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The early poems of Walter Savage Landor: a study of his development and debt to Milton online

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And crimson light struck soft the phosphor wave.

' Orb,' but not ' orbit,' ' majestic,' ' serene,' are common
in Paradise Lost; while ' rubied ' is only used twice, ' rubied
lip ' {Comus, 619), and ' rubied nectar ' (P. L., V. 633) ;
' ruby,' also twice (P. L., III. 597 ; Samson, 543).

Verse 133 :

. . . that roseate face
Cool'd with its breath ambrosial, . . .

(Cf. • roseate dews ' (P. L., V. 643) and P. L., II. 244.)

. . His altar breathes
Ambrosial odours and Ambrosial flowers.



When Landor wrote about 'eyes' and 'sight' after reading
Milton's verses on his bhndness, it would be difficult to
avoid using some similar expressions. Thus in verses
144-147 :

When from his crystal fount the visual orbs
He filled with piercing ether, and endued
With somewhat of omnipotence . . .

Cf. ' visual ray ' {P. L., III. 620), ' piercing ray ' (III.
24) ; ' orbs ' lor eyes (III. 25), and in Samson Agonistes
(591) and Sonnet, XXII. 4.

Verse 163 ' and of day amerced thy shepherd.' The
somewhat archaic word occurs also in verse 60 as ' un-
amerst,' and may be either from Milton or Spenser. The
latter, however, uses it followed by ' with,' e.g. ' amerced
with penance due,' while Milton has ' for his fault amerc't
0/ heaven ' (P. L., I. 609). The description of Morn has
been referred to above (p. 103). The verses immediately
following (213-216) containing the words : ' pale herbage '
are hke many in Milton. Landor points out, in the Con-
versation with Southey (Crump, IV., p. 276), that Milton
was fond of the adjective ' pale.' Hence, perhaps, its
rather frequent occurrence in Gebir. In view of Landor's
remark, the following comparison is not without interest.

In Milton :
Shadows pale ' {Nativity, 232).
Moon's pale course ' (P. L.,

Death's pale horse ' (P. L., X.

Shuddering horror pale ' {P.

L., II. 616).
Night's pale career ' (// Pen.,

pale primrose, jessamine

[May Morn, 4 ; Lycidas,

poplar pale ' {Nativity, 185).
pale Dominion ' {P. L., III.



In Landor :
' Dryad pale ' (VI. 120).
Suns paler brow ' (VI. 105).

hunter pale ' (VII. 39).

shuddered pale' (VII. 117).

pale silver grows paler ' (IV.

pale herbage ' (II. 216).

poplar pale ' (Chrysaor, 23).
bright'ning paleness' (I. 57).


In Milton. In Landor.

' Pale Fear ' [P. L., VI. 393). ' burns into paleness ' (VII.

128) 0).
' pale light ' (of flame) (P. L., I. ' pale-flamed thirst ' (III. 153).

'pale visage' [Comus, 333). 'pale visage' (III. 162).

' di'd her cheeks with pale ' ' pale sorceress ' (V. 65).
(P. L., X. 1009).

In verse 233 we read ' a flame spired from the fragrant
smoke/ and in P. L., I. 223, ' the flames . . . slope their
pointing spires.' A nearer coincidence, probably quite
accidental, is seen in verse 174 :

Weep no more, heavenly maiden weep no more

Cf. Weep no more, woful Shepherds, weep no more

[Lycidas, 165.)

In the first two books it cannot be said that there is
more than a general resemblance to the language of
Milton, and there are few, if any, words which can be
with certainty traced to that source.

Book III. The opening verses (1-18) are an invocation
of the spirit of Shakespeare. So we assume from the
mention of Avon ; and Landor confirms it in his note.
But both in thought and language they apply at least as
weU to Milton :

for the spirit of that matchless man

Whom Nature led throughout her whole domain.
While he embodied breath' d ethereal air !
Tho' panting in the play-liour of my- youth

1 drank of Avon too, a dangerous draught.
That rous'd within the feverish thirst of song.
Yet never may I trespass o'er the stream
Of jealous Acheron, nor ahve descend

The silent and unsearchable abodes
Of Erebus and Night, nor unchastised
Lead up long-absent heroes into day.

