'Some may raise this question,' he says, talking as he does sometimes in the historical plural of his philosophic chair,—'this question, rather than objection,'—[it was much to be preferred in that form certainly]—'whether we talk of perfecting NATURAL PHILOSOPHY alone, according to our method, or the other sciences such as—ETHICS, LOGIC, POLITICS.' A pretty question to raise just then, truly, though this philosopher sees fit to take it so demurely. 'Whether we talk of perfecting politics with our method,' Elizabethan politics,—and not politics only, but whether we talk of perfecting 'ethics' with it also, and 'logic,—common logic,' which last is as much in need of perfecting as anything, and the beginning of perfecting of that is the reform in the others. 'We certainly intend,'—the emphasis here is on the word 'certainly,' though the reader who has not the key of the times may not perceive it; 'We certainly intend to comprehend them ALL.' For this is the author whose words are most of them emphatic. We must read his sentences more than once to get all the emphasis. We certainly INTEND to comprehend them all. 'We are not vain promisers,' he says, emphasizing that word in another place, and putting this intention into the shape of a promise.
And as common logic which regulates matters by syllogism is applied, not only to natural, but to every other science, so our inductive method likewise, comprehends them all.—Again—[he thinks this bears repeating, repeating in this connection, for now he is measuring the claims of this new method, this new logic, with the claims of that which he finds in possession, regulating matters by syllogism, not producing a very logical result, however:] 'For we form a history, and tables of invention, for ANGER, FEAR, SHAME, and the like,' [that is—we form a history and tables of invention for the passions or affections,] 'and also for EXAMPLES IN CIVIL LIFE, and the MENTAL OPERATIONS ... as well as for HEAT, COLD, LIGHT, VEGETATION and THE LIKE,' and he directs us to the Fourth Part of the Instauration, which he reserves for his noblest and more chosen subjects for the confirmation of this assertion.
'But since our method of interpretation, after preparing and arranging a history, does not content itself with examining the opinions and desires of THE MIND—[hear]—like common logic, but also inspects THE NATURE of THINGS, we so regulate the mind that it may be enabled to apply itself, in every respect, correctly to that nature.' Our examples in this part of the work, which is but a small and preparatory part of it, are limited, as you will observe, to heat, cold, light, vegetation, and the like; but this is the explanation of the general intention, which will enable you to disregard that circumstance in your reading of it.—Those examples will serve their purpose with the minds that they detain. They are preparatory, and greatly useful, if you read this new logic from the height of this explanation, you will have a mind, formed by that process, able to apply itself, in every respect, correctly to the subjects omitted here by name, but so clearly claimed, not as the proper subjects only, but as the actual subjects of the new investigation. But lest you should not understand this explanation, he continues—'On this account we deliver necessary and various precepts in our doctrine of interpretation, so that we may apply, in some measure, to the method of discovering the quality and condition of the subject matter of investigation.' And this is the apology for omitting here, or seeming to omit, such sciences as Ethics, Politics, and that science which is alluded to under the name of Common Logic.
This is, indeed, a very instructive paragraph, though it is a gratuitous one for the scholar who has found leisure to read this work with the aid of that doctrine of interpretation referred to, especially if he is already familiar with its particular applications to the noble subjects just specified.
Among the prerogative instances—'suggestive instances' are included—'such as suggest or point out that which is advantageous to mankind; for bare power and knowledge in themselves exalt, rather than enrich, human nature. We shall have a better opportunity of discovering these, when we treat of the application to practice. BESIDES, in the WORK of INTERPRETATION, we LEAVE ROOM ON EVERY SUBJECT for the human or optative part; FOR IT is A PART OF SCIENCE, to make JUDICIOUS INQUIRIES and WISHES.' 'The generally useful instances. They are such as relate to various points, and frequently occur, sparing by that means considerable labour and new trials. The proper place for speaking of instruments, and contrivances, will be that in which we speak of application to practice, and the method of EXPERIMENT. All that has hitherto been ascertained and made use of, WILL BE APPLIED in the PARTICULAR HISTORY of EACH ART.' [We certainly intend to include them ALL, such as Ethics, Politics, and Common Logic.]
'We have now, therefore, exhibited the species, or simple elements of the motions, tendencies, and active powers, which are most universal in nature; and no small portion of NATURAL, that is, UNIVERSAL SCIENCE, has been sketched out. We do not, however, deny that OTHER INSTANCES can, perhaps, be added' (he has confined himself chiefly to the physical agencies under this head, with a sidelong glance at others, now and then), 'and our divisions changed to some more natural order of things [hear], and also reduced to a less number [hear], in which respect we do not allude to any abstract classification, as if one were to say,'—and he quotes here, in this apparently disparaging manner, his own grand, new-coined classification, which he has drawn out with his new method from the heart of nature, and applied to the human,—which he had to go into the universal nature to find, that very classification which he has exhibited abstractly in his Advancement of Learning—abstractly, and, therefore, without coming into any dangerous contact with any one's preconceptions,—'as if one were to say, that bodies desire the preservation, exaltation, propagation, or fruition of their natures; or, that motion tends to the preservation and benefit, either of the UNIVERSE, as in the case of the motions of resistance and connection—those two universal motions and tendencies—or of EXTENSIVE WHOLES, as in the case of those of the greater congregation.' These are phrases which look innocent enough; there is no offensive approximation to particulars here, apparently; what harm can there be in the philosophy of 'extensive wholes,' and 'larger congregations'? Nobody can call that meddling with 'church and state.' Surely one may speak of the nature of things in general, under such general terms as these, without being suspected of an intention to innovate. 'Have you heard the argument?' says the king to Hamlet. 'Is there no offence in it?' 'None in the world.' But the philosopher goes on, and does come occasionally, even here, to words which begin to sound at little suspicious in such connexions, or would, if one did not know how general the intention must be in this application of them. They are abstract terms, and, of course, nobody need see that they are a different kind of abstraction from the old ones, that the grappling-hook on all particulars has been abstracted in them. Suppose one were to say, then, to resume, 'that motion tends to the preservation and benefit, either of the universe, as in the case of the motions of resistance and connection, or of extensive wholes, as in the case of the motions of the greater congregation— [what are these motions, then?]—REVOLUTION and ABHORRENCE of CHANGE, or of particular forms, as in the case of the others.' This looks a little like growing towards a point. We are apt to consider these motions in certain specific forms, as they appear in those extensive wholes and larger congregations, which it is not necessary to name more particularly in this connection, though they are terms of a 'suggestive' character, to borrow the author's own expression, and belong properly to subjects which this author has just included in his system.
But this is none other than his own philosophy which he seems to be criticising, and rating, and rejecting here so scornfully; but if we go on a little further, we shall find what the criticism amounts to, and that it is only the limitation of it to the general statement—that it is the abstract form of it, which he complains of. He wishes to direct our attention to the fact, that he does not consider it good for anything in that general form in which he has put it in his Book of Learning. This is the deficiency which he is always pointing out in that work, because this is the deficiency which it has been his chief labour to supply. Till that defect, that grand defect which his philosophy exhibits, as it stands in his books of abstract science, is supplied—that defect to which, even in these works themselves, he is always directing our attention—he cannot, without self-contradiction, propound his philosophy to the world as a practical one, good for human relief.
In order that it should accomplish the ends to which it is addressed, it is not enough, he tells us in so many words, to exhibit it in the abstract, in general terms, for these are but 'the husks and shells of sciences.' It must be brought down and applied to those artistic reformations which afflicted, oppressed human nature demands—to those artistic constructions to which human nature spontaneously, instinctively tends, and empirically struggles to achieve.
'For although,' he continues,'such remarks—those last quoted—be just, unless they terminate in MATTER AND CONSTRUCTION, according to the TRUE DEFINITIONS, they are SPECULATIVE, and of LITTLE USE.' But in the Novum Organum, those more natural divisions are reduced to a form in which it IS possible to commence practice with them at once, in certain departments, where there is no objection to innovation,—where the proposal for the relief of the human estate is met without opposition,—where the new scientific achievements in the conquest of nature are met with a universal, unanimous human plaudit and gratulation.
'In the meantime,' he continues, after condemning those abstract terms, and declaring, that unless they terminate in matter and construction, according to true definitions, they are speculative, and of little use—'In the meantime, our classification will suffice, and be of much use in the consideration of the PREDOMINANCE of POWERS, and examining the WRESTLING INSTANCES, which constitute our PRESENT SUBJECT.' [The subject that was present then. The question.]
So that the Novum Organum presents itself to us, in these passages, only as a preparation and arming of the mind for a closer dealing with the nature of things, in particular instances, which are not there instanced,—for those more critical 'WRESTLING INSTANCES' which the scientific re-constructions, according to true definitions, in the higher departments of human want will constitute,—those wrestling instances, which will naturally arise whenever the philosophy which concerns itself experimentally with the question of the predominance of powers—the philosophy which includes in its programme the practical application of the principles of revolution and abhorrence of change, in 'greater congregations' and 'extensive wholes,' as well as the principles of motion in 'particular forms'—shall come to be applied to its nobler, to its noblest subjects. That is the philosophy which dismisses its technicalities, which finds such words as these when the question of the predominance of powers, and the question of revolution and abhorrence of change in the greater congregations and extensive wholes, comes to be practically handled. This is the way we philosophise 'when we come to particulars.'
