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{The Drama of Kings 1871}






Behold! where even in our triumph-hour
Comes one with feet that linger, head that droops,
And eyes that pour their fire upon the ground.



Woe to thee, Paris; then thy cup is full.



O Sire and Princes, leaders of the host,
Kings, soldiers, strangers, hither have I come
Reluctant as a captive led to death,                                                     418
Woe in mine heart and on mine eyelids tears,
To offer up my sword, and on my knees,
Not used to bend their joints to mortal men,
To hold your skirts imploring in the name
Of the Imperial City overthrown,
Paris, the fallen Regent of the world.
There Fire hath cast our fairest temples down,
And now in the black embers flickers faint
Ready to spring once more; and Frost is there,
Most silent, with the paralysing touch
Of skeleton fingers, feeling for the heart
Under the thin rags blown apart by wind;
And, worst and direst, in the open square,
Witless upon a pile of fleshless bones
Sits Famine, smiling with a hungry eye
At Pestilence, who at her dark feet heaps
The blotch’d and swollen faces of the dead
In silence; and these four full well have done
Your dreadful bidding, serving as they do
The strong man ever against the weak. But now,
I bid ye, I beseech ye, call them off,
And in the name of God and Christ His son,                                       419
Uplift your hands, and leave us, and depart.
I do not think your eyes may contemplate
More closely what ye have done; but silently,
Seeing we lay our arms down at your feet
And seeing we are broken as a reed,
Turn ye your conquering faces otherwhere
And leave this City once named “Beautiful”
To cleanse herself and feed her hungry brood
And wear her sackcloth, praying all alone
With open gates for food, and warmth, and light,
The homeward flying swallow and green shoots
Heralding harvest. For the sad red sun
Must come and go for many a dreadful day,
Ere these things ye have sent against her life
Perish forgotten; and for many a day
Earth must be open’d for the countless dead
And dying; and indeed the City sad
Needeth the darkness of her own deep shame,
That she may hide herself from all men’s sight,
Until she is clothed, and the piteous wounds
Upon her gentle flesh are wholly heal’d.                                             420
Wherefore, O leaders of the Teuton host,
Accept our swords, our lives, but turn aside
Your faces, seeking not to look upon
More sorrow, nor to pass the dreadful gates;
For should ye gaze on our poor Paris now,
The scorn of your proud eyes, as sharp as steel,
Would stab her to the heart and she would die:
Or madden’d, anguish’d, with her dying breath,
Gather the last strength of supreme despair,
And seek to drag ye with her unto doom.



Yield up thy sword, and waste no further breath;
Turn thine appeal to God, and go thy way.



Glory to God. Long live the Emperor!



’Tis finished; at our feet great France lies dead.



O God who leadest on the mortal race,
     Whither they know not, through the wondrous years,
Thou mystery whose sad meaning none may trace,
     Light on our eyes and Music in our ears,
Spirit that punishest and scatterest grace,
     Lord of all losses and all doubts and fears,
Shedding upon the self-same hour and place
The doubt that maddens and the faith that cheers,—
Is there ever a smile upon a living face
     That doth not mean some living face’s tears?











Enter TIME.

O SPIRITS seated in your just degrees,
Greater and lesser, wiser and most wise,
All beautiful and some most beautiful,
Thus far have ye beheld our Tragedy
Rise to its crest of meaning like a wave,
And break to the low murmur of mere foam
Call’d glory. Ye have seen the Star of France
Rise bloody; ye have seen it wax and burn,
Suffusing and consuming other lights
Around it; ye have watch’d it wane and fade;
Ye have beheld it rise i’ the west again
With sicklier and yet less baleful light—
Less bloody, yet more like those leprous-spheres
Which follow and proclaim a pestilence;
And lastly, ye have seen it die once more                                            426
Frail as a taper in the wind of war,
While rising suddenly as the round moon
In harvest storms, Germania brighteneth
Above the wild eyes of the wondering world.

Is this the end? I hear ye smiling ask.
Why, God forbid. Tho’ for a time we pause,
We shall continue our strange Tragedy
To-morrow and to-morrow, for indeed
The end is dark even to all us who play;
For mark you, much must yet be said and done,
Many strange Leaders go and come, ere Heaven
Sees the last scene and awful spectacle
Concluding the strange Drama of the Soul.
Thus far of evil there hath issued forth
This good—a lesser evil; and the air
Is clearer for the thunders ye have heard
Shaking the thrones of Europe and appalling
The foolish-hearted people. Ye have seen,
How Buonaparte swept away with fire
The living lies and blots of monarchy;
How, when at last the Man became a pest,                                         427
The lesser evil fair as present good
Rose and destroyed him; how by slow degrees
That lie of lies, the sandstone Church of Rome,
Was slowly decomposing with the wash
Of the great tide of years; how Germany,
Grown subtle to the conscience and the will,
Sat like an eagle breeding in a cave,
Nursing her strength and teaching her fierce young
Dark secret flights to try their fledgeling wings;
How in these memorable later days
Cæsar’s last Ghost rose up and walk’d abroad,
So hideous in the open common day
That Cæsarism, second lie of lies,
Perish’d for ever from the face of things;
How, in his turn, above the wandering world,
Stands up the Kaiser, with the living lie
Of Right Divine upon his lips, yet blest
For the time being as a feeble good,
Because the base of his imperial throne
Is set upon the conscience and the will                                                428
Of a great people now awakening
From torpor to a living hope and aim.

Wherefore, I say, these Kings whom ye have seen
Were God’s unwilling servants, but for whom
The Titan Soul of Man were still asleep,
Tranced to sorrow and forgetfulness;
And now that Soul is waken’d, now, O friends,
Begins the serious matter of our play,
For scene by scene we purpose to set forth,
To the same audience and on other nights,
The mighty spiritual brightening,
And the last laying of these ghosts of Kings.

“O foolish mortal race,” I hear ye cry,
“Who will, yet will not learn, and live, and take
Their birthright, and be free!” Ay, friends, indeed,
Man is a scholar eager indeed to learn,
But most forgetful having learn’d. His wits
Go wandering, his vacant eyes are caught
By foolish pictures and by idle gleams,
Glibly he learns and instantly forgets.                                                  429
Again, again, and o’er and o’er again,
He tries the same old lesson, utters it
So loud and well that out of every star
Angels look out with gleaming eyes and hope;—
But in a moment his bewildered brain
Shuts like a lantern, and is dark as night.
O spirits seated in your just degrees,
O lights, O lamps, O principles divine,
Be patient. Of each failure, of each loss,
Of each sad repetition, in his soul
Something remains—a word—a gleam—a thought—
A dim sensation—a faint memory—
And these perchance are working under God
More strangely and more surely than ye know.

Ay, but I weary. O I weary. Sleep
Were better. Would the mighty play were o’er!
Again and yet again the same old scenes,
The same set speeches, the same blind despairs
And miserable hopes, the same sick fear                                            430
Of quitting the poor stage; so that I lose
All count of act and scene and speech, confuse
Scenes present and scenes past, actors long still
With actors flaunting now their little hour.
How like each other all the players speak
Who play the tyrants! how the kings and queens
Each follow each like bees from out a hive!
Still the old speeches, the old scenes, despite
The surface-change of costume and the trick
Of posture. Ay, I weary! O to see
The great black Curtain fall, the music cease,
All darken, the House empty of its host
Of strange intelligences who behold
Our Drama, till the great Hand, creeping forth
In silence, one by one puts out the lights.











