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process of preparing boys for college. And colleges make the mistake of allowing boys to elect studies when they are too inexperienced to make good use of the privilege. We encourage specialization even when no general training has preceded. In the expectation that the half-trained youth may add some infinitesimal fraction to the stock of human knowledge, we sacrifice his own liberal culture. But knowledge exists for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of knowledge. To enforce this principle, we must distinguish sharply between the college and the university; and while making everything in the latter elective, require of boys who can pass at fifteen or sixteen what are now called university entrance examinations some such college training in the humanistic disciplines and the sciences of nature as I have here attempted to describe and vindicate. The establishment or resurrection of colleges of this type (whether as a part of or apart from existing universities), in which comparatively small endowments would effect great results, is the crying desideratum of our educational system, which, possibly by reason of the multiplication of “Universities,” is threatened with a loss of the very idea of a liberal education.
J. G. Schurman. CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
WHEN rare men die young, such as mark their way with presagings of genius, we cherish their work as we do the visions of the upland, while yet are denied to us the grander reaches from mountain heights. Much as we prize the impulse of these potential minds, age alone gives to their thought that ripe distinction and maturity which shall make them indisputable masters ; hints of power, of resources, open glimpses of a scope and breadth that make us marvel at what might be the crowning fruition. There are instances of such genius, minds that have flashed as meteors across the literary sky, and then, without warning, have left us ; tentative minds, yet, as signals, emitting such fire and beauty as make the world sad at the untimely taking off. Of this class, circumstances have much to do with the degree of brilliancy and attainment by which they are recognized. Byron, through the intensity of his individual traits, touched a popular chord, and suddenly rose to almost unexampled recognition. He was enabled through the glitter of his personality, and through the distinguishing features of his poetic creations, to draw the eyes of the reading world to himself; a certain audacious defiance allied to an abnormal dramatic, if not heroic attitude gave Byron a wide fame, and a perilous eminence. Keats and Shelley, with minds of finer grain, of more delicately poetic fibre, and of more exacting artistic feeling and spirit, lived and died with no such recognition or favor from the common voice ; for the poetry of these, unlike Byron's, had but few readers while yet they lived. The three were contemporaneous, and all died young; Keats very young, misinterpreted, unsung, and broken-hearted. Byron's powers and tendency, it may be said, exemplified a nearer approach to maturity than did those of Shelley or Keats, but the three, respectively, left alike traces of marvelous poetic quality and distinction.
It is not, therefore, fair always to classify or to discriminate between writers by their limited and often fragmentary work, but by their high initiatory marks, which point unerringly to their possible range of thought and quality of genius. There are but few of such as these named whom the world can so confidently appropriate, but there is a larger group of writers (we speak of English authors) familiar to our minds, who, though having fallen short in promise, have yet, dying young, left some things so excellent and beautiful that men reverently cherish their excellence and beauty; of these, Alexander Smith is a noble, even an exceptionally noble example. Born and bred to laborious conditions, he won not only recognition, but an unmistakably eminent place in human letters. We need not discuss the determination and tendency of the will to master mean conditions and carve out the career that Nature forecasts in her endowments, nor need we dwell on the often-repeated experience of men with rare gifts, whom untoward fate has seemed to especially confront and contravene with harassment and defeat, for we never could, by any general survey, establish an order or theory that would meet, or adequately account for, vagaries and vicissitudes of this nature, nor that would challenge contradiction.
Alexander Smith's life had an interior conflict beyond any theory of accountability or compensations, and furnishes an instance of pathetic, poignant solicitude seldom experienced by one whose ambition was so free from offense, and whose nature and life were so rich in pure incentive and spirit. Art is an exacting mentor, and a noble stimulus ; beauty and truth dwell in its temples ; it has a religion of its own, and a service, as fitting as ever had creed, and it also bestows a freedom as wide as the dispensation of love itself. There never was artist or poet whosoever who did not feel need of its consecrating truth, though he might be a truant from its laws, defying their gentle insistence. Why should not the artistic sense have an excellence and righteousness of its own ? The art precepts of a Ruskin, feeling, as they often did, tentatively and mistakingly for the right, yet breathing a loyalty unquestioned, give out an impulse toward rectitude in the religion of art as strenuous as ever a Milton's toward Puritanism. It was a misfortune of Alexander Smith that while his sensitive nature lent all its delicacy of feeling and soulinstinct to poetic impulse and poetic imagery, that it yet lacked that nice adjustment of this delicacy and this instinct in the assimilation of his poetic imagery to his creations, and in the fine blending of true tone and expression. It was this inaptitude, allied to a high ambition, bent on attaining what proved with him mostly unattainable, that wrought in his life, somewhat shattered in health as it was, a kind of perpetual heart-break, a tragic feeling of loss and bitterness akin to the deepest sadness, infinitely deeper than one might feel at a trick of fortune which should play him false, and which he might easily lay at the world's door ; all the sentiment of his being, every fibre and pulsation seemed ready to add to the song he would sing, but