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is no basis for religionistic comforts his poetry gives the profoundest form of "These are our sensual dreams,” he avers that “Naturalism". or “Vitalism," as it
- but there is firm basis for the belief that is sometimes called — which, in one form here in this world, through constant or another, has been the most persistent struggle, "from flesh to spirit man grows." power in literature since 1860. That Growth in each individual is only a part, power is being worshipped assiduously by though a very essential part, of Life's de the "new poets” and “new novelists" of velopment in nature and mankind as England and America at the present time. whole. In such growth we, as individuals, To cope with Meredith's poetic thought can learn to find our happiness, by subdu and imagination is to penetrate more deeply ing — not without the aid of the “Comic into our own. Incidentally, certain of the Spirit" — the old cravings of "Self." The extracts from his poetry given in this book way of wisdom, of honest obedience to will be found to illuminate many later brain, is to suffer none of the old delusions, poems, from Swinburne to Masefield, as the old “Legends,” but to accept the strin suggested throughout the notes below. In gent "medical herb" that Earth proffers, - studying Meredith's poetic thought, perhaps the strength, the stimulant, that we win the main thing to keep in mind is that, in when in real (not sentimental) contact reacting from the transcendental ideas of with “our only visible friend.” We are to his predecessors, which seemed to him acknowledge our stern mother, and to love debilitating, he stretched the concept of her unreservedly; awake to her beauty, "Earth" or "Nature" to include high responsive to her keen vitality, and aware values which have from of old been asthat beneath her sternness is a deep heart signed to transcendent powers. of joy. Naturally the general reader has not
LOVE IN THE VALLEY been captivated by such stoicism, conveyed as it is in a style compressed, contorted, The daily and seasonal changes in the often obs re, a style like nature's cliffs South England landscape that Meredith and caves, and entwined branches, and loved are here woven into an idyl so great roots groping into the soil. “Thou originally musical that Tennyson, among sands who have lived by Wordsworth's others, was at once captivated by it. For gift of faith, Arnold's of endurance, Tenny a dramatic treatment of young love in the son's of wisdom, Browning's of joy, will presence of nature, see the noted chapter turn away from this proffer of strength as xv of Meredith's Richard Feverel. one not receivable by human sorrow till (601.) 32. Off a sunny border: along the other gifts have gone before it” (John edge of a cloud's shadow, during a sunBailey). Certain "other gifts," no doubt, shower. The cloud swings along (line 31 ) helped Meredith himself to grow followed by the sunshine, which glints on come with fine wholesomeness of spirit the flowers and hail. through his early struggles and unhappy
36. eve-jar: night-jar; a bird of the love (see the introductory note under "I goatsucker family. Play for Seasons," below); through his (602.) 46. morning light: in contrast to continued lack of public recognition; and the sunset (line 42). through his loss of great domestic happi
yew: like yewberness in the death of his second wife (1885). ries threading the dark yew-tree with His poem "A Faith on Trial” (1888) color. should be read by all who wish to see his
55-56. Maiden still etc.: Cf. Tennycreed, and his manhood, confronting his son's "Tithonus,” line 34 ff (page 313). personal grief. But there are times when
61-64. Ay, but shows the Southany reader, whatever his prevailing out west etc.: The same phenomenon, but with look on life, may find delight and sus the clouds cleared by the wind, is used in tenance in Meredith's strength of mind and section LxxxvI of “In Memoriam” (page will, his swift wit, his unflinching vision. 345). Moreover, it is becoming apparent that
74. Low-lidded twilight etc.: the
morning twilight peering low over the
77. the rayless planet: the morn-
45. professor: of juggling.
49. from my topsy-turvy: i.e., from the diversified viewpoint of the juggler's profession.
67. bolus: large pill.
95. it: the "change” (line 96), i.e., from life to death.
ODE TO THE SPIRIT OF EARTH
117. yaffle: the green woodpecker; This poem marks a divergence from the the commonest species in England, and Victorian view of Nature, and a resumpcalled by many names, including "yaffle" tion of the earlier Romanticist view, modi(from its cry).
fied by the advance of the idea of natural (604.) 130. link: See note on "The King's evolution. (Passages of Wordsworth and Tragedy,” line 183, page 784, above. Shelley, particularly, should be reviewed in
162. Clipped: inclosed. The sun is connection with this and other poems of seen at the end of the valley, coming down Part Three that deal with Life in man on to the “violet-shaded snow.”
and nature.) The new attitude toward 165. print-branches: the shadows nature is part of what has been called of the beech-tree's branches printed on the “Naturalism” or “Vitalism” – in contrast snow by the moonlight.
with the esthetic outlook of the Pre(605.) 178. new surprise: newly adopted Raphaelites and others on the one hand surprise. She raises her lashes in the look and, on the other, with the conventionof wondering inquiry proper to the visit alism of everyday men. The term perhaps of a stranger. But like him, she had fallen indicates the predominant tendency of in love through sight (line 180), and her literature during the later nineteenth and friends' hints have prepared her for his early twentieth centuries. Walt Whitman visit (line 181). — In the first version of is the most influential prophet of "Vitalthe poem, the lover meets and woos the ism”; Meredith, its most subtle and balgirl from the beginning; but she is re
anced exponent. luctant to give up her freedom. In his
143. am 1: if I am. revision, Meredith dropped the wooing,
147-148. With faith living but retained and developed her maiden fire: With faith that, though urging toward independence (lines 9-32); hence the com the future, fosters the fire of life in the pression and suddenness of the present present. stanza. But see lines 81-88.
