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no hope, no joy, and no gods to pray to.

But the special reason I wished to call attention to Victor Hugo's lyric
is that it has that particular quality called by philosophical critics
"cosmic emotion." Cosmic emotion means the highest quality of human
emotion. The word "cosmos" signifies the universe - not simply this world,
but all the hundred millions of suns and worlds in the known heaven. And
the adjective "cosmic" means, of course, "related to the whole universe."
Ordinary emotion may be more than individual in its relations. I mean that
your feelings may be moved by the thought or the perception of something
relating not only to your own life but also to the lives of many others.
The largest form of such ordinary emotion is what would be called national
feeling, the feeling of your own relation to the whole nation or the whole
race. But there is higher emotion even than that. When you think of
yourself emotionally not only in relation to your own country, your own
nation, but in relation to all humanity, then you have a cosmic emotion of
the third or second order. I say "third or second," because whether the
emotion be second or third rate depends very much upon your conception of
humanity as One. But if you think of yourself in relation not to this
world only but to the whole universe of hundreds of millions of stars and
planets - in relation to the whole mystery of existence - then you have a
cosmic emotion of the highest order. Of course there are degrees even in
this; the philosopher or the metaphysician will probably have a finer
quality of cosmic emotion than the poet or the artist is able to have. But
lovers very often, according to their degree of intellectual culture,
experience a kind of cosmic emotion; and Victor Hugo's little poem
illustrates this. Night and the stars and the abyss of the sky all seem to
be thrilling with love and beauty to the lover's eyes, because he himself
is in a state of loving happiness; and then he begins to think about his
relation to the universal life, to the supreme mystery beyond all Form and
Name.

A third or fourth class of such emotion may be illustrated by the
beautiful sonnet of Keats, written not long before his death. Only a very
young man could have written this, because only a very young man loves in
this way - but how delightful it is! It has no title.

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art -
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest-like task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors -

No - yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel forever its soft fall and swell,
Awake forever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever - or else swoon to death.

Tennyson has charmingly represented a lover wishing that he were a
necklace of his beloved, or her girdle, or her earring; but that is not a
cosmic emotion at all. Indeed, the idea of Tennyson's pretty song was
taken from old French and English love songs of the peasants - popular
ballads. But in this beautiful sonnet of Keats, where the lover wishes to
be endowed with the immortality and likeness of a star only to be forever
with the beloved, there is something of the old Greek thought which
inspired the beautiful lines written between two and three thousand years
ago, and translated by J.A. Symonds:

Gazing on stars, my Star? Would that I were the welkin,
Starry with myriad eyes, ever to gave upon thee!

But there is more than the Greek beauty of thought in Keats's sonnet, for
we find the poet speaking of the exterior universe in the largest
relation, thinking of the stars watching forever the rising and the
falling of the sea tides, thinking of the sea tides themselves as
continually purifying the world, even as a priest purifies a temple. The
fancy of the boy expands to the fancy of philosophy; it is a blending of
poetry, philosophy, and sincere emotion.

You will have seen by the examples which we have been reading together
that English love poetry, like Japanese love poetry, may be divided into
many branches and classified according to the range of subject from the
very simplest utterance of feeling up to that highest class expressing
cosmic emotion. Very rich the subject is; the student is only puzzled
where to choose. I should again suggest to you to observe the value of the
theme of illusion, especially as illustrated in our examples. There are
indeed multitudes of Western love poems that would probably appear to you
very strange, perhaps very foolish. But you will certainly acknowledge
that there are some varieties of English love poetry which are neither
strange nor foolish, and which are well worth studying, not only in
themselves but in their relation to the higher forms of emotional
expression in all literature. Out of love poetry belonging to the highest
class, much can be drawn that would serve to enrich and to give a new
colour to your own literature of emotion.




CHAPTER III

THE IDEAL WOMAN IN ENGLISH POETRY


As I gave already in this class a lecture on the subject of love poetry,
you will easily understand that the subject of the present lecture is not
exactly love. It is rather about love's imagining of perfect character and
perfect beauty. The part of it to which I think your attention could be
deservedly given is that relating to the imagined wife of the future, for
this is a subject little treated of in Eastern poetry. It is a very pretty
subject. But in Japan and other countries of the East almost every young
man knows beforehand whom he is likely to marry. Marriage is arranged by
the family: it is a family matter, indeed a family duty and not a romantic
pursuit. At one time, very long ago, in Europe, marriages were arranged in
much the same way. But nowadays it may be said in general that no young
man in England or America can even imagine whom he will marry. He has to
find his wife for himself; and he has nobody to help him; and if he makes
a mistake, so much the worse for him. So to Western imagination the wife
of the future is a mystery, a romance, an anxiety - something to dream
about and to write poetry about.

