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Mr. Austin Dobson is the soul of exquisite finesse, but the fine, careless rapture he does not claim. Mr. Kipling comes like an explorer laden with strange spoils from an unvisited land, but whether any one may tread in his footsteps is uncertain ; it is uncertain, too, whether he has triumphed over or through his environment, and Mr. Gosse has little in common, save his generous admiration, with a poet starred and crowned with gems that all the world before him had conspired to cheapen. Mr. Stevenson, in poetic quality among the greatest, is reticent and will not speak-poignant sincerity is perhaps his most moving characteristic; Mr. Patmore strikes an old, full-flavoured note, in the region of happy homely courtesies - though in the “ Unknown Eros" he has once or twice fused the precision of George Herbert with the dignity of Gray. But Mr. Gosse, the Epicurean in the House, would haunt the library rather than the dining-room.
Mr. George Meredith in his gorgeous lyrics strikes the nail too often and too hard, until he dints the panelling. Could he only hold his hand! On any given subject he will breed you a round dozen of stanzas, large and over-ripe, to one more acid berry. Mr. Bridges, the sober, majestic lyrist, with his grave russet effects, his almost stilted dignity, is the one writer, next to the two fixed stars, to whom we are disposed to give unstinted praise for his solemn reticence, his strong, full music; and to him Mr. Gosse must yield the palm in verse ; Mr. Bridges has behind him the force of woodland seclusion and the unique devotion of a strong spirit to a slender art, while Mr. Gosse has social claims, artistic and literary criticism, poetical and historical exegesis, and almost unrivalled biographical gifts to drain his spirit. Mr. Watson in his best poetical work is the sublimation of the philosophical critic of poets. For Matthew Arnold, Shelley, Tennyson, Wordsworth, he has done, we think, what Milton did for
Lycidas," and it is impossible to believe that such cool and spacious writing can ever be superseded. Mr. Austin, like Mr. Gosse, is penetrated with Virgil's “inglorious passion for stream and wood.”
Mr. Aubrey de Vere is the poet of secluded grace, monastic thrills; Lord De Tabley goes to and fro, like Circe, before his stately loom : Mr. Lang is as his own porcelain, foam frozen into crystal. Among younger writers, Mr. Le Gallienne has the elfish voice of a spirit, airy, whimsical, but full of rapturous phrases ; Mr. Yeats the eerie wailing of the winds in a haunted Celtic twilight; yet of these two, so essentially spiritual, it is hard to predict anything-like the wind, their prototype, they blow whither and whence they will. But these both are, so to speak, on the tree-tops, while Mr. Gosse treads the earth. Mr. Henley, again, in some of his vehement, rough lyrics, reaches
a poignant fervour of which our graceful bard knows nothing. Lastly, among the undoubted chiefs of song, must be mentioned Miss Rossetti, with whose tender, remorseful, almost conventual outlook Mr. Gosse has no common fibre. No greater contrast could indeed be devised, for Miss Rossetti is at heart a dévote and Mr. Gosse a pagan.
It is hard to speak of Mr. Gosse only as a poet without reference to his prose writings, where, indeed, he displays even a more subtle mastery of his art. But we should characterise him as a delicate, impassioned singer of some of the sweetest moods of life. In the fiercer and darker regions of the soul he does not love to linger; in his passion he is, so to speak, anchored safely to life--he is not whirled away in the eddies of elemental seas, with the wild energy that we see, for instance, in Charlotte Brontë's work. In the utmost
abandonment of love or sorrow he is conscious of the red moon in the poplar, and the subtle scent of briar and honeysuckle ; his feet are on the earth, and almost the deepest pang that he feels is when his jaded senses refuse to respond to the thrill that earth and sky are wont to awaken in him. With man in the abstract he has little sympathy; in the individual the keenest and most intimate delight. He is not the poet of movements;
; he has no wish to transcribe in verse the economical solutions of poverty. And, lastly, he
resolutely lives in a region of sensuous, though pure, delight ; he turns aside into the glade when the tainted air warns him that he is near some difficult horror on which he would not gaze.
He has none of the impulse of the philosophers to see life steadily and see it whole, and if there is any note of timidity in the poems, we should ascribe it to the author having shunned, or rather missed, the descent into hell which we inclined to believe necessary for the highest artistic development, Each poet, each man, has his own hell, in which some brief sojourn is necessary if he is to test the seriousness of life and art. Mr. Gosse gives us no hint that this article is included in his creed; we cannot wish that he should be forced to include it, but we say that it is the conscious lack of this experience alone which has kept him from laying claim to the highest glories of song. Delicacy rather than intensity, that is the keynote of his lyrics.
In an exquisite epistle lately addressed by Mr. Austin Dobson to Mr. Gosse, he speaks of himself and his friend as moving in the procession of art 16 where is not first nor last." “At least," he claims, “we have handed on the fire." We dare not expect all things from each man; but to have made some exquisite mood your own, ind to have presented it with passionate accuracy, s no light achievement.
ITERATURE, so long as it be idealistic, is
the anodyne of the spirit, the mother of faith, the nurse of hope ! Literature records and criticises, but does not make history: as we grow older we have to recognise, slowly and sadly, the fact that the world is profoundly incomplete. The more that we can keep our eyes from a vain attempt to plumb the abyss, the more useful, practical, hopeful we become. And literature, like society, athletics, politics, is one of the devices we resort to, to hide from ourselves the horror of the gap. But the only true consolation is our faith in the incompleteness of the world as we see it, and in the ultimate completeness of the Divine plan, Realistic literature can never help us to this faith : it can only plunge us deeper in the mire--deeper in fact than we need be plunged, because realism deludes us into accepting as typical what is only abnormal.
The Realist is a man who stands beside a drag-net that is being slowly hauled ashore. He picks up and handles, not without a sickly creep