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Sermon on the Mount, which seem to penetrate the very of Nature, brief as they are, with a depth unrivalled. Godto take the beautiful language of J. H. Newman-" does not "bid us renounce the creation, but associates us with the most "beautiful portions of it. He likens us to the flowers with "which he has ornamented the earth, and to the birds that live 66 'solitary under heaven, and makes them the type of a Christian. "He denies us Solomon's regal magnificence, to unite us to the "lilies of the field and the fowls of the air. Take no thought for your life. . . . Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field, how they 'grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto 'you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." 1 It is for these last words that I quote the passage. Familiar as it may be to us, the lesson is one for which all the literature of Greece and Rome might be searched in vain.




1 S. Matt. vi, 25; J. H. Newman, Sermon on Present Blessings.

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We now reach the immense gap-the gap of near one thousand years-which parts the literatures of Greece and Rome in their large, their living sense, from modern literature in its first mediaeval form. Our own country, indeed, and ours almost alone, does supply a few invaluable fragments, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon, midway. These, however, I propose to take presently as part of our main and final subject, when English poetry, which, like English art, is so exceptionally rich in landscape, comes before us. Meanwhile, as in my general sketch was noticed, Nature, hitherto mainly regarded by the classical writers as external to Man, not yet loved and described for her own sake, or thought to entreasure moral lessons for us— Nature, as culture recommenced with the earlier Renaissance, was henceforth felt to be sympathetic with humanity, and shared in the passion of the poet. The old world, we might say, loved her; the modern feels her love.

This great advance may be traced to two causes. First, the Celtic and the Teutonic blood, which now overcame the Roman in Western Europe, seems fashioned to a more selfconscious, a more emotional, or (to sum up in common phrase) a more romantic temperament. That quality placed Man in closer union with what he saw about him; his heart opened freely to the heart of Nature. But, secondly, this inborn impulse was immensely vivified, as the result of that great gulf which lies between Christianity and the ethnic religions in general. No true personal love to God or the gods,

I think we may broadly say, was felt by Greek or Roman. They admired, they revered, they believed, more perhaps than is commonly acknowledged. But genuine love to the Divine Beings, belief in whom and reliance is of the absolute essence of Christianity; and with this, loving remembrance of those rather departed than dead; these are the special, the distinctive marks of Christian faith. And into that faith the whole Hebrew theism was absorbed. Hence the poetry of the Old Testament, always sublime, often symbolical, greatly influenced mediaeval writers. The Bible held the same place of power as did Homer among his countrymen. And hence too, with this personal love to God, came love for the work in which He shows Himself throughout Nature. There has been indeed at times, to digress for a moment, even a certain tinge of that Pantheistic feeling which is hardly separable from such love; although in this it should be hardly needful to add that all reference to anything of the nature of sin, was wholly excluded. Here we touch Wordsworth's celebrated lines

The Being, that is in the clouds and air,

That is in the green leaves among the groves,
Maintains a deep and reverential care

For the unoffending creatures whom he loves.

But this peculiar sentiment seems to have been unknown to mediaeval feeling about Nature, and hence did not overtly affect the landscape of poetry in that region which is now before us.

Before, however, turning to this, I must, half reluctantly yet inevitably, once more limit the field of my essay. Provençal poetry, the first clear exhibition of mediaeval song; then that of Northern France and of England under Norman influence; last, that of early Germany, must be here passed by. It is indeed only among the once famous Minnesinger school of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, so far as my limited knowledge goes, that a distinctive landscape element is found.

It is the Italy of mediaeval and later days which will be our proper prologue to England; her literary forms effected

the true, the cardinal, transition from the old world to the new; it was by Italy also that Englishmen, earliest at once and most deeply, have been moved. We see this in studying the Renaissance, both in its earlier Cosmopolitan, and its later specifically Italian movement. Indeed, our present concern is, as it were, a small chapter in that great subject—a detailed and magnified section of the story of the Renaissance power over English "Makers."

Although Italian poetry, dating from the Sicilian Ciullo d'Alcamo about 1220,1 had already fixed its main lines before Dante (1265-1321); yet with him, for three reasons, I begin. Dante raised his art conspicuously from the narrow, the mainly amorous, range of the South-French lyrics hitherto prevalent in Italy, to poetry capable of dealing with every great problem of life and nature. He also, as I have said, is the one absolutely Imperial poet in all the centuries between Vergil and Shakespeare; the Commedia stands as the milestone dividing the long road between the finest flower of classical and of modern poetry-itself equal in rank with the finest. Lastly, it is a special pride to remember that in England his power as poet was earliest recognised beyond his own country. We, too, by the admirable essay of Dean Church may claim a first-rate appreciation, worthy the subject, of Dante's genius. From this I quote a few words. The main mark and leading impulse was that "upon all wisdom, beauty, and excellence, "the Church had taught him to see, in various and duly distinguished degrees, the seal of the one Creator. . . . Dante's eye was free and open to external nature in a degree new among poets; certainly in a far greater degree than among "the Latins, even including Lucretius, whom he probably had




never read." And his supreme gift in poetry intensified to the highest his vignettes from Nature; with him "words cut "deeper than is their wont." For many of these pictures the groundwork was supplied by the frequent journeys of the poet's wandering, tempest-tossed life; and, as in Italy mountain

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1 So Nannucci, in his excellent Manuale (1843). There is also a later edition. This book may be strongly commended to all lovers of the fair land and her delightful poets.

In that first season of the youthful year,

When the sun's locks the chill Aquarius shakes,
And now the nights to half the day draw near,—
When on the ground the hoar-frost semblance makes
Of the fair image of her sister white,2

But soon her brush its colour true forsakes,—
The peasant churl, whose store is emptied quite,
Rises and looks around, and sees the plains
All whiten'd, and for grief his hip does smite,
Turns to his house, and up and down complains,

Like the poor wretch who knows not what to do ;
Then back he turns, and all his hope regains,
Seeing the world present an alter'd hue,

In little time, and takes his shepherd's crook,


And drives his lambs to roam through pastures new.

ranges are never out of sight, it is mountain scenery which he paints with special interest. Yet, so wealthy and varied was his imaginative power, that Landscape forms only a small part of those details drawn from every aspect of real life in which the Commedia, I believe, surpasses every other poem.


We begin with what Dean Plumptre, in his very close translation of the Commedia,1 describes as "among the longest " and most vivid of [the landscapes] in the poem; the typical example of the union of the power that observes the phaen66 omena of external nature with insight into human feelings as "affected by them." It is a day in early spring, just as the hoar-frost disappears before the sun. The passage opens the twenty-fourth Canto of the Inferno; and I shall use the Dean's faithful rendering, line for line, of the original text.

3 In quella parte del giovinetto anno,

1 The Commedia and (complete) Canzoniere of Dante Alighieri, New Translation, by E. H. Plumptre, Dean of Wells, 1886-87-another book which I venture strongly to recommend to true lovers of poetry. It is a treasury of Dantesque science. In the quotations, the text of A. J. Butler's excellent edition of the Commedia (where it is accompanied by a literal prose version) has been here followed.

2 The snow.

Che il sole i crin sotto l' Aquario tempra,
E già le notti al mezzo di sen vanno :


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