'In a rebellion, When what's not meet, but what must be, was law, Then were they chosen. In a better hour, Let what is meet be said it must be meet, And throw their power in the dust.'
That is what we should call, in a general way, 'the motion of revolution' in our book of abstractions; this is the moment in which it predominates over 'the abhorrence of change,' if not in the extensive whole—if not in the whole of the greater congregation, in that part of it for whom this one speaks; and this is the critical moment which the man of science makes so much of,—brings out so scientifically, so elaborately in this experiment. But this is a part of science which he is mainly familiar with. Here is a place, for instance, where the motion of particular forms is skilfully brought to the aid of that larger motion. Here we have an experiment in which these petty motives come in to aid the revolutionary movement in the minds of the leaders of it, and with their feather's weight turn the scale, when the abhorrence of change is too nicely balanced with its antagonistic force for a predominance of powers without it.
'But for my single self, I had as lief not be, as live to be In awe of such a thing as I myself. I was born free as Caesar; so were you.
* * * * *
Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world Like a Colossus; and we, petty men, Walk under his huge legs, and peep about To find ourselves dishonorable graves. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings. Brutus and Caesar. What should be in that Caesar? Why should that name be sounded more than yours? Conjure with them; Brutus will start a spirit as soon as Caesar. Now in the name of all the gods at once, Upon what meat doth this our CAESAR feed, That he is grown so great? AGE, thou art shamed: Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods. When went there by an AGE, since the great flood, But it was famed with more than with ONE MAN? When could they say, till now, that talked of Rome, That her wide walls encompassed but One Man? Now is it Rome indeed, and room enough, When there is in it but One Only Man.
* * * * *
What you would work me to, I have some aim; How I have thought of this, and of these times, I shall recount hereafter. Now could I, Casca, Name to thee a man most like this dreadful night; That thunders, lightens, opens graves, and roars As doth the lion in the Capitol, A man no mightier than thyself, or me, In PERSONAL ACTION; yet prodigious grown, And fearful as these strange eruptions are.' ''T is Caesar that you mean: Is it not, Cassius?' 'Let it be—WHO IT is: for Romans now Have thewes and limbs like to their ancestors.
* * * * *
Poor man, I know he would not be a wolf, But that he sees the Romans are but sheep. He were no lion, were not Romans hinds. Those that with haste will make a mighty fire, Begin it with—WEAK STRAWS. What trash is—Rome What rubbish, and what offal, when it serves for the base matter to illuminate So vile a thing as—Caesar. But— I perhaps speak this Before a willing bondman.
And here is another case where the question of the predominance of powers arises. In this instance, it is the question of British freedom that comes up; and the tribute—not the tax—that a Caesar—the first Caesar himself, had exacted, is refused 'in a better hour,' by a people kindling with ancestral recollections, throwing themselves upon their ancient rights, and 'the natural bravery of their isle,' and ready to re-assert their ancient liberties.
The Ambassador of Augustus makes his master's complaint at the British Court. The answer of the State runs thus, king, queen and prince taking part in it, as the Poet's convenience seems to require.
'This tribute,' complains the Roman; 'by thee, lately, is left untendered.'
Queen. And, to kill the marvel, Shall be so ever.
Prince Cloten. There be many Caesars, Ere such another Julius. Britain is A world by itself; and we will nothing pay, For wearing our own noses. [General principles.]
Queen. That opportunity Which then they had to take from us, to resume We have again. Remember, sir, my liege,
[It is the people who are represented here by Cymbeline.]
The kings your ancestors; together with The natural bravery of your isle; which stands As Neptune's park, ribbed and paled in With rocks unscaleable, and roaring waters; With sands, that will not bear your enemies' boats, But suck them up to the top-mast.
* * * * *
Cloten. Come, there's no more tribute to be paid: Our kingdom is stronger than it was at that time; and, as I said, there is no more such Caesars: other of them may have crooked noses; but, to owe such straight arms, none.
Cymbeline. Son, let your mother end.
Cloten. We have yet many among us can gripe as hard as Cassibelan: I do not say, I am one; but I have a hand.—Why tribute? Why should we pay tribute? If Caesar can hide the sun from us with a blanket, or put the moon in his pocket, we will pay him tribute for light; else, Sir, no more tribute, pray you now.
Cymbeline. You must know, Till the injurious Romans did extort This tribute from us, we were free: Caesar's ambition .... against all colour, here Did put the yoke upon us; which to shake off, Becomes a warlike people, whom we reckon Ourselves to be. We do say then to Caesar, Our ancestor was that Mulmutius, which Ordained OUR LAWS, whose use THE SWORD OF CAESAR Hath too much mangled; whose REPAIR and FRANCHISE, Shall, by the power we hold, be our good deed. Mulmutius made our laws, Who was the first of BRITAIN which did put His brows within a golden crown, and called Himself a KING.
That is the tune when the Caesar comes this way, to a people who have such an ancestor to refer to; no matter what costume he comes in. This is Caesar in Britain; and though Prince Cloten appears to incline naturally to prose, as the medium best adapted to the expression of his views, the blank verse of Cymbeline is as good as that of Brutus and Cassius, and seems to run in their vein very much.
It is in some such terms as these that we handle those universal motions on whose balance the welfare of the world depends—'the motions of resistance and connection,' as the Elizabethan philosopher, with a broader grasp than the Newtonian, calls them—when we come to the diagrams which represent particulars. This is the kind of language which this author adopts when he comes to the modifications of those motions which are incident to extensive wholes in the case of the greater congregations; that is, 'revolution' and 'abhorrence of change,' and to those which belong to particular forms also. For it is the science of life; and when the universal science touches the human life, it will have nothing less vivacious than this. It will have the particular of life here also. It will not have abstract revolutionists, any more than it will have abstract butterflies, or bivalves, or univalves. This is the kind of 'loud' talk that one is apt to hear in this man's school; and the clash and clang that this very play now under review is full of, is just the noise that is sure to come out of his laboratory, whenever he gets upon one of these experiments in 'extensive wholes,' which he is so fond of trying. It is the noise that one always hears on his stage, whenever the question of 'particular forms' and predominance of powers comes to be put experimentally, at least, in this class of 'wrestling instances.'
For we have here a form of composition in which that more simple and natural order above referred to is adopted—where those clear scientific classifications, which this author himself plainly exhibits in another scientific work, though he disguises them in the Novum Organum, are again brought out, no longer in the abstract, but grappling the matter; where, instead of the scientific technicalities just quoted—instead of those abstract terms, such as 'extensive wholes,' 'greater congregation,' 'fruition of their natures,' and the like—we have terms not less scientific, the equivalents of these, but more living—words ringing with the detail of life in its scientific condensations—reddening with the glow, or whitening with the calm, of its ideal intensities—pursuing it everywhere—everywhere, to the last height of its poetic fervors and exaltations.
And it is because this so vivid popular science has its issue from this 'source'—it is because it proceeds from this scientific centre, on the scientific radii, through all the divergencies and refrangibilities of the universal beam—it is because all this inexhaustible multiplicity and variety of particulars is threaded with the fibre of the universal science—it is because all these thick-flowering imaginations, these 'mellow hangings,' are hung upon the stems and branches that unite in the trunk of the prima philosophia—it is because of this that men find it so prophetic, so inclusive, so magical; this is the reason they find all in it. 'I have either told, or designed to tell, all,' says the expositor of these plays. 'What I cannot speak, I point out with my finger.' For all the building of this genius is a building on that scientific ground-plan he has left us; and that is a plan which includes all the human field. It is the plan of the Great Instauration.
VOLUMNIA AND HER BOY.
'My boy Marcius approaches.'
'Why should I war without the walls of Troy, That find such cruel battle here within? Each Trojan that is master of his heart, Let him to field.'
Is not the ground which Machiavel wisely and largely discourseth concerning governments, that the way to establish and preserve them, is to reduce them ad principia; a rule in religion and nature, as well as in civil administration? [Again.] Was not the Persian magic a reduction or correspondence of the principles and architectures of nature to the rules and policy of governments?'—['Questions to be asked.']—Advancement of Learning.
It is by means of this popular rejection of the Hero's claims, which the tribunes succeed in procuring, that the Poet is enabled to complete his exhibition and test of the virtue which he finds in his time 'chiefest among men, and that which most dignifies the haver'; the virtue which he finds in his time rewarded with patents of nobility, with patrician trust, with priestly authority, with immortal fame, and thrones and dominions, with the disposal of the human welfare, and the entail of it to the crack of doom—no matter what 'goslings' the law of entail may devolve it on.
He makes use of this incident to complete that separation he is effecting in the hitherto unanalysed, ill-defined, popular notions, and received and unquestioned axioms of practice—that separation of the instinctive military heroism, and the principle of the so-called heroic greatness, from the true principles of heroism and nobility, the true principle of subjection and sovereignty in the individual human nature and in the common-weal.
