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wrecks of these shattered ambitions. We are the richer if the product be no greater than the three notes of a Gregorian chant. It would be a curious inquiry to institute as to what poets of the present century would take a place in the anthologies of the future, in what artistic work, in what poems the times to come shall most infallibly recognise the instinct of immortality, the poem into which the longest breath, the most enduring melody, the tenderest grace has been breathed by the cherishing artistic instincts of the poet. A few songs from the Princess, a handful of fragments from the Méditations, a score of lines from the Earthly Paradise, the noble conclusion of Portia, not a little of the glistening sensuousness of Laus Veneris, two or three sweet lyric strophes of Longfellow — these perhaps would or would not be gleaned by some Brunck or Bergk and edited with immortal regrets that so much that was inimitable should have perished. With what curious learning (supposing some such literary cataclysm as happened to the Alexandrian library) would such Analecta — such gleanings of crumbs that fell from deliciously heaped tables — be garnished, elucidated, exhausted with Variantes, overwhelmed! There would doubtless be gaps as wide as those which in Bergk's Poeta Lyrici lie between the names of Theognis and Archilochus — lacunæ brimming with the tears of those who worship the harmonious beauty of pagan genius, and year after year give forth desperate editions of fragments in the futile hope of recovering something from the pitiless worm. Of none of the lesser poets could it be affirmed with less peril to true literature that his name would stand in this collection than of Alfred de Musset.
De Musset appeared at a time when France was enjoying the doubtful benefits of à Bourbon restoration. The clangor, the sharp frantic struggle of the Hundred Days had died away like dissolving circles in the water; Napoleon slept under the willows at Longwood ; old heroic memories were lapsing into the babble of grandmothers; the apathy of ultramontanism and Bourbon Charles brooded over the realm ; when the Revolution of July brought fresh hope to the Orleanist party, and with it fresh intellectual stores to replace what had perished in the Empire or been benumbed by the Restoration. Perhaps no revolution was ever heralded by a more varied, a more immense intellectual movement. In Germany there was the supreme reigning influence of Goethe, wonderfully rousing indeed, but at the same time prone to absolutism and autocracy; in England the adoration of Middle-Age art, pageantry, barbaric gorgeousness was filling the romances of Scott, and crystallising into a worship of the glories of feudalism far from auspicious to free development in other departments. In France alone it appeared that there was ample vantage ground for the rearing and the struggle of young talent whatever might be its symbol. A great critic has truly remarked of a period somewhat nearer our own, that when in 1832 Germany gave up her one great man, and at the same time a similat blow carried off the delightful story.teller who in himself embodied for England the renaissance of the Renaissance, France began to exhibit a wealth of intellectual resource, a plenitude of young virile power, which was welcomed with acclamation, and seemed in singular contrast with the double night that had fallen over
the neighboring countries. It is well that death, even with both hands, cannot at one sweep compass the whole of human genius.
The Empire had been laughed to sleep by the charming songs of Désaugiers; the dinner-parties of the Restoration had grown witty and wise over the wonderful little lyrics of Citoyen Béranger; the “Genius of Christianity" had seen several coronations come and go. Suddenly, in a corner of Paris, with the unobtrusiveness of all great and permanent steps in human progress, there sprang up a school of poets who have exercised since a notable influence on the popular literature. To this school belonged more than one name that has become celebrated in our day. There was in this movement no insensible gradation from classic to romantic such as lies between Cowper and the rigorous classicists by whom he was preceded; no subtle fatherhood of light to shadow, no dainty unfolding by which in one shadow and one light you can trace the pedigree of another, an ancestry of shadows and lights up to the founder of the line, a process by which the saints and martyrs, the wide-eyed still Madonnas of Van Eyck and Fra Angelico come leaping before us in the rosy, garlanded, perfect children of Rubens, through whom a divine mirth palpitates. With one leap the Romanticists cleared the gulf hitherto deemed impassable, and abandoned all connexion with the “mythological puppets," the tedious canons of Boileau and Delille. Victor Hugo in the early promise of his magnificent youth was one of the first to put into words the vast distance between the satire, the pompous monarchical tragédie of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the thousand-tinted woof of modern poetic thought. The Romantic movement began curiously about 1823, “the dazzling Pindaric moment of the Restoration.” Half-a-dozen men of letters who were thoroughly pervaded by the spirit of the Moyen-Age, who studied its architecture, its music, its great Gothic imagination, its hemisphere of legends that shine like a hemisphere of dark phosphoric sea, its wild, intensely colored, chivalric modes of existence, who gave themselves up wholly to its fantastic beauty and strove to reproduce it in works in which the same hectic spot quivers, assembled in the evening