Studies in Literature and History
by Sir Alfred Comyn Lyall
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Upon Mill's theological speculations Mr. Stephen has written an interesting chapter, illustrating Mill's desire to treat religion more sympathetically, with a deeper sense of its importance in life, than in the absolute theories of the older Utilitarians. Bentham had declared that the principle of theology, of referring everything to God's will, was no more than a covert application of the test of utility. You must first know whether a thing is right in order to discover whether it is conformable to God's pleasure; and a religious motive, he said, is good or bad according as the religious tenets of the person acting upon it approach more or less to a coincidence with the dictates of utility. The next step, as Bentham probably knew well, is to throw aside an abstraction that has become virtually superfluous, and to march openly under the Utilitarian standard. But there was in Mill a moral and emotional instinct that deterred him from resting without uneasiness upon such a bare empirical conclusion. He rejected all transcendental conceptions; yet he did his best, as Mr. Stephen shows, to find reasonable proofs of a Deity whose existence and attributes may be inferred by observation and experience. He agreed that such an inference is not inconsistent, a priori, with natural laws, and the argument from design was admitted as providing by analogy, or even inductively, a large balance of probability in favour of creation by Intelligence. The difficulty is to attain by these methods the idea of a Deity perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness; for the order of Nature, apart from human intervention and contrivances for making the earth habitable, discloses no tincture of morality. We are thus reduced to the dilemma propounded by Hume, between an omnipotent Deity who cannot be benevolent because misery is permitted, and a benevolent Deity with limited powers; and Mill sums up the discussion, doubtfully, in favour of a Being with great but limited powers, whose motives cannot be satisfactorily fathomed by the human intellect.

This halting conclusion indicates a departure from the pure empiricism of his school, and even the inadequacy of the argument shows the effort that Mill was making towards some fellow-feeling with spiritual conceptions. As Mr. Stephen points out, there is a curious approximation, on some points, between Mill and his arch-enemy Mansel—between the conditioned and unconditioned philosophies. Both of them lay stress on the moral perplexities involved in arguing from the wasteful and relentless course of Nature to an estimate of the divine attributes. And both agree that the existence of evil is a serious difficulty; though Mansel's solution, or evasion, of it is by insisting that the ways of the unconditioned are necessarily for the most part unknowable, while Mill leans to the possibility that God's power or intelligence may be incomplete. Upon either hypothesis we must confess that our knowledge is imperfect and very fallible. Mr. Stephen has no trouble in exposing the philosophical weakness of Mill's attitude; but we are mainly concerned to compare it briefly with the position of his predecessors, for the purpose of continuing a rapid survey of the course and filiation of Utilitarian doctrines. When the orthodox Utilitarians definitely rejected all theology—though until Philip Beauchamp appeared, in 1822, they made no direct attack upon it—they believed that the fall of theology would also bring down religion, which they regarded as the source of motives that were fictitious, misleading, and profoundly unscientific. Mill agreed that a supernatural origin could not be ascribed to received maxims of morality without harming them, because to consecrate rules of conduct was to interdict free examination of them, and to paralyse their natural development in accordance with changes of circumstance. Looking back over the interminable controversies, and the successive variations in form and spirit that every great religion has undergone, this objection does not seem to us very formidable. But Mill's evident object was to reconcile the cultivation of religious feelings with his principle of free thought for individuals. In accepting Comte's ideal of a religion of humanity, he had entirely condemned Comte's reproduction of the spiritual authority in the shape of a philosophical priesthood. And it is remarkable, as indicating a radical discordance between the French and the English moralist, that while Comte's adoration, in his later years, of a woman led him to ordain a formal worship of the feminine representative of the Family, coupled with the strict seclusion of women from politics, Mill's lifelong attachment greatly strengthened his ardour for the complete emancipation of the whole sex.

Our readers will bear in mind that we are endeavouring to measure the permanent influence of Utilitarian doctrines, to determine how far they have fixed the direction, and shaped the ends, of contemporary thought and political action. It cannot be said that these doctrines are now predominant in either of these two closely interacting departments. National instincts and prepossessions have lost none of their force; national character now divides neighbouring peoples more sharply, perhaps, than a hundred years ago. Militarism is stronger than ever; cosmopolitan philanthropy is overridden by the growth of national interests; political economy is overruled by political necessities; nor have ethical systems displaced the traditional religions. Empiricism has fallen into discredit as a narrow and inadequate philosophy; it is superseded in the spiritual world by transcendental interpretations of dogmas as metaphysical representations of underlying realities. Mr. Stephen's most instructive work draws to its close with a dissertation on Liberalism and Dogmatism, showing how and why Utilitarianism failed in convincing or converting Englishmen to a practical assent to its principles and modes of thought. Upon many minds they produced more repulsion than attraction. Maurice earnestly protested that we were to believe in God, not in a theory about God, though the distinction, as Mr. Stephen says, is vague; he appealed to the inner light, to the conscience of mankind; he went back into the slough of Intuitionism. Carlyle cried aloud against materialistic views and logical machinery; he denounced 'the great steam-engine, Utilitarianism'; he was for the able despot and hero-worship against grinding competition and government by discussion. In theology the mystical spirit rose again with its immemorial power of enchanting human imagination; the moral law is discerned to be the vesture of Divinity, in which He arrays Himself to become apprehensible by the finite intellect; and a Science that tries to understand everything explains nothing. Authority, instead of being discarded, is invoked to deliver men out of the great waters of spiritual and political anarchy. The Tractarians struck in with a fierce attack on Rationalism, propounding Faith and Revelation as imperative grounds of belief. You must accept the dogmas, not as useful, not as moral or reasonable, not even as derived intuitively, but as the necessary fundamental truths declared by the infallible Church to be essential to salvation. Those who could not find infallibility in a State Church went over to Rome, abandoning the Via Media; others were content with the high sacramental position of Anglicanism; the moderate Rationalists took shelter with the Broad Church; a few retreated into the cloudy refuge of transcendental idealism. The two extreme parties, the Broad Church and the Sacerdotalists, were at bitter feud with each other; yet they both denounced the common enemy. Arnold 'agreed with Carlyle that the Liberals greatly overrate Bentham, and the political economists generally; the summum bonum of their science is not identical with human life ... and the economical good is often, from the neglect of other points, a social evil.' Newman held that to allow the right of private judgment was to enter upon the path of scepticism; and the latest infidel device, he says, is to leave theology alone. He set up the argument, well-worn but always impressive, that science gives no certainty; and Mr. Stephen contends against it with the weapons of empiricism:—

'The scientific doctrines must lay down the base to which all other truth, so far as it is discoverable, must conform. The essential feature of contemporary thought was just this: that science was passing from purely physical questions to historical, ethical, and social problems. The dogmatist objects to private judgment or free thought on the ground that, as it gives no criterion, it cannot lead to certainty. His real danger was precisely that it leads irresistibly to certainty. The scientific method shows how such certainty as is possible must be obtained. The man of science advocates free inquiry precisely because it is the way to truth, and the only way, though a way which leads through many errors.'

Mr. Stephen is himself a large-minded Utilitarian. He will have nothing to do with a transcendental basis of morals; and the dogmatist who dislikes cross-examination is out of his court. Dogmatic authority, he says, stands only on its own assertions; and if you may not reason upon them, the inference is that on those points reason is against them. You may withdraw beyond this range by sublimating religion into a philosophy, but then it loses touch with terrestrial affairs, and has a very feeble control over the unruly affections of sinful men. Newman himself resorted to scientific methods in his theory of Development, that is, of the growth and evolution of doctrine. We may agree that these destructive arguments have much logical force, yet on the other hand such certitude as empiricism can provide brings little consolation to the multitude, who require some imperative command; they look for a pillar of cloud or fire to go before them day and night, and a land of promise in the distance. Scientific exposition works slowly for the improvement of ethics, which to the average mind are rather weakened than strengthened by loosening their foundations; and religious beliefs suffer from a similar constitutional delicacy. Conduct is not much fortified by being treated as a function of character and circumstance; for in religion and morals ordinary humanity demands something impervious to reasoning, wherein lies the advantage of the intuitionist.

Mr. Stephen, however, is well aware that empirical certitude will not supply the place of religion. In his concluding pages he states, fairly and forcibly, the great problems by which men are still perplexed. Religion, as J. S. Mill felt, is a name for something far wider than the Utilitarian views embrace.

