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which the first of her sons may offer in the time of her sore need. All men's mouths were opened against the sins and shames of Paris; stricken of her enemies, forsaken of her friends, the great city was naked to all assault of hostile hands or tongues ; she was denied and renounced of Europe ; it was time for the poet to take her part. We need not recall, though we cannot but remember, the source of all her ills; the first and foulest crime of a fruitful and baneful series, the murder of the Roman republic by the hands of French republicans ; a crime which naturally and perforce brought forth at once its counterpart and its retribution in the minor though monstrous crime of December; which overthrew the triumvirate in Rome, and founded the empire in Paris. For that infamous expedition against right and freedom the nation which perpetrated and the nations which permitted it have since had heavily to pay. Not from the chief criminal alone, but from all accomplices who stood silent by to watch with folded hands the violation of all international conscience and the consummation of all international treason, has time exacted the full price of blood in blood and gold and shame. For the commission by France and the condonation by Europe of the crime which reinthralled a people and reinstalled a priesthood, even the infliction of the second empire was not found too costly an atonement to be exacted by the terrible equity of fate. But that the scourge fell first and heaviest on those Frenchmen who had protested and struggled with all the strength of their conscience and their soul against the sin and the shame of their country, men might have watched almost " with a bitter and severe delight” the assassination in its turn of republican France while yet red-handed from the blood of republican Rome. But it was not for the greatest of those among her sons who had resisted that execrable wrong, and being innocent of bloodguiltiness had suffered in expiation of it for nineteen years of exile-it was not for Hugo, and it is not for us, to cast in her teeth the reproach of her sin now that it has been atoned for by a heroic agony. Yet in reading these ardent and profuse invocations of France as prophetess and benefactress, fountain of light and symbol of right, we must feel now and then that some recognition of past wrong-doing, some acknowledgment of treason and violence done against the right and the light of the world, would have added weight and force to the expression of a patriotism which in default of it may be open to the enemy's charge of vulgar and uncandid partisanship, of blind and one-sided provinciality. From these as from all other charges of narrowness or shallowness, want of culture, of judgment, and of temperance, we would fain see the noble ardour and loving passion of his faith as demonstrably clear in all men's eyes as in the main it is at bottom to those who can read it aright. To have admitted that the empire was not simply a crime and a shame imposed on France as though by accident, but an inevitable indemnity demanded for her sin against her own high mission and honour, for the indulgence of greed and envy, of the lust after mean renown and unrighteous power which is the deformed and vicious parody of that virtue of patriotism whose name it takes in vain to make it hateful, of the arrogant and rancorous jealousy which impelled her baser politicians to play the game of the Catholic faction and let loose upon free Italy the soldiers of the Republic as the bloodhounds of the Church—to have avowed and noted this as the first and strongest link in the fatal chain of cause and effect wound up from Mentana to Sedan, could but have given fresh point and fresh profit to the fiery proclamation of France rearisen and redeemed. Then the philosophy and patriotism of the poet would not have been liable to the imputation of men who are now led to confound them with the common cries and conceits of that national egotism which has led to destruction the purblind and rapacious policy of sword-play and tongue-play. As it is, if ever tempted to find fault with the violence of devotion which insists on exalting above all names the name of Paris Paris entire, and Paris alone—without alloy or reserve of blame or regret for its follies and falsities, its windy vanities and rootless restless mobility of mind, to qualify the praise of its faith and ardour in pursuit of the light, we may do well to consider that this hymn of worship is raised rather to the ideal city, the archetypal nation, the symbolic people, of which he has prophesied in that noble dithyrambic poem in prose prefixed originally to the book called “ Paris Guide.” Whether or not that prophecy be accepted as a prediction, the speaker cannot fairly be accused of making his voice the mere echo of the blatant ignorance and strident selfassertion of the platform. Not but that some sharper word of warning or even of rebuke might perhaps have profitably tempered the warmth of his loyal and filial acclamation. With this, and with some implied admission of those good as well as evil elements in the composition
of the German empire and army which gave his enemies their strength, the intellectual and historical aspect of the poem would be complete and unassailable. From all other points of view it stands out in perfect unity of relief, as an absolute type of what poetry can do with a tragic or epic subject of the poet's own time. For a continuous epic or tragedy he gives us in appearance a series of lyric episodes which once completed and harmonized are seen to fulfil the conditions and compose the structure of a great and single work of art. Thus only can such a work be done in simple and sensible accordance with that unwritten law of right which is to the artist as a natural and physical instinct.
We accept then without reserve this great gift, for which the student can pay but thanks to the master whose payment from the world is the hatred of base men and the love of noble. In the mighty roll of his works we recognise at once that it must hold a high place for ever. That intense moral passion which may elsewhere have overflowed the bounds and “o'er-informed the tenement" of drama or romance has here a full vent in its proper sphere. This sovereign quality of the prophet is a glorious and dangerous quality for a poet. The burning impulse and masterful attraction of the soul towards ideas of justice and mercy, which make a man dedicate his genius to the immediate office of consolation and the immediate service of right, must be liable at times to divert the course of his work and impair the process of his art. To those who accused him of not imitating in his plays the method of that supreme dramatist in whom he professed his faith, Victor Hugo
has well answered that it was not his part to imitate Shakespeare or any man ; that the proof of vitality and value in the modern drama was that it had a life and a form, a body and a soul of its own. Nevertheless we may notice, with all reverence for the glorious dramatic work and fame of the first poet of our age, that on one point he might in some men's judgment have done well to follow as far as was possible to his own proper genius the method of Shakespeare. The ideal dramatist, an archetype once incarnate and made actual in the greatest of all poets, has no visible preferences ; in his capacity of artist he is incapable of personal indignation or predilection; as Keats with subtle truth and sovereign insight has remarked, he “has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen.”! For the time being, throughout the limits of his design, he maintains in awful equanimity of apparent abstraction the high indifference of nature or of God. Evil and good, and things and men, are in his hands as clay in the potter's, and he moulds them to the use and purpose of his art alone. What men are, and what their doings and their sufferings, he shows you face to face, and not as in a glass darkly ; to you he leaves it to comment on the action and passion set before you, to love or hate, applaud or condemn, the agents and the patients of his mundane scheme, wide as time and space, hell-deep and heaven-high. It is for you, if you please, to take part with Imogen or Desdemona against Iago or Iachimo, with Arthur or Cordelia against Goneril or King John; he is for all men, inasmuch as all are creatures and parcels of himself as artist, and of
Life and Letters of John Keats, vol. i. p. 221, ed. 1848.