the spoiled child, who refused to eat his pie for spite.

-- * "And long it was not after, when I was confirmed in this opinion, that he who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things, ought himself to be a true poem." -- Milton's `Apology for Sinectymnuus'. --

the spoiled child, who refused to eat his pie for spite.

By "speaking truth" in Art's way, Browning means, inducing a right ATTITUDE toward, a full and free SYMPATHY with, the True, which is a far more important and effective way of speaking truth than delivering truth `in re'. A work of Art, worthy of the name, need not be true to fact, but must be true in its spiritual attitude, and being thus true, it will tend to induce a corresponding attitude in those who do fealty to it. It will have the influence, though in an inferior degree, it may be, of a magnetic personality. Personality is the ultimate source of spiritual quickening and adjustment. Literature and all forms of Art are but the intermediate agencies of personalities. The artist cannot be separated from his art. As is the artist so MUST be his art. The `aura', so to speak, of a great work of Art, must come from the artist's own personality. The spiritual worth of Shakespeare's `Winter's Tale' is not at all impaired by the fact that Bohemia is made a maritime country, that Whitsun pastorals and Christian burial, and numerous other features of Shakespeare's own age, are introduced into pagan times, that Queen Hermione speaks of herself as a daughter of the Emperor of Russia, that her statue is represented as executed by Julio Romano, an Italian painter of the 16th century, that a puritan sings psalms to hornpipes, and, to crown all, that messengers are sent to consult the oracle of Apollo, at Delphi, which is represented as an island! All this jumble, this gallimaufry, I say, does not impair the spiritual worth of the play. As an Art-product, it invites a rectified attitude toward the True and the Sweet.

the spoiled child, who refused to eat his pie for spite.

If we look at the letter of the trial scene in `The Merchant of Venice', it borders on the absurd; but if we look at its spirit, we see the Shakespearian attitude of soul which makes for righteousness, for the righteousness which is inherent in the moral constitution of the universe.

the spoiled child, who refused to eat his pie for spite.

The inmost, secretest life of Shakespeare's Plays came from the personality, the inmost, secretest life, of the man Shakespeare. We might, with the most alert sagacity, note and tabulate and aggregate his myriad phenomenal merits as a dramatic writer, but we might still be very far from that something back of them all, or rather that IMMANENT something, that mystery of personality, that microcosmos, that "inmost centre, where truth abides in fulness", as Browning makes Paracelsus characterize it, "constituting man's self, is what Is", as he makes the dying John characterize it, in `A Death in the Desert', that "innermost of the inmost, most interior of the interne", as Mrs. Browning characterizes it, "the hidden Soul", as Dallas characterizes it, which is projected into, and constitutes the soul of, the Plays, and which is reached through an unconscious and mystic sympathy on the part of him who habitually communes with and does fealty to them. That personality, that living force, co-operated spontaneously and unconsciously with the conscious powers, in the creative process; and when we enter into a sympathetic communion with the concrete result of that creative process, our own mysterious personalities, being essentially identical with, though less quickened than, Shakespeare's, respond, though it may be but feebly, to his. This response is the highest result of the study of Shakespeare's works.

It is a significant fact that Shakespearian critics and editors, for nearly two centuries, have been a `genus irritabile', to which genus Shakespeare himself certainly did not belong. The explanation may partly be, that they have been too much occupied with the LETTER, and have fretted their nerves in angry dispute about readings and interpretations; as theologians have done in their study of the sacred records, instead of endeavoring to reach, through the letter, the personality of which the letter is but a manifestation more or less imperfect. To KNOW a personality is, of course, a spiritual knowledge -- the result of sympathy, that is, spiritual responsiveness. Intellectually it is but little more important to know one rather than another personality. The highest worth of all great works of genius is due to the fact that they are apocalyptic of great personalities.

Art says, as the Divine Person said, whose personality and the personalities fashioned after it, have transformed and moulded the ages, "Follow me!" Deep was the meaning wrapt up in this command: it was, Do as I do, live as I live, not from an intellectual perception of the principles involved in my life, but through a full sympathy, through the awakening, vitalizing, actuating power of the incarnate Word.

Art also says, as did the voice from the wilderness, inadequately translated, "REPENT ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". (Metanoei^te h'/ggike ga\r h` Basilei/a tw^n ou'ranw^n.) Rather, be transformed, or, as De Quincey puts it, "Wheel into a new centre your spiritual system; GEOCENTRIC has that system been up to this hour -- that is, having earth and the earthly for its starting-point; henceforward make it HELIOCENTRIC (that is, with the sun, or the heavenly, for its principle of motion)."

The poetry of Browning everywhere says this, and says it more emphatically than that of any other poet in our literature. It says everywhere, that not through knowledge, not through a sharpened intellect, but through repentance, in the deeper sense to which I have just alluded, through conversion, through wheeling into a new centre its spiritual system, the soul attains to saving truth. Salvation with him means that revelation of the soul to itself, that awakening, quickening, actuating, attitude-adjusting, of the soul, which sets it gravitating toward the Divine.

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