That martial virtue has been under criticism and suspicion torn the beginning of this action. It was shown from the first—from that ground and point of observation which the sufferings of the diseased common-weal made for it—in no favourable light. It was branded in the first scene, in the person of its Hero, as 'a dog to the commonalty.' It is one of the wretched 'commons' who invents, in his distress, that title for it; but the Poet himself exhibits it, not descriptively only, but dramatically, as something more brutish than that—eating the poor man's corn that the gods have sent him, and gnawing his vitals, devouring him soul and body, 'tooth and fell.' It was shown up from the first as an instinct that men share with 'rats'. It was brought out from the first, and exhibited with its teeth in the heart of the common-weal. The Play begins with a cross-questioning in the civil streets, of that sentiment which the hasty affirmations of men enthrone. It was brought out from the first—it came tramping on in the first act, in the first scene—with its sneer at the commons' distress, longing to make 'a quarry of the quartered slaves, as high' as the plumed hero of it 'could prick his lance'; and that, too, because they rebelled at famine, as slaves will do sometimes, when the common notion of hunger is permitted to instruct them in the principle of new unions; when that so impressive, and urgent, and unappeasable teacher comes down to them from the Capitol, and is permitted by their rulers to induct them experimentally into the doctrine of 'extensive wholes,' and 'larger congregations,' and 'the predominance of powers.' And it so happened, that the threat above quoted was precisely the threat which the founder of the reigning house had been able to carry into effect here a hundred years before, in putting down an insurrection of that kind, as this author chanced to be the man to know.
But the cry of the enemy is heard without; and this same principle, which shows itself in such questionable proofs of love at home, becomes with the change of circumstances—patriotism. But the Poet does not lose sight of its identity under this change. This love, that looks so like hatred in the Roman streets, that sniffs there so haughtily at questions about corn, and the price of 'coals,' and the price of labour, while it loves Rome so madly at the Volscian gates—this love, that sneers at the hunger and misery of the commons at home, while it makes such frantic demonstrations against the common enemy abroad, appears to him to be a very questionable kind of love, to say the least of it.
In that fine, conspicuous specimen of this quality, which the hero of his story offers him—this quality which the hostilities of nations deify—he undertakes to sift it a little. While in the name of that virtue which has at least the merit of comprehending and conserving a larger unity, a more extensive whole, than the limit of one's own personality, 'it runs reeking o'er the lives of men, as 'twere a perpetual spoil'; while under cover of that name which in barbaric ages limits human virtue, and puts down upon the map the outline of it—the bound which human greatness and virtue is required to come out to; while in the name of country it shows itself 'from face to foot a thing of blood, whose every motion is timed with dying cries,' undaunted by the tragic sublimities of the scene, this Poet confronts it, and boldly identifies it as that same principle of state and nobility which he has already exhibited at home.
That sanguinary passion which the heat of conflict provokes is but the incident; it is the principle of acquisition, it is the natural principle of absorption, it is the instinct that nature is full of, that nature is alive with; but the one that she is at war with, too—at war with in the parts—one that she is forever opposed to, and conquering in the members, with her mathematical axioms—with her law of the whole, of 'the worthier whole,' of 'the greater congregation'; it is that principle of acquisition which it is the business of the state to set bounds to in the human constitution—which gets branded with other names, very vulgar ones, too, when the faculty of grasp and absorption is smaller. That, and none other, is the principle which predominates, and is set at large here. The leashed 'dog' of the commonalty at home, is let slip here in the conquered town. The teeth that preyed on the Roman weal there, have elongated and grown wolfish on the Volscian fields. The consummation of the captor's deeds in the captured city—those matchless deeds of valor—the consummation for Coriolanus in Corioli, for 'the conqueror in the conquest,' is—'NOW ALL'S HIS.' And the story of the battle without is—'He never stopped to ease his breast with panting, till he could call both field and city—OURS.'
The Poet sets down nought in malice, but he will have the secret of this LOVE, he will have the heart out of it—this love that stops so short with geographic limits,—that changes with the crossing of a line into a demon from the lowest pit.
But it is a fair and noble specimen, it is a highly-qualified, 'illustrious instance,' of this instinctive heroic virtue, he has seized on here, and made ready now for his experiment; and even when he brings him in, reeking from the fresh battlefield, with the blood undried on his brow, rejoicing in his harvest, even amid the horrors of the conquered town, this Poet, with his own ineffable and matchless grace of moderation, will have us pause and listen while his Coriolanus, ere he will take food or wine in his Corioli, gives orders that the Volscian who was kind to him personally—the poor man at whose house he lay—shall be saved, when he is so weary with slaying Volscians that 'his very memory is tired,' and he cannot speak his poor friend's name.
He tracks this conqueror home again, and he watches him more sharply than ever—this man, whose new name is borrowed from his taken town. CORIOLANUS of CORIOLI. Marcius, plain Caius Marcius, now no more. He will think it treason—even in the conquered city he will resent it—if any presume to call him by that petty name henceforth, or forget for a breathing space to include in his identity the town—the town, that in its sacked and plundered streets, and dying cries—that, with that 'painting' which he took from it so lavishly, though he scorned the soldiers who took 'spoons'—has clothed him with his purple honours: those honours which this Poet will not let him wear any longer, tracked in the misty outline of the past, or in the misty complexity of the unanalysed conceptions of the vulgar, the fatal unscientific opinion of the many-headed many; that old coat of arms, which the man of science will trace now anew (and not here only) with his new historic pencil, which he will fill now anew—not here only—which he will fill on another page also, 'approaching his particular more near'—with all its fresh, recent historic detail, with all its hideous, barbaric detail.
He is jealous,—this new Poet of his kind,—he is jealous of this love that makes such work in Volscian homes, in Volscian mother's sons, under this name, 'that men sanctify, and turn up the white of the eyes to.' He flings out suspicions on the way home, that it is even narrower than it claims to be: he is in the city before it; he contrives to jet a jar into the sound of the trumpets that announce its triumphant entry; he has thrown over all the glory of its entering pageant, the suspicion that it is base and mercenary, that it is base and avaricious, though it puts nothing in its pocket, but takes its hire on its brows.
Menenius. Brings a victory in his pocket. Volumnia. On's brows Menenius.
He surprises the mother counting up the cicatrices. He arrests the cavalcade on its way to the Capitol, and bids us note, in those private whispers of family confidence, how the Camp and the Capitol stand in this hero's chart, put down on the road to 'our own house.' Nay, he will bring out the haughty chieftain in person, and show him on his stage, standing in his 'wolfish gown,' showing the scars that he should hide, and asking, like a mendicant, for his hire. And though he does it proudly enough, and as if he did not care for this return, though he sets down his own services, and expects the people to set them down, to a disinterested love for his country, it is to this Poet's purpose to show that he was mistaken as to that. It is to his purpose to show that these two so different things which he finds confounded under one name and notion in the popular understanding here, and, what is worst of all, in the practical understanding of the populace, are two, and not one. That the mark of the primal differences, the original differences, the difference of things, the simplicity of nature herself divides them, makes two of them, two,—not one. He has caught one of those rude, vulgar notions here, which he speaks of elsewhere so often, those notions which make such mischief in the human life, and he is severely separating it—he is separating the martial virtue—from the true heroism, 'with the mind, that divine fire.' He is separating this kind of heroism from that cover under which it insinuates itself into governments, with which it makes its most bewildering claim to the popular approbation.
He is bound to show that the true love of the common-weal, that principle which recognises and embraces the weal of others as its own, that principle which enters into and constitutes each man's own noblest life, is a thing of another growth and essence, a thing which needs a different culture from any that the Roman Volumnia could give it, a culture which unalytic, barbaric ages—wanting in all the scientific arts—could not give it.
He will show, in a conspicuous instance, what that kind of patriotism amounts to, in the man who aspires to 'the helm o' the State,' while there is yet no state within himself, while the mere instincts of the lower nature have, in their turn, the sway and sovereignty in him. He will show what that patriotism amounts to in one so schooled, when the hire it asks so disdainfully is withheld. And he will bring out this point too, as he brings out all the rest, in that large, scenic, theatric, illuminated lettering, which this popular design requires, and which his myth furnishes him, ready to his hand. He will have his 'transient hieroglyphics,' his tableaux vivants, his 'dumb-shows' to aid him here also, because this, too, is for the spectators—this, too, is for the audience whose eyes are more learned than their ears.