'Men will always require some religion, if religion corresponds not simply to their knowledge, but to the whole impression made upon feeling and thinking beings by the world in which they must live. The condition remains that the conception must conform to the facts; our imagination and our desires must not be allowed to over-ride our experience, or our philosophy to construct the universe out of a priori guesses.... To find a religion which shall be compatible with all known truth, which shall satisfy the imagination and the emotions, and which shall discharge the functions hitherto assigned to the churches, is a problem for the future.'

The Utilitarian doctrines, in short, though propagated by leaders of high intellectual power, and inspired by a pure unselfish morality, achieved little success in the enterprise of providing new and firmer guidance and support to mankind in their troubles and perplexities. But they were not content to look down from serene heights upon the world, leaving the crowd

'Errare atque viam palantes quaerere vitae.'

They laboured devotedly to dispel ignorance and to advance knowledge; they spared no pains to promote the material well-being of society. They helped to raise the wind that filled the sails of practical reform; they headed the attack upon legal and administrative abuses; they stirred up the national conscience against social injustice; they proclaimed a lofty standard of moral obligation. They laid down principles that in the long run accord with human progress, yet in their hopes of rapidly modifying society by the application of those principles they were disappointed; for their systematic theories were blocked by facts, feelings, and misunderstandings which had not been taken into calculation. They were averse to coercion, as an evil in itself; but though they would have agreed with Mr. Bright's dictum that 'Force is no remedy,' they were latterly brought to perceive that in another sense there is no remedy except force, and that the vested interests and preconceptions of society make a stiff and prolonged opposition to enlightened persuasion. They were disposed to rely too confidently upon the spread of intelligence by general education for preparing the minds of people to accept and act upon doctrines that were logically demonstrable, and to reject what could not be proved. Mr. Stephen has somewhere written that to support a religion by force instead of by argument is to admit that argument condemns it. The proposition is too absolutely stated even for the domain of spiritual authority, since it might be replied that no great religion, certainly no organised Church, has existed by argument alone, and it has usually been supported by laws. But at any rate the temporal power subsists and operates by coercion, and the sphere of the State's direct action, instead of diminishing, as the earlier Utilitarians expected it to do, with the spread of education and intelligence, is perceptibly extending itself. The Utilitarians demurred to religion as an ultimate authority in morals, and substituted the plain unvarnished criterion of utility. Upon this ground the State steps in, replaces religious precept by positive law, and public morality is enforced by Acts of Parliament. They were for entrusting the people with full political power, to be exercised in vigilant restraint of the interference by Government with individual rights and conduct; the people have obtained the power, and are using it more and more to place their affairs and even their moral interests under the control of organised authority. We do not here question the expediency of the movement; we are simply registering the tendency.

There are few literary enterprises more arduous than the task of following and demarcating from the written record of a period the general course of political and philosophic movements. The tendencies are so various, the conditions which determine them are so complicated, that it is difficult to keep hold of the clue which guides and connects them. Mr. Leslie Stephen's History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century took the broad ground that is denoted by its title; but, as he now tells us in his preface, he has found it expedient to reduce his present work within less comprehensive limits, by confining it to 'an account of the compact and energetic school of the English Utilitarians.' This reduction of its scope has not, however, damaged the continuity of the narrative, since in the great departments of morals, religion, and political philosophy the Utilitarians were mainly the lineal heirs of the characteristic English writers in the preceding century. It is true that Mr. Stephen has not been able to bring within the compass of his three volumes the subject of general literature, especially of poetry and novels, which in the nineteenth century have given their vivid expression to the doubts and the hopes, to the aims and aspirations of the time. But we can see that such an enlargement of his plan would have rendered it unmanageable, and that Mr. Stephen may have wisely considered the example of Buckle's History of Civilisation in England, which was projected on too large a scale, exhausted the author's strength, and remains unfinished. Mr. Stephen's present work fulfils its promise and completes its design. The Utilitarians are very fortunate in having found a historian whose vivacity of style, consummate literary knowledge, and masculine power of thought will have revived their declining reputations, and secured to them their proper place in the literature of the nineteenth century.


[28] The English Utilitarians. By Leslie Stephen. 3 vols. London, Duckworth and Co., 1900.—Edinburgh Review, April 1901.

[29] The Greek Theory of the State, by Charles John Shebbeare, B.A., 1895.

[30] Sir Robert Peel's speech on Reform, March 1831.


There is probably some foundation for the belief, often held in these days, that the production of high poetry is becoming more difficult, partly because the environment of modern civilisation lends itself less and less to artistic treatment, as mechanism supersedes human effort, and partly through the operation of other causes. It has been plausibly argued that most things worth saying have been said already; that even the words best fitted for poetic expression have been worn out, have been weakened by familiar usage or soiled by misuse, and that the resources of language for adequate presentation of ideas and feelings are running very low. Nevertheless, we all look forward hopefully to the coming of the original genius who is to strike a fresh note and inaugurate a new era, as pious Mohammedans expect another Imam. Yet his coming may not be in our time, and meanwhile the poetic lamp is burning dimly; it is just kept alight by the assiduous trimming of the disciples of the great men who have passed or are passing away, by the minor poets who strike a few musical chords that catch the ear, but who are not recalled by the audience when they have played their part and left the stage. The stars that shone in the bright constellation of Victorian poets have been setting one by one, until two only remain of those who were the pride of the generation to which they belong, for whom we may predict that they will hold a permanent place in English literature. It is now nearly sixty years since Mr. Meredith's first poems were published. Mr. Swinburne is about ten years his junior, both in age and in authorship; one may perhaps assume that the work upon which their reputations will rest is finished for both of them. Mr. Meredith's poetry has very recently been the subject of a very complete and sympathetic study by Mr. George Trevelyan. In this article we shall make an attempt to delineate, briefly of necessity and therefore inadequately, the characteristic qualities of form and thought, the technical methods and intellectual temperament which distinguish the younger poet, who may be destined to be the last survivor of an illustrious company.

If we accept the theory that art, like nature, follows the principle of continuous development, that its existing state is closely linked with its past, it is not easy to affiliate Mr. Swinburne to any direct literary predecessors. Undoubtedly we may assign to him poetical kinship with Shelley; he has the same love for classical myths and allegories, for the embodiment of nature in the beautiful figures of the antique. Light and shade, a quiet landscape, a tumultuous storm, stir him with the same sensuous emotion. He has Shelley's passion for the sea; he is fond of invoking the old divinities who presided over the fears, hopes, and desires of mankind. He has also Shelley's rebellious temper, the unflinching revolt against dogmatic authority and fundamental beliefs which rightly shocked our grandfathers in 'Queen Mab' and a few other poems; he is even less disposed than Shelley to the hypocrisy which does unwilling homage to virtue. On the other hand, Mr. Swinburne's pantheism has not Shelley's metaphysical note; the conception of an indwelling spirit guiding and moulding the phenomenal world has dropped out; there is no pure idealism of this sort in Mr. Swinburne's verse.

It may be said, truly, that some of Mr. Swinburne's poetry shows the influence of the later French Romanticists, of the reaction toward mediaevalism which is represented in England by Scott, and which culminated in France with Victor Hugo, for whom the English poet's admiration is unmeasured. That movement, however, had almost ceased on our side of the Channel at the time when it had reached, or was just passing, its climax in France. And, indeed, by 1835 the style and sentiment of English poetry was undergoing a remarkable change. Its magnificent efflorescence, which the first quarter of the nineteenth century had seen in full bloom, had faded away. It had sprung up in an era of great wars and revolution, amid the struggles of nations to shake off the incubus of despotisms, to free themselves from the yoke of foreigners. The cause of political liberty inspired the noblest verse of Shelley, Coleridge, and Byron:

Yet Freedom, yet, thy banner, torn but flying, Streams like a thunderstorm against the wind—'

But in England this ardent spirit had evaporated during the years of industrial prosperity and mechanical progress which came in with a long peace after twenty years of fighting; and during the next generation a milder tone prevailed. For an interval we had only second-rate artists in verse. The fiery enthusiasts, the despisers of respectability, were succeeded by poets who were decently emotional, pensive in thought, tame or affected in style, domestic in theme, with feeble echoes of the true romantic note in Mrs. Hemans and others. Next, in the fulness of time, came Tennyson and Browning, to raise the level of English poetry by their deeper views of life, their elevation of thought, and their incomparably greater imaginative power. Tennyson's composition is pellucid and exquisitely refined. Browning is rugged and often obscure; he cares more for the force than for the form of expression. The great problems of religion and politics are seriously and cautiously handled. Browning analyses them with caustic irony, while Tennyson, after making vain attempts to solve them, finds consolation in the 'Higher Pantheism.' They are soon joined by Matthew Arnold and Clough, who represent the melancholy resignation of sensitive minds that have discarded the creeds, for whom the miraculous history of Christianity is an illusion that has faded into the common light of day. Meredith, poet and novelist, falls back upon communion with Nature; he preaches the doctrine of duty, of working while the light lasts; he is a high moralist who accepts stoically the conclusion that nothing beyond terrestrial existence is knowable.

