Old and New Masters eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 226 pages of information about Old and New Masters.

Yet his influence on art and literature has been immense.  He, far more than Keats or Swinburne, was the prophet of that ritualism which has been a; dominant characteristic in modern poetry, whether it is the Pagan ritualism of Mr. Yeats or the Catholic ritualism of Francis Thompson.  One need not believe that he was an important direct influence on either of these poets.  But his work as poet and painter prepared the world for ritualism in literature.  No doubt the medievalism of Scott and the decorative imagination of Keats were also largely responsible for the change in the literary atmosphere; but Rossetti was more distinctively a symbolist and ritualist than any other English man of letters who lived in the early or middle part of the nineteenth century.

People used to debate whether he was greater as a painter or as a poet, and he was not always sure himself.  When, however, he said to Burne-Jones, in 1857:  “If any man has any poetry in him, he should paint; for it has all been said and written, and they have scarcely begun to paint it,” he gave convincing proof that painting, and not poetry, was his essential gift.  He may be denounced for his bad drawing and twenty other faults as an artist; but it is his paintings that show him as a discoverer and a man of high genius.  At the same time, how well he can also paint in verse, as in those ever-moving lines on Jenny’s wanderings in the Haymarket:—­

    Jenny, you know the city now. 
    A child can tell the tale there, how
    Some things which are not yet enrol’d
    In market-lists are bought and sold,
    Even till the early Sunday light,
    When Saturday night is market-night
    Everywhere, be it dry or wet,
    And market-night in the Haymarket. 
    Our learned London children know,
    Poor Jenny, all your pride and woe;
    Have seen your lifted silken skirt
    Advertise dainties through the dirt;
    Have seen your coach wheels splash rebuke
    On virtue; and have learned your look
    When wealth and health slipped past, you stare
    Along the streets alone, and there,
    Round the long park, across the bridge,
    The cold lamps at the pavement’s edge
    Wind on together and apart,
    A fiery serpent for your heart.

In most of his poems, unfortunately, the design, as a whole, rambles. 
His imagination worked best when limited by the four sides of a canvas.

XVI

MR. BERNARD SHAW

Mr. Shaw came for a short time recently to be regarded less as an author than as an incident in the European War.  In the opinion of many people, it seemed as if the Allies were fighting against a combination composed of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Mr. Shaw.  Mr. Shaw’s gift of infuriating people is unfailing.  He is one of those rare public men who can hardly express an opinion on potato-culture—­and

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Old and New Masters from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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