It is a natural hero, one who achieves his greatness, and not one who is merely born great, whom the Poet deals with here. 'He has that in his face which men love—authority.' 'As waves before a vessel under sail, so men obey him and fall below his stern.' The Romans have stripped off his wings and turned him out of the city gates, but the heroic instinct of greatness and generalship is not thus defeated. He carries with him that which will collect new armies, and make him their victorious leader. Availing himself of the pride and hostility of nations, he is sure of a captaincy. His occupation is not gone so long as the unscientific ages last. The principle of his heroism and nobility has only been developed in new force by this opposition. He will have a new degree; he will purchase a new patent of it; he will forge himself a new and better name, for 'the patricians are called good citizens.' He will forget Corioli; Coriolanus now no more, he will conquer Rome, and incorporate that henceforth in his name. He will make himself great, not by the grandeur of a true citizenship and membership of the larger whole, in his private subjection to it,—not by emerging from his particular into the self that comprehends the whole; he will make himself great by subduing the whole to his particular, the greater to the less, the whole to the part. He will triumph over the Common-weal, and bind his brow with a new garland. That is his magnanimity. He will take it from without, if they will not let him have it within. He will turn against that country, which he loved so dearly, that same edge which the Volscian hearts have felt so long. 'There's some among you have beheld me fighting,' he says. 'Come, try upon yourselves what you have seen me?' He is only that same narrow, petty, pitiful private man he always was, in the city, and in the field, at the head of the Roman legions, and in the legislator's chair, when, to right his single wrong, or because the people would not let him have all from them, he comes upon the stage at last with Volscian steel, and sits down, Captain of the Volscian armies, at Rome's gates.
'This morning,' says Menenius, after the reprieve, 'this morning for ten thousand of your throats, I'd not have given a doit.' But this is only the same 'good citizen' we saw in the first scene, who longed to make a quarry of thousands of the quartered slaves, as high as he could prick his lance! That was 'the altitude of his virtue' then. It is the same citizenship with its conditions altered.
So well and thoroughly has the philosopher done his work throughout—so completely has he filled the Roman story with his 'richer and bolder meanings,' that when the old, familiar scene, which makes the denouement of the Roman myth, comes out at last in the representation, it comes as the crowning point of this Poet's own invention. It is but the felicitous artistic consummation of the piece, when this hero, in his conflicting passions and instincts, gives at last, to one private affection and impulse, the State he would have sacrificed to another; when he gives to his boy's prattling inanities, to his wife's silence, to the moisture in her eyes, to a shade less on her cheek, to the loss of a line there, to his mother's scolding eloquence, and her imperious commands, the great city of the gods, the city he would have offered up, with all its sanctities, with all its household shrines and solemn temples, as one reeking, smoking holocaust, to his wounded honour. That is the principle of the citizenship that was 'accounted GOOD' when this play began, when this play was written.
'He was a kind of nothing, titleless,— Till he had forged himself a name i' the fire Of burning Rome.'
That is his modest answer to the military friend who entreats him to spare the city.
'Though soft-conscienced men may be content to say it was for his country, he did it to please his mother, and to be partly proud.'
Surely that starving citizen who found himself at the beginning of this play, 'as lean as a rake' with this hero's legislation, and in danger of more fatal evils, was not so very wide of the truth, after all, in his surmise as to the principles of the heroic statesmanship and warfare, when he ventured thus early on that suggestion. The State banished him, as an enemy, and he came back with a Volscian army to make good that verdict. But his sword without was not more cruel than his law had been within. It was not starving only that he had voted for. 'Let them hang,' ay—(ay) 'and BURN TOO,' was 'the disposition' they had 'thwarted',—measuring 'the quarry of the quartered slaves,' which it would make, 'would the nobility but lay aside their ruth.' That was the disposition, that was the ignorance, the blind, brutish, demon ignorance, that 'in good time' they had thwarted. They had ruled it out and banished it from their city on pain of death, forever; they had turned it out in its single impotence, and it came back 'armed;' for this was one of rude nature's monarchs, and outstretched heroes.
Yet is he conquered and defeated. The enemy which has made war without so long, which has put Corioli and Rome in such confusion, has its warfare within also, and it is there that the hero is beaten and slain. For there is no state or fixed sovereignty in his soul. Both sides of the city rise at once; there is a fearful battle, and the red-eyed Mars is dethroned. The end which he has pursued at such a cost is within his reach at last; but he cannot grasp it. The city lies there before him, and his dragon wings encircle it; there is steel enough in the claws and teeth now, but he cannot take it. For there is no law and no justice of the peace, and no general within to put down the conflict of changeful, warring selfs, to suppress the mutiny of mutually opposing, mutually annihilating selfish dictates.
In vain he seeks to make his will immutable; for the single passion has its hour, this 'would-do' changes. With the impression the passion changes, and the purpose that is passionate must alter with it, unless pure obstinacy remain in its place, and fulfil the annulled dictate. For such purpose, one person of the scientific drama tells us—one who had had some dramatic experience in it,—
'is but the slave to memory, Of violent birth, and poor validity, Which now, like fruit unripe, stick on the tree, But fall unshaken when they mellow be. What to ourselves in passion we propose, The passion ending doth the purpose lose.'
That is Hamlet's verbal account of it, when he undertakes to reduce his philosophy to rhyme, and gets the player to insert some sixteen of his lines quietly into the court performance: that is his verbal account of it; but his action, too, speaks louder and more eloquently than his words.
The principle of identity and the true self is wanting in this so-called self-ishness. For the true principle of self is the peace principle, the principle of state within and without.
'To thine own self be true, And it must follow as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man'
That is the doctrine, the scientific doctrine. But it is not the passionate, but thoughtful Hamlet, shrinking from blood, with his resolution sicklied o'er with the pale cast of conscientious thought; it is not the humane, conscience-fettered Hamlet, but the man who aspires to make his single humours the law of the universal world, in whom the poet will show now this want of state and sovereignty.
He steels himself against Cominius; he steels himself against Menenius. 'He sits in gold,' Cominius reports, 'his eye red as 'twould burn Rome'—a small flambeau the poet thinks for so large a city. 'He no more remembers his mother than an eight year old horse,' is the poor old Menenius querulous account of him, when with a cracked heart he returns and reports how the conditions of a man are altered in him: but while he is making that already-quoted report of this superhuman growth and assumption of a divine authority and honour in the Military Chieftain, the Poet is quietly starting a little piece of philosophical machinery that will shake out that imperial pageant, and show the slave that is hidden under it, for it is no man at all, but, in very deed, a slave, as Hamlet calls it, 'passion's slave,' 'a pipe for fortune's finger to sound what stop she please.' For that state,—that command—depends on that which 'changes,'— fortuities, impressions, nay, it has the principle of revolution within it. It is its nature to change. The single passion cannot engross the large, many-passioned, complex nature, so rich and various in motivity, so large and comprehensive in its surveys—the single passion seeks in vain to subdue it to its single end. That reigning passion must give way when it is spent, or sooner if its master come. You cannot make it look to-day as it looked yesterday; you cannot make it look when its rival affection enters as it looked when it reigned alone. An hour ago, the hue of resolution on its cheek glowed immortal red. It was strong enough to defy God and all his creatures; it would annul all worlds but that one which it was god of.
This is the speech of it on the lips of the actor who comes in to interpret to us the thinker's inaction, the thinker's irresolution, for 'it is conscience that makes cowards of us all.' Here is a man who is resolute enough. His will is not 'puzzled.' His thoughts, his scruples will not divide and destroy his purpose. Here is THE UNITY which precedes ACTION. This man is going to be revenged for his father. 'What would you undertake to do?' 'To cut his throat i' the church.'
'To hell allegiance, vows to the blackest devil. Conscience and grace to the profoundest pit. I dare damnation. To this point I stand That both the worlds I give to negligence, Let come what comes, only I'll be revenged Most thoroughly for my father.' [Only.]
That is your passionate speech, your speech of fire. That was what the principle of vindictiveness said when it was you, when it mastered you, and called itself by your name. Ay, it has many names, and many lips; but it is always one. That was what it said an hour ago; and now it is shrunk away you know not where, you cannot rally it, and you are there confounded, self-abandoned, self-annulled, a forgery, belying the identity which your visible form—which your human form, was made to promise,—a slave,—a pipe for fortune's finger. This is the kind of action which is criticised in the scientific drama, and 'rejected'; and the conclusion after these reviews and rejections, 'after every species of rejection,'—the affirmation is, that there is but one principle that is human, and that is GOOD yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and whose is true to that is true, in the human form, to the self which was, and will be. He cannot then be false to his yesterday, or tomorrow; he cannot then be false to himself; he cannot then be false to any man; for that is the self that is one in us all—that is the self of reason and conscience, not passion.
But as for this affection that is tried here now, that the diagram of this scene exhibits so tangibly, 'as it were, to the eye,'—this poor and private passion, that sits here, with its imperial crown on its head, in the place of God, but lacking His 'mercy,'—this passion of the petty man, that has made itself so hugely visible with its monstrous outstretching, that lies stretched out and glittering on these hills, with its dragon coils unwound, with its deadly fangs—those little fangs, that crush our private hearts, and torture and rend our daily lives—exposed in this great solar microscope, striking the common-weal,—as for this petty, usurping passion, there is a spectacle approaching that will undo it.
