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Capacity for joy
Admits temptation. It seemed, next, worth while
To dodge the sharp sword set against my life;
To slip down stairs through all the sleepy house,
As mute as any dream there, and escape,
As a soul from the body, out of doors,
Glide through the shrubberies, drop into the lane,
And wander on the hills an hour or two,
Then back again before the house should stir.
Or else I sat on in my chamber green,
And lived my life, and thought my thoughts
, and prayed
My prayers without the vicar; read my books,
Without considering whether they were fit
To do me good. Mark, there! We get no good
By being ungenerous, even to a book,
And calculating profits; . . . so much help
By so much reading. It is rather when
We gloriously forget oursel and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound,
Impassioned for its beauty, and salt of truth,
'Tis then we get the right good from a book.
I read much. What my father taught before
From many a volume, Love re-emphasized
Upon the selfsame pages: Theophrast
Grew tender with the memory of his eyes;
And Ælian made mine wet. The trick of Greek
And Latin he had taught me as he would
Have taught me wrestling, or the game of fives,
If such he had known, most like a shipwrecked man
Who heaps his single platter with goats' cheese
And scarlet berries; or like any man
Who loves but one, and so gives all at once,
Because he has it, rather than because
He counts it worthy. Thus my
And thus, as did the women formerly
By young Achilles when they pinned the vail
Across the boy's audacious front, and swept
With tuneful laughs, the silver-fretted rocks,
He wrapt his little daughter in his large
Man's doublet, careless did it fit or no.
But, after I had read for memory,
I read for hope.
The path my father's foot
Had trod me out, which suddenly broke off
(What time he dropped the wallet of the flesh,
And passed), alone I carried on, and set
My child-heart 'gainst the thorny underwood,
To reach the grassy shelter of the trees.
Ah, babe i’ the wood, without a brother-babe !
My own self-pity, like the red-breast bird,
*Flies back to cover all that past with leaves.
Sublimest danger, over which none weeps
When any young wayfaring soul goes forth
Alone, unconscious of the perilous road,
The day-sun dazzling in his limpid eyes,
To thrust his own way, he an alien, through
The world of books ! Ah, you ! — you think it fine,
You clap hands, —“A fair day!” — you cheer him on,
As if the worst could happen were to rest
Too long beside a fountain. Yet, behold,
Behold I the world of books is still the world ;
And worldlings in it are less merciful
And more puissant. For the wicked there
Are winged like angels. Every knife that strikes
Is edged from elemental fire to assail
A spiritual life. The beautiful seems right
By force of beauty, and the feeble wrong
Because of weakness. Power is justified,
Though armed against St. Michael. Many a crown
Covers bald foreheads. In the book-world, true,
There's no lack, neither, of God's saints and kings,
That shake the ashes of the grave aside
From their calm locks, and, undiscomfited,
Look steadfast truths against Time's changing mask.
True, many a prophet teaches in the roads;
True, many a seer pulls down the flaming heavens
Upon his own head in strong martyrdomn,
In order to light men a moment's space.
But stay ! — who judges, who distinguishes,
'Twixt Saul and Nahash justly, at first sight,
And leaves King Saul precisely at the sin,
To serve King David ? Who discerns at once
The sound of the trumpets when the trumpets blow
For Alaric as well as Charlemagne ?
Who judges wizards, and can tell true seers
From conjurors? The child there? Would you leave
That child to wander in a battle-field,
And push his innocent smile against the guns?
Or even in a catacomb, his torch
Grown ragged in the fluttering air, and all
The dark a-inutter round him ? Not a child.
I read books bad and good, - some bad and some good
At once (good aims not always make good books;
Well-tempered spades turn up ill-smelling soils
In digging vineyards even); books that prove
God's being so definitely, that man's doubt
Grows self-defined the other side the line,
Made atheist by suggestion ; moral books,
Exasperating to license; genial books,
Discounting from the human dignity;
And merry books, which set you weeping when
The sun shines; ay, and melancholy books,
Which make you laugh that any one should weep
In this disjointed lite for one wrong more.
The world of books is still the world I write;
And both worlds have God's providence, thank God !
To keep and hearten. With some struggle, indeed,
Among the breakers, some hard swimming through
The deeps, I lost breath in my soul sometimes,
And cried, “ God save me, if there's any God !”
But, even so, God saved me; and, being dashcd
From error on to error, every turn
Still brought me nearer to the central truth.
I thought so. All this anguish in the thick
Of men's opinions, press and counterpress,
Now up, now down, now underfoot, and now
Emergent, — all the best of it, perhaps,
But throws you back upon a noble trust
And use of your own instinct; merely proves
Pure reason stronger than bare inference
At strongest. Try it; fix against heaven's wall
Your scaling ladders of school logic; mount
Step by step. Sight goes faster: that still ray
Which strikes out from you, how you can not tell,
And why you know not, (did you eliminate,
That such as you, indeed, should analyze ?)
Goes straight and fast as light, and high as God.
The cygnet finds the water; but the man
Is born in ignorance of his element,
And feels out blind at first, disorganized
By sin i’ the blood, his spirit-insight dulled
And crossed by his sensations. Presently
He feels it quicken in the dark sometimes;
When mark, be reverent, be obedient;
For such dumb motions of imperfect life
Are oracles of vital Deity,
Attesting the hereafter. Let who says,
“ The soul's a clean white paper,” rather say,
A palimpsest, a prophet's holograph
Defiled, erased, and covered by a monk's, –
The apocalypse, by a Longus! poring on
Which obscene text, we may discern perhaps
Some fair, fine trace of what was written once;
Some upstroke of an alpha and omega
Expressing the old Scripture.
Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret-room
Piled high