yet, the ear, the touch, were below the inward gift, and made but partial response to the high spirit that felt it all. It is admitted by most who are familiar with the poetry of Alexander Smith that in the art and beauty of modulation, his untrained imagination was lacking in sure and effective balance, and that he, himself, felt keenly this blemish; these faulty, half utterances hindered and fettered his spirit. At first he did not surrender, be was brave; one has a right to test the full measure of faith which he may have in himself, to master the truth in his art; is it not as creditable in its way as to triumph, or essay to triumph, in any noble undertaking ? The voice of the critics, the judgment of his fellow-craftsmen, when against him, spurred him, and served as a challenge; he was balked and thwarted, but, at first, not downcast; he knew he was a poet, as so many have known before and since. Can we not conceive that Carlyle must have felt to touch the harp of song more than once, with his great, deep nature, enrapt by the tides and swells of poetic emotion? Do we think it can be any consolation to the heart of him who, steeped in poetry, breaks the silence only to find, alas, that there are lawless renderings of the rhythmic minstrelsy, when he knows that, at least, he has it in him ? If it were immaturity only with Alexander Smith, his early volume, entitled “A Life Drama and Other Poems," exhibited this, indeed, both in thought and art, but it exhibited more: there was a vagrant abandon of expression in his poetry, a persistent extravagance in the heedless huddling of thoughts and fancies, that could not have failed, as it did not, to challenge the critical and public taste, especially at a time when the exquisite lyrics of Tennyson, and his perfect idyls, like a magic flute, had captivated the poetic ear of the reading world ; such tones as these, rendered so long, and without rival, made the minor songsters self-distrustful and chary. The English taste for the music of poetry was highly strung in those days, and felt the jarrings of untutored songsters, as it did, after the genius of Byron, of Shelley, of Keats, Scott, Campbell, and Moore had given to verse an almost matchless rhythmic euphony and beauty. Surely the sensitive nature of Alexander Smith must have felt keen misgivings when it resolved to cope with such as these.
His first volume was written while yet he labored as designer in one of the mills of Glasgow, but with all of its crudity and lavish exuberance it marked him for a higher place, and he was soon chosen Secretary of the Edinburgh University. The faults that appeared in this volume were not without precedent; do we forget “Endymion” of Keats, which was borne down by excess of classic lore and garment, and by an unrestrained wealth of imagery, the cruel condemnation of which broke his shattered life? Alexander Smith read the verdict of the critics, and, in a lesser degree than Keats, felt the burden of disappointment weighing his spirit down; at twenty-three years of age, however, men brought to sudden despair yet feel the warmth and see the light of morning suns. The day is mostly before them, and the buffer of their pride happily shields them from the lingering darkness and weariness of spirit which age brings. This frailty of health, of which I have intimated, had not, in this earlier period, asserted its mastery ; unlike Keats and others who have lost their vital physical strength in the bloom of early manhood, Alexander Smith had not yet reached this crisis of his life; there was enough of success in his first poetic venture, and enough of flame and courage in his yet undaunted nature, to buoy his hope in a coming good fortune, which so often waits on faith and untiring industry. The public knew of him, the critics were ready to do him justice, the inexpressible longings which are only half breathed in the written song gave wings to his native purpose, and inspired his ardent love for poetry with a resolute will; four years only intervened between the coming of the first and second volume of his verse, four years of secret, tireless work, but work bound in love. During these he had written various prose essays; he had lost somewhat in health, and he had lavished his best resources on this new poetic advent, this volume entitled “ City Poems.” Now he hoped for ample recognition, and not without encouragement. The reviewers, many of them, broke forth in almost unstinted praise. “Since Tennyson," said the “ Literary Gazette," " no poet has come before the public with the same promise as the author of this volume.” The “ Spectator" said: “It is to the earlier works of Keats and Shelley alone, that we can look for a counterpart in richness of fancy and force of expression." The “ Westminster Review” added : “ There is not a page of this volume on which we cannot find some Shakespearian felicity of expression, or some striking simile.” And still another said : “ Nearly every page is studded with striking metaphors.” Yet, underlying these fair sayings, there seemed to lurk a negative verdict, the more extended reviews made marked qualifications, and there came from Tennyson himself a word that must have cast a heavy shadow over the young poet's dream. The laureate said that “ Alexander Smith's poems show fancy, but not imagination.” The quick sensibilities of his nature must have deeply felt these words, for who could better judge? And Tennyson was right. Simile, paradox, bold metaphor, quick invention, all children of a luxuriant fancy, were his in their wealth of vivid coloring, but there yet lacked a sustained spiritual imagination in carrying forward and amplifying in epic thought and dignity the higher order of creative verse. Striking passages there are in these poems, passages that easily, at first, arrest the attention, and captivate the sentiment of the reader, but a more critical study betrays marked unevenness; there is frequent and sudden falling away in movement and in quality ; strained and unique fancies, introduced, lower the general motive and smite the nice, inward ear with a sense of incongruity. It is an instance of loose reins given to the wanton tricks of fancy, and another instance, resulting therefrom, of poetry overweighted with imagery, and thereby failing to answer the gentle, yet exacting demand of true art, — an art which holds the poet to the primal consideration of an harmonious entirety, and to the equally important condition of har