This little book that I hold in my hand is now very rare. It is out of
print, but it is worth mentioning to you because it is the composition of
an exquisite man of letters, Frederick Locker-Lampson, best of all
nineteenth century writers of society verse. It is called "Patchwork."
Many years ago the author kept a kind of journal in which he wrote down or
copied all the most beautiful or most curious things which he had heard or
which he had found in books. Only the best things remained, so the value
of the book is his taste in selection. Whatever Locker-Lampson pronounced
good, the world now knows to have been exactly what he pronounced, for his
taste was very fine. And in this book I find a little poem quoted from Mr.
Edwin Arnold, now Sir Edwin. Sir Edwin Arnold is now old and blind, and he
has not been thought of kindly enough in Japan, because his work has not
been sufficiently known. Some people have even said his writings did harm
to Japan, but I want to assure you that such statements are stupid lies.
On the contrary, he did for Japan whatever good the best of his talent as
a poet and the best of his influence as a great journalist could enable
him to do. But to come back to our subject: when Sir Edwin was a young
student he had his dreams about marriage like other young English
students, and he put one of them into verse, and that verse was at once
picked out by Frederick Locker-Lampson for his little book of gems. Half a
century has passed since then; but Locker-Lampson's judgment remains good,
and I am going to put this little poem first because it so well
illustrates the subject of the lecture. It is entitled "A Ma Future."

Where waitest thou,
Lady, I am to love? Thou comest not,
Thou knowest of my sad and lonely lot -
I looked for thee ere now!

It is the May,
And each sweet sister soul hath found its brother,
Only we two seek fondly each the other,
And seeking still delay.

Where art thou, sweet?
I long for thee as thirsty lips for streams,
O gentle promised angel of my dreams,
Why do we never meet?

Thou art as I,
Thy soul doth wait for mine as mine for thee;
We cannot live apart, must meeting be
Never before we die?

Dear Soul, not so,
For time doth keep for us some happy years,
And God hath portioned us our smiles and tears,
Thou knowest, and I know.

Therefore I bear
This winter-tide as bravely as I may,
Patiently waiting for the bright spring day
That cometh with thee, Dear.

'Tis the May light
That crimsons all the quiet college gloom,
May it shine softly in thy sleeping room,
And so, dear wife, good night!

This is, of course, addressed to the spirit of the unknown future wife. It
is pretty, though it is only the work of a young student. But some one
hundred years before, another student - a very great student, Richard
Crashaw, - had a fancy of the same kind, and made verses about it which are
famous. You will find parts of his poem about the imaginary wife in the
ordinary anthologies, but not all of it, for it is very long. I will quote
those verses which seem to me the best.


WISHES

Whoe'er she be,
That not impossible She,
That shall command my heart and me;

Where'er she lie,
Locked up from mortal eye,
In shady leaves of Destiny;

Till that ripe birth
Of studied Fate stand forth,
And teach her fair steps to our earth;

Till that divine
Idea take a shrine
Of crystal flesh, through which to shine;

Meet you her, my wishes,
Bespeak her to my blisses,
And be ye called my absent kisses.

The poet is supposing that the girl whom he is to marry may not as yet
even have been born, for though men in the world of scholarship can marry
only late in life, the wife is generally quite young. Marriage is far away
in the future for the student, therefore these fancies. What he means to
say in short is about like this:

"Oh, my wishes, go out of my heart and look for the being whom I am
destined to marry - find the soul of her, whether born or yet unborn, and
tell that soul of the love that is waiting for it." Then he tries to
describe the imagined woman he hopes to find:

I wish her beauty
That owes not all its duty
To gaudy 'tire or glist'ring shoe-tie.

Something more than
Taffeta or tissue can;
Or rampant feather, or rich fan.

More than the spoil
Of shop or silk worm's toil,
Or a bought blush, or a set smile.

A face that's best
By its own beauty drest
And can alone command the rest.

A face made up
Out of no other shop
Than what nature's white hand sets ope.

A cheek where grows
More than a morning rose
Which to no box his being owes.

* * * * *

Eyes that displace
The neighbor diamond and outface
That sunshine by their own sweet grace.

Tresses that wear
Jewels, but to declare
How much themselves more precious are.

Smiles, that can warm
The blood, yet teach a charm
That chastity shall take no harm.

* * * * *

Life, that dares send
A challenge to his end,
And when it comes, say "Welcome, friend!"

There is much more, but the best of the thoughts are here. They are not
exactly new thoughts, nor strange thoughts, but they are finely expressed
in a strong and simple way.

There is another composition on the same subject - the imaginary spouse,
the destined one. But this is written by a woman, Christina Rossetti.


