Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: The Germ (1901 Facsimile Reprint, issue 3)
Editor: William Michael Rossetti
Date of publication: 1901
Publisher: Elliot Stock
Issue: 3

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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Editorial Note (page ornament): An ornamental border frames all the text except the printer's name (G.F. Tupper), which lies just beneath it.
No. 3. ( Price One Shilling.)

MARCH, 1850.

With an Etching by F. Madox Brown.

Art and Poetry:

Being Thoughts towards Nature

Conducted principally by Artists.

  • When whoso merely hath a little thought
  • Will plainly think the thought which is in him,—
  • Not imaging another's bright or dim,
  • Not mangling with new words what others taught;
  • When whoso speaks, from having either sought
  • Or only found,—will speak, not just to skim
  • A shallow surface with words made and trim,
  • But in that very speech the matter brought:
  • Be not too keen to cry—“So this is all!—
  • 10A thing I might myself have thought as well,
  • But would not say it, for it was not worth!”
  • Ask: “Is this truth?” For is it still to tell
  • That, be the theme a point or the whole earth,
  • Truth is a circle, perfect, great or small?





G.F Tupper, Printer, Clement's Lane, Lombard Street.

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  • Cordelia— W. M. Rossetti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
  • Macbeth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
  • Repining.— Ellen Alleyn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
  • Sweet Death— Ellen Alleyn . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
  • Subject in Art, No. II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118
  • Carillon.— Dante G. Rossetti. . . . . . . . . . . . 126
  • Emblems.— Thomas Woolner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
  • Sonnet.— W. B. Scott . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128
  • From the Cliffs.— Dante G. Rossetti . . . . . . . . 129
  • Fancies at Leisure.— W. M. Rossetti . . . . . . . . 129
  • Papers of “The M. S. Society,” Nos. I. II. & III . . . 131
  • Review, Sir Reginald Mohun.— W.M. Rossetti . . . . . 137

The Subscribers to this Work are respectfully informed

that the future Numbers will appear on the last day of the

Month for which they are dated. Also, that a supplementary,

or large-sized Etching will occasionally be given (as with the

present Number.)
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Note: blank page; verso of etching.
Image of page [iv] page: [iv]
Note: This page is an oversized fold-out.



Figure: Etching by Ford Madox Brown. Cordelia, (at right) lead away by France, points back toward Goneril and Regan (at left). Monogram in lower left corner. Image printed in landscape as a foldout.

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Sig. G
  • “The jewels of our father, with washed eyes
  • Cordelia leaves you. I know you what you are
  • And, like a sister, am most loth to tell
  • Your faults, as they are named. Use well our father:
  • To your professed bosoms I commit him.
  • But yet, alas!—stood I within his grace,
  • I would prefer him to a better place.
  • So farewell to you both.”

  • Cordelia, unabashed and strong,
  • Her voice's quite scarcely less
  • Than yester-eve, enduring wrong
  • And curses of her father's tongue,
  • Departs, a righteous-souled princess;
  • Bidding her sisters cherish him.
  • They turn on her and fix their eyes,
  • But cease not passing inward;—one
  • Sneering with lips still curled to lies,
  • 10Sinuous of body, serpent-wise;
  • Her footfall creeps, and her looks shun
  • The very thing on which they dwell.
  • The other, proud, with heavy cheeks
  • And massive forehead, where remains
  • A mark of frowning. If she seeks
  • With smiles to tame her eyes, or speaks,
  • Her mouth grows wanton: she disdains
  • The ground with haughty, measured steps.
  • The silent years had grown between
  • 20Father and daughter. Always she
  • Had waited on his will, and been
  • Foremost in doing it,—unseen
  • Often: she wished him not to see,
  • But served him for his sake alone.
  • He saw her constant love; and, tho'
  • Occasion surely was not scant,
  • Perhaps had never sought to know
  • How she could give it wording. So
  • His love, not stumbling at a want,
  • 30Among the three preferred her first.
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  • Her's is the soul not stubborn, yet
  • Asserting self. The heart was rich;
  • But, questioned, she had rather let
  • Men judge her conscious of a debt
  • Than freely giving: thus, her speech
  • Is love according to her bond.
  • In France the queen Cordelia had
  • Her hours well satisfied with love:
  • She loved her king, too, and was glad:
  • 40And yet, at times, a something sad,
  • May be, was with her, thinking of
  • The manner of his life at home.
  • But this does not usurp her mind.
  • It is but sorrow guessed from far
  • Thro' twilight dimly. She must find
  • Her duty elsewhere: not resigned—
  • Because she knows them what they are,
  • Yet scarcely ruffled from her peace.
  • Cordelia—a name well revered;
  • 50Synonymous with truth and tried
  • Affection; which but needs be heard
  • To raise one selfsame thought endeared
  • To men and women far and wide;
  • A name our mothers taught to us.
  • Like placid faces which you knew
  • Years since, but not again shall meet;
  • On a sick bed like wind that blew;
  • An excellent thing, best likened to
  • Her own voice, gentle, soft, and sweet;
  • 60Shakpere's Cordelia;—better thus.

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Sig. G 2
The purpose of the following Essay is to demonstrate the exist-

ence of a very important error in the hitherto universally adopted

interpretation of the character of Macbeth. We shall prove that

a design of illegitimately obtaining the crown of Scotland had been

conceived by Macbeth, and that it had been communicated by him to

his wife, prior to his first meeting with the witches, who are commonly

supposed to have suggested that design.
Most persons when they commence the study of the great

Shaksperian dramas, already entertain concerning them a set of

traditional notions, generally originated by the representations, or

misrepresentations, of the theatre, afterwards to become strength-

ened or confirmed by desultory reading and corroborative criticism.

With this class of persons it was our misfortune to rank,

when we first entered upon the study of “Macbeth,” fully be-

lieving that, in the character of the hero, Shakspere intended to

represent a man whose general rectitude of soul is drawn on to ruin

by the temptations of supernatural agents; temptations which have

the effect of eliciting his latent ambition, and of misdirecting that

ambition when it has been thus elicited.
As long as we continued under this idea, the impression produced

upon us by “Macbeth” came far short of that sense of complete

satisfaction which we were accustomed to receive from every other

of the higher works of Shakspere. But, upon deeper study, the

view now proposed suggested itself, and seemed to render every

thing as it should be. We say that this view suggested itself,

because it did not arise directly from any one of the numerous

passages which can be quoted in its support; it originated in a

general feeling of what seemed to be wanting to the completion of

the entire effect; a circumstance which has been stated at length

from the persuasion that it is of itself no mean presumption in

favour of the opinion which it is the aim of this paper to establish.
Let us proceed to examine the validity of a position, which,
Transcribed Footnote (page 99):

* It is proper to state that this article was written, and seen, exactly as it at

present stands, by several literary friends of the writer, a considerable time before

the appearance, in the “Westminster Review,” of a Paper advocating a view of

“Macbeth,” similar to that which is here taken. But although the publication

of the particular view was thus anticipated, nearly all the most forcible argu-

ments for maintaining it were omitted; and the subject, mixed up, as it was, with

lengthy disquisitions upon very minor topics of Shaksperian acting, &c. made

no very general impression at the time.

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if it deserves any attention at all, may certainly claim an investigation

more than usually minute. We shall commence by giving an

analysis of the first Act, wherein will be considered, successively,

every passage which may appear to bear either way upon the point

in question.
The inferences which we believe to be deducible from the first

scene can be profitably employed only in conjunction with those to

be discovered in the third. Our analysis must, therefore, be entered

upon by an attempt to ascertain the true character of the impres-

sions which it was the desire of Shakspere to convey by the second.
This scene is almost exclusively occupied with the narrations of

the “bleeding Soldier,” and of Rosse. These narrations are con-

structed with the express purpose of vividly setting forth the per-

sonal valour of Duncan's generals, “Macbeth and Banquo.” Let

us consider what is the maximum worth which the words of

Shakspere will, at this period of the play, allow us to attribute to

the moral character of the hero:—a point, let it be observed,

of first-rate importance to the present argument. We find Mac-

beth, in this scene, designated by various epithets, all of which,

either directly or indirectly, arise from feelings of admiration created

by his courageous conduct in the war in which he is supposed

to have been engaged. “Brave” and “Noble Macbeth,” “Bel-

lona's Bridegroom,” “Valiant Cousin,” and “Worthy Gentleman,”

are the general titles by which he is here spoken of; but none of

them afford any positive clue whatever to his moral character.

Nor is any such clue supplied by the scenes in which he is pre-

sently received by the messengers of Duncan, and afterwards

received and lauded by Duncan himself. Macbeth's moral cha-

racter, up to the development of his criminal hopes, remains

strictly negative. Hence it is difficult to fathom the meaning of

those critics, (A. Schlegel at their head), who have over and over

again made the ruin of Macbeth's “so many noble qualities”* the

subject of their comment.
In the third scene we have the meeting of the witches, the

announcement of whose intention to re-assemble upon the heath,

there to meet with Macbeth, forms the certainly most obvious,

though not perhaps, altogether the most important, aim of the short

scene by which the tragedy is opened. An enquiry of much

interest here suggests itself. Did Shakspere intend that in his

tragedy of “Macbeth” the witches should figure as originators of

gratuitous destruction, in direct opposition to the traditional, and
Transcribed Footnote (page 100):

* A. Schlegel's “Lectures on Dramatic Literature.” Vol. II. p. 208.

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even proverbial, character of the genus? By that character such

personages have been denied the possession of any influence what-

ever over the untainted soul. Has Shakspere in this instance re

tained, or has he abolished, the chief of those characteristics which

have been universally attributed to the beings in question?
We think that he has retained it, and for the following

reasons: Whenever Shakspere has elsewhere embodied supersti-

tions, he has treated them as direct and unalterable facts of human

nature; and this he has done because he was too profound

a philosopher to be capable of regarding genuine superstition as

the product of random spectra of the fancy, having absolute

darkness for the prime condition of their being, instead of

eeing in it rather the zodiacal light of truth, the concomitant

of the uprising, and of the setting of the truth, and a partaker

in its essence. Again, Shakspere has in this very play devoted

a considerable space to the purpose of suggesting the self-same

trait of character now under discussion, and this he appears to

have done with the express intent of guarding against a mistake,

the probability of the occurrence of which he foresaw, but which,

for reasons connected with the construction of the play, he could

not hope otherwise to obviate.
We allude to the introductory portion of the present scene. One

sister, we learn, has just returned from killing swine; another

breathes forth vengeance against a sailor, on account of the un-

charitable act of his wife; but “his bark cannot be lost,” though it

may be “tempest tossed.” The last words are scarcely uttered

before the confabulation is interrupted by the approach of Macbeth,

to whom they have as yet made no direct allusion whatever, through-

out the whole of this opening passage, consisting in all of some five

and twenty lines. Now this were a digression which would be a

complete anomaly, having place, as it is supposed to have, at this

early stage of one of the most consummate of the tragedies of Shak-

spere. We may be sure, therefore, that it is the chief object of

these lines to impress the reader beforehand with an idea that, in

the mind of Macbeth, there already exist sure foundations for that

great superstructure of evil, to the erection of which, the “meta-

physical aid” of the weird sisters is now to be offered. An opinion

which is further supported by the reproaches of Hecate, who,

afterwards, referring to what occurs in this scene, exclaims,
  • “All you have done
  • Hath been but for a wayward son,
  • Spiteful, and wrathful, who, as others do,
  • Loves for his own end, not for you.”
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Words which seem to relate to ends loved of Macbeth before the

witches had spurred him on to their acquirement.
The fact that in the old chronicle, from which the plot of the

play is taken, the machinations of the witches are not assumed to

be un-gratuitous, cannot be employed as an argument against our

position. In history the sisters figure in the capacity of prophets

merely. There we have no previous announcement of their inten-

tion “to meet with Macbeth.” But in Shakspere they are invested

with all other of their superstitional attributes, in order that they

may become the evil instruments of holy vengeance upon evil; of

that most terrible of vengeance which punishes sin, after it has ex-

ceeded certain bounds, by deepening it.
Proceeding now with our analysis, upon the entrance of Macbeth

and Banquo, the witches wind up their hurried charm. They are

first perceived by Banquo. To his questions the sisters refuse to

reply; but, at the command of Macbeth, they immediately speak,

and forthwith utter the prophecy which seals the fate of Duncan.
Now, assuming the truth of our view, what would be the natural

behaviour of Macbeth upon coming into sudden contact with beings

who appear to hold intelligence of his most secret thoughts; and

upon hearing those thoughts, as it were, spoken aloud in the presence

of a third party? His behaviour would be precisely that which is

implied by the question of Banquo.
  • “Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear
  • Things which do sound so fair?”

