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suitable vehicle for his work; and, tried by this test, Browning's diction cannot be hurriedly condemned. It is often intricate and obscure, impatient of the shackles of syntax, wormed through with ellipses and wayward turns of thought; but the subjects chosen for his imaginative analysis demanded an exceptional style. He was essentially a dramatist of the soul, following the tricks and turns of man's spirit along a hundred devious by-ways, finding here something beautiful, there something sordid, everywhere something fascinating and mysterious. Life was for him a blend of the noble with the grotesque, and individuals were compounded out of the same raw elements. He took his part on the great stage with an unceasing zest; entered into the artistic representation of life as he saw it lived, with a robust sympathy and an unshakable optimism which were his inborn gifts. The Ring and the Book (1868-9) is in its naked form a sordid story ; but so is Hamlet. It is the glory of Browning's genius that he has transfigured the squalid tale into a poetic masterpiece. As the focus of this pitiful murdertale he shows us Pompilia and Caponsacchi ; not as names, but with all the passion and despair, the commingled strength and weakness, that enter into the nature of men and women. Browning did not go to Arthurian legends for his life-types. He found them in the streets of Italy, in the rogues as much as in the heroes of history. He has given the glamour and the interpretation which only poetry can give to the facts and emotions of our common life. Such poems as Saul, Balaustion's Adventure, Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau (1871), Bishop Bloug. ram's Apology (1855), and Mr. Sludge the Medium (1864) may be separated from the great mass of his writing to represent the variety and subtlety of his gifts. But many of the shorter poems are less difficult and almost as vivid in their effect : The Lost Leader, Fra Lippo Lippi, Prospice, My Last Duchess come among the crowd into the memory. And of the dramas, as distinct from the monologues and dramatic lyrics, Pippa Passes (1841) condenses the essence of his attitude to life as well as any of his works—better than Strafford (1837), Luria (1846), or any other of his more formal plays.
The influence of a poet so various, so courageous, and so ready to plunge into any subject, provided that it had the one essential spiritual vitality in it, was not so wide as in the interests of poetry it ought to have been. Never easy, never conventional, Browning could not enjoy a popularity like
Tennyson's. He had, and still has, his loyal band of almost blind admirers, elect souls who turned the writings of this most human of men into a cult, and sought to extract from them a philosophical essence that has little relation to Browning's actual thought. But, whatever friend or foe may say, his work is poetic in its essence, not philosophical. He faced life's difficulties and problems imaginatively, as a poet should. He cast his net more widely than did any of his contemporaries, and caught in it undoubtedly a number of characters, such as Pacchiarotto, which had no proper business there ; but the spirit of his work is a light for the future, even though it has not ripened yet in the poetry of any competent successor.
The truth appears to be that Browning's optimistic faith, springing from the exuberant vitality of a completely healthy man, hardly harmonised with the dominant note of his day. On its intellectual side, if we except its science, the Victorian age was essentially pessimistic. Its attitude towards faith was ritical and despairing. The pillars of religion seemed to be falling ; materialism seemed to be advancing from triumph unto triumph Browning's answer to this was not argument, but impatient laughter, a boisterous revelation that life is not so, is not weak and mawkish, a ragged tissue of doubts and fears. His finest poems are the exhilarating oxygen of a loftier Parnassus, which persuades us not by anæmic reasonings, but by the new thrill of life in our veins.
4. Matthew Arnold, who has been mentioned on p. 1077, struck in his poetry the note of doubt and despair, to which Browning's ringing songs and breezy humanity are antidote. Arnold was eminently the poet of the man of culture. His verse is scanty in amount, [but most of it is very high in quality. In its classic perfection of form, it was inspired by the Greeks ; in its subject matter, it reflects the despondency of a cultured mind which stands hesitating between the clamant demands of a science with which it has little sympathy and a religious system which seems to it to be doomed. His poems give little or no encouragement, though they are ennobled by a kind of stoicism peculiar to himself. Yet no poet has given a more poignant music than he to the numb dissatisfaction felt by poetic minds with the trend of new conditions in the Victorian epoch. The Scholar Gipsy (1853) expresses this feeling in a poem of chaste perfection and haunting beauty. In his elegy Thyrsis (1867), on the death of his friend Clough, he treated with great distinction a theme exactly suited to the trend of his mind. Mycerinus (1849), the Stanzas in memory of the author of Obermann, Empedocles on Etna (1852)--along with such exquisite minor poems as Rugby Chapel, Dover Beach, The Forsaken Merman (1849)—are all inspired by the same spirit of mournful regret ; even the less successful narrative poems, like Balder Dead (1855) and Tristram and 1seult (1867), do not escape the melancholy atmosphere ; and when Arnold withdrew his pen from the service, of poetry he must have felt thus early in his life that poetry was no longer to be regarded as the loftiest sphere in which the intellect of man was to be exercised.