Enter, on the stage, the CHANCELLOR, followed
by a dark throng of Actors. They kneel.



NOW what are ye who hither come and kneel?



The poor spent players of the Tragedy.



First, ye who played the lowliest parts of all,
Fulfilling them with your best courtesy,
Ye who were slain and made the sport of Kings,
Come hither to my side; for thro’ your masks
I see the fairest of my host.



                                             We come!


And ye who spake a little speech and went,
And stalk’d upon the stage in rich attire,
Go by, sit lower. Where is Lucifer?


CHANCELLOR (unmasking).




         Thy dark part was excellently played—
A trifle dull, and modell’d after him
Who played the part of Man of Destiny.



Master of souls—that part I also played.



And Buonaparté.



                           My pet character!—
Sire, I prepared the play at thy command,
And being thy liege servant plotted out
The parts to each soul as stage-manager;
Nor willingly would have myself essayed
The mighty monologues and leading parts,
But that the other actors, one and all,
Were slow of study and too scrupulous
In the great text they spake.
To all the staff I offer’d Buonaparte—
None would essay it of our company;
Wherefore I made it mine, and for like reasons
Kept to myself the other leading parts.



None could have played them better, or so well:
And never since the earthly Play began
Hast thou, mine evil Angel wrought for good,
Spoke the dark speech Divine more willingly.



Since we have played the drama to Thy liking,
Deign, King of Heaven,
To hear our Chorus sing the Final Song
Or Epode. A poor actor on the scene,
Who in the crowded background stood and gaped,
A mortal poet, is the author, Sire!
It is a mere cantata—one of those
Wild songs which the obscure upon the stage
(Nobodies who would fain be somebodies,
Starving king-haters who would fain play kings)
Have ever made to while away the time;
And Thou, whose calm eyes measure all to come,
Will smile to see how oft this poet tries
To peer into the future and to sound
The advent of thy Kingdom; yet, indeed,
The thing is pleasant to the ear when sung—
Small service is true service—and we know
God is not critical.



                               ’Tis well. Sing on.



     The Soul shall arise.
Power and its vanity,
Pride’s black insanity,
Lust and its revelry
Shall with war’s devilry
Pass from humanity.
     The Soul shall arise.



As from night springs golden-wingëd morrow,
     As a bloom on the grey bough in the May.



From darkness, and from coldness, and from sorrow
     He shall issue living to the day.



As a wild, wild rose-tree when ’tis snowing
     Feels the unborn roses and is bright,
Pants the Earth, and, though the storm be blowing,
     Knows the birth within her day and night.



Like a fount by spring’s warm breath unfrozen,
     Like a song-bird waking in the nest,
On the breast of Earth awakes the chosen,
     First and last, the brightest and the best.



Where we sleeping lie, where we sleeping lie,
We hear the sound and our spirits cry;
As we sleeping lie in the Lord’s own Breast,
Calm, so calm, for the place is blest,
We, who died that this might be,
Souls of the great, and wise, and free;
Souls that sung, and souls that sighed,                                                439
Souls that pointed to God and died;
Souls of martyrs, souls of the wise;
Souls of women with weeping eyes;
Souls whose graves like waves of the sea
     Cover the world from west to east;
Souls whose bodies ached painfully,
     Till they broke to prophetic moan and ceased;
Souls that sleep in the gentle night,
We hear the cry and we see the light.
Did we die in vain? did we die in vain?
Ah! that indeed were the bitterest pain!
But we see the light and we bless the cry,
Where we sleeping lie, where we sleeping lie.



He cometh late, this greatest under God,
Promised for countless years, he cometh late—
Where shall he dwell? The cities of our state
         Are level with the sod.
Shall he upbuild them then? Meantime, we wait                                  440
And see black footsteps where our martyrs trod.
He cometh late, forsooth, he cometh late,
         This greatest under God!
Nor do we see the earth that he will claim
     Is riper yet than on the natal day.
All lands are bloody, and a crimson flame
     Eats Hope’s poor heart away.
Where shall he turn for peace? whom shall he trust for stay?
The anarchs of the world still sit and sway
The hearts of men to evil;—Hunger and Thirst
Moan at the palace door; and birds of prey
Still scream above the harvest as at first.
         Should he then come at all,
         This Soul on whom ye call,
How should he dwell on earth? would he not find it curst?



As the young lamb by its dam runs leaping,
     As the young bird to the old bough clings,
Born to Earth in darkness and in weeping,
     He shall cherish her from whom he springs.



He shall guide her blind feet very slowly,
     He shall guide her as none other can,
He shall crown her brows and hail her holy,
     Mother of the mighty Soul of man.



     The Soul shall arise.
Sweetness and sanity,
Slaying all vanity,
Shall to love’s holiness,
Meekness and lowliness,
Shepherd humanity.
     The Soul shall arise.



He shall rise a creature and a spirit,
     Guiding Earth, yet guided as they go.
If her low voice speaketh he shall hear it:
     Secrets of her bygone he shall know.



He shall hear her voice and answer brightly;
     They shall wander on by ways untrod;
He shall rest upon her bosom nightly,
     Nestling there and looking up to God.



Shall they dwell for evermore together,
     Earth and the fair creature of her breast?
Nay; but on some day of golden weather
     They shall find a pleasant spot and rest.



Peace! ye souls who make sad acclamation,
     Wringing hands o’er broken towns of stone,
Soon the Soul shall build a habitation
     Fairer than the fairest overthrown.

                                                                                                       443 [note]


         Comfort, O true and free,                                                      [1:i]
         Soon shall there rise for ye                                                     [1.ii]
A City fairer far than all ye plan;
         Built on a rock of strength,
         It shall arise at length,
Stately and fair and vast, the City meet for man!

         Towering to yonder skies  
         Shall the fair City rise
In the sweet dawning of a day more pure:                                         [2:iii]
         House, mart, and street, and square,
         Yea, and a fane for prayer—
Fair, and yet built by hands, strong, for it shall endure.

         In the fair City then
         Shall walk white-robëd men,
Wash’d in the river of peace that watereth it;
         Woman with man shall meet
         Freely in mart and street—
At the great council-board woman with man shall sit.

         Hunger and Thirst and Sin                                                        444
         Shall never pass therein.
Fed with pure dews of love, children shall grow.  
         Fearless and fair and free, 
         Honour’d by all that see, 
Virgins in golden zones shall walk as white as snow.

         There, on the fields around,
         All men shall till the ground,
Corn shall wave yellow, and bright rivers stream;
         Daily, at set of sun,
         All, when their work is done,
Shall watch the heavens yearn down and the strange starlight gleam.

         In the fair City of men
         All shall be silent then,
While on a reverent lute, gentle and low,
         Some holy Bard shall play
         Ditties divine, and say                                                            [6:v]
Whence those that hear have come, whither in time they go.

