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reports the success of events not proportion-
able to desert, or according to the virtue or
vice that has been displayed in them ; poetry
corrects this, and represents events and for-
tunes according to justice and merit. Be-
cause true history, from the obvious similar-
ity of actions, and the satiety which this cir-
cumstance must occasion, frequently creates
a distaste in the mind ; poetry cheers and re-
freshes it, exhibiting things uncommon,
varied, and full of vicissitude. As poetry,
therefore, contributes not only to pleasure,
but to magnanimity and good morals, it is
deservedly supposed to participate in some
measure of Divine inspiration ; since it raises
the mind, and fills it with sublime ideas, by
proportioning the appearances of things to
the desires of the mind, and not submitting
the mind to things, like reason and his-
tory" (p. 9).

Had Donnelly, instead of playing
the zany over Shakespeare and Bacon,
striving to put one man where God
put another, spent his time crying
this passage up and down the streets,
he would have displayed originality
meriting something better than bread
and water and shackles. The most
of us have read this passage at one
time or another, but we have not
taken it and other great sayings that
belong with it to our business and

As in heroic poetry, so in tragedy,
there is no escaping the conclusion
that poetry is superior to philosophy
as well as to history.

" But if from the Heroic we turn to the
Tragic Muse, to which Aristotle indeed as-
signs the preference, because of the true
and perfect imitation, we shall yet more
clearly evince the superiority of poetry over
philosophy, on the principle of its being
more agreeable. Tragedy is, in truth, no
other than philosophy introduced upon the
stage, retaining all its natural properties,
remitting nothing of its native gravity, but
assisted and embellished by other favoring
circumstances. What point, for instance,
of moral discipline have the tragic writers
of Greece left untouched or unadorned?
What duty of life, what principle of politi-
cal economy, what motive or precept for
the government of the passions, what com-
mendation of virtue is there which they
have not treated of with fulness, variety,
and learning? The morals of ^schylus (not
only a poet, but a Pythagorean) will ever
be admired. Nor were Sophocles or Euri-
pides less illustrious for the reputation of
wisdom ; the latter of whom was the disciple
of Socrates and Anaxagoras, and was
known among his friends by the title of the
dramatic philosopher. In these authors,
surely, the allurements of poetry afforded
some accession to the empire of philosophy ;
nor indeed has any man arrived at the sum-
mit of poetic fame who did not previously-
lay the foundation of his art in true phi-

" Should it be objected that some have been
eminent in this walk of poetry who never
studied in the schools of the philosophers
nor enjoyed the advantages of an education
above the common herd of mankind, I an-
swer that I am not contending about the
vulgar opinion, or concerning the meaning
of a word. The man who, by the force of
genius and observation, has arrived at a
perfect knowledge of mankind ; who has
acquainted himself with the natural powers
of the human mind and the causes by which
the passions are excited and repressed ;
who not only in words can explain, but can
delineate to the senses, every emotion of
the soul ; who can excite, can temper and
regulate the passions — such a man, though
he may not have acquired erudition by the
common methods, I esteem a true phi-
losopher. The passion of jealousy, its
causes, circumstances, its progress and ef-
fects, I hold to be more accurately, more
copiously, more satisfactorily described in
one of the dramas of Shakespeare than in
all the disputations of the schools of phi-

" Now, if tragedy be of so truly a philo-
sophical nature ; and if, to all the'force and



gravity of wisdom, it add graces and al-
lurements peculiarly its own— the harmony
of verse, the contrivance of the fable, the
excellence of imitation, the truth of action ;
shall we not say that philosophy must yield
to poetry in point of utility ? or shall we
not rather say that the former is greatly
indebted to the latter, of whose assistance
and recommendation it makes so advan-
tageous a use, in order to attain its partic-
ular purpose, utility or improvement?"
(pp. 7, 8).

Though I have gone over this
ground before in my inquiry into
the character and office of poetry, it
is quite to the purpose to tread it
once more; and it is fortifying to
find the wise old bishop at my side
every inch of the way. Of course, he
will press on beyond most travellers
of to-day when it comes to distin-
guishing between the inspiration of
Shakespeare and that of the author
of " Job," but so far as we can accom-
pany him his words are certainly
worth whole shelves of modern books
on the subject of poetry.

