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A sylvan scene; and, as the ranks ascend
Shade above shade, a woody theatre
Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops
The verdurous wall of Paradise up-sprung.

Or where, presently

-palmy hillock, or the flowery lap

Of some irriguous valley spread her store,
Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose.

The Eclogues of Sannazzaro (1458-1530) repeat the same artificial character; although in some of his lyrics is a reality of passion very rare in that age. But we need not further examine these Titianic landscapes. Full as they are of charm, it is not the charm of Nature in her simplicity; like Browning's Patriot in his hour of triumph, it is "roses, roses all the way" -the florid moment of an expiring style.

Now, when quitting Italy, that the most melodious of her many melodists may not be wholly passed over, take from one of his Canzoni Tasso's Lament for Corinna—

The white privet flower falls and rises again and blossoms anew, and the purple rose when plucked is born again from her thorns and opens her odorous bosom to the sweet sun-rays : Pines and beeches shed their leaves on earth, and the boughs then reclothe themselves with their green spoils: The star of love sets and rises :-Ay me! Corinna, thou hast set, to rise no more.1

Ipsa mollities-sweet tenderness itself—we might say with Sir H. Wotton when writing of Milton's early lyrics; but how

1 Cade il bianco ligustro, e poi risorge,

E di nuovo germoglia;

E dalle spine ancor purpurea rosa

Côlta rinasce, e spiega

L'odorato suo grembo ai dolci raggi;
Spargono i pini e i faggi

Le frondi a terra, e di lor verde spoglia
Poi rivestono i rami ;

Cade e risorge l' amorosa stella:

Tu cadesti, Corinna (ahi duro caso !),
Per non risorger mai.

Rime Scelte di Torquato Tasso (1824).

much less substance is here; how inferior is it to Dante's minute vividness in painting! Beauty is indeed the final word of Art; but not the beauty of sound alone, or colour alone, or form alone. Art for art's sake suffices not in poetry; what we imperatively need (if I may say so) is the soul for the

soul's sake.

To sum up the landscape of the Renaissance, Italy not only falls below her mediaeval attempts, but is notably inferior to classical work. Her advance in literature lay in the sense of measure and proportion, in language more highly wrought and harmonised, continuous melodic sweetness, in beautiful transferences from the Latin Muses. The eye, in one word, though always on Beauty, is no longer fixed (to repeat the phrase which must ever recur when we try to appreciate art) upon the actual object; the disinterested stage is over. And hence the seventeenth century decline in poetry and painting.



We now quit, for English poetry, transmarine Europe; neither space nor knowledge suffice to examine the poetical literatures of France or Germany, Spain or Portugal. So far as I am aware, the Renaissance conventionalities largely rule them until, or near, the nineteenth century. From this date, French, German, and Italian poetry at least are more or less assimilated in landscape treatment to our own. Goethe, Heine, Lamartine, Leopardi, are here names which may suggest how wide and how attractive the field is, and also how much beyond my present compass. Yet it must be allowed that any influence—if any-these literatures have held over English Nature poetry is singularly slight. For the landscape of painting and of poetry in its fullness, in its imaginative quality, may be claimed specially as our own. Field and forest, moisture and mist and greenery, bring it within the range of pictorial art in a degree not, I think, found elsewhere through continental Europe. But, above all, that Roman love of the country and of country life has reproduced itself among Englishmen with a unique and abiding power and this reacts upon and inspires song. Let us therefore turn hence

forth to England.

Great almost as the contrast between the classical and the Hebrew poetry, is that between the late Italian and the primitive and mediaeval Celtic between Tasso in the sixteenth century and Taliesin in the seventh. The special qualities of the Celtic genius in poetry were set forth by Matthew Arnold with a true poet's insight and grace, and in

specifying them I cannot do better than follow, in some degree, my distinguished predecessor at Oxford. It is, I think, impossible to avoid agreeing with him that Celtic verse, compared with the classical and the English, fails alike in constructive faculty, in architectonic power, in sense of proportion, and in width of range. No sign seems to exist that either the Gael or the Cymry ever created a true Epic poem. To France, Germany, England, the Arthurian legends owe, so far as it exists, their poetic unity.1 The "penetrating passion and


melancholy," as Arnold names it, of the Celt, found its natural, its inevitable expression in the Lyric: that poetical form which has ever been consecrated, though not confined, to the relief of personal feeling, the overflow of the oppressed, the yearning, or the exultant heart. To that passion the race added a singular insight and happiness in rendering the magical charm, the inner intimate life of Nature, the world of fairy which atmospheres the material world. This gift, this mode of ideality we may name it, is something beyond the simple beauty perceived with such delicate clearness by the Greek, the dignity and the sentiment by which the Roman was penetrated. And all was moulded by the Celtic bards into an admirable and rarely failing perfection of style, which we can only think of as an innate gift of the race from the seventh century onward.

Arnold's bold but hazardous deduction is well known; that the Celtic blood, beyond question largely interfused with the English, throughout all Western England at least, has given our poetry much of its characteristic, its most subtle, magical, and passionate notes. This is a dangerously attractive doctrine; it

1 Macpherson's attempt to give Epic form to the fragmentary Gaelic lays which it must be fully admitted were known to him, was the reason that, when his once famous Ossian appeared, justified critics like Johnson in holding it a forgery. No scholars, we must remember, at that date had seriously examined the traditionary songs of the Gael. Hence also that real vein of sad solemnity, that pathetic cry, that sublimity of wild moor and mountain, which underlie the decorative disguise thrown over them by Macpherson, were unfelt by his English contemporaries, with the single but emphatic exception of Gray. Across the Channel these true Ossianic qualities were better recognised-the modernisms, palpable to us, being naturally less perceptible in France or Germany.

has reached a rapid acceptance, falling in with that search after Origines which is so popular-in many ways I will venture to add, so misleading—in our day. Yet it seems to me, thus far at any rate, rather assumed upon plausible general grounds as a great underlying influence, than proven in and by the detailed instances which Arnold has brought forward. Whether this scepticism, however, be justified or not, in our islands, almost solely, Celtic poetry yet lives; on this account, and not less for its own merits, the Celtic landscape, so far as I can make it intelligible through the translations which I shall borrow, demands a place in our essay.


From the seventh century I have said-for to that early date, as Sharon Turner (1803) and Skene1 more recently have shown, above the reach of reasonable doubt we must ascribe certain of those rhapsodies, wild and strange as the yet older hymns of the Vedas, which have reached us from Taliesin, Aneurin, and Llywarch the Old. These are mingled indeed, as they have come down to us, with later poems, sheltering under those great mystic names, and doubtless, though in a degree which now defies analysis, modernised in the earliest MSS. that preserve them: the Black Book of Caermarthen, and the Red Book of Hergest (now in Jesus College Library), compiled in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries-names themselves how mystical and remote to our But these primitive poems contain few references to Nature. A long list of native trees, indeed, is given by Taliesin in the Battle of Godeu, when Arthur was defeated by Medraut; but they seem to be only symbolical of the warriors engaged.3 In the poems assigned upon fair grounds to Llywarch Hen, it is that Nature plays a notable part. These singular lyrics are written in triplet form, beginning often with a brief glimpse of some landscape feature, and sometimes adding to it a moral or personal reflection, visibly connected or not, with the first lines. Curious that this should be similar


1 The Four Ancient Books of Wales, W. F. Skene (1868).

2 In the Hengwrt Collection belonging to Mr. Wynne of Peniarth: written 1154-89.

3 This metaphor reappears in those strange and beautiful idyllic stanzas, some of which seem to belong to the early centuries, the Afallenau.


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