         No man of blood shall dare                                                     445
         Wear the white mantle there;
No man of lust shall walk in street or mart;
         Yet shall the Magdalen
         Walk with the citizen;
Yet shall the sinner stand gracious and pure of heart.

         Now, while days come and go,
         Doth the fair City grow,
Surely its stones are laid in sun and moon.
         Wise men and pure prepare
         Ever this City fair.
Comfort, O ye that weep; it shall arise full soon.

         When, stately, fair, and vast,
         It doth uprise at last,
Who shall be King thereof, say, O ye wise?—
         When the last blood is spilt,
         When the fair City is built,
Unto the throne thereof the Monarch shall arise.

           Flower of blessedness,                                                            446
           Wrought out of heart’s distress,
Light of all dreams of saintly men who died,
           He shall arise some morn
           One Soul of many born,
Lord of the realms of peace, heir of the Crucified.

           O but he lingereth,
           Drawing mysterious breath
In the dark womb where he was cast as seed.                                  [11:iii]
           Strange was the seed to sow,
           Dark is the growth and slow;
Still hath he lain for long—now he grows quick indeed.

           Quicken, O Soul of Man!
           Perfect the mystic plan—
Come from the womb where thou art darkly wrought;                      [12:iii]
           Wise men and pure prepare
           Ever thy City fair—
Come when the City is built, sit on the Throne of Thought.

           Earth and all things that be                                                     447
           Wait, watch, and yearn for thee,
To thee all living things stretch hands bereaven;—                             [13:iii]
           Perfect and sweet and bright,
           Lord of the City of Light,
Last of the fruits of Earth, first of the fruits of Heaven.                      [13:vi]





Page 443: The ‘Epode’ is a revision of ‘The Final Chorus, or Epode’ of Napoleon Fallen, with the following alterations:
v. 4, l. iv: Nought shall be bought and sold,
v. 4, l. v: Nought shall be given for gold,
v. 4, l. vi: All shall be bright as day, all shall be white as snow.
v. 7, l. vi: Yet shall the sinner grow gracious and pure of heart.
v. 9, l. vi: Unto the throne thereof, a Monarch shall arise.
The original version ends with Verse 10, which is omitted in subsequent versions:

         Hearken, O pure and free,
         When ’tis upbuilt for ye,
Out of the grave He shall arise again;
         He whose blest soul did plan
         This the fair CITY of MAN,
In his white robes of peace, CHRIST shall arise, and reign.

In the revision of The Drama of Kings this final verse is replaced by four new verses and this version (with slight revisions) was then included in the third volume of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan (Henry S. King, 1874) as ‘The City Of Man’. This was placed after the revised version of Napoleon Fallen and The Drama of Kings - ‘Political Mystics’ - as ‘L’Envoi to Vol. III’. In the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan this version of ‘The City of Man’ was included as the final part of ‘Political Mystics’. The alterations to the final version of ‘The City of Man’ are as follows:
v. 1, l. i:  COMFORT, O free and true!
v. 1, l. ii: Soon shall there rise for you
v. 2, l. iii: Dim in the dawning of a day more pure:
v. 6, l. v: Music divine, and say
v. 11, l. iii: In the dark depths where he was cast as seed.
v. 12, l. iii: Come from the flesh where thou art darkly wrought;
v. 13, l. iii: To thee all loving things stretch hands bereaven;—
v. 13, l. vi: Last of the flowers of Earth, first of the fruits of Heaven!
Also, in reference to the subsequent omission of the original Verse 10, see Buchanan’s own note below. ]











Page 3.

Close round it snowing
Are the Seraphs white,
And next more dim
The Cherubim;
And from rings to rings, &c.


                       un cerchio d’igne. . . .
E questo era d’un altro circuncinto,
E quel dal terzo, e’l terzo poi dal quarto, &c,
         *          *         *          *         *
E quello avea la fiamma piu sincera,
     Cui men distava la favilla pura,
     Credo, perocchè più di lei s’invera.
                                           Dante, Par., Cant. xxviii.


Page 8.

Have ye forgot the sin of Phrynichos?

     This sin was the celebration of the miseries of the Ionians, in a tragedy called the Capture of Miletos. When, however, two years after the Battle of Salamis, Phrynichos chronicled the defeat of Xerxes, he met with an enthusiastic reception, and his success encouraged Æschylos to write the Persæ,—in some respects the very finest of the extant Greek tragedies, for the very reasons which make it inferior in ghastly tremendousness to the Orestean Trilogy.


Page 23.

Enter STEIN.

     Of Stein’s character as a patriot and a statesman, it is unnecessary to say one word. How cruelly Prussia rewarded him for his services is well known; but the day of his apotheosis is at hand. We all know Arndt’s songs, and his soul through them. Jahn is less familiar to all but historical students; he was, however, a great creature—a source of constant inspiration to German patriots, and particularly the Gymnasiarchs. For particulars concerning these men, and many others as great in soul, who, rising in the moment of peril to save their country, were first welcomed, and after victory treated as lunatics and criminals, see Richter (“Geschichte des Deutschen Freiheitskrieges”) and the volume called “Geschichte des Lützowschen Frei-corps,” published in 1826, at Berlin.


Page 28.

O spirits dreaming, &c.

Omnes enim per se divum natura necesse est, &c.
                                                         Luc., I. 45.


Page 40.

But yestermorn the old man Wieland stood
Enlarging his weak vision for an hour
Upon the demigod, who of Greece and Rome
Talked like a petulant schoolboy.