Thus Mr. Swinburne's elder contemporaries and precursors in poetry were all in different modes and fashions optimists; at any rate in their earlier writings. They stood outside the Churches; dogmatic beliefs they tacitly put away; they were in sympathy with the Christian ideal apart from its supernatural element; they professed a vague trust in an unseen Power, chequered here and there by intimations of pantheism; they made no frontal assault upon the central positions of theology. When we turn to their emotional poetry we find that they were always decorous; there is much discourse of love, often passionate, never erotic, no tearing aside of drapery, not a line to scare modesty. In Tennyson's most impassioned lyrics the principal figure is the broken-hearted lover, jilted by Cousin Amy, or caught in the garden with Maud—with intentions strictly honourable in both cases. The treatment of love by Browning and Meredith is chiefly psychological; they are usually concerned with the tragic situations that it can involve, though the comic aspect of sexual infatuation occasionally provokes cynicism. In politics all these poets are no friends to democracy or seething radicalism; they adore liberty, yet they are votaries of law and order; they have a hatred of misrule, and generally a cheerful confidence in the world's evolution toward better things. On social ethics the poets of the mid-Victorian period wrote with philosophic sobriety; they maintained a strict moral standard. In their wildest emotional flights they abstained from irreverence or indecorum. They undoubtedly represented the prevailing cast of thought, the taste and tendencies of the society to which they belonged; the growing scepticism, the influence on established ideas of advancing science and philosophy. Literature had been showing distinct signs of sympathy with these novelties, but in the early 'sixties an open revolt was generally discountenanced.

Mr. Swinburne's first publications were two historic plays, of which something will be said hereafter. In 1864 he turned suddenly from modern history to ancient legend for his dramatic subject, when he aroused immediate attention by Atalanta in Calydon, which reproduced the structure and metrical arrangement of a Greek tragedy. The dialogue has the purity of tone, the clear-cut concision that belong to its Hellenic model. At the beginning we have a joyous chant full of sound and colour, gradually changing into the elegiac strain of foreboding, the dread of pitiless divinities, the lamentation for the hero's unmerited fate. The exquisite modulations of the verse, the splendid choral antiphonies captivated all who were susceptible to the enchantment of poetry. The delicate adaptation of the English language to quantitative harmonies in high resonant lyrics showed extraordinary skill in the difficult enterprise of communicating the charm and cadences of the antique masterpieces. It is a heroic drama, severe in style and character as the Antigone of Sophocles. Then in 1865 came Chastelard, conceived and partly written, as Mr. Swinburne has told us, when he was yet at Oxford, a play in which he turns from the Greek tragedians to rejoin the historical dramatists. The turn is abrupt, for no character could have been more alien to the Greek notions of heroism than that of the love-sick knight who joyfully throws away his life for an hour in his lady's chamber, tears up the warrant reprieving him from execution, and accepts death to save Queen Mary's fragile reputation. But although the keynote of Mr. Swinburne's coming poetry is struck in Chastelard—the overpowering enthralment of Love, a joy to live and die for—

'The mistress and mother of pleasure, The one thing as certain as death'—

yet it gave the British public no fair warning of what followed almost immediately.

Into the midst of a well-regulated, self-respecting modern society, much moved by Tennyson's 'Idylls,' and altogether sympathetic with the misfortunes of the blameless king—justly appreciative of the domestic affection so tenderly portrayed by Coventry Patmore's 'Angel in the House'—Mr. Swinburne charged impetuously with his Poems and Ballads, waving the banner of revolt against conventional reticence, kicking over screens and rending drapery—a reckless votary of Astarte, chanting the 'Laus Veneris' and the worship of 'Dolores, Our Lady of Pain.' From the calm and bright aspect of paganism he is turning toward its darker side, to the mystic rites and symbolism which cloaked the fierce primitive impulses of the natural man. The burden of these first poems is chiefly the bitter sweetness of love, the sighs and transports of those who writhe in the embrace of the dread goddess, known by many names in all lands, or the glory of man's brief springtide, when the veins are hot, soon to be cooled and covered by frost and fallen leaves. In the clear ringing stanzas of the 'Triumph of Time,' who sweeps away the brief summer of lovers' delight, bringing them to autumnal regrets 'for days that are over and dreams that are done,' and lastly to wintry oblivion, we have almost a surfeit of voluptuous melancholy. In this, as in other poems, the sea, changeful in mood, alternately fair and fierce, a bright smiling surface covering a thousand graves, fascinating and treacherous, is the mythical Aphrodite, the fatal woman, merciless to men. All this is set out in lyrics which amaze the reader by their exuberance of language, profusion of metaphor, and classic allusion; in rhymes that strike on the ear like the clashing of cymbals. It is as if Atys and his wild Maenads were flying through the quiet English woodlands. The long-drawn, undulating lines, in a quieter strain, of the 'Hymn to Proserpine' and of 'Hesperia,' with their subtle music, lay the reader under their charm; but too many of these poems are tainted by a flavour of morbidity, and the average Englishman is not easily thrown by the most potent spells into a state of amorous delirium.

It is not surprising, therefore, that this first volume of poems, saturated with intoxicating Hedonism, had, as Mr. Swinburne wrote in the Dedicatory Preface appended to the full collection of his works, 'as quaint a reception and as singular a fortune as I have ever heard or read of.' The eruption of neo-paganism was sudden and unexpectedly violent—the rumblings of scientific and philosophic scepticism had given no warning of a volcanic explosion in this direction. The current literature of 1865 was much more prudish and less outspoken than it is at the present day; the gentlemanly licentiousness of Byron's time had been completely suppressed; the moral tone of the middle class was still outwardly Puritanic. English folk were by no means prepared to rebuild the altars of the primitive deities who presided over man's unquenchable desire, or to be otherwise than somewhat aghast at the invocations of Astarte or Ashtaroth, or the cry to Our Lady of Pain, the 'noble and nude and antique.' The result was that the first edition of the Poems and Ballads was withdrawn, though they were reissued in the same year, when Mr. Swinburne published a reply to his critics. Nevertheless, although the graver and, we may say, the higher judges of what was admissible to a nineteenth-century poet were entirely against him, it cannot be denied that the impulsive youth of that generation felt the enchantment of Mr. Swinburne's intoxicating love-potions—were sorely tempted to dash down Tennyson on the drawing-room table, and to join the wild dance round the shrine of Aphrodite Pandemia.

In the Poems and Ballads Mr. Swinburne keeps on some terms, so to speak, with theology. In the poem entitled 'A Litany' the Lord God discourses with Biblical sternness to His people, who tremble before Him, and threatens them with 'the inevitable Hell,' while the people implore mercy—a strange excursion into the Semitic desert out of the flowery field of paganism. And another poem is a pathetic rendering of the story of St. Dorothy, a Christian martyr. It is true that he looks back with aesthetic regret to the triumph of Christianity over the picturesque polytheism, and that perhaps the finest poem in this volume is the 'Hymn to Proserpine,' where a votary of the ancient divinities confesses sorrowfully that a new and austere faith has triumphed, but predicts that its kingdom will not last, will decline and fall like the empire of the elder gods—

'All ye as a wind shall go by, as a fire shall ye pass and be past; Ye are gods, and behold, ye shall die, and the waves be upon you at last. In the darkness of time, in the deeps of the years, in the changes of things, Ye shall sleep as a slain man sleeps, and the world shall forget you for kings.'

