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way.” “Clouds and darkness are round about His throne." There is a difference, and even the finite may grasp it, between Truth and Beauty. This is not the voice even of a strong soul. In a much larger sense is it true that what we call beautiful and what we call unlovely are parts alike of the infinite whole, and only appear as they thus do to us because of the standpoint from which we view them, or because refracted by the medial atmosphere of desire or of aversion through which we view them. And yet, inadequate as we feel these beautiful things he says to be, we instinctively like Mr. Sidney Lanier better for having said them, we instinctively wish they were the whole truth. So prone are we, poor faltering human souls, to sympathize with weakness.
If, then, we read these lectures soothed in the gratification of our own desires, we read them with intensest delight. The very desultoriness is a charm. The exquisite sense of appreciation of fitness allures us. We are flattered with the thought that we also could have discovered these beautiful things. We dwell in the land of Beulah—till we stop to think. "But," says one of our later writers, “To appreciate is to analyze, to analyze is to fail in belief; to fail in belief is to fail in love." Even, however, with this risk before us we will look for a moment at some of the simpler problems involved in this study of the relations of Art and Life, and we will try to avoid the two most prominent defects in the work before us. First its lack of persistent virility, which leads to contentment with confusion and indistinctness of thought-and second the flippant seriousness-for I know no better characterization-of the style.
The questions are: is there a tendency in Literature toward the growth of the Personal or toward the predominating influence of the Principle. Can Truth be unlovely ? Shall Art have a moral purpose? What is the proper function of the immoral? The questions appear to lie at the threshold of the inquiry. But back of all is the greater question which is as old as bistory and as new as yesterday,—the conflict of the actual with the Ideal. Is it true that the unseen or dimly seen verity inspires consciously or unconsciously the real artist, and that he may work on unmindful of the immediate result to his audience, provided only be be not unmindful of the heavenly vision ? Or sball he be filled with sense of his mission to the immediate and the present listener, and with moral purpose dominant shall he sort out such truths as are elevating, as are inspiring, and conclude that the others are an inferior sort of truths unworthy of attention? In other words must he consider the actual world about him, its cravings, its helplessnesses, its wearinesses, and must be adapt his utterance to its sense of beauty, its sense of form, its sense of rightness if you will? Or may he be led on of the kindly light picturing the actual without fear and without trembling, but picturing it suffused, so far as it seems to him to be suffused, with the ideal, and be utterly regardless of the immediate result.
Let us lead up to the questions through a few generalizations.
Literature is the language painting of events, or of emotions, or of principles. Its subject determines its character as the narrative, or the novel, or the sermon, but its atmosphere rather than its form determines its classification, as into prose or poetry. And here we turn back again to Mr. Lanier. He considers forms as transitory, but he apotheosizes form. “The relation," says be, "of prose to verse is not the relation of the formless to the formal; it is the relation of more forms to fewer forms." And yet we need go no further than to his own quo. tations to prove that neither form nor forms makes poetry to him distinct from prose. Whatever the form, if it exhale the subtle quality which by instinct, or reason, or education, we have learned to cognize as the poetic content, it is poetry to him, and it is poetry to us.
If it have it not, it is prose. For example,--and a familiar one-here are some lines from one of the Ingoldsby Legends.
“The Lady Jane was tall and slim,
The Lady Jane was fair.
And they were a loving pair.” Now these are faultless verses. They are rythmic, they are electric. We sing to them, dance to them. But to most of us they are simply musical, metrical, narrative prose. Compare them with this from the “New Day” by Richard Watson Gilder.
“There was a field green and fragrant with grass and flowers, and flooded with light from the sun, and the air of it throbbed with the songs of birds.
“It was yet morning when a great darkness came and fire followed lightning over the face of it, and the singing birds fell dead upon the blackened grass.
The thunder and the flame passed, but it was still dark—till a ray of light touched the field's edge and grew little by little. Then one who listened heard—not the song of birds again, but the flutter of broken wings."
This is neither metrical nor conventional in form, but it is pure poetry. Examples could be multiplied. Consider the Psalms of David ; consider the book of Job. You cannot translate them into the unpoetical. The essence of the poetical is in its atmosphere, its inner content, and not in its form or forms,
In like manner, in any work of value the least potent quality is commonly its visible influence. The enduring is not that which appears upon the surface. Mr. Lanier appears always to preach from the visible. He shrinks, with a timidity immensely entertaining, from the coarseness of Fielding, Smollett and Sterne. He tells with his own quaint grace of manner and not without a certain limited truthfulness ; "I protest that I can read none of these books without feeling as if my soul had been in tbe rain, draggled, muddy, miserable; in other words they play upon life as upon a violin without a bridge, in the deliberate endeavor to get the most depressing tones possible from the instrument."