     Menzel (Geschichte des Deutschens), while justly inveighing against the literary heroes of Weimar, who were incapable of a patriotic sentiment, alleges that Wieland was kept standing an hour in Napoleon’s presence, and when, unable from his old age to continue on his feet, he asked permission to retire, Napoleon is said to have considered it an unwarrantable liberty. This is manifestly unjust to Buonaparte, who reserved all his brutality for queens and political opponents. Wieland himself, in his letters, gives an excellent account of the interview: it is more interesting and less familiar than the interview with Goethe.
453   “I had not been many minutes there before Napoleon came across the room towards us: the duchess then formally presented me to him; and he addressed me affably with some words of compliment, looking me steadily in the face. Few persons have appeared to me to see through a man so rapidly. He instantly perceived that, notwithstanding my celebrity, I was a plain unassuming old person, and, as he seemed desirous of making a good impression on me, he at once assumed the manner best adapted to attain his end. I never saw a man in appearance calmer, plainer, milder, or more unpretending. No trace was visible about him of the consciousness that he was a great monarch. He talked to me like an old acquaintance with his equal, and, which was very rare with him, chatted with me exclusively an entire hour and a half, to the great surprise of all who were present. At length, about midnight, I began to feel inconvenience from standing so long, and took the liberty of requesting his majesty’s permission to withdraw. ‘Allez donc,’ said he, in a very friendly tone; ‘bon soir!’ The more remarkable traits of our interview were as follows:—The previous play having made Cæsar the subject of our conversation, Napoleon observed that he was one of the greatest characters in all history; and that indeed he would have have been without exception the greatest but for one blunder. I was about to inquire to what blunder he alluded, when he seemed to read the question in my eye, and continued, ‘Cæsar knew the men who wanted to get rid of him, and he ought to have been rid of them first.’ If Napoleon could have read all that passed in my mind, he would have perceived me saying, ‘Such a blunder will never be laid to your charge.’ From Cæsar our conversation turned to the Roman people; and he praised warmly their military and their political system; while the Greeks, on the contrary, seemed to stand low in his opinion. The eternal contest between their little republics was not formed, he said, to produce anything great; but the Romans were always intent on grand purposes, and thus created the mighty colossus which bestrode the world. I pleaded for the arts and literature of the Greeks; but he treated both with contempt, and said that they only served to make objects of dispute.
     “He preferred Ossian to Homer. In poetry he professed to 454 value only the sublime, the energetic, and the pathetic writers, especially the tragic poets. Of Ariosto he spoke in some such terms as those which had been used by Cardinal Hippolito, of Este; not aware, however, I think, that in doing this he was giving me a box on the ear. For anything humorous he seemed to have no liking; and, notwithstanding the flattering friendliness of his apparent manner, he repeatedly gave me the idea of his being cast from bronze.
     “At length, however, he had put me so much at my ease, that I asked him how it happened that the public worship, which he had in some degree reformed in France, had not been rendered more philosophic, and more on a par with the spirit of the times. ‘My dear Wieland,’ he replied, ‘worship is not made for philosophers; they believe neither in me nor in my priesthood. As for those who do believe, you cannot give them or leave them wonders enough. If I had to make a religion for philosophers, it should be just the reverse.’ In this tone the conversation went on for some time; and Buonaparte professed so much scepticism, as to question whether Jesus Christ had ever existed. This is very common every-day scepticism; so that in his free thinking I saw nothing to admire, but the openness with which he exposed it.”


Page 57.


     I have here taken a slight liberty with history. The high-minded queen’s famous interviews with Buonaparte took place at Tilsit, a year previous to the Congress at Erfurt in 1808, and two years after Buonaparte, standing at the tomb of Frederick Sanspareil, had publicly aspersed Louisa’s fame.


Page 69.

Compound of Scapin and Olympian Jove.

     So the Abbé de Pradt, in his savage character of Napoleon, against whom he felt all the bitterness of a slighted tool:—
“L’homme qui, unissant dan ses bizarreries tout ce qu’il y a de 455 plus élevé et de plus vil parmi les mortels, de plus majestueux dans l’éclat de la souveraineté, de plus peremptoire dans le commandment, avec ce qu’il y a d’ignoble et de plus lâche jusque dans ses plus grands attentats, joignant les guet-apens aux détrônements, présente une espèce de Jupiter-Scapin qui n’avait pas encore paru sur la scène du monde.”


Page 73.

On Jena Prussia’s feeble body died, &c.

     Everbody has followed the miserable campaign of 1806. “Les Prussiens sont encore plus stupides que les Autrichiens,” cried Buonaparte, amazed at the wretched pottering of the Duke of Brunswick, adding afterwards, on hearing that the enemy expected him from Erfurt when he was already at Nuremberg, “Ils se tromperont furieusement, ces perruques!”


Page 87.

Why, how now, hath Pope Pius lost his wits? &c.

     There can be no doubt that Napoleon’s sharp dispute with, and subsequent savage treatment of, the aged Pope made the French supremacy trebly odious to the Catholic population. Pius VII. showed a spirit worthy of a grander cause. Of course, he was contending against the avalanche; but even such opposition hastened its rush into the gulf that awaited it.


Page 117.

                         O Spirit of Man!
A foolish Titan!

     This picture of the Spirit of Man must not be read with any reference to the shallow and barbarous myth of Prometheus, which represents the demigod-like spirit of Humanity contending against a Deity of unutterable malevolence.


Page 128.

Light of the Lotus and all mortal eyes,
Whose orbit nations like to heliotropes
Shall follow with lesser circle and sweet sound!

     Proclus, in his “Discourse on Magic,” preserved in the Latin translation of Ficinus, has the following exquisitely-beautiful passage:—
     “In the same manner as lovers gradually advance from that beauty which is apparent in sensible forms to that which is divine, so the ancient priests, when they considered that there is a certain alliance and sympathy in natural things to each other, and of things manifest to occult powers, and discovered that all things subsist in all, fabricated a sacred science from this mutual sympathy and similarity. Thus they recognised things supreme in such as are subordinate, and the subordinate in the supreme; in the celestial regions, terrene properties subsisting in a casual and celestial manner, and in earth celestial properties, but according to a terrene condition. For how shall we account for those plants called heliotropes—that is, attendants on the sun, moving in correspondence with the revolution of its orb; or for selenitropes, attendants on the moon, turning in exact conformity to her motion? It is because all things pray and hymn the leaders of their respective orders; but some intellectually, and others rationally; some in a natural and others after a sensible manner. Hence the sun-flower, as far as it is able, moves in a circular dance towards the sun, so that if any one could hear the pulsation made by its circuit in the air, he would perceive something composed by a sound of this kind, in honour of its being such as a plant is capable of framing. Hence, too, we may behold the sun and moon in the earth, although according to a terrene quality; but in the celestial regions, all plants, and stones, and animals possessing an intellectual life according to a celestial nature. Now the ancients, having contemplated this mutual sympathy of things, applied for occult purposes both celestial and terrene natures, by means of which, through a certain similitude, they deduce divine virtues into this inferior abode. For, indeed, similitude itself is a sufficient cause of binding things together in union and content. 457 Thus, if a piece of paper is heated, and afterwards placed near a lamp, though it does not touch the fire, the paper will be suddenly inflamed, and the flame will descend from the superior to the inferior parts. This heated paper we may compare to a certain relation of inferiors to superiors, and its approximation to the lamp, to the opportune use of things according to time, place, and matter. But the procession of fire into the paper aptly represents the movement of divine light, to that nature which is capable of its reception. Lastly, the inflammation of the paper may be compared to the deification of mortals, and to the illumination of material natures, which are afterwards carried upwards like the enkindled paper, from a certain participation of divine seed.
     “Again, the lotus, before the rising of the sun, folds its leaves into itself, but gradually expands them on its rising, unfolding them in proportion to the sun’s ascent to the zenith; but as gradually contracting them, as that luminary descends to the west. Hence this plant, by the expansion and contraction of its leaves, appears no less to honour the sun, than men by the gestures of their eyelids and the motion of their lips.”


Page 161.

Strange are the bitter things
God wreaks on cruel Kings;
Sad is the cup drunk up
               By Kings accurst, &c.

     A portion of this chorus is versified from Dio Chrysostom’s “Treatise on Arbitrary Government.” “Napoleon Fallen,” when published in its first rough shape, opened with a chorus of German citizens, somewhat too colloquial in manner to suit the mystic quality of the scenes which followed, and therefore now suppressed. Most of the other choruses are new, and those retained are entirely altered and remodelled.


Page 239.

     With Sin and Death our mothers’ milk was sour,
     The womb wherein we grew from hour to hour
Gather’d pollution dark from the polluted frame.

