). Classical "tuck" from Italian "toccata," the preluding "touch" or flourish, on any instrument (but see Johnson under word "tucket," quoting "Othello"). The deeper Scottish vowels are used here to mark the deeper sound of the bass drum, as in more solemn warning.
Bigging. The only word in all the sentence of which the Scottish form is less melodious than the English, "and what for no," seeing that Scottish architecture is mostly little beyond Bessie Bell's and Mary Gray's? "They biggit a bow're by yon burnside, and theekit it ow're wi' rashes." But it is pure Anglo-Saxon in roots; see glossary to Fairbairn's edition of the Douglas "Virgil," 1710.
Coup. Another of the much-embracing words; short for "upset," but with a sense of awkwardness as the inherent cause of fall; compare Richie Moniplies (also for sense of "behoved"): "Ae auld hirplin deevil of a potter behoved just to step in my way, and offer me a pig (earthen pot—etym. dub.), as he said 'just to put my Scotch ointment in'; and I gave him a push, as but natural, and the tottering deevil coupit owre amang his own pigs, and damaged a score of them." So also Dandie Dinmont in the postchaise: "'Od! I hope they'll no coup us."
The Crans. Idiomatic; root unknown to me, but it means in this use, fall total, and without recovery.
Molendinar. From "molendinum," the grinding-place. I do not know if actually the local name, or Scott's invention. Compare Sir Piercie's "Molinaras." But at all events used here with by-sense of degradation of the formerly idle saints to grind at the mill.
Crouse. Courageous, softened with a sense of comfort.
Ilka. Again a word with azure distance, including the whole sense of "each" and "every." The reader must carefully and reverently distinguish these comprehensive words, which gather two or more perfectly understood meanings into one chord of meaning, and are harmonies more than words, from the above-noted blunders between two half-hit meanings, struck as a bad piano-player strikes the edge of another note. In English we have fewer of these combined thoughts; so that Shakespeare rather plays with the distinct lights of his words, than melts them into one. So again Bishop Douglas spells, and doubtless spoke, the word "rose," differently, according to his purpose; if as the chief or governing ruler of flowers, "rois," but if only in her own beauty, rose.
Christianlike. The sense of the decency and order proper to Christianity is stronger in Scotland than in any other country, and the word "Christian" more distinctly opposed to "beast." Hence the back-handed cut at the English for their over-pious care of dogs.
34. I am a little surprised myself at the length to which this examination of one small piece of Sir Walter's first-rate work has carried us, but here I must end for this time, trusting, if the Editor of the Nineteenth Century permit me, yet to trespass, perhaps more than once, on his readers' patience; but, at all events, to examine in a following paper the technical characteristics of Scott's own style, both in prose and verse, together with Byron's, as opposed to our fashionably recent dialects and rhythms; the essential virtues of language, in both the masters of the old school, hinging ultimately, little as it might be thought, on certain unalterable views of theirs concerning the code called "of the Ten Commandments," wholly at variance with the dogmas of automatic morality which, summed again by the witches' line, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair," hover through the fog and filthy air of our prosperous England.
[Footnote 37: Nineteenth Century, June, 1880.]
[Footnote 38: See Time and Tide, Sec. 72.—ED.]
[Footnote 39: Nell, in the "Old Curiosity Shop," was simply killed for the market, as a butcher kills a lamb (see Forster's "Life,") and Paul was written under the same conditions of illness which affected Scott—a part of the ominous palsies, grasping alike author and subject both in "Dombey" and "Little Dorrit."]
[Footnote 40: "Chourineur" not striking with dagger-point, but ripping with knife-edge. Yet I do him, and La Louve, injustice in classing them with the two others; they are put together only as parts in the same phantasm. Compare with La Louve, the strength of wild virtue in the "Louvecienne" (Lucienne) of Gaboriau—she, province-born and bred; and opposed to Parisian civilization in the character of her seamstress friend. "De ce Paris, ou elle etait nee, elle savait tout—elle connaissait tout. Rien ne l'etonnait, nul ne l'intimidait. Sa science des details materiels de l'existence etait inconcevable. Impossible de la duper!—Eh bien! cette fille si laborieuse et si econome n'avait meme pas la plus vague notion des sentiments qui sont l'honneur de la femme. Je n'avais pas idee d'une si complete absence de sens moral; d'une si inconscience depravation, d'une impudence si effrontement naive."—"L'Argent des autres," vol. i. p. 358.]
[Footnote 41: The reader who cares to seek it may easily find medical evidence of the physical effects of certain states of brain disease in producing especially images of truncated and Hermes-like deformity, complicated with grossness. Horace, in the "Epodes," scoffs at it, but not without horror. Luca Signorelli and Raphael in their arabesques are deeply struck by it: Duerer, defying and playing with it alternately, is almost beaten down again and again in the distorted faces, hewing halberts, and suspended satyrs of his arabesques round the polyglot Lord's Prayer; it takes entire possession of Balzac in the "Contes Drolatiques"; it struck Scott in the earliest days of his childish "visions" intensified by the ax-stroke murder of his grand aunt (L. i. 142, and see close of this note). It chose for him the subject of the "Heart of Midlothian," and produced afterwards all the recurrent ideas of executions, tainting "Nigel," almost spoiling "Quentin Durward"—utterly the "Fair Maid of Perth": and culminating in "Bizarro" (L. x. 149). It suggested all the deaths by falling, or sinking, as in delirious sleep—Kennedy, Eveline Neville (nearly repeated in Clara Mowbray), Amy Robsart, the Master of Ravenswood in the quicksand, Morris, and Corporal Grace-be-here—compare the dream of Gride, in "Nicholas Nickleby," and Dickens's own last words, on the ground (so also, in my own inflammation of the brain, two years ago, I dreamed that I fell through the earth and came out on the other side). In its grotesque and distorting power, it produced all the figures of the Lay Goblin, Pacolet, Flibbertigibbet, Cockledemoy, Geoffrey Hudson, Fenella, and Nectabanus; in Dickens it in like manner gives Quilp, Krook, Smike, Smallweed, Miss Mowcher, and the dwarfs and wax-work of Nell's caravan; and runs entirely wild in "Barnaby Budge," where, with a corps de drame composed of one idiot, two madmen, a gentleman-fool who is also a villain, a shop-boy fool who is also a blackguard, a hangman, a shriveled virago, and a doll in ribbons—carrying this company through riot and fire, till he hangs the hangman, one of the madmen, his mother, and the idiot, runs the gentleman-fool through in a bloody duel, and burns and crushes the shop-boy fool into shapelessness, he cannot yet be content without shooting the spare lover's leg off, and marrying him to the doll in a wooden one; the shapeless shop-boy being finally also married in two wooden ones. It is this mutilation, observe, which is the very sign manual of the plague; joined, in the artistic forms of it, with a love of thorniness—(in their mystic root, the truncation of the limbless serpent and the spines of the dragon's wing. Compare "Modern Painters," vol. iv., "Chapter on the Mountain Gloom," s. 19); and in all forms of it, with petrifaction or loss of power by cold in the blood, whence the last Darwinian process of the witches' charm—"cool it with a baboon's blood, then the charm is firm and good." The two frescoes in the colossal handbills which have lately decorated the streets of London (the baboon with the mirror, and the Maskelyne and Cooke decapitation) are the final English forms of Raphael's arabesque under this influence; and it is well worth while to get the number for the week ending April 3, 1880, of "Young Folks—a magazine of instructive and entertaining literature for boys and girls of all ages," containing "A Sequel to Desdichado" (the modern development of Ivanhoe), in which a quite monumental example of the kind of art in question will be found as a leading illustration of this characteristic sentence, "See, good Cerberus," said Sir Rupert, "my hand has been struck off. You must make me a hand of iron, one with springs in it, so that I can make it grasp a dagger." The text is also, as it professes to be, instructive; being the ultimate degeneration of what I have above called the "folly" of "Ivanhoe"; for the folly begets folly down, and down; and whatever Scott and Turner did wrong has thousands of imitators—their wisdom none will so much as hear, how much less follow!