If, on the other hand, our view is not true, why, seeing that their

characters are in the abstract so much alike, why does the present

conduct of Macbeth differ from that of Banquo, when the witches

direct their prophecies to him? Why has Shakspere altered the

narrative of Holinshed, without the prospect of gaining any advan-

tage commensurate to the licence taken in making that alteration?

These are the words of the old chronicle: “This (the recontre

with the witches) was reputed at the first but some vain fantastical

illusion by Macbeth and Banquo, insomuch that Banquo would call

Macbeth in jest king of Scotland; and Macbeth again would call

him in jest likewise the father of many kings.” Now it was the

invariable practice of Shakspere to give facts or traditions just as

he found them, whenever the introduction of those facts or tra-

ditions was not totally irreconcileable with the tone of his concep-

tion. How then (should we still receive the notion which we are

now combating) are we to account for his anomalous practice in

this particular case?
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When the witches are about to vanish, Macbeth attempts to

delay their departure, exclaiming,
  • “Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more:
  • By Sinol's death, I know I am thane of Glamis;
  • But how of Cawdor? the thane of Cawdor lives,
  • A prosperous gentleman; and, to be king
  • Stands not within the prospect of belief,
  • No more than to be Cawdor. Say, from whence
  • You owe this strange intelligence?

“To be king stands not within the prospect of belief, no more than

to be Cawdor.” No! it naturally stands much less within the

prospect of belief. Here the mind of Macbeth, having long been

accustomed to the nurture of its “royal hope,” conceives that it is

uttering a very suitable hyperbole of comparison. Had that mind

been hitherto an honest mind the word “Cawdor” would have

occupied the place of “king,” “king” that of “Cawdor.” Observe

too the general character of this speech: Although the coincidence

of the principal prophecy with his own thoughts has so strong an

effect upon Macbeth as to induce him to, at once, pronounce the

words of the sisters, “intelligence;” he nevertheless affects to treat

that prophecy as completely secondary to the other in the strength

of its claims upon his consideration. This is a piece of over-cautious

hypocrisy which is fully in keeping with the tenor of his conduct

throughout the rest of the tragedy.
No sooner have the witches vanished than Banquo begins to

doubt whether there had been “such things there as they did speak

about.” This is the natural incredulity of a free mind so circum-

stanced. On the other hand, Macbeth, whose manner, since the

first announcement of the sisters, has been that of a man in a

reverie, makes no doubt whatever of the reality of their appearance,

nor does he reply to the expressed scepticism of Banquo, but

abruptly exclaims, “your children shall be kings.” To this Banquo

answers, “you shall be king.” “And thane of Cawdor too: went

it not so?” continues Macbeth. Now, what, in either case, is the

condition of mind which can have given rise to this part of the

dialogue? It is, we imagine, sufficiently evident that the playful

words of Banquo were suggested to Shakspere by the narration of

Holinshed; but how are we to account for those of Macbeth, other-

wise than by supposing that the question of the crown is now

settled in his mind by the coincidence of the principal prediction,

with the shapings of his own thoughts, and that he is at this

moment occupied with the wholly unanticipated revelations, touch-

ing the thaneship of Cawdor, and the future possession of the throne

by the offspring of Banquo?
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Now comes the fulfilment of the first prophecy. Mark the

words of these men, upon receiving the announcement of Rosse:

Banquo. What! can the devil speak truth?

Macbeth. The thane of Cawdor lives: why do you dress me

In borrowed robes?”

Mark how that reception is in either case precisely the reverse of

that given to the prophecy itself. Here Banquo starts. But what

is here done for Banquo, by the coincidence of the prophecy with

the truth, has been already done for Macbeth, by the coincidence of

his thought with the prophecy. Accordingly, Macbeth is calm

enough to play the hypocrite, when he must otherwise have experi-

enced surprise far greater than that of Banquo, because he is much

more nearly concerned in the source of it. So far indeed from being

overcome with astonishment, Macbeth still continues to dwell upon

the prophecy, by which his peace of mind is afterwards constantly

  • “Do you not hope your children shall be kings,
  • When those that gave the thane of Cawdor to me
  • Promised no less to them?”
Banquo's reply to this question has been one of the chief sources

of the interpretation, the error of which we are now endeavouring to

expose. He says,
  • “That, trusted home,
  • Might yet enkindle you unto the crown,
  • Besides the thane of Cawdor. But, 'tis strange;
  • And often times, to win us to our harm,
  • The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
  • Win us with honest trifles, to betray us
  • In deepest consequence.”
Now, these words have usually been considered to afford the clue to

the entire nature and extent of the supernatural influence brought

into play upon the present tragedy; whereas, in truth, all that they

express is a natural suspicion, called up in the mind of Banquo, by

Macbeth's remarkable deportment, that such is the character of the

influence which is at this moment being exerted upon the soul of the

man to whom he therefore thinks proper to hint the warning they

The soliloquy which immediately follows the above passage is

particularly worthy of comment:
  • “This supernatural soliciting
  • Cannot be ill; cannot be good:—if ill,
  • Why hath it given me earnest of success,
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  • Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor:
  • If good, why do I yield to that suggestion,
  • Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair,
  • And make my seated heart knock at my ribs
  • Against the use of nature? Present fears
  • Are less than horrible imaginings.
  • 10My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,
  • Shakes so my single state of man, that function
  • Is smothered in surmise, and nothing is,
  • But what is not.”
The early portion of this passage assuredly indicates that Macbeth

regards the communications of the witches merely in the light of an

invitation to the carrying out of a design pre-existent in his own

mind. He thinks that the spontaneous fulfilment of the chief

prophecy is in no way probable; the consummation of the lesser

prophecy being held by him, but as an “earnest of success” to his

own efforts in consummating the greater. From the latter portion

of this soliloquy we learn the real extent to which “metaphysical

aid” is implicated in bringing about the crime of Duncan's murder.

It serves to assure Macbeth that that is the “nearest way” to the

attainment of his wishes;—a way to the suggestion of which he now,

for the first time, “ yields,” because the chances of its failure have

been infinitely lessened by the “earnest of success” which he has

just received.
After the above soliloquy Macbeth breaks the long pause, implied

in Banquo's words, “Look how our partner's rapt,” by exclaiming,
  • “If chance will have me king, why chance may crown me,
  • Without my stir.”
Which is a very logical conclusion; but one at which he would long

ago have arrived, had “soliciting” meant “suggestion,” as most

people suppose it to have done; or at least, under those circum-

stances, he would have been satisfied with that conclusion, instead

of immediately afterwards changing it, as we see that he has done,

when he adds,
  • “Come what come may,
  • Time and the hour runs through the roughest day!”

With that the third scene closes; the parties engaged in it proceed-

ing forthwith to the palace of Duncan at Fores.
Towards the conclusion of the fourth scene, Duncan names his

successor in the realm of Scotland. After this Macbeth hastily

departs, to inform his wife of the king's proposed visit to their

castle, at Inverness. The last words of Macbeth are the following,
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  • “The prince of Cumberland!—That is a step,
  • On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap.
  • For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires!
  • Let not light see my black and deep desires;
  • The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be,
  • Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.”
These lines are equally remarkable for a tone of settled assurance

as to the fulfilment of the speaker's royal hope, and for an entire

absence of any expression of reliance upon the power of the witches,

—the hitherto supposed originators of that hope,—in aiding its

consummation. It is particularly noticeable that Macbeth should

make no reference whatever, not even in thought, (that is, in

soliloquy) to any supernatural agency during the long period inter-

vening between the fulfilment of the two prophecies. Is it probable

that this would have been the case had Shakspere intended that

such an agency should be understood to have been the first motive

and mainspring of that deed, which, with all its accompanying

struggles of conscience, he has so minutely pictured to us as having

been, during that period, enacted? But besides this negative argu-

ment, we have a positive one for his non-reliance upon their pro-

mises in the fact that he attempts to outwit them by the murder of

Fleance even after the fulfilment of the second prophecy.
The fifth scene opens with Lady Macbeth's perusal of her hus-

band's narration of his interview with the witches. The order of

our investigation requires the postponement of comment upon the

contents of this letter. We leave it for the present, merely cau-

tioning the reader against taking up any hasty objections to a very

important clause in the enunciation of our view by reminding

him that, contrary to Shakspere's custom in ordinary cases, we are

made acquainted only with a portion of the missive in question.

Let us then proceed to consider the soliloquy which immediately

follows the perusal of this letter:
  • “I do fear thy nature.
  • It is too full o' the milk of human kindness,
  • To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great;
  • Art not without ambition; but without
  • The illness should attend it. That thou wouldst highly,
  • That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false
  • And yet wouldst wrongly win: thou'dst have, great Glamis,
  • That which cries this thou must do if thou have it,
  • And that which rather thou dost fear to do,
  • 10Thou wishest should be undone.”
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It is vividly apparent that this passage indicates a knowledge of

the character it depicts, which is far too intimate to allow of its

being other than a direct inference from facts connected with pre-

vious communications upon similar topics between the speaker and

the writer: unless, indeed, we assume that in this instance Shak-

spere has notably departed from his usual principles of charac-

terization, in having invested Lady Macbeth with an amount of

philosophical acuteness, and a faculty of deduction, much beyond

those pretended to by any other of the female creations of the same

The above passage is interrupted by the announcement of the

approach of Duncan. Observe Lady Macbeth's behaviour upon

receiving it. She immediately determines upon what is to be done,

and all without (are we to suppose?) in any way consulting, or

being aware of, the wishes or inclinations of her husband! Observe

too, that neither does she appear to regard the witches' prophecies

as anything more than an invitation, and holding forth of “meta-

physical aid” to the carrying out of an independent project. That

this should be the case in both instances vastly strengthens the

argument legitimately deducible from each.
At the conclusion of the passage which called for the last remark,

Macbeth, after a long and eventful period of absence, let it be

recollected, enters to a wife who, we will for a moment suppose,

is completely ignorant of the character of her husband's recent

cogitations. These are the first words which pass between them,
  • Macbeth. My dearest love,
  • Duncan comes here to-night.
  • L. Macbeth. And when goes hence?
  • Macbeth. To-morrow, as he purposes.
  • L. Macbeth. Oh! never
  • Shall sun that morrow see!
  • Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
  • May read strange matters:—to beguile the time,
  • Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
  • 10Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,
  • But be the serpent under it. He that's coming
  • Must be provided for; and you shall put
  • This night's great business into my dispatch,
  • Which shall to all our nights and days to come
  • Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.
  • Macbeth. We will speak further.”
Are these words those which would naturally arise from the

situation at present, by common consent, attributed to the speakers
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of them? That is to say a situation in which each speaker is totally

ignorant of the sentiments pre-existent in the mind of the other. Are

the words, “we will speak further,” those which might in nature

form the whole and sole reply made by a man to his wife's com-

pletely unexpected anticipation of his own fearful purposes? If

not, if few or none of these lines, thus interpreted, will satisfy the

reader's feeling for common truth, does not the view which we have

adopted invest them with new light, and improved, or perfected

The next scene represents the arrival of Duncan at Inverness, and

contains nothing which bears either way upon the point in question.