SOMEWHERE OR OTHER

Somewhere or other there must surely be
The face not seen, the voice not heard,
The heart that not yet - never yet - ah me!
Made answer to my word.

Somewhere or other, may be near or far;
Past land and sea, clean out of sight;
Beyond the wondering moon, beyond the star
That tracks her night by night.

Somewhere or other, may be far or near;
With just a wall, a hedge between;
With just the last leaves of the dying year,
Fallen on a turf grown green.

And that turf means of course the turf of a grave in the churchyard. This
poem expresses fear that the destined one never can be met, because death
may come before the meeting time. All through the poem there is the
suggestion of an old belief that for every man and for every woman there
must be a mate, yet that it is a chance whether the mate will ever be
found.

You observe that all of these are ghostly poems, whether prospective or
retrospective. Here is another prospective poem:


AMATURUS

Somewhere beneath the sun,
These quivering heart-strings prove it,
Somewhere there must be one
Made for this soul, to move it;
Someone that hides her sweetness
From neighbors whom she slights,
Nor can attain completeness,
Nor give her heart its rights;
Someone whom I could court
With no great change of manner,
Still holding reason's fort
Though waving fancy's banner;
A lady, not so queenly
As to disdain my hand,
Yet born to smile serenely
Like those that rule the land;
Noble, but not too proud;
With soft hair simply folded,
And bright face crescent-browed
And throat by Muses moulded;

Keen lips, that shape soft sayings
Like crystals of the snow,
With pretty half-betrayings
Of things one may not know;
Fair hand, whose touches thrill,
Like golden rod of wonder,
Which Hermes wields at will
Spirit and flesh to sunder.
Forth, Love, and find this maid,
Wherever she be hidden;
Speak, Love, be not afraid,
But plead as thou art bidden;
And say, that he who taught thee
His yearning want and pain,
Too dearly dearly bought thee
To part with thee in vain.

These lines are by the author of that exquisite little book "Ionica" - a
book about which I hope to talk to you in another lecture. His real name
was William Cory, and he was long the head-master of an English public
school, during which time he composed and published anonymously the
charming verses which have made him famous - modelling his best work in
close imitation of the Greek poets. A few expressions in these lines need
explanation. For instance, the allusion to Hermes and his rod. I think you
know that Hermes is the Greek name of the same god whom the Romans called
Mercury, - commonly represented as a beautiful young man, naked and running
quickly, having wings attached to the sandals upon his feet. Runners used
to pray to him for skill in winning foot races. But this god had many
forms and many attributes, and one of his supposed duties was to bring the
souls of the dead into the presence of the king of Hades. So you will see
some pictures of him standing before the throne of the king of the Dead,
and behind him a long procession of shuddering ghosts. He is nearly always
pictured as holding in his hands a strange sceptre called the _caduceus_,
a short staff about which two little serpents are coiled, and at the top
of which is a tiny pair of wings. This is the golden rod referred to by
the poet; when Hermes touched anybody with it, the soul of the person
touched was obliged immediately to leave the body and follow after him. So
it is a very beautiful stroke of art in this poem to represent the touch
of the hand of great love as having the magical power of the golden rod of
Hermes. It is as if the poet were to say: "Should she but touch me, I know
that my spirit would leap out of my body and follow after her." Then there
is the expression "crescent-browed." It means only having beautifully
curved eyebrows - arched eyebrows being considered particularly beautiful
in Western countries.

Now we will consider another poem of the ideal. What we have been reading
referred to ghostly ideals, to memories, or to hopes. Let us now see how
the poets have talked about realities. Here is a pretty thing by Thomas
Ashe. It is entitled "Pansie"; and this flower name is really a corruption
of a French word "Penser," meaning a thought. The flower is very
beautiful, and its name is sometimes given to girls, as in the present
case.


MEET WE NO ANGELS, PANSIE?

Came, on a Sabbath noon, my sweet,
In white, to find her lover;
The grass grew proud beneath her feet,
The green elm-leaves above her: -
Meet we no angels, Pansie?

She said, "We meet no angels now;"
And soft lights stream'd upon her;
And with white hand she touch'd a bough;
She did it that great honour: -
What! meet no angels, Pansie?

O sweet brown hat, brown hair, brown eyes,
Down-dropp'd brown eyes, so tender!
Then what said I? Gallant replies
Seem flattery, and offend her: -
But - meet no angels, Pansie?

The suggestion is obvious, that the maiden realizes to the lover's eye the
ideal of an angel. As she comes he asks her slyly, - for she has been to
the church - "Is it true that nobody ever sees real angels?" She answers
innocently, thinking him to be in earnest, "No - long ago people used to
see angels, but in these times no one ever sees them." He does not dare
tell her how beautiful she seems to him; but he suggests much more than
admiration by the tone of his protesting response to her answer: "What!
You cannot mean to say that there are no angels now?" Of course that is
the same as to say, "I see an angel now" - but the girl is much too
innocent to take the real and flattering meaning.