Out of that great city there comes a little group of forms, which yesterday this hero 'could not stay to pick out of that pile which had offended him,' that was his word,—which yesterday he would have burnt in it without a scruple. Towards the great Volscian army that beleaguers Rome it comes—towards the pavilion where the Volscian captain sits in gold, with his wings outspread, it shapes its course. To other eyes, it is but a group of Roman ladies, two or three, clad in mourning, with their attendants, and a prattling child with them; but, with the first glance at it from afar, the great chieftain trembles, and begins to clasp his armour. He could think of them and doom them, in his over-mastering passion of revenge, with its heroic infinity of mastery triumphant in him,—he could think of them and doom them; but the impressions of the senses are more vivid, and the passions wait on them. As that group draws nearer, one sees, by the light of this Poet's painting, a fair young matron, with subdued mien and modest graces, and an elder one, leading a wilful boy, with a 'confirmed countenance,' pattering by her side; just such a group as one might see anywhere in the lordly streets of Palatinus,—much such a one as one might find anywhere under those thousand-doomed plebeian roofs.
But to this usurping 'private,' to this man of passion and affection, and not reason—this man of private and particular motives only, and blind partial aims, it is more potent than Rome and all her claims; it outweighs Rome and all her weal—'it is worth of senators and patricians a city full, of tribunes and plebeians a sea and land full'—it outweighs all the Volscians, and their trust in him.
His reasons of state begin to falter, and change their aspects, as that little party draws nearer; and he finds himself within its magnetic sphere.
For this is the pattern-man, for the man of mere impression and instinct. He is full of feeling within his sphere, though it is a sphere which does not embrace plebeians,—which crushes Volscians with clarions, and drums, and trumpets, and poets' voices to utter its exultations. Within that private sphere, his sensibilities are exquisite and poetic in their depth and delicacy. He is not wanting in the finer impulses, in the nobler affections of the particular and private nature. He is not a base, brutal man. Even in his martial conquests, he will not take 'leaden spoons.' His soul is with a divine ambition fired to have all. It is instinct, but it is the instinct of the human; it is 'conservation with advancement' that he is blindly pursuing, for this is a generous nature. He knows the heights that reason lends to instinct in the human kind, and the infinities that affection borrows from it.
And the Poet himself has large and gentle views of 'this particular,' scientific views of it, scientific recognitions of its laws, such as no philosophic school was ever before able to pronounce. Even here, on this sad and tragic ground of a subdued and debased common-weal, he will not cramp its utterance—he will give it leave to speak, in all its tenderness and beauty, in its own sweet native dialect, all its poetic wildness, its mad verities, its sober impossibilities, even at the moment in which he asks in statesmanship for the rational motive, undrenched in humours and affections—for the motive of the weal that is common, and not for the motive of that which is private and exclusive.
In vain the hero struggles with his yielding passion, and seeks to retain it. In vain he struggles with a sentiment which he himself describes as 'a gosling's instinct,' and seeks to subdue it. In vain he rallies his pride, and says, 'Let it be virtuous to be obstinate'; and determines to stand 'as if a man were author of himself, and knew no other kin.' His mother kneels. It is but a frail, aged woman kneeling to the victorious chieftain of the Volscian hosts; but to him it is 'as if Olympus to a mole-hill stooped in supplication.' His boy looks at him with an eye in which great Nature speaks, and says, 'Deny not'; he sees the tears in the dove's eyes of the beloved, he hears her dewy voice; we hear it, too, through the Poet's art, in the words she speaks; and he forgets his part. We reach the 'grub' once more. The dragon wings of armies melt from him. He is his young boy's father—he is his fair young wife's beloved.
'O a kiss, long as my exile, sweet as my revenge.'
There's no decision yet. The scales are even now. But there is another there, waiting to be saluted, and he himself is but a boy—his own mother's boy again, at her feet. It is she that schools and lessons him; it is she that conquers him. It was 'her boy,' after all—it was her boy still, that was 'coming home.'
Well might Menenius say—
'This Volumnia is worth of consuls, senators, patricians, A city full; of tribunes such as you, A sea and land full.'
But let us take the philosophic report of this experiment as we find it; for on the carefullest study, when once it is put in its connections, when once we 'have heard the argument,' we shall not find anything in it to spare. But we must not forget that this is still 'the election,' the ignorant election of the common-weal which is under criticism, and though this election has been revoked in the play already, and this is a banished man we are trying here, there was a play in progress when this play was played, in which that revocation was yet to come off; and this Poet was anxious that the subject should be considered first from the most comprehensive grounds, so that the principle of 'the election' need never again be called in question, so that the revolution should end in the state, and not in the principle of revolution.
'My wife comes foremost; then the honoured mould Wherein this trunk was framed, and in her hand The grand-child to her blood. But, out, affection! All bond and privilege of nature, break! Let it be virtuous to be obstinate.— What is that curtsey worth? or those doves' eyes, Which can make gods forsworn?
['He speaks of the people as if he were a god to punish, and not a man of infirmity.']
'I melt, and am not Of STRONGER EARTH than others.—My mother bows; As if Olympus to a molehill should In supplication nod: and my young boy Hath an aspect of intercession, which Great Nature cries, 'Deny not!'—Let the Volsces Plough Rome, and harrow Italy; I'll never Be such a GOSLING to obey INSTINCT; but stand, As if a MAN were author of himself, And knew no other kin. These eyes are not the same I wore in Rome.
Vir. The sorrow that delivers us thus changed, Makes you think so.
[The objects are altered, not the eyes. We are changed. But it is with sorrow. She bids him note that alteration, and puts upon it the blame of his loss of love. But that is just the kind of battery he is not provided for. His resolution wavers. That unrelenting warrior, that fierce revengeful man is gone already, and forgot to leave his part—the words he was to speak are wanting.]
Cor. Like a dull actor now, I have forgot my part, and I am out, Even to a full disgrace. Best of my flesh, Forgive my tyranny; but do not say, For that, Forgive our Romans.—O, a kiss Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge! Now by the jealous queen of heaven, that kiss I carried from thee, dear; and my true lip Hath virgin'd it e'er since.—You gods! I prate, And the most noble mother of the world Leave unsaluted: Sink, my knee, t'the earth; [Kneels.] Of the deep duty more impression show Than that of common sons.
Vol. O, stand up bless'd! Whilst, with no softer cushion than the flint, I kneel before thee; and unproperly Show duty, as mistaken—
[Note it—'as mistaken,' for this is the kind of learning described elsewhere, which differs from received opinions, and must, therefore, pray in aid of similes.]
—and improperly Show DUTY, as mistaken all the while Between the child and parent.
[And the prostrate form of that which should command, is represented in the kneeling mother. The Poet himself points us to this hieroglyphic. It is the common-weal that kneels in her person, and the rebel interprets for us. It is the violated law that stoops for pardon.]
Cor. What is this? Your knees to me? to your corrected son? Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach Fillip the stars; then let the mutinous winds Strike the proud cedars 'gainst the fiery sun; Murdering impossibility, to make What cannot be, slight work.
Vol. Thou art my warrior; I holp to frame thee.
[But it is not of the little Marcius only, the hero—the Roman hero in germ—that she speaks—there is more than her Roman part here, when she adds—]
Vol. This is a poor epitome of yours, Which by the interpretation of full time May show, like all, yourself.
[And hear now what benediction the true hero can dare to utter, what prayer the true hero can dare to pray, through this faltering, fluctuating, martial hero's lips, when, 'that whatsoever god who led him' is failing him, and the flaws of impulse are swaying him to and fro, and darkening him for ever.]
Cor. 'The god of soldiers With the consent of SUPREME JOVE,'—[the Capitolian, the god of state]—'inform Thy thoughts with NOBLENESS;'—[inform thy thoughts.] 'that thou may'st prove The shame unvulnerable, and stick i'the wars Like a great sea-mark, standing every flaw, And saving those that eye thee.'
[But this hero's conclusion for himself, and his impulsive nature is—]
'Not of a woman's tenderness to be, Requires nor child, nor woman's face to see. I have sat too long.'
But the mother will not let him go, and her stormy eloquence completes the conquest which that dumb rhetoric had before well nigh achieved.
Yes, Menenius was right in his induction. His abstraction and brief summing up of 'this Volumnia' and her history, is the true one. She is very potent in the business of the state, whether you take her in her first literal acceptation, as the representative mother, or whether you take her in that symbolical and allusive comprehension, to which the emphasis on the name is not unfrequently made to point, as 'the nurse and mother of all humanities,' the instructor of the state, the former of its nobility, who in-forms their thoughts with nobleness, such nobleness, and such notions of it as they have, and who fits them for the place they are to occupy in the body of the common-weal.
Menenius has not exaggerated in his exposition the relative importance of this figure among those which the dumb-show of this play exhibits. Among the 'transient hieroglyphics' which the diseased common-weal produces on the scientific stage, when the question of its CURE is the question of the Play—in that great crowd of forms, in that moving, portentous, stormy pageant of senators, and consuls, and tribunes, and plebeians, whose great acts fill the scene—there are none more significant than these two, whom we saw at first 'seated on two low stools, sewing'; these two of the wife and mother—the commanding mother, and the 'gracious silence.'
