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Back to folk weary; all was not for nought.
The idle singer of an empty day.” We may here add a specimen of some of Morris's other work. Here, for instance, are the rolling lines that form the commencement of the “Sigurd":
There was a dwelling of Kings ere the world was waxen old ;
And the entering in of the terror, and the death of the People's Praise. We ought to be interested in these merry-hearted men, the heroes indeed of our own Homeric period. We may note how in these poems of the north the author is enabled meetly to revive noble and simple Saxon forms of expression, for which we ought to be grateful to him.
The following may represent Morris's manner of translation from the Latin (Æneid IV.). The rendering is very close, almost literal :
But Dido, trembling, wild at heart with her most dread intent,
And bear for sign across the sea this token of my death.” In a careful study of Morris's poetry, made by Mr. H. Buxton Forman in “Our Living Poets,” we find the following comparison of Chaucer and Morris, which is worth quotation as a piece of excellent critical work :
“ Whether we read Chaucer or Mr. Morris, we get much the same processional splendour of descriptiveness where multitudes and largeness of action are concerned, the same minute yet significant delicacy of detail where individual action is the artist's subject, the same comprehensive attention to situation and surroundings, the same naïve implicitness of
belief where anything inconceivable to a modern mind is to be told (as is constantly the case with both poets). In this they are rivals, standing apart from all others, that they show a full sympathy with that stage of human development represented in each tale; and this is compassed partly by a forthright statement of the facts as they are supposed to have occurred, and partly by such an ingenuous and inventorial minuteness of circumstance as disarms all suspicion that the narrator questions the genuineness of his tale. Now this is the most indispensable quality to be sought for in simple tale-telling; and without this the utmost agreeableness of diction and the highest perfection of metre and rhythm are of no avail. We must not forget that this Chaucerian class of poetry is altogether unmodern, so that unless it reached in the hands of a con. temporary artist such a perfection as it might attain in the social medium wherein it first grew up, it could not receive more than a meagre recog. nition; and the cordial reception of Mr. Morris speaks volumes as to the quality of his tale-singing.
" It is natural that most of the characteristics of contemporary poetie workmanship should be at a minimum in these productions, and in the use of metres and so on we find Mr. Morris entirely estranged from his contemporaries. Instead of inventing new metres, he has adopted three good homely instruments used by Chaucer,—the seven-line stanza of * Troilus and Criseide,' The Flower and the Leaf,' and other poems, the old-fashioned five-foot couplet of The Knight's Tale,' used by Pope in translating the 'Iliad,' and the four-foot couplet of The Romaunt of the Rose' and 'The Book of the Duchess, afterwards employed in the construction of Hudibras ;' and of these instruments he has availed himself without that attention to minute construction shown in modern metres, or in pre-existent metres under modern treatment. We get here broad cadences of music, an unfaltering flow of rhythm, easy perspicuity of rhyme, fine large outlines of construction, but not usually any minute delicacies or startling intricacies; and this is precisely what should be the case, for this reason: Mr. Morris's works treat largely of action, incident, external form, colour, and so on, and he usually deals with only the simpler phases of emotion. His subjects engage attention in regard to the development of the story; and it would be an interruption hardly desirable to have to pause over minutiæ of manipulation when we want to follow out the large effects of the artist. The adornments that we want and get take the form of vivid and exquisite pictures, resulting from force of imagination and readiness of expression, and so clear and well-defined as to need no study on the reader's part to take them in. The interest is always sufficiently sustained by wealth of imagination, unfaltering straightforwardness of action, entire absence of anything like commonplace, and an adequate degree of force, sweetness, and propriety of
expression. Above all, the work is always distinctly poetry-not prose draped in a transparent veil of pseudo-poetry: to whatever length his works may run we do not miss in them that condensation without which verse can never be poetry.”
Again, with regard to Morris's peculiar position and faculty, we fully agree with the following: “In the ordinary books of reference, mythology and folk-lore, especially Greek myth and romance, are reduced to their lowest possible terms, and deprived of all aroma; but in Mr. Morris's books we have the added aroma of true poetic method and imagination, to supply what is so delicately fugitive in the ordinary process of distillation, as well as a rare discriminative tact to eliminate such of the grosser elements of the subject as are inessential, though retained in the exaggerated prose nakedness of the books of reference. These poems are such as no man need scruple to take home to his wife and leave within reach of his children ; for if unimpregnated with modern doctrine, they are at least innocent of what is gross in ancient creeds. Of philosophy there is just enough to afford the poet a point of view from which to treat his subjects. Without a moderately palpable point of view it is impossible to show great unity of intention; but Mr. Morris's point of view, though sufficient for this purpose, is as unmodern as his subjects and method. In fact, whatever philosophy is expressed or implied gives rise to no inconvenience in treating his chosen subjects: from the hardy minds of the old world he has adopted all that is kindly, humane, resignedly brave, and a little of what is sad in the pathetic belief in a short life soon to be forgotten; but the evident healthiness of a robust manly soul has saved him from deforming his works by any fatal admixture of that maudlin antitheism which cannot but mar the calm beauty of an antique ideal. There is no trace here of unhealthy revolt against circumstance and law; and although we may learn lessons to struggle after attainable good and away from avoidable evil, we are made to feel at the same time the beauty and strength of manly submission to the inevitable, so that if one calls the poet 'pagan,' it is but in the negative sense of exhibiting
essential and distinctive modern' principle, esthetic, ethic, or religious."
