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anywise subordinate to himself, he makes himself subordinate to her—follows her lead simply—does not venture to bring his own cares and thoughts into her pure and quiet presence— paints her in her simple and universal truth, adding no result of momentary passion or fancy, and appears, therefore, at first shallower than other poets, being in reality wider and healthier. “What am I?” he says continually, “that I should trouble this sincere nature with my thoughts. I happen to be feverish and depressed, and I could see a great many sad and strange things in those waves and flowers; but I have no business to see such things. Gay Greta! sweet harebells! you are not sad nor strange to most people; you are but bright water and blue blossoms; you shall not be anything else to me, except that I cannot help thinking you are a little alive,—no one can help thinking that.” And thus, as Nature is bright, screne, or gloomy, Scott takes her temper, and paints her as she is; nothing of himself being ever intruded, except that far-away Eolian tone, of which he is unconscious; and some times a stray syllable or two, like that about Blackford Hill, distinctly stating personal feeling, but all the more modestly for that distinctness, and for the clear consciousness that it is not the chiming brook, nor the corn-fields, that are sad, but only the boy that rests by them; so returning on the instant to reflect, in all honesty, the image of Nature as she is meant by all to be received; nor that in fine words, but in the first that come; nor with comment of far-fetched thoughts, but with easy thoughts, such as all sensible men ought to have in such places, only spoken sweetly; and evidently also with an undercurrent of more profound reflection, which here and there murmurs for a moment, and which I think, if we choose, we may continually pierce down to, and drink deeply from, but which Scott leaves us to seek, or shun, at our pleasure. And in consequence of this unselfishness and humility, Scott's
enjoyment of Nature is incomparably greater than that of any other poet I know. All the rest carry their cares to her, and begin maundering in her ears about their own affairs. Tennyson goes out on a furzy common, and sees it is calm autumn sunshine, but it gives him no pleasure. He only remembers that it is
“Dead calm in that noble breast
He sees a thundercloud in the evening, and would have “doted and pored” on it, but cannot, for fear it should bring the ship bad weather. Keats drinks the beauty of Nature violently; but has no more real sympathy with her than he has with a bottle of claret. His palate is fine; but he “bursts joy’s grape against it,” gets nothing but misery, and a bitter taste of dregs out of his desperate draught.
Byron and Shelley are nearly the same, only with less truth of perception, and even more troublesome selfishness. Wordsworth is more like Scott, and understands how to be happy, but yet cannot altogether rid himself of the sense that he is a philosopher, and ought always to be saying something wise. He has also a vague notion that Nature would not be able to get on well without Wordsworth; and finds a considerable part of his pleasure in looking at himself, as well as at her. But with Scott the love is entirely humble and unselfish. “I, Scott, am nothing, and less than nothing; but these crags, and heaths, and clouds, how great they are, how lovely, how for ever to be beloved, only for their own silent, thoughtless sake l’”
This pure passion for nature in its abstract being, is still increased in its intensity by the two elements above taken notice of -the love of antiquity, and the love of color and
beautiful form, mortified in our streets, and seeking for food in the wilderness and the ruin: both feelings, observe, instinc. tive in Scott from his childhood, as everything that makes a man great is always.
“And well the lonely infant knew
Not that these could have been instinctive in a child in the Middle Ages. The sentiments of a people increase or diminish in intensity from generation to generation,—every disposition of the parents affecting the frame of the mind in their off. spring: the soldier's child is born to be yet more a soldier, and the politician's to be still more a politician; even the slightest colors of sentiment and affection are transmitted to the heirs of life; and the crowning expression of the mind of a people is given when some infant of highest capacity, and sealed with the impress of this national character, is born where providential circumstances permit the full development of the powers it has received straight from Heaven, and the passions which it has inherited from its fathers.
This love of ancientness, and that of natural beauty, associ. ate themselves also in Scott with the love of liberty, which was indeed at the root even of all his Jacobite tendencies in politics. For, putting aside certain predilections about landed property, and family name, and “gentlemanliness” in the club sense of the word,—respecting which I do not now inquire whether they were weak or wise,—the main element which makes Scott like Cavaliers better than Puritans is, that he thinks the former free and masterful as well as loyal; and
the latter formal and slavish. He is loyal, not so much in
—and dear to him, finally, in that perfect beauty, denied alike
in cities and in men, for which every modern Leart had begun at last to thirst, and Scott's, in its freshness and power, of all men's, most earnestly. And in this love of beauty, observe, that (as I said we might except) the love of color is a leading element, his healthy mind being incapable of losing, under any modern false teaching, its joy in brilliancy of hue. Though not so subtle a colorist as Dante, which, under the circumstances of the age, he could not be, he depends quite as much upon color for his power or pleasure. And, in general, if he does not mean to say much about things, the one character which he will give is color, using it with the most perfect mastery and faithfulness, up to the point of possible modern perception. For instance, if he has a sea-storm to paint in a single line, he does not, as a feebler poet would probably have done, use any expression about the temper or form of the waves; does not call them angry or mountainous. He is content to strike them out with. two dashes of Tintoret’s favorite colors
“The blackening wave is edged with white;
There is no form in this. Nay, the main virtue of it is, that it gets rid of all form. The dark raging of the sea—what form has that? But out of the cloud of its darkness those lightning flashes of the foam, coming at their terrible intervals —you need no more. Again: where he has to describe tents mingled among oaks, he says nothing about the form of either tent or tree, but only gives the two strokes of color:
“Thousand pavilions, while as snow,