« AnteriorContinuar »
hief use of the nutriment in the seed is to or animal is placed in a new country avor the growth of the seedlings, while among new competitors, the conditions truggling with other plants growing of its life will generally be changed in an rigorously all around.
essential manner, although the climate Look at a plant in the midst of its may be exactly the same as in its former ange, why does it not double or quadru- home. If its average numbers are to inle its numbers? We know that it can crease in its new home, we should have to serfectly well withstand a little more heat modify it in a different way to what we or cold, dampness or dryness, for else- should have had to do in its native counwhere it ranges into slightly hotter or try; for we should have to give it some colder, damper or drier, districts. In advantages over a different set of comthis case we can clearly see that if we petitors or enemies. wish in imagination to give the plant the It is good thus to try in imagination to power of increasing in number, we should give to any one species an advantage over have to give it some advantage over its another. Probably in no single instance competitors, or over the animals which should we know what to do. This prey on it. On the confines of its geo- ought to convince us of our ignorance on graphical range, a change of constitution the mutual relations of all organic bewith respect to climate would clearly beings; a conviction as necessary as it is an advantage to our plant; but we have difficult to acquire. All that we can do reason to believe that only a few plants is to keep steadily in mind that each or animals range so far that they are de- organic being is striving to increase in a stroyed exclusively by the rigor of the cli- geometrical ratio ; that each at some period mate. Not until we reach the extreme of its life, during some season of the year, confines of life, in the Arctic regions or during each generation or at intervals, on the borders of an utter desert, will has to struggle for life and to suffer great competition cease. The land may be ex- destruction. When we reflect on this tremely cold or dry, yet there will be struggle, we may console ourselves with competition between some few species, the full belief that the war of nature is or between the individuals of the same not incessant, that no fear is felt, that species, for the warmest or dampest death is generally prompt, and that the spots.
vigorous, the healthy, and the happy surHence we can see that when a plant | vive and multiply.
CELTIC ELEMENTS IN ENGLISH POETRY
MATTHEW ARNOLD The philosophical pessimism consequent upon the dissemination of the Darwinian theory found its sincerest expression in the poetry of Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). While Arnold's poetry is tinged with the sadness of resignation and religious doubt, his prose is militant against the rising commercialism of his age. As a critic he stresses the influence of literature on the life of the reader, for he held that the end and aim of all literature is a criticism of life.” Significant phrases that he added to the language of literary criticism are Culture and Anarchy, Sweetness and Light, Dissidence of Dissent, Hebraism and Hellenism. The essay on Celtic Literature (186
unites simplicity of a classic style with genuine enthusiasm. The Celt's quick feeling for what is it pride and passion; his sensibility noble and distinguished gave his poetry and nervous exaltation gave it a betstyle; his indomitable personality gave ter gift still, the gift of rendering
with wonderful felicity the magical charm "From On the Study of Celtic Literature and
of nature. The forest solitude, the bubon Translating Homer by Matthew Arnold Published by The Macmillan Company. Re-bling spring, the wild flowers, are everyprinted by permission.
where in romance. They have a mysterious life and grace there; they are Nature's anemony amidst the spray of the meadow own children, and utter her secret in a fountains.” For loveliness it would be way which make them something quite hard to beat that; and for magical cleardifferent from the woods, waters, and ness and nearness take the following: plants of Greek and Latin poetry. Now "And in the evening Peredur entered a of this delicate magic, Celtic romance is valley, and at the head of the valley he so preëminent a mistress, that it seems im- came to a hermit's cell, and the hermit possible to believe the power did not welcomed him gladly, and there he spent come into romance from the Celts. Magic the night. And in the morning he arose is just the word for it-the magic of and when he went forth, behold, a shower nature; not merely the beauty of nature of snow had fallen the night before, and -that the Greeks and Latins had; not a hawk had killed a wild-fowl in front of merely an honest smack of the soil, a the cell. And the noise of the horse faithful realism—that the Germans had; scared the hawk away, and a raven but the intimate life of Nature, her alighted upon the bird. And Peredur weird power and her fairy charm. As stood and compared the blackness of the the Saxon names of places, with the raven, and the whiteness of the snow, and pleasant wholesome smack of the soil in the redness of the blood, to the hair of them-Weathersfield, Thaxted,
Thaxted, Shal- the lady whom best he loved, which was ford-are to the Celtic names of places, blacker than the raven, and to her skin, with their_penetrating, lofty beauty, which was whiter than the snow, and to Velindra, Tyntagel, Caernarvon--so is her two cheeks, which were redder than the homely realism of German and Norse the blood upon the snow appeared to be." nature to the fairy-like loveliness of Cel- And this, which is perhaps less striktic nature. Gwydion? wants a wife for ing, is not less beautiful:his pupil: "Well," says Math, "we will ‘And early in the day Geraint and seek, I and thou, by charms and illusions, Enid left the wood, and they came to an to form a wife for him out of Aowers. open country, with meadows on one hand So they took the blossoms of the oak, and and mowers mowing the meadows. And the blossoms of the broom, and the blos- there was a river before them, and the soms of the meadow-sweet, and produced horses bent down and drank the water. from them a maiden, the fairest and most And they went up out of the river by a graceful that man ever saw. And they steep bank, and there they met a slender baptized her, and gave her the name of stripling with a satchel about his neck; Flower-Aspect.” Celtic romance is full and he had a small blue pitcher in his of exquisite touches like that, showing the hand, and a bowl on the mouth of the delicacy of the Celt's feeling in these mat- pitcher." ters, and how deeply Nature lets him And here the landscape, up to this come into her secrets. The quick drop- point so Greek in its clear beauty, is sudping of blood is called "faster than the denly magicalized by the romance fall of the dewdrop from the blade of touch:reed-grass upon the earth, when the dew “And they saw a tall tree by the side of June is at the heaviest.” And thus is of the river, one-half of which was in Olwen described: “More yellow was Aames from the root to the top, and the her hair than the flower of the broom, and other half was green and in full leaf.” her skin was whiter than the foam of the Magic is the word to insist upon-a wave, and fairer were her hands and her magically vivid and near interpretation fingers than the blossoms of the wood- of nature; since it is this which consti
tutes the special charm and power of the 1 The following Celtic passages are quoted effect I am calling attention to, and it is from Lady Charlotte Guest's Mabinogion
for this that the Celt's sensibility gives 51838), a collection of eleven Welsh prose tales.