Now what gives this shuddering to Mr. Lanier. He thinks it is the moral degradation. He says of Smollett's work, "It professed to sbow man exactly as he is and the final result was such a portrayal as must make any man sit down before the picture in a miserable deep of contempt for himself and his fellows." But how comes it that he says of George Eliot, for whom, --and with reason,-he has no words insistant enough to voice his admiration. “George Eliot's book is so sharp a sermon that it has made the whole English contemporary society uncomfortable. That the state of society in which such a piece of corruption as Grandcourt should be not only the leader but the crazing fascination and ideal of the most delicate and fastidious young woman in that society; that a state of society should exist in which pure young girls should be found maneuvring for this Grandcourt infamy, plotting to be Grandcourt's wife instead of flying from him in horror." Now why does the showing by Smollett make Mr. Lanier shudder, and the showing by George Eliot make Mr. Lanier admire the artist and recognize a moral intent? Simply because Mr. Lanier's standard is a standard of the senses. Smol. lett and Sterne present the physically unlovely, George Eliot drapes and softens with cultured feminine instinct. And because while the picture reads its lesson it is less repulsive, it seems to the surface observer a nobler work. But, and here is the point in respect of the older novelists, the world does not agree with Mr. Lanier. He admits it, “ As I have said,” he says, "these four writers,”—Sterne, Fielding, Richardson, Smollett, —-"still maintain their position as the classic novelists and their moral influence is still extolled.” Now why? Simply,—and this is the link in the chain of thought,—that the surface impression from a book does not give its real content. The unconscious force within it far outweighs its immediate and outward influence. And with respect to the strong old writers of a century ago, those of us who as boys loved the vigor, and the manliness, and the tenderness of Uncle Toby do not need to be told why the world refuses to forget bim.
Still further, in personal influence, the effective force is the inner light. Not long ago an educator of age and experience said to me that the longer he taught the less did he try to exert conscious personal influence. "For," said he, "the potent factor in any man is his unconscious influence and if after the spell of the personal presence is past,--given the perspective of distance, the unconscious influence should contradict the intended," - the what Mr. Lanier might call the moral element," the distrust will grow, and the last state of that boy will be worse than the first.” That is, the admixture of the human in
the exertion of the conscious personal leading was inevitable and dangerous. He would rather point toward the light and efface his own personality.
Now then: if in the judgment of the world as to classification of literary works ; if in the judgment of the world as to the moral potency of classical works; if in the judgment of the world as to personal influence, the unconscious is the determining factor, may we not find here an answer to the question before us? Is not the presence of the ideal the test of immortal literary work? Is it not true also that the extent with which the eternal and unseen verity is interwoven with the actual as depicted rather than the intent of the human writer, determines the moral content of the work? Is it not true that if the moral oxygen vivifies it, the work is immortal ?
But the moral is not always the didactic and the writer need not be a preacher. In fact, commonly in just such measure as the human preacher intrudes, by just so much is the divine in art clouded. If it does so intrude, the effect is apt to be that we characterize the work as good or bad but straightway forget all about its moral purport.
And indeed, if in the theory Mr. Lanier appears to controvert these positions, in the discussion of the theory as applied to the example he supports them. For instance take his fine analysis of the scientifico-moral attitude of M. Zola. You should read the whole argument. It is so complete and exhaustive that in alluding to it one fears lest he may do it less than justice. Yet it is not unfair to say that as you read it the conviction grows upon you, as Mr. Lanier meant it should grow upon you, that M. Zola's vision is bounded by the human, that the absence of the ideal is its fatal defect, and that it is not only with epigram. matic incisiveness but also with simple truthfulness that Mr. Lanier pronounces this crushing verdict on M. Zola : "The hand is the hand of science; but the voice is the voice of a beast."
Or again we find the same to be true in the equally full, very much needed, and almost uncriticisable, discussion of the physical in Whitman. The “Whitman School,” to use his term, certainly have moral purpose enough. But they certainly also are not strongly interpenetrated with the ideal, and we do not