Arnold himself devoted his literary gifts henceforth to prose, and became an influential person in the world of letters. His Essays in Criticism (1865, 1882) placed him high in the ranks of English critics. They were informed by a wide and sympathetic knowledge of ancient and modern literature ; they were written in a lucid prose of real charm and individuality; and they were inspired by just principles concerning what literature, and poetry in particular, ought to be. Arnold may have narrowed the scope of poetry in defining it as "a criticism of life”; his essays, nevertheless, were (and are) stimulating to all who wish to read poetry aright. They set the right standards, combine knowledge with enthusiasm, and are animated by a genuine faith in the high mission of literature. They were much read, and are far too good to be lost.
Arnold also wrote interesting volumes on religious and social questions, which revealed a dainty sense of irony in addition to the serious motive that underlay them. These books, nevertheless, have a more ephemeral interest than his other work. Literature and Dogma (1873) and Culture and Anarchy (1867) are perhaps the best. In the former Arnold expounds persuasively his attitude towards the Bible. He was so far in company with the spirit of the age as to recognise that the Bible might cease to be valuable for its dogma ; but all the more he pleaded that it should be studied as literature, so that the spirit of it should never be lost. His book dealt reverently and lucidly with a prevalent mood of the moment, and reflects, along with the Essays in Criticism, what we may call the advanced aspect of Victorian culture.
In spite, however, of the undoubted value of, and the real influence exerted by, these prose works, it is the poetry of
THE PRE-RAPHAELITE MOVEMENT
Arnold that is likely to wear longest. Arnold did not found a school ; we cannot point to a flock of ardent admirers and imitators. But the collision in our time of the pessimism of such as Arnold with the optimism of such as Browning is one of the salient facts of modern poetry. Our more recent verse is not perhaps of the full clear strain that is immortally remembered., such as it is, it is infiltrated by the two streams of doubt and faith which, mingling often, have deposited a confused sediment and rushed off into unexpected channels. The clash of the classical and the romantic, of the ancient and the modern, of reverence with revolt, of old themes with new problems, is heard in all our thoughtful writers. At the close of the reign of King Edward VII. our poets must look back to the astonishing productiveness of the previous age with admiration --perhaps with a touch of envy. They recognise assuredly the supremacy of an In Memoriam, a Ring and the Book, a ScholarGipsy, among a host of poems scarcely less great. But they are also conscious of voices which would have turned the harmonies of Tennyson into dismal discords, of cries which the impetuous music of Browning cannot quench, of despairs more poignant than any Arnold knew. They await a real genius, lofty enough and powerful enough to control the full orchestra of the modern spirit. When he comes, he will not be able to ignore the achievements of the Victorian
5. Other echoes come to us from the Victorian period, scarcely less pure, if less rich, than the full music that we have just passed in review. The pre-Raphaelite movement was an aspiration towards beauty, an aspiration which is by no means lost, either in art or in literature. This ideal was so far out of sympathy with the movement of the times, that it may almost be described as a reaction to the spirit of the mediæval past. This is partly true—but only partly; most of the literary preRaphaelites are more or less tinged with nineteenth-century ideas.
The pioneer of pre-Raphaelitism, both in poetry and in painting, was Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82), a man not only of great individual genius, but also of exceptional personal influence. He was the son of Italian parents who had been compelled to settle in England from political considerations. His father was a patriotic Italian, keenly interested in the literature and politics of his native country, and the Rossetti family was brought up in what may be called an Italian atmosphere. But Dante Rossetti did not share his father's political enthusiasms. He always preferred England to Italy, and is not moved by the genius of Italy as were such downright Englishmen as Browning and Swinburne. What he loved about Italy was its art and-Dante. These were the vital influences of his life, and, through him, of the lives of other painters and poets.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848, entirely sor artistic purposes. Two years later appeared the four numbers of The Germ, a little periodical to which Rossetti and his brother were the chief contributors, devoted to the exposition of his artistic views. Rossetti regarded art as almost a religion. He wished to recapture art from the chains of sterile conventionality, to recall it to the pursuit of true beauty, as its one aim. In painting and in poetry, he demanded truth and sincerity, simplicity and exactitude. One of the poems printed in The Germ was The Blessed Damosel, written when Rossetti was only eighteen. This illustrates his theories as well as did his pictures or his longer poems. It is a vision, an attempt to embody an ideal conceived in the mind as beautiful. The attempt is a triumph. The whole atmosphere of the poem is vague, spiritual, unearthly ; yet the imagery is entirely sensuous, glorious with lovely colouring, and lingering in the mind with its enchanting sounds. Exact, simple, true to his vision, Rossetti never allows the poem to become grossly realistic. The school of poetry which Rossetti founded has often been called “the fleshly school”; and this phrase doubtless touches one obvious characteristic of Rossetti's method. The senses are the avenues of beauty to the soul ; Rossetti's poems are in truth a sensuous banquet, occasionally cloying to the appetite, yet always inspired by the essential truth of art. Not for their own sakes the sensuous images, but for the sake of the subtle suggestions of super-sensuous truth which is incommunicable without them.
In 1860 Rossetti married Elizabeth Siddal, who inspired so many of his love poems, whether they were committed to canvas or to print. She died two years later under sad circumstances, and in his grief Rossetti buried the manuscript of his poems in his wife's coffin. He disinterred them in 1869, and they were published, along with a few others, in the following year. In 1861 he had published translations from Italian poets