The 'Hymn to Proserpine' is a fine conception of the champion of a lost cause standing unmoved among the ruins of his Pantheon. But the quiet dignity of his attitude is marred by the lines in which the votary of fair forms turns with loathing from the new faith which has conquered by the blood and agony of saints and martyrs. The violent invective is like a red streak across the canvas of a picturesque and highly imaginative composition. Yet if he had been reminded that Lucretius, standing in the midst of paganism, sternly denounced the evils and cruelties of religion, Mr. Swinburne would probably have replied that the Roman poet, could he have been born again fourteen or fifteen centuries later in his native country, would have found these evils enormously increased, and that the sacrifice of Iphigenia in Aulis was as nothing to the hecatombs of the Inquisition.

His intense imagination summons up a bright and luxurious vision of the pre-Christian civilisation in Greece and Rome, as yet little affected by the deeper spiritualism of Asia; he is absorbed in contemplation of the beautiful sensuous aspect of the old nature-worship, as it is represented by poetry and the plastic arts, by singers and sculptors who (one may remark) knew better than to deal with its darker and degrading side, its orgies and unabashed animalism. And we may add that Mr. Swinburne would have done well to follow the example, in this respect, of these great masters of his own art; since his early defects and excesses are mainly due to his having missed their lesson by disregarding the limitations which they scrupulously observed.

When he reissued the Poems and Ballads, Mr. Swinburne took occasion, as we have said, to reply, in a pamphlet, to the strictures and strong protests which they had aroused. He was at some trouble to discover the passages or phrases 'that had drawn down such sudden thunder from the serene heavens of public virtue': he was comically puzzled to comprehend why the reviewers were scandalised. He trampled with sarcasm and scorn upon canting critics, and retorted that the prurient prudery of their own minds suggested the impurities which they found in works of pure art. There is nothing, he insists, lovelier, as there is nothing more famous in later Hellenic art, than the statue of Hermaphroditus, yet his translation of a sculptured poem into written verse has given offence! One might reply that a subject which is irreproachable, on the score of purity, in cold marble, may take a very different colour when it is dilated upon in burning verse.

The controversy had its humorous side; but we have no intention of stirring up again the smoke and fire of battles fought long ago. Mr. Swinburne held his ground defiantly, and the appearance of Songs and Ballads, published in 1871, showed no signs of contrition, or of concession to inveterate prejudices. In the course of the intervening five years the empire of Napoleon III. had fallen with a mighty crash; Italy had been united under one Italian dynasty; Garibaldi had become famous, and the Papal States had been absorbed into the Italian kingdom. This volume, which was dedicated to Joseph Mazzini, shows the ardent enthusiasm for the triumph of liberty, intellectual and political, which runs through all Mr. Swinburne's poetry. The 'Song of the Standard,' the 'Halt before Rome,' the 'Marching Song,' the 'Insurrection of Candia,' are poems that reflect current events; and the 'Litany of Nations' is the national anthem of peoples striving for freedom. But his verse rises to its highest pitch of exultation in the glorification of emancipation of Man. The final line of the 'Hymn to Man' is

'Glory to Man in the highest, for Man is the master of things';

and in one stanza of 'Hertha' is condensed all the wild declamation against deities and despots that pervades his poetry at this stage, with his joy in the deification of humanity:

'A creed is a rod, And a crown is of night; But this thing is God, To be man with thy might, To grow straight in the strength of thy spirit, and live out thy life As the light.'

There are no love-lyrics in this volume. He now stands forth as the uncompromising enemy of established religions, a fierce assailant of tyrannies, spiritual or temporal, an iconoclast who denounces churches and tabernacles, priests and kings, the Roman Pope and the Jewish Jehovah; one for whom the Papacy is, as it was to Hobbes, the Kingdom of Darkness, its record blotted with tears and stained with blood, the 'grey spouse of Satan,' as he styled her in a later poem, sitting by a fire that is fed with the bones of her victims. From this time forward he declares open war upon theology, and even upon Theism; he is the mortal foe of bigots and tyrants; his praise is for Giordano Bruno, for Pelagius the British monk, born by the northern sea; for Voltaire, for all who have fought and suffered in the cause of intellectual emancipation. The prevailing religious beliefs seem to him relics of mediaeval superstition, sophistry, and metaphysic—he contrasts them with the bright and free nature worship of the old world; he is a bitter enemy of the lofty spiritualism, the mighty world-religion, before which the fair humanities of the juventus mundi had faded away. His delight is in the virile qualities of the earlier civilisations, the patriotism, the heroic temper, the ardour for civic liberties, the Hellenic delight in noble form and in physical beauty. He is fretted by the restraint which Christian authority imposes upon the unruly affections of sinful men; he scorns the terrors of judgment to come, the prostration of the multitude before the threat of eternal punishment, and the promise of celestial recompense for terrestrial misery. Death is the 'sleep eternal in an eternal night'; and the one thing as certain as death is pleasure. He is the prophet of Hedonism; he is for giving the passions a loose rein, for drinking the wine of rapture to the lees before we lie

'Deep in dim death, beneath the grass Where no thought stings.'

Nevertheless, as the years go on, the note of regret and despair quiets down, the restless spirit of the poet is subdued to the calmer influences of nature; the charm of scenery, the association of places with memories more frequently bring softer inspirations. In his earlier poems his imaginative power found full scope in rendering the impressions of natural beauty, the glory of elemental strife; as in the 'Songs of the Four Seasons,' where the approach of a storm from the sea is likened to a descent of the Norse pirates on to the peaceful coast, and the metaphor produces a spirited picture:

'As men's cheeks faded On shores invaded When shorewards waded The lords of fight; When churl and craven Saw hard on haven The wide-winged raven At mainmast height; When monks affrighted To windward sighted The birds full-flighted Of swift sea-kings; So earth turns paler When Storm the sailor Steers in with a roar in the race of his wings.'

But more frequently the outlook on sea and land induces reverie, vague yearnings, retrospective sadness, and, like all true artists, he transposes into the landscape his own personal emotions, what he sees, feels, and remembers. In the poem of 'Hesperia' the view of the sunset over the sea stirs tender memories; the 'deep-tide wind blowing in with the water' seems to be wafting his absent love back to him, and his heart floats out toward her 'as the refluent seaweed moves in the languid exuberant stream.' In such pieces the fierce amorous obsession has been shaken off; he is no longer vexed by Shakespeare's[32] hyperbolic fiend, his mood is comparatively gentle and pathetic, as in the beautiful verses of 'A Forsaken Garden,' where his consummate faculty of metrical expression, wherein sense and sound are matched and inseparable, reaches, perhaps, its highest watermark:

'Over the meadows that blossom and wither Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song; Only the sun and the rain come hither All year long.'

In the series of landscape sketches grouped under the title of A Midsummer Holiday, published nearly twenty years after the Poems and Ballads, the treatment of his subject has become more impersonal. The impression or idea is still coloured by transmission through the spectator's mind. Mr. Swinburne has himself observed, very truly, that

'mere descriptive poetry of the prepense and formal kind is exceptionally liable to incur and to deserve the charge of dulness: it is unnecessary to emphasise or obtrude the personal note, the presence or emotion of a spectator, but it is necessary to make it felt and keep it perceptible if the poem is to have life in it or even a right to live.'[33]

This is the right doctrine, and we may add that it is applicable as a criticism to some of his earlier descriptive pieces, where the intense personal feeling is somewhat too intense and disproportionate; so that a reader gifted with less keenness of sensibility is disconcerted by insistence on effusive moods with which he cannot be expected to be in full sympathy. Mr. Swinburne might reply that for such dullards he does not write; but the finest wines are too heady for a morning's draught. In his more mature poems he appears to have deliberately held back what may be termed the subjective emotion; the landscapes are no longer peopled by figures or memories of the past; the thoughts which they suggest are such as find response in all minds that are in accord with the deeper and more subtle relations of human life to its environment. He himself has indeed told us[34] that to many of his studies of English land and sea no intimacy of years and no association with the past has given any colour of emotion, that only so much of the personal note is retained as is sufficient to bring these various poems into touch with each other. And we can perceive that their inspiration is drawn, chiefly if not exclusively, from the spiritual influence of inanimate nature, the effects of inland or woodland solitude, of the land silent under the noontide heat, of the sterile shore, or the raging of the sea. The Midsummer Holiday group has two pictures of sweet homeliness—'The Mill Garden' and 'On a Country Road'—the harvest of a quiet eye (in Wordsworth's phrase), such as a rambling artist might jot down in his travelling sketch book, of value the more remarkable because they are not in Mr. Swinburne's usual manner. They give relief to the breadth and grandeur of the other descriptions of the ocean, the crags, and the storms. For to Swinburne, as to all the romantic English poets, the ocean stream which encircles their island is an inexhaustible source of delight and pride; it is our ever present defence in time of trouble; the fountain of our country's wealth and honour; it is our traditional battlefield; the winds and the waves are the breath and the force of our national being. And through Mr. Swinburne's poetry runs a vein of undiluted love for his native land. In his poem 'On the South Coast' he looks out from 'the green, smooth-swelling downs' over the broad blue water, and his thought is expressed in its final stanza:

Fair and dear is the land's face here, and fair man's work as a man's may be: Dear and fair as the sunbright air is here the record that speaks him free; Free by birth of a sacred earth, and regent ever of all the sea.'

