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of fanciful and tender power. The fifteenth book, where she beguiles Pelias to death at the hands of his daughters, is a sample of flawless verse and noble imagination unsurpassed by any here. For dramatic invention and vivid realism of the impossible, which turns to fair and sensible truth the wildest dreams of legend, there has been no poet for centuries comparable. But the very flower and crest of this noble poem is the final tragedy at Corinth. Queen, sorceress, saviour, she has sunk or risen to mere woman; and not in vain before entering the tragic lists has the poet called on that great poet's memory who has dealt with the terrible and pitiful passion of women like few but Shakespeare since.
Worthy, indeed, even of the master-hand is all that follows. Let the student weigh well the slight but great touches in which the fitful fury and pity and regret of the sufferer are given ; so delicate and accurate that only by the entire and majestic harmony of tragedy will he discern the excellence and justice of every component note. To come upon this part of the poem is as the change from river to sea (Book XII.), when wind and water had a larger savour in lip and nostril of the Argonauts. Note well the new and piteous beauty of this :
“ Kindly I deal with thee, mine enemy;
Since swift forgetfulness to thee I send.
“ But ye shall I behold you when leaves fall,
What! when I kneel in temples of the Gods
Rarely but in the ballad and romance periods has such poetry been written, so broad and sad and simple, so full of deep and direct fire, certain of its aim, without finish, without fault. The passion from hence fills and burns to a.close ; the verse for a little is as the garment of Medea steeped in strange moisture as of tears and liquid flame to be kindled by the sun.
“O sons, with what sweet counsels and what tears
It should now be clear, or never, that in this poem a new thing of great price has been cast into the English treasure-house. Nor is the cutting or the setting of the
jewel unworthy of it; art and instinct have wrought hand in hand to its perfection. Other and various fields await the workman who has here approved himself a master, acceptable into the guild of great poets on a footing of his own to be shared or disputed by no other. Strained clear and guided straight as now, his lofty lyrical power must keep all its promise to us. Diffusion is in the nature of a romance, and it cannot be said that here the stream has ever overflowed into marshland or stagnated in lock or pool. Therefore we do not blame the length and fullness of so fair a river ; but something of barrier or dam may serve to concentrate and condense the next. Also, if we must note the slightest ripples of the water-flies that wrinkle it, let us set down in passing that there are certain slight laxities or perversities of metre which fret the ear and perplex the eye, noticeable only as the least shortcoming is noticeable in great work. Elision, for example, is a necessity, not a luxury, of metre. This law Chaucer, a most loyal versifier, never allows himself to slight after the fashion of his follower. But into these straits of technical art we need not now steer. So much remains unremarked, so much unsaid ; so much of beauty slighted, of uncommended excellence ; that I close these inadequate and hurried notes with a sense of grave injustice done. To the third book of Mr. Morris we look now, not for the seal of our present judgment, but for the accomplishment of our highest hopes; for a fresh honour done to English art, a fresh delight to us, and a fresh memory for the future.
MATTHEW ARNOLD'S NEW POEMS.
There are two things which most men begin by hating until they have won their way, and which when combined are more than doubly hateful to all in whose eyes they are not doubly admirable : perfection of 'work, and personality in the workman. As to perfection, it must be seen to be loved, and few have eyes to see it. To none but these few can it be acceptable at first; and only because these few are the final legislators of opinion, the tacit and patient lawgivers of time, does it ever win acceptance. A strong personal tone of character stamped and ingrained into a man's work, if more offensive at first to the mass, is likelier to find favour before long in the sight of some small body or sect of students. If not repulsive, it must be attractive and impressive; and there are always mental cripples in plenty to catch at a strong man's staff and cut it down into a crutch for themselves. But the more love a man has for perfection, the more faith in form, the m ore instinct for art, the fewer will these early believers be, and the better worth having; the process of winning their suffrages will be slower, and surer the hold of them when won.
For some years the immediate fame of Mr. Matthew Arnold has been almost exclusively the fame of a prose
writer. Those students could hardly find hearing—they have nowhere of late found expression that I know ofwho, with all esteem and enjoyment of his essays, of their clearness, candour, beauty of sentiment and style, retained the opinion that if justly judged he must be judged by his verse and not by his prose; certainly not by this alone; that future students would cleave to that with more of care and of love; that the most memorable quality about him was the quality of a poet. Not that they liked the prose less, but that they liked the verse more. His best essays ought to live longer than most, his best poems cannot but live as long as any, of their time. So it seemed to some who were accordingly more eager to receive and more careful to study a new book of his poems than most books they could have looked for; and since criticism of the rapid and limited kind possible to contemporaries can be no more than the sincere exposition of the writer's belief and of his reasons for it, I, as one of these, desire, with all deference but with all decision, to say what I think of this book, and why. For the honour of criticism, if it is to win or to retain honour at all, it must be well for the critic to explain clearly his personal point of view, instead of fighting behind the broad and crestless shield of a nameless friend or foe. The obscurest name and blazon are at least recognisable; but a mere voice is mere wind, though it affect to speak with the tongues and the authority of men and of angels.
First on this new stage is the figure of an old friend and teacher. Mr. Arnold says that the poem of “Empedocles on Etna" was withdrawn before fifty copies of the first edition were sold. I must suppose then that one