     This measure is used once or twice by Shelley.


Page 250.

Yet he, too, fell. Early or late, all fall.
No fruit can hang for ever on the tree, &c.

     An eminent friend “admits” that I do full justice to Napoleon on the intellectual side, but “is inclined to dispute” his title to a “moral consciousness,” and to question whether he is “capable” of any such “remorse” as I portray. This is another illustration of how many meanings men may find in a poem according to their different lights. So far from attempting to represent the speaker as feeling mere “remorse,” I was portraying, in his final soliloquy, a mood of unutterable perversity—a line of thought only possible to a fourth-rate intellect in which the moral consciousness was virtually inert and dead. From my own point of view, so utter was the wicked hopelessness of this soliloquy, that I should certainly have altered it, had my conscience not told me that every word was dramatically true.


Page 288.

Worshipping Thammus and all gods obscene.

     See the superb passage in “Paradise Lost,” Book I., line 446.

                         Thammuz came next behind,
Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured
The Syrian damsels to lament his fate
In amorous ditties all a summer’s day,
While smooth Adonis, &c.


Page 300.

How long shall I to this sick world, this mass
Of social sores, this framework of disease,
This most iitfected many-member’d earth,
Play the hard surgeon?

     To the reader who may question the moral truth of my representation of Count Bismarck, I recommend a careful study of his speeches now collected and published at Berlin. Once 459 more, however, let me warn the student that the great statesman is approached from the divine side, during the highest mood of which, from the dramatic point of view, he is capable. That mood, unhappily, is a low enough one.


Page 412.

O to waken Lützow’s spirit!

     Richter writes thus of the corps organized by Lützow during the German War of Liberation:—
     “With the utmost truth we may say that in Lützow’s volunteer corps lived the idea of the war. The universal enthusiasm elevated itself here to a noble self-consciousness. In the other corps this and that individual might attain the same high intellectual position that was the property here of the whole body; the soldier entered with full sympathy into the dignity of his personal mission, and fought from clear conviction, not from blind impulse. Those loose and roving adventurers that to a certain extent will always mix themselves up with a volunteer corps, were kept in check here by the number of high and noble spirits with whom they found themselves in daily communion. Here, whatsoever glowed with holy revenge against the recklessness of a foreign tyranny; whatsoever, in other parts of Europe, had manifested itself to be animated by a spirit of unyielding animosity to Napoleon’s despotism; whosoever had learned, under long-conquering banners, to curse the conquests, and to despise the conqueror, were gathered together in one knot of many-coloured but one-hearted fellowship. These men were all penetrated by the conviction that, in the nature of things, no power merely military, no cunning of the most refined despotism, can in the long-run triumph over native freedom of thought and tried force of will. They looked upon themselves as chosen instruments in the hand of the divine Nemesis, and bound themselves by a solemn oath to do or to die. They were, in fact, virtually free when Germany yet lay in chains; and for them the name of ‘Free Corps’ (Frei Schaar) had a deeper significance than that of free (volunteer) soldiers. Here the deed of the individual was heralded by the thought that measured inwardly, and rejoiced in the perception of its own capability. Here the triumphant spirit of patriotism broke 460 forth in song, in poetry, which is the outspread wing of enthusiasm. The prince, the philosopher, the bard served under Lützow, as volunteers, in the humblest capacity. The Prince of Karolath, Steffens, Jahn, Theodore Körner, and many other consecrated names belonged to this noble body; nay, even females, under well-concealed disguises, came boldly forward to share with this brave band all the toils and hardships of the sterner sex. The enemies of France, from Spain and the Tyrol, joined themselves to this corps, trusting to find here, at length, that revenge of their righteous cause which a mysterious Providence had hitherto delayed. Riedl and Ennemoser commanded a body of Tyrolese sharpshooters, and among them was the son of Andrew Hofer. From the French armies, Dutchmen and Saxons, Westphalians and Altmarkers, rejoiced to belong to the “Black Corps” (Die Schwarze Schaar), as these troops, from their uniform, were familiarly named. In the whole body there was scarcely an individual who, on the plea of personal history or qualities, might not claim peculiar distinction. And so free were they from all prejudices of class, so jealous in a high self-respect, that no person was admitted into their number who refused to serve as a common Jäger. Their fame has remained among the printed records of the war; a separate volume eternizes the exploits of a small body of not more than 3,400 warriors.”


Page 436.

                       Deign, King of Heaven,
To hear our Chorus sing the Final Song
Or Epode . . . .
Thou, whose calm eyes measure all to come,
Will smile to see how oft this poet tries
To peer into the future and to sound
The advent of Thy Kingdom.

     A crude early version of this “final song” was printed as a sequel to “Napoleon Fallen;” but “Christ” appeared there instead of “the Soul” in the final passages. I found that the words, “Christ shall arise and reign,” were too literally interpreted as a statement that Jesus Christ was to come in the flesh 461 and rule the world; and as I meant nothing of the sort, but only that the spiritual part of Christ should be present during the reign of the perfect Spirit of Humanity, I have taken good care this time to avoid misconstruction. There is another misconstruction which I fear—that of a mere pantheistic reading of my “Cantata.” Surely, however, no reader who has followed my representation of divine agencies throughout the Drama will do me the injustice of supposing that I consider man by any means the highest of beings. There are times, indeed, when I doubt if he is the highest of animals. We find on examination that those gentlemen who insist most on the superiority of man in the scale of nature, insist quite as much on the adjective “white,” and coming a little nearer home, on the adjective “British.” The formula that man is highest of beings, when uttered here in Britain, then generally resolves itself into this other formula—“the British white man is the highest of beings.” Conceive a chain of development culminating in Mr. Carlyle at one point, at another in Mr. Disraeli, and at another in ex-Governor Eyre.










     “Poesie ist das absolut Reelle. Dies ist der Kern meiner Philosophie.
Je poetischer, je wahrer.”—NOVALIS (Schriften, vol. iii. p. 171).