In both of the Masters, it is always to be remembered that the evil and good are alike conditions of literal vision: and therefore also, inseparably connected with the state of the health. I believe the first elements of all Scott's errors were in the milk of his consumptive nurse, which all but killed him as an infant (L. i. 19)—and was without doubt the cause of the teething fever that ended in his lameness (L. i. 20). Then came (if the reader cares to know what I mean by "Fors," let him read the page carefully) the fearful accidents to his only sister, and her death (L. i. 17); then the madness of his nurse, who planned his own murder (21), then the stories continually told him of the executions at Carlisle (24), his aunt's husband having seen them; issuing, he himself scarcely knows how, in the unaccountable terror that came upon him at the sight of statuary (31)—especially Jacob's ladder; then the murder of Mrs. Swinton, and finally the nearly fatal bursting of the blood vessel at Kelso, with the succeeding nervous illness (65-67)—solaced, while he was being "bled and blistered till he had scarcely a pulse left," by that history of the Knights of Malta—fondly dwelt on and realized by actual modeling of their fortress, which returned to his mind for the theme of its last effort in passing away.]
[Footnote 42: "Se dit par denigrement, d'un chretien qui ne croit pas les dogmes de sa religion."—Fleming, vol. ii. p. 659.]
[Footnote 43: The novel alluded to is "The Mill on the Floss." See below, p. 272, Sec. 108.—ED.]
[Footnote 44: "A son nom," properly. The sentence is one of Victor Cherbuliez's, in "Prosper Randoce," which is full of other valuable ones. See the old nurse's "ici bas les choses vont de travers, comme un chien qui va a vepres," p. 93; and compare Prosper's treasures, "la petite Venus, et le petit Christ d'ivoire," p. 121; also Madame Brehanne's request for the divertissement of "quelque belle batterie a coups de couteau" with Didier's answer. "Helas! madame, vous jouez de malheur, ici dans la Drome, l'on se massacre aussi peu que possible," p. 33.]
[Footnote 45: Edgeworth's "Tales," (Hunter, 1827), "Harrington and Ormond," vol. iii. p. 260.]
[Footnote 46: Alice of Salisbury, Alice Lee, Alice Bridgnorth.]
[Footnote 47: Scott's father was habitually ascetic. "I have heard his son tell that it was common with him, if any one observed that the soup was good, to taste it again, and say, 'Yes—it is too good, bairns,' and dash a tumbler of cold water into his plate."—Lockhart's "Life" (Black, Edinburgh, 1869), vol. i. p. 312. In other places I refer to this book in the simple form of "L."]
[Footnote 48: A young lady sang to me, just before I copied out this page for press, a Miss Somebody's "great song," "Live, and Love, and Die." Had it been written for nothing better than silkworms, it should at least have added—Spin.]
[Footnote 49: See passage of introduction to "Ivanhoe," wisely quoted in L. vi. 106.]
[Footnote 50: See below, note, p. 199, on the conclusion of "Woodstock."]
[Footnote 51: The reference is to a series of "Waverley Tableaux" given in London shortly before the publication of this paper.—ED.]
[Footnote 52: L. iv. 177.]
[Footnote 53: L. vi. 67.]
[Footnote 54: "One other such novel, and there's an end; but who can last forever? who ever lasted so long?"—Sydney Smith (of the Pirate) to Jeffrey, December 30, 1821. (Letters, vol. ii. p. 223.)]
[Footnote 55: L. vi. p. 188. Compare the description of Fairy Dean, vii. 192.]
[Footnote 56: All, alas! were now in a great measure so written. "Ivanhoe," "The Monastery," "The Abbot," and "Kenilworth" were all published between December 1819 and January 1821, Constable & Co. giving five thousand guineas for the remaining copyright of them, Scott clearing ten thousand before the bargain was completed; and before the "Fortunes of Nigel" issued from the press Scott had exchanged instruments and received his bookseller's bills for no less than four "works of fiction," not one of them otherwise described in the deeds of agreement, to be produced in unbroken succession, each of them to fill up at least three volumes, but with proper saving clauses as to increase of copy money in case any of them should run to four; and within two years all this anticipation had been wiped off by "Peveril of the Peak," "Quentin Durward," "St. Ronan's Well," and "Redgauntlet."]
[Footnote 57: "Woodstock" was finished 26th March, 1826. He knew then of his ruin; and wrote in bitterness, but not in weakness. The closing pages are the most beautiful of the book. But a month afterwards Lady Scott died; and he never wrote glad word more.]
[Footnote 58: Compare Mr. Spurgeon's not unfrequent orations on the same subject.]
[Footnote 59: There are three definite and intentional portraits of himself, in the novels, each giving a separate part of himself: Mr. Oldbuck, Frank Osbaldistone, and Alan Fairford.]
[Footnote 60: See note, p. 224.—ED.]
[Footnote 61: Andrew knows Latin, and might have coined the word in his conceit; but, writing to a kind friend in Glasgow, I find the brook was called "Molyndona" even before the building of the Subdean Mill in 1446. See also account of the locality in Mr. George's admirable volume, "Old Glasgow," pp. 129, 149, etc. The Protestantism of Glasgow, since throwing that powder of saints into her brook Kidron, has presented it with other pious offerings; and my friend goes on to say that the brook, once famed for the purity of its waters (much used for bleaching), "has for nearly a hundred years been a crawling stream of loathsomeness. It is now bricked over, and a carriage-way made on the top of it; underneath the foul mess still passes through the heart of the city, till it falls into the Clyde close to the harbor."]
FICTION, FAIR AND FOUL.
35. "He hated greetings in the market-place, and there were generally loiterers in the streets to persecute him either about the events of the day, or about some petty pieces of business."
These lines, which the reader will find near the beginning of the sixteenth chapter of the first volume of the "Antiquary," contain two indications of the old man's character, which, receiving the ideal of him as a portrait of Scott himself, are of extreme interest to me. They mean essentially that neither Monkbarns nor Scott had any mind to be called of men, Rabbi, in mere hearing of the mob; and especially that they hated to be drawn back out of their far-away thoughts, or forward out of their long-ago thoughts, by any manner of "daily" news, whether printed or gabbled. Of which two vital characteristics, deeper in both men, (for I must always speak of Scott's creations as if they were as real as himself,) than any of their superficial vanities, or passing enthusiasms, I have to speak more at another time. I quote the passage just now, because there was one piece of the daily news of the year 1815 which did extremely interest Scott, and materially direct the labor of the latter part of his life; nor is there any piece of history in this whole nineteenth century quite so pregnant with various instruction as the study of the reasons which influenced Scott and Byron in their opposite views of the glories of the battle of Waterloo.
36. But I quote it for another reason also. The principal greeting which Mr. Oldbuck on this occasion receives in the market-place, being compared with the speech of Andrew Fairservice, examined in my first paper, will furnish me with the text of what I have mainly to say in the present one.