and read to each other for criticism the productions which had ripened in the interim of their meetings. A more brillians circle of ideal heads never gathered than in these accidental meetings - meetings destined to scatter through the land the seed of a perennial harvest. Precisely in evenings like these, in chance intimacies, in magnetic chains of genius or association, originate those superb advances in scientific or philosophical culture which have given to every epoch or group of epochs its distinctive excellence. Witness the salons of Aspasia, of the Hotel de Rambouillet, of de Staël and de Recamier, of Lady Holland ; witness those unpretentious symposia from which grew the Académie Française and the Royal Society; witness all those associations from which encyclopædic action of all sorts — the circle and crown of harmoniously related power - has proceeded. So from the poetic sympathies of a small band of singers, without reputation and without works, sprang forth like a company of joyous masqueraders the great palpitating, eloquent, breathless company of Romantic poets, to whom we owe the whitening fields of
harvests that spread beyond the sight and will multiply beyond imagination. Alfred de Vigny, Emile Deschamps, Jules de Rességnier, a few graceful and gifted women, formed with Hugo the soul of this Parisian Utopia, the memorable period of “La Muse Française," a period instinct with vague sentimentality, and illustrated by the closest personal friendships between those who gave birth to it. It was “Emile," " Jules,” “ Aglaé," “ Alfred.” After the dissolution of this little cercle' (for it melted apart insensibly through political differences), there was a lull in the Romantic camp, a break in the symphony. In 1828 another chance association more permanent in result, more definite in purpose, less founded upon mere intimacies of the heart. Of this were born those lovely sunset poems, “Les Orientales,” the tender visionary sweetness of which was distilled from the ineffable gold and purple of setting suns. To the long evening walks and talks which Hugo and his friends used to indulge in as they explored the suburbs or watched the sun go down from the towers of Notre Dame, Ste.-Beuve owed much of the dreamy grace and glory that float about his early verses. There were sculptors and painters too who associated themselves and their arts with these quiet meetings of the Cénacle. During this period gathered those stores of passion and eloquence, developed those wonderful dramatic instincts which in a twelvemonth bathed France in emotion over Hernani and Marion Dclorme.
It is a point peculiarly difficult to connect de Musset with these individuals and individual centres, for though essentially a Romantic poet, he eagerly disclaimed any debt to the party which they constiiuted, and by studied negligence of composition endeavored to get as far as possible from the finical correctness, the précieux spirit in which they gloried. Alfred de Vigny's poems were smooth crystal wavelets breaking in from the mysterious sea of Klopstock and Ossian, regular, daintily musical, luminously cold ; Victor Hugo's had the bronzing of a Spanish sky; Ste.-Beuve imitated with incomparable skill the marble lineaments, the classic Greek beauty of earlier forms. None of these appealed with force to the sensitive and precocious genius of de Musset. Born in 1810, he grew up with that astonishing precocity of talent which seems to be native to a certain order of tropical natures, ripened by an unseen sun, drinking in an unseen sap, mysteriously efflorescent before they have passed the equatorial line of childhood. His ambition diverged early into several currents. First he applied himself to medicine, and, following Ste.-Beuve, attended lectures on anatomy and physiology; abandoning this, art attracted him, and he became powerfully inoculated with enthusiasm for the pencil; to crown all, the need of poetic expression stirred within him, and the consciousness of it was received with solemn renunciation of everything else. Seldom has any man been so plenteously furnished with scrip and purse for a life-work, seldom has a quiver been so surcharged with arrows as in the case of de Musset. There still exists a medallion of that time with a wreath of young poets' heads encircling it, among which is found the exquisite, ringleted, intellectual head of our author, of extreme symmetry and tenderness, ideal, large, imagin ative, recalling to his biographers an antique severed from the shoulders of a youthful god. No guest who frequented the parlors of the Restoration danced with more nimbleness; no causeur prattled with more amiability and verve that indescribable small-talk which in France has become a science, and has thrown a veil of lilies — as Madame Michelet would say - - over the wickedness of mere malice. For pictures he had a delicate sense of enjoyment, ready appreciation, often profound criticism -an intuitional knowledge of those rare points where the painter and his theme interblend and become one in some puissant stroke of genius. It is just at these points the artist becomes no longer a remote and impalpable individuality, but like the famous courtesan who suggested to Apelles his Venus Anadyomene, the Venus rising from the far purple seas, he loosens his hair and bathes in the sea palpable to all. It has been said with some show of fact that de Musset was a young Greek dreaming under the frescoes of Raphael. There was a curious streak of christianised paganism in him, more than a feeble reminiscence of Greek art, profoundly felt love for the beautiful polytheists who made of every wood and stream a Midsummer Night's Dream of warbling