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"Tis found, and needs it must so be,
In sloth's unceremonious rags.
And learn to bow and stand at gaze;
It was necessary, in order to preserve the unity of his work, that Mr. Patmore should confine himself to the one affection whose rise, growth, and progress he set himself to delineate, and whose purity and worth he nobly vindicates. But the effect of the exclusion of all reference to the incidents and interests of other kinds which must always co-exist even with the most absorbing passion, gives a somewhat effeminate tone to at least parts of the poem. He seems to take a too "fond" view of human life. This impression is aided by the metre, which, though correct and smooth, is monotonous. Reading considerable portions of it, it is impossible to avoid falling into a kind of singsong, which, however appropriate to such passages as this,—and there are many like,-does injustice to others:
"Dear Felix!' 'Dearest Honor! There
Was Aunt Maud's noisy knock and ring!'
You look magnificent to-day.'
'Here's Felix, Aunt. Fox and green goose!
Just worth the price that 's put on her.'"
Indeed, mastery of metrical forms is not one of Mr. Patmore's excellences. He has no ear apparently for the finer cadences, the "dying falls," "the linked sweetnesses long drawn out," which in some poets make the sound a subtle echo of the sense, and spiritualise the mere mechanism of verse. Some of his poems are written in long lines, and some in short ones, some with alternate, and others in immediately recurring rhymes; but this is all the difference. There is scarcely a variation of the accent throughout the two volumes. "Tamerton Church-Tower" is a tale well told,
containing many fine passages. But it is impossible to read it without profane recollections of "John Gilpin," which do much to reduce it to a burlesque. Take one verse:
"Quoth Frank, 'I do: and thence foresee
And all too plainly scan
On Duty, Death, or Man.""
Nor has Mr. Patmore the power, so remarkable in Tennyson, of colouring the scenery he describes with the mood of mind to which he wishes to make it subordinate; of grouping external objects as accessories to his main idea, This idea, indeed, Tennyson often gives merely through the accessories; it is the resultant of their several forces, a kind of exhalation or efflorescence from them, without any separate substantive expression of its own. There are many illustrations of this in In Memoriam. When independent utterance is given to both, it is of the briefest kind, at a flash, as it were; as in an outburst in "Locksley Hall:"
"O my Amy, shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more! O the dreary, dreary moorland! O the barren, barren shore!" This instantaneity is needful to effective comparison. If the symbol is dwelt on too long, it loses its symbolic character, and distracts the attention from its own purport. more has not sufficiently guarded against this error. merton Church-Tower," and, to a less extent, in other of his poems, we have the state of mind of the hero described at considerable length, and then the scenery minutely painted to correspond. These rapid and frequent transitions from the "subjective" to the "objective" are occasionally a little bewildering. It is only on repeated perusal that we see their significance, and the effect they were intended to produce. The name of the poem to which these remarks are principally applicable is a case in point. The piece, we should premise, extends over fifty-three pages. At the commencement the narrator leaves
We do not hear of it again till the last verse, when
"O'erhead the perfect moon kept pace,
In meek and brilliant power,
Of Tamerton Church-Tower."
The church symbolises his own fortunes; but it has been so lost sight of in the course of the story, that its reappearance hardly serves any purpose of illustration or deeper impression. But we do not wish to part with Mr. Patmore in a carping or
detracting spirit. In The Angel in the House he has written a work which, if not marked by the attributes of the highest genius, is yet, in its way, a genuine poem. He has been happy in the choice of a subject which is interesting to all men at least once in their lives, and to most women during the whole of their lives; and which, whatever other changes the world may see, is not likely to grow obsolete. And his gifts are just those which fit him for the appropriate treatment of his theme. If we can scarcely venture to prophesy with him that he will rival the fame of Petrarch and Dante,-will live, in his own words,
"To be delight to future days,
And into silence only cease
With those who loved and shared their bays
we think that he has a fair likelihood of a more modest immortality. For the permanence of a work does not altogether depend on the magnitude of the powers which have been expended upon it; but on the correspondence of the powers to their task, and their faithful and conscientious devotion to it. An unassuming vignette, minutely finished in its every detail, may outlast gigantic historic pictures, which exhibit only great and unrealised designs. The Angel in the House will, in any case, carry purifying and elevating influences into many existing homes, and help to impart a healthier tone to the poetic literature of the day. This surely should be to the author a sufficient, if there be no further, recompense.
ART. IX.-CIVILISATION AND FAITH.
History of Civilisation in England. By Henry Thomas Buckle. Vol. I. J. W. Parker. 1857.
THE author of this very learned and remarkable volume has elaborated and defended in his introductory chapters a very startling theory of civilisation. The civilisation of tropical and arctic countries, he remarks, has been retarded by the dominating influence of physical nature over man; in the former case through the excess of her productiveness, in the latter case through the excess of her sterility. In Europe alone has there been a fair equipoise between human and natural forces; and in Europe alone has civilisation been progressive and permanent. Turning then to Europe, Mr. Buckle finds that mental laws have rapidly gained upon the physical; so that the history of European civilisation
becomes a history of the progress of the human mind. Further, when, looking into the mind itself, we distinguish between those elements which have been stationary and unimportant, and those which have been cumulative and progressive, he finds that the moral and religious nature of man may be eliminated from this inquiry. The religion of a nation is a symptom of its state, not an influence changing that state. Even Christianity was too "mild and philosophic" for the world; and it quickly appeared, after it "had received the homage of the best part of Europe, and seemed to have carried all before it," that "nothing had been done." The only moulding influence which changes man, Mr. Buckle asserts, and which refuses to be changed by man, is intellectual knowledge. The history of Europe is a history of the European intellect. If, startled by this assertion, you point out that civilisation is to some extent a matter of individual experience; that every man well knows what it is within him that makes him a better member of society, more of a true citizen, and what it is which resists the true laws of social unity; and that the result of such experience is by no means favourable to the supposition that the binding force is purely intellectual, nay, that social obligation is intellectual at all, he will simply reply, that you are on a completely wrong track; that it is a complete and fundamental mistake for a man to imagine that individual experience can throw any but a misleading light on the greater movements of human society; that history and statistics are your only safe guide. The ground of this strange refusal to look within the nature of man for any key to the problems of his history we must briefly state and criticise. It seems to us to be so deep and so pregnant with false conclusions, that it vitiates Mr. Buckle's whole conception of history; and if logically carried out, will compel him to distort the history of civilisation into a history of the merest surface of civilisation. He deliberately maintains, first, that the deeper you plunge into the individual life of man, the farther you are from any thing that affects his social history; and next, that it is a most fortunate circumstance that this should be so, inasmuch as the only kind of observation which is scientifically worthless and fruitless of all result is individual self-observation. These are Mr. Buckle's deliberate convictions:-that what most people call the deeper part of man, his affections, moral nature, faith, are eliminated as mere "disturbing influences" by any comprehensive survey of his history; while the only part of human life which is constantly affecting the history of the race (in temperate climates) more and more, is the intellectual part. More than ordinarily good desires in one section of society cancel more than ordinarily bad desires in another section; temporary impulses of fanaticism in one age cancel temporary impulses of doubt in
another. Take European society as a whole, and while other elements fluctuate, only one element changes according to any law of progressive increase, and that is the intellectual life and acquisitions of man. "We are all sensible," he concedes, “that moral principles do affect nearly the whole of our actions; but we have incontrovertible proof that they do not produce the least effect upon mankind in the aggregate, or even on men in very large masses, provided that we take the precaution of studying social phenomena for a period sufficiently long, and on a scale sufficiently great, to enable the superior laws to come into uncontrolled operation." And again, he argues, "In reference to our moral conduct, there is not a single principle now known to the most cultivated Europeans which was not likewise known to the ancients." "Now," he adds, "since civilisation is the product of moral and intellectual agencies, and since that product is constantly changing, it evidently cannot be regulated by the stationary agent; because, when surrounding circumstances are unchanged, a stationary agent can only produce a stationary effect. The only other agent is the intellectual one." And on this one argument alone he bases the very startling proposal to eliminate all moral and religious influences from his enumeration and history of the determining causes of civilisation. "I pledge myself," he adds,--surely somewhat rashly,-" to show that the progress Europe has made from barbarism to civilisation is entirely due to its intellectual activity." That a thinker so able as Mr. Buckle should so completely be imbued with the notion that knowledge, in some shape or other, is the only power that can introduce any new force into human life, as to overlook quite unconsciously the very transparent confusion in the solitary argument we have quoted between the stationary character of man's knowledge of moral principles and the stationary character of man's obedience to moral principles, and of their living influence over him, is one of the most surprising testimonies we have ever seen to the narrowing power of a school of thought. The whole question at issue Mr. Buckle passes by without a sign of recognition; the question, we mean, whether or not civilisation depends, not on the "discovery" of moral truth, but on the fidelity to moral truth, and on the influx of new and powerful spiritual influences into human history, which, while adding nothing to the discoveries of truth, add infinitely to men's fidelity, and the willingness of their allegiance to truth. Quietly assuming that if there could be any new moral influence on society at all, it could be given-off only by new moral discoveries, he of course excludes at once the possibility of admitting volition, or sentiment, or trust, which can only add new force to old feelings, into his scheme of civilisation.