"'Mr. Oldbuck,' said the town-clerk (a more important person, who came in front and ventured to stop the old gentleman), 'the provost, understanding you were in town, begs on no account that you'll quit it without seeing him; he wants to speak to ye about bringing the water frae the Fairwell spring through a part o' your lands.'
"'What the deuce!—have they nobody's land but mine to cut and carve on?—I won't consent, tell them.'
"'And the provost,' said the clerk, going on, without noticing the rebuff, 'and the council, wad be agreeable that you should hae the auld stanes at Donagild's Chapel, that ye was wussing to hae.'
"'Eh?—what?—Oho! that's another story—Well, well, I'll call upon the provost, and we'll talk about it.'
"'But ye maun speak your mind on't forthwith, Monkbarns, if ye want the stanes; for Deacon Harlewalls thinks the carved through-stanes might be put with advantage on the front of the new council house—that is, the twa cross-legged figures that the callants used to ca' Robbin and Bobbin, ane on ilka door-cheek; and the other stane, that they ca'd Ailie Dailie, abune the door. It will be very tastefu', the Deacon says, and just in the style of modern Gothic.'
"'Good Lord deliver me from this Gothic generation!' exclaimed the Antiquary,—'a monument of a knight-templar on each side of a Grecian porch, and a Madonna on the top of it!—O crimini!—Well, tell the provost I wish to have the stones, and we'll not differ about the water-course.—It's lucky I happened to come this way to-day.'
"They parted mutually satisfied; but the wily clerk had most reason to exult in the dexterity he had displayed, since the whole proposal of an exchange between the monuments (which the council had determined to remove as a nuisance, because they encroached three feet upon the public road) and the privilege of conveying the water to the burgh, through the estate of Monkbarns, was an idea which had originated with himself upon the pressure of the moment."
37. In this single page of Scott, will the reader please note the kind of prophetic instinct with which the great men of every age mark and forecast its destinies? The water from the Fairwell is the future Thirlmere carried to Manchester; the "auld stanes" at Donagild's Chapel, removed as a nuisance, foretell the necessary view taken by modern cockneyism, Liberalism, and progress, of all things that remind them of the noble dead, of their fathers' fame, or of their own duty; and the public road becomes their idol, instead of the saint's shrine. Finally, the roguery of the entire transaction—the mean man seeing the weakness of the honorable, and "besting" him—in modern slang, in the manner and at the pace of modern trade—"on the pressure of the moment."
But neither are these things what I have at present quoted the passage for.
I quote it, that we may consider how much wonderful and various history is gathered in the fact recorded for us in this piece of entirely fair fiction, that in the Scottish borough of Fairport (Montrose, really), in the year 17—of Christ, the knowledge given by the pastors and teachers provided for its children by enlightened Scottish Protestantism, of their fathers' history, and the origin of their religion, had resulted in this substance and sum;—that the statues of two crusading knights had become, to their children, Bobbin and Bobbin; and the statue of the Madonna, Ailie Dailie.
A marvelous piece of history, truly: and far too comprehensive for general comment here. Only one small piece of it I must carry forward the readers' thoughts upon.
38. The pastors and teachers aforesaid, (represented typically in another part of this errorless book by Mr. Blattergowl,) are not, whatever else they may have to answer for, answerable for these names. The names are of the children's own choosing and bestowing, but not of the children's own inventing. "Robin" is a classically endearing cognomen, recording the errant heroism of old days—the name of the Bruce and of Rob Roy. "Bobbin" is a poetical and symmetrical fulfillment and adornment of the original phrase. "Ailie" is the last echo of "Ave," changed into the softest Scottish Christian name familiar to the children, itself the beautiful feminine form of royal "Louis"; the "Dailie" again symmetrically added for kinder and more musical endearment. The last vestiges, you see, of honor for the heroism and religion of their ancestors, lingering on the lips of babes and sucklings.
But what is the meaning of this necessity the children find themselves under of completing the nomenclature rhythmically and rhymingly? Note first the difference carefully, and the attainment of both qualities by the couplets in question. Rhythm is the syllabic and quantitative measure of the words, in which Robin both in weight and time, balances Bobbin; and Dailie holds level scale with Ailie. But rhyme is the added correspondence of sound; unknown and undesired, so far as we can learn, by the Greek Orpheus, but absolutely essential to, and, as special virtue, becoming titular of, the Scottish Thomas.
39. The "Ryme," you may at first fancy, is the especially childish part of the work. Not so. It is the especially chivalric and Christian part of it. It characterizes the Christian chant or canticle, as a higher thing than a Greek ode, melos, or hymnos, or than a Latin carmen.
Think of it; for this again is wonderful! That these children of Montrose should have an element of music in their souls which Homer had not,—which a melos of David the Prophet and King had not,—which Orpheus and Amphion had not,—which Apollo's unrymed oracles became mute at the sound of.
A strange new equity this,—melodious justice and judgment, as it were,—in all words spoken solemnly and ritualistically by Christian human creatures;—Robin and Bobbin—by the Crusader's tomb, up to "Dies irae, dies illa," at judgment of the crusading soul.
You have to understand this most deeply of all Christian minstrels, from first to last; that they are more musical, because more joyful, than any others on earth: ethereal minstrels, pilgrims of the sky, true to the kindred points of heaven and home; their joy essentially the sky-lark's, in light, in purity; but, with their human eyes, looking for the glorious appearing of something in the sky, which the bird cannot.
This it is that changes Etruscan murmur into Terza rima—Horatian Latin into Provencal troubadour's melody; not, because less artful, less wise.
40. Here is a little bit, for instance, of French ryming just before Chaucer's time—near enough to our own French to be intelligible to us yet.
"O quant tres-glorieuse vie, Quant cil qui tout peut et maistrie, Veult esprouver pour necessaire, Ne pour quant il ne blasma mie La vie de Marthe sa mie: Mais il lui donna exemplaire D'autrement vivre, et de bien plaire A Dieu; et plut de bien a faire: Pour se conclut-il que Marie Qui estoit a ses piedz sans braire, Et pensoit d'entendre et de taire, Estleut la plus saine partie.
La meilleur partie esleut-elle Et la plus saine et la plus belle, Qui ja ne luy sera ostee Car par verite se fut celle Qui fut tousjours fresche et nouvelle, D'aymer Dieu et d'en estre aymee; Car jusqu'au cueur fut entamee, Et si ardamment enflamee, Que tousjours ardoit I'estincelle; Par quoi elle fut visitee Et de Dieu premier confortee; Car charite est trop ysnelle."
41. The only law of meter, observed in this song, is that each line shall be octosyllabic:
Qui fut tousjours fresche et nouvelle, D'autre ment vi vret de bien (ben) plaire Et pen soit den tendret de taire.
But the reader must note that words which were two-syllabled in Latin mostly remain yet so in the French.
La vi e de Marthe sa mie,
although mie, which is pet language, loving abbreviation of amica through amie, remains monosyllabic. But vie elides its e before a vowel:
Car Mar- the me nait vie active Et Ma- ri-e contemp lative;
and custom endures many exceptions. Thus Marie may be three-syllabled, as above, or answer to mie as a dissyllable; but vierge is always, I think, dissyllabic, vier-ge, with even stronger accent on the -ge, for the Latin -go.
Then, secondly, of quantity, there is scarcely any fixed law. The meters may be timed as the minstrel chooses—fast or slow—and the iambic current checked in reverted eddy, as the words chance to come.