"But, after all, we shall think more hum-
bly of poetry than it deserves, unless we
direct our attention to that quarter where
its importance is most eminently conspicu-
ous ; unless we contemplate it as employed
on sacred subjects and in subservience to
religion. This indeed appears to have
been the original office and destination of
poetry ; and this it still so happily performs
that in all other cases it seems out of char-
acter, as if intended for this purpose alone.
In other instances poetry appears to want
the assistance of art, but in this to shine
forth with all its natural splendor, or rather
to be animated by that inspiration which,
on other occasions, is spoken of without
being felt. These observations are remark-
ably exemplified in the Hebrew poetry,
than which the human mind can conceive
nothing more elevated, more beautiful, or
more elegant ; in which the almost ineffable
sublimity of the subject is fully equalled
by the energy of the language and the dig-
nity of the style. And it is worthy obser-
vation that as some of these writings ex-
ceed in antiquity the fabulous ages of
Greece, in sublimity they are superior to
the most, finished productions of that pol-
ished people. Thus, if the actual origin of
poetry be inquired after, it must of neces-
sity be referred to religion ; and since it ap-
pears to be an art derived from nature
alone, peculiar to no age or nation, and
only at an advanced period of society con-

formed to rule and method, it must be
wholly attributed to the more violent af-
fections of the heart, the nature of which is
to express themselves in an animated and
lofty tone, with a vehemence of expression
far remote from vulgar use" (p. iS).

Whatever our special religious be-
lief, we can agree with this, and in
the agreement we shall go a long
way toward settling contention and
confusion, toward preventing waste
of time over commentators as inju-
rious as ingenious, as delusive as

Nor shall we find this critic of
great poetry scorning the small poet-
ry. So thoroughly is he at home in
the art that he can unbend with all
the grace and fervor of Jean Paul to
dwell fondly on the precious lyrics
of slender theme, the little waftings
of fancy, the fitful breaths of bird-
like melody, that charm in moments
of mirth or idleness.

"Not entirely to omit the lighter kinds of
poetry] many will think that we allow them
full enough 'when we suppose their utility
to consist in the entertainment which they
afford. Nor is this altogether to be de-
spised if it be considered that this enter-
tainment, this levity itself, affords relaxation
to the mind when wearied with laborious
investigation of truth; that it unbends the
understanding after intense application ; re-
stores it when debilitated; and refreshes it.
even by an interchange and variety <>f
study. ' In this we are countenanced by the
example and authority of the greatest men
of Greece, by that of Solon, Plato, and
Aristotle; among the Romans, by that of
Scipio and Laelius, Julius and Augustus
Cesar, Varro and Brutus, who rilled up the
intervals of their more important engage-
ments, their severer studies, with the agree-
ableness and hilarity of this poetical talent.
Nature indeed seems in this most wisely to
have consulted for us, who, while she im-
pels us to the knowledge of truth, which is
frequently remote, and only to be prose-
cuted wi'th indefatigable "industry, has
provided also these pleasing recreations as
a refuge to the mind,' in which it might oc-
casionally shelter itself, and find an agree-
able relief from languor and anxietv" (p.

And the critic that so finds can go
farther; can find that the practice as
well as the reading of poetry is essen-
tial as a means of culture.



