He can never cease to be the poet of the many, for he has melody, sentiment, passion, all that charms the popular ear and heart—a personality which is the expression of human nature in a language which, as he himself says, few speak, but all understand. He can never cease to be the poet of the few, because, while his poems are a very concentration and elixir of the most intense and profound feelings of which we are all capable, they give words to the more exquisite and intimate emotions peculiar to those of a keener and more refined susceptibility, of a more exalted and aerial range. Sainte-Beuve says somewhere, though not in his final verdict on De Musset, that his chief merit is having restored to French literature the wit which had been driven out of it by the sentimentalists. His wit is indeed delightful and irresistible, but it is not his magic key to souls. In other countries every generation has its own poet: younger ears are deaf to the music which so long charmed ours; but De Musset will be the poet of each new generation for a certain season—the sweetest of all, because, as has been well said, he is the poet of youth. And if doubt breathes through some of his grandest strophes, Faith finds her first and last profession in the lines—
Une immense esperance a traverse
Malgre nous vers le ciel il faut lever les yeux.
SARAH B. WISTER.
What time I paced, at pleasant
A deep and dewy wood,
I heard a mellow hunting-horn
Make dim report of Dian’s lustihood
Far down a heavenly hollow.
Mine ear, though fain, had pain to follow:
Tara! it twang’d, tara-tara! it blew,
Yet wavered oft, and flew
Most ficklewise about, or here, or there,
A music now from earth and now from air.
But on a sudden, lo!
I marked a blossom shiver to and fro
With dainty inward storm; and there within
A down-drawn trump of yellow jessamine
Thrust up its sad-gold body lustily,
All in a honey madness hotly bound
On blissful burglary.
A cunning sound
In that wing-music held me: down I lay
In amber shades of many a golden spray,
Where looping low with languid arms the Vine
In wreaths of ravishment did overtwine
Her kneeling Live-Oak, thousand-fold to plight
Herself unto her own true stalwart knight.
As some dim blur of distant music
The long-desiring sense, and slowly clears
To forms of time and apprehensive tune,
So, as I lay, full soon
Interpretation throve: the bee’s fanfare,
Through sequent films of discourse vague as air,
Passed to plain words, while, fanning faint perfume,
The bee o’erhung a rich unrifled bloom:
“O Earth, fair lordly Blossom, soft a-shine