But, thirdly, there is to be rich ryming and chiming, no matter how simply got, so only that the words jingle and tingle together with due art of interlacing and answering in different parts of the stanza, correspondent to the involutions of tracery and illumination. The whole twelve-line stanza is thus constructed with two rymes only, six of each, thus arranged:
A A B A A B B B A B B A
dividing the verse thus into four measures, reversed in ascent and descent, or descant more properly; and doubtless with correspondent phases in the voice-given, and duly accompanying, or following, music; Thomas the Rymer's own precept, that "tong is chefe in mynstrelsye," being always kept faithfully in mind.
42. Here then you have a sufficient example of the pure chant of the Christian ages; which is always at heart joyful, and divides itself into the four great forms; Song of Praise, Song of Prayer, Song of Love, and Song of Battle; praise, however, being the keynote of passion through all the four forms; according to the first law which I have already given in the "Laws of Fesole"; "all great Art is Praise," of which the contrary is also true, all foul or miscreant Art is accusation, [Greek: diabole]: "She gave me of the tree and I did eat" being an entirely museless expression on Adam's part, the briefly essential contrary of Love-song.
With these four perfect forms of Christian chant, of which we may take for pure examples the "Te Deum," the "Te Lucis Ante," the "Amor che nella mente," and the "Chant de Roland," are mingled songs of mourning, of Pagan origin (whether Greek or Danish), holding grasp still of the races that have once learned them, in times of suffering and sorrow; and songs of Christian humiliation or grief, regarding chiefly the sufferings of Christ, or the conditions of our own sin: while through the entire system of these musical complaints are interwoven moralities, instructions, and related histories, in illustration of both, passing into Epic and Romantic verse, which gradually, as the forms and learnings of society increase, becomes less joyful, and more didactic, or satiric, until the last echoes of Christian joy and melody vanish in the "Vanity of human wishes."
43. And here I must pause for a minute or two to separate the different branches of our inquiry clearly from one another. For one thing, the reader must please put for the present out of his head all thought of the progress of "civilization"—that is to say, broadly, of the substitution of wigs for hair, gas for candles, and steam for legs. This is an entirely distinct matter from the phases of policy and religion. It has nothing to do with the British Constitution, or the French Revolution, or the unification of Italy. There are, indeed, certain subtle relations between the state of mind, for instance, in Venice, which makes her prefer a steamer to a gondola, and that which makes her prefer a gazetteer to a duke; but these relations are not at all to be dealt with until we solemnly understand that whether men shall be Christians and poets, or infidels and dunces, does not depend on the way they cut their hair, tie their breeches, or light their fires. Dr. Johnson might have worn his wig in fullness conforming to his dignity, without therefore coming to the conclusion that human wishes were vain; nor is Queen Antoinette's civilized hair-powder, as opposed to Queen Bertha's savagely loose hair, the cause of Antoinette's laying her head at last in scaffold dust, but Bertha in a pilgrim-haunted tomb.
44. Again, I have just now used the words "poet" and "dunce," meaning the degree of each quality possible to average human nature. Men are eternally divided into the two classes of poet (believer, maker, and praiser) and dunce (or unbeliever, unmaker, and dispraiser). And in process of ages they have the power of making faithful and formative creatures of themselves, or unfaithful and de-formative. And this distinction between the creatures who, blessing, are blessed, and evermore benedicti, and the creatures who, cursing, are cursed, and evermore maledicti, is one going through all humanity; antediluvian in Cain and Abel, diluvian in Ham and Shem. And the question for the public of any given period is not whether they are a constitutional or unconstitutional vulgus, but whether they are a benignant or malignant vulgus. So also, whether it is indeed the gods who have given any gentleman the grace to despise the rabble, depends wholly on whether it is indeed the rabble, or he, who are the malignant persons.
45. But yet again. This difference between the persons to whom Heaven, according to Orpheus, has granted "the hour of delight," and those whom it has condemned to the hour of detestableness, being, as I have just said, of all times and nations,—it is an interior and more delicate difference which we are examining in the gift of Christian as distinguished from unchristian, song. Orpheus, Pindar, and Horace are indeed distinct from the prosaic rabble, as the bird from the snake; but between Orpheus and Palestrina, Horace and Sidney, there is another division, and a new power of music and song given to the humanity which has hope of the Resurrection.
This is the root of all life and all rightness in Christian harmony, whether of word or instrument; and so literally, that in precise manner as this hope disappears, the power of song is taken away, and taken away utterly. "When the Christian falls back out of the bright hope of the Resurrection, even the Orpheus song is forbidden him. Not to have known the hope is blameless: one may sing, unknowing, as the swan, or Philomela. But to have known and fall away from it, and to declare that the human wishes, which are summed in that one—"Thy kingdom come"—are vain! The Fates ordain there shall be no singing after that denial.
46. For observe this, and earnestly. The old Orphic song, with its dim hope of yet once more Eurydice,—the Philomela song—granted after the cruel silence,—the Halcyon song—with its fifteen days of peace, were all sad, or joyful only in some vague vision of conquest over death. But the Johnsonian vanity of wishes is on the whole satisfactory to Johnson—accepted with gentlemanly resignation by Pope—triumphantly and with bray of penny trumpets and blowing of steam-whistles, proclaimed for the glorious discovery of the civilized ages, by Mrs. Barbauld, Miss Edgeworth, Adam Smith, and Co. There is no God, but have we not invented gunpowder?—who wants a God, with that in his pocket? There is no Resurrection, neither angel nor spirit; but have we not paper and pens, and cannot every blockhead print his opinions, and the Day of Judgment become Republican, with everybody for a judge, and the flat of the universe for the throne? There is no law, but only gravitation and congelation, and we are stuck together in an everlasting hail, and melted together in everlasting mud, and great was the day in which our worships were born. And there is no gospel, but only, whatever we've got, to get more, and, wherever we are, to go somewhere else. And are not these discoveries, to be sung of, and drummed of, and fiddled of, and generally made melodiously indubitable in the eighteenth century song of praise?
47. The Fates will not have it so. No word of song is possible, in that century, to mortal lips. Only polished versification, sententious pentameter and hexameter, until, having turned out its toes long enough without dancing, and pattered with its lips long enough without piping, suddenly Astraea returns to the earth, and a Day of Judgment of a sort, and there bursts out a song at last again, a most curtly melodious triplet of Amphisbaenic ryme, "Ca ira."
Amphisbaenic, fanged in each ryme with fire, and obeying Ercildoune's precept, "Tong is chefe of mynstrelsye," to the syllable.—Don Giovanni's hitherto fondly chanted "Andiam, andiam," become suddenly impersonal and prophetic: IT shall go, and you also. A cry—before it is a song, then song and accompaniment together—perfectly done; and the march "towards the field of Mars. The two hundred and fifty thousand—they to the sound of stringed music—preceded by young girls with tricolor streamers, they have shouldered soldierwise their shovels and picks, and with one throat are singing Ca ira."
Through all the springtime of 1790, from Brittany to Burgundy, on most plains of France, under most city walls, there march and constitutionally wheel to the Ca-iraing mood of fife and drum—our clear glancing phalanxes;—the song of the two hundred and fifty thousand, virgin-led, is in the long light of July. Nevertheless, another song is yet needed, for phalanx, and for maid. For, two springs and summers having gone—amphisbaenic,—on the 28th of August, 1792, "Dumouriez rode from the camp of Maulde, eastwards to Sedan."