"But there is yet a further advantage to
be derived from these studies, which ought
not to be neglected ; for, besides possessing
in reserve a certain solace of your labors,
from the same repository you will also be
supplied with many of the brightest orna-
ments of literature. The first object is, in-
deed, to perceive and comprehend clearly
the reasons, principles and relations of
things ; the next is, to be able to explain
your conceptions, not only with perspicuity,
but with a degree of elegance. For in this
respect we are all of us in some measure
fastidious. We are seldom contented with
a jejune and naked exposition even of the
most serious subjects ; some of the season-
ings of art, some ornaments of style, some
splendor of diction, are of necessity to be
adopted ; even some regard is due to the
harmony of numbers and to the gratifica-
tion of the ear. In all these respects,
though I grant that the language of poetry
differs very widely from that of all other
kinds of composition, yet he who has be-
stowed some time and attention on the pe-
rusal and imitation of the poets will, I am
persuaded, find his understanding exercised
and improved as it were in this Palaestra,
the vigor and activity of his imagination
increased, and even his manner of expres-
sion to have insensibly acquired a tinge from
this elegant intercourse. Thus we observe
in persons who have been taught to dance
a certain indescribable grace and manner ;
though they do not form their common ges-
ture and gait by any certain rules, yet there
results from that exercise a degree of ele-
gance which accompanies those who have
been proficients in it even when they have
relinquished the practice. Nor is it the
least improbable that both Cesar andTully
(the one the most elegant, the other the
most eloquent of the Romans) might have
derived considerable assistance from the
cultivation of this branch of polite litera-
ture, since it is well known that both of
them were addicted to the reading of poetry,
and even exercised in the composition of
it This too is so apparent in the writings
of Plato that he is thought not only to have
erred in his judgment, but to have acted
an ungrateful part, when he excluded from
his imaginary commonwealth that art to
which he was so much indebted for the
splendor and elegance of his genius, from
whose fountains he had derived that soft,
copious, and harmonious style for which
he is so justly admired" (pp. 15-17).

Blessed old bishop! There you
have it, poetry serviceable even as a
sort of Delsarte practice for the mind
and heart.

Verily the Oxford boys one hun-
dred and fifty years ago had a de-

cided advantage over their successors
of to-day. Were the present time as
favorable to poetry as theirs we
should hear not a word, for instance,
of the warfare between poetry and
science (which, by the bye, the en-
lightened Tyndall terms her
"younger sister"); not a syllable
would be lisped on such a topic as
" Is Verse in Danger?" The good
bishop would as soon have thought
of doubting the existence of his soul
and the High Power on which it
leaned as of questioning the imper-
ishability of song; song, which has
taught us the most we know of these.
With this peep at a forgotten vol-
ume I commend it most heartily to
young and old, to all ranks and classes
from shoeblack to scholar; this for a
better understanding of the Scrip-
tures and for advancement in knowl-
edge concerning the ruling power,
the one force always first, in matters
great and small, sacred and profane.



Bishop Lowth began lecturing in
1 74 1, one hundred and fifty-eight
years after Sidney wrote his " De-
fence of Poesy." A few quotations
from Sidney will show, without argu-
ment, that the old notion was trans-
mitted intact, and so held till the
middle of the eighteenth century.
" This heart-ravishing knowledge "
is one of his expressions; another is,
"That unspeakable and everlasting
beaut)^ to be seen. by the eyes of the
mind. " The purpose of poetry is " to
teach and delight;" poetry is the
" sweet food of sweetly uttered knowl-
edge. " The poet "doth not only
show the way, but giveth so sweet a
prospect into the way as will entice
any man to enter into it." And so
we might go on plucking flowers
throughout this immortal essay,
flowers every color and breath of
which are instinct with the traditions
for the authority of which I contend.



Eighty years later, in Shelley's
" Defense of Poetry," we find the old
notion getting dim. After all, it is
more a seeming than a reality with
Shelley, for we soon catch him cross-
ing his own path. If Shelley be
right when he says, " The distinction
between poets and prose writers is a
vulgar error," Sidney's exposition is
without meaning. Really, Shelley
does not intend the direct and full
contrary ; but should he, or another,
or a thousand others, intend the like,
we are safe in holding to the firm
phrase of Sidney: "that same ex-
quisite observance of number and
measure in words, and that high-
flying liberty of conceit proper to the
poet." Taken in a half-sense, there
is truth in Shelley's blunt statement,
and in Sidney's "there have been
many most excellent poets that never
versified;" but taken in the whole
sense, both asseverations are mislead-
ing. We cannot have poetry proper
without the poet's vision and method
and music —

. . . "the numbers which could call
The stones into the Theban wall."

Shelley would have it that the aim
of the poet is, not to " teach and de-
light," but to delight. He says:

"Those in whom the poetical faculty,
though great, is less intense, as Euripides,
Lucan, Tasso, Spenser, have frequently
affected a moral aim, and the effect of their
poetry is diminished in exact proportion to
the degree in which they compel us to ad-
vert to this purpose. "

Teaching and compelling us to
advert to the teaching are very differ-
ent things. The poet teaches and
delights; delights because he does
not compel us to advert to his pur-
pose, but effects it while, in our de-
light, we are unconscious of what he
is really doing.