The 'Autumn Vision' is an ode to the south-west wind, which has so often filled the sails of the English warships:

'Wind beloved of earth and sky and sea beyond all winds that blow, Wind whose might in fight was England's on her mightiest warrior day, South-west wind, whose breath for her was life, and fire to scourge her foe, Steel to smite and death to drive him down an unreturning way, Well-beloved and welcome, sounding all the clarions of the sky, Rolling all the marshalled waters toward the charge that storms the shore.'

Charles Kingsley, like a hardy Norseman, preferred the north-east gale. To him the south-west wind is

'The ladies' breeze, Bringing back their lovers Out of all the seas,'

while Mr. Swinburne hears in the rushing south-western gale

'the sound of wings gigantic, Wings whose measure is the measure of the measureless Atlantic,'

and, after the storm,

'The grim sea swell, grey, sleepless and sad as a soul estranged.'

'A Swimmer's Dream' gives us the poetry of floating on the slow roll of the waves, some cloudy November morning.

'Dawn is dim on the dark soft water, Soft and passionate, dark and sweet.'

'Loch Torridon' preserves the charm of what might be a landlocked lake, if it were not that the rippling tide flows in by an almost invisible inlet from the sea. From his earliest to his latest poems the magic of nature's changing aspects fascinates him; they inspire him with a kind of ecstasy that finds utterance in the variety of his verse, which reflects all the lights and shades of earth, sea, and atmosphere. One may remark, by the way, that in proportion as his poetic strength matures, the pagan gods and goddesses, who disported themselves so freely in his juvenile verse, visit him much more rarely; his imagery draws much less profusely upon the classic mythology for symbols and figures of divinities whose diaphanous robes are ill suited to our northern climate and Puritanic traditions, in the wolds and forests once sacred to Thor and Woden.

* * * * *

It will be admitted by Mr. Swinburne's least indulgent critics that his poetry displays throughout a marvellous power of execution. He runs over all the lyrical and elegiac chords with unabated facility; his metrical variations and musical phrasing bring out and extend the capacity and fertility of our language as a poetic instrument; he is master of his materials. No doubt there is some repetition, some iteration, which becomes slightly wearisome, of his favourite rhymes, indicating, what has been observed independently of reference to this particular writer, that the resources of the English language for terminal assonance, under the stringent conditions required by the modern rules of versification, are inevitably limited and show signs of exhaustion.

In a Note on Poetry appended to his latest volume of verses,[35] Mr. John Davidson has classed rhyme as a kind of disease of poetry. Rhyme, he says, is probably more than seven hundred years old—in Europe, he must mean, for it is far older in Asia, whence it originally came—and since the days of the troubadours and Minnesingers it has corrupted, in his opinion, the ear of the world. At best it is, he thinks, a decadent mode, imposing shackles on free poetic expression; and though in these fetters great poets have done magnificent work, in their finest rhymed verse he finds a feeling of effort. They have always been obliged to throw in something that need not have been said, some words inserted under compulsion, to bring the rhyme about. Mr. Davidson declares that the true glory of free untrammelled poetry shines out in the rhythmic periods of blank verse. That there may be some truth, or at least some convenience, in this theory of the poetic art, the modern poet may not be concerned to deny; for, as we have already said, rhymes will not withstand incessant and familiar usage; they become commonplaces, and the rhymer wanders away from the natural direction of his thought in search of fresh ones. The most devout admirers of Browning must admit that his verse is often distorted in this way—so that a fine stanza sometimes finishes with a jolt and ends with a tag—and it must be allowed that this necessity of making both ends meet is bad for the poetic conscience, a temptation to indefensible laxities. Even Mr. Swinburne, the inventor of exquisite harmonies, whose work is indisputably sincere, can be occasionally observed to be diverging from the straight line of his impetuous flight, hovering and making circuits that lead up skilfully to the indispensable rhyme. More frequently, perhaps, there is a tendency to interpose some metaphor, or rather far-fetched allusion, for the sake of the clear, full, recurrent intonation of echoing words that can only be marshalled into their places by artistic ingenuity.

We may so far agree with Mr. Davidson that most of the sublime passages in English poetry are in blank verse, though it may be noticed that the four lines which he quotes from Macbeth,[36] as containing the 'topmost note in the stupendous agony of the drama,' are rhymed. The management of rhyme is a difficult and very delicate art; it is an instrument that requires a first-class performer, like Mr. Swinburne, to bring out its potency; to this art the English lyric, the ode and the song, owe their musical perfection. Mr. Swinburne, in an essay upon Matthew Arnold's New Poems (1867), has said, truly, that 'rhyme is the native condition of lyric verse in England'; and that 'to throw away the natural grace of rhyme from a modern song is a wilful abdication of half the charm and half the power of verse.' To this general rule he might possibly admit one exception—Tennyson's short poem beginning with 'Tears, idle tears,' which is so delicately modulated that the absence of rhyme is not missed. At any rate it is certain that all popular verse needs this terminal note; for a ballad in blank verse is inconceivable. On the other hand, the proper use of rhyme demands a fine ear, which is a rare gift; for our language has no formal rules of prosody, so that in maladroit hands rhyme becomes an intolerable jingle. At the present day, however, there is a tendency to run into excessive elaboration, largely due to superficial imitation of such masters of the poetic art as Tennyson, and especially Swinburne, so that we have a copious outpouring of feeble melodies.

Mr. Swinburne, on the contrary, is never feeble; he combines technical excellence with the power of vehement, often much too violent, expression. His character may be defined by the French word 'entier'; he is uncompromising in praise or blame. He insists (to quote his own words) that 'the worship of beauty, though beauty be itself transformed and incarnate in shapes diverse without end, must be simple and absolute'; nor will he tolerate reserve or veiled intimations of a poet's inmost thought.

'Nothing,' he has written, 'in verse or out of verse is more wearisome than the delivery of reluctant doubt, of half-hearted hope and half-incredulous faith. A man who suffers from the strong desire either to believe or disbelieve something he cannot, may be worthy of sympathy, is certainly worthy of pity, until he begins to speak; and if he tries to speak in verse, he misses the implement of an artist.'

He is pained by Matthew Arnold's 'occasional habit of harking back and loitering in mind among the sepulchres.... Nothing which leaves us depressed is a true work of art.' Yet, it may be answered, the habit of musing among tombs has inspired good poetry; and when doubt and dejection, perplexed meditation over insoluble problems, are in the air, a poet does well to express the dominant feelings of his time; and a modern Hamlet is no inartistic figure.

In this respect, however, Mr. Swinburne may have found reason to qualify, latterly, the absoluteness of his poetic principles. He has been from the first a generous critic of those contemporary poets whom he recognised as kindred souls. He awards unmeasured praise to Matthew Arnold, while of his defects and shortcomings he speaks plainly. He does loyal homage to Browning in a sequence of sonnets, and his tribute to Tennyson was paid in a lofty 'Threnody,' when that noble spirit passed away. For Victor Hugo he proclaimed, as all know, nothing short of unbounded adoration—he is 'the greatest writer whom the world has seen since Shakespeare'; though it may be doubted whether in his own country Hugo now stands upon so supreme a pinnacle. To other eminent men of his time his poetry accords admiration, chiefly to the champions of free thought and of resistance to oppression; and, in a poem entitled 'Two Leaders,' he salutes two antagonists as he might do before crossing swords with them. The leaders are not named; the first is evidently Newman:

'O great and wise, clear-souled and high of heart, One the last flower of Catholic love, that grows Amid bare thorn their only thornless rose, From the fierce juggling of the priest's loud mart Yet alien, yet unspotted and apart From the blind hard foul rout whose shameless shows Mock the sweet heaven whose secret no man knows With prayers and curses and the soothsayers' art.'