(') ' Paleness " in the first edition ; afterwards changed to ' white-


The following extracts from Paradise Lost bear a
certain resemblance to those of Landor :

Up led by thee
Into the Heav'n of Heav'ns I have presum'd.
An Earthlie Guest and drawn Empyreal Aire.

(III. 12-14.)
/ sung of Chaos and Eternal Night
Taught by the heav'niy Muse to venture down
The dark descent and up to reascend,
Though hard and rare : thee I revisit safe,

Smit with the love of sacred song ;

(III. 18-29.)

' Matchless ' occurs frequently in Milton's works ; ' match-
less king ' (P. L., IV. 41), ' matchless Sire ' {Paradise
Regained^ I. 233), ' matchless Gideon ' {Samson Ag., 280)
and other instances. ' Ghttering spires ' (16) is in Paradise
Regained (IV. 54) ; ' Aroar ' (25) in P. L. I. 407 ; also
' Arnon ' (27) in P. L., I. 399 (^) ; while * the vast pro-
found ' (34) may be compared with ' vast profundity '
(P. L., VII. 229), ' vast Abyss ' (P. L., I. 21), ' vast and
boundless Deep ' (P. L., 1. 177), ' void profound ' (11. 438),
and many similar expressions.

Such verbal coincidences may be described perhaps as
echoes of Milton. They are particularly frequent in the
third book, which narrates the descent of Gebir to the
shades of his ancestors. In the verses 35-70 the hero is
shown the tortures of ambition (cf. P. R., III. 71-90) ;
and the following verses 71-92 approach very near to
Milton in choice of words, as a few selections will show :

Verses 71-75 :

. . . a river rolling in its bed.

But with dull weary lapses it upheaved
Billows of bale, heard low, yet heard afar ;

Cf. P. L., I. 222-224 : ' the flame rowld in billows,'
and P. L., VIII. 263 : ' liquid lapse of murmuring

(') Cf. Schlaak, p. 40.

G 2


streams '; and P. L., II. 576 : ' Into the burning Lake
their baleful streams.'

Verses 82-84 •

Twilight broods here, lull'd by no nightingale
Nor waken'd by the shrill lark dewy-wing'd,
But glowing with one sullen, sunless heat.

Cf. P. L., IV. 771 : ' there lull'd by nightingales,' and
P. L., I. 62 :

yet from those flames
No light but rather darkness visible.

Verses 87-92 :

Phlegeton form'd a fiery firmament ;
Part were sulphurous clouds involving, part
Shining like solid ribs of molten brass ;
For the fierce element which else aspires
Higher and higher and lessens to the sky.
Below, Earth's adamantine arch rebuft.

Cf. p. L., I. 48-69, etc.

Verse 201 :

. . . and the waves
Of Sulphur bellow thro' the blue abyss.

resembles P. L., I. 177 :

To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep.

The words * and fill with liquid light the marble bowl
of Earth ' (102) recall Milton's account of the creation
of the sun :

In the Sun's orb, made porous to receive
And drink the hquid Light . . .
Hither as to their Fountain other Starrs
Repairing, in their golden Urns draw Light

(P. L., vn. 361-364-)

Other examples might be quoted from this book, but
one which shows very clearly the influence of Milton on
the thought and language of Gebir will be sufficient :


Fire rules the realms of pleasure and of pain.

Parent and element of elements,

Changing, and yet unchanged, pervading heaven

Purest, and then reviewing all the stars :

All crowd round him in their orbits, all

In legions for that radiant robe contend

Allotted them, unseam'd and undefil'd.

Then, saturate with what their nature craves.

Unite the grateful symphony of guests,

Take short repose, and with slow pace return ;

And not the glowing oceans of the sun

Fire fills alone, and draws there smaller streams.