Again Shelley says :

"And this bold neglect of a direct moral
purpose is the most decisive proof of the
supremacy of Milton's genius."

On Milton's intent, I prefer the
testimony of Milton himself:

..." What in me is dark

Illumine ; what is low raise and support ;

That to the height of this great argument

I may assert eternal Providence,

And justify the ways of God to men. "

If Milton and the few other great
poets have not been teachers with
a direct moral purpose, they have
been, and still are, nothing. If Shel-
ley meant that the poet should not
use the prose teacher's method,
he is right; if he meant more than
this — and probably he did — he is
wrong. The great poets, as we have
learned from Bishop Lowth, "dis-
sembling the intention of instruc-
tion," exhibiting "only the blandish-
ments of pleasure," still " treat of the
most important things, of all the
offices of life." We know well that
they do this in a very different way
from that of the philosopher, but we
know, if we know anything, that
they do this in their own way, which
way is most thorough and effective.
However, Shelley's testimony, taken
as a whole, is a sufficient answer to
any errant portion of it.

"But it exceeds all imagination," he ob-
serves, "to conceive what would have been
the moral condition of the world if neither
1 >ante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Chaucer,
Shakespeare, Calderon, Lord Bacon, nor
Milton, had ever existed; if Raphael and
Michael Angelohad never been born; if the
Hebrew poetry had never been translated ;
if a revival of the study of Greek literature
had never taken place ; if no monuments of
ancient sculpture had been handed down to
us ; and if the poetry of the religion of the
ancient world had been extinguished to-
gether with its belief. . . . Poets are the
unacknowledged legislators of the world. "

I wonder how many readers re-
member these words: "I consider
poetr}- very subordinate to moral and
political science, and if I were well,
certainly I would aspire to the lat-
ter." They are Shelley's, written to
Peacock in 1819, two years before he
wrote the "Defense," when he must
have been twenty-six or twenty-



seven. This is not the notion that
the great poets have of their art,
whether in youth or in age. With
all his brilliance, the figure of this
beautiful poet stands somewhat dim
and shadowy ; with the light and out-
line of the angel, there is yet some-
thing wanting: Shelley is not quite
whole, not an "unspotted soul."
Read between the lines, Arnold's
stern conclusion is nearer just than
it strikes one at first:

"The man Shelley, in very truth, is not
entirely sane, and Shelley's poetry is not
entirely sane either. The Shelley of actual
life is a vision of beauty and radiance, in-
deed, but availing* nothing, effecting noth-
ing. And in poetry, no less than in life, he
is a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beat-
ing in the void his luminous wings in vain. "

For a last word, coming down
seventy years, from 182 1 to 1891, it
may be profitable to inquire briefly
into the success of Mr. Theodore
Watts' attack on the old notion of
poetry as formulated by Arnold. In
his article on Lowell (The Athenceum,
August 2 2d, 1 891) Mr. Watts says:

" It is always difficult to know when Mat-
thew Arnold is in earnest and when he is
playing with his readers ; but if he was in
earnest when he denned poetry to be a
'criticism of life,' he certainly achieved in
one famous phrase a definition of poetry
which for whimsical perversity can never be
surpassed. Had he said the opposite of
this — had he said that all pure literature
except poetry may be a criticism of life, but
that poetry must be a simple projection of
life in order for it to be separated from
prose — he might perhaps have got nearer to
the truth."

If Mr. Watts, with all his acute-
ness, is not keen enough to know
when Arnold is in dead earnest and
when he is at play, we must not
blame him for being blind to very
plain things; among them the flip-
pancy and padding, the newspaper
recklessness sometimes displayed in
the staid columns of The Athenceum.

