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Dream within a Dream.
The chimneyed city; so the smoke rose not,
Look! there they come,
And there they laboured through the murky day,
Making a sultry chaos in the sun.' For stern truth of painting this will rank with the best work of Crabbe, and Crabbe never reached its level in thought. Indeed we know no poetry in which the oppressive and stifling influence of mechanism, when it is a mere brute force,
“A horror, as of power without a soul,
Dark, undefined, and mighty unto ill," is so deeply realized as in that of MacDonald. Scattered here and there throughout the volumes, you meet with deep and beautiful thoughts.
• Better than thrill a listening crowd,
Sit at a wise man's feet;
To make thyself complete.'
elaborate exaltation of his ideal of self-culture. And could there be a kindlier, or finer, or truer glance into the philosophy of mob-revolutions than this :
Wild waves, ruled by wilder winds,
Which call themselves the free?' Within and Without, which ought to have been called Count Julian,-Mr. MacDonald, by the way, is singularly unfortunate in his titles,—is a dramatic poem. It was one of his earliest efforts, and he evidently took great pains with it; but it is defective. We tire, dreadfully, of the Count; and the proportion of incident to talk is too small. The child, Lily, is, however, an exquisitely beautiful delineation ; and when Julian and she die, and Lilia, the wife and mother, remains behind, the thought of their presence as spirits, who wait upon her, and make her half-sensible that they are near her, is worked out with delicate felicity :'Lilia. “Oh! are they dead ? Is it possible? I feel
As if they were so near me! Speak again,
Sweet voices / comfort me; I need it, dear ones !” JULIAN (sings).
“Come away! above the storm
Ever shines the blue ;
Ever lies the true."
All I cannot tell :
And you'll wake so well.”' Of the volume of poems with which Mr. MacDonald has presented the world this Christmas season, we cannot speak in terms of unqualified commendation. They appear to us-if we must confess it—to prove that his genius has taken the bent of prose. At all events, the power displayed in Alec Forbes and Robert Falconer is very much higher than the average power of these pieces. They do not appear to us to have concentrated in them the whole energy of the author's mind ; and his reputation as a poet must still rest mainly upon his earlier works. He will have to recollect that Apollo, as Mr. Matthew Arnold sings, though young, is 'intolerably severe.' It is in the travail of the soul-a travail which is a mysterious, indefinable mingling of agony and joy—that the perfect poem is born. There are beautiful tones and touches in this volume; but the pieces partake too much, on the whole, of the character of occasional verses. Mr. MacDonald's popularity is a snare to him. When a man knows that every thought or fancy which be
The Tendency of his Writings.
chooses to throw into rhyme becomes forthwith convertible into cash, he is apt to forget the intolerable severity of Apollo. Syrens, in the singular modern form of publishers waving on you with hatfuls of money, are as hostile as the old Syrens to the melodious Nine. Byron spoke with a kind of ironical regret of his being looked upon by his publisher in the light of a pack-horse, or ass, or anything that is his.' If Mr. MacDonald intends the highest flights of poetry, he must brace himself to sterner effort than this new volume reveals. Here are some fine stanzas from it, on the Summer Night:
What art thou, gathering dusky, cool,
In slow gradation fine ?
about to shine ?
Thou leanest o'er his grave,
The gracious splendour gave.
Dark-browed, with luminous eyes,
That fights, and saves, and dies.
Calm thought awakes with thee :
With stars that shine and see.'
On the whole, the tendency of these books, prose and poetical, is sound and healthful. You may call them, with considerate emphasis, good books. They are pervaded by a spirit of faith and joy; the author rejoices always; he seems to have an angelic incapacity of being unhappy. He looks over the world as through the eye-lids of the inorning, and finds it very beautiful and very good. He has an unlimited capacity of hoping and loving, a limited capacity of hating. He does, grandly and rightly, detest Sterne. He flings him out. Lie there, thou maudlin hypocrite; thou profane and false and unclean thing ; lie there on the dunghill of the world! But we do not remember that there is more than a genial heat in his hatred for other person or thing. He believes in God and in man, and will not have it that they are so wide apart as some theologians would make it appear. He believes in goodness, in virtue, and that of the right sort, masculine yet gentle, pure yet strong;
Christian virtue, not pagan; the centre of his ethical system is love for God and love for man; the centre of his actual universe is the God-man. But, in particular, the genial, sunny, rejoicing spirit of these books is healthful and beneficial at a time when weariness and disappointment and brooding pain cast strange shadows over the noblest minds.