And dashes them on crystal cUffs of hail,

And filters through black clouds and fleecy snows.

But penetrates each blue and cold abyss

Of trackless waves, and each white gUmmering gem

That crowns the victim's immolated brow.

(Crump, Vol. VIII., p. 53)

To this may be compared P. L., III. 6-12 :

Bright effluence of bright essence increate

. . before the Sun
Before the Heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep
Won from the void and formless infinite.

and the passage given above (P. L., VII. 360-366) ; also
P. L., II., 580-603, and III., 571-587 •

The golden Sun in splendour likest Heav'n

By his magnetic beam, that gently warms
The universe, and to each inward part
With gentle penetration, though unseen.
Shoots invisible virtue even to the Deep :

It has been suggested above that certain lines in this
book are based upon Shakespeare in Hmnlet. A few
extracts will serve to support the statement :
Neither can mortal see departed friends.
Or they see mortal ; if indeed they could
How care would furrow up their flowery fields.
What asps and adders bask in every beam !


She who evading modesty dares take —

With sacrilegious incest most accurst —

The lamp of marriage from a husband's tomb.

And beckon up another, to defile

A bed new littered, a mere tavern stall.

Biting her chain, bays body ; and despair

Awakes the furies of insatiate lust.

(Crump, VIII., pp. 53, 54.)

(Cf. Hamlet, I. 5).

' The lamp of maniage ' appears in Milton, Paradise
Lost, IV. 764, ' Love . . . here lights his cons ant lamp/
and VIIL 520, ' the evening star ... to hght the
bridal lamp.' ' Biting her chain ' is curiously enough a
debt to Pope, who uses the phrase in Winisoy Forest

(421) :

There Faction roar. Rebellion bite her chai 1,
And gasping Furies thirst for blood in vain

Book IV. The subject-matter of this b >ok, unlike
that of the last, is not such as to require he exalted
language and style of Milton. One passage orly will bear
comparison with anything he has written, jt describes
the rebuilding of the ruined city :

Seek they not hidden treasure in the tombs ?

Build they not fairer cities than our own.

Extravagant enormous apertures

For light, and portals larger, open courts

Temples quite plain with equal architraves
They build, not bearing gods like ours imbost.

(IV. 93-102.)

In Paradise Lost, I. 634-726, there is also a description of
building on an heroic scale, from which three verbal
similarities with the above may be quoted. They are
' Mother Earth for treasures better hid,' ' Temple
. . . with golden. Architrave,' and ' bossy Sculptures
graven ' (^) . Occasionally Landor fills a verse with

(1) Cf. ante, p. 51.


substantives or adjectives in a way which recalls frequent
examples in Paradise Lost (^). Thus :

IV. 22 :

Rocks, precipices, waves, storms, thunderbolts,

Cf. P. L.. II. 621 :

Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens and shades of death

IV. 59:

Handmaidens, pages, courtiers, priests, buffoons.
Cf. Samson, 1324 :

Of gimnic artists, wrestlers, riders, runners
Jugglers and dancers, antics, mummers, mimics.

IV. 226 :

Majestic, unpresuming, unappall'd
P. L., II. 185 :

Unrespited, unpitied, unrepreevd

In verse 186 the word ' ken ' is used for gaze or sight.
Except in the phrase ' wdthin ken,' it is practically
obsolete. Landor may have adopted it from Milton, who
has it twice, but only in the more usual application ;
thus ' within ken ' (P. L., III. 622) and ' in clearest ken '
(P. L., XL. 379)-
Book V. Verses 16-22 :

With Time's first sickle they had markt the hour

\Vlien at their incantation would the Moon

Start back, and shuddering shed blue blasted hght.

The rifted rays they gather 'd, and immerst

In potent portion of that wondrous wave

Which, hearing rescued Israel, stood erect.

And led her armies thro' his crystal gates.