him a peculiar aptitude. But the matter
needs rather fine handling, and it is easy dled at all, and fails to draw the needful to make mistakes here in our criticism. distinction between modes of handling In the first place, Europe tends constantly her. But these modes are many; I will to become more and more one community, mention four of them now: there is the and we tend to become Europeans instead conventional way of handling nature, of merely Englishmen, Frenchmen, Ger- there is the faithful way of handling mans, Italians; so whatever aptitude or nature, there is the Greek way of hanfelicity one people imparts into spiritual dling nature, there is the magical way of work, gets imitated by the others, and handling nature.
handling nature. In all these three last thus tends to become the common prop- the eye is on the object, but with a differerty of all. Therefore anything so beau- ence; in the faithful way of handling tiful and attractive as the natural magic I nature, the eye is on the object, and that am speaking of, is sure, nowadays, if it is all you can say; in the Greek, the eye appears in the productions of the Celts, or is on the object, but lightness and brightof the English, or of the French, to ap- ness are added; in the magical, the eye
is pear in the productions of the Germans on the object, but charms and magic are also, or in the productions of the Ital-added. In the conventional way of ians; but there will be a stamp of perfect- handling nature, the eye is not on the obness and inimitableness about it in the ject; what that means we all know, literatures where it is native, which it will we have only to think of our eighteenthnot have in the literatures where it is not century poetry: native. Novalis or Rückert, for instance, have their eye fixed on nature, and have
"As when the moon, refulgent lamp of undoubtedly a feeling for natural magic;
night" a rough-and-ready critic easily credits
to call up any number of instances. Latin them and the Germans with the Celtic
poetry supplies plenty of instances, too; fineness of tact, the Celtic nearness to if we put this from Propertius' Hylas: Nature and her secret; but the question is whether the strokes in the German's pic
"manus heroum ture of nature have ever the indefinable Mollia composita litora fronde tegit"- . delicacy, charm, and perfection of the side by side the line of Theocritus by Celt's touch in the pieces I just now
which it was suggested quoted, or of Shakespeare's touch in his daffodil," Wordsworth's in his cuckoo, "leuws yáp obuv ČKELTO péyas, otißádeo ou Keats's in his Autumn, Obermann's in his mountain birch-tree or his Easterdaisy among the Swiss farms. To de
we get at the same moment a good specicide where the gift for natural magic
men both of the conventional and of the originally lies, whether it is properly Cel
Greek way of handling nature. But tic or Germanic, we must decide this from our own poetry we may get 'speciquestion.
mens of the Greek way of handling In the second place, there are many
nature, as well as of the conventional: ways of handling nature, and we are here
for instance, Keats's:only concerned with one of them ; 'but a What little town, by river or seashore, rough-and-ready critic imagines that it Or mountain-built with quiet citadel is all the same so long as nature is han
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
iWinter's Tale IV., 4.
4Obermann is a highly romantic story by Etienne Pivert de Senancour.
6«The band of heroes strews the pleasant shores with interlacing boughs.”
?"For a great meadow stretched before them with many rushes soft to sleep on."