'This Volumnia'—yes, let her school him, for it is from her school that he has come: let her conquer him, for she is the conserver of this harm. It is she who makes of it a tradition. To its utmost bound of consequences, she is the mother of it, and accountable to God and man for its growth and continuance. Consuls, and senators, and patricians, and tribunes, such as we have, are powerless without her, are powerless against her. The state begins with her; but, instead of it, she has bred and nursed the destroyer of the state. Let her conquer him, though her life-blood must flow for it now. This play is the Cure of the Common-weal, the convulsed and dying Common-weal; and whether the assault be from within or without, this woman must undo her work. The tribunes have sent for her now: she must go forth without shrinking, and slay her son. She was the true mother; she trained him for the common-weal, she would have made a patrician of him, but that craved a noble cunning; she was not instructed in it; she must pay the penalty of her ignorance—the penalty of her traditions—and slay him now. There is no help for it, for she has made with her traditions a thing that no common-weal can bear.
Woe for this Volumnia! Woe for the common-weal whose chiefs she has reared, whose great men and 'GOOD CITIZENS' she has made! Woe for her! Woe for the common-weal, for her boy approaches! The land is groaning and shaken; the faces of men gather blackness; the clashing of arms is heard in the streets, blood is flowing, the towns are blazing. Great Rome will soon be sacked with Romans, for her boy is coming home; the child of her instinct, the son of her ignorance, the son of her RELIGION, is coming home.
'O mother, mother! What hast thou done?.... O my mother, mother! O, You have won a happy victory to Rome,— But for your son—'
Alas for him, and his gentle blood, and noble breeding, and his patrician greatness! Woe for the unlearned mother's son, who has made him great with such a training, that Rome's weal and his, Rome's greatness and his, must needs contend together—that 'Rome's happy victory' must needs be the blaze that shall darken him for ever!
Yet he storms again, with something like his old patrician fierceness; and yet not that, the tone is altered; he is humbler and tamer than he was, and he says himself, 'It is the first time that ever I have learned to scold'; but he is stung, even to boasting of his old heroic deeds, when Aufidius taunts him with his un-martial, un-divine infirmity, and brings home to him in very words, at last, the Poet's suppressed verdict, the Poet's deferred sentence, GUILTY!—of what? He is but A BOY, his nurse's boy, and he undertook the state! He is but A SLAVE, and he was caught climbing to the imperial chair, and putting on the purple. He is but 'a dog to the commonalty,' and he was sitting in the place of God.
Aufidius owns, indeed, to his own susceptibility to these particular and private affections. When Coriolanus turns to him after that appeal from Volumnia has had its effect, and asks:—
'Now, good Aufidius, Were you in my stead, say, would you have heard A mother less, or granted less, Aufidius?'
He answers, guardedly, 'I was moved withal.' But the philosopher has his word there, too, as well as the Poet, slipped in under the Poet's, covertly, 'I was moved with-all.' [It is the Play of the Common-weal.] And what should the single private man, the man of exclusive affections and changeful humours, do with the weal of the whole? In his noblest conditions, what business has he in the state? and who shall vote to give him the out-stretched wings and claws of Volscian armies, that he may say of Rome, all's mine, and give it to his wife or mother? Who shall follow in his train, to plough Rome and harrow Italy, who lays himself and all his forces at his mother's feet, and turns back at her word?
Aufidius. You lords and HEADS of the STATE, perfidiously Has he betrayed your business, and given up For certain drops of salt, your city Rome— I say, your city—to his wife and mother: Breaking his oath and resolution like A twist of rotten silk; never admitting Counsel of the war, but at his nurse's tears He whined and roar'd away your victory, That pages blushed at him, and men of heart Looked wondering at each other.
[There is a look which has come down to us. That is Elizabethan. That is the suppressed Elizabethan.]
Cor. Hear'st thou, Mars?
Auf. Name not the god thou Boy of tears.
Auf. No MORE. [You are no more.]
Cor. Measureless liar, thou hast made my heart Too great for what contains it. Boy? O Slave! .... Boy? False hound!
[These are the names that are flying about here, now that the martial chiefs are criticising each other: it is no matter which side they go.]
'Boy? O slave! ... Boy? False hound! ['He is a very dog to the commonalty.'] Alone I did it. BOY?
But it is Volumnia herself who searches to the quick the principle of this boyish sovereignty, in her satire on the undivine passion she wishes to unseat. It is thus that she upbraids the hero with his unmanly, ungracious, ignoble purpose:—
'Speak to me, son.
Thou hast affected the fine strains of HONOUR, To imitate the graces of the gods; To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o' the air, And yet to charge thy sulphur with a bolt That should but rive an oak. Why dost not speak? Think'st thou it honourable for a NOBLE MAN Still to remember wrongs?
For that is the height of the scientific affirmation also; the other was, in scientific language, its 'anticipation.' He wants nothing of a god but an eternity, and a heaven to throne in (slight deficiences in a god already). 'Yes, mercy, if you paint him truly.' 'I paint him in character.'
NOBILITY, HONOUR, MANLINESS, HEROISM, GOOD CITIZENSHIP, FREEDOM, DIVINITY, PATRIOTISM. We are getting a number of definitions here, vague popular terms, scientifically fixed, scientifically cleared, destined to waver, and be confused and mixed with other and fatally different things in the popular apprehension no more—when once this science is unfolded for that whole people for whom it was delivered—no more for ever.
There is no open dramatic embodiment in this play of the true ideal nobility, and manliness, and honour, and divinity. This is the false affirmation which is put upon the stage here, to be tried, and examined, and rejected. For it is to this Poet's purpose to show—and very much to his purpose to show, sometimes—what is not the true affirmation. His method is critical, but his rejection contains the true definition. The whole play is contrived to shape it here; all hands combine to frame it. Volscians and Romans conspire to pronounce it; the world is against this 'one man' and his part-liness, though he be indeed 'every man.' He himself has been compelled to pronounce it; for the speaker for the whole is the speaker in each of us, and pronounces his sentences on ourselves with our own lips. 'Being gentle wounded craves a noble cunning,' is the word of the noble, who comes back with a Volscian army to exhibit upon the stage this grand hieroglyphic, this grand dramatic negative of that nobility.
But it is from the lips of the mother, brought into this deadly antagonism with the manliness she has trained, compelled now to echo that popular rejection, that the Poet can venture to speak out, at last, from the depths of his true heroism. It is this Volumnia who strikes now to the heart of the play with her satire on this affectation of the graces of the gods,—this assumption of nobility, and manliness, and the fine strains of honour,—in one who is led only by the blind demon gods, 'that keep this dreadful pother o'er our heads,'—in one who is bounded and shut in after all to the range of his own poor petty private passions, shut up to a poverty of soul which forbids those assumptions, limited to a nature in which those strictly human terms can be only affectations, one who concentrates all his glorious special human gifts on the pursuit of ends for which the lower natures are also furnished. Honour, forsooth! the fine strains of honour, and the graces of the gods. Look at that Volscian army there.
'To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o' the air, And yet to charge thy sulphur with a bolt That should but rive an oak. Why dost not speak?'
He can not. There is no speech for that. It does not bear review.
'Why dost not speak? Think'st thou it honourable for a noble man Still to remember wrongs?'
'Let it be virtuous to be obstinate,' let there be no better principle of that identity which we insist on in men, that firmness which we call manliness, and the cherished wrong is honour.
It is but an interrogative point, but the height of our affirmation is taken with it. It is a figure of speech and intensifies the affirmative with its irony.
'This a consul? No.'
'No more, but e'en a woman, and COMMANDED By such poor passion as the maid that milks, And does the meanest chares.' [QUEEN.]
'Give me that man that is not passion's slave.
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice, And could of men distinguish her election, She hath seal'd thee for herself: for thou hast been As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing.
But the man who rates so highly 'this single mould of Marcius,' and the wounded name of it, that he will forge another for it 'i' the fire of burning Rome,' who will hurt the world to ease the rankling of his single wrong, who will plough Rome and harrow Italy to cool the fever of his thirst for vengeance; this is not the man, this is not the hero, this is not THE GOD, that the scientific review accepts. Whoso has put him in the chair of state on earth, or in heaven, must 'revoke that ignorant election.' Whatever our 'perfect example in civil life' may be, and we are, perhaps, not likely to get it openly in the form of an historic 'composition' on this author's stage, whatever name and shape it may take when it comes, this evidently is not it. This Caius Marcius is dismissed for the present from this Poet's boards. This curule chair that stands here empty yet, for aught that we can see, and this crown of 'olives of endless age,' is not for him.
'Would you proceed especially against Caius Marcius? Against him first.
'We proceed first by negatives, and conclude after every species of rejection.'