There is a cry as of despair in much of our literature; a cry which is loud and bitter in the latest works of Ruskin and Carlyle. With our much cultivation we have overlaid the simple, original instincts of our nature; we want better bread than is baked with wheat, better proof of God, freedom, immortality than exists in the very structure of our nature, and in the first flash of the universe, illuminated as it is with Deity, upon our eyes. A child-like, believing, rejoicing, yet brave and powerful nature like MacDonald's is, in days like these, a very precious boon of Heaven.
ART. II.-(1.) Report of Her Majesty's Commissioners appointed to
inquire into the Revenues and Management of certain Colleges and Schools, and the Studies pursued and Instruction given therein ;
with an Appendix and Evidence. 4 vols. folio. 1864. (2.) Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the
Public Schools Bill. 1865. (3) On the Report of the Commissioners appointed to Inquire into
the Condition of the principal Public Schools. A Paper read at the Monthly Evening Meeting of the College of Preceptors. By
W. B. HODGSON, Esq., LL.D. 1864. (4.) Some Remarks on the present Studies and Management of
Eton School. By A PAKENT. 1864. (5.) Public School Education. A Lecture delivered at the Athenæum, Tiverton.
By the Right Hon. Sir J. T. COLERIDGE. 1860. (6.) Thoughts on Eton, suggested by Sir J. T. Coleridge's Speech at
Tiverton. By an ETONIAN. 1861. (7.) Letters of Paterfamilias in the Cornhill Magazine.' 1861.
(8.) Eton Reform. Parts I. and II. By W. Johnson, Esq. 1861. A MORE valuable contribution has rarely been made to the educational literature of any country—certainly not to that of England—than the four bulky volumes of the Report on Public Schools. The mere perusal of them, however, is no Education for the People.
small matter, involving as it does the recognition by the eye of as much type as is contained in fourteen or fifteen octavo volumes of 700 or 800 pages each. No one could do so varied a subject even the commonest justice within the limits at our command. We propose, therefore, to confine our investigations to that one of the Public Schools which is the fairest representative of the characteristic faults and virtues of the system generally ; getting our materials, of course, chiefly from the Report quoted, one-third of which is occupied by •Eton, but availing ourselves also of other sources of information, both public and private. Before, however, we commence the analysis of the mass of evidence ready to our hands, we wish to make a few remarks on the general subject.
Scarcely any cry of the present day is louder or more general than that of Education for the People;' yet it may be safely asserted that scarcely any popular cry is more vague and unmeaning. Many of those even who utter it most loudly and vehemently have little idea of what is really meant by either of the main terms of the demand. Such persons, as soon as they have caught up a child in the midst of his mud pies or tip-cat, hurried him off to a school, entered his name on the register, seated him down on a form, thrust a book into his hands, and substituted a demure face for a saucy one, consider that all is gained. There is education, and it is given to one of the
people. The philanthropist’s voice is silenced, his heart is at rest. One soul at least is snatched from the devouring jaws of ignorance and vice. The solemn process by which the little clodhopper or gamin of the streets is to be converted into a citizen' is commenced ; and who doubts that by the time he leaves the school, armed with the ability to fall short' of the ' fourth standard,' the great transformation will have taken place, and the citizen,' if not fully made, will be at least in an advanced stage of preparation ? Let us inquire, for a moment, in the interests of common sense as well as philanthropy, what is the amount of education that our young friend is obtaining at school. We learn, then, on the valuable authority of Canon Gover,* that the completed education of seven out of eight of the children of the manual-labour class living with their parents or guardians, and actually attending school, is so limited, that they are not qualified to pass the fourth standard of the Revised Code, which requires ability (1) to read a short paragraph from a more advanced, that is, a not decidedly elementary reading-book; (2), to write from dictation a short
See letter in Times, July 15, 1867.