Proceeding, therefore, to the seventh and last scene of the first act

we come to what we cannot but consider to be proof positive of the

opinion under examination. We shall transcribe at length the

portion of this scene containing that proof; having first reminded

the reader that a few hours at most can have elapsed between the

arrival of Macbeth, and the period at which the words, now to be

quoted, are uttered.
  • Lady Macbeth. Was the hope drunk,
  • Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since,
  • And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
  • At what it did so freely? From this time,
  • Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
  • To be the same in thine own act and valour,
  • As thou art in desire? Would'st thou have that
  • Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
  • And live a coward in thine own esteem,
  • 10Letting, I dare not, wait upon, I would,
  • Like the poor cat in the adage?
  • Macbeth. Prithee, peace:
  • I dare do all that may become a man;
  • Who dares do more is none.
  • Lady Macbeth. What beast was't then
  • That made you break this enterprise to me?
  • When you durst do it, then you were a man,
  • And to be more than what you were you would
  • Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
  • 20 Did then adhere, and yet you would make both.
  • They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
  • Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
  • How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
    Image of page 109 page: 109
  • I would, while it was smiling in my face,
  • Have plucked my nipple from its boneless gums,
  • And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn
  • As you have done to this.”
With respect to the above lines, let us observe that, the words,

“nor time nor place did then adhere,” render it evident that they

hold reference to something which passed before Duncan had sig-

nified his intention of visiting the castle of Macbeth. Consequently

the words of Lady Macbeth can have no reference to the previous

communication of any definite intention, on the part of her husband,

to murder the king; because, not long before, she professes herself

aware that Macbeth's nature is “too full of the milk of human kind-

ness to catch the nearest way;” indeed, she has every reason to

suppose that she herself has been the means of breaking that enter-

prise to him, though, in truth, the crime had already, as we have

seen, suggested itself to his thought, “whose murder was as yet

Again the whole tenor of this passage shows that it refers to ver-

bal communication between them. But no such communication can

have taken place since Macbeth's rencontre with the witches; for,

besides that he is, immediately after that recontre, conducted to the

presence of the king, who there signifies an intention of proceeding

directly to Macbeth's castle, such a communication would have ren-

dered the contents of the letter to Lady Macbeth completely super-

fluous. What then are we to conclude concerning these problematical

lines? First begging the reader to bear in mind the tone of sophistry

which has been observed by Schlegel to pervade, and which is

indeed manifest throughout the persuasions of Lady Macbeth, we

answer, that she wilfully confounds her husband's,—probably vague

and unplanned—“enterprise” of obtaining the crown, with that

“nearest way” to which she now urges him; but, at the same time,

she obscurely individualizes the separate purposes in the words,

“and to be more than what you were, you would be so much

more the man.”
It is a fact which is highly interesting in itself, and one which

strongly impeaches the candour of the majority of Shakspere's

commentators, that the impenetrable obscurity which must have

pervaded the whole of this passage should never have been made

the subject of remark. As far as we can remember, not a word has

been said upon the matter in any one of the many superfluously

explanatory editions of our dramatist's productions. Censures have

been repeatedly lavished upon minor cases of obscurity, none upon

this. In the former case the fault has been felt to be Shakspere's,
Image of page 110 page: 110
for it has usually existed in the expression; but in the latter the

language is unexceptional, and the avowal of obscurity might

imply the possibility of misapprehension or stupidity upon the part

of the avower.
Probably the only considerable obstacle likely to act against the

general adoption of those views will be the doubt, whether so

important a feature of this consummate tragedy can have been left

by Shakspere so obscurely expressed as to be capable of remaining

totally unperceived during upwards of two centuries, within which

period the genius of a Coleridge and of a Schlegel has been applied

to its interpretation. Should this objection be brought forward, we

reply, in the first place, that the objector is ‘begging’ his question

in assuming that the feature under examination has remained

totally unperceived. Coleridge by way of comment upon these

words of Banquo,
  • “Good sir, why do you stand, and seem to fear
  • Things that do sound so fair?”

writes thus: “The general idea is all that can be required of a

poet—not a scholastic logical consistency in all the parts, so as to

meet metaphysical objectors. * * * * * * * * How strictly true

to nature it is, that Banquo, and not Macbeth himself, directs our

notice to the effects produced in Macbeth's mind, rendered temptible

by previous dalliance with ambitious thoughts.” Here Coleridge denies

the necessity of “logical consistency, so as to meet metaphysical

objectors,” although he has, throughout his criticisms upon Shaks-

pere, endeavored, and nearly always with success, to prove the

existence of that consistency; and so strongly has he felt the want of

it here, that he has, in order to satisfy himself, assumed that “pre-

vious dalliance with ambitious thoughts,” whose existence it has

been our object to prove.
But, putting Coleridge's imperfect perception of the truth out of the

question, surely nothing can be easier than to believe that for the

belief in which we have so many precedents. How many beauties,

lost upon Dryden, were perceived by Johnson; How many, hidden

to Johnson and his cotemporaries, have been brought to light by

Schlegel and by Coleridge.

Image of page 111 page: 111
  • She sat alway thro' the long day
  • Spinning the weary thread away;
  • And ever said in undertone:
  • “Come, that I be no more alone.”
  • From early dawn to set of sun
  • Working, her task was still undone;
  • And the long thread seemed to increase
  • Even while she spun and did not cease.
  • She heard the gentle turtle-dove
  • 10Tell to its mate a tale of love;
  • She saw the glancing swallows fly,
  • Ever a social company;
  • She knew each bird upon its nest
  • Had cheering songs to bring it rest;
  • None lived alone save only she;—
  • The wheel went round more wearily;
  • She wept and said in undertone:
  • “Come, that I be no more alone.”
  • Day followed day, and still she sighed
  • 20For love, and was not satisfied;
  • Until one night, when the moonlight
  • Turned all the trees to silver white,
  • She heard, what ne'er she heard before,
  • A steady hand undo the door.
  • The nightingale since set of sun
  • Her throbbing music had not done,
  • And she had listened silently;
  • But now the wind had changed, and she
  • Heard the sweet song no more, but heard
  • 30Beside her bed a whispered word:
  • “Damsel, rise up; be not afraid;
  • For I am come at last,” it said.
  • She trembled, tho' the voice was mild;
  • She trembled like a frightened child;—
  • Till she looked up, and then she saw
  • The unknown speaker without awe.
  • He seemed a fair young man, his eyes
  • Beaming with serious charities;
    Image of page 112 page: 112
  • His cheek was white, but hardly pale;
  • 40And a dim glory like a veil
  • Hovered about his head, and shone
  • Thro' the whole room till night was gone.
  • So her fear fled; and then she said,
  • Leaning upon her quiet bed:
  • “Now thou art come, I prithee stay,
  • That I may see thee in the day,
  • And learn to know thy voice, and hear
  • It evermore calling me near.”
  • He answered: “Rise, and follow me.”
  • 50But she looked upwards wonderingly:
  • “And whither would'st thou go, friend ? stay
  • Until the dawning of the day.”
  • But he said: “The wind ceaseth, Maid;
  • Of chill nor damp be thou afraid.”
  • She bound her hair up from the floor,
  • And passed in silence from the door.
  • So they went forth together, he
  • Helping her forward tenderly.
  • The hedges bowed beneath his hand;
  • 60Forth from the streams came the dry land
  • As they passed over; evermore
  • The pallid moonbeams shone before;
  • And the wind hushed, and nothing stirred;
  • Not even a solitary bird,
  • Scared by their footsteps, fluttered by
  • Where aspen-trees stood steadily.
  • As they went on, at length a sound
  • Came trembling on the air around;
  • The undistinguishable hum
  • 70Of life, voices that go and come
  • Of busy men, and the child's sweet
  • High laugh, and noise of trampling feet.
  • Then he said: “Wilt thou go and see ?
  • And she made answer joyfully;
  • “The noise of life, of human life,
  • Of dear communion without strife,
  • Of converse held 'twixt friend and friend;
  • Is it not here our path shall end ?
  • He led her on a little way
  • 80Until they reached a hillock: “Stay.”
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Sig. H
  • It was a village in a plain.
  • High mountains screened it from the rain
  • And stormy wind; and nigh at hand
  • A bubbling streamlet flowed, o'er sand
  • Pebbly and fine, and sent life up
  • Green succous stalk and flower-cup.
  • Gradually, day's harbinger,
  • A chilly wind began to stir.
  • It seemed a gentle powerless breeze
  • 90That scarcely rustled thro' the trees;
  • And yet it touched the mountain's head
  • And the paths man might never tread.
  • But hearken: in the quiet weather
  • Do all the streams flow down together?—
  • No, 'tis a sound more terrible
  • Than tho' a thousand rivers fell.
  • The everlasting ice and snow
  • Were loosened then, but not to flow;—
  • With a loud crash like solid thunder
  • 100The avalanche came, burying under
  • The village; turning life and breath
  • And rest and joy and plans to death.
  • “Oh! let us fly, for pity fly;
  • Let us go hence, friend, thou and I.
  • There must be many regions yet
  • Where these things make not desolate.”
  • He looked upon her seriously;
  • Then said: “Arise and follow me.”
  • The path that lay before them was
  • 110Nigh covered over with long grass;
  • And many slimy things and slow
  • Trailed on between the roots below.
  • The moon looked dimmer than before;
  • And shadowy cloudlets floating o'er
  • Its face sometimes quite hid its light,
  • And filled the skies with deeper night.
  • At last, as they went on, the noise
  • Was heard of the sea's mighty voice;
  • And soon the ocean could be seen
  • 120In its long restlessness serene.
    Image of page 114 page: 114
  • Upon its breast a vessel rode
  • That drowsily appeared to nod
  • As the great billows rose and fell,
  • And swelled to sink, and sank to swell.
  • Meanwhile the strong wind had come forth
  • From the chill regions of the North,
  • The mighty wind invisible.
  • And the low waves began to swell;
  • And the sky darkened overhead;
  • 130And the moon once looked forth, then fled
  • Behind dark clouds; while here and there
  • The lightning shone out in the air;
  • And the approaching thunder rolled
  • With angry pealings manifold.
  • How many vows were made, and prayers
  • That in safe times were cold and scarce.
  • Still all availed not; and at length
  • The waves arose in all their strength,
  • And fought against the ship, and filled
  • 140The ship. Then were the clouds unsealed,
  • And the rain hurried forth, and beat
  • On every side and over it.
  • Some clung together, and some kept
  • A long stern silence, and some wept.
  • Many half-crazed looked on in wonder
  • As the strong timbers rent asunder;
  • Friends forgot friends, foes fled to foes;—
  • And still the water rose and rose.
  • “Ah woe is me! Whom I have seen
  • 150Are now as tho' they had not been.
  • In the earth there is room for birth,
  • And there are graves enough in earth;
  • Why should the cold sea, tempest-torn,
  • Bury those whom it hath not borne?”
  • He answered not, and they went on.
  • The glory of the heavens was gone;
  • The moon gleamed not nor any star;
  • Cold winds were rustling near and far,
  • And from the trees the dry leaves fell
  • 160With a sad sound unspeakable.
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Sig. H 2
  • The air was cold; till from the South
  • A gust blew hot, like sudden drouth,
  • Into their faces; and a light
  • Glowing and red, shone thro' the night.
  • A mighty city full of flame
  • And death and sounds without a name.
  • Amid the black and blinding smoke,
  • The people, as one man, awoke.
  • Oh! happy they who yesterday
  • 170On the long journey went away;
  • Whose pallid lips, smiling and chill,
  • While the flames scorch them smile on still;
  • Who murmur not; who tremble not
  • When the bier crackles fiery hot;
  • Who, dying, said in love's increase:
  • “Lord, let thy servant part in peace.”
  • Those in the town could see and hear
  • A shaded river flowing near;
  • The broad deep bed could hardly hold
  • 180Its plenteous waters calm and cold.
  • Was flame-wrapped all the city wall,
  • The city gates were flame-wrapped all.
  • What was man's strength, what puissance then?
  • Women were mighty as strong men.
  • Some knelt in prayer, believing still,
  • Resigned unto a righteous will,
  • Bowing beneath the chastening rod,
  • Lost to the world, but found of God.
  • Some prayed for friend, for child, for wife;
  • 190Some prayed for faith; some prayed for life;
  • While some, proud even in death, hope gone,
  • Steadfast and still, stood looking on.
  • “Death—death—oh! let us fly from death;
  • Where'er we go it followeth;
  • All these are dead; and we alone
  • Remain to weep for what is gone.
  • What is this thing? thus hurriedly
  • To pass into eternity;
  • To leave the earth so full of mirth;
  • 200To lose the profit of our birth;
  • To die and be no more; to cease,
  • Having numbness that is not peace.
    Image of page 116 page: 116
  • Let us go hence; and, even if thus
  • Death everywhere must go with us,
  • Let us not see the change, but see
  • Those who have been or still shall be.”
  • He sighed and they went on together;
  • Beneath their feet did the grass wither;
  • Across the heaven high overhead
  • 210Dark misty clouds floated and fled;
  • And in their bosom was the thunder,
  • And angry lightnings flashed out under,
  • Forked and red and menacing;
  • Far off the wind was muttering;
  • It seemed to tell, not understood,
  • Strange secrets to the listening wood.
  • Upon its wings it bore the scent
  • Of blood of a great armament:
  • Then saw they how on either side
  • 220Fields were down-trodden far and wide.
  • That morning at the break of day
  • Two nations had gone forth to slay.
  • As a man soweth so he reaps.
  • The field was full of bleeding heaps;
  • Ghastly corpses of men and horses
  • That met death at a thousand sources;
  • Cold limbs and putrifying flesh;
  • Long love-locks clotted to a mesh
  • That stifled; stiffened mouths beneath
  • 230Staring eyes that had looked on death.
  • But these were dead: these felt no more
  • The anguish of the wounds they bore.
  • Behold, they shall not sigh again,
  • Nor justly fear, nor hope in vain.
  • What if none wept above them?—is
  • The sleeper less at rest for this?
  • Is not the young child's slumber sweet
  • When no man watcheth over it?
  • These had deep calm; but all around
  • 240There was a deadly smothered sound,
  • The choking cry of agony
  • From wounded men who could not die;
    Image of page 117 page: 117
  • Who watched the black wing of the raven
  • Rise like a cloud 'twixt them and heaven,
  • And in the distance flying fast
  • Beheld the eagle come at last.
  • She knelt down in her agony:
  • “O Lord, it is enough,” said she:
  • “My heart's prayer putteth me to shame;
  • 250“Let me return to whence I came.
  • “Thou for who love's sake didst reprove,
  • “Forgive me for the sake of love.”