is Greek, as Greek as a thing from difference between the two notes, and Homer or Theocritus; it is composed bears in mind, to guide one, such things with the eye on the object, a radiancy as Virgil's “moss-grown springs and and light clearness being added. Ger- grass softer than sleep:"man poetry abounds in specimens of the faithful way of handling nature; an ex
Muscosi fontes et somno mollior herba-1 cellent example is to be found in the as his charming flower-gatherer, who stanzas called Zueignung, prefixed to
Pallentes violas et summa papavera carpens Goethe's poems; the morning walk, the
Narcissum florem jungit bene olentis mist, the dew, the sun, are as faithful as anethi_2 they can be, they are given with the eye
and his quinces and chestnuts:on the object, but there the merit of the work, as a handling of nature, stops; nei
cana legam tenera lanugine mala ther Greek radiance nor Celtic magic is
Castaneasque nuces .3 added; the power of these is not what then, I think, we shall be disposed to say gives the poem in question its merit, but that in Shakespeare's : a power of quite another kind, a power of moral and spiritual emotion. But the
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, power of Greek radiance Goethe could
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, give to his handling of nature, and nobly, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantinetoo, as any one who will read his Wanderer-the poem in which a wanderer
it is mainly a Greek note which is struck. falls in with a peasant woman and her
Then, again in his :child by their hut, built out of the ruins
look how the floor of heaven of a temple near Cuma-may see. Only is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold ! the power of natural magic Goethe does not, I think, give; whereas Keats passes
we are at the very point
of transition from at will from the Greek power to that
the Greek note to the Celtic; there is the
Greek clearness and brightness, with the power which is, as I say, Celtic; from
Celtic aërialness and magic coming in.
Then we have the sheer, inimitable CelWhat little town, by river or seashore
tic note in passages like this:
Met we on hill, in dale, forest or mead to his :
By paved fountain or by rushy brook,
Or in the beached margent of the seaWhite hawthorn and the pastoral eglantine,
or this, the last I will quote: Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves,
The moon shines bright. In such a night as or his :
this, When the sweet wind did gently kiss the
And they did make no noise, in such a night
wallsin which the very same note is struck as in those extracts which I quoted from
in such a night
Did Thisbe fearfully o’ertrip the dewCeltic romance, and struck with authentic and unmistakable power.
1 The three quotations following are from Shakespeare, in handling nature,
the Eclogues. touches this Celtic note so exquisitely, that perhaps one is inclined to be always poppies, adds to them a narcissus and a flower
"gathering pale violets and the tallest looking for the Celtic note in him, and of the fragrant anise." not to recognize his Greek note when it
3“I shall pick quinces, white with down, comes. But if one attends well to the and chestnuts."
in such a night Stood Dido, with a willow in her hand, Upon the wild sea-banks, and waved her
love To come again to Carthage.
And those last lines of all are so drenched and intoxicated with the fairydew of that natural magic which is our theme, that I cannot do better than end with them.
THE NATURE OF GREEK MYTHS
JOHN RUSKIN The Aorid style of John Ruskin (1819-1900) offers a striking contrast to the lucid, yet musical prose of Matthew Arnold. While Ruskin's earlier writings concern art, architecture, and the beauties of nature, his later writings turn toward economic problems. In Modern Painters he deals largely with art; in Seven Lamps of Architecture he aims to create intelligent appreciation for the cathedral-building of the Middle Ages; and in Stones of Venice he points out the merits of early Italian painting. Throughout these volumes, however, he is never interested merely in art for art's sake, but in the life and the ideals of the artists and the temper of peoples during periods of high artistic enthusiasm; so that his later writings, aiming to ameliorate the living conditions of English workmen, are the logical development of this chief interest. The Queen of the Air (1869), of which the opening sections are given here, is an excursus into the field of Greek mythology.
1. I WILL not ask your pardon folly may justly attach to the sayingfor endeavoring to interest you in “There is no God,” the folly is prouder, the subject of Greek Mythology; but deeper, and less pardonable, in saying, I must ask your permission to approach “There is no God but for me.” it in a temper differing from that in which 2. A Myth, in its simplest definition, is it is frequently treated. We cannot a story with a meaning attached to it, justly interpret the religion of any people, other than it seems to have at first; and unless we are prepared to admit that we the fact that it has such a meaning is ourselves, as well as they, are liable to generally marked by some of its circumerror in matters of faith; and that the stances being extraordinary, or, in the conviction of others, however singular, common use of the word, unnatural. may in some points have been well | Thus, if I tell you that Hercules killed founded, while our own, however reason- a water-serpent in the lake of Lerna, and able, may in some particulars be mis- if I mean, and you understand, nothing taken. You must forgive me, therefore, more than that fact, the story, whether for not always distinctively calling the true or false, is not a myth. But if by creeds of the past "superstition," and the telling you this, I mean that Hercules creeds of the present day "religion"; as purified the stagnation of many streams well as for assuming that a faith now from deadly miasmata, my story, however confessed may sometimes be superficial, simple, is a true myth; only, as, if I left and that a faith long forgotten may once it in that simplicity, you would probably have been sincere. It is the task of the look for nothing beyond, it will be wise in Divine to condemn the errors of antiq. me to surprise your attention by adding uity, and of the Philologist to account for some singular circumstances; for instance, them: I will only pray you to read, with that the water-snake had several heads, patience, and human sympathy, the which revived as fast as they were killed, thoughts of men who lived without blame and which poisoned even the foot that in a darkness they could not dispel; and trod upon them as they slept. And in to remember that, whatever charge of proportion to the fullness of intended From The Queen of the Air by John Rus
meaning I shall probably multiply and kin. Published by Longmans, Green and Co.
refine upon these improbabilities; as, supReprinted by permission,
pose, if, instead of desiring only to tell