There must be a great buoyancy of power in Morris to enable him to raise the details which a story-teller is bound to furnish, into poetry with. out injury to simple directness of narrative. Here is an instance of his peculiar power in this direction :
Yea, I heard withal,
Upon the stone, a thin noise far away. How many are there with senses so exquisitely cultivated that in the description of common things they can hit upon just the right tone that
will bring poetic effect? It would be a fair challenge whether the subdued ring of the trowel as it taps the stone could in any way be better expressed than by the simple expression “a thin noise.” Morris's realism is of a sturdy yet delicate order; his senses are fine and he has gone out to use them. “The poet who wrote the description of a storm in the first book of Jason (pp. 13, 14) must have studied out in the broad air, and deep in the woods, and down on the river beds, with head unpropped by any student's hand, and with leave to lounge open-eyed, open-eared, drinking in the beauties of prospect and sound fresh from the springs of nature.”
William Morris is markedly liberal in politics, and may be remembered in connection with last year's agitation. He takes a real interest in the course of events, though it would surely strain even his magical powers to show a poetical side to the average political life of the present day, notwithstanding the imaginative effects produced in its supreme altitudes. In religion Morris is undogmatic, tolerant, and, as may be judged by his books, not a victim to the prevailing pessimistic materialism.
Like Mr. R. D. Blackmore, who, at first sight, looks more like a farmer than a poet or novelist, but grows upon the mind by the depth of his eye and the force of his presence ; so Mr. Morris might pass through Regentstreet in his easy unconventional costume without attracting the attention of his worshippers, unless, indeed, they were to scan the facial contours with an artist's eye. He is physically strong and hearty enough to afford foundation for the hope of a long earthly paradise within himself, and if he will, for many new gates thereinto for us. By the bye, when will the public exert itself sufficiently to demand the publication with a new edition of “The Earthly Paradise" of the drawings which Burne Jones made to illustrate it? And at the same time we ought to be given a specimen of the MS. of the author, who is reputed to compass an exquisite caligraphy.
On his marriage Mr. Morris built a house near Bexley Heath; since then he has lived at the old place in Queen-square, and afterwards at Turnham Green. He is now succeeding George MacDonald in a house on the river bank at Hammersmith. His country house is a pretty place at Kelmscott, near Lechlade, a building of the old Oxfordshire type, mediæval in appearance, and of Elizabethan or Jacobean date. Here he finds fishing in the upper Thames, and let us wish all enjoyment of rural beauty to a poet, for it comes back to us with increase.
IN THIS WORLD :
A FACE IN THE STREET.
By Mabel COLLINS, Author of "An Innocent Sinner,” &c.
Continued from page 432.
before her mind now and again
by association of ideas, the LAURA's wedding day dawned as thought of bim did but add bright and fair as any bride could zest to her occupation : for she felt desire: earth and sky were that now her triumph was comready to rejoice and be glad as plete. The man who had atthough the chaste goddess herself tempted to frighten and tyrannise were being led to the altar.
over her was thoroughly punished And Laura was pleased: for she and silenced ; while she felt that liked fine weather, as she liked she, by her own cleverness, had all bright things. To-day, with all placed herself in an admirable her plans consummating them. position. selves admirably - her wedding- She looked perfectly charming dress an admirable success, and in her character of the blushing some jewels which pleased her and diffident bride ; and Mr. exceedingly among her presents- Lingen decided, as he looked adthe whole world appeared bright miringly upon the trim figure to her.
robed in its rich laces, and the soft, It would have been interesting peach-like face with its downcast to a student of human nature to eyelids, that she was one of the watch Laura go through the best actresses of his acquaintance. mysteries of her toilette on that Dr. Doldy was troubled. A eventful day: to observe how strange cloud of mystery overmasterly was her
of concen- hung his niece and ward. trating her attention upon the im- But he had promised to keep mediate matter in hand. None of his thoughts well hidden to-day; a girl's tremors and doubts as to and he went through his part of her changed future distracted her the proceedings as decorously as attention from the due perfecting might be. But Laura recognised of her dress. Perhaps this was a difference in his look and mannatural in a woman whose marriage ner : she felt certain that he was the deliberate outcome of her suspected something ; and her artifice. No thought of an unloved only thought was relief that at and helpless little being unnatu- all events it was now too late for rally orphaned, disturbed her any harm to be done. Come what serene contemplation of her dainty might, she married ; and and girlish appearance.
And if though to a
woman who loved her some time lover was brought society as Laura did, the loss of