Sweet Death.
  • The sweetest blossoms die.
  • And so it was that, going day by day
  • Unto the church to praise and pray,
  • And crossing the green church-yard thoughtfully,
  • I saw how on the graves the flowers
  • Shed their fresh leaves in showers;
  • And how their perfume rose up to the sky
  • Before it passed away.
  • The youngest blossoms die.
  • 10They die, and fall, and nourish the rich earth
  • From which they lately had their birth.
  • Sweet life: but sweeter death that passeth by,
  • And is as tho' it had not been.
  • All colors turn to green:
  • The bright hues vanish, and the odours fly;
  • The grass hath lasting worth.
  • And youth and beauty die.
  • So be it, O my God, thou God of truth.
  • Better than beauty and than youth
  • 20Are saints and angels, a glad company:
  • And Thou, O lord, our Rest and Ease,
  • Are better far than these.
  • Why should we shrink from our full harvest? why
  • Prefer to glean with Ruth?

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The Subject in Art.

No. II.
Resuming a consideration of the subject-matter suitable in painting

and sculpture, it is necessary to repeat those premises, and to re-es-

tablish those principles which were advanced or elicited in the first

number of this essay.
It was premised then that works of Fine Art affect the beholder

in the same ratio as the natural prototypes of those works would

affect him; and not in proportion to the difficulties overcome in the

artificial representation of those prototypes. Not contending, mean-

while, that the picture painted by the hand of the artist, and then

by the hand of nature on the eye of the beholder, is, in amount, the

same as the picture painted there by nature alone; but disregarding,

as irrelevant to this investigation, all concomitants of fine art wherein

they involve an ulterior impression as to the relative merits of the

work by the amount of its success, and, for a like reason, disregard-

ing all emotions and impressions which are not the immediate and

proximate result of an excitor influence of, or pertaining to, the

things artificial, as a bona fide equivalent of the things natural .
Or the premises may be practically stated thus:—(1st.) When

one looks on a certain painting or sculpture for the first time, the

first notion is that of a painting or sculpture. (2nd.) In the next

place, while the objects depicted are revealing themselves as real

objects, the notion of a painting or sculpture has elapsed, and, in its

place, there are emotions, passions,| actions (moral or intellectual)

according in sort and degree to the heart or mind-moving influence

of the objects represented. (3rd.) Finally, there is a notion of a

painting or sculpture, and a judgment or sentiment commensurate

with the estimated merits of the work.—The second statement gives

the premised conditions under which Fine Art is about to be

treated: the 3rd statement exemplifies a phase in the being of Fine

Art under which it is never to be considered: and furthermore,

whilst the mental reflection last mentioned (the judgment on the

work) is being made, it may occur that certain objects, most diffi-

cult of artistic execution, had been most successfully handled: the

merits of introducing such objects, in such a manner, are the merits

of those concomitants mentioned as equally without the scope of

Thus much for the premises—next to the re-establishment of

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1st. The principle was elicited, that Fine Art should regard the

general happiness of man, by addressing those of his attributes

which are peculiarly human, by exciting the activity of his rational

and benevolent powers; and thereafter:—2nd, that the Subject in

Art should be drawn from objects which so address and excite him;

and 3rd, as objects so exciting the mental activity may (in propor-

tion to the mental capacity) excite it to any amount, and so possibly

in the highest degree (the function of Fine Art being mental excite-

ment, and that of High Art being the highest mental excitement ) that

all objects so exciting mental activity and emotion in the highest

degree, may afford subjects for High Art.
Having thus re-stated the premises and principles already

deduced, let us proceed to enquire into the propriety of selecting

the Subject from the past or the present time; which enquiry

resolves itself fundamentally into the analysis of objects and

incidents experienced immediately by the senses, or acquired by

mental education.
Here then we have to explore the specific difference between the

incidents and objects of to-day, as exposed to our daily observation,

and the incidents and objects of time past, as bequeathed to us by

history, poetry, or tradition.
In the first place, there is, no doubt, a considerable real difference

between the things of to-day and those of times past: but as all

former times, their incidents and objects differ amongst themselves,

this can hardly be the cause of the specific difference sought for—a

difference between our share of things past and things present.

This real, but not specific difference then, however admitted, shall

not be considered here.
It is obvious, in the meanwhile, that all which we have of the

past is stamped with an impress of mental assimilation: an impress

it has received from the mind of the author who has garnered it up,

and disposed it in that form and order which ensure it acceptance

with posterity. For let a writer of history be as matter of fact as

he will, the very order and classification of events will save us the

trouble of confusion, and render them graspable, and more capable

of assimilation, than is the raw material of every-day experience.

In fact the work of mind is begun, the key of intelligence is given,

and we have only to continue the process. Where the vehicle for

the transmission of things past is poetry, then we have them

presented in that succession, and with that modification of force,

a resilient plasticity, now advancing, now recoiling, insinuating and

grappling, that ere this material and mental warfare is over, we

find the facts thus transmitted are incorporated with our psychical
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existence. And in tradition is it otherwise?—Every man tells the

tale in his own way; and the merits of the story itself, or the

person who tells it, or his way of telling, procures it a lodgment in

the mind of the hearer, whence it is ever ready to start up and claim

kindred with some external excitement.
Thus it is the luck of all things of the past to come down to us

with some poetry about them; while from those of diurnal ex-

perience we must extract this poetry ourselves: and although all

good men are, more or less, poets, they are passive or recipient

poets; while the active or donative poet caters for them what they

fail to collect. For let a poet walk through London, and he shall

see a succession of incidents, suggesting some moral beauty by a

contrast of times with times, unfolding some principle of nature,

developing some attribute of man, or pointing to some glory in The

Maker: while the man who walked behind him saw nothing but

shops and pavement, and coats and faces; neither did he hear the

aggregated turmoil of a city of nations, nor the noisy exponents of

various desires, appetites and pursuits: each pulsing tremour of

the atmosphere was not struck into it by a subtile ineffable some-

thing willed forcibly out of a cranium: neither did he see the

driver of horses holding a rod of light in his eye and feeling

his way, in a world he was rushing through, by the motion of

the end of that rod:—he only saw the wheels in motion, and

heard the rattle on the stones; and yet this man stopped twice at

a book shop to buy ‘a Tennyson,’ or a ‘Browning's Sordello.’