48. "And Longwi has fallen basely, and Brunswick and the Prussian king will beleaguer Verdun, and Clairfait and the Austrians press deeper in over the northern marches, Cimmerian Europe behind. And on that same night Dumouriez assembles council of war at his lodgings in Sedan. Prussians here, Austrians there, triumphant both. With broad highway to Paris and little hindrance—we scattered, helpless here and there—what to advise?" The generals advise retreating, and retreating till Paris be sacked at the latest day possible. Dumouriez, silent, dismisses them,—keeps only, with a sign, Thouvenot. Silent thus, when needful, yet having voice, it appears, of what musicians call tenor quality, of a rare kind. Rubini-esque, even, but scarcely producible to the fastidious ears at opera. The seizure of the forest of Argonne follows—the cannonade of Valmy. The Prussians do not march on Paris this time, the autumnal hours of fate pass on—ca ira—and on the 6th of November, Dumouriez meets the Austrians also. "Dumouriez wide-winged, they wide-winged—at and around Jemappes, its green heights fringed and maned with red fire. And Dumouriez is swept back on this wing and swept back on that, and is like to be swept back utterly, when he rushes up in person, speaks a prompt word or two, and then, with clear tenor-pipe, uplifts the hymn of the Marseillaise, ten thousand tenor or bass pipes joining, or say some forty thousand in all, for every heart leaps up at the sound; and so, with rhythmic march melody, they rally, they advance, they rush death-defying, and like the fire whirlwind sweep all manner of Austrians from the scene of action." Thus, through the lips of Dumouriez, sings Tyrtaeus, Rouget de Lisle. "Aux armes—marchons." Iambic measure with a witness! in what wide strophe here beginning—in what unthought-of antistrophe returning to that council chamber in Sedan!
49. While these two great songs were thus being composed, and sung, and danced to in cometary cycle, by the French nation, here in our less giddy island there rose, amidst hours of business in Scotland and of idleness in England, three troubadours of quite different temper. Different also themselves, but not opponent; forming a perfect chord, and adverse all the three of them alike to the French musicians, in this main point—that while the Ca ira and Marseillaise were essentially songs of blame and wrath, the British bards wrote, virtually, always songs of praise, though by no means psalmody in the ancient keys. On the contrary, all the three are alike moved by a singular antipathy to the priests, and are pointed at with fear and indignation by the pietists, of their day;—not without latent cause. For they are all of them, with the most loving service, servants of that world which the Puritan and monk alike despised; and, in the triple chord of their song, could not but appear to the religious persons around them as respectively and specifically the praisers—Scott of the world, Burns of the flesh, and Byron of the devil.
To contend with this carnal orchestra, the religious world, having long ago rejected its Catholic Psalms as antiquated and unscientific, and finding its Puritan melodies sunk into faint jar and twangle from their native trumpet-tone, had nothing to oppose but the innocent, rather than religious, verses of the school recognized as that of the English Lakes; very creditable to them; domestic at once and refined; observing the errors of the world outside of the Lakes with a pitying and tender indignation, and arriving in lacustrine seclusion at many valuable principles of philosophy, as pure as the tarns of their mountains, and of corresponding depth.
50. I have lately seen, and with extreme pleasure, Mr. Matthew Arnold's arrangement of Wordsworth's poems; and read with sincere interest his high estimate of them. But a great poet's work never needs arrangement by other hands; and though it is very proper that Silver How should clearly understand and brightly praise its fraternal Rydal Mount, we must not forget that, over yonder, are the Andes, all the while.
Wordsworth's rank and scale among poets were determined by himself, in a single exclamation:
"What was the great Parnassus' self to thee, Mount Skiddaw?"
Answer his question faithfully, and you have the relation between the great masters of the Muse's teaching and the pleasant fingerer of his pastoral flute among the reeds of Rydal.
Wordsworth is simply a Westmoreland peasant, with considerably less shrewdness than most border Englishmen or Scotsmen inherit; and no sense of humor: but gifted (in this singularly) with vivid sense of natural beauty, and a pretty turn for reflections, not always acute, but, as far as they reach, medicinal to the fever of the restless and corrupted life around him. Water to parched lips may be better than Samian wine, but do not let us therefore confuse the qualities of wine and water. I much doubt there being many inglorious Miltons in our country churchyards; but I am very sure there are many Wordsworths resting there, who were inferior to the renowned one only in caring less to hear themselves talk.
With an honest and kindly heart, a stimulating egoism, a wholesome contentment in modest circumstances, and such sufficient ease, in that accepted state, as permitted the passing of a good deal of time in wishing that daisies could see the beauty of their own shadows, and other such profitable mental exercises, Wordsworth has left us a series of studies of the graceful and happy shepherd life of our lake country, which to me personally, for one, are entirely sweet and precious; but they are only so as the mirror of an existent reality in many ways more beautiful than its picture.
51. But the other day I went for an afternoon's rest into the cottage of one of our country people of old statesman class; cottage lying nearly midway between two village churches, but more conveniently for downhill walk towards one than the other. I found, as the good housewife made tea for me, that nevertheless she went up the hill to church. "Why do not you go to the nearer church?" I asked. "Don't you like the clergyman?" "Oh no, sir," she answered, "it isn't that; but you know I couldn't leave my mother." "Your mother! she is buried at H—— then?" "Yes, sir; and you know I couldn't go to church anywhere else."
That feelings such as these existed among the peasants, not of Cumberland only, but of all the tender earth that gives forth her fruit for the living, and receives her dead to peace, might perhaps have been, to our great and endless comfort, discovered before now, if Wordsworth had been content to tell us what he knew of his own villages and people, not as the leader of a new and only correct school of poetry, but simply as a country gentleman of sense and feeling, fond of primroses, kind to the parish children, and reverent of the spade with which Wilkinson had tilled his lands: and I am by no means sure that his influence on the stronger minds of his time was anywise hastened or extended by the spirit of tunefulness under whose guidance he discovered that heaven rymed to seven, and Foy to boy.
52. Tuneful nevertheless at heart, and of the heavenly choir, I gladly and frankly acknowledge him; and our English literature enriched with a new and a singular virtue in the aerial purity and healthful rightness of his quiet song;—but aerial only,—not ethereal; and lowly in its privacy of light.
A measured mind, and calm; innocent, unrepentant; helpful to sinless creatures and scathless, such of the flock as do not stray. Hopeful at least, if not faithful; content with intimations of immortality such as may be in skipping of lambs, and laughter of children—incurious to see in the hands the print of the Nails.
A gracious and constant mind; as the herbage of its native hills, fragrant and pure;—yet, to the sweep and the shadow, the stress and distress, of the greater souls of men, as the tufted thyme to the laurel wilderness of Tempe,—as the gleaming euphrasy to the dark branches of Dodona.
[I am obliged to defer the main body of this paper to next month,—revises penetrating all too late into my lacustrine seclusion; as chanced also unluckily with the preceding paper, in which the reader will perhaps kindly correct the consequent misprints [now corrected, ED.], p. 203, l. 23, of "scarcely" to "securely," and p. 206, l. 6, "full," with comma to "fall," without one; noticing besides that "Redgauntlet" has been omitted in the list, pp. 198, 199; and that the reference to note should not be at the word "imagination," p. 198, l. 6, but at the word "trade," l. 15. My dear old friend, Dr. John Brown, sends me, from Jamieson's Dictionary, the following satisfactory end to one of my difficulties:—"Coup the crans." The language is borrowed from the "cran," or trivet on which small pots are placed in cookery, which is sometimes turned with its feet uppermost by an awkward assistant. Thus it signifies to be completely upset.]