The second is

'Like a storm-god of the northern foams Strong, wrought of rock that breasts and breaks the sea,'

in whom we recognise Carlyle. They are the powers of darkness, doomed to fall and to vanish before the light; yet their genius commands respect and even sympathy.

'With all our hearts we praise you whom ye hate, High souls that hate us; for our hopes are higher,

* * * * *

Honour not hate we give you, love not fear, Last prophets of past kind, who fill the dome Of great dead Gods with wrath and wail, nor hear Time's word and man's: "Go honoured hence, go home, Night's childless children; here your hour is done; Pass with the stars, and leave us with the sun."'

The concise energy of these lines, their slow metrical movement, invest them with singular weight and dignity. The poet is confronting two representatives, in principle, of Force and Authority, whose prototypes in bygone times would undoubtedly have sent him to the scaffold or to the stake; nor is it improbable that both Carlyle and Newman, though in all other opinions they differed widely, would have agreed that a revolutionary firebrand and a pestilent infidel deserved some such fate. The poet might console himself with the reflection that they must have abhorred each other's principles quite as much as they detested his own.

In his later verse Mr. Swinburne still continues to wield his flaming sword against priests and despots, against intellectual and political servility. What may be termed the historical plea, the excuse for ideas and institutions that they are the relics of evil days long past, is no palliation for them to his mind; he would stamp them out and utterly destroy them. In this respect his temperament has unconsciously a strong tincture of the intolerance which he denounces; he would sweep away Christianity as Christianity swept away polytheism. Toward its Founder, as the type of human love and purity, he is uniformly reverential; there is nothing in that supreme figure that jars with that Religion of Humanity, which 'The Altar of Righteousness' proclaims with high dithyrambic enthusiasm:

'Christ the man lives yet, remembered of man as dreams that leave Light on eyes that wake and know not if memory bids them grieve.

* * * * *

Far above all wars and gospels, all ebb and flow of time, Lives the soul that speaks in silence, and makes mute the earth sublime.'

But of theology reigning by force and terror he is the implacable enemy; and his intemperate violence leaves a stain on the bright radiance of his poetry. It amounts to an artistic fault, undiminished even in the later years which should have brought the philosophic mind. Moreover, it has materially lessened the influence which so fine a poetic genius should have exercised over the present generation, among whom polemical ardour and bitterness may be thought to have perceptibly cooled down, and to have become much less aggressive, in science, philosophy, and literature, than among the preceding generation. An age of tacit indifference, content with rationalistic explanations, with the slow working of disillusion, dislikes and discountenances outrageous scorn poured upon things that are traditionally sacred; and to the English character extremes are always distressing.

Mr. Swinburne's dramatic work, at any rate, takes us out of the strife and turmoil of theologic war; we are on firm historic ground, dealing with authentic events and persons. The plays of Chastelard, Bothwell, and Mary Stuart form a trilogy in which the most romantic and eventful period of Scottish history is presented; they constitute the epic-drama of Scotland, to adopt a definition applied by Victor Hugo to the tragedy of Bothwell. It is impossible, in this article, to find space for an adequate criticism of these remarkable productions. Every leading poet of the nineteenth century has made excursions into the dramatic field. We doubt whether any of them has come out of the adventure much better than Mr. Swinburne. All of them have given us, each in his own way, fine poetry, and, if we except Byron, they have shown that the masters of lyrical music can strike with power the high chords of blank verse. None of them have produced plays that took any hold of a theatrical audience; in most cases they were not intended for the stage.

The play of Chastelard is too deeply saturated with amorous essences throughout to be forcibly dramatic. The hero is in a high love-fever from first to last, the passionate strain becomes monotonous, and though he dies to save the Queen's honour, our minds are not purged with much pity for him. In the long historical drama of Bothwell, which has twenty-one scenes in its two acts, we have spirited portraits of the fierce nobles who surrounded Mary Stuart during her brief and distracted reign. The love passages are pauses in a course of violent action, the assassination of Rizzio, the murder of Darnley are not overcoloured melodramatically, and the scenes in and about the Kirk of Field are darkened with the shadow of Darnley's imminent fate. But Darnley's dream, presaging his coming doom, inevitably recalls the dream of Clarence, and cannot but suffer from the reminiscence. We might have something to say on the metrical construction of Swinburne's blank verse, for he shares with Tennyson, though in a minor degree, the distinction of having enlarged its scope and varied its measure. But the subject would demand careful comparative examination and analysis of different styles, such as is to be read, with profit to all students of the art poetic, in Mr. J. B. Mayor's Chapters on English Metres.

It will be understood that this article attempts no more than to review the salient characteristics of Mr. Swinburne's poetry, to indicate in some degree their connexion and development. It cannot but fall far short, obviously, of being a comprehensive survey of his contributions to English literature. We have made no reference, for lack of space, to his treatment of chivalrous romance in Tristram of Lyonesse, which Mr. Swinburne has rightly called 'the deathless legend,' though, since its fascination has made it a subject for three other contemporary poets, a comparison of their diverse manners of handling the story would be interesting. It is with regret that we have been compelled, also, to refrain from any adequate notice of Mr. Swinburne's prose writings, for in regard to the poetry of his own period the dissertations and judgments of one who combines high imaginative faculty with scientific mastery of the metrical art must have special value. Of the ordinary untrained criticism, the 'chorus of indolent reviewers,' to use Tennyson's phrase, he is, we think, too impatient. From a passage in his Dedicatory Epistle we gather that some of the tribe have ventured so far as to insinuate that poetry ought not to become a mere musical exercise. Mr. Swinburne's rejoinder is that

'except to such ears as should always be closed against poetry, there is no music in verse which has not in it sufficient fulness and ripeness of meaning, sufficient adequacy of emotion or of thought, to abide the analysis of any other than the purblind scrutiny of prepossession or the squint-eyed inspection of malignity.'

Apart from the wrathful form, the substance of what is here said merits consideration, for undoubtedly the most musical of our poets, from Shakespeare and Milton to Coleridge and Shelley, are those whose verse has embodied the richest thought and has been instinct with the deeper emotions. We must muster up courage to remark, nevertheless, that while in Mr. Swinburne's finest poems the musical setting accompanies and illuminates the thought or feeling, in some others the underlying idea is too unsubstantial; its real presence is only visible to the eye of implicit faith. Toward his fellow poets, his equals and contemporaries, Mr. Swinburne's attitude is that of generous enthusiasm, not excluding outspoken, yet courteous, indication of defects, as may be seen in the essay[37] on Matthew Arnold's New Poems, which is full of important observations on poetry in general, beside some well-deserved strictures on Arnold's shortcomings, in criticism as well as in verse. For Victor Hugo he has nothing but panegyric. His articles on Byron and Coleridge are luminous appreciations of the very diverse excellences belonging to two illustrious predecessors; while in his Notes on the Text of Shelley, high-soaring and incomparable, an unlucky emendation of a line in 'The Skylark—the insertion of a superfluous word conjecturally—by an editor whose work he commends on the whole, provokes him to sheer exasperation:

'For the conception of this atrocity the editor is not responsible; for its adoption he is. A thousand years of purgatorial fire would be insufficient expiation for the criminal on whose deaf and desperate head must rest the original guilt of defacing the text of Shelley with this damnable corruption.'

'Fas est et ab hoste doceri.' Mr. Swinburne has borrowed the style of sacerdotal anathema from his mortal enemies, and pronounces it no less inexorably. But these Notes were written nigh forty years ago, so we may hope that by this time he has cast out, or at least subdued by diligent exorcism, that same hyperbolic fiend which entered in and rent him at certain seasons of his youth.