The bibhcal reference has been mentioned above (p. 72).
In Paradise Lost, X. 412 :

. . . the blasted Stars lookt wan
And planets, planet struck, real Eclipse
Then suffered.

' Blasted,' in this sense, is obsolete.

(1) Cf. ante, p. 52.


Book VI. The four lines describing Aurora have been
quoted in connection with Landor's use of mythology.
The imitation in that respect extends also to the language.
' Aurora borne by dappled steeds,' the ' gate of orient
pearl and gold ' are Miltonic word-pictures, as may be
seen by the following examples :

Now Morn her rosie steps in th' Eastern Clime
Advancing, sow'd the Earth with Orient Pearle.

(P. L., V. I.)
Rowling on Orient Pearl and sands of Gold.

(P. L., IV. 238.)

the dappled Dawn.

{L' Allegro, 44.)
. Heav'n op'nd wide
Her ever during Gates, Harmonious sound
On golden Hinges moving,

(P. L., Vn. 205-207.)

Landor's description seems to owe its inspiration to the
above and other passages in Milton rather than directly
to the classics. At least as regards the words used the
source seems clear. In the verses 104, 105,

What makes when Winter comes, the sun to rest
So soon on Ocean's bed his paler brow,

he has improved upon his teacher's youthful verse :

So when the Sun in bed

Curtain'd with cloudy red,

Pillows his chin upon an Orient wave.

{Nativity Hymn, XXVI.) (i).

Verses 118-122. — These have already- been discussed
on p. 71 above. The expression ' beryl-colour'd wave ' is
another instance of the descriptive epithet derived from
gems. Milton has beiyl twice, namely ' wheels of beryl '
(P. L., VL 756) and ' May thy billow roll ashore the
beryl ' {Comus, 932).

132. And breath'^d ambrosial odours, o'er his cheek
Celestial warmth suffusing.

(') Cf. Conversation of Southey and Landor, Crump. IV., p. 287


In choice of words this resembles Milton, e.g.,

. . . ambrosial fragrance fill'd
All Heav'n, and in the blessed Spirits elect
Sense of new joy ineffable difius'd ;

(P. L.. III. 135-137)
The lines beginning ' Captivity led captive, '(^) which have
been mentioned above (see pp. 38, 61), occur in this sixth
book. They afford almost the only example of actual
borrowing, and even here there is considerable doubt
since the phrase ' lead captivity captive ' is to be found in
the Epistle to the Ephesians (IV. 8).

Book VII. The word ' void ' in verse 24 is curiously
used, apparentl}^ to personify empty space. Milton
speaks of the ' Void profound of unessential Night '
(P. L., II. 438) and ' the void immense ' (P. L., II. 829).
Landor's lines rather suggest the idea of Chaos as per-
sonified in Paradise Lost.

23-28. Nature calls forth her fiUal elements

To close around and crush that monster Void :
Fire, springing fierce from his resplendent throne,
And Water, dashing the devoted wretch
Woundless and whole with iron-coloured mace.
Or whirling headlong in his war-belt's fold.

Cf. P. L., II. 174-183. The phrase ' with iron-colour'd
mace ' seems to have grown from the description of the
stream in the Phocceans (572), ' as upon its bosom fell the
frigid, iron-colour'd, unripe light ' :

158. Myrrh, nard, and cassia from three golden urns.

Perhaps these three must be expected together, when any
of them is used. In Milton, P. L., V. 292, they all
occur :

. . . through groves of Myrrhe,
And flowring odours, Cassia, Nard and Balm.

but in Comus, 991, only two of them :

Nard and Cassia's balmy smells.
(') Crump, Vol VIII.. p. 58.


As an example of the skill with which Landor renders
his narrative more vivid by the use of a simile based on
mythology, the following passage from this book may be
taken :

224-229. Thus raved Charoba ; horror, grief, amaze.
Pervaded all the host ; all eyes were fixt ;
All stricken motionless and mute : the feast
Was like the feast of Cepheus, when the sword
Of Phineus, white with wonder, shook restrain'd
And the hilt rattled in his marble hand (^).

