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it creates) devoted and disinterested homage," as Coleridge says, — and Paul likewise. And we find in one of his last exquisite fragments, avowedly a record of one of his own mornings and its experience, as it dawned on him at his soul and body's nest in his boat on the Serchio, that as surely as
« The stars burnt out in the pale blue air,
And the mapors in the
just so surely he tells us (stepping forward from this delicious dance music, choragus-like, into the grander measure befitting the final enunciation),
« All rose to do the task He set to each,
No more difference than this, from David's pregnant conclu. sion so long ago!
Meantime, as I call Shelley a moral man, because he was true, simple-hearted, and brave, and because what he acted corresponded to what he knew, so I call him a man of religious mind, because every audacious negative cast up by him against the Divine was interpenetrated with a mood of reverence and adoration, - and because I find him everywhere taking for granted some of the capital dogmas of Christianity, while most vehemently denying their historical basement. There is such a thing as an efficacious knowledge of and belief in the politics of Junius, or the poetry of Rowley, though a man should at the same time dispute the title of Chatterton to the one, and consider the author of the other, as Byron wittily did, “really, truly, nobody at all.” There is even such a thing, we come to learn wonderingly in these very letters, as a profound sensibility and adaptitude for art, while the science of the percipient is so little advanced as to admit of his stronger admiration for Guido (and Carlo Dolce!) than for Michael Angelo. A Divine Being has himself said that “a word against
the Son of Man shall be forgiven to a man," while «a word against the Spirit of God” (implying a general deliberate prefer. ence of perceived evil to perceived good) “shall not be forgiven to a man.” Also, in religion, one earnest and unextorted assertion of belief should outweigh, as a matter of testimony, many assertions of unbelief. The fact that there is a gold region is established by the finding of one lump, though you miss the vein never so often.
He died before his youth ended. In taking the measure of him as a man, he must be considered on the whole and at his ultimate spiritual stature, and not be judged of at the immaturity and by the mistakes of ten years before; that, indeed, would be to judge of the author of "Julian and Maddalo” by “Zastrozzi.” Let the whole truth be told of his worst mistake. I believe, for my own part, that if anything could now shame or grieve Shelley, it would be an attempt to vindicate him at the expense of another.
In forming a judgment, I would, however, press on the reader the simple justice of considering tenderly his constitution of body as well as mind, and how unfavorable it was to the steady symmetries of conventional life; the body, in the torture of incurable disease, refusing to give repose to the bewildered soul, tossing in its hot fever of the fancy,- and the laudanum bottle making but a perilous and pitiful truce between these two. He was constantly subject to that state of mind” (I quote his own note to “Hellas") «in which ideas may be supposed to assume the force of sensation, through the confusion of thought with the object of thought, and excess of passion animating the creations of the imagination”; in other words, he was liable to remarkable delusions and hallucinations. The nocturnal attack in Wales, for instance, was assuredly a delusion; and I venture to express my own conviction, derived from a little attention to the circumstances of either story, that the idea of the enamored lady following him to Naples, and of the man in the cloak” who struck him at the Pisan post office, were equally illusory,- the mere projection, in fact, from himself, of the image of his own love and hate.
« To thirst and find no fill — to wail and wander
To nurse the image of unfelt caresses
of unfelt caresses, and of unfelt blows as well; to such condi. tions was his genius subject. It was not at Rome only (where he heard a mystic voice exclaiming, “Cenci, Cenci,” in reference to the tragic theme which occupied him at the time),– it was not at Rome only that he mistook the cry of “old rags.” The habit of somnambulism is said to have extended to the very last days of his life.
Let me conclude with a thought of Shelley as a poet. In the hierarchy of creative minds it is the presence of the highest faculty that gives first rank in virtue of its kind, not degree; no pretension of a lower nature, whatever the completeness of development or variety of effect, impeding the precedency of the rarer endowment though only in the germ. The contrary is sometimes maintained; it is attempted to make the lower gifts (which are potentially included in the higher faculty) of independent value, and equal to some exercise of the special function. For instance, should not a poet possess common sense? Then the possession of abundant common sense implies a step towards becoming a poet. Yes; such a step as the lapidary's, when, strong in the fact of carbon entering largely into the composition of the diamond, he heaps up a sack of charcoal in order to compete with the Koh-i-noor. I pass at once, therefore, from Shelley's minor excellences to his noblest and predominating characteristic.
This I call his simultaneous perception of Power and Love in the absolute, and of Beauty and Good in the concrete, while he throws, from his poet's station between both, swifter, subtler, and more numerous films for the connection of each with each, than have been thrown by any modern artificer of whom I have knowl. edge; proving how, as he says,
« The spirit of the worm within the sod,
I would rather consider Shelley's poetry as a sublime fragmentary essay towards a presentiment of the correspondency of the universe to Deity, of the natural to the spiritual, and of the actual to the ideal, than I would isolate and separately appraise the worth of many detachable portions which might be acknowl. edged as utterly perfect in a lower moral point of view, under the mere conditions of art. It would be easy to take my stand on successful instances of objectivity in Shelley; there is the unrivaled “Cenci”; there is the Julian and Maddalo” too; there is the magnificent “Ode to Naples.” Why not regard, it may be said, the less organized matter as the radiant elemental foam and solution, out of which would have been evolved, eventually, creations as perfect even as those? But I prefer to look for the highest attainment, not simply the high, - and seeing it, I hold by it. There is surely enough of the work “Shelley” to be known enduringly among men, and, I believe, to be accepted of God as human work may; and around the imperfect proportions of such, the most elaborated productions of ordinary art must arrange themselves as inferior illustrations.
OS EDITOR of the Revue des Deux Mondes, Ferdinand Brune42 tière is ex officio chief of French literary critics. In style
e of expression and habits of thought he approximates Matthew Arnold more than he does Taine. He is self-controlled always, and at times almost severe, with more of Attic plainness than we would look for in a master of all the possibilities of so flexible and rich a language as French. He was born at Toulon, July 19th, 1849, and was educated at Marseilles and Paris. In 1875 he joined the staff of the Revue des Deux Mondes, the leading critical review of France, and his merit as a writer and scholar made him its editor in chief. The first two series of his « Critical Studies » were crowned by the French Academy to which he was elected in 1893. He is a member of the Legion of Honor also. Among his works are “Critical Studies of French Literature,” « Questions of Criticism," « The Evolution of Lyric Poetry,” and many essays as yet uncollected. He is an opponent of materialism in literature.
THE ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTIC OF FRENCH LITERATURE
TO ATTEMPT to express and to sum up in a word the essential 1 characteristic of a great literature, so varied and so rich as
the French, which dates back eight or nine hundred years, seems at first sight a rash, imprudent, and altogether chimerical undertaking. What connection can be discovered between a romance of the Round Table, such as «Le Chevalier au Lion," by Crestien de Troyes, for instance, and “Le Maître de Forges," by M. Georges Ohnet, or «Doit-on le Dire,” or “La Cagnotte," or any other play you please, by Eugène Labiche, or Edmond Gondinet ? Do not the authors, their subjects, their language, the times and the places in which they lived, all differ one from another? And if, in order to determine the essential characteristic of a literature, we begin by eliminating from its history all di. versifying elements, what an insignificant «precipitate," — what