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he wanted elbow-room; and he wanted a great deal. Did Mary Powell, the cavalier's daughter, find the abode of a roundhead schoolmaster incompatible and leave it, forthwith the cry of the universe was for an easier dissolution of the marriage covenant. If he is blind, it is with excess of light, it is a divine partiality, an overshadowing with angels' wings. Phineus and Teiresias are admitted among the prophets because they, too, had lost their sight, and the blindness of Homer is of more account than his Iliad. After writing in rhyme till he was past fifty, he finds it unsuitable for his epic, and it at once becomes “the invention of a barbarous age to set off wretched matter and lame metre.” If the structure of his mind be undramatic, why, then, the English drama is naught, learned Jonson, sweetest Shakespeare, and the rest notwithstanding, and he will compose a tragedy on a Greek model with the blinded Samson for its hero, and he will compose it partly in rhyme. Plainly he belongs to the intenser kind of men whose yesterdays are in no way responsible for their to-morrows. And this makes him perennially interesting even to those who hate his politics, despise his Socinianism, and find his greatest poem a bore. A new edition of his poems is always welcome, for, as he is really great, he presents a fresh side to each new student, and Mr. Masson, in his three handsome volumes, has given us, with much that is superfluous and even erroneous, much more that is & solid and permanent acquisition to our knowledge.
It results from the almost scornful withdrawal of Milton into the fortress of his absolute personality that no great poet is so uniformly self-conscious as he. We should say of Shakespeare that he had the power of transforming himself into everything ; of Milton, that he had that of transforming everything into himself. Dante is individual rather than self-conscious, and he
the cast-iron man, grows pliable as a field of grain at the breath of Beatrice, and flows away
in waves of sunshine. But Milton never let himself go for a moment. As other poets are possessed by their theme, so is he self-possessed, his great theme being John Milton, and his great duty that of interpreter between him and the world. I say it with all respect, for he was well worthy translation, and it is out of Hebrew that the version is made. Pope says he makes God the Father reason “like a school-divine." The criticism is witty, but inaccurate. He makes Deity a mouthpiece for his present theology, and had the poem been written a few years later, the Almighty would have become more heterodox. Since Dante, no one had stood on these visiting terms with heaven.
Now it is precisely this audacity of self-reliance, I suspect, which goes far toward making the sublime, and which, falling by a hair's-breadth short thereof, makes the ridiculous. Puritanism showed both the strength and weakness of its prophetic nurture; enough of the latter to be scoffed out of England by the very men it had conquered in the field, enough of the former to intrench itself in three or four immortal memories. It has left an abiding mark in politics and religion, but its great monuments are the prose of Bunyan and the verse of Milton. It is a high inspiration to be the neighbor of great events ; to bave been a partaker in them and to have seen noble purposes by their own self-confidence become the very means of ignoble ends, if it do not wholly depress, may kindle a passion of regret deepening the
ng which dares not tell the reason of its
The grand loneliness of Milton in his latter years, while it makes him the most impressive figure in our literary history, is reflected also in his maturer poems by a sublime independence of human sympathy
like that with which mountains fascinate and rebuff us. But it is idle to talk of the loneliness of one the habitual companions of whose mind were the Past and Future. I always seem to see him leaning in his blindness a hand on the shoulder of each, sure that the one will guard: the song which the other had inspired.
THERE are few poets whose works contain slighter hints of their personal history than those of Keats; yet there are, perhaps, even fewer whose real lives, or rather the conditions
upon which they lived, are more clearly traceable in what they have written. To write the life of a man was formerly understood to mean the cataloguing and placing of circumstances, of those things which stood about the life and were more or less related to it, but were not the life itself. But Biography from day to day holds dates cheaper and facts dearer. A man's life, so far as its outward events are concerned, may
be made for him, as his clothes are by the tailor, of this cut or that, of finer or coarser material; but the gait and gesture show through, and give to trappings, in themselves characterless, an individuality that belongs to the man himself. It is those essential facts which underlie the life and make the individual man that are of importance, and it is the cropping out of these upon the surface that gives us indications by which to judge of the true nature hidden below. Every man has his block given him, and the figure he cuts will depend very much upon the shape of that, - upon the knots and twists which existed in it from the beginning. We were designed in the cradle, perhaps earlier, and it is in finding out this design, and shaping ourselves to it, that our years are spent wisely.
It is the vain endeavor to make ourselves what we are not that has strewn history with so many broken
purposes and lives left in the rough.
Keats hardly lived long enough to develop a welloutlined character, for that results commonly from the resistance made by temperament to the many influences by which the world, as it may happen then to be, endeavors to mould every one in its own image. What his temperament was we can see clearly, and also that it subordinated itself more and more to the discipline of art.
JOHN KEATS, the second of four children, like Chaucer and Spenser, was a Londoner, but, unlike them, he was certainly not of gentle blood. Lord Houghton, who seems to have had a kindly wish to create him gentleman by brevet, says that he was “ born in the
ranks of the middle class.” This shows a commendable tenderDess for the nerves of English society, and reminds one of Northcote's story of the violin-player who, wishing to compliment his pupil, George III., divided all fiddlers into three classes, — those who could not play at all, those who played very badly, and those who played very well, — assuring his Majesty that he had made such commendable progress as to have already reached the second rank. We shall not be too greatly shocked by knowing that the father of Keats (as Lord Houghton had told us in an earlier biography) “was employed in the establishment of Mr. Jennings, the proprietor of large liverystables on the Pavement in Moorfields, nearly opposite the entrance into Finsbury Circus.” So that, after all, it was not so bad; for, first, Mr. Jennings was a proprietor; second, he was the proprietor of an establishment ; third, he was the proprietor of a large establishment; and fourth, this large establishment was nearly opposite Finsbury Circus,- a name which vaguely dilates the