Now this man might have seen all that the poet saw; he walked

through the same streets: yet the poet goes home and writes a

poem; and he who failed to feel the poetry of the things themselves

detects it readily in the poet's version. Then why, it is asked, does

not this man, schooled by the poet's example, look out for himself

for the future, and so find attractions in things of to-day? He

does so to a trifling extent, but the reason why he does so rarely

will be found in the former demonstration.
It was shown how bygone objects and incidents come down to us

invested in peculiar attractions: this the poet knows and feels, and

the probabilities are that he transferred the incidents of to-day, with

all their poetical and moral suggestions, to the romantic long-ago,

partly from a feeling of prudence, and partly that he himself was

under this spell of antiquity, How many a Troubadour, who

recited tales of king Arthur, had his incidents furnished him by

the events of his own time! And thus it is the many are attracted

to the poetry of things past, yet impervious to the poetry of things

present. But this retrograde movement in the poet, painter, or
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sculptor (except in certain cases as will subsequently appear), if not

the result of necessity, is an error in judgment or a culpable dis-

honesty. For why should he not acknowledge the source of his

inspiration, that others may drink of the same spring with himself;

and perhaps drink deeper and a clearer draught?—For the water is

unebbing and exhaustless, and fills the more it is emptied: why

then should it be filtered through his tank where he can teach men

to drink it at the fountain?
If, as every poet, every painter, every sculptor will acknow-

ledge, his best and most original ideas are derived from his own

times: if his great lessonings to piety, truth, charity, love, honor,

honesty, gallantry, generosity, courage, are derived from the same

source; why transfer them to distant periods, and make them not

things of to-day? Why teach us to revere the saints of old, and not

our own family-worshippers? Why to admire the lance-armed

knight, and not the patience-armed hero of misfortune? Why to

draw a sword we do not wear to aid and oppressed damsel, and not a

purse which we do wear to rescue an erring one? Why to worship

a martyred St. Agatha, and not a sick woman attending the sick?

Why teach us to honor an Aristides or a Regulus, and not one who

pays an equitable, though to him ruinous, tax without a railing

accusation? And why not teach us to help what the laws cannot

help?—Why teach us to hate a Nero or an Appius, and not an

underselling oppressor of workmen and betrayer of women and

children? Why to love a Ladie in bower, and not a wife's fire-

side? Why paint or poetically depict the horrible race of Ogres

and Giants, and not show Giant Despair dressed in that modern

habit he walks the streets in? Why teach men what were great

and good deeds in the old time, neglecting to show them any good

for themselves?—Till these questions are answered absolutory to

the artist, it were unwise to propose the other question—Why a

poet, painter or sculptor is not honored and loved as formerly?

“As formerly,” says some avowed sceptic in old world transcendency

and golden age affairs, “I believe formerly the artist was as much

respected and cared for as he is now. 'Tis true the Greeks granted

an immunity from taxation to some of their artists, who were often

great men in the state, and even the companions of princes. And

are not some of our poets peers? Have not some of our artists

received knighthood from the hand of their Sovereign, and have

not some of them received pensions?”
To answer objections of this latitude demands the assertion of

certain characteristic facts which, tho' not here demonstrated, may

be authenticated by reference to history. Of these, the facts of
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Alfred's disguised visit to the Danish camp, and Aulaff's visit to the

Saxon, are sufficient to show in what respect the poets of that

period were held; when a man without any safe conduct whatever

could enter the enemy's camp on the very eve of battle, as was here

the case; could enter unopposed, unquestioned, and return unmo-

lested!—What could have conferred upon the poet of that day so

singular a privilege? What upon the poet of an earlier time that

sanctity in behoof whereof
  • “The great Emathian conqueror bid spare
  • The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower
  • Went to the ground: and the repeated air
  • Of sad Electra's poet had the power
  • To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare.”

What but an universal recognition of the poet as an universal bene-

factor of mankind? And did mankind recognize him as such, from

some unaccountable infatuation, or because his labours obtained for

him an indefeasible right to that estimate? How came it, when a

Greek sculptor had completed some operose performance, that his

countrymen bore him in triumph thro' their city, and rejoiced in his

prosperity as identical with their own? How but because his art

had embodied some principle of beauty whose mysterious influence

it was their pride to appreciate—or he had enduringly moulded the

limbs of some well-trained Athlete, such as it was their interest to

develop, or he had recorded the overthrow of some barbaric invader

whom their fathers had fallen to repel.
In the middle ages when a knight listened, in the morning, to

some song of brave doing, ere evening he himself might be the hero

of such song.—What wonder then that he held sacred the function

of the poet! Now-a-days our heroes (and we have them) are left

unchapleted and neglected—and therefore the poet lives and dies

Thus it would appear from these facts (which have been collate-

rally evolved in course of enquiring into the propriety of choosing

the subject from past or present time, and in course of the conse-

quent analysis) that Art, to become a more powerful engine of

civilization, assuming a practically humanizing tendency (the admit-

ted function of Art), should be made more directly conversant with

the things, incidents, and influences which surround and constitute

the living world of those whom Art proposes to improve, and,

whether it should appear in event that Art can or can not assume

this attitude without jeopardizing her specific existence, that such a

consummation were desirable must be equally obvious in either

Image of page 123 page: 123
Let us return now to the former consideration. It was stated

that the poet is affected by every day incidents, which would have

little or no effect on the mind of a general observer: and if you ask

the poet, who from his conduct may be the supposed advocate of

the past as the fittest medium for poetic eduction, why he em-

bodied the suggestions of to-day in the matter and dress of

antiquity; he is likely to answer as follows.—“You have stated

“that men pass by that which furnishes me with my subject: If I

“merely reproduce what they slighted, the reproduction will be

“slighted equally. It appears then that I must devise some means

“of attracting their sympathies—and the medium of antiquity is

“the fittest for three several reasons. 1st.—Nothing comes down

“to us from antiquity unless fraught with sufficient interest of some

“sort, to warrant it being worthy of record. Thus, all incidents

“which we possess of the old time being more or less interesting,

“there arises an illative impression that all things of old really

“were so: and all things in idea associated with that time,

“whether real or fictitious, are afforded a favorable entertainment.

“Now these associations are neither trivial nor fanciful:* for I

“remember to have discovered, after visiting the British Museum

“for the first time, that the odour of camphor, for which I had

“hitherto no predilection, afforded me a peculiar satisfaction,

“seemingly suggestive of things scientific or artistic; it was in fact

“a literary smell! All this was vague and unaccountable until

“some time after when this happened again, and I was at once

“reminded of an enormous walrus at the British Museum, and

“then remembered how the whole collection, from end to end, was

“permeated with the odour of camphor! Still, despite the con-

sciousness of this, the camphor retains its influence. Now let a

“poem, a painting, or sculpture, smell ever so little of antiquity, and

“every intelligent reader will be full of delightful imaginations.

“2nd.—All things ancient are mysterious in obscurity:—veneration,

“wonder, and curiosity are the result. 3rd.—All things ancient

“are dead and gone:—we sympathize with them accordingly. All

“these effects of antiquity, as a means of enforcing poetry, declare it

“too powerful an ally to be readily abandoned by the poet.” To

all this the painter will add that the costume of almost any ancient

time is more beautiful than that of the present—added to which it

exposes more of that most beautiful of all objects, the human figure.
Thus we have a formidable array of objections to the choice of
Transcribed Footnote (page 123):

* Here the author, in the person of respondent, takes occasion to narrate

a real fact.

Image of page 124 page: 124
present-day subjects: and first, it was objected and granted, that

incidents of the present time are well nigh barren in poetic attrac-

tion for the many. Then it was objected, but not granted, that their

poetic or pictorial counterparts will be equally unattractive also: but

this last remains to be proved. It was said, and is believed by the

author, (and such as doubt it he does not address) that all good men

are more or less poetical in some way or other; while their poetry

shows itself at various times. Thus the business-man in the street has

other to think of than poetry; but when he is inclined to look at a

picture, or in his more poetical humour, will he neglect the pictorial

counterpart of what he neglected before? To test this, show him a

camera obscura, where there is a more literal transcript of present-

day nature than any painting can be:— what is the result? He ex-

presses no anxiety to quit it, but a great curiosity to investigate; he

feels it is very beautiful, indeed more beautiful than nature: and

this he will say is because he does not see nature as an artist does.

Now the solution of all this is easy: 1st. He is in a mood of mind

which renders him accessible to the influences of poetry, which was

not before the case. 2nd. He looks at that steadily which he before

regarded cursorily; and, as the picture remains in his eye, it

acquires an amount of harmony, in behoof of an intrinsic harmony

resident in the organ itself, which exerts proportionately modifying

influences on all things that enter within it; and of the nervous

harmony, and the beautifully apportioned stimuli of alternating

ocular spectra. 3rd. There is a resolution of discord effected by the

instrument itself, inasmuch as its effects are homogeneous. All

these harmonizing influences are equally true of the painting; and

though we have no longer the homogeneous effect of the camera, we

have the homogeneous effect of one mind, viz., the mind of the

Thus having disproved the supposed poetical obstacles to the

rendering of real life or nature in its own real garb and time, as

faithfully as Art can render it, nothing need be said to answer the

advantages of the antique or mediæval rendering; since they were

only called in to neutralize the aforesaid obstacles, which obstacles

have proved to be fictitious. It remains then to consider the artistic

objection of costume, &c., which consideration ranges under the

head of real differences between the things of past and present times,

a consideration formerly postponed. But this requiring a patient

analysis, will necessitate a further postponement, and in conclusion,

there will be briefly stated the elements of the argument, thus.—

It must be obvious to every physicist that physical beauty (which

this subject involves on the one side [the ancient] as opposed to the
Image of page 125 page: 125
want of it on the other [the modern]) was in ancient times as

superior to physical beauty in the modern, as psychical beauty in

the modern is superior to psychical beauty in the ancient. Costume

then, as physical, is more beautiful ancient than modern. Now that

a certain amount of physical beauty is requisite to constitute Fine

Art, will be readily admitted; but what that amount is, must be

ever undefined. That the maximum of physical beauty does not

constitute the maximum of Fine Art, is apparent from the facts of

the physical beauty of Early Christian Art being inferior to that of

Grecian art; whilst, in the concrete, Early Christian Art is superior

to Grecian. Indeed some specimens of Early Christian Art are

repulsive rather than beautiful, yet these are in many cases the

highest works of Art.
In the “Plague at Ashdod,” great physical beauty, resulting from

picturesque costume and the exposed human figure, was so far from

desirable, that it seems purposely deformed by blotches of livid

color; yet the whole is a most noble work of Poussin. Containing

as much physical beauty as this picture, the writer remembers to

have seen an incident in the streets where a black-haired, sordid,

wicked-headed man, was striking the butt of his whip at the neck

of a horse, to urge him round an angle of the pavement; a smocked

countryman offered him the loan of his mules: a blacksmith stand-

ing by, showed him how to free the wheel, by only swerving the animal

to the left: he, taking no notice whatever, went on striking and

striking; whilst a woman waiting to cross, with a child in her one

hand, and with the other pushing its little head close to her side,

looked with wide eyes at this monster.
This familiar incident, affording a subject fraught with more

moral interest than, and as much picturesque matter as, many antique

or mediæval subjects, is only wanting in that romantic attraction

which, by association, attaches to things of the past. Yet, let these

modern subjects once excite interest, as it really appears they can,

and the incidents of to-day will acquire romantic attractions by the

same association of ideas.
The claims of ancient, mediæval, and modern subjects will be

considered in detail at a future period.

Image of page 126 page: 126
The Carillon.

(Antwerp and Bruges.)

** In these and others of the Flemish Towns, the Carillon, or chimes

which have a most fantastic and delicate music, are played almost continually

The custom is very ancient.

