« НазадПродовжити »
But all poetry has them both; the criticism of life on which one great critic laid all his stress, the art on which others have laid all theirs. And whether we think of them apart or in union we can see them changing and being reborn as the generations go by. And the method of rebirth is, if you look at it, always the same. At any rate, it always thinks of itself in the same way, as a return to nature. Life as the great Elizabethans saw it is not life as the men of the Restoration saw it, nor is the art of Shakespeare the art of Pope. What has happened ? In each case, in art and in life, what the new generation thinks has happened is a return to nature. The extravagances of the Shakespearean drama, the pontifical splendours and sublimities of the Miltonian epic, themselves an escape to nature out of mediaevalism, are to be exchanged for life as you see it in your own house and your neighbour's : and poetry is to speak the language as well as live the life of ordinary men. That is what Dryden and Pope thought they were doing, and partly were. But let two or three generations go by and what has happened ? That which was introduced as the natural has become the artificial : what was meant to be human life has become merely polite society: we seem to have escaped from the wild forest of romance only to shut ourselves up in a London parlour, and from the absurdities of a world where everybody seemed to walk on stilts to the insipidities of one in which nobody would soil his fine shoes by so much as walking at all: from a language full of daring flights of every kind to one which had sacrificed all the colour and energy and warmth of life on the altar of a cool correctness. And so we get every kind of return to nature at once : Cowper's return to the country, Burns's return to the plain people, Blake's return to spirit, Wordsworth's return to all three, spirit and people and country at once. All are conceived as a return to nature. And so is even the work of the great Romantics. Scott and Byron and Keats knew that nature has colour
and detail and bears the marks of its past : all things that had been forgotten in the abstract generalizing of the eighteenth century. And now another hundred years have passed and we see the same thing once more. The dominant Victorian figure was Tennyson, the poetic child, partly of Wordsworth and partly of Keats : though perhaps he owed more to the Latin and Greek classics than to any Englishman. Still he carried on the tradition which to him as to them seemed to be founded on life and nature. And now our contemporary Georgian poets are once more returning to nature : finding the Tennysonian life and art conventional, and insisting on their right to rebaptize poetry in a bath of naturalness. And, of course, some of them are exercising that right in such a way (I am not blaming them : it is the inevitable swing of the pendulum) as to be certain to produce another reaction to another naturalness, which will have for its business to assert that common sense is just as natural as violence, decency as indecency, English as slang. So the eternal quest of la vraie vérité goes on : in poetry, in painting, sometimes even in music. And the artists of each successive generation are for ever looking for what is not to be found : a method which can make life art and yet leave it unchanged. But art and science are not the same thing. Art cannot touch without transforming : and life as shown by art is never life as it is to the intellect : it is always something recreated, born of a marriage of the fact and the imagination; of the artist's temperament embracing so much of life as is patient of his embrace : a process which begins afresh and produces a different result with each artist, as no one man repeats another. The irony of the business is that each artist claims to be giving, and perhaps really wishes to give, the bare truth of life itself ; while the more power he puts into his effort, the less, in one way, he succeeds, for the more he has in him, the more he himself colours and shapes the result, the more he
transforms and recreates nature, till what he meant for nature becomes more and more himself.
That is the delight and mystery of art, and above all of poetry. The very business of the poet is to seek what can never be found, the truth as it is in itself. Like the rest of us, he spends his life in trying to escape himself. But, like the rest of us, he fails. He fails because, like us, he brings himself into everything he does. Only his failure is different from ours.
For the self which we cannot escape is often only a degradation or contradiction of the truth of which we have a fitful vision. His so far as he is indeed a poet—is that part of the truth which did not exist before him, which could not have been without him, which it was his gift and work to reveal, or rather to create. For the process of creation is never ended : and what the poet does when he seeks to reveal a truth which is, is to bring himself to bear on it, and so to create a truth which never was before. Poetry is life and art : and it is in seeking to rediscover the old that art is for ever bringing to birth the new. The primal act of creation was to bring order out of chaos : and the order was life. And so it has always been. It is true, not in any rhetorical sense but literally, that the poet and every artist follows the method of the Divine Maker. His spirit which is art breathes upon the chaos of life ; and behold there is, first, order : and then again another and higher kind of life.
THE GRAND STYLE
AN ATTEMPT AT A DEFINITION
* All dispute turns upon difference of definition,' says Mr. Saintsbury in the essay on 'Shakespeare and the Grand Style' contributed to last year's 1 volume of 'Essays and Studies by members of the English Association'. Certainly, there is no case in which this is more likely than in the matter of the Grand Style. Our aesthetic perceptions are in themselves so difficult to realize and apprehend clearly, and our aesthetic vocabulary is so inadequate and uncertain, that definitions in matters of art are the most difficult of all definitions to make, and, when made, run exceptional risk of meaning one thing to their maker and another to his readers. Yet if criticism is to be a living thing we must, as far as possible, understand what we are talking about. Is it possible to get nearer to a definite understanding of a phrase so large and vague as this of 'the Grand Style ', nearer than is got in the common employment of it in newspapers, nearer than, as I venture to think, Mr. Saintsbury gets in his essay ?
I need scarcely say that I do not presume to differ from a critic of Mr. Saintsbury's wide reading and high authority without the greatest hesitation. But I must confess that the definition he suggests seems to me to be far too wide. He says of it himself that it is wider than Matthew Arnold's, and it appears to cover the perfection of expression in every direction and kind, its essence being, in his own words, 'consummateness under the circumstances'. His fuller definition explains this to mean 'the perfection of expression in every direction and kind, the commonly called great and the commonly called small, the tragic and the comic, the serious,
1 This Essay first appeared in Essays and Studies by Members of the English Association', 1911.
the ironic, and even to some extent the trivial (not in the worst sense, of course). Whenever this perfection of expression acquires such force that it transmutes the subject and transports the hearer or reader, then and there the Grand Style exists, for so long and in such a degree as the transmutation of the one and the transportation of the other lasts'. I venture to urge that this is an undesirable and indeed impossible extension of the meaning of the term Grand Style. How can the great, or grand, style include the small, the comic and the trivial ? Everything which Dickens puts into the mouth of Mrs. Gamp is
consummate under the circumstances ': it transmutes the subject and transports the reader'. So does most of what Stevenson put into the mouth of Michael Finsbury in The Wrong Box. Lear is not more perfect than Mr. Bennet : the words he utters do not more exactly fit the thing. But does any one, does Mr. Saintsbury himself, seriously ascribe the Grand Style to Mr. Bennet, or to Michael Finsbury, or to Mrs. Gamp ? The examples which he gives appear to suggest that he has not after all the courage of his definition. For he never quotes in illustration of his more disputable assertions, as if he were vaguely conscious that quotation would not help them. Scarcely one of the passages with which he illustrates his essay is very widely removed from the order of poetry to which even the strictest critics would be willing to give the name of the Grand Style. His definition, then, scarcely seems to have been of much use even to himself. The object of the following pages is to attempt to arrive at something more definite and less all-embracing. It is not merely a question of excluding Mr. Saintsbury's comic and trivial and the rest. There is a finer dividing line than that, if I am not mistaken. After all, the Grand Style is precisely the Grand Style ; which is evidently not the clever style, nor the brilliant style, nor even the imaginative, or the powerful, or the serious style. It may include some