goddesses, fleet-footed sprites, divine and human loves, groups of laughing idealised humanity, queues of eldritch goblins who lived on moonshine, honey, and flower-dew. There is still more of the elf and the Undine, of the Goth and the Gothic, of the mistletoe and the greensward, of the pretty garrulousness of Shakspearian faires who flit through the twilight to Oberon's horn. In Chénier there is the solemn rhymeless chant, the freezing anapaestic dirge, the pagan Miserere of a chorus of Sophocles; in de Musset the echo of the same, expanded and glorified into an Io triumphe! by rich young voices of our time. He is no Paganini, drawing inimitable melody from one source ; he rather recalls a rare Cremona violin, made to give forth delicate and intense harmonies by a master-hand, harmonies crimsoned, so to speak, by passion, then again full of golden cheerfulness, full of variableness and shadow, full of tuneful extravagance. Never was there an artist in whom mood preponderated more, the changeful iridescent hue of the moment, the tyranny of a caprice that resembles the spangles thrown by sunlit water on the wall, or the umbra with which a caravan of summer-cloud passing over sprinkles the April fields. Over field and flower, over lake and hillside, over heathery down or Tyrolese senne sweeps the airy Tyrian skirt of cloud, throwing its benign shadow everywhere. So with the shadows of this poet's nature, so tender and benignant, having in it something sumptuous like the ebon lustre of rosewood or damask, possessing sequestered corners through which, as through a Spanish ogive, the pansied light creeps. In these sweet secret cells there is always to be seen the silvery tremble of a lamp, an alabaster box of ointment, a mandora vibrating itself to rest, shedding the threefold glory of perfume, light and sound. To find an analogy that shall perfectly reproduce to the reader the warm sensuousness, the sheeny silken texture of de Musset's style, resort would have to be had to the shores of the Mediterranean: it has the fire, the delicate ephemeral grace of a Provençal troubadour, those singers of plume and page, falcon and noble châtelaine ; then there flits before the eye a pageant of olive gardens and quaint Moorish towers, the Hall of the Abencerrages, the Fountain of Lions, the stealing, winning pathos of Zingara music; the scene changes: it is Venice with the great lion lifting his brazen paw over the serene horizon, the antique palaces and grave porticoes, the canal, and the pillared bridge with halbarded guards watching over the Doge's sleep as the moon hangs over the quiet steeples “like a dot over an i;” then a strange outburst of Parisian revelry, melodious, ribald, witless, smelling of flagon and carousal, to-day's merry-making, tomorrow's suicide. All these elements singularly commingle, singularly arabesque and cross, intertangle and interline, as in a fresco of Cornelius, throughout the length and breadth of his genius. There is an Alexandrian eclecticism, there are both chaos and cosmos in this jubilant head, in this Stoic and Epicurean, in this laughing philosopher with eyes full of tears, in this dying Socrates and living Momus. Furthermore, all this at eighteen! De Musset was only eighteen when his Premières Poésies were published, when it was declared of him that there was no corner of the human heart that he had not searched and fathomed, bringing up the seaweed or the pearl, the mud at the bottom, the foam at the top, the swollen corpse or the shining torso of mermaiden. Not less precocious than his genius was his acquaintance with vice. In this as in everything else he was a seven-month child. Nowhere does he touch impurity however,- be it said in the interests of art,without bringing even from it a pale phosphorescent beauty, without clothing it in raiment of his own, among which there is always a purple rag, without filling the nest with swan's-down against the stout season of motherhood and song. Many of his verses would be unpalatable to an Anglo-Saxon conscience for the same reason that travellers usually protest against what is most national and characteristic in an alien cuisine. There is a spice foreign to their taste, a sauce which spoils their temper, a savor to which Anglo-Saxon tongues and nostrils object, a mode of manufacture, dressing, servingup repugnant to the roast-beef and plum-pudding constitution. In the countries to which the dish is native nothing is more delicious, more genuinely enjoyed, more reiteratedly called for, more graciously supplied. Through all the royal Salian feast of German philosophy and art,—through Kant as through Kaulbach, — there is the ghost of the four unchangeable courses, the odors of Frankfurter, the cream of Rhenish. Through all the Lucullian diners at which Attic wit and Faubourg St. Germain humor sparkle and froth with dainty bouquet, there is the pâté, the vol-au-vent, the tiny twisted glass of liqueur, the immaculate garçon, the unchangeable pour boire. And who would exact the contrary? It is well to prate about“ universality” in art, but who would be swamped in universal benevolence, in artistic pantheism, in the vague universality of oceanic currents, in the Spinozism of thought, in a word, in intellectual nihilism? The scent of violets to the traveller in lands where violets were rare carried his heart homeward with the cry of a wild swan, back from dreary spaces of Indian sea to the spot where a group of exquisite individualities made the old home sweet for him, administered for him the gracious offices of everyday life. Away then with this democratic universalism that would devour the noble purpose of single-hearted genius and thrust upon art a great