The Saint's Tragedy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 146 pages of information about The Saint's Tragedy.
has attained these ends, others must decide.  I am sure that he will not have failed from forgetting them.  He has, I believe, faithfully studied all the documents of the period within his reach, making little use of modern narratives; he has meditated upon the past in its connection with the present; has never allowed his reading to become dry by disconnecting it with what he has seen and felt, or made his partial experiences a measure for the acts which they help him to understand.  He has entered upon his work at least in a true and faithful spirit, not regarding it as an amusement for leisure hours, but as something to be done seriously, if done at all; as if he was as much ’under the Great Taskmaster’s eye’ in this as in any other duty of his calling.  In certain passages and scenes he seemed to me to have been a little too bold for the taste and temper of this age.  But having written them deliberately, from a conviction that morality is in peril from fastidiousness, and that it is not safe to look at questions which are really agitating people’s hearts merely from the outside—­he has, and I believe rightly, retained what I should from cowardice have wished him to exclude.  I have no doubt, that any one who wins a victory over the fear of opinion, and especially over the opinion of the religious world, strengthens his own moral character, and acquires a greater fitness for his high service.

Whether Poetry is again to revive among us, or whether the power is to be wholly stifled by our accurate notions about the laws and conditions under which it is to be exercised, is a question upon which there is room for great differences of opinion.  Judging from the past, I should suppose that till Poetry becomes less self-conscious, less self-concentrated, more dramatical in spirit, if not in form, it will not have the qualities which can powerfully affect Englishmen.  Not only were the Poets of our most national age dramatists, but there seems an evident dramatical tendency in those who wrote what we are wont to call narrative, or epic, poems.  Take away the dramatic faculty from Chaucer, and the Canterbury Tales become indeed, what they have been most untruly called, mere versions of French or Italian Fables.  Milton may have been right in changing the form of the Paradise Lost,—­we are bound to believe that he was right; for what appeal can there be against his genius?  But he could not destroy the essentially dramatic character of a work which sets forth the battle between good and evil, and the Will of Man at once the Theatre and the Prize of the conflict.  Is it not true, that there is in the very substance of the English mind, that which naturally predisposes us to sympathy with the Drama, and this though we are perhaps the most untheatrical of all people?  The love of action, the impatience of abstraction, the equity which leads us to desire that every one may have a fair hearing, the reserve which had rather detect personal experience than have it announced—­ tendencies all easily perverted to evil, often leading to results the most contradictory, yet capable of the noblest cultivation—­seem to explain the fact, that writers of this kind should have flourished so greatly among us, and that scarcely any others should permanently interest us.

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The Saint's Tragedy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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