IN the present work, and in the works which have preceded it from the same pen, an attempt is made to combine two qualities which the modern mind is accustomed to regard apart—reality and mystery, earthliness and spirituality; and this combination, whether a merit or a fault, is a consequence of natural temperament, and perfectly incurable. The writer dropped into a world a few years ago like a being fallen from another planet. His first impression was one of surprise and awe;—he stood and wondered—and here, on the same spot, he stands and wonders still. What is nearest to him seems so sublime, unaccountable, and inexhaustible, and occasionally, indeed, so droll and odd, that he has never ceased to regard it with all the eyes of his soul from that day to this. Others may go to the mountain-tops and interrogate the spheres. Wiser men may peruse the Past, and see there, afar away, the dreamy poetry for which the spirit eternally yearns. More acquiescent men may look heavenward, slowly and strangely losing the habit of earthly perception altogether. With all these, with all who love beauty near or afar away, in any shape or form, abides the twofold blessing of reverence and love. But the Mystic is occupied hopelessly with what immediately surrounds him. Minuter examination leads only to extremer joy 466 and wonder. To him this ever-present reality is the only mystery, and in its mystery lies its sublime fascination and beauty. Only what is most real and visible and certain is marvellous, and only that which is marvellous has the least fascination. What he sees may be seen by every soul under the sun, for it is the soul’s own reflection in the river of life glassed to a mirror by its own speed.
     This close examination of human nature from the mystic side is not so common that men will tolerate it calmly. “What is the dullard looking at?” cries the passer-by; “what are these wretched beings who surround him?—costermongers, thieves, magdalen-women, village schoolmasters, nomads,—what is the sentimentalist trying to find among these? He floods them with the light of his own vacant mind, and calls that light their souls!” So the speaker passes on—to the heights of the Alps, perhaps, where he finds communion; God communicating with all men somewhere. A more elaborate person pauses next before the Mystic. “The man is in error,” is his criticism; “he would fain prove himself an artist, but art deals only with things beautiful,—with remote forms of nature, with the dreamy past, with antique turns of thought, with what is essentially exquisite in itself—and it has, moreover, a terminology quite at variance with ordinary speech. Man yearns to the unknown and illimitable, and demands distance in the subjects of his art.” And this other goes his way, grateful to God for Greece and Italy, and for Lessing and Winkelman. Meantime the poor criticised barbarian has not budged. He looks on into the eyes nearest to him, and ah! what distance does he not find there? Approaching each creature as ever from the mystic side, he becomes, in spite of himself, an optimist. The moment he seizes for examination is the divine moment, when the creature under examination—be it Buonaparte or a street-walker, Bismarck or “Barbara Gray”—is at its highest and best, 467 whether that “best” be intellectual beatification or the simple vicarious instinct which merges in the identity of another. He sees the nature spiritualised, in the dim strange light of whatever soul the creature possesses. This light is often very dim indeed, very doubtful—so doubtful that its very existence is denied by non-mystic men whose musings assume the purely spiritual and unimaginative form. But be the teaching true or false, be the light born in the subject examined or in the human sentiment that broods over it, this mystic approach to the creature at his highest point of spiritualisation, this mode of approach which seems unnatural to many because it involves the most minute enumeration of details and the most careful display of the very facts of life which artists try most to conceal, is the only procedure possible to the present writer. The personal key-note to all his work—poor enough, God knows, is all that work from his own point of view—is to be found in the “Book of Orm,” and most of all in the poem entitled “The Man Accurst.”
     Imagination is not, as some seem to imply, the power of conjuring up the remote and unknowable, but the gift of realising correctly in correct images the truths of things as they are and ever have been. He who can see no poetry in his own time is a very unimaginative person. The truly imaginative being is he who carries his own artistic distance with him, and sees the mighty myths of life vivid yet afar off, glorified by the truth which is Eternal. How many people can walk out on a starry night, or sit by the side of the sea, unmoved? But let a comet appear, or a star shoot, and they exclaim, “How beautiful!” Let a whale rise up in the water and roar, and they think, “How wonderful are the works of God!” These are the people, and their name is legion, who lack as yet the consecrating gleam of the imagination. As for the Mystic, he needs neither a comet nor a whale to fill his soul with a sense of the wonderful; he needs still less the dark vistas of tradition or the archaic scenery of 468 obscure periods. He comes into the world, as has been said, like a man dropped from the moon, and he walks all his life as among wonderful beings in a strange clime. How far has he not wandered, how far has he not yet to wander?—and every face he sees is turned in the same direction. Faces! how they haunt them with their weird beauty and divine significance! Go where he may, his path swarms with poetic forms. All is glorified and awful. What is nearest seems of all the most sublime and unaccountable. It is with difficulty that he can bear any book or contemplate any painted picture, seeing what books and pictures present themselves in the strangely-coloured lives of his fellow-beings. He turns to history—not in disdain of what exists, but in search of explanation and corroboration, and in order to discover what part of the strange show there is perishable, what part is durable and eternal. Having as he thinks discovered that, he may become a poet, and put on record his own idea or autobiography, written in reference to his own time, but to be used in all after-times as explanatory and corroborative. Homer, the Greek tragedians, Aristophanes, Plato, David and the prophets, the authors of the Sagas and Lieds, Dante, Boccaccio, Rabelais, William Langdale, Chaucer, the ballad-singers of Scotland and England, Ben Jonson, Shakspere, La Fontaine, Burns, Wordsworth, Jean Paul, Balsac, Shelley, Tennyson, Whitman,—do we find any of these men, poets all of them, turning away from his own time because it is too uninteresting? or, on the contrary, do we find them penetrating to the very soul of it, stirring to every breath of it, uttering every dream and aspiration of it? Does Dante try to write like Virgil, though he sits at Virgil’s feet? Does Chaucer ape Boccaccio, though he wears the Decameron next his heart? Does Ben Jonson reproduce Plautus or La Fontaine Rabelais? Does Burns, having drunk Scotch ballads into his soul, sing as the ballad-writers sang? Do we find Wordsworth seeking for subjects far 469 back in the dark ages? Has Shelley so little imagination as to reproduce Greek tragedy as it was, or so much imagination as to make of his “Prometheus” a veritable modern poem [in spite of the falsehood and shallowness of the myth it preserves] with a distinctly modern purpose and scope?
     “But,” some one again interposes, “this is such an unpoetic age, and the surroundings of modern life are so vulgar.” The writer understands this objection, and there is reason in it. The majority of people find their ordinary associations vulgar and unpoetic, and like to be lured away from them and interested. So much the worse, alas! for the majority. But let it be at once admitted that the poet fails altogether if he fails to lure readers and interest them as they desire. He is no mere moral teacher, but a singer of the beautiful, and his real business in this world is not to join in a chorus raised by any group of people, but to explain some point of beauty which has rested altogether hidden until his advent. If people are unimaginative, he comes to teach them imagination: if people dislike modern subjects, he comes to make them like modern subjects. If ordinary people perceived the sublime mysteries of contemporary life, if ordinary people understood the faces and souls they behold daily, it would be a waste of time to sing to them. If men in general understood the higher historical issues and perceived the higher poetry of the siege of Paris, what good would it be to celebrate it in song? And this poem, for example, fails altogether—is veritably less than nothing—is a futility, a mere wind-bag—if it does not make the reader feel the events it describes as he never, by any possibility, felt them before.
     In the “Drama of Kings,” as in “London Poems,” “Inverburn,” and “Meg Blane,” in the presentment of the characters of Buonaparte, Louis Napoleon, and Prince Bismarck,—as in the characters of “Nell,” “Liz,” “Meg Blane,” and the rest,—one point of view is adopted; not 470 the point of view of the satirist, nor that of the politician, nor that of the historian; but that of the realistic Mystic, who, seeking to penetrate deepest of all into the soul, and to represent the soul’s best and finest mood, seizes that moment when the spiritual or emotional nature is most quickened by sorrow or by self-sacrifice, by victory or by defeat. In good honest truth, the writer has had far greater difficulty in detecting the spiritual point in these great leaders than in the poor worms at their feet. The utterly personal moods of arbitrary power, the impossibility of self-abnegation for the sake of any other living creature, the frightful indifference to all ties, the diabolic supremacy of the intellect, make the first Emperor a figure more despairing to the Mystic than the coster girl dying in childbed in a garret, or the defiant woman declaiming over the corpse of her deformed seducer. It is this sense of the superlatively diabolic that has made the author, in the Epilogue, attribute the performance of the three leading characters to Lucifer himself;—only let it be understood not to the irreclaimable and Mephistophelian type of utter evil, but to the Mystic’s Devil, a spirit difficult to fathom individually, but clearly in the divine service working for good. Perhaps, by the way, the supernatural machinery of Prelude and Epilude is a defect, like all allegory; and if the consensus of wise criticism inclines to its condemnation as a defect, it will be obliterated, no author having a right to resist the wish of his readers where their dislike corresponds with a doubt of his own. But if it serves to keep before the reader the fact that the whole action of the drama is seen from the spiritual or divine auditorium, he will not regret its introduction; and in using it without perfect faith, he may plead the example of the greatest poetic sceptic of modern times. No one did fuller justice to mystic truths than the great positivist who wrote the first and second “Fausts.”
     Concerning the mere form of the poem and its resemblances 471 to the Greek, little need be said. It is the first serious attempt ever made to treat great contemporary events in a dramatic form and very realistically, yet with something of the massive grandeur of style characteristic of the great dramatists of Greece. In minor points of detail the author is sanguine that it is not at all Greek, nor in any sense of the word archaic. The interest is epic rather than tragic; but what the leading character is to a tragedy France is to the “Drama of Kings,”—a wonderful genius guilty of many sins, terribly overtaken by misfortune, and attaining in the end perhaps to purification. It is unnecessary to add any more by way of explanation, save to say that most of the metrical combinations used in the choruses are quite new to English poetry, and that where a measure is employed which has been used successfully by any previous poet, the fact is chronicled in the notes.
     One word in conclusion. For this new experiment in poetic realism, the writer asks no favour but one—a quiet hearing. He has a faint hope that if readers will do him the honour to peruse the work as a whole, and then patiently contemplate the impression left in their own minds, the first feeling of repulsion at an innovation may give place in the end to a pleasanter feeling. Perhaps, however, this is too much to ask from any member of so busy a generation, and he should be grateful to any one who will condescend to read the “Drama” in fragments.