  • At Antwerp, there is a low wall
  • Binding the city, and a moat
  • Beneath, that the wind keeps afloat.
  • You pass the gates in a slow drawl
  • Of wheels. If it is warm at all
  • The Carillon will give you thought.
  • I climbed the stair in Antwerp church,
  • What time the urgent weight of sound
  • At sunset seems to heave it round.
  • 10Far up, the Carillon did search
  • The wind; and the birds came to perch
  • Far under, where the gables wound.
  • In Antwerp harbour on the Scheldt
  • I stood along, a certain space
  • Of night. The mist was near my face:
  • Deep on, the flow was heard and felt.
  • The Carillon kept pause, and dwelt
  • In music through the silent place.
  • At Bruges, when you leave the train,
  • 20—A singing numbness in your ears,—
  • The Carillon's first sound appears
  • Only the inner moil. Again
  • A little minute though—your brain
  • Takes quiet, and the whole sense hears.
  • John Memmeling and John Van Eyck
  • Hold state at Bruges. In sore shame
  • I scanned the works that keep their name.
  • The Carillon, which then did strike
  • Mine ears, was heard of theirs alike:
  • 30It set me closer unto them.
  • I climbed at Bruges all the flight
  • The Belfry has of ancient stone.
  • For leagues I saw the east wind blown:
  • The earth was grey, the sky was white.
  • I stood so near upon the height
  • That my flesh felt the Carillon.
October, 1849.
Image of page 127 page: 127
  • I lay through one long afternoon,
  • Vacantly plucking the grass.
  • I lay on my back, with steadfast gaze
  • Watching the cloud-shapes pass;
  • Until the evening's chilly damps
  • Rose from the hollows below,
  • Where the cold marsh-reeds grow.
  • I saw the sun sink down behind
  • The high point of a mountain;
  • 10Its last light lingered on the weeds
  • That choked a shattered fountain,
  • Where lay a rotting bird, whose plumes
  • Had beat the air in soaring.
  • On these things I was poring:—
  • The sun seemed like my sense of life,
  • Now weak, that was so strong;
  • The fountain—that continual pulse
  • Which throbbed with human song:
  • The bird lay dead as that wild hope
  • 20Which nerved my thoughts when young.
  • These symbols had a tongue,
  • And told the dreary lengths of years
  • I must drag my weight with me;
  • Or be like a mastless ship stuck fast
  • On a deep, stagnant sea.
  • A man on a dangerous height alone,
  • If suddenly struck blind,
  • Will never his home path find.
  • When divers plunge for ocean's pearls,
  • 30And chance to strike a rock,
  • Who plunged with greatest force below
  • Receives the heaviest shock.
  • With nostrils wide and breath drawn in,
  • I rushed resolved on the race;
  • Then, stumbling, fell in the chase.
Image of page 128 page: 128
  • Yet with time's cycles forests swell
  • Where stretched a desert plain:
  • Time's cycles make the mountains rise
  • Where heaved the restless main:
  • 40On swamps where moped the lonely stork,
  • In the silent lapse of time
  • Stands a city in its prime.
  • I thought: then saw the broadening shade
  • Grow slowly over the mound,
  • That reached with one long level slope
  • Down to a rich vineyard ground:
  • The air about lay still and hushed,
  • As if in serious thought:
  • But I scarcely heeded aught,
  • 50Till I heard, hard by, a thrush break forth,
  • Shouting with his whole voice,
  • So that he made the distant air
  • And the things around rejoice.
  • My soul gushed, for the sound awoke
  • Memories of early joy:
  • I sobbed like a chidden boy.


Early Aspirations.
  • How many a throb of the young poet-heart,
  • Aspiring to the ideal bliss of Fame,
  • Deems that Time soon may sanctify his claim
  • Among the sons of song to dwell apart.—
  • Time passes—passes! The aspiring flame
  • Of Hope shrinks down; the white flower Poesy
  • Breaks on its stalk, and from its earth-turned eye
  • Drop sleepy tears instead of that sweet dew
  • Rich with inspiring odours, insect wings
  • 10Drew from its leaves with every changing sky,
  • While its young innocent petals unsunn'd grew.
  • No more in pride to other ears he sings,
  • But with a dying charm himself unto:—
  • For a sad season: then, to active life he springs.
Image of page 129 page: 129
Sig. I
From the Cliffs: Noon.

  • The sea is in its listless chime:
  • Time's lapse it is, made audible,—
  • The murmur of the earth's large shell.
  • In a sad blueness beyond rhyme
  • It ends: sense, without thought, can pass
  • No stadium further. Since time was,
  • This sound hath told the lapse of time.
  • No stagnance that death wins,—it hath
  • The mournfulness of ancient life,
  • 10Always enduring at dull strife.
  • As the world's heart of rest and wrath,
  • Its painful pulse is in the sands.
  • Last utterly, the whole sky stands,
  • Grey and not known, along its path.

Fancies at Leisure.
I. In Spring.
  • The sky is blue here, scarcely with a stain
  • Of grey for clouds: here the young grasses gain
  • A larger growth of green over this splinter
  • Fallen from the ruin. Spring seems to have told Winter
  • He shall not freeze again here. Tho' their loss
  • Of leaves is not yet quite repaired, trees toss
  • Sprouts from their boughs. The ash you called so stiff
  • Curves, daily, broader shadow down the cliff.
II. In Summer.
  • How the rooks caw, and their beaks seem to clank!
  • Let us just move out there,—(it might be cool
  • Under those trees,) and watch how the thick tank
  • By the old mill is black,—a stagnant pool
  • Of rot and insects. There goes by a lank
  • Dead hairy dog floating. Will Nature's rule
  • Of life return hither no more? The plank
  • Rots in the crushed weeds, and the sun is cruel.
Image of page 130 page: 130
III. The Breadth of Noon.
  • Long time I lay there, while a breeze would blow
  • From the south softly, and, hard by, a slender
  • Poplar swayed to and fro to it. Surrender
  • Was made of all myself to quiet. No
  • Least thought was in my mind of the least woe:
  • Yet the void silence slowly seemed to render
  • My calmness not less calm, but yet more tender,
  • And I was nigh to weeping.—‘Ere I go,’
  • I thought, ‘I must make all this stillness mine;
  • 10The sky's blue almost purple, and these three
  • Hills carved against it, and the pine on pine
  • The wood in their shade has. All this I see
  • So inwardly I fancy it may be
  • Seen thus of parted souls by their sunshine.’
IV. Sea-Freshness.
  • Look at that crab there. See if you can't haul
  • His backward progress to this spar of a ship
  • Thrown up and sunk into the sand here. Clip
  • His clipping feelers hard, and give him all
  • Your hand to gripe at: he'll take care not fall:
  • So,—but with heed, for you are like to slip
  • In stepping on the plank's sea-slime. Your lip—
  • No wonder—curves in mirth at the slow drawl
  • Of the squat creature's legs. We've quite a shine
  • 10Of waves round us, and here there comes a wind
  • So fresh it must bode us good luck. How long
  • Boatman, for one and sixpence? Line by line
  • The sea comes toward us sun-ridged. Oh! we sinned
  • Taking the crab out: let's redress his wrong.
V. The Fire Smouldering.
  • I look into the burning coals, and see
  • Faces and forms of things; but they soon pass,
  • Melting one into other: the firm mass
  • Crumbles, and breaks, and fades gradually,
  • Shape into shape as in a dream may be,
  • Into an image other than it was:
  • And so on till the whole falls in, and has
  • Not any likeness,—face, and hand, and tree,
    Image of page 131 page: 131
    Sig. I 2
  • All gone. So with the mind: thought follows thought,
  • 10This hastening, and that pressing upon this,
  • A mighty crowd within so narrow room:
  • And then at length heavy-eyed slumbers come,
  • The drowsy fancies grope about, and miss
  • Their way, and what was so alive is nought.

Papers of “The M.S. Society.”*
No. I.
An Incident in the Siege of Troy, seen from a modern Observatory.
Transcribed Footnote (page 131):

* The Editor is requested to state that “M. S.” does not here mean Manuscript.