[Footnote 62: August, 1880.]
[Footnote 63: The following fragments out of the letters in my own possession, written by Scott to the builder of Abbotsford, as the outer decorations of the house were in process of completion, will show how accurately Scott had pictured himself in Monkbarns.
"ABBOTSFORD: April 21, 1817.
"DEAR SIR,—Nothing can be more obliging than your attention to the old stones. You have been as true as the sundial itself." [The sundial had just been erected.] "Of the two I would prefer the larger one, as it is to be in front of a parapet quite in the old taste. But in case of accidents it will be safest in your custody till I come to town again on the 12th of May. Your former favors (which were weighty as acceptable) have come safely out here, and will be disposed of with great effect."
"ABBOTSFORD: July 30th.
"I fancy the Tolbooth still keeps its feet, but, as it must soon descend, I hope you will remember me. I have an important use for the niche above the door; and though many a man has got a niche in the Tolbooth by building, I believe I am the first that ever got a niche out of it on such an occasion. For which I have to thank your kindness, and to remain very much your obliged humble servant,
"MY DEAR SIR,—I trouble you with this [sic] few lines to thank you for the very accurate drawings and measurements of the Tolbooth door, and for your kind promise to attend to my interest and that of Abbotsford in the matter of the Thistle and Fleur de Lis. Most of our scutcheons are now mounted, and look very well, as the house is something after the model of an old hall (not a castle), where such things are well in character." [Alas—Sir Walter, Sir Walter!] "I intend the old lion to predominate over a well which the children have christened the Fountain of the Lions. His present den, however, continues to be the hall at Castle Street."
"DEAR SIR,—I am greatly obliged to you for securing the stone. I am not sure that I will put up the gate quite in the old form, but I would like to secure the means of doing so. The ornamental stones are now put up, and have a very happy effect. If you will have the kindness to let me know when the Tolbooth door comes down, I will send in my carts for the stones; I have an admirable situation for it. I suppose the door itself" [he means the wooden one] "will be kept for the new jail; if not, and not otherwise wanted, I would esteem it curious to possess it. Certainly I hope so many sore hearts will not pass through the celebrated door when in my possession as heretofore."
"I should esteem it very fortunate if I could have the door also, though I suppose it is modern, having been burned down at the time of Porteous-mob.
"I am very much obliged to the gentlemen who thought these remains of the Heart of Midlothian are not ill bestowed on their intended possessor."]
[Footnote 64: Henceforward, not in affectation, but for the reader's better convenience, I shall continue to spell "Ryme" without our wrongly added h.]
[Footnote 65: L. ii. 278.]
[Footnote 66: "Che nella mente mia ragiona." Love—you observe, the highest Reasonableness, instead of French ivresse, or even Shakespearian "mere folly"; and Beatrice as the Goddess of Wisdom in this third song of the Convito, to be compared with the Revolutionary Goddess of Reason; remembering of the whole poem chiefly the line:—
"Costei penso chi che mosso l'universo."
(See Lyell's "Canzoniere," p. 104.)]
[Footnote 67: [Greek: horan tes terpsios]—Plato, "Laws," ii., Steph. 669. "Hour" having here nearly the power of "Fate" with added sense of being a daughter of Themis.]
[Footnote 68: "Gunpowder is one of the greatest inventions of modern times, and what has given such a superiority to civilized nations over barbarous"! ("Evenings at Home"—fifth evening.) No man can owe more than I both to Mrs. Barbauld and Miss Edgeworth; and I only wish that in the substance of what they wisely said, they had been more listened to. Nevertheless, the germs of all modern conceit and error respecting manufacture and industry, as rivals to Art and to Genius, are concentrated in "Evenings at Home" and "Harry and Lucy"—being all the while themselves works of real genius, and prophetic of things that have yet to be learned and fulfilled. See for instance the paper, "Things by their Right Names," following the one from which I have just quoted ("The Ship"), and closing the first volume of the old edition of the "Evenings."]
[Footnote 69: Carlyle, "French Revolution" (Chapman, 1869), vol. ii. p. 70; conf. p. 25, and the Ca ira at Arras, vol. iii. p. 276.]
[Footnote 70: Ibid. iii. 26.]
[Footnote 71: Carlyle, "French Revolution," iii. 106, the last sentence altered in a word or two.]
[Footnote 72: I have been greatly disappointed, in taking soundings of our most majestic mountain pools, to find them, in no case, verge on the unfathomable.]
FICTION, FAIR AND FOUL.
"Parching summer hath no warrant To consume this crystal well; Rains, that make each brook a torrent, Neither sully it, nor swell."
53. So was it year by year, among the unthought-of hills. Little Duddon and child Rotha ran clear and glad; and laughed from ledge to pool, and opened from pool to mere, translucent, through endless days of peace.
But eastward, between her orchard plains, Loire locked her embracing dead in silent sands; dark with blood rolled Iser; glacial-pale, Beresina-Lethe, by whose shore the weary hearts forgot their people, and their father's house.
Nor unsullied, Tiber; nor unswoln, Arno and Aufidus; and Euroclydon high on Helle's wave; meantime, let our happy piety glorify the garden rocks with snowdrop circlet, and breathe the spirit of Paradise, where life is wise and innocent.
Maps many have we, nowadays clear in display of earth constituent, air current, and ocean tide. Shall we ever engrave the map of meaner research, whose shadings shall content themselves in the task of showing the depth, or drought,—the calm, or trouble, of Human Compassion?
54. For this is indeed all that is noble in the life of Man, and the source of all that is noble in the speech of Man. Had it narrowed itself then, in those days, out of all the world, into this peninsula between Cockermouth and Shap?
Not altogether so; but indeed the Vocal piety seemed conclusively to have retired (or excursed?) into that mossy hermitage, above Little Langdale. The Unvocal piety, with the uncomplaining sorrow, of Man, may have a somewhat wider range, for aught we know: but history disregards those items; and of firmly proclaimed and sweetly canorous religion, there really seemed at that juncture none to be reckoned upon, east of Ingleborough, or north of Criffel. Only under Furness Fells, or by Bolton Priory, it seems we can still write Ecclesiastical Sonnets, stanzas on the force of Prayer, Odes to Duty, and complimentary addresses to the Deity upon His endurance for adoration. Far otherwise, over yonder, by Spezzia Bay, and Ravenna Pineta, and in ravines of Hartz. There, the softest voices speak the wildest words; and Keats discourses of Endymion, Shelley of Demogorgon, Goethe of Lucifer, and Burger of the Resurrection of Death unto Death—while even Puritan Scotland and Episcopal Anglia produce for us only these three minstrels of doubtful tone, who show but small respect for the "unco guid," put but limited faith in gifted Gilfillan, and translate with unflinching frankness the Morgante Maggiore.
