More of Rossetti? Yes:
You follow’d than Burne-Jones,
Your depth of colour his
than that of monochromes!
Yes; amber lilies poured, I say,
A joy for thee, than poet’s bay.
But while true art refines
and often stimulates,
ART does, at times, I say,
sit grief within our gates!
Art causes men to weep at times—
If you may heed these falt’ring rhymes.
A small volume of lyrics once sent to me for review afforded another flower for my garland:—
Where in the spring-time leaves
Oh, lay my love beneath the shades,
Where men remember to forget,
And are forgot in Hades.
But I have given enough examples for what would form Part I. of the English anthology. Part II. would consist of really bad verses from really great poetry.
Auspicious Reverence, hush all meaner song,
is one of the most pompously stupid lines in English poetry. Arnold did not hesitate to quote instances from Shakespeare:—
Till that Bellona’s bridegroom,
lapp’d in proof,
Confronted him with self-comparisons.
You would have to sacrifice Browning, because it might fairly be concluded—well, anything might be concluded about Browning. Byron is, of course, a mine. Arthur Hugh Clough is, perhaps, the ’flawless numskull,’ as, I think, Swinburne calls him. Tennyson surpassed
A Mr. Wilkinson, a clergyman,
in many of his serious poems.
To travellers indeed the sea
Must always interesting be
I have heard ascribed to Wordsworth, but wrongly, I believe. I should, of course, exclude from the collection living writers; only the select dead would be requisitioned. They cannot retort. And the entertaining volume would illustrate that curious artistic law—the survival of the unfittest, of which we are only dimly beginning to realise the significance. It is like the immortality of the invalid, now recognised by all men of science. You see it manifested in the plethora of memoirs. All new books not novels are about great dead men by unimportant little living ones. When I am asked, as I have been, to write recollections of certain ‘people of importance,’ as Dante says, I feel the force of that law very keenly.
To FREDERICK STANLEY SMITH, ESQ.
SWINBLAKE: A PROPHETIC BOOK, WITH HOME ZARATHRUSTS.
Every student of Blake has read, or must read, Mr. Swinburne’s extraordinary essay, William Blake: a critical study, of which a new edition was recently published. It would be idle at this time of day to criticise. Much has been discovered, and more is likely to be discovered, about Blake since 1866. The interest of the book, for us, is chiefly reflex. And does not the great mouth laugh at a gift, if scheduled in an examination paper with the irritating question, ’From what author does this quotation come?’ would probably elicit the reply, ‘Swinburne.’ Yet it occurs in one of Blake’s prophetic books.