It is, like most of the imagery in the poem, as striking in
its originality as in its aptitude, and alone would almost
suffice to prove poetic genius. Place might easily be
found for such a conception, so worded, in Milton's poetry
without diminishing the dignity of the context in thought
or style. Milton has, in fact, come near to anticipating
the essence of the idea. In his sonnet on Shakespeare
there are the well-known lines :

Then thou our fancy of itself bereaving

Dost make us marble with too much conceaving ;

and in // Penseroso (42), .

There held in holy passion still
Forget thyself to Marble,

Not altogether without significance is the presence of
the same thought in Keats' Hyperion, I. 1-4 :

Deep in the shady sadness of a vale

Sat gray-hair 'd Saturn quiet as a stone.

One more example, chosen from several, will serve to
display the Miltonic character of Landor's imagery :

Now murmurs like the sea or like the storm
Or like the flames on forests, move and mount
From rank to rank, and loud and louder roll
Till all the people is one vast applause.

(VII. 105-108.)

(') Cf. Forster, I. p. loi, note. Landor, in a note to the passage in
the 2nd edition, refers to the story told by Ovid.


The style is the style of Landor, but the conception and
language are not unworthy of Milton, nor very unlike
those of the following passage :

He said, and as the sound of waters deep
Hoarse murmur echoed to his words applause
Through the infinite Host, . . .

(P. L., V. 869-871.)

The evidence has now been given, by means of which
the influence of the poetry of Milton on Landor's Gebir
may be estimated. Before attempting to state the con-
clusion apparently justified by that evidence some general
observations must here be made.

By far the greater part of the poem has not come into
consideration in the course of the enquiry. The narrative
of the course of events and the words spoken by Gebir
and Charoba, Tamar, the nymph, and Dahca, have pro-
vided little or no material. The extracts given are
chiefly natural descriptions, allusions to mythology, and
digressions from the main theme to embody abstract
ideas and large visions. Something must be said of the
work as a whole, and first of the mode of narration. In
that respect Gebir resembles the Phocceans, and both
differ remarkably from Milton — still more from any other
English poet. One example may be given :

Congratulations here, there prophecies.

Here children, not repining at neglect

While tumult sweeps them ample room for play ;

Everywhere questions answer'd ere begun,

Everywhere crowds, for everywhere alarm.

Thus winter gone, nor spring (tho' near) arriv'd, —

{Gebir, IV. 60-75.)

and then follows a description of the approach of spring.
With this may be compared the verses 183-200 in the
PhoccBans, where the same rapid and condensed style is
to be seen, and the same sudden change of theme. The


following verses from the latter poem also display this
quality of abruptness :

542-549. The Tyrians now, disconsolate, unite

In counsel : each one differs in the way

To follow, each his neighbour's choice amends.

When on the pathway haply one espied

A torch ; he whirl'd, he kindled it ; he sware

By earth and heaven 'twas happy ; he exclaim'd

' We too will sacrifice ! Revenge be ours !

Revenge is worthy to succeed to Love '

This is the kind of narrative which makes up much of
Gebir. In the following extract it reaches the extreme
of compression :

And yet no reason against right he urged,

He threaten'd not, proclaim'd not ; I approacht.

He hasten'd on ; I spake, he listen'd ; wept.

He pity'd me ; he lov'd me, he obey'd ;

He was a conqueror, still am I a queen.

{Gebir, IV. 143-147.)