55. Dismal the aspect of the spiritual world, or at least the sound of it, might well seem to the eyes and ears of Saints (such as we had) of the period—dismal in angels' eyes also assuredly! Yet is it possible that the dismalness in angelic sight may be otherwise quartered, as it were, from the way of mortal heraldry; and that seen, and heard, of angels,—again I say—hesitatingly—is it possible that the goodness of the Unco Guid, and the gift of Gilfillan, and the word of Mr. Blattergowl, may severally not have been the goodness of God, the gift of God, nor the word of God: but that in the much blotted and broken efforts at goodness, and in the careless gift which they themselves despised, and in the sweet ryme and murmur of their unpurposed words, the Spirit of the Lord had, indeed, wandering, as in chaos days on lightless waters, gone forth in the hearts and from the lips of those other three strange prophets, even though they ate forbidden bread by the altar of the poured-out ashes, and even though the wild beast of the desert found them, and slew.
This, at least, I know, that it had been well for England, though all her other prophets, of the Press, the Parliament, the Doctor's chair, and the Bishop's throne, had fallen silent; so only that she had been able to understand with her heart here and there the simplest line of these, her despised.
56. I take one at mere chance:
"Who thinks of self, when gazing on the sky?"
Well, I don't know; Mr. Wordsworth certainly did, and observed, with truth, that its clouds took a sober coloring in consequence of his experiences. It is much if, indeed, this sadness be unselfish, and our eyes have kept loving watch o'er Man's Mortality. I have found it difficult to make anyone nowadays believe that such sobriety can be; and that Turner saw deeper crimson than others in the clouds of Goldau. But that any should yet think the clouds brightened by Man's Immortality instead of dulled by his death,—and, gazing on the sky, look for the day when every eye must gaze also—for behold, He cometh with clouds—this it is no more possible for Christian England to apprehend, however exhorted by her gifted and guid.
57. "But Byron was not thinking of such things!"—He, the reprobate! how should such as he think of Christ?
Perhaps not wholly as you or I think of Him. Take, at chance, another line or two, to try:
"Carnage (so Wordsworth tells you) is God's daughter; If he speak truth, she is Christ's sister, and Just now, behaved as in the Holy Land."
Blasphemy, cry you, good reader? Are you sure you understand it? The first line I gave you was easy Byron—almost shallow Byron—these are of the man in his depth, and you will not fathom them, like a tarn—nor in a hurry.
"Just now behaved as in the Holy Land." How did Carnage behave in the Holy Land then? You have all been greatly questioning, of late, whether the sun, which you find to be now going out, ever stood still. Did you in any lagging minute, on those scientific occasions, chance to reflect what he was bid stand still for? or if not—will you please look—and what also, going forth again as a strong man to run his course, he saw, rejoicing?
"Then Joshua passed from Makkedah unto Libnah—and fought against Libnah. And the Lord delivered it and the king thereof into the hand of Israel, and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein." And from Lachish to Eglon, and from Eglon to Kirjath-Arba, and Sarah's grave in the Amorites' land, "and Joshua smote all the country of the hills and of the south—and of the vale and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed—as the Lord God of Israel commanded."
58. Thus, "it is written": though you perhaps do not so often hear these texts preached from, as certain others about taking away the sins of the world. I wonder how the world would like to part with them! hitherto it has always preferred parting first with its life—and God has taken it at its word. But Death is not His Begotten Son, for all that; nor is the death of the innocent in battle carnage His "instrument for working out a pure intent" as Mr. Wordsworth puts it; but Man's instrument for working out an impure one, as Byron would have you to know. Theology perhaps less orthodox, but certainly more reverent;—neither is the Woolwich Infant a Child of God; neither does the iron-clad "Thunderer" utter thunders of God—which facts if you had had the grace or sense to learn from Byron, instead of accusing him of blasphemy, it had been better at this day for you, and for many a savage soul also, by Euxine shore, and in Zulu and Afghan lands.
59. It was neither, however, for the theology, nor the use, of these lines that I quoted them; but to note this main point of Byron's own character. He was the first great Englishman who felt the cruelty of war, and, in its cruelty, the shame. Its guilt had been known to George Fox—its folly shown practically by Penn. But the compassion of the pious world had still for the most part been shown only in keeping its stock of Barabbases unhanged if possible: and, till Byron came, neither Kunersdorf, Eylau, nor Waterloo, had taught the pity and the pride of men that
"The drying up a single tear has more Of honest fame than shedding seas of gore."
Such pacific verse would not indeed have been acceptable to the Edinburgh volunteers on Portobello sands. But Byron can write a battle song too, when it is his cue to fight. If you look at the introduction to the "Isles of Greece," namely the 85th and 86th stanzas of the 3rd canto of "Don Juan,"—you will find—what will you not find, if only you understand them! "He" in the first line, remember, means the typical modern poet.
"Thus usually, when he was asked to sing, He gave the different nations something national. 'Twas all the same to him—'God save the King' Or 'Ca ira' according to the fashion all; His muse made increment of anything From the high lyric down to the low rational: If Pindar sang horse-races, what should hinder Himself from being as pliable as Pindar?
In France, for instance, he would write a chanson; In England a six-canto quarto tale; In Spain, he'd make a ballad or romance on The last war—much the same in Portugal; In Germany, the Pegasus he'd prance on Would be old Goethe's—(see what says de Stael) In Italy, he'd ape the 'Trecentisti'; In Greece, he'd sing some sort of hymn like this t'ye."
60. Note first here, as we did in Scott, the concentrating and foretelling power. The "God Save the Queen" in England, fallen hollow now, as the "Ca ira" in France—not a man in France knowing where either France or "that" (whatever "that" may be) is going to; nor the Queen of England daring, for her life, to ask the tiniest Englishman to do a single thing he doesn't like;—nor any salvation, either of Queen or Realm, being any more possible to God, unless under the direction of the Royal Society: then, note the estimate of height and depth in poetry, swept in an instant, "high lyric to low rational." Pindar to Pope (knowing Pope's height, too, all the while, no man better); then, the poetic power of France—resumed in a word—Beranger; then the cut at Marmion, entirely deserved, as we shall see, yet kindly given, for everything he names in these two stanzas is the best of its kind; then 'Romance in Spain on—the last war, (present war not being to Spanish poetical taste,) then, Goethe the real heart of all Germany, and last, the aping of the Trecentisti which has since consummated itself in Pre-Raphaelitism! that also being the best thing Italy has done through England, whether in Rossetti's "blessed damozels" or Burne Jones's "days of creation." Lastly comes the mock at himself—the modern English Greek—(followed up by the "degenerate into hands like mine" in the song itself); and then—to amazement, forth he thunders in his Achilles-voice. We have had one line of him in his clearness—five of him in his depth—sixteen of him in his play. Hear now but these, out of his whole heart:—
"What,—silent yet? and silent all? Ah no, the voices of the dead Sound like a distant torrent's fall, And answer, 'Let one living head, But one, arise—we come—we come:' —'Tis but the living who are dumb."
Resurrection, this, you see like Buerger's; but not of death unto death.
61. "Sound like a distant torrent's fall." I said the whole heart of Byron was in this passage. First its compassion, then its indignation, and the third element, not yet examined, that love of the beauty of this world in which the three—unholy—children, of its Fiery Furnace were like to each other; but Byron the widest-hearted. Scott and Burns love Scotland more than Nature itself: for Burns the moon must rise over Cumnock Hills,—for Scott, the Rymer's glen divide the Eildons; but, for Byron, Loch-na-Gar with Ida, looks o'er Troy, and the soft murmurs of the Dee and the Bruar change into voices of the dead on distant Marathon.
Yet take the parallel from Scott, by a field of homelier rest:—
"And silence aids—though the steep hills Send to the lake a thousand rills; In summer tide, so soft they weep, The sound but lulls the ear asleep; Your horse's hoof-tread sounds too rude, So stilly is the solitude.