On the surface of this play, lies everywhere the question of the Common-Weal, in its relation to the good that is private and particular, scientifically reviewed, as a question in proportion,—as the question of the whole against the part,—of the greater against the less,—nay, as the question of that which is against that which is not. For it is a treatment which throws in passing, the shadow of the old metaphysical suspicion and scepticism on that chaotic unaxiomatical condition of things which the scientific eye discovers here, for the new philosophy with all its new comprehension of the actual, with all its new convergency on practice, is careful to inform us that it observes, notwithstanding the old distinction between 'being and becoming.' This is an IDEAL philosophy also, though the notions of nature are more respected in it, than the spontaneous unconsidered notions of men.
It is the largeness of the objective whole, the historic whole and the faculty in man of comprehending it, and the sense of relation and obligation to it, as the highest historic law,—the formal, the essential law of kind in him, it is the breadth of reason, it is the circumference of conscience, it is the grandeur of duty which this author arrays here scientifically against that oblivion and ignoring of the whole, that forgetfulness of the world, and the universal tie which the ignorance of the unaided sense and the narrowness of passion and private affection create, whether in the one, or the few, or the many. It is the Weal of the whole against the will of the part, no matter where the limit of that partiality, or 'partliness,' as the 'poor citizen' calls it, is fixed whether it be the selfishness of the single self, or whether the household tie enlarges its range, whether it be the partiality of class or faction, or the partiality of kindred or race, or the partiality of geographic limits, the question of the play, the question of the whole, of the worthier whole, is still pursued with scientific exaction. It is the conflict with axioms which is represented here, and not with wordy axioms only, not with abstractions good for the human mind only, in its abstract self-sustained speculations, but with historical axioms, axioms which the universal nature knows, laws which have had the consent of things since this nature began, laws which passed long ago the universal commons.
It is the false unscientific state which is at war, not with abstract speculation merely, but with the nature of things and the received logic of the universe, which this man of a practical science wishes to call attention to. It is the crowning and enthroning of that which is private and particular, it is the anointing of passion and instinct, it is the arming of the absolute—the demon—will; it is the putting into the hands of the ignorant part the sceptre of the whole, which strikes the scientific Reviewer as the thing to be noted here. And by way of proceeding by negatives first, he undertakes to convey to others the impression which this state of things makes upon his own mind, as pointedly as may be, consistently with those general intentions which determine his proceedings and the conditions which limit them, and he is by no means timid in availing himself of the capabilities of his story to that end. The true spectacle of the play,—the principal hieroglyphic of it,—the one in which this hieroglyphic criticism approaches the metaphysical intention most nearly, is one that requires interpretation. It does not report itself to the eye at once. The showman stops to tell us before he produces it, that it is a symbol,—that this is one of the places where he 'prays in aid of similes,'—that this is a specimen of what he calls elsewhere 'allusive' writing. The true spectacle of the play,—the grand hieroglyphic of it,—is that view of the city, and the woman in the foreground kneeling for it, 'to her son, her corrected son,' begging for pardon of her corrected rebel—hanging for life on the chance of his changeful moods and passions. It is Rome that lies stretched out there upon her hills, in all her visible greatness and claims to reverence; it is Rome with her Capitolian crown, forth from which the Roman matron steps, and with no softer cushion than the flint, in the dust at the rebel's feet, kneels 'to show'—as she tells us—to show as clearly as the conditions of the exhibition allow it to be exhibited, DUTY as mistaken,—'as mistaken,'—all the while between the child and parent.
It is Jupiter that stoops; it is Olympus doing obeisance to the mole-hill; it is the divineness of the universal law—the formal law in man—that is prostrate and suppliant in her person; and the Poet exhausts even his own powers of expression, and grows inarticulate at last, in seeking to convey his sense of this ineffable, impossible, historical pretension. It is as 'if Olympus to a mole-hill should in supplication nod; it is as if the pebbles on the hungry beach should fillip the stars; as if the mutinous winds should strike the proud cedars against the fiery sun, murdering impossibility, to make what can not be, slight work,'—what can not be.
That was the spectacle of the play, and that was the world's spectacle when the play was written. Nay, worse; a thousandfold more wild and pitiful, and confounding to the intellect, and revolting to its sensibilities, was the spectacle that the State offered then to the philosophic eye. The Poet has all understated his great case. He has taken the pattern-man in the private affections, the noble man of mere instinct and passion, and put him in the chair of state;—the man whom nature herself had chosen and anointed, and crowned with kingly graces.
'As waves before a vessel under sail So men obeyed him, and fell below his stern,'
'If he would but incline to the people, there never was a worthier man.'
Not to the natural private affections and instincts, touched with the nobility of human sense,—not to the loyalty of the husband,—not to the filial reverence and duty of the son, true to that private and personal relationship at least; not to the gentleness of the patrician, true to that private patricianship also, must England owe her weal—such weal as she could beg and wheedle from her lord and ruler then. Not from the conquering hero with his fresh oakleaf on his brow, and the command of the god who led him in his speech and action,—and not from his lineal successor merely, must England beg her welfare then. It was not the venerable mother, or the gentle wife, with her dove's eyes able to make gods of earth forsworn, who could say then, 'The laws of England are at my commandment.'
Crimes that the historic pen can only point to,—not record,—low, illiterate, brutish stupidities, mad-cap folly, and wanton extravagancies and caprices, in their ideal impersonations—these were the gods that England, in the majesty of her State, in the sovereignty of her chartered weal, must abase herself to then. To the vices of tyranny, to low companions and their companions, and their kindred, the State must cringe and kneel then. To these,—men who meddled with affairs of State,—who took, even at such a time, the State to be their business,—must address themselves; for these were the councils in which England's peace and war were settled then, and the Tribune could enter them only in disguise. His veto could not get spoken outright, it could only be pronounced in under-tones and circumlocutions. Not with noble, eloquent, human appeals, could the soul of power be reached and conquered then—the soul of him 'within whose eyes sat twenty thousand deaths,' the man of the thirty legions, to whom this argument must be dedicated. 'Ducking observances,' basest flatteries, sycophancies past the power of man to utter, personal humiliations, and prostrations that seemed to teach 'the mind a most inherent baseness,' these were the weapons,—the required weapons of the statesman's warfare then. From these 'dogs of the commonalty' men who were indeed 'noble,' whose 'fame' did indeed 'fold in the orb o' the world,' must take then, as a purchase or a gift, deliverance from physical restraint, and life itself. These were the days when England's victories were 'blubbered and whined away,' in such a sort, that 'pages blushed at it, and men of heart looked wondering at each other.'
And, when science began first to turn her eye on history, and propose to herself the relief of the human estate, as her end, and the scientific arts as her means, this was the spectacle she found herself expected to endure; this was the state of things she found herself called upon to sanction and conserve. She could not immediately reform it—she must produce first her doctrine of 'true forms,' her scientific definitions and precepts based on them, and her doctrine of constructions. She could not openly condemn it; but she could criticise and reject it by means of that method which is 'sometimes necessary in the sciences,' and to which 'those who would let in new light upon the human mind must have recourse.' She could seize the grand hieroglyphic of the heroic past, and make it 'point with its finger' that which was unspeakable,—her scorn of it. She could borrow the freedom of the old Roman lips, to repronounce, in her own new dialect,—not their anticipation of her veto only, but her eternal affirmation,—the word of her consulship, the rule of her nobility,—the nobility of being,—being in the human,—the nobility of manliness,—the divinity of State, the true doctrine of it;—and, to speak truly, 'Antiquitas seculi, juventus mundi.'
'I do not like the fashion of your garments. You will say they are Persian attire; but let them be changed.'— The King to Tom o' Bedlam.
'Would you proceed especially against Caius Marcius? Against him first.'
It is the cure of the Common-weal which this author has undertaken, for he found himself pre-elected to the care of the people and to the world's tribuneship. But he handles his subject in the natural, historical order, in the chronological order,—and not here only, but in that play of which this is a part,—of which this is the play within the Play,—in that grand, historical proceeding on the world's theatre, which it was given to the author of this play to institute.
He begins with the physical wants of men. The hunger, and cold, and weariness, and all the physical suffering and destitution of that human condition which is the condition of the many, has arrested his human eye, with its dumb, patient eloquence, and it is that which makes the starting point of his revolution. He translates its mute language, he anticipates its word. He is setting in movement operations that are intended to make 'coals cheap'; he proposes to have corn at his own price. He has so much confidence in what his tongue can do in the way of flattery, that he expects to come back beloved of all the trades in Rome. He will 'cog their hearts from them,' and get elected consul yet, with all their voices.
'Scribbling seems to be the sign of a disordered age,' says the philosopher, who finds so much occasion for the use of that art about these days. 'It seems as if it were the season for vain things when the hurtful oppress us; in a time when doing ill is common, to do nothing but what signifies nothing is a kind of commendation. 'Tis my comfort that I shall be one of the last that are called in question; and, whilst the greater offenders are calling to account, I shall have leisure to amend; for it would be unreasonable to punish the less troublesome, whilst we are infested with the greater. As the physician said to one who presented him his finger to dress, and who, he perceived, had an ulcer in his lungs, "Friend," said he, "it is not now time to concern yourself about your fingers-ends". And yet—[and yet]—I saw, some years ago, a person whose name and memory I have in very great esteem, in the very height of our great disorders, when there was neither law nor justice put in execution, nor magistrate that performed his office—no more than there is now—publish, I know not what pitiful reformations, about clothes, cookery, and law chicanery. These are amusements wherewith to feed a people that are ill-used, to show that they are not totally forgotten.'
