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accurate and intense in truth as words can be, but they nevei show the slightest feeling of anything animated in the ocean. Black or clear, monstrous or violet-colored, cold salt water it is always, and nothing but that.
And thus, in full, there are four classes; the men who feet nothing, and therefore see truly; the men who feel strongly, think weakly, and see untruly (second order of poets); the men who feel strongly, think strongly, and see truly (first order of poets); and the men who, strong as human creatures can be, are yet submitted to influences stronger than they, and see in a sort untruly, because what they see is inconceivably above them. This last is the usual condition of prophetic inspiration.
I separate these classes, in order that their character may be clearly understood; but of course they are united each to the other by imperceptible transitions, and the same mind, according to the influences to which it is subjected, passes at different times into the various states. Still, the difference between the great and less man is, on the whole, chiefly in this point of alterability. That is to say, the one knows too much, and perceives and feels too much of the past and future, and of all things beside and around that which immediately affects him, to be in any wise shaken by it. His mind is made up; his thoughts have an accustomed current; his ways are steadfast; it is not this or that new sight which will at once unbalance him. He is tender to impression at the surface, like a rock with deep moss upon it; but there is too much mass of him to be moved. The smaller man, with the same degree of sensibility, is at once carried off his feet; he wants to do something he did not want to do before; he views all the universe in a new light through his tears; he is gay or enthusiastic, melancholy or passionate, as things come and go to him. Therefore the high creative poet might even be thought, to a great extent, impassive (as shallow people think Dante stern), receiving indeed all feelings to the full, but having a great centre of reflection and knowledge in which he stands serene, and watches the feeling, as it were, from far ofF.
Dante, in his most intense moods, has entire command of himself, and can look around calmly, at all moments, for the image or the word that will best tell what he sees to the upper or lower world. But Keats and Tennyson, and the poets of the second order, are generally themselves subdued by the feelings under which they write, or at least, write as choosing to be so, and therefore admit certain expressions and modes of thought which are in some sort diseased or false.
Now so long as we see that the feeling is true, we pardon, or are even pleased by, the confessed fallacy of sight which it induces. But the moment the mind of the speaker becomes cold, that moment every such expression becomes untrue, as being for ever untrue in the external facts. And there is no greater baseness in literature than the habit of using these metaphorical expressions in cool blood. An inspired writer, in full impetuosity of passion, may speak wisely and truly of "raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame;" but it is only the basest writer who cannot speak of the sea without talking of "raging waves," "remorseless floods," "ravenous billows," &o.; and it is one of the signs of the highest power in a writer to check all such habits of thought, and to keep his eyes fixed firmly on the pure fact, out of which if any feeling aomes to him or his reader, he knows it must be a true one.
To keep to the waves, I forget who it is who represents a man in despair, desiring that his body may be cast into the sea,
"Whose c/i mging mound, and foam thai passed away,
Observe, there is not a single false, or even overcl.arged, expression. "Mound" of the sea wave is perfectly simple and true; "changing" is as familiar as may he; '* foam that passed away," strictly literal; and the whole line descriptive of the reality with a degree of accuracy which I know not any other verse, in the range of poetry, that altogether equals. For most people have not a distinct idea of the clumsiness and massiveness of a large wave. The word "wave" is used too generally of ripples and breakers, and bendings in light drapery or grass; it does not by itself convey a perfect image. But the word "mound" is heavy, large, dark, definite; there is no mistaking the kind of wave meant, nor missing the sight of it. Then the term "changing" has a peculiar force also. Most people think of waves as rising and falling. But if they look at the sea carefully, they will perceive that the waves do not rise and fall. They change. Change both place and form, but they do not fall; one wave goes on, and on, and still on; now lower, now higher, now tossing its mane like a horse, now building itself together like a wall, now shaking, now steady, but still the same wave, till at last it seems struck by something, and changes, one knows not how,—becomes another wave.
The close of the line insists on this image, and paints it still more perfectly,—" foam that passed away." Not merely melting, disappearing, but passing on, out of sight, on the career of the wave. Then, having put the absolute ocean fact as far as he may before our eyes, the poet leaves us to feel about it as we may, and to trace for ourselves the opposite fact,—the image of the green mounds that do not change, and the white and written stones that do not pass away; and thence to follow out also the associated images of the calm life with the quiet grave, and the despairing life with the fading foam;—
"Let no man move his bones."
But nothing of this is actually told or pointed out, and the expressions, as they stand, are perfectly severe and accurate, utterly uninfluenced by the firmly governed emotion of the writer. Even the word "mock" is hardly an exception, as it may stand merely for "deceive" or "defeat," without implying any impersonation of the waves.
It may be well, perhaps, to give an instance to show the peculiar dignity possessed by all passages which limit their expression to the pure fact, and leave the hearer to gather what he can from it. Here is a notable one from the Iliad. Helen, looking from the Seaman gate of Troy over the Grecian host, and telling Priam the names of its captains, says at last:—
"I see all the other dark-eyed Greeks; but two I cannot see,—Castor and Pollux,—whom one mother bore with me. Have they not followed from fair Lacedaimon, or have they indeed come in their sea-wandering ships, but now will not enter into the battle of men, fearing the shame and the scorn that is in me?"
"So she spoke. But them, already, the life-giving earth possessed, there in Lacedsemon, in the dear fatherland."
Note, here, the high poetical truth carried to the extreme. The poet has to speak of the earth in sadness, but he will not let the sadness affect or change his thoughts of it. No; though Castor and Pollux be dead, yet the earth is our mother still, fruitful, life-giving. These are the facts of the thing. I see nothing else than these. Make what you will of them.
Take another very notable instance from Casimir de la Vigne's terrible ballad, "La Toilette de Constance." I must quote a few lines out of it here and there, to enable the reader who has not the book by him to understand its close.
"Vite, Anna, vite; au miroir
Plus vite, Anna. L'heure s'avance,
Y pensez vous, ils sont fanés, ces nœuds,
Que du réseau qui retient mes cheveux
Plus hautI Plus bas! Vous ne comprenez rienI
Vous me piquez, mal-adroite. Ah, c'est bien, Bien,—chère Anna! Je t'aime, je suis belle.
Celui qu'en vain je voudrais oublier
(Anna, ma robe) il y sera, j'espère. (Ah, fi, profane, est-ce là mon collier?
Quoi! ces grains d'or bénits par le Saint Pèro I) Il y sera; Dieu, s'il pressait ma main
En y pensant, à peine je respire: Père Anselmo doit m'entendre demain,
Comment ferai-je, Anna, pour tout lui dire?
Vite, un coup d'oeil au miroir,
Qu'on va m'adorer ce soir
Chez l'ambassadeur de France.
Près du foyer, Constance s'admirait.
Dieu! sur sa robe il vole une étincelle I Au feu. Courez; Quand l'espoir l'enivrait
Tout perdre ainsi 1 Quoil Mourir,—et si belle! L'horrible feu ronge avec volupté
Ses bras, sou sein, et l'entoure, et s'élève, Et sans pitié dévore sa beauté,
Ses dixhuit ans, hélas, et son doux rêve I