Mr. Swinburne has, indeed, the defects of his qualities. He is an ardent friend and an unflinching adversary, but we have seen that in prose no less than in poetry, in polemics as in politics, his style is liable to become overheated and thunderous. He has no patience with mediocrity in art; he disdains the via media in thought and action. In these respects he stands alone among the Victorian poets, most of whom anticipate with misgivings the evaporation of faith in the supernatural, while they acknowledge that for themselves such faith has little meaning, and are inclined to melancholy musing over the 'doubtful doom of human kind' which haunted the imagination of Tennyson. And his attitude is still further apart from the intellectual tendencies discernible at the present moment in pure literature, which is now less concerned, we think, with these questions than when Mr. Arnold wrote Literature and Dogma, and seems more disposed to leave theology in the hands of the physical scientists and the professional metaphysicians. However this may be, it is to be seriously regretted that Mr. Swinburne's peremptory, unscrupulous manner of dealing with religious forms and beliefs which the world, perhaps, would not unwillingly let die, though by painless extinction rather than by violence, has alienated reverent minds from him, and has tarnished the brilliancy of his strenuous verse. The sensuous frenzy of his juvenile poems is still remembered against him; it betrayed a lack of moral dignity, of what the Greek poets, whom he so much admired, meant by the word [Greek: aidos]. But we very willingly acknowledge that of these excesses hardly a trace is to be found in the very numerous pieces that fill the later volumes of his collected poetry.

From these causes it has resulted that Mr. Swinburne does not, in our opinion, now hold the position or command the influence which would otherwise be accorded to one who may be reckoned the chief lyrical poet of the second half of the nineteenth century; for after the publication, in 1855, of Maud, Tennyson had passed his lyrical climax, and Mr. Swinburne's superiority, as a lyrist, over all other writers of that period is incontestable. His neo-paganism, moreover, jars upon the realistic modernity of a generation for whom primitive symbolism is obsolete as a form of expression, and whose prevailing thought is too profoundly rationalistic to be attracted by a pagan paradise. All this is to be regretted, since Mr. Swinburne undoubtedly has the pagan virtues. His aspirations are concentrated on ideals that ennoble the present life, on justice, inflexible courage, patriotism, the unsophisticated intelligence; he loves liberty and he hates oppression in all their shapes. He is throughout an optimist, who believes and predicts that a clearer and brighter prospect is before humanity. To Mr. Swinburne, in short, may be applied the words with which Matthew Arnold summed up his essay upon Heine: 'He is not an adequate interpreter of the modern world; he is a brilliant soldier in the liberation war of humanity.' And future generations may remember him as the poet who passed on to them the message of his spiritual forefather, Shelley:

'O man, hold thee on in courage of soul Through the stormy shades of thy worldly way; And the billows of clouds that round thee roll Shall sleep in the light of a wondrous day, When heaven and hell shall leave thee free To the universe of destiny.'


[31] The Poems of Algernon Charles Swinburne. In six volumes. With a dedicatory epistle to Theodore Watts-Dunton. London, Chatto and Windus, 1904.—Edinburgh Review, October 1906.

[32] 'Out, hyperbolic fiend! how vexest thou this man?'—Twelfth Night.

[33] Dedicatory Preface.

[34] Dedicatory Preface.

[35] Holiday and Other Poems, 1906.

[36] Note on Poetry, p. 144.

[37] Essays and Studies, 1867.


It may be doubted whether many students of history are aware that the demarcation of frontiers, of precise lines dividing the possessions of adjacent sovereignties and distinguishing their respective jurisdictions, is a practice of modern origin. At the present time it is the essential outcome of territorial disputes, it is the operation by which they are formally settled at the end of a war: it registers conquests and cessions; and occasionally it has been the result of pacific arbitration. Among compact and civilised nationalities an exterior frontier, thus carefully defined, remains, like the human skin, the most sensitive and irritable part of their corporate constitution. The slightest infringement of it by a neighbouring Power is instantly resented; to break through it violently is to be inflicting a wound which may draw blood; and even interference with any petty State that may lie between the frontiers of two great governments is regarded as a serious menace.

The whole continent of Europe has now been laid out upon this system of strict delimitation. Yet it may be maintained that among the kingdoms of the ancient world no such exact and recognised distribution of territory existed; and, further, that up to a very recent period none of the great empires in Asia had any boundaries that could be traced on a map. Their landmarks were incessantly shifting forward or backward as their military strength rose or fell; and where their territories marched with some rough mountainous tract inhabited by warlike tribes, they were perpetually plagued by petty warfare on a zone of debateable land. On both sides some temporary intrusion upon or occupation of country held by a neighbour, which would now be the signal for mobilising an army, was treated as a trespass of small importance, to be resented and rectified at leisure. It is true that in earlier times the Romans marked off distinct frontiers, and guarded them by military posts; but their policy was to acknowledge no frontier power with equal rights, and their actual political jurisdiction usually extended far beyond their lines of defence, which were advanced or withdrawn as political or military considerations might require. In fact, the Roman empire, like the British empire in Asia, was a great organised State, surrounded, for the most part, by small and weak principalities, or by warlike tribal communities, and it grew by a natural process of inevitable expansion. The emperors were often reluctant to enlarge their possessions; but the raids and incursions of intractable barbarians, or the revolt of some protected chiefship, frequently left them no option but to conquer and annex. They soon found themselves compelled to overstep the limits of empire prescribed by the policy of Augustus, and to lay down an advanced frontier in the lands beyond the Rhine and the Danube.

In Europe, where, as we have said, all national frontiers are now fixed and registered, the position of a civilised government entangled in chronic border warfare has long been unknown; the tradition of such a state of things is preserved in popular recollection mainly by local records and old ballads. Yet for Englishmen the subject possesses peculiar interest, since it is connected with their earlier history; and moreover our dominion in India invests it with special importance, for it is there a matter of immediate experience and active concern. We may recollect, in the first place, that Britain was an outlying province of the Roman empire, for at this moment we are excavating the ruins of the wall built by the Romans to protect their northern frontier from the incursions of the warlike tribes beyond it, by the first administration that established, for a time, peace and civilisation in England. Then, in the middle ages, and long afterwards, the border between the kingdoms of England and Scotland which ran northward of the old Roman line, was for centuries the scene of plundering raids, punitive expeditions, and internecine feuds that often laid waste the countryside with fire and sword. We may observe, in this instance, how shifting and indeterminate was the exact frontier line between the two kingdoms, and how the local fighting, the inroads from one side or the other, did not necessarily involve a rupture of their formal relations. The wardens on each side executed rough justice upon marauding clans; they wasted and slaughtered in reprisal for raids; the great nobles engaged in a kind of private warfare; but all this might go on without embroiling the two governments in a national war. On the western English border the Welsh hillmen kept the neighbouring counties in continual alarm; and their chiefs played an important part in the civil wars and rebellions of England. They were at last quieted by Edward I., who succeeded in subduing Wales though he failed in Scotland. Lastly, though the union of the two kingdoms brought peace to the Anglo-Scottish border, the Highland line along the Forth river still kept up, though in a much less serious degree, the troubles of a regular government in contact with restless tribes. Nor was it until the middle of the eighteenth century that these relics of an archaic condition of society, which had long ago disappeared in other parts of western Europe, were finally effaced in Great Britain. Long afterwards, in the nineteenth century, when the conquest of the Punjab carried the north-western frontier of British India up to the slopes of the Afghan mountains, the scene of perpetual strife between a strong settled administration and turbulent borderers which had passed away on the Tweed or the Forth, and on the Welsh Marches, reappeared in the districts beyond the Indus.

To Englishmen, therefore, whose experience of this situation is long, varied, and actual, Mr. Baddeley's book on the Russians in the Caucasus should be of exceptional interest. It is indeed well worth studying by those upon whom, whether at home or in India, has been imposed the arduous duty of superintending our policy in dealing with the Afghan tribes for the protection of our Indian districts. It is true that the conditions and circumstances, military and political, under which Russia prosecuted her long war with the Caucasian mountaineers, rendered her position in many respects different from that in which the English found themselves when they first came into contact with Afghanistan, and which has changed very little in the course of sixty years. The aims and purposes of the two governments were by no means the same. Yet in both cases we have a story of the obstinate resistance opposed by fierce and free clans to the arms of a powerful empire, of perilous campaigns amid rugged hills and passes, of the hazards and misfortunes to which disciplined troops are always liable when they encounter resolute and fanatical defenders of a difficult country.