  • Sixteen Specials in Priam's Keep
  • Sat down to their mahogany:
  • The League, just then, had made busters cheap,
  • And Hesiod writ his “Theogony,”
  • A work written to prove “that, if men would be men,
  • And demand their rights again and again,
  • They might live like gods, have infinite smokes,
  • Drink infinite rum, drive infinite mokes,
  • Which would come from every part of the known
  • 10And civilized globe, twice as good as their own,
  • And, finally, Ilion, the work-shop should be
  • Of the world—one vast manufactory!”
  • From arrow-slits, port-holes, windows, what not,
  • Their sixteen quarrels the Specials had shot
  • From sixteen arblasts, their daily task;
  • Why they'd to do it they didn't ask,
  • For, after they'd done it, they sat down to dinner;
  • The sixteen Specials they didn't get thinner;
  • But kept quite loyal, and every day
  • 20Asked no questions but fired away.
  • Would you like me to tell you the reason why
  • These sixteen Specials kept letting fly
  • From eleven till one, as the Chronicle speaks?
  • They did it, my boys, to annoy the Greeks,
  • Who kept up a perpetual cannonade
  • On the walls, and threaten'd an escalade.
    Image of page 132 page: 132
  • The sixteen Specials were so arranged
  • That the shots they shot were not shots exchanged,
  • But every shot so told on the foe
  • 30The Greeks were obliged to draw it mild:
  • Diomedes—“A fix,” Ulysses—“No go”
  • Declared it, the “king of men” cried like a child;
  • Whilst the Specials, no more than a fine black Tom
  • I keep to serenade Mary from
  • The tiles, where he lounges every night,
  • Knew nor cared what they did, and were perfectly right.
  • But the fact was thus: one Helenus,
  • A man much faster than any of us,
  • More fast than a gent at the top of a “bus,”
  • 40More fast than the coming of “Per col. sus.”
  • Which Shakespeare says comes galloping,
  • (I take his word for anything)
  • This Helenus had a cure of souls—
  • He had cured the souls of several Greeks,
  • Achilles sole or heel,—the rolls
  • Of fame (not French) say Paris:—speaks
  • Anatomist Quain thereof. Who seeks
  • May read the story from z to a;
  • He has handled and argued it every way;—
  • 50A subject on which there's a good deal to say.
  • His work was ever the best, and still is,
  • Because of this note on the Tendo Achillis.
  • This Helenus was a man well bred,
  • He was up in Electricity,
  • Fortification, Theology,
  • Æsthetics and Pugilicity;
  • Celsus and Gregory he'd read;
  • Knew every “dodge” of glove and fist;
  • Was a capital curate, (I think I've said)
  • 60And Transcendental Anatomist:
  • Well up in Materia Medica,
  • Right up in Toxicology,
  • And Medical Jurisprudence, that sell!
  • And the dead sell Physiology:
  • Knew what and how much of any potation
  • Would get him through any examination:
  • With credit not small, had passed the Hall
  • And the College——and they couldn't pluck him at all.
    Image of page 133 page: 133
  • He'd written on Rail-roads, delivered a lecture
  • 70Upon the Electric Telegraph,
  • Had played at single-stick with Hector,
  • And written a paper on half-and-half.
  • With those and other works of note
  • He was not at all a “ people's man,”
  • Though public, for the works he wrote
  • Were not that sort the people can
  • Admire or read; they were Mathematic
  • The most part, some were Hydrostatic;
  • But Algebraic, in the main,
  • 80And full of a, b, c, and n—
  • And other letters which perplex—
  • The last was full of double x!
  • In fact, such stuff as one may easily
  • Imagine, didn't go down greasily,
  • Nor calculated to produce
  • Such heat as “cooks the public goose,”
  • And does it of so brown a hue
  • Men wonder while they relish too.
  • It therefore was that much alone
  • 90He studied; and a room is shown
  • In a coffee-house, an upper room,
  • Where none but hungry devils come,
  • Wherein 'tis said, with animation
  • He read “Vestiges of Creation.”
  • Accordingly, a month about
  • After he'd chalked up steak and stout
  • For the last time, he gave the world
  • A pamphlet, wherein he unfurled
  • A tissue of facts which, soon as blown,
  • 100Ran like wildfire through the town.
  • And, first of all, he plainly showed
  • A capital error in the mode
  • Of national defences, thus—
  • “The Greek one thousand miles from us,”
  • Said he, (for nine hundred and ninety-nine
  • The citadel stood above the brine
  • In perpendicular height, allowing
  • For slope of glacis, thereby showing
  • An increase of a mile,) “'tis plain
  • 110The force that shot and shell would gain,
    Image of page 134 page: 134
  • By gravitation, with their own,
  • Would fire the ground by friction alone;
  • Which, being once in fusion schooled
  • Ere cool, as Fire-mist had cooled
  • Would gain a motion, which must soon,
  • Just as the earth detached the moon
  • And gave her locomotive birth,
  • Detach some twenty miles of earth,
  • And send it swinging in the air,
  • 120The Devil only could tell where!
  • Then came the probability
  • With what increased facility
  • The Greeks, by this projectile power,
  • Might land on Ilion's highest tower,
  • All safe and sound, in battle array,
  • With howitzers prepared to play,
  • And muskets to the muzzles rammed;—
  • Why, the town would be utterly smashed and jammed,
  • And positively, as the phrase is
  • 130Vernacular, be “sent to blazes”!
  • In the second place, he then would ask,
  • (And here he took several members to task,
  • And wondered—“he really must presume
  • To wonder” a statesman like—you know whom—
  • Who ever evinced the deepest sense
  • Of a crying sin in any expense,
  • Should so besotted be, and lost
  • To the fact that now, at public cost,
  • Powder was being day by day
  • 140Wantonly wasted, blown away);—
  • Yes, he would ask, “with what intent
  • But to perch the Greeks on a battlement
  • From which they might o'erlook the town,
  • The easier to batter it down,
  • Which he had proved must be the case
  • (If it hadn't already taken place):
  • He called on his readers to fear and dread it,
  • Whilst he wrote it,—whilst they read it!
  • “How simple! How beautifully simple,” said he,
  • 150“And obvious was the remedy!
  • Look back a century or so—
  • And there was the ancient Norman bow,
    Image of page 135 page: 135
  • A weapon (he gave them leave to laugh)
  • Efficient, better, cheaper by half:
  • (He knew quite well the age abused it
  • Because, forsooth, the Normans used it)
  • These, planted in the citadel,
  • Would reach the walls say,—very well;
  • There, having spent their utmost force,
  • 160They'd drop down right, as a matter of course,
  • A thousand miles! Think—a thousand miles!
  • What was the weight for driving piles
  • To this? He calculated it—
  • 'Twould equal, when both Houses sit,
  • The weight of the entire building,
  • Including Members, paint, and gilding;
  • But, if a speech or the address
  • From the throne were given, something less,
  • Because, as certain snores aver,
  • 170The House is then much heavier.
  • Now this, though very much a rub like
  • For Ministers, convinced the public;
  • And Priam, who liked to hear its brays
  • To any tune but “the Marseillaise,”
  • Summoned a Privy Council, where
  • 'Twas shortly settled to confer
  • On Helenus a sole command
  • Of Specials.—He headed that daring band!
  • And sixteen Specials in Priam's keep
  • 180Got up from their mahogany;
  • They smoked their pipes in silence deep
  • Till there was such a fog—any
  • Attempt to discover the priest in the smother
  • Had bothered old Airy and Adams and t'other
  • And—Every son of an English mother.
June, 1848.
No. II.

Swift's Dunces.

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign,

that the Dunces are all in confederacy against him.”— Swift.

How shall we know the dunces from the man of genius, who is

no doubt our superior in judgment, yet knows himself for a fool—

by the proverb?
Image of page 136 page: 136
Note: The letter “f” at the end of the first line of the first paragraph is printed slightly above the rest of the characters.
At least, my dear Doctor, you will let me, with the mass of

readers, have clearer wits than the dunces—then why should I not

know what you are as soon as, or sooner than Bavius, &c.—unless

a dunce has a good nose, or a natural instinct for detecting wit.
Now I take it that these people stigmatized as dunces are but

men of ill-balanced mental faculties, yet perhaps, in a great degree,

superior to the average of minds. For instance, a poet of much

merit, but more ambition, has written the “Lampiad,” an epic;

when he should not have dared beyond the Doric reed: his ambi-

tious pride has prevented the publication of excellent pastorals,

therefore the world only knows him for his failure. This, I say, is a

likely man to become a detractor; for his good judgment shows

the imperfections of most works, his own included; his ambition

(an ill-combination of self-conscious worth and spleen) leads him

to compare works of the highest repute; the works of contem-

poraries; and his own. In all cases where success is most difficult,

he will be most severe; this naturally leads him to criticise the

very best works.
He has himself failed; he sees errors in successful writers; he

knows he possesses certain merits, and knows what the perfection

of them should be. This is the ground work of envy, which makes

a man of parts a comparative fool, and a confederate against

“true genius.”

No. III.

Mental Scales.
I make out my case thus—
There is an exact balance in the distribution of causes of pleasure

and pain: this has been satisfactorily proved in my next paper,

upon “Cause and Effect,” therefore I shall take it for granted.

What, then, is there but the mind to determine its own state of

happiness, or misery: just as the motion of the scales depends upon

themselves, when two equal weights are put into them. The balance

ought to be truly hung; but if the unpleasant scale is heavier, then

the motion is in favor of the pleasant scale, and vice versa. Whether

the beam stands horizontally, or otherwise, does not matter (that

only determines the key): draw a line at right angles to it, then put

in your equal weights; if the angle becomes larger on the unpleasant

scale's side of the line, happiness is the result, if on the other, misery.
It requires but a slight acquaintance with mechanics to see that

he who would be happy should have the unpleasant side heavier.

I hate corollaries or we might have a group of them equally appli-

cable to Art and Models.
June, 1848.
Image of page 137 page: 137

Some Account of the Life and Adventures of Sir Reginald Mohun,

Bart. Done in Verse by George John Cayley. Canto 1 st.

Pickering. 1849.
Inconsistency, whether in matters of importance or in trifles,

whether in substance or in detail, is never pleasant. We do not here

impute to this poem any inconsistency between one portion and

another; but certainly its form is at variance with its subject and

treatment. In the wording of the title, and the character of typo-

graphy, there is a studious archaism: more modern the poem itself

could scarcely be.
“Sir Reginald Mohun” aims, to judge from the present sample,

at depicting the easy intercourse of high life; and the author enters

on his theme with a due amount of sympathy. It is in this respect,

if in any, that the mediæval tone of the work lasts beyond the title

page. In Mr. Cayley's eyes, the proof of the comparative prosperity

of England is that
  • “Still Queen Victoria sits upon her throne;
  • Our aristocracy still keep alive,
  • And, on the whole, may still be said to thrive,—
  • Tho' now and then with ducal acres groan
  • The honored tables of the auctioneer.
  • Nathless, our aristocracy is dear,
  • Tho' their estates go cheap; and all must own
  • That they still give society its tone.”—p. 16.

He proceeds in these terms:
  • “Our baronets of late appear to be
  • Unjustly snubbed and talked and written down;
  • Partly from follies of Sir Something Brown,
  • Stickling for badges due to their degree,
  • And partly that their honor's late editions
  • Have been much swelled with surgeons and physicians;
  • For ‘honor hath small skill in surgery,’
  • And skill in surgery small honor.”—p. 17.

What “honor” is here meant? and against whom is the taunt

implied?—against the “surgeons and physicians,” or against the

depreciation of them. Surely the former can hardly have been in-

tended. The sentence will bear to be cleared of some ambiguity, or

else to be cleared off altogether.
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Our introduction to Sir Reginald Mohun, Lord of Nornyth Place,

and of “an income clear of 20,000 pounds,” and to his friends

Raymond St. Oun, De Lacy, Wilton, Tancarville, and Vivian—

(for the author's names are aristocratic, like his predilections)—is

effected through the medium of a stanza, new, we believe, in ar-

rangement, though differing but slightly from the established octave,

and of verses so easy and flowing as to make us wonder less at the

promise of
  • “provision plenty
  • For cantos twelve, or may be, four and twenty,”

than at Mr. Cayley's assertion that he

“Can never get along at all in prose.”
The incidents, as might be expected of a first canto, are neither

many nor important, and will admit of compression into a very small

Sir Reginald, whose five friends had arrived at Nornyth Place late

on the preceding night, is going over the grounds with them in a

shooting party after a late breakfast. St. Oun expresses a wish to

“prowl about the place” in preference, not feeling in the mood for

the required exertion.
  • “‘Of lazy dogs the laziest ever fate
  • Set on two useless legs you surely are,
  • And born beneath some wayward sauntering star
  • To sit for ever swinging on a gate,
  • And laugh at wiser people passing through.’
  • So spake the bard De Lacy: for they two
  • In frequent skirmishes of fierce debate
  • Would bicker, tho' their mutual love was great.”—p. 35.
Mohun, however, sides with St. Oun, and agrees to escort him in

his rambles after the first few shots. He accordingly soon resigns

his gun to the keeper Oswald, whose position as one who
  • “came into possession
  • Of the head-keepership by due succession
  • Thro' sire and grandsire, who, when one was dead,
  • Left his right heir-male keeper in his stead,”