That is the account of it. That is the history of this innovation, beginning with books, proposing pitiful reformations in clothes, and cookery, and law chicanery. That would serve to show an ill-used people that there was some care for them stirring, some tribuneship at work already. 'What I say of physic generally, may serve AS AN EXAMPLE OF ALL OTHER SCIENCES,' says this same scribbler, under his scribbling cognomen. 'We certainly intend to comprehend them all,' says the graver authority, 'such as Ethics, Politics, and Logic.'
That is, where we are exactly in this so entertaining performance, which was also designed for the benefit of an ill-used people; for this candidate for the chief magistracy is the Aedile also, and while he stands for his place these spectacles will continue.
It is that physical suffering of 'the poor citizens' that he begins with here. It is the question of the price of corn with which he opens his argument. The dumb and patient people are on his stage already; dumb and patient no longer, but clamoring against the surfeiting and wild wanton waste of the few; clamoring for their share in God's common gifts to men, and refusing to take any longer the portion which a diseased state puts down for them. But he tells us from the outset, that this claim will be prosecuted in such a manner as to 'throw forth greater themes for insurrection's arguing.'
Though all the wretched poor were clothed and fed with imperial treasure, with imperial luxury and splendour—though all the arts which are based on the knowledge of physical causes should be put in requisition to relieve their need—though the scientific discoveries and inventions which are pouring in upon human life from that field of scientific inquiry which our men of science have already cultivated their golden harvests, should reach at last poor Tom himself—though that scientific movement now in progress should proceed till it has reached the humblest of our human kin, and surrounded him with all the goods of the private and particular nature, with the sensuous luxuries and artistic elegancies and refinements of the lordliest home—that good which is the distinctive human good, that good which is the constitutional human end, that good, that formal and essential good, which it is the end of this philosophy to bring to man, would not necessarily be realised.
For that, and nothing short of that, the 'advancement' of the species to that which it is blindly reaching for, painfully groping for—its form in nature, its ideal perfection—the advancement of it to something more noble than the nobility of a nobler kind of vermin—a state which involves another kind of individual growth and greatness, one which involves a different, a distinctively 'human principle' and tie of congregation, is that which makes the ultimate intention of this philosophy.
The organization of that large, complex, difficult form in nature, in which the many are united in 'the greater congregation'; that more extensive whole, of which the units are each, not simple forms, but the complicated, most highly complex, and not yet subdued complexity, which the individual form of man in itself constitutes; this so difficult result of nature's combinations and her laws of combination, labouring, struggling towards its consummation, but disordered, threatened, convulsed, asking aid of art, is the subject; the cure of it, the cure and healthful regimen of it, the problem.
And it is a born doctor who has taken it in hand this time; one of your natural geniuses, with an inward vocation for the art of healing, instructed of nature beforehand in that mystery and profession, and appointed of her to that ministry. Wherever you find him, under whatever disguise, you will find that his mind is running on the structure of bodies, the means of their conservation and growth, and the remedies for their disorders, and decays, and antagonisms, without and within. He has a most extraordinary and incurable natural bent and determination towards medicine and cures in general; he is always inquiring into the anatomy of things and the qualities of drugs, analysing them and mixing them, finding the art of their compounds, and modifying them to suit his purposes, or inventing new ones; for, like Aristotle, to whom he refers for a precedent, he wishes 'to have a hand in everything.'
But he is not a quack. He has no respect for the old authoritative prescriptions, if they fail in practice, whether they come in Galen's name, or another's; but he is just as severe upon 'the empiricutics,' on the other hand, and he objects to 'a horse-drench' for the human constitution in the greater congregation, as much as he does in that distinctively complex delicate structure which the single individual human frame in itself constitutes.
Menenius [speaking of the letter which Volumnia has told him of, and putting in a word on this Doctor's behalf, for it is not very much to the purpose on his own] says, 'It gives me an estate of seven years' health, during which time I will make a lip at the physician.' A lip—a lip—and 'what a deal of scorn looks beautiful on it,' when once you get to see it. But this is the play of 'conservation with advancement.' It is the cure and preservation of the common-weal, to which all lines are tending, to which all points and parentheses are pointing; and thus he continues: 'The most sovereign prescription in Galen is but empiricutic, and to this preservative of no better report than a horse-drench.' So we shall find, when we come to try it—this preservative,—this conservation.
This Doctor has a great opinion of nature. He thinks that 'the physician must rely on her powers for his cures in the last resort, and be able to make prescriptions of them, instead of making them out of his own pre-conceits, if he would not have of his cure a conceit also.' His opinion is, that 'nature is made better by no mean, but she herself hath made that mean;'—
'So o'er that art Which you say adds to nature, is an art That nature makes... ...This is an art Which does mend nature, change it rather: but The art itself is nature.'
That is the Poet's view, but the Philosopher is of the same opinion. 'Man while operating can only apply or withdraw natural bodies, nature internally performs the rest.' Those who become practically versed in nature are the mechanic, the mathematician, the alchemist, and the magician, but all, as matters now stand with faint efforts and meagre success.'... 'The syllogism forces assent and not things.'
'The subtlety of nature is far beyond that of sense or of the understanding. The syllogism consists of propositions, these of words, words are the signs of notions, notions represent things. If our notions are fantastical, the whole structure falls to the ground; but they are for the most part improperly abstracted and deduced from things.'
There is the whole of it; there it is in a nut-shell. As we are very apt to find it in this method of delivery by aphorisms; there is the shell of it at least. And considering 'the torture and press of the method,' and the instruments of torture then in use for correcting the press, on these precise questions, there is as much of the kernel, perhaps, as could reasonably be looked for, in those particular aphorisms; and 'aphorisms representing a knowledge broken, do invite men to inquire further;' so this writer of them tells us.
With all his reliance on nature then, and with all his scorn of the impracticable and arrogant conceits of learning as he finds it, and of the quackeries that are practised in its name, this is no empiric. He will not approach that large, complex, elaborate combination of nature, that laboured fruit of time,—her most subtle and efficacious agent, so prolific in results that amaze and confound our art, —he will not approach this great structure with all its unperceived interior adaptations,—with so much of nature's own work in it, —hehas too much respect for her own 'cunning hand,' to approach it without learning,—to undertake its cure with blind ignorant experiments. He will not go to work in the dark on this structure, with drug or surgery. This is going to be a scientific cure. 'Before we proceed any further, hear me speak.' He will inquire beforehand the nature of this particular structure that he proposes to meddle with, and get its normal state defined at the outset. But that will take him into the question of structures in general, as they appear in nature, and the intention of nature in them. He will have a comparative anatomy to help him. This analysis will not stop with the social unit, he will analyze him. It will not stop with him. It will comprehend the principles of all combinations. He will not stop in his analysis of this complexity till he comes to that which precedes all combination, and survives it—the original simplicity of nature. He will come to this cure armed with the universal 'simples;' he will have all the original powers of nature, 'which are not many,' in his hands, to begin with; and he will have more than that. He will have the doctrine of their combinations, not in man only, but in all the kinds;—those despised kinds, that claim such close relationship— such wondrous relationship with man; and he will not go to the primitive instinctive nature only for his knowledge on this point. He will inquire of art,—the empiric art,—and rude accident, what latent efficacies they have detected in her, what churlish secrets of hers they have wrung from her. You will find the gardener's and the farmer's reports, and not the physician's and the surgeon's only, inserted in his books of policy and ethics. The 'nettles' theory of the rights of private life, and his policy of foreign relationships, appears to this learned politician to strengthen his case a little, and the pertinacious refusal of the 'old crab trees' to lend their organizations, such as they are, to the fructification of a bud of nobler kind, is quoted with respect as a decision of nature in another court, on this same question, which is one of the questions here. For the principle of conservation as well as the other principles of the human conduct, appears to this philosopher to require a larger treatment than our men of learning have given it hitherto.
And this is the man of science who takes so much pains to acknowledge his preference for 'good compositions'—who thinks so much of good natural compositions and their virtues, who is always expressing or betraying his respect for the happy combinations, the sound results, the luxuriant and beautiful varieties with which nature herself illustrates the secret of her fertility, and publishes her own great volume of examples in the Arts.
First it is the knowledge of the simple forms into which all the variety of nature is convertible, the definitions which account for all—that which is always the same in all the difference, that which is always permanent in all the change; first it is the doctrine of 'those simple original forms, or differences of things, which like the alphabet are not many, the degrees and co-ordinations whereof make all this variety,' and then it is the doctrine of their combinations,—the combinations which nature has herself accomplished, those which the arts have accomplished, and those which are possible, which have not been accomplished,—those which the universal nature working in the human, working in each, from the platform of the human, from that height in her ascending scale of species, dictates now, demands,—divinely orders,—divinely instructs us in.