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them it is a thing rather of fine line than of rich colour ; sculpture rather than painting ; with nothing voluptuous, or even overflowing, in it ; quiet, austere, with a kind of stern simplicity. At its highest it is brief and pregnant, suggesting more than it says, not filling or satisfying the mind, but quickening the imagination. Its austerity is that of art, not of morals; the austerity of the conditioned, of that which knows that the half is greater than the whole. And yet nothing individual or particular will satisfy it. The all is in it as well as the one : while it will not lose itself in the illimitable, it does its own limited work in the conscious presence of the infinite. It knows that for poetry 'the present is ', as Landor said, like a note in music, nothing but as it appertains to what is past and what is to come'. Those old words sub specie aeterni, to which we may add sub specie universi, are the law of all the greatest poetry, and especially of that which lays claim to the Grand Style, which indeed can hardly exist without them. If it be asked what there is of the eternal or universal in lines so plainly stamped with the Grand Style as
Dost thou not see the baby at my breast
E solo in parte vidi il Saladino the answer is that certainly in the first, and I think also in the second, the reader is made to think of something far wider than the individual Cleopatra or Saladin. In that loneliness of greatness, in that tragic ruin of passion, we see no mere single person, but the secret genius of the whole world ; and we experience, what has been said of tragedy and might be said of all great art, that when we escape from the individual case, which might by itself be painful, to the sublime thought of universal humanity, everything else disappears in an ecstasy of awe before the vastness of the whole.
One word should be added, perhaps, on a point on which
misunderstanding might be possible. I have spoken mainly of those brief and supreme moments of greatness, and it is they which show what the Grand Style is when it is most of all itself. From them, from their spirit, its more ordinary manifestations are to be judged. The poetic heights are often visible when the poetically short-sighted cannot see them; and visible, if only in distance and only to those who have fit eyes, they will, I think, generally be found to be wherever the Grand Style is really present. In any case the characteristics of this style, like any other, are most easily judged from passages in which they are present to an exceptional degree. If we are asked what the romantic manner is, we do not take just any passage from any poem by a romantic poet, but such a thing as Keats's :
the same that oft-times hath Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
It is the same with the Grand Style, and for that reason I have dealt mainly with these supreme passages. But lest there be any misunderstanding, it may be well to say that I am very far from arguing that that style is confined to such passages, or is to be regarđed as a thing of isolated lines or phrases, lightning flashes of sublimity. It not only pervades every word of short poems like the two odes of Pindar and Keats which I quoted in full, but makes itself felt as an abiding presence in whole epics like the Iliad or the Aeneid. It is present not only when the old men are paying to the beauty of Helen the most tremendous tribute beauty has ever won :
ου νέμεσις Τρώας και είκνήμιδας Αχαιούς
τοιηδ' άμφι γυναικί πολύν χρόνον άλγεα πάσχεινTruly it is nothing to move cvrath that for such a woman as this Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans should suffer long years of woe ; but also when, a hundred and fifty lines later, the poet has so
simple a thing to relate as the return of Priam from the battlefield :
Η δα, και ές δίφρον άρνας θέτο ισόθεος φώς:
τω μεν άρ' άψορροι προτι "Ιλιον απονέοντο. It is present, not only when Virgil exerts all his signal power of moving the human heart :
Heu, miserande puer ! si qua fata aspera rumpas,
munere ; but also when he has returned to the quiet telling of his story :
Rex arva Latinus et urbes iam senior longa placidas in pace regebat. So too it is not only present when Milton puts on all his multicoloured robes of splendour :
Now glow'd the firmament
And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw ; but also when he is perhaps too tired for these magnificences and his epic draws sadly and quietly towards its end :
As when he wash'd his servants' feet, so now,
And thought not much to clothe his enemies. Style like this bears its own hall-mark of greatness upon it. When one reads those four lines from the Iliad, one understands at once why Homer has been called the supreme master of the Grand Style simple. There is nothing quite like it in English ; the nearest thing to it is perhaps Wordsworth's simple narrative style :
whether it was care that spurred him God only knows, but to the very last
He had the lightest foot in Ennerdale. But Wordsworth is always sinking below simplicity ; his simplicity cannot maintain itself through a thousand lines as that of the Iliad can, and besides there is in him generally an undercurrent of moral self-consciousness which is alien to the open-eyed frankness of Homer. Still, the simplicity of Michael and Margaret and The Brothers is certainly a noble simplicity, and, like the simplicity of the Iliad, if not in the same measure, entitles these poems to the immediate praise of the Grand Style. And one other thing should be noticed. It is not merely a question of manner.
Those admirable Homeric lines have more in them even than a noble simplicity of manner. They have also what the great style needs, the element of greatness in them. Not in themselves, or by themselves, no doubt, but they were not written to stand by themselves. And, as it is, the simple fact which they relate is felt to be part of a great action, the action of the Iliad. So, in the great plays of Shakespeare, things which in themselves would have no grandeur of style, come upon us, not in themselves, but as parts of a great whole, and our minds, filled with that greatness as the poet knew they would be, confer an intensity of imagination on what by itself would seem commonplace, brighten what would seem low, touch with fire what would seem cold and lifeless. That is a perfectly legitimate action of the mind, whose very business is to look before and after and apprehend a whole. If the whole be great, the parts are parts of that which is great, and so these in themselves inferior passages of a great work form no break, unless they are very considerable, in the continuous impression of Grand Style which such works produce.
But greatness, whether immediate or derived, whether in the actual passage itself or in the whole of which it is a part,
it seems to me there must be. For greatness, the highest sort of greatness, is at the root of the Grand Style. Grandeur is indeed the visible form of the abstract idea of greatness, or perhaps greatness is the matter out of which art creates grandeur. At any rate, however we define it, the essential quality of the Grand Style is greatness, and the point which is attempted to be made here has been that greatness is not the same thing even as beauty or goodness ; still less is it the same thing as music of sound, or cleverness, or quickness of fancy, or verbal ingenuity, or any of the other things each of which may be the predominant quality of poetry which is generally and rightly admired. All these things are admirable, but they are not the particular thing of which we are in search. That is greatness, not the great soul alone, nor the great subject, but also greatness of art. Style is always a product of labour as well as of genius, and the great style is no exception to that rule. Even the magic simplicity of Burns or Catullus is the result of prolonged labour ; it is an art as well as an inspiration, just as Milton's elaborate rhythms are an inspiration as well as an art. His ease is that of a well-ordered procession or religious ceremony, or perhaps that which we should ascribe to the music of the spheres ; theirs is the ease of a beautiful childhood; both of them things difficult for a grown man living on this earth to attain ; things reached, even by genius, only through an infinite taking of pains. But, in the great style, the art must never seem laboured, if by laboured we mean that which still struggles with difficulty and is not yet victorious. It is the essence of greatness of style to give an impression of not needing to use all its strength, as also of not choosing to utter all its thought. To take Dante's line again :
E solo in parte vidi il Saladino.
The poet says that and leaves it so ; he does not do any more to inform our minds or to arouse our imaginations. I know