150. vagueness in the form: Cf. "In 204. the whitebeam: a small tree Memoriam,” XXXIII, lines 3-4 (page the leaves of which have a silvery down on
331). their under side.
i.e., stationed and
growing like the tree (line 154), and like JUGGLING JERRY
Earth's life in general.
158. Bacchante: priestess of BacCompare "Northern Farmer: Old Style" chus. (page 386). Which is the better poem? (606.) 16. a Juggler: Death.
I PLAY FOR SEASONS 25. cricket: play cricket.
27. whip off etc.: When the bats Modern Love tells, in fifty sixteen-line man is not in place, the wicket-keeper may sections, the story of a husband and wife put him "out" by knocking off the bails whose love gradually declines because they (cross-pieces) with the ball.
fail to foster it and make it grow:
"Lovers beneath the singing sky of May,
91. from failing blood: when pasThey wandered once; clear as the dew on sion and vitality are becoming weak. flowers.
96. taint of personality: egotism. But they fed not on the advancing hours:
105-110. Yield substance etc.: Their hearts held cravings for the buried These workers, though not themselves day.
poets, have the stuff of life that is sweet Then each applied to each the fatal knife, for poetry to celebrate. Poetry gives us a Deep questioning, which probes to endless fresh revelation of them, lifting them high dole.
like a mountain ensphered by blue heaven, Ah! what a dusty answer gets the soul because they deeply love earth. When hot for certainties in this our life!"
112. pass: do without. (From section L)
114. In the brain's reflex etc.: in Meredith drew upon his own experience: the human mind's reflection (i.e., interprehis early marriage (1849) with a daughter tation) of the skylark. — For the bird's of Thomas Love Peacock proved to be "self-forgetfulness," see line 27 ff. unhappy and, though it was ended only by (610.) 122. More spacious etc.: Making the death of Mrs. Meredith (1860), after the more spacious region (and vision) more the first few years the two lived separately. | akin to our earth; cf. line 119. But the story of the poem is not autobiographic; and its attitude is large. The title intends a contrast with romantic love
EARTH AND MAN tragedies: "In tragic life, God wot,
2. dint the breast: as a mother No villain need be! Passions spin the plot: suckling her child. We are betrayed by what is false within."
10-11. whose him: which en(From section xliii) dowed him with the natural powers that In the present section the husband, hav first started him in the race of life. ing lost "love's great bliss" (line 14), seeks
- strife: The urconsolation in the thought of Nature's gency of primal desire in man shows that purpose and method. What passages of the he, more than any other creature, is made "Ode to the Spirit of Earth” (page 607) for struggle. are recalled?
accursed: resign (608.) 15. forever: is here a noun, subject
life to the lower creatures. of the verb "whirls."
19. gnome: an earth-spirit. - In seeking metals for weapons, early man
opens up mysterious questions as to his THE LARK ASCENDING own earthly origin; see the next
Contrast Wordsworth's and Shelley's poems on the skylark (pages 51, 201).
14. her: the spirit of Earth, or Nature, within us; cf. lines 17-18.
25. Impelled: qualifies "he" (line 19).
31-36. For all to bear and all to know.. to hear . . . And know: These words give the grammatical structure of the phrase. (609.) 44. argentine: silver-like substance.
56. The best in us to him akin: What is it?
61. from the sea: i.e., from the vast unknown, beyond the everyday life of Earth; cf. lines 65-66.
23. ring: circle of activity.
65. read her: interpret her as.
66. the passion Self: the passion of Selfishness, imaged in the next two lines
a luring "devil” and an obscuring "hood.” — For the opposite quality, see the
preceding poem, line 116 and context (page north, aiming toward the pole of the uni609).
verse as anciently conceived. - The wider (611.) 75. a shingle-grave: the rough and regions remind him of the vast Chaos deadly shore of Earth. The idea of the through which he fell after his defeat in sea from which man, the "wave,” is tum Heaven's battle. bled, prepares for “the Invisible” of the next stanza. 80. For little signs: in return for
SENSE AND SPIRIT little miracles. 83. it: the slaughter of nature, i.e.,
Compare "Earth and Man,” lines 117the breach of her laws; referred to in line
135 (page 611).