That the same criticism appKes to Protiss Narrative
may be seen by reference to almost any part of the poem ;
the hues 50-58 (quoted on p. 52) display the character at
its best — or worst. There is no reason for doubting
Landor's own testimony as to the source of this pecuUarity.
It is foreign to Milton and to English poetry in general,
and must be attributed to the influence of Pindar. Of
him Landor wrote later : ' When I began to write Gchir
I had just read Pindar a second time and understood him.
What I admired was what nobody else had even noticed —
his proud complacenc}' and scornful strength. If I could
resemble him in nothing else, I was resolved to be as
compendious and exclusive ' (^). His works were among
those he studied most earnestly at the beginning of the
years in Wales, and we may perhaps assume that the
Phocceans was written chiefly at that time and was the
first experiment in imitation of the style he so much

(') Cf. Colvin, p. 21 ; Schlaak, p. 19.


admired. Gebir was written under the same influence at a
later date, when the study of Milton had modified his taste.
Another element which contributes much to the general
character of both these poems has been already indicated
(see pp. 30, 76). It is the tendency to reproduce the
regular rhythm of the heroic couplet. In this connection
it is well to observe that Landor rather favoured the strict
observance of metrical laws (^). He disapproves, for
instance, of the presence of hendecasyllabics in Paradise
Lost, and his own blank verse is entirely free from them.
Other irregularities are also rare. Lines frequently occur
which recall those of his earlier poems composed on the
model of the heroic couplet of Pope. One or two examples
in addition to those quoted above must suffice. In
Gebir, V. 159, we read :

That figure Fancy fondly chose to raise, ('-)
He claspt the vacant air and stood and gazed ;

and in the Apology for Satire :

Along the glade where pensive Collins drew
Each fairest figure fancy holds to view.

Again, Gebir, IV. 172 :

Sweet airs of music ruled the rowing palms.
Now rose they glistening and aslant reclined.

It is only the metrical form, however, that displays
this return to his more youthful manner. The language
is entirely free from the artificiality and prettiness of the
earher works. There flowers are generally ' florets,' or
' balsam-breathing florets,' ' pallid ' is preferred to ' pale,'
houses in winter become ' crystal cottages,' and many
other similar examples could be given. Such errors of
taste are not to be found in Gebir, nor in the Phocceans.
The advance cannot be entirely due to the study of

(') Cf Letter to Southey in Forster, I. p. 216 ; Gebir, 2nd ed. p. 17 ;
Postscript to Gebir, South Kensington copy, p. 105.

('^) The two lines were, however, separated in the ist edition.


Milton. The influence of the later eighteenth century
poets, and especially of Collins and Gray, came first ; but
probably the effect of a devoted study of the classics and
of many efforts to make just translations was the greatest
factor in his development up to the writing of the

Bearing in mind these observations, we may now state
the following conclusions : The general style of Gehir is
that of the Phoccsans somewhat modified by the study of
Milton. The influence of the latter was chiefly in the
direction of restraining the excessive tendency to con-
densation and adding to the smoothness of the verse.
Occasional ideas were also due to his influence, and where
this is the case, both the poetic form and the language
derive their character largely from his works. On the
whole no other English poet contributed so much to
what is admirable in Gehir — to its high level of thought
and feehng, the grandeur of the style in a few passages,
and the skill with which the mythological, scriptural,
and classical allusions are adapted to the theme.



The last poem of importance belonging to Landor's
earlier poetic period was published with the two fragments
of the PhoccBans in 1802, under the title Chrysaor. It is
unfortunately too short to do more than indicate what
might have been the outcome of his genius, had that
continued to manifest itself along the same lines of thought
and in the same forms. The advertisement to the Story
of Crysaor{^) describes the poem as a sketch, and there is
evidence in the work itself that the original plan contem-
plated something larger, of which the part published was
only the introduction giving an outline of the whole.
Colvin judges it to be ' Landor's finest piece of narrative
writing in blank verse, less monotonous in its movement
than Gebir, more lofty and impassioned than any of the
later " Hellenics " with which it was afterwards

Few seem to have either appreciated or even under-
stood it, as may be inferred from the fact that, in the
edition of Landor's collected works pubhshed in 1876,
Chrysaor was printed as part of another poem. Regenera-
tion, which was written twenty years later and has not
the remotest connection with it. Its importance in this
study lies in the strong evidence it affords of the influence
of Milton, which seems to have determined to a great
extent both its form and substance.

The name of the central figure and the scene of action

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