Die Masse könnt ihr nur durch Masse zwingen;
Ein Jeder sucht sich endlich selbst was aus.
Wer vieles bringt, wird manchem etwas bringen,
Und Jeder geht zufrieden aus dem Haus. . . .
Was hilft’s, wenn ihr ein Ganzes dargebracht!
Das Publicum wird es euch doch zerpflücken.

                                                 ROBERT BUCHANAN.




‘On Mystic Realism’ was included in the Appendix to the third volume of the 1874 H. S. King edition of Buchanan’s Poetical Works. This revised version contained the following alterations:

Opening sentence:

IN the contents of the preceding volumes an attempt is made to combine two qualities which the modern mind is accustomed to regard apart—reality and mystery, earthliness and spirituality; and this combination, whether a merit or a fault, is a consequence of natural temperament, and perfectly incurable.

Page 467:

The personal key-note to all his work—poor enough, God knows, is all that work from his own point of view—is to be found in the ‘Book of Orm,’ 1 and the climax of all in the poem entitled ‘The Man Accurst.’

The mention of ‘The Book of Orm’ prompts this footnote:

     The Author trusts that future readers will not be misled by the Celtic framework of this poem, which is as modern as any of the rest, and might be entitled, representing as it does the spiritual and non-dramatic side of the Author’s nature, the ‘Book of Robert Buchanan.’ Intellectually, it is the key to all his writings.

Page 468:

In the list of writers, Tennyson is omitted.

Page 469:

The 1874 version leaves the original after the sentence:

If ordinary people perceived the sublime mysteries of contemporary life, if ordinary people understood the faces and souls they behold daily, it would be a waste of time to sing to them.

And continues to the end as follows:

Whether from too elaborate a collegiate education, or from class pride, or from actual deficiency of imagination, they do really associate vulgarity with a certain class of subjects, they do really feel that contemporary life is not naturally poetic, they do really breathe more freely under the masks of the old drama, than when face to face with the terrific commonplaces and sublime vulgarities of great cities. Views of contemporary life, to please them, must be greatly idealised or subdued to the repose of Greek sculpture; but, for the most part, they would consign contemporary material to the comic writer, and reserve our ordinary daily surroundings for the use of the manufacturers of Adelphi farces. In ‘Pindar and Poets unrivalled,’ they confine their sympathy to tradition, and care most for statuesque woes and nude intellectualities moving on a background of antique landscape. If they are to find a poetic theme on the soil, they must go very far back in the chronicle—say, as far as Boadicea, The more misty the figures, the less their vulgarity, in the eyes of those who wish to build colleges on Parnassus, and who learn Greek in order to address the Muses, forgetting that the nine ladies now favour the moderns, and have almost entirely forgotten their beautiful native tongue.
     However, the mania for false refinement, which distinguishes educated vulgarity, must not blind us to the truth that a large portion of the public, and these highly intellectual people, are quite incapable of perceiving the poetry existing close to their own thresholds. The little world in which they move is so vulgar and sordid, or so artificial, that the further they escape from its suggestions they feel the freer. What they cannot feel in the office or the drawing room they try to feel in the garden of Academus. Their daily life, their daily knowledge and duty, is not earnest enough to supply their spiritual needs, and they very naturally conclude that the experience of their neighbours is as mean as theirs. In the ranks of such men we not seldom find the lost Student; but the majority call themselves cultured, as their neighbours call themselves virtuous,—just for want of some other spicier peculiarity to distinguish them from their fellows!
     Let it be at once conceded that our modern life is complex and irritating, and, at a superficial glance, sadly deficient in picturesqueness. Streets are not beautiful, and this is the age of streets; trade seems selfish and common, and this is the age of trade; railways, educational establishments, poor houses, debating societies, are not romantic, and this is the age of all these. But if we strip off the hard outer crust of these things, if we pass from the unpicturesqueness of externals to the currents which flow beneath, who then shall say that this life is barren of poetry? Never, I think, did such strange lights and shades glimmer on the soul’s depths, never was suffering more heroic, or courage more sublime, never was the reticence of deep emotion woven in so closely with the mystery and the wonder of the world. Yet a very brief glance at recent poetry will show how blind our poets have been to this most legitimate material. With the exception of Browning, Victor Hugo, Clough, and Whitman, few modern poets reach the deeper significance of their century. Tennyson is supreme, but he belongs to the last generation. Perhaps ‘Aurora Leigh’ contains passages newer, truer, and profounder than any other modem poem. England has lost a great modern light in Mrs. Browning. She has left little behind her to represent her mighty sympathy and capacity for apprehending, but she stands unique in these days—specifically a poet—one troubled by the great mystery of life, and finding no speech adequate but song. Had she survived, and been open to English influences, she would have written her name on the forehead of her time, and forced the stream of English poetry into a newer and a deeper channel.
     But it is at least clear, from this example, that the poetry of humanity is newly dawning. To the preacher, to the poet, to the philosopher, the people must look more constantly than heretofore for guidance. Religion and science have their spheres defined for them: our singers are but learning to define theirs. Genius, as much as liberty, is the nation’s birthright, and it misses its aim when it confines its ministrations to any section of the state. Poetic art has been tacitly regarded, like music and painting, as an accomplishment for the refined, and it has suffered immeasurably as an art, from its ridiculous fetters. It has dealt with life in a fragmentary form, and with the least earnest and least picturesque phases of life. Yet the intensity of being (for example) among those who daily face peril, who are never beyond want, who have constant presentiments of danger, who wallow in sin and trouble, ought to bring to the poet, as to the painter, as lofty an inspiration as may be gained from those living in comfort, who make lamentation a luxury and invent futilities to mourn over. The world is full of these voices, and the poet has to set them into perfect speech. But this truth has been little understood, and but partially acted upon. Our earliest English poets had some leanings towards the heroism of fate-stricken men; and William Langdale could dwell on the love of a hind with the same affection as Spenser bestowed upon the devotion of a knight. The old poet had a wholesome regard for merit unbiassed by accessories; but the broad light he wrote in has suffered a long eclipse.
     The risk of appearing self-credulous shall not prevent me from explicitly expressing, in the interests of art and artists, the principles which have regulated my own tentative attempts at this poetry of humanity. They may be briefly enumerated. That the whole significance and harmony of life is never to be lost sight of in depicting any fragmentary form of life, and that, therefore, the poet should free himself entirely from all arbitrary systems of ethics and codes of opinion, aiming, in a word, at that thorough disinterestedness which is our only means to the true perception of God’s creatures. That every fragmentary form of life is not fit for song, but that every form is so fit which can be spiritualised without the introduction of false elements to the final literary form of harmonious numbers. That, failing the heroic stature and the noble features, almost every human figure becomes idealised whenever we take into consideration the background of life, or picture, or sentiment on which it moves; and that it is to this background a poet must often look for the means of casting over his picture the refluent colours of poetic harmony. That the true clue to poetic success in this kind is the intensity of the poet’s own insight, whereby a dramatic situation, however undignified, however vulgar to the unimaginative, is made to intersect through the medium of lyrical emotion with the entire Mystery of human life, and thus to appeal with more or less force to every heart that has felt the world.
     In such individual utterance there is clearly a danger of one-sidedness, of crediting the world with the poet’s own emotion, the more so as that emotion must interpenetrate more or less consciously with the actual emotion of the speaker, so as to result in a conscientious and moving picture, with a faint though audible tone of lyric harmony. The reader must not only see the truth, but see it through the novel medium of a poetic individuality. It may be a truth old as the hills, hoary with the snows of century after century, but it is only a poetic truth so far as the new mental light irradiates and transfigures it. If the world sees such figures as Liz, Nell, Poet Andrew, Meg Blane, through the troubled atmosphere of the writer’s soul, let not the world complain that it sees them no longer under the dark loveless shadow in which they were previously perceived, if perceived at all. One cannot so clear that atmosphere as to bring it to the ambient purity and perfect veracity of God’s own air. The poet, be he great dramatist, like Sophocles, or morbid dreamer, like Blake, cannot free himself wholly from the disturbing forces of his own heart. He has but one clue to the mystery, and that is his own individuality. ‘It is astonishing,’ says a loose but occasionally felicitous writer, ‘how large a harvest of new truths would be reaped simply through the accident of a man’s feeling, or being made to feel more deeply than other men. He sees the same objects, neither more nor fewer, but he sees them engraved in lines far stronger, and more determinate, and the difference in the strength makes the whole difference between consciousness and sub-consciousness. And in questions of the mere understanding, we see the same fact illustrated. The author who wins notice the most, is not he that perplexes men by truths drawn from fountains of absolute novelty—truths as yet unsunned—and from that cause obscure; but he that awakens into illuminated consciousness ancient lineaments of truth long slumbering in the mind, although too faint to have extorted attention.’ 1 And here is an explanation why, through all truly good and sane poetic art, runs that strange personal light which fascinates as music or style, and is the invariable characteristic of the true singer.
     I must not be understood as insisting that humble contemporary life is the only legitimate material of the modern poet. Strongly as I am convinced that the mighty reserve force, the ardent strength and sanity of this people, lies little acknowledged in the ranks of that class which is only just emerging into political power, firmly as I would indicate how exotic teachers have emasculated the youth and the flower of our schools and universities, I would yet be just to all contemporary life, social, political, moral. ‘Religion,’ says Goethe, ‘stands in the same relation to art as any other of the higher interests of life. It is a subject, and its rights are those of all other subjects.’ Yet how scantily are morality and religion represented in modern art. Why, for instance, is our Christianity forgotten as a subject? Where is the great poem, where the noble music built on that wondrous theme? Milton, with all his power, is academic, not modern; and, with the exception of a few utterances of Wordsworth and Clough, all our other religious poetry is conventional and inartistic.
     We hear, indeed, the metallic periods of the didactic teacher, and the feeble wail of the religious enthusiast, but seldom indeed are our nobler intellectual and spiritual strivings phrased into perfect song. The reticence of false culture steals over the lips of many who might instruct us deeply by their experience, who, if they do speak, are moved by the retrograde spirit of another civilisation, and use the formal periods of an alien tongue. Why, in the name of our new gods, are we still to be bound by the fetters of Prometheus? We are, if not quite Celts, more Celts than Greeks, and, thank heaven, not altogether an intellectual nation. We have nothing in common with the Athenian civilisation. In the same spirit that we demolished its monuments to transport them piecemeal to our museums, we mutilate its language to carry it into our schools. In our clumsy attempts to imitate ancient art and literature, we seek in vain to hide the gait of the barbarian. Even our strongest natures fail at this task.
     There is reason to apprehend that this traditional intellectuality is melting away, and that clearer and nobler forces are beginning to operate upon our young minds. We are a modern people, slightly barbaric in matters of art; but our natures have a glow of emotion quite unknown to the spirit of Athenian inquiry. There is a great emotional and spiritual life yet unrepresented, there are rude forces not yet brought into play, but all of which must sooner or later have their place in art; and the indigenous product of our experience, however inferior to other civilisations, is yet vastly superior to all exotics grafted on the weathered trunk of what was once a noble tree. 2


     1 De Quincey on Wordsworth’s Poetry, p. 260.

     2 In answer to thoughts like this, I have heard it urged that Art is not local but cosmopolitan, and that the artist should aim, as all great artists have aimed, at universality. It is true that the highest art owes its permanence to its universality, but it is also true that the intensity of the local insight, the keenness of the artist’s apprehension of his own time, is the very cause that his work compasses universal truth: since each man’s spiritual experience, if rightly depicted, must correspond, in numberless soul-touching particulars, with the combined experience of the world. There is no catholicity, no universality, no true art, to be got by chill aiming at these things; they are the product of individual natures, acted upon by the great forces of the world and the period. It is nonsense to point to Greek art, especially Greek sculpture, as ‘universal’ in the sense of non-nationality. Nothing can be more Greek, and that is why nothing can be more great. ]


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