Mr. Cayley evidently regards with some complacence. The friends

enter a boat: here, while sailing along a rivulet that winds through

the estate, St. Oun falls to talking of wealth, its value and insuf-

ficiency, of death, and life, and fame; and coming at length to ask

after the history of Sir Reginald's past life, he suggests “this true

epic opening for relation:”
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  • “‘The sun, from his meridian heights declining
  • Mirrored his richest tints upon the shining
  • Bosom of a lake. In a light shallop, two
  • Young men, whose dress, etcaetera, proclaims,
  • Etcætera,—so would write G.P.R. James—
  • Glided in silence o'er the waters blue,
  • Skirting the wooded slopes. Upward they gazed
  • On Nornyth's ancient pile, whose windows blazed
  • “‘In sunset rays, whose crimson fulgence streamed
  • 10 Across the flood: wrapped in deep thought they seemed.
  • ‘You are pensive, Reginald,’ at length thus spake
  • The helmsman: ‘ha! it is the mystic power
  • Fraught by the sacred stillness of the hour:
  • Forgive me if your reverie I break,
  • Craving, with friendship's sympathy, to share
  • Your spirit's burden, be it joy or care.’”—pp. 48, 49.
Sir Reginald Mohun's story is soon told.—Born in Italy, and

losing his mother at the moment of his birth, and his father and

only sister dying also soon after, he is left alone in the world.
  • “‘My father was a melancholy man,
  • Having a touch of genius, and a heart,
  • But not much of that worldly better part
  • Called force of character, which finds some plan
  • For getting over anguish that will crush
  • Weak hearts of stronger feeling. He began
  • To pine; was pale; and had a hectic flush
  • At times; and from his eyelids tears would gush.
  • “‘Some law of hearts afflicted seems to bind
  • 10A spell by which the scenes of grief grew dear;
  • He never could leave Italy, tho' here
  • And there he wandered with unquiet mind,—
  • Rome, Florence, Mantua, Milan; once as far
  • As Venice; but still Naples had a blind
  • Attraction which still drew him thither. There
  • He died. Heaven rest his ashes from their care.
  • “‘He wrote, a month or so before he died,
  • To Wilton's father; (he is Earl of Eure,
  • My mother's brother); saying he was sure
  • 20That he should soon be gone, and would confide
  • Us to his guardian care. My uncle came
  • Before his death. We stood by his bedside.
  • He blessed us. We, who scarcely knew the name
  • Of death, yet read in the expiring flame
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  • “‘Of his sunk eyes some awful mystery,
  • And wept we knew not why. There was a grace
  • Of radiant joyful hope upon his face,
  • Most unaccustomed, and which seemed to be
  • All foreign to his wasted frame; and yet
  • 30So heavenly in its consolation we
  • Smiled through the tears with which our lids were wet.
  • His lips were cold, as, whispering, ‘Do not fret
  • “‘When I am gone,’ he kissed us: and he took
  • Our uncle's hands, which on our heads he laid,
  • And said: ‘My children, do not be afraid
  • Of Death, but be prepared to meet him. Look;
  • Here is your mother's brother; he to her
  • As Reginald to Eve.’ His thin voice shook.—
  • ‘Eve was your Mother's name.’ His words did err,
  • 40As dreaming; and his wan lips ceased to stir.’”—pp. 55-57.
(We have quoted this passage, not insensible to its defects,—some

common-place in sentiment and diction; but independently of the

good it does really contain, as being the only one of such a character

sustained in quality to a moderate length.)
Reginald and his cousin Wilton grew up together friends, though

not bound by common sympathies. The latter has known life early,

and “earned experience piecemeal:” with the former, thought has

already become a custom.
Thus far only does Reginald bring his retrospect; his other

friends come up, and they all return homeward. Here, too, ends

the story of this canto; but not without warranting some surmise

of what will furnish out the next. There is evidence of observation

adroitly applied in the talk of the two under-keepers who take

charge of the boat.
  • “They said: ‘Oh! what a gentleman to talk
  • Is that there Lacy! What a tongue he've got!
  • But Mr. Vivian is a pretty shot.
  • And what a pace his lordship wish to walk!
  • Which Mr. Tancarville, he seemed quite beat:
  • But he's a pleasant gentleman. Good lawk!
  • How he do make me laugh! Dang! this 'ere seat
  • Have wet my smalls slap thro'. Dang! what a treat!
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  • “‘There's company coming to the Place to morn:
  • 10Bess housemaid told me. Lord and Lady——: dash
  • My wigs! I can't think on. But there's a mash
  • O' comp'ny and fine ladies; fit to torn
  • The heads of these young chaps. Why now I'd lay
  • This here gun to an empty powder-horn
  • Sir Reginald be in love, or that-a-way.
  • He looks a little downcast-loikish,—eh?’”—pp.62, 63.
It will be observed that there is no vulgarity in this vulgarism:

indeed, the gentlemanly good humour of the poem is uninterrupted.

This, combined with neatness of handling, and the habit of not over-

doing, produces that general facility of appearance which it is no

disparagement, in speaking of a first canto, to term the chief result

of so much of these life and adventures as is here “done into verse.”

It may be fairly anticipated, however, that no want of variety in the c

onception, or of success in the pourtrayal, of character will need to

be complained of: meanwhile, a few passages may be quoted to con-

firm our assertions. The two first extracts are examples of mere

cleverness; and all that is aimed at is attained. The former follows

out a previous comparison of the world with a “huge churn.”
  • “Yet some, despising life's legitimate aim,
  • Instead of butter, would become “the cheese;”
  • A low term for distinction. Whence the name
  • I know not: gents invented it; and these
  • Gave not an etymology. I see no
  • Likelier than this, which with their taste agrees;
  • The caseine element I conceive to mean no
  • Less than the beau ideal of the Casino.”—p. 12.
  • “Wise were the Augurers of old, nor erred
  • 10In substance, deeming that the life of man—
  • (This is a new reflection, spick and span)—
  • May be much influenced by the flight of birds.
  • Our senate can no longer hold their house
  • When culminates the evil star of grouse;
  • And stoutest patriots will their shot-belts gird
  • When first o'er stubble-field hath partridge whirred.”—p.25.
In these others there is more purpose, with a no less definite

  • “Comes forth the first great poet. Then a number
  • Of followers leave much literary lumber.
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  • He cuts his phrases in the sapling grain
  • Of language; and so weaves them at his will.
  • They from his wickerwork extract with pain
  • The wands now warped and stiffened, which but ill
  • Bend to their second-hand employment.”—pp. 4, 5.
  • “What's life? A riddle;
  • Or sieve which sifts you thro' it in the middle.”—p.45.
The misadventures of the five friends on their road to Nornyth are

very sufficiently described:
  • “The night was cold and cloudy as they topped
  • A moorland slope, and met the bitter blast,
  • So cutting that their ears it almost cropped;
  • And rain began to fall extremely fast.
  • A broken sign-post left them in great doubt
  • About two roads; and, when an hour was passed,
  • They learned their error from a lucid lout;
  • Soon after, one by one, their lamps went out.”—p.29.
There remains to point out one fault,—and that the last fault the

occurrence of which could be looked for, after so clearly expressed

an intention as this:
  • “But, if an Author takes to writing fine,
  • (Which means, I think, an artificial tone),
  • The public sicken and won't read a line.
  • I hope there's nothing of this sort in mine.”—p. 6.
A quotation or two will fully explain our meaning: and we would

seriously ask Mr. Cayley to reflect whether he has always borne his

principle in mind, and avoided “writing fine;” whether he has not

sometimes fallen into high-flown common-place of the most undis-

guised stamp, rendered, moreover, doubly inexcusable and out of

place by being put into the mouth of one of the personages of the

poem; It is Sir Reginald Mohun that speaks; and truly, though

not thrust forward as a “wondrous paragon of praise,” he must be

confessed to be,
  • “Judging by specimens the author quotes,
  • An utterer of most ordinary phrases,”

not words only and sentences, but real phrases, in the more distinct

and specific sense of the term.
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  • “‘There, while yet a new born thing,
  • Death o'er my cradle waved his darksome wing;
  • My mother died to give me birth: forlorn
  • I came into the world, a babe of woe,
  • Ill-omened from my childhood's early morn;
  • Yet heir to what the idolators of show
  • Deem life's good things, which earthly bliss bestow.
  • “‘The riches of the heart they call a dream;
  • Love, hope, faith, friendship, hollow phantasies:
  • 10Living but for their pockets and their eyes,
  • They stifle in their breasts the purer beam
  • Of sunshine glanced from heaven upon their clay,
  • To be its light and warmth. This is a theme
  • For homilies: and I will only say,
  • The heart feeds not on fortune's baubles gay.’”—p. 51.
Sir Reginald's narrative concludes after this fashion:
  • “‘But what is this? A dubious compromise;
  • Twilight of cloudy zones, whereon the blaze
  • Of sunshine breaks but seldom with its rays
  • Of heavenly hope, towards which the spirit sighs
  • Its aspirations, and is lost again
  • 'Mid doubts: to grasp the wisdom of the skies
  • Too feeble, tho' convinced earth's bonds are vain,
  • Cowering faint-hearted in the festering chain.’”—p. 60.
A similar instance of conventionality constantly repeated is the

sin of inversion, which is no less prevalent, throughout the poem,

in the conversational than in the narrative portions. In some cases

the exigencies of rhyme may be pleaded in palliation, as for “Cam's

marge along” and “breezy willows cool,” which occur in two con-

secutive lines of a speech; but there are many for which no such

excuse can be urged. Does any one talk of “sloth obscure,” or

of “hearts afflicted?” Or what reason is there for preferring

“verses easy” to easy verses? Ought not the principle laid down

in the following passage of the introduction to be followed out, not

only into the intention, but into the manner and quality also, of the

whole work?
  • “‘I mean to be sincere in this my lay:
  • That which I think I shall write down without
  • A drop of pain or varnish. Therefore, pray,
  • Whatever I may chance to rhyme about,
  • Read it without the shadow of a doubt.’”—p. 12.
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Again, the Author appears to us to have acted unwisely in

occasionally departing from the usual construction of his stanzas, as

in this instance:
  • “‘But, as I said, you know my history;
  • And your's—not that you made a mystery
  • Of it, nor used reserve, yet, being not
  • By nature an Autophonophilete,
  • (A word De Lacy fashioned and called me it)—
  • Your's you have never told me yet. And what
  • Can be a more appropriate occasion
  • Than this true epic opening for relation?’”—p. 48.

Here the lines do not cohere so happily as in the more varied dis-

tribution of the rhymes; and, moreover, as a question of principle,

we think it not advisable to allow of minor deviations from the

uniformity of a prescribed metre.
It may be well to take leave of Mr. Cayley with a last quotation

of his own words,—words which no critic ought to disregard:
  • “I shall be deeply grateful to reviews,
  • Whether they deign approval, or rebuke,
  • For any hints they think may disabuse
  • Delusions of my inexperienced muse.”— p.8.
If our remarks have been such as to justify the Author's wish for

sincere criticism, our object is attained; and we look forward for

the second canto with confidence in his powers.

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Contents of the Germ, No. 1.

  • My Beautiful Lady: by Thomas Woolner................................1
  • Of my Lady in Death: by Thomas Woolner..............................5
  • The Love of Beauty: by F. Madox Brown..............................10
  • The Subject in Art, (No. 1.)....................................... 11
  • The Seasons........................................................ 19
  • Dream Land: by Ellen Allyn.........................................20
  • Songs of one Household, (My Sister's Sleep): by Dante G. Rossetti. 21
  • Hand and Soul: by Dante G. Rossetti................................23
  • Reviews: The “Bothie of Toper-na-fuosich”: by Wm. M. Rossetti...... 34
  • Her First Season: by Wm. M. Rossetti...............................46
  • A Sketch From Nature............................................... 47
  • An End: by Ellen Allyn.............................................48

Page 19, line 3, for his, read its.

Page 19, line 10, for comes, read falls.
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Published Monthly, price 1s.
The Germ.
This Periodical will consist of original Poems, Stories to

develope thought and principle, Essays concerning Art and

other subjects, and analytic Reviews of current Literature—

particularly of Poetry. Each number will also contain an

Etching; the subject to be taken from the opening article

of the month.
An attempt will be made, both intrinsically and by review,

to claim for Poetry that place to which its present develop-

ment in the literature of this country so emphatically

entitles it.
The endeavour held in view throughout the writings on

Art will be to encourage and enforce an entire adherance to

the simplicity of nature; and also to direct attention, as an

auxiliary medium, to the comparatively few works which Art

has yet produced in this spirit. It need scarcely be added

that the chief object of the etched designs will be to illustrate

this aim practically, as far as the method of execution will

permit; in which purpose they will be produced with the

utmost care and completeness.
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