Wordsworth's portrait of the ideal woman is very famous; it was written
about his own wife though that fact would not be guessed from the poem.
The last stanza is the most famous, but we had better quote them all.

She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment's ornament;
Her eyes as stars of twilight fair;
Like twilight's, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful dawn;
A dancing shape, an image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and waylay.

I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles.

And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller betwixt life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect woman, nobly plann'd,
To warn, to comfort and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.

I quoted this after the Pansie poem to show you how much more deeply
Wordsworth could touch the same subject. To him, too, the first apparition
of the ideal maiden seemed angelic; like Ashe he could perceive the
mingled attraction of innocence and of youth. But innocence and youth are
by no means all that make up the best attributes of woman; character is
more than innocence and more than youth, and it is character that
Wordsworth studies. But in the last verse he tells us that the angel is
always there, nevertheless, even when the good woman becomes old. The
angel is the Mother-soul.

Wordsworth's idea that character is the supreme charm was expressed very
long before him by other English poets, notably by Thomas Carew.

He that loves a rosy cheek,
Or a coral lip admires,
Or from star-like eyes doth seek
Fuel to maintain his fires:
As old Time makes these decay,
So his flames must waste away.

But a smooth and steadfast mind,
Gentle thoughts and calm desires,
Hearts with equal love combined,
Kindle never-dying fires.
Where these, are not, I despise
Lovely cheeks or lips or eyes.

For about three hundred years in English literature it was the fashion - a
fashion borrowed from the Latin poets - to speak of love as a fire or
flame, and you must understand the image in these verses in that
signification. To-day the fashion is not quite dead, but very few poets
now follow it.

Byron himself, with all his passion and his affected scorn of ethical
convention, could and did, when he pleased, draw beautiful portraits of
moral as well as physical attraction. These stanzas are famous; they paint
for us a person with equal attraction of body and mind.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

It is worth noticing that in each of the last three poems, the physical
beauty described is that of dark eyes and hair. This may serve to remind
you that there are two distinct types, opposite types, of beauty
celebrated by English poets; and the next poem which I am going to quote,
the beautiful "Ruth" of Thomas Hood, also describes a dark woman.

She stood breast-high amid the corn,
Clasp'd by the golden light of morn,
Like the sweetheart of the sun,
Who many a glowing kiss had won.

On her cheek an autumn flush,
Deeply ripen'd; - such a blush
In the midst of brown was born,
Like red poppies grown with corn.

Round her eyes her tresses fell,
Which were blackest none could tell,
But long lashes veil'd a light,
That had else been all too bright.

And her hat, with shady brim,
Made her tressy forehead dim;
Thus she stood among the stooks,
Praising God with sweetest looks: -

Sure, I said, Heav'n did not mean,
Where I reap thou shouldst but glean,
Lay thy sheaf adown and come,
Share my harvest and my home.

We might call this the ideal of a peasant girl whose poverty appeals to
the sympathy of all who behold her. The name of the poem is suggested
indeed by the Bible story of Ruth the gleaner, but the story in the poem
is only that of a rich farmer who marries a very poor girl, because of her
beauty and her goodness. It is just a charming picture - a picture of the
dark beauty which is so much admired in Northern countries, where it is
less common than in Southern Europe. There are beautiful brown-skinned
types; and the flush of youth on the cheeks of such a brown girl has been
compared to the red upon a ripe peach or a russet apple - a hard kind of
apple, very sweet and juicy, which is brown instead of yellow, or reddish
brown. But the poet makes the comparison with poppy flowers and wheat.
That, of course, means golden yellow and red; in English wheat fields red
poppy flowers grow in abundance. The expression "tressy forehead" in the
second line of the fourth stanza means a forehead half covered with
falling, loose hair.

The foregoing pretty picture may be offset by charming poem of Browning's
describing a lover's pride in his illusion. It is simply entitled "Song,"
and to appreciate it you must try to understand the mood of a young man
who believes that he has actually realized his ideal, and that the woman
that he loves is the most beautiful person in the whole world. The fact
that this is simply imagination on his part does not make the poem less
beautiful - on the contrary, the false imagining is just what makes it
beautiful, the youthful emotion of a moment being so humanly and frankly
described. Such a youth must imagine that every one else sees and thinks
about the girl just as he does, and he expects them to confess it.

Nay but you, who do not love her,
Is she not pure gold, my mistress?
Holds earth aught - speak truth - above her?
Aught like this tress, see, and this tress,
And this last fairest tress of all,
So fair, see, ere I let it fall?


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