Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

There are no poems of the class in English–I doubt if there be any even in Dante's Italian-so rich at once and pure. Their golden affluence of images and jewelcoloured words never once disguises the firm outline, the justice and chastity of form. No nakedness could be more harmonious, more consummate in its fleshly sculpture, than the imperial array and ornament of this august poetry. Mailed in gold as of the morning and girdled with gems of strange water, the beautiful body as of a carven goddess gleams through them tangible and taintless, without spot or default. There is not a jewel here but it fits, not a beauty but it subserves an end. There seems no story in this sequence of sonnets, yet they hold in them all the action and passion of a spiritual history with tragic stages and elegiac pauses and lyric motions of the living soul. Their earnest subtleties and exquisite ardours recall to mind the sonnets of Shakespeare; poems in their way unapproachable, and here in no wise imitated. Shakespeare's have at times a far more passionate and instant force, a sharper note of delight or agony or mystery, fear or desire or remorse—a keener truth and more pungent simpleness of sudden phrase, with touches of sound and flashes of light beyond all reach ; Mr. Rossetti's have a nobler fullness of form, a more stately and shapely beauty of build: they are of a. purer and less turbid water than the others are at times, and not less fervent when more serene than they; the subject-matter of them is sweet throughout, natural always and clear, however intense and fine in remote and delicate intricacy of spiritual stuff. There is nothing here which may not be felt by any student who can grasp the subtle

sense of it in full, as a just thing and admirable, fit for the fellowship of men's feelings; if men indeed have in them enough of noble fervour and loving delicacy, enough of truth and warmth in the blood and breath of their souls, enough of brain and heart for such fellow-feeling. For something of these they must have to bring with them who would follow the radiant track of this verse through brakes of flowers and solitudes of sunlight, past fountains hidden under green bloom of leaves, beneath roof-work of moving boughs where song and silence are one music. All passion and regret and strenuous hope and fiery contemplation, all beauty and glory of thought and vision, are built into this golden house where the life that reigns is love; the very face of sorrow is not cold or withered, but has the breath of heaven between its fresh live lips and the light of pure sweet blood in its cheeks; there is a glow of summer on the red leaves of its regrets and the starry frost-flakes of its tears. Resignation and fruition, forethought and afterthought, have one voice to sing with in many keys of spirit. A more bitter sweetness of sincerity was never pressed into verse than beats and burns here under the veil and girdle of glorious words; there are no poems anywhere of more passionate meditation or vision more intense than those on “Lost Days,” “Vain Virtues," "The Sun's Shame;". none of more godlike grace and sovereign charm than those headed “New-born Death,” “ A Superscription," "A Dark Day,” “Known in Vain,” “The One Hope.” And of all splendid and profound love-poetry, what is there more luminous or more deep in sense and spirit than the marvellous opening cycle of twenty-eight sonnets, which embrace and express

all sorrow and all joy of passion in union, of outer love and inner, triumphant or dejected or piteous or at peace ? No one till he has read these knows all of majesty and melody, all of energy and emotion, all of supple and significant loveliness, all of tender cunning and exquisite strength, which our language can show at need in proof of its powers and uses. The birth of love, his eucharistic presence, his supreme vision, his utter union in flesh and spirit, the secret of the sanctuary of his heart, his louder music and his lower, his graver and his lighter seasons; all work of love and all play, all dreams and devices of his memory and his belief, all fuller and emptier hours from the first which longs for him to the last which loses, alĩ change of lights from his midday to his moonrise, all his foreknowledge of evil things and good, all glad and sad hours of his nightwatches, all the fear and ardour which feels and fights against the advent of his difference and dawn of his division, all agonies and consolations that embitter and allay the wounds of his mortal hour ; the pains of breach and death, the songs and visions of the wilderness of his penance, the wood of desolation made beautiful and bitter by the same remembrance, haunted by shadows of the same hours for sorrow and for solace, and beyond all the light of the unaccomplished hour which missed its chance in one life to meet it in another where the sundered spirits revive into reunion; all these things are here done into words and sung into hearing of men as they never were till now With a most noble and tender power all forms and colours of the world without are touched and drawn into service of the spirit; and this with no

)

[ocr errors]

ingenious abuse of imagery or misuse of figures, but with such gracious force of imagination that they seem to offer voluntary service. What interlude more radiant than that of the “Portrait,” more gracious and joyous than the “Love Letter,” more tender than the remembered “ Birth- ' Bond,” more fervent than the memorial “Day of Love,” mere delicate than the significance of “Love's Baubles,” more deep and full than the bitter-sweet “Life-in-Love,” more soft in spiritual shade of changeful colour than “ The Love-Moon,” more subtly solemn in tragic and triumphant foresight than “The Morrow's Message," more ardent with finer fires and more tremulous with keener senses than the sonnets of parting, than “ Broken Music” or “Death-in-Love,” ever varied the high delight of verse, the sublime sustention of choral poetry through the length of an imperial work? In the sonnet called “LoveSweetness” there is the very honey of pure passion, the expression and essence of its highest thought and wisdom ; and in that called “He and I,” the whole pain and mystery of growing change. Even Shelley never expressed the inmost sense and mighty heart of music as this poet has done in “The Monochord.” There are no lyrics in our lyrical English tongue of sweeter power than the least of these which follow the sonnets. The “Song of the Bower" is sublime by sheer force of mere beauty; the sonorous fluctuation of its measure, a full tide under a full moon, of passion lit and led by memory to and fro beneath fiery and showery skies of past and future, has such depth and weight in its moving music that the echo of it is as a sea-shell in the mind's ear for ever. Observe the glorious change of note from the delicate colour of

the second stanza to the passionate colour of the third ; the passage from soft bright symbols to the actual fire of vision and burning remembrance; from the shelter of soul under soul and the mirror of tears wherein heart sees heart, to the grasp and glow of

“Large lovely arms and a neck like a tower” . growing incarnate upon the sight of memory; and again to the deep dim witness and warning, the foresight and regret which lighten and darken the ways of coming life. This is perhaps, for style at once ample and simple, the noblest song of all; yet it is but one of many noble. Among these others I find none which clings by itself so long and close to the mind as one outside their circlethe song of the sea-beach, called “Even So;" it dies out with a suppressed sigh like the last breath or heartbeat of a yearning weak-winged wind. “A Little While” is heavy with all the honey of foretasted sorrow, sweeter in its aftertaste than the joy resigned, with a murmur beyond music in its speech. The perfect pity of the two last lines has the touch on it of plain truth and patience;

“I'll tell thee when the end is come

How we may best forget.” In “ Plighted Promise” and “Love-Lily” the white flame of delight breathes and trembles in a subtler air, with a sure and faultless charm of motion. I like the first stanza of “Sudden Light” better than the second and third, admirably as they are fashioned and set to the music of the thought: they have less seeming effusion of an instant insuppressible sense of memory; and the touches of colour and odour and sound in it are almost too fine in their

« AnteriorContinuar »