1-6. The senses etc.: The senses 85 as “This miracle.”
cannot give us
his 86-87. himself doth
true relation with worth: he maintains his belief in this mir
Nature. For either they shrink from her acle (i.e., long after the “signs” have end
(“loving Earth ... ill"), and impel the ed) by claiming that his case is excep
mind to shape up superstitious doctrines in tional on account of his worth.
religion; or they are allured by her, and 100. Her purest fires: such as de
impel us to follow a vague nature-idealism votion and reverence. Observe the spirit
that overlooks uncongenial facts. ual qualities and purposes which the poet,
4. does: The verb is completed by from here on, attributes to Earth (Na- light” (i.e., illuminate), understood from ture); and see the last sentence of the
the preceding line. biography, above.
own: is solved 111-112. With grief for grief etc.:
in the human spirit when this has been so
fashioned by Nature, through the struggle grieving that he does not perceive her near presence in his grief; see the next stanza.
of living, that it can truly interpret her
spirit. (612.) 147. him: the “Self”(line 138). The idea is that Self may be sublimated
EARTH'S SECRET and enlightened (not ascetically crushed), and so become “nigh divine” (line 150). 158. his gapped readings etc.: i.e.,
14. For Earth etc.: Nature, the his crude ideas of religious reward and
nourisher, gives us not only physical but
also spiritual vitality, to animate the punishment. 165. her just Lord: i.e., the true
“solidity and vision” (lines 10-11) we win God who rules through law, in distinc
from History. tion from the "Invisible," etc., as conceived by human superstition (lines 30, 78, 92, THE SPIRIT OF SHAKESPEARE 157). Cf. “Ode to the Spirit of Earth,” lines 168-174 (page 607).
Contrast this view of Shakespeare with Compare Meredith's view of “god and that given in Arnold's sonnet (page 499). Nature" with that given in “Tintern
7. the God: Neptune. Abbey,” lines 93-111 (page 8), and “In
12-14. bid sick Philosophy's etc.: Memoriam,” cxxiv (page 358).
Cf. the last three lines of the preceding 175. Twi-minded: two-minded. For the rest of the sentence, cf. "Ode to (614.) 17. breast: i.e., Earth’s. the Spirit of Earth,” lines 154-155 (page
19. that little twist of brain: such 607).
as the self-love of Malvolio in Twelfth
Night, for example.
23. rigid harridan: stiffy conven
tional old woman. 2. his dark dominion: the earth.
26-27. Would ring it caused: (613.) 9. wider zones: the regions of would draw from Shakespeare a series of space, - in contrast with the earth's zones musical verses representing it in its true through which he has flown, from south to bearings.
THE GARDEN OF EPICURUS
AN ORSON OF THE MUSE The subject is Walt Whitman. — In the famous medieval romance of two brothers, "Valentine and Orson,” the one is carried off by a king and the other by a bear; and they became the types, respectively, of courtesy and uncouthness. (614.) 6. rock-sources: rocky springs.
7. civil limitation: the conventions of civilized life. - In the next line Meredith comically suggests that the nymphs, though creatures of Nature, are affected by "civil limitation.” When he deals seriously with this subject, his doctrine is that the spirit of Nature desires to win, through mankind, the best values of "civil limitation”; as in "Earth and Man," lines 105-108 (page 611).
9. blows: spouts, like strong spring; cf. lines 5-6.
11. her train: her retinue in contrast with “her son” (lines 1-2).
tidewaves: The "rocksource” is now imaged as flowing down into the sea of human life. — The thought is: much that is fruitful and precious in Whitman's inspiration must go lost in life's "tidewaves,” lacking the buoyancy of creative form (“vessel built for sea”).
Epicurus (c. 341-270 B.C.) taught for almost forty years in his own garden at Athens. His serene and temperate philosophy was degraded by so-called Epicureans who gave themselves up to sensuality; and it was attacked by the Stoics. See also the note on “Juan and Haidée,” lines 16491650 (page 680, above). 9. would
verge: would, onward, illuminate the very last horizon; i.e., be mankind's all-sufficient guide. 12. Babels: In contrast
with "wilds” in the next line, this suggests the confused and selfish struggles in civilized society. For “Babel," see Genesis, XI, 1-9. — For Jesus' "scourge," see John, II, 13-17.
TO J. M. 3-4. no change
and pride: They shut their eyes to all change, except that which takes the violent form of battle or revolution.
5. Our faith --a tide: The faith of liberal and enlightened men is not borne to its goal on a natural tide of change; it is theirs to work for and gradually establish (cf. line 8).
6-7. And whither - abjure rapacity: whether mankind is destined to decay if not impelled by predatory selfish
See Meredith's view of the “Self" in previous poems.
9. hard flock: hard and fast Tories; cf. lines 1-4. — Morley, who had graduated from Oxford eight years earlier, was to become a leader of advanced Liberalism in Parliament.
12. Roland: the strong hero of medieval romance, and of Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso.”
THE WORLD'S ADVANCE
ON THE DANGER OF WAR In 1885 the Gladstone Government seemed on the brink of war with Russia on account of her advance in central Asia and attitude con ning the Afghan boundary. (616.) 5-6. Dark looms
devil's trick: Even though the cause be good, the necessity is very doubtful, but the old devil within us wants to seize the chance.