Old and New Masters eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 226 pages of information about Old and New Masters.
tells us in a charming book of recollections and letters that the first time Swinburne recited this poem to her was on horseback, and one wonders whether he had the ecstasy of the gallop and the music of racing horses in his blood when he wrote the poem.  His poems are essentially expressions of ecstasy.  His capacity for ecstasy was the most genuine thing about him.  A thunderstorm gave him “a more vivid pleasure than music or wine.”  His pleasure in thunder, in the gallop of horses, in the sea, was, however, one fancies, largely an intoxication of music.  It is like one’s own enjoyment of his poems.  This, too, is simply an intoxication of music.

The first series of Poems and Ballads, it must be admitted, owed its success for many years to other things besides the music.  It broke in upon the bourgeois moralities of nineteenth-century England like a defiance.  It expressed in gorgeous wordiness the mood of every green-sick youth of imagination who sees that beauty is being banished from the world in the name of goodness.  One has only to look at the grey and yellow and purple brick houses built during the reign of Victoria to see that the green-sick youth had a good right to protest.  A world that makes goodness the enemy of beauty and freedom is a blasphemous denial of both goodness and beauty, and young men will turn from it in disgust to the praise of Venus or any other god or goddess that welcomes beauty at the altar.  The first volume of Poems and Ballads was a challenge to the lie of tall-hatted religion.  There is much truth in Mr. Gosse’s saying that “the poet is not a lotus-eater who has never known the Gospel, but an evangelist turned inside out.”  He had been brought up Puritanically by his mother, who kept all fiction from him in his childhood, but grounded him with the happiest results in the Bible and Shakespeare.  “This acquaintance with the text of the Bible,” says Mr. Gosse, “he retained to the end of his life, and he was accustomed to be emphatic about the advantage he had received from the beauty of its language.”  His early poems, however, were not a protest against the atmosphere of his home, but against the atmosphere of what can only be described by the worn-out word “respectability.”  Mrs. Disney Leith declares that she never met a character more “reverent-minded.”  And, certainly, the irreverence of his most pagan poems is largely an irreverence of gesture.  He delighted in shocking his contemporaries, and planned shocking them still further with a volume called Lesbia Brandon, which he never published; but at heart he never freed himself from the Hebrew awe in presence of good and evil.  His Aholibah is a poem that is as moral in one sense as it is lascivious in another.  As Mr. Gosse says, “his imagination was always swinging, like a pendulum, between the North and the South, between Paganism and Puritanism, between resignation to the insticts and an ascetic repudiation of their authority.”  It is

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Old and New Masters from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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