children. I made some excursions to the different watering

Tennyson's genius was early trained by the skeptical philosophy of the age. All his poetry shows this. The `In Memoriam' may almost be said to be the poem of nineteenth century scepticism. To this scepticism he has applied an "all-subtilizing intellect", and has translated it into the poetical "concrete", with a rare artistic skill, and more than this, has subjected it to the spiritual instincts and apperceptions of the feminine side of his nature and made it vassal to a larger faith. But it is, after all, not the vital faith which Browning's poetry exhibits, a faith PROCEEDING DIRECTLY FROM THE SPIRITUAL MAN. It is rather the faith expressed by Browning's Bishop Blougram: -- "With me faith means perpetual unbelief Kept quiet like the snake 'neath Michael's foot, Who stands firm just because he feels it writhe." And Tennyson, in picturing to us in the Idylls, the passage of the soul "from the great deep to the great deep", appears to have felt it necessary to the completion of that picture (or why did he do it?), that he should bring out that doubt at the last moment. The dying Arthur is made to say: -- "I am going a long way With these thou seest -- if indeed I go (For all my mind is clouded with a doubt) -- To the island-valley of Avilion"; etc.

children. I made some excursions to the different watering

Tennyson's poetry is, in fact, an expression of the highest sublimation of the scepticism which came out of the eighteenth century, which invoked the authority of the sensualistic philosophy of Locke, and has since been fostered by the science of the nineteenth; while Browning's poetry is a decided protest against, and a reactionary product of, that scepticism, that infidel philosophy (infidel as to the transcendental), and has CLOSED with it and borne away the palm.

children. I made some excursions to the different watering

The key-note of his poetry is struck in `Paracelsus', published in 1835, in his twenty-third year, and, with the exception of `Pauline' published in 1833, the earliest of his compositions: Paracelsus says (and he who knows Browning knows it to be substantially his own creed): -- "Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise From outward things, whate'er you may believe: There is an inmost centre in us all, Where truth abides in fulness; and around Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in, This perfect, clear perception -- which is truth; A baffling and perverting carnal mesh Blinds it, and makes all error: and `TO KNOW' Rather consists in opening out a way Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape, Than in effecting entry for a light Supposed to be without. Watch narrowly The demonstration of a truth, its birth, And you trace back the effluence to its spring And source within us, where broods radiance vast, To be elicited ray by ray, as chance Shall favour: chance -- for hitherto, your sage Even as he knows not how those beams are born, As little knows he what unlocks their fount; And men have oft grown old among their books To die, case-hardened in their ignorance, Whose careless youth had promised what long years Of unremitted labour ne'er performed: While, contrary, it has chanced some idle day, That autumn-loiterers just as fancy-free As the midges in the sun, have oft given vent To truth -- produced mysteriously as cape Of cloud grown out of the invisible air. Hence, may not truth be lodged alike in all, The lowest as the highest? some slight film The interposing bar which binds it up, And makes the idiot, just as makes the sage Some film removed, the happy outlet whence Truth issues proudly? See this soul of ours! How it strives weakly in the child, is loosed In manhood, clogged by sickness, back compelled By age and waste, set free at last by death: Why is it, flesh enthralls it or enthrones? What is this flesh we have to penetrate? Oh, not alone when life flows still do truth And power emerge, but also when strange chance Ruffles its current; in unused conjuncture, When sickness breaks the body -- hunger, watching, Excess, or languor -- oftenest death's approach -- Peril, deep joy, or woe. One man shall crawl Through life, surrounded with all stirring things, Unmoved -- and he goes mad; and from the wreck Of what he was, by his wild talk alone, You first collect how great a spirit he hid. Therefore set free the spirit alike in all, Discovering the true laws by which the flesh Bars in the spirit! . . . * * * * * I go to gather this The sacred knowledge, here and there dispersed About the world, long lost or never found. And why should I be sad, or lorn of hope? Why ever make man's good distinct from God's? Or, finding they are one, why dare mistrust? Who shall succeed if not one pledged like me? Mine is no mad attempt to build a world Apart from His, like those who set themselves To find the nature of the spirit they bore, And, taught betimes that all their gorgeous dreams Were only born to vanish in this life, Refused to fit them to this narrow sphere, But chose to figure forth another world And other frames meet for their vast desires, -- Still, all a dream! Thus was life scorned; but life Shall yet be crowned: twine amaranth! I am priest!" And again: -- "In man's self arise August anticipations, symbols, types Of a dim splendour ever on before, In that eternal circle run by life: For men begin to pass their nature's bound, And find new hopes and cares which fast supplant Their proper joys and griefs; and outgrow all * The narrow creeds of right and wrong, which fade Before the unmeasured thirst for good; while peace Rises within them ever more and more. Such men are even now upon the earth, Serene amid the half-formed creatures round, Who should be saved by them and joined with them." In the last three verses is indicated the doctrine of the regenerating power of exalted personalities, so prominent in Browning's poetry, and which is treated in the next paper.

children. I made some excursions to the different watering

-- * proper: In the sense of the Latin PROPRIUS, peculiar, private, personal. --

There is no `tabula rasa' doctrine in these passages, nor in any others, in the poet's voluminous works; and of all men of great intellect and learning (it is always a matter of mere insulated intellect), born in England since the days of John Locke, no one, perhaps, has been so entirely untainted with this doctrine as Robert Browning. It is a doctrine which great spiritual vitality (and that he early possessed), reaching out, as it does, beyond all experience, beyond all transformation of sensations, and all conclusions of the discursive understanding, naturally and spontaneously rejects. It simply says, "I know better", and there an end.

The great function of the poet, as poet, is, with Browning, to open out a way whence the imprisoned splendor may escape, not to effect entry for a light supposed to be without; to trace back the effluence to its spring and source within us, where broods radiance vast, to be elicited ray by ray.

In `Fifine at the Fair', published thirty-seven years after `Paracelsus', is substantially the same doctrine: -- "Truth inside, and outside, truth also; and between Each, falsehood that is change, as truth is permanence. The individual soul works through the shows of sense, (Which, ever proving false, still promise to be true) Up to an outer soul as individual too; And, through the fleeting, lives to die into the fixed, And reach at length `God, man, or both together mixed'."

In his poem entitled `Popularity', included in his "fifty men and women", the speaker, in the monologue, "draws" his "true poet", whom HE knows, if others do not; who, though he renders, or stands ready to render, to his fellows, the supreme service of opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendor of their souls may escape, is yet locked safe from end to end of this dark world.

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