With all due deference to whatever of just principles the

3. Art as an Intermediate Agency of Personality.

With all due deference to whatever of just principles the

If Browning's idea of the quickening, the regeneration, the rectification of personality, through a higher personality, be fully comprehended, his idea of the great function of Art, as an intermediate agency of personality, will become plain. To emphasize the latter idea may be said to be the ultimate purpose of his masterpiece, `The Ring and the Book'.

With all due deference to whatever of just principles the

The complexity of the circumstances involved in the Roman murder case, adapts it admirably to the poet's purpose -- namely, to exhibit the swervings of human judgment in spite of itself, and the conditions upon which the rectification of that judgment depends.

With all due deference to whatever of just principles the

This must be taken, however, as only the articulation, the framework, of the great poem. It is richer in materials, of the most varied character, than any other long poem in existence. To notice one feature of the numberless features of the poem, which might be noticed, Browning's deep and subtle insight into the genius of the Romish Church is shown in it more fully than in any other of his poems, -- though special phases of that genius are distinctly exhibited in numerous poems: a remarkable one being `The Bishop orders his Tomb at St. Praxed's Church'. It is questionable whether any work of any kind has ever exhibited that genius more fully and distinctly than `The Ring and the Book' exhibits it. The reader breathes throughout the ecclesiastical atmosphere of the Eternal City.

To return from this digression, the several monologues of which the poem consists, with the exception of those of the Canon Caponsacchi, Pompilia, and the Pope, are each curious and subtle and varied exponents of the workings, without the guidance of instinct at the heart, of the prepossessed, prejudiced intellect, and of the sources of its swerving into error. What is said of the "feel after the vanished truth" in the monologue entitled `Half Rome' -- the speaker being a jealous husband -- will serve to characterize, in a general way, "the feel after truth" exhibited in the other monologues: "honest enough, as the way is: all the same, harboring in the CENTRE OF ITS SENSE a hidden germ of failure, shy but sure, should neutralize that honesty and leave that feel for truth at fault, as the way is too. Some prepossession, such as starts amiss, by but a hair's-breadth at the shoulder-blade, the arm o' the feeler, dip he ne'er so brave; and so leads waveringly, lets fall wide o' the mark his finger meant to find, and fix truth at the bottom, that deceptive speck."

The poet could hardly have employed a more effective metaphor in which to embody the idea of mental swerving. The several monologues all going over the same ground, are artistically justified in their exhibiting, each of them, a quite distinct form of this swerving. For the ultimate purpose of the poet, it needed to be strongly emphasized. The student of the poem is amazed, long before he gets over all these monologues, at the Protean capabilities of the poet's own intellect. It takes all conceivable attitudes toward the case, and each seems to be a perfectly easy one.

These monologues all lead up to the great moral of the poem, which is explicitly set forth at the end, namely, "that our human speech is naught, our human testimony false, our fame and human estimation, words and wind. Why take the artistic way to prove so much? Because, it is the glory and good of Art, that Art remains the one way possible of speaking truth, to mouths like mine, at least. How look a brother in the face and say, Thy right is wrong, eyes hast thou yet art blind, thine ears are stuffed and stopped, despite their length: and, oh, the foolishness thou countest faith! Say this as silvery as tongue can troll -- the anger of the man may be endured, the shrug, the disappointed eyes of him are not so bad to bear -- but here's the plague, that all this trouble comes of telling truth, which truth, by when it reaches him, looks false, seems to be just the thing it would supplant, nor recognizable by whom it left: while falsehood would have done the work of truth. But Art, -- wherein man nowise speaks to men, only to mankind, -- Art may tell a truth obliquely, DO THE THING SHALL BREED THE THOUGHT", that is, bring what is IMPLICIT within the soul, into the right attitude to become EXPLICIT -- bring about a silent adjustment through sympathy induced by the concrete; in other words, prepare the way for the perception of the truth -- "do the thing shall breed the thought, nor wrong the thought missing the mediate word"; meaning, that Art, so to speak, is the word made flesh, -- IS the truth, and, as Art, has nothing directly to do with the explicit. "So may you paint your picture, twice show truth, beyond mere imagery on the wall, -- so, note by note, bring music from your mind, deeper than ever the Andante dived, -- so write a book shall mean beyond the facts, suffice the eye and save the soul beside."

And what is the inference the poet would have us draw from this passage? It is, that the life and efficacy of Art depends on the personality of the artist, which "has informed, transpierced, thridded, and so thrown fast the facts else free, as right through ring and ring runs the djereed and binds the loose, one bar without a break." And it is really this fusion of the artist's soul, which kindles, quickens, INFORMS those who contemplate, respond to, reproduce sympathetically within themselves the greater spirit which attracts and absorbs their own. The work of Art is apocalyptic of the artist's own personality. It CANNOT be impersonal. As is the temper of his spirit, so is, MUST be, the temper of his Art product.* It is hard to believe, almost impossible to believe, that `Titus Andronicus' could have been written by Shakespeare, the external testimony to the authorship, notwithstanding. Even if he had written it as a burlesque of such a play as Marlow's `Jew of Malta', he could not have avoided some revelation of that sense of moral proportion which is omnipresent in his Plays. But I can find no Shakespeare in `Titus Andronicus'. Are we not certain what manner of man Shakespeare was from his Works (notwithstanding that critics are ever asserting their impersonality) -- far more certain than if his biography had been written by one who knew him all his life, and sustained to him the most intimate relations? We know Shakespeare -- or he CAN be known, if the requisite conditions are met, better, perhaps, than any other great author that ever lived -- know, in the deepest sense of the word, in a sense other than that in which we know Dr. Johnson, through Boswell's Biography. The moral proportion which is so signal a characteristic of his Plays could not have been imparted to them by the conscious intellect. It was SHED from his spiritual constitution.

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