Nought living meets the eye or ear, But well I ween the dead are near; For though, in feudal strife, a foe Hath laid our Lady's Chapel low, Yet still beneath the hallowed soil, The peasant rests him from his toil, And, dying, bids his bones be laid Where erst his simple fathers prayed."
And last take the same note of sorrow—with Burns's finger on the fall of it:
"Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens, Ye hazly shaws and briery dens, Ye burnies, wimplin' down your glens Wi' toddlin' din, Or foamin' strang wi' hasty stens Frae lin to lin."
62. As you read, one after another, these fragments of chant by the great masters, does not a sense come upon you of some element in their passion, no less than in their sound, different, specifically, from that of "Parching summer hath no warrant"? Is it more profane, think you—or more tender—nay, perhaps, in the core of it, more true?
For instance, when we are told that
"Wharfe, as he moved along, To matins joined a mournful voice,"
is this disposition of the river's mind to pensive psalmody quite logically accounted for by the previous statement, (itself by no means rythmically dulcet,) that
"The boy is in the arms of Wharfe, And strangled by a merciless force"?
Or, when we are led into the improving reflection,
"How sweet were leisure, could it yield no more Than 'mid this wave-washed churchyard to recline, From pastoral graves extracting thoughts divine!"
—is the divinity of the extract assured to us by its being made at leisure, and in a reclining attitude—as compared with the meditations of otherwise active men, in an erect one? Or are we perchance, many of us, still erring somewhat in our notions alike of Divinity and Humanity,—poetical extraction, and moral position?
63. On the chance of its being so, might I ask hearing for just a few words more of the school of Belial?
Their occasion, it must be confessed, is a quite unjustifiable one. Some very wicked people—mutineers, in fact—have retired, misanthropically, into an unfrequented part of the country, and there find themselves safe indeed, but extremely thirsty. Whereupon Byron thus gives them to drink:
"A little stream came tumbling from the height And straggling into ocean as it might. Its bounding crystal frolicked in the ray And gushed from cliff to crag with saltless spray, Close on the wild wide ocean,—yet as pure And fresh as Innocence; and more secure. Its silver torrent glittered o'er the deep As the shy chamois' eye o'erlooks the steep, While, far below, the vast and sullen swell Of ocean's Alpine azure rose and fell."
Now, I beg, with such authority as an old workman may take concerning his trade, having also looked at a waterfall or two in my time, and not unfrequently at a wave, to assure the reader that here is entirely first-rate literary work. Though Lucifer himself had written it, the thing is itself good, and not only so, but unsurpassedly good, the closing line being probably the best concerning the sea yet written by the race of the sea-kings.
64. But Lucifer himself could not have written it; neither any servant of Lucifer. I do not doubt but that most readers were surprised at my saying, in the close of my first paper, that Byron's "style" depended in any wise on his views respecting the Ten Commandments. That so all-important a thing as "style" should depend in the least upon so ridiculous a thing as moral sense: or that Allegra's father, watching her drive by in Count G.'s coach and six, had any remnant of so ridiculous a thing to guide,—or check,—his poetical passion, may alike seem more than questionable to the liberal and chaste philosophy of the existing British public. But, first of all, putting the question of who writes or speaks aside, do you, good reader, know good "style" when you get it? Can you say, of half a dozen given lines taken anywhere out of a novel, or poem, or play, That is good, essentially, in style, or bad, essentially? and can you say why such half-dozen lines are good, or bad?
65. I imagine that in most cases, the reply would be given with hesitation, yet if you will give me a little patience, and take some accurate pains, I can show you the main tests of style in the space of a couple of pages.
I take two examples of absolutely perfect, and in manner highest, i. e., kingly, and heroic, style: the first example in expression of anger, the second of love.
"We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us, His present, and your pains, we thank you for. When we have match'd our rackets to these balls, We will in France, by God's grace, play a set Shall strike his father's crown into the hazard."
"My gracious Silence, hail! Would'st thou have laughed, had I come coffin'd home That weep'st to see me triumph? Ah, my dear, Such eyes the widows in Corioli wear And mothers that lack sons."
66. Let us note, point by point, the conditions of greatness common to both these passages, so opposite in temper.
A. Absolute command over all passion, however intense; this the first-of-first conditions, (see the King's own sentence just before, "We are no tyrant, but a Christian King, Unto whose grace our passion is as subject As are our wretches fettered in our prisons"); and with this self-command, the supremely surveying grasp of every thought that is to be uttered, before its utterance; so that each may come in its exact place, time, and connection. The slightest hurry, the misplacing of a word, or the unnecessary accent on a syllable, would destroy the "style" in an instant.
B. Choice of the fewest and simplest words that can be found in the compass of the language, to express the thing meant: these few words being also arranged in the most straightforward and intelligible way; allowing inversion only when the subject can be made primary without obscurity: (thus, "his present, and your pains, we thank you for" is better than "we thank you for his present and your pains," because the Dauphin's gift is by courtesy put before the Ambassador's pains; but "when to these balls our rackets we have matched" would have spoiled the style in a moment, because—I was going to have said, ball and racket are of equal rank, and therefore only the natural order proper; but also here the natural order is the desired one, the English racket to have precedence of the French ball). In the fourth line the "in France" comes first, as announcing the most important resolution of action; the "by God's grace" next, as the only condition rendering resolution possible; the detail of issue follows with the strictest limit in the final word. The King does not say "danger," far less "dishonor," but "hazard" only; of that he is, humanly speaking, sure.
67. C. Perfectly emphatic and clear utterance of the chosen words; slowly in the degree of their importance, with omission however of every word not absolutely required; and natural use of the familiar contractions of final dissyllable. Thus "play a set shall strike" is better than "play a set that shall strike," and "match'd" is kingly short—no necessity of meter could have excused "matched" instead. On the contrary, the three first words, "We are glad," would have been spoken by the king more slowly and fully than any other syllables in the whole passage, first pronouncing the kingly "we" at its proudest, and then the "are" as a continuous state, and then the "glad," as the exact contrary of what the ambassadors expected him to be.
D. Absolute spontaneity in doing all this, easily and necessarily as the heart beats. The king cannot speak otherwise than he does—nor the hero. The words not merely come to them, but are compelled to them. Even lisping numbers "come," but mighty numbers are ordained, and inspired.
E. Melody in the words, changeable with their passion, fitted to it exactly, and the utmost of which the language is capable—the melody in prose being Eolian and variable—in verse, nobler by submitting itself to stricter law. I will enlarge upon this point presently.
F. Utmost spiritual contents in the words; so that each carries not only its instant meaning, but a cloudy companionship of higher or darker meaning according to the passion—nearly always indicated by metaphor: "play a set"—sometimes by abstraction—(thus in the second passage "silence" for silent one) sometimes by description instead of direct epithet ("coffined" for dead) but always indicative of there being more in the speaker's mind than he has said, or than he can say, full though his saying be. On the quantity of this attendant fullness depends the majesty of style; that is to say, virtually, on the quantity of contained thought in briefest words, such thought being primarily loving and true: and this the sum of all—that nothing can be well said, but with truth, nor beautifully, but by love.
68. These are the essential conditions of noble speech in prose and verse alike, but the adoption of the form of verse, and especially rymed verse, means the addition to all these qualities of one more; of music, that is to say, not Eolian merely, but Apolline; a construction or architecture of words fitted and befitting, under external laws of time and harmony.