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moments of emotion and resolution.
(2) Propriety.—I am using the word, of course, in the extended sense of delicate appositeness, not as the reverse of impropriety.Keble has a wonderful power, without tricks of rhetoric, of touching in some natural homely feeling with exquisite grace.
How could the instinctive dislike of change in familiar surroundings be more pathetically described than in the poem for Whit Monday ?
Since all that is not Heaven must fade,
Upon the home I love.
The crash of tower and grove.
In such a mood it is so easy to be jealous, to be vindictive, to lose the central thought in invective or unconvincing particularisation.
Again, in a frame of mind that easily drifts into morbidity and despondency, with what pure patience he delineates the vague languors, the unutterable discontents of the soft days of early spring, in the poem for the third Sunday after Easter:
Well may I guess and feel
Why autumn should be sad,
Spring should be gay and glad.
I sit me down beside the hazel grove,
And what could be more supremely delicate, more touched with a loving humiliation, than the exquisite line (in the poem on Gunpowder Treason, of all places !),
Speak gently of our sister's fall. (3) Gravity.—This may be held perhaps to be almost a defect of quality ; but in Keble it has a positive value. He, a clerical Wordsworth, so to speak, moved through the world, not indeed without some simple merriment, but without a suspicion of the existence of that deeper and larger mood that we name humour. He never cared to note the odd, bewildering contradictions of humanity, its reckless absurdities, its profound and intimate mirth. Keble's smile, and he is said to have had one, was the grave, bright smile of the contented and joyful spirit, not the secret and refreshing twinkle of the humourist. Indeed, the spirit sickens to recall the pieces resolutely labelled humorous, which have been shamefully made public among his miscellaneous poems.
If these were specimens of the wit in which his talk is said to have
abounded, it is a matter for deep thankfulness that so few reminiscences of his conversation have survived.
Life was far too serious and momentous to Keble for him to have enjoyed its pitiful contrasts. The only consolations indeed that can prevent a spirit, bounded by so petty a horizon, from becoming sullen or bitter, are perennial humour or intense seriousness. And Keble was as serious as Shelley or Wordsworth. It is not a quality that needs defining by quotation, for every single poem in the Christian Year is penetrated with it from the first line to the last. But in these days, when the issues of life and death, the intricacies of character, the logical truth of fatalism, are matters of after-dinner conversation, it is well to live a little with a mind to whom they were absorbing and fearful realities, too deep for laughter or tears. Keble's inmost instinct was not love, or the sense of beauty, but a resolute and puritanical sternness. He made the mistake, so common to religious spirits, of supposing that the religious instinct is universally implanted, and that whatever the varying quantities of intellect and capacity in an individual, the spiritual faculties are evenly distributed.
Well, such an attitude, if unsympathetic and statuesque, is noble and admirable. It is the temper in which great deeds are done and heroic
resolutions formed. It seals Keble one of that honourable minority who clearly see the force of a moral ideal, maintain it in themselves, and demand it from others; and if it is difficult to sympathise with it, it is impossible not to admire it.
It may be urged, then, that on these three grounds Keble may be reckoned among English poets. It will not be on these grounds that he will be most read, but for his pure and sober religious spirit, about which indeed much might be said that would be foreign to the purpose of
But it may be granted that he had a strong perception of beauty, moral and physical, in spite of a certain rigidity of tone; and that he had style, the gift of expression, an artistic ideal, without which no purity of outlook, no exultant sense of beauty, can make a poet. But even if his claim cannot be sustained, even if his writings were not poetry, we may be thankful that for more than half a century there have been spirits so high, so refined, so devoted, as to have been misled by his spiritual ardour, the lofty sublimity of his ideal, as to mistake his refined and enthusiastic utterance for the voice of the genuine bard.
T is a matter of regret that there is no ade
quate biography of one of the very few women who have achieved real eminence in literature. Mrs. Richmond Ritchie has indeed written an article in the Dictionary of National Biography, but this from the nature of things could not be much more than a record. In the series of Eminent Women, Mr. Ingram has attempted to supply the want, and after reading his book through more than once we are bound to say that we regret that he has been first in the field. However, as Mrs. Browning herself says, “we get no good by being ungenerous, even to a book."
When Horne in the New Spirit of the Age gave some biographical particulars about Miss Barrett to the public, she wrote to him as follows:-"My dear Mr. Horne, the public do not care for me enough to care at all for my biography. If you say anything of me (and I am not affected enough to pretend to wish you to be absolutely silent, if you see any occasion to