Mr. Baddeley's book contains an authentic narrative, founded on diligent study of official documents and on the accounts of those who took part in the fighting, of the operations by which the Mohammedan tribes of the Caucasus were finally subdued, after fierce and protracted resistance, by Russian armies, and their country was annexed to the dominions of the Czar. His knowledge of this region is evidently derived from personal exploration; and in the Introduction to his book he has spared no pains to explain to his readers its geographical position, its topography, its physical features, and the extraordinary diversity of races and languages which it contained. We learn that the chain of mountains which was originally known by the name of the Caucasus stretches, with a total length of 650 miles, from the Caspian to the Black Sea. Toward the north is a tract of dense forest, intersected by numerous streams flowing down from the mountains; and beyond lies the high plateau of Daghestan, 'through which the rivers have cut their way to a depth often of thousands of feet, the whole backed and ribbed, south and west, by mountain ranges having many peaks often over 13,000 feet in height.' In the forest tract, to which the Russians gave the name of Tchetchnia, their armies were constantly entangled; and their difficulties in reducing the inhabitants to subjection were quite as great as in conquering the highland tribes of Daghestan. Throughout the eighteenth century, and even earlier, the Russians had been pushing southward toward the Black Sea and the Caspian, and had gradually taken under their authority and protection the Cossack tribes who were settled on the steppes that spread along the northern border of the Caucasus. On this border they had established by the end of the century the Cossack line of forts, military colonies and plantations of armed cultivators, linked together to form a barrier against the incursions and marauding raids of the wild folk in the woods and mountains in front of them, and gradually strengthened and supported by stations of regular troops in the background. On the south of the central mountain ranges the Russians held Georgia, inhabited by Christian races whom the Russians had liberated from the Turkish or Persian yoke before the close of the eighteenth century, and who ever afterwards remained loyal subjects of the Czar. The Georgian road which traversed the whole Caucasian region from north to south, formed a most important line of communication which was never seriously interrupted. To the south-east, when the nineteenth century opened, lay Mohammedan khanates, vassals of Persia; on the south-west were the semi-independent pachaliks of the Ottoman empire.

We must pass over, reluctantly, Mr. Baddeley's very interesting sketch of the gradual approach made by Russia toward the Caucasus during the eighteenth century, which may be said to have begun in earnest with the expedition of Peter the Great, who led an army to the Caspian shore and captured Derbend about 1722. This threatening movement upon the confines of Asia inevitably involved Russia in war with the Turks and with the Persians, for whom the Caucasian mountains represented a great fortress, barring the onward march of a powerful Christian empire toward their dominions. For the Russians, on their side, it became of vital importance to break through the barrier that separated them from Georgia, to occupy the country between the two seas, and to make an end of the perpetual warfare with the tribes, who kept their frontier on the Cossack line in unceasing agitation and disorder, and were a standing menace to the Christian population of Georgia. It should be understood, however, that the Cossacks discharged their duties of watch and ward after a very rough fashion, raiding and fighting on their own account, making incursions upon their Mohammedan neighbours in retaliation for attacks and forays, and laying waste the enemy's country with the bitter vindictiveness of antagonistic races and religions.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Georgia and some other Christian principalities in Trans-Caucasia—that is, on the southern border of the mountains—had been absorbed into the Russian empire, which now held continuous territory on this line from the Black Sea to the Caspian. Along the Caspian shore the vassal States of Persia had been reduced to submission, while the Turks had been driven back from their fortified posts on the Black Sea. The Turkish and Persian governments naturally took alarm at the approach of a military power whom they had already good reason to mistrust and dread; the Russian viceroys and generals on the frontier treated these Oriental kingdoms with high-handed arrogance, and gave ample provocation for the wars which speedily broke out with both of them. The annals of the next few years record many vicissitudes of fortune. The Russian armies achieved some brilliant victories, and suffered some heavy disasters. By disease and the strain of forced marches through rugged and almost pathless country, by the storming of petty fortresses, by incessant skirmishing and treacherous surprises, the troops were reduced in number and gradually worn out; they were outnumbered by the Persian and Turkish soldiery, whose military qualities were at that time by no means despicable; while at this time the great European wars against Napoleon made reinforcements hard to obtain. In 1811 the Russians could barely hold their ground against the combined forces of Turkey and Persia; but just when the whole situation was at its worst the Russian Government, under the imminent emergency of Napoleon's march upon Moscow, patched up a peace (May 1812) with Turkey that reinstated the Sultan in some important positions on the Black Sea coast, and made considerable retrocessions of territory. By strenuous exertion the Persians were defeated and beaten off, and next year there was comparative peace on the Caucasian border. Yet it was but a calm interval before storms, for Mr. Baddeley remarks that nearly half a century of fighting was to elapse before the conquest of the mountains could be completed.

This era of long and sanguinary contest may be said to have begun, on a deliberate plan, with the appointment of General Yermoloff, in 1816, to be commander-in-chief in Georgia, with jurisdiction over the whole Caucasus. It was carried on with undaunted courage, hardihood, and obstinate endurance on both sides; and in the matter of merciless ferocity there was little to choose between the two antagonists. Yermoloff appears to have belonged to the type of military commander whom the Russian soldier follows with complete trust and unhesitating devotion—a leader inured to hardship and perils, treating his men as comrades but unsparing of their lives, rigid in discipline, reckless of bloodshed, a relentless conqueror yet capable of occasional generosity. His stern and implacable temper recognised but one method of dealing with barbarian enemies—the unflinching use of fire and sword, the policy of devastation and massacre. 'I desire,' said Yermoloff, 'that the terror of my name shall guard our frontiers more potently than chains of fortresses; that my word shall be for the natives a law more inevitable than death. Condescension in the eyes of Asiatics is a sign of weakness, and out of pure humanity I am inexorably severe. One execution saves hundreds of Russians from destruction, and thousands of Mussulmans from treason.' He demanded unconditional submission from all the tribes of the Caucasus; and he substituted for the former system of bribery and subsidies the policy of treating all resistance as rebellion, and suppressing it with cruel severity, 'but' (says one writer) 'always combined with justice and magnanimity.' Upon this Mr. Baddeley remarks that it is difficult to see where justice came in, 'but in this respect Russia was only doing what England and all other civilised States have done, and still do, wherever they come into contact with savage or semi-savage races. By force or fraud a portion of the country is taken and sooner or later, on one excuse or another, the rest is sure to follow.' To this it may be rejoined that on the north-west frontier of India, and nowhere else, England has come into contact with a race quite as savage and untamable as the Caucasian mountaineers, but that it would be a great mistake to suppose that the methods of Yermoloff have ever been adopted in dealing with the turbulent fanaticism of the Afghan tribes.

On the Cossack line, when Yermoloff assumed charge of operations, 'there was no open warfare, but there was continual unrest. No man's life was safe outside the forts and stanitzas; robbery and murder were rife; raiding parties, great and small, harried the fields, the farms and the weaker settlements.' To this state of things he was resolved to put an end. He built fortresses, pushed forward his outposts, formed moving columns of troops, and assiduously trained his soldiers to the peculiar conditions of warfare on this borderland. The Russian regiments, like the Roman legions, were often stationed in their camps or garrisons for twenty-five years; and for the service required of them their efficiency was admirable. For ten years Yermoloff carried on this tribal war with inflexible rigour, by expeditions to punish some marauding village, which was razed to the ground, and most of the men, women and children burnt or killed after defending the place with the fury of despair; by night marches to surprise and storm the hill forts; by exterminating bands of brigands; and more than once by laying deathtraps for notorious rebels or fanatics. There can be no doubt that this system of ruthless chastisement, of beating down the enemy's defences by sharp and rapid strokes, by sudden and daring inroads into the heart of their country, intimidated the tribes, and went far toward compelling them to sullen acquiescence in the Russian overlordship. Of the petty independent chiefships some were seized forcibly, others submitted and paid tribute. The Russians were advancing step by step into the interior of the country, piercing it with roads and riveting their hold on it by throwing forward their chain of connected forts. By 1820 Yermoloff appears to have convinced himself that in a few years the whole of the Caucasus—mountain and forest—would be permanently conquered and pacified; and for some time after that date there was little or no fighting, though the border was frequently disquieted by outbreaks that were sternly crushed. With the Persians and the Turks there was an interval of peace.

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