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The Mountain Daisy, however, one of his earliest poems, is doubtless the most perfect painting of Nature which Burns has left us-filled as it is in the truly modern manner with the gentlest sympathy for the flower united with graceful description. He sees the daisy growing just before the ploughshare in the stubble-field
There, in thy scanty mantle clad,
Yet humanity is always the first interest with Burns, and more than one finely expressed moral completes the poem. Pity, that his own life proved often so little controlled by what his verse could set forth so admirably!
Wordsworth, whose admiration for him was deep and lasting, comments on his landscape in terms like those upon which I have ventured, remarking that although, during the residence of Burns at Mossgiel Farm, splendid mountain scenery must have been constantly before his eyes, yet that he nowhere has noticed it.1
1 Memoirs, ed. 1851.
LANDSCAPE IN RECENT POETRY-SCOTT AND BYRON
AFTER the comparative poverty of the century preceding the nineteenth, we now reach that sudden burst of poetry which has placed the nineteenth century by the Elizabethan age in wealth and splendour :-with Vergil we might say, a grander line of events opens now before us; it is a grander work that we are beginning.1 From the earliest days of Greece the literature of Europe has witnessed a few analogous meteorshowers of song, and many an attempt has been made to connect them with the general state and history of the nations thus distinguished. Attractive, however, as these attempts may be, I cannot find them convincing. Parnassus in this matter seems to resemble Vesuvius or Etna-the great deeper-lying forces of Nature to which Poetry owes these displays of splendour are really unknown. It is enough to say that they are eruptions full, not of wrath and ruin, but of warmth and light and blessing to each country in turn. For poets, if not the "unacknow"ledged legislators" of mankind, as Shelley said in his fervent youth, yet beyond question powerfully lead or express, even when they follow, that gradual movement in civilisation which sweeps us through the circles of what it is at least safer and wiser to call Transformation than Advance.
Quitting this wide and difficult region of thought, we may note-always in its relation to landscape treatment—a few
obvious and sometimes external causes of the mighty outburst in English poetry now before us.
Among these I should put first in date, after those anticipatory movements from Thomson onward which we have lately examined, not so much the French Revolution and its political consequences to Europe, as, rather, that influence which played so great a part in producing the Revolution-the influence of Rousseau. In his eloquent sophistries-life according to Nature, primitive simplicity, subjective sentiment, and passion in place of reason, with the like-Romanticism, the keynote of our century, found its strongest impulse. A few words from a letter of Wordsworth on the "Education of the "Poet," written apparently about 1800,1 may best set this tendency before us: "A great Poet ought, to a certain 'degree, . . . to render [men's] feelings more sane, pure, and permanent, in short, more consonant to nature, that is, to "eternal nature, and the great moving spirit of things." Rousseau at his best, perhaps better than his best, here speaks clearly.
Next we may observe that the great continental wars, whilst excluding Englishmen from Europe, yet curiously allowed the native tone of German literature, almost unknown to us during the eighteenth century, to penetrate and affect our poets. Scott's early ballads, and his translation from Goethe's first-and we may add, by far most dramatic drama-Goetz, are here our witnesses.
On the romantic spirit thus evolved it may be enough for our purpose to add that it is a mood apt to look upon the wild landscape as the most genuine unalloyed display of the spirit of Nature-a sentiment which leads also to recognition of a soul pervading her, or to God as manifesting His omnipresence where man has not touched His work. And with this is joined a vivid sense of the essential unison between man and the visible universe,-a mood opposite to that externalism of nature so marked in the poetry of Greece. The peculiar retrospective bias of Romanticism, its passion for the great things of the past, has, however, rarely influenced landscape in verse. But a meditative tone allied to sadness, 1 Life, by C. Wordsworth, vol. i, p. 196 (ed. 1851).
which with human life contrasts Nature in her beauty, or in her forceful moods, with a fast-increasing proneness to subjective treatment, are notes often audible.
In addition to these deeper causes, the rapidly extending love of landscape in poetry was much aided by those facilities for travel in which every decade of this century has shown such marvellous advances. There was nothing of charm, no romance, in the painfulness with which mountain regions were traversed two hundred years since and later; nor could the discomforts of the road attune a traveller's mind to the
contemplation of the Sublime. Hence Alpine scenery, peaks and passes, left Addison with no feeling but of horror and repugnance, and only wakened even Gray himself to a dawning sense of their latent poetry. Thus, strange though it may seem, among external incitements to landscape study railways may be placed first. Not far behind their influence has been that of physical science, though perhaps rather by immensely aiding accuracy of thought and word in the description of Nature, than by direct botanical, geological, or stellar teaching. It is within other regions than our limited sphere that the natural sciences have profoundly affected poetry.
Last should be noticed the vastly multiplied habit of life in large cities, leading men to Nature by way of contrast and refreshment to eye and soul. The later Greek poetry, we have seen, was thus moved; and nowhere has it been set forth with more exquisite truth, more musical felicity than by Vergil
O too happy country folk, did they but know their blessings ! 1 with the splendid lines that follow upon the contrasted life of Rome, the luxury, the vanity, the bloodshed. Yet neither were cities so colossal, nor, on the other hand, means of escape to the country so facile as in our own time; whilst also more and more varied scenes of natural beauty are offered to the modern traveller.
Looking at the development before us as a whole, we might
1 o fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint,
Geor. ii, 458.
say that the critical spirit, the somewhat chilly reasonableness which marked the preceding period, gave place to the constructive; or better perhaps, that in the nineteenth century creation has played a greater as well as a far more durable part than criticism. This change in itself was obviously in favour of landscape in poetry, whether for its own sake or as intertwined with the common interests of life, or with larger and profounder thoughts.
Let me now briefly recall the gradual steps in the poetry of landscape with which I prefaced this essay; so far as it may be possible to give adequate expression to the indefinable affinities between Man and Nature. And it should always be remembered that though in some degree chronological, yet these steps not only overlap, but may be trodden by the poet at his will in our own day.
First, we have pure, simple, almost animal pleasure; and with this, Nature subordinate and external to Man, dealt with as a background to human life, yet concurring rather than coalescing with it; her deeper and higher aspects being meanwhile thought of under the guise of those spiritual presencesPan, Nymph, Oread, and the like fairy forms of Hellenic imagination whilst, in Roman poetry, these aspects gradually assumed a nearer and more loving conception of Nature.
Secondly, in direct contrast to Greece and Rome we have the Hebrew mind, living as in the immediate presence of God and seeing His Hand and His Law in every natural appearance.
Thirdly, mediaeval culture and sentiment, Religion, with the early spirit of Romance, Celtic and Teutonic, widely enlarged the field: landscape being now and henceforth by poets and painters sympathetically treated as the direct background to humanity.
Fourthly, what was knowledge of Nature now became intimacy; this word may perhaps fairly sum up the modern mode of landscape treatment in poetry. We should remember that the difference between modern and ancient, here as ever, is a difference rather of degree than of nature, the old modulating into the new by beautiful changes. Hence modernism has many aspects which cannot be strictly defined. Pure description for its own sake now becomes frequent; or the