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kind—it belongs to the highest class of subjective writing', and is as remarkable in many cases for what it suggests as for what it expresses. It is the product of a fine genius, not such, so far as we can judge, as is fitted to give to the world works of sustained greatness, but certainly capable of leaving to it a rich legacy of nigh poetic thought in a form more artistic than that to which any modern writer has attained.
Far removed from Tennyson in almost all the characteristics of his mind, stands Philip James Bailey, the author of Festus and The Angel World, with whom poetry is a possessing- passion rather than a gift—a frenzy, now lifting the subject of it to heights of sublime contemplation, and inspiring him with impulses 'such as dodge conception to the very bourne of thought,' and now dragging him down to the ridiculous, the inconsistent, and the unintelligible. As the work of a young man, Festus must certainly be considered one of the most remarkable productions in modern poetry. Apart altogether from its metaphysical crudeness, its wild, irregular, and often altogether absurd speculations, its lack of artistic consistency and arrangement—all the natural products of inexperienced, half-formed opinions, and an imperfect self-consciousness — there are passages in it indicative of an imaginative power rarely surpassed, an extraordinary wealth of fancy, and a daring, reckless pursuit of poetic conceptions, which render it quite unique in modern literature. The main current of the story, so to speak, has evidently been suggested by Goethe's Faust; but episodical streams branch off from it again and again, bewildering the reader, who endeavours to obtain some distinct idea of a plot, and compelling him in many cases to resign himself to the impetuous whirl of the poet's thick-coming fancies, and to dash onward with him, now through a profusion of the richest and rarest flowers of poetic diction, and now over a perfect wilderness of metrical irregularities and disjointed thoughts. Nothing but the broad and unmistakable marks of high genius in detached passages, could ever, we think, reconcile a reader of taste to this wild poem. And yet there is a fascination in its wildness—the fascination of power triumphing over the impression which its own errors make—that cannot but exercise an influence on the imagination strong enough to give it an absorbing interest. This is not the result of success in characterisation, and certainly it does not arise from an artistic unity either of spirit or design; it is the effect of the charm exercised by the materials of the poem, if we may so speak. These are of the most extraordinary kind. In one page we find commonplace distorted into the most grotesque forms, and blown out to all the fulness of bathos; in the next, we find such things as the following:—
Poets are all who love—who feel great truths,
Did leave their passionless heaven, for earth and woman,
And like a rainbow clasping the sweet earth,
And melting in the covenant of love,
left here a bright precipitate of soul
Which lives for ever through the lives of men;
Who make their very follies like their souls,
And bke the young moon with a ragged edge,
Still in their imperfection beautiful.
Hen whom we build our love round like an arch
Of triumph, as they pass us on their way
To glory and to immortality.
Men whose great thoughts possess us like a passion
Through every limb and the whole heart, whose words
Haunt us as eagles haunt the mountain air.
Men who walk up to Fame as to a friend.
It is impossible not to recognise in this the fire and force of genius; and the poem abounds with such lines. There are others of daring strength which approach the very verge of the profane. Such passages as the following manifest the wild power which marks so many pages of Festus, redeeming the crude and abortive conceptions with which they are mingled :—
Oh ! I have dreamed a dreamso beautiful!
Methought I lay as it were here; and, lo!
A spirit came and gave me wings of light,
Which thrice I waved delighted. Up we flew
Past those bright diademed orbs which shew to men
Their crowns to come—up through the starry strings
Of that high harp close by the feet of God.
The wild world halted—shook his burning mane,
Then like a fresh-blown trumpet-blast went on—
Past even the last long starless void to God.
In shorter passages, even in single lines, there are gems struck out as if by one stroke of the poet's genius, each of rare lustre; thus—
The last high upward slant of sun on the trees,
Friendship hath passed me like a ship at sea.
At each glance of her sweet eyes, a soul
The startled shrink, the faintest blossom blush
Between the two extremes
In each of these brief extracts the imagery is of the highest and rarest kind—striking in its originality, and pure as it is striking. The pages of Festus are strewed with such gems of poetry as these, often beautifying long wastes of transcendental absurdity.
In his second poem, The Angel World, Bailey has scarcely realised the expectations founded upon the undoubted power which marks so many pages of the first. The beauties and defects are mingled in the same almost inextricable confusion; but there are fewer of both. The poem is of an allegorical character, and there are many fine conceptions in it; the imagination is more disciplined, and the sentiments generally less outri; a certain artistic plan seems to pervade it too; Dut as a whole, it does not give the impression of power which we obtain from Festus, with all its errors and irregularities. It abounds with passages of singular excellence, however; and in single lines we frequently have an image of more than ordinary beauty. Thus he describes the angels about to set out on a mission of love and divine beneficence—
They leave ' the halls of heaven,' and, crossing the stream of life, • rear on its further shore a tower of light.'
Placed the foundation-stone, now one by one
In lines of strength and beauty, The Angel World is scarcely less abundant than Festus. Let the following suffice as specimens of the originality which pervades them :—
The jubilant song swelled circling through the courts
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And Wisdom passed among them like a thought
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Morn, like a maiden gazing on her pearls,
The poem from which we take these fine lines is less known than it ought to be. Had Festus not preceded it, there cannot be a doubt that its excellences would have been more generally appreciated. That its author is destined to take a high place in English literature, when he has become fully conscious of his mistakes and his strength, we do not doubt; and we cannot but believe that erelong be will be enabled to surmount the obstacles which injudicious criticism has placed in his path, and accomplish somethmg worthy of the genius which took its first flight so boldly.
Mr Robert Browning is another poet who has scarcely yet fulfilled his early promise. Paracelsus, his first work, evinced a maturity of mind such as is seldom mamfested by a young writer, and proclaimed him a deep and sound thinker, not less than a poet, with a wide range of imagination. In some of the things he has since published, obscurities and conceits have frequently marred the effect of the beauties with which they are combined. At the present stage of his progress, he claims attention mainly as a dramatic writer. He seems almost unconsciously to cast everything he writes into the dramatic mould; he seldom attempts the descriptive, or if so, it is in the person of one of his characters. Three of his compositions—namely, Colombe's Birthday, The Blot on the Scutcheon, and The Return of the Druses—have much of the ordinary features of the regular drama; but his others—Paracelsus, Pippa Passes, A Soul's Tragedy, and King Victor and King Charles—may be regarded as simply embodiments of his abstract conceptions of human nature in creatures of his own imagination. All of them abound with peculiarities: it will be seen that even the titles of some of them are peculiar; but the chief feature of Mr Browning's genius, is the striking combination of the imaginative with the reasoning faculty in his productions. Each of them has a moral purpose more or less clearly defined throughout. Thus Paracelsus may be called a study oi' a highly gifted mind in its temptations, its struggles, its self-imposed misery, and its ultimate attainment of rest in goodness. The scope of the poem is to shew that neither knowledge nor love is sufficient of itself for the work of this world, and that he who aspires to know, must also learn to love. The Soul's Tragedy, again, has for its aim the illustration of the false generosity which springs from vanity, as distinguished from that which has its source in true benevolence; while Pippa Passes, a work replete with pathos as well as power, shews us conscious innocence passing untainted through the mazes of sin and folly. Among the shorter poems, which Mr Browning very properly calls Dramatic Lyrics, a humorous piece, entitled The Pied Piper of Hamalin, and a more elaborate one on the madness of Saul, are chiefly noticeable. How they carried the News from Ghent to Aix, and one or two pieces called Cavalier Times, are admirable specimens of free, hold, dashing ballad melody. We give two verses from one of the latter, merely as an illustration of Mr Browning's felicity in versification:—
Kentish Sir Byng stood for his king,
Marched them along, fifty score strong,
Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song:
'God for King Charles! Pym and such carles
To the devil that prompts 'em such treasonous paries.
Cavaliers, up! Lips from the cup!
Hands from the pasty! nor bite take, nor sup,
Till you 're marching along fifty score strong,
Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song.'
Mr Browning's latest poem, Christmas Eve and Easter Day, is altogether a singular production, and we shall not attempt to give any idea of it. There are many parts of it very obscure; and, as a whole, it is perhaps the least favourable illustration of his predilection for employing poetical expression as the medium of conveying abstract speculation. Poetry is, as it were, forcibly associated with metaphysical analysis, and obscurity is the result. Mr Browning will require to get rid of the tendency to indulge in this ere he can ever hope to become popular. To cultivated minds, his works present many rare excellences. Amid a good deal that is crude in his philosophy, and fantastic in poetical construction, there are vivid imaginative pictures, pure and deep streams of feeling, a playfulness of fancy, and, above all, an integrity of purpose in his writings, quite sufficient to give them vitality.
Foremost among those who have earned a literary reputation of some eminence by a refined taste, and what may be termed the graces of poetry, rather than by power or marked individuality, Richard Monckton Milnes claims some attention, and deserves to be better known than he is. Were it consistent with the design of this paper, or possible within the limits assigned to it, to trace the influence of Wordsworth's genius in the writings of the living poets, we know of none whom we could more readily select as an illustration of the effects which that influence has produced than Mr Milnes, whose poetry, as a whole, might have been classed by the author of The Excursion under the head of' sentiment and reflection.' Repose and intellectual calm characterise it; and nothing could be further removed from it than the enchanted reverie of Tennyson on the one hand, and the passionate rhapsody of Bailey on the other. The almost total lack of constructive power or dramatic force in Mr Milnes's Palm Leaves and Poems of Many Years, separates them to some extent from the works of his contemporaries. But while the warmth of poetic genius is wanting, its expansive sympathy and keen sensibilities are sufficiently apparent. Hence his themes have almost all a directly reflective character, or are of a kind to affect the ordinary range of feeling.
The Rev. Mr Keble, and Richard Chenevix Trench, professor in the university of London, may be said to occupy a position on a level with that of Mr Monckton Milnes. Keble's poetry is