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Whose bright print is gleaming yet;
And my spirit, which so long
By the glory of the sky :
Which from heaven like dew doth fall,
This long quotation is justified by its delicate beauty; who, that has seen Lombardy, but must recognise the truth of that beautiful epithet, the olive-sandall'd Apennine? But a further reason is, that the last lines give (I think) as near an approach as Shelley himself could make to his conception of what underlies all Nature-of the Anima Mundi.
But this attempt-too long, yet not long enough to set forth Shelley's landscape may be closed by that one which, to my mind, is the most charmingly perfect in its simplicity and clearness of presentation. It is the Recollection of the pine woods near Pisa
We paused beside the pools that lie
Each seemed as 'twere a little sky
Which in the dark earth lay,
In which the lovely forests grew
As in the upper air,
More perfect both in shape and hue
There lay the glade and neighbouring lawn,
Sweet views which in our world above
To the most modern phase of landscape in poetry, yet with a quality which brings him into a certain relation with Shelley, belongs Arthur O'Shaughnessy (1844-81); that gifted, unhappy youth, who, in delicate metrical skill and melody of words, in my eyes, stands second to Tennyson only during the last half century; whilst he is also high in pure imaginative faculty, wasted as it often was on doleful dreams and extravagant fantasies. He took Nature, if I may use the word, into his soul like a mistress; although known to him solely through books, he was intoxicated with tropical scenery. Thus he is voyaging to the Azure Islands
I reach them as the wave wanes low,
There his soul dwells in ecstasy
It plunges through some perfumed brake,
That walls and roofs a dim hush'd lake,
Of some amphibious blossom,
O gorgeous Erumango! isle
Or blossom of the sea!
Often, some long enchanted while,
Part of some saffron hue that lingers
One of thy spice-groves' full-voiced singers;
Or he is in the "country of the palm," where
Long red reaches of the cane,
Verdant isle and amber river
Many thousand years have been,
Like a high and radiant ocean,
And the flower in soft explosion
While a single vast liana
What a strange visionary rapture is this! and yet, how true to botanical fact; note the "soft explosion" of anthers when the seed is ripe for fertilisation. It finds a parallel, if
anywhere, in the Sensitive Plant of Shelley-an artist of larger scope indeed, yet hardly more ecstatically imaginative.
Unlike as the two poets are, Chaucer was not more devoted to humanity as his subject than O'Shaughnessy. His landscape art, except in the poem inspired by tropical scenery, has but one conspicuous example, written seemingly toward the close of his life, just before that happy marriage which death ended soon and left him miserable. From this piece, describing a visit to "yet unspoil'd" Lynmouth, I quote a few stanzas, the clear, the imaginative simplicity of which may tempt some to the work of that poet who, among those of recent years, seems to me one of those most unjustly neglected
I have brought her I love to this sweet place,
And make a rich long memory in my life.
And over which there rules the summer sky.
Roars roughly, like a fierce pursuing hound;
And now another hill shuts out the sound.
And now we breathe the odours of the glen,
And round about us are enchanted things;
The bee that scents the flower and draweth near.
Had he lived to pursue and perfect this simpler style, O'Shaughnessy might have reached an acceptance more worthy of his singular genius.
THE LANDSCAPE OF WORDSWORTH
WE now reach the first of those two illustrious poets, who for England's lasting and priceless benefit carried on their art, in this century, to an age rarely granted man; while by the time of Wordsworth's death his work in poetry, I firmly hold, had placed him, then (for Tennyson's highest height was not yet reached), next in succession to Milton. But whether this opinion find assent or rejection, it should be remembered how many of our most gifted poets just preceding Wordsworth were cut down in youth. It is by the harvest-the opus operatum— the magnificent breadth and range-that he actually left us, not by what may have been the inborn genius, the natural power bestowed, that I am here venturing to measure him :
largior hic campos aether et lumine vestit
Through his lifetime runs an under-current of belief in his superiority amongst his great brethren in verse-Scott, Shelley, Coleridge, Keats, even Byron; they all seem to recognise him as the eldest brother; they know that he is the head of the family.1
The scenery in which William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was born, bred, and wherein he mostly spent his long lifethat of the English Lake region-passed as it were into his very soul, and forms a very large portion of his pictures and
1 Here and elsewhere quotations have been made from former attempts of my own in criticism of poetry.