Famous Reviews eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Famous Reviews.

The “poetry of doubt,” however pretty, would stand us in little stead if we were threatened with a second Armada.  It will conduce little to the valour, “virtues,” manhood of any Englishman to be informed by any poet, even in the most melodious verse, illustrated by the most startling and pan-cosmic metaphors, “See what a highly organised and peculiar stomach-ache I have had!  Does it not prove indisputably that I am not as other men are?” What gospel there can be in such a message to any honest man who has either to till the earth, plan a railroad, colonise Australia, or fight the despots, is hard to discover.  Hard indeed to discover how this most practical, and therefore most epical of ages, is to be “set to music,” when all those who talk about so doing persist obstinately in poring, with introverted eyes, over the state of their own digestion, or creed.

What man wants, what art wants, perhaps what the maker of the both wants, is a poet who shall begin by confessing that he is as other men are, and sing about things which concern all men, in language which all men can understand.  This is the only road to that gift of prophecy which most young poets are nowadays in such a hurry to arrogate to themselves....

There is just now as wide a divorce between poetry and the commonsense of all time, as there is between poetry and modern knowledge.  Our poets are not merely vague and confused, they are altogether fragmentary—­ disjecta membra poetarum; they need some uniting idea.  And what idea?

Our answer will probably be greeted with a laugh.  Nevertheless we answer simply.  What our poets want is faith.  There is little or no faith nowadays.  And without faith there can be no real art, for art is the outward expression of firm, coherent belief....

In the meanwhile, poets write about poets, and poetry, and guiding the age, and curbing the world, and waking it, and thrilling it, and making it start, and weep, and tremble, and self-conceit only knows what else; and yet the age is not guided, or the world curbed, or thrilled, or waked, or anything else, by them.  Why should it be?  Curb and thrill the world?  The world is just now a most practical world; and these men are utterly unpractical.  The age is given up to physical science:  these men disregard and outrage it in every page by their false analogies....

Let the poets of the new school consider carefully Wolfe’s “Sir John Moore,” Campbell’s “Hohenlinden,” “Mariners of England,” and “Rule Britannia,” Hood’s “Song of the Shirt” and “Bridge of Sighs,” and then ask themselves, as men who would be poets, were it not better to have written any one of these glorious lyrics than all which John Keats has left behind him; and let them be sure that, howsoever they may answer the question to themselves, the sound heart of the English people has already made its choice, and that when that beautiful “Hero and Leander,” in which Hood has outrivalled the conceit-mongers at

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