In this article we are informed at the
first dash that most Americans lack
"moral, high-bred courage." This
may be, but some of us have enough
patience and courtesy to hear a
speaker through before beginning to
dispute him. Arnold did not define
poetry as a " criticism of life, " but as a
" criticism of life under the dictates
of poetic beauty and poetic truth," as
a " powerful poetic application of ideas
to life." In exemplifying this poetic
application, he said that it has the
accent of such a line as

"Absent thee from felicity awhile,"

an injunction to which Mr. Watts
seems to have yielded temporary
obedience. He goes on to say :

" If there is in any literary work a true
projection of life, it must sometimes be
classed as poetry, even though the writer
shows but an imperfect conception of poetic
art. Although much of Browning's noble
and brilliant writing is a 'criticism of life, '
and is, therefore, as I think, not poetry, a
very considerable portion of his work is
poetry, because it is a true projection, and
not a criticism, of life. But Lowell's verse
is all 'criticism of life.' Of poetic projec-
tion there is almost nothing at all."

While Mr. Watts is right in saying
that much of Brow T ning's writing is
not poetry — he goes too far in find-
ing "almost nothing" of poetry in
Lowell — how is it that, with his mind
and experience, and Anglo-moral
courage to top it all, he does not
know that, instead of combating Ar-
nold's idea, he is reproducing it in
less happy words of his own? In
saying that, because much of Brown-
ing's work is rather a criticism than
a " projection" of life, it is something
different from poetry, he is simply
saying what Arnold says better, viz.,
that it is something different from
poetry because it has not the " mat-
ter and the inseparable manner" of
"adequate poetic criticism."




years have passed
since the death of
Father Junipero
Serra. For a man
who stood first and
foremost among
that band of mis-
sionaries, military
authorities, and civilians to whom
Spain had confided her interests in
colonizing Upper California, he has
received but little attention propor-
tionate to his merits from the world
at large.

Prior to the researches of Bancroft,
and Hittell, no historian of California
discussed the life and labors of this
zealous, faithful, and untiring priest
with the fulness that the subject

would have justified. Such articles
as often appeared in the general press
of this State were evidently compiled
from poor or insufficient translations
of Father Palon's life of Junipero.
Even so able and conscientious an
historian as Royce, in his late history
of California, cannot give room to
treat in detail of Serra's work, but
while passing the whole subject of
the early missions over with the
briefest mention, he pays him the
following tribute: "About Serra's
high worth as a man and as a Chris-
tian there is, indeed, no controversy
among those who know his career."

Fortunately, however, such neglect
is no longer to be expected, and for
the last few years Father Junipero's
labors have met with universal praise,




while his character as an able, con-
stant, conscientious, pure-minded, and
unselfish worker in his chosen field
grows brighter as the critical atten-
tion of the public is directed to it.
More than any one else of the eigh-
teenth century, he stamped his im-
press upon the record of Californian
history, and fully deserves an honor-
able place among the illustrious
names of the makers of America.
He was as sincere a man and as will-
ing and able to perform the work to
be done as any who have ever lived
for so high and holy an object in life.
He strove only for the reward that
comes in the life beyond, and with
that goal ever in sight labored for
those on earth whom his belief taught
him were in peril of not sharing in
the joys of the future life. The life
of St. Francis of Assisi was a stim-
ulus to Father Junipero, and the
records of the saint's work, his faith,
courage, hope, and cheerfulness under
difficulties were as personal calls to
Junipero during the many years he
was a devoted and loyal follower of
the Order of Franciscans.

Born of humble parents, November
24th, 1 7 13, at the island of Majorca,
he early chose the life of the Church,
and during his boyhood and youth
fitted himself for the office he aspired
to. Once admitted to the Church, his
zeal, learning, and eloquence soon
commanded attention. He formed
friendships with his brother priests
that were destined to be tried in after
years by hardship and peril of all
kinds, and yet which were broken
only by death, so loyal were these
men to each other and the cause they
worked for.

It was on August 28th, 1749, before
he was able to set foot on the shores
of America, after years of hoping
and patient waiting. He was then a
man of years, past the inexperience
of youth, yet his zeal could not allow
him to wait for the regular transpor-
tation, and starting from Vera Cruz,
he made the journey to Mexico on
foot. He had only one companion,

but the perils of the way were as
nothing to the unrest in his soul at
being kept from the scene of his fu-
ture labors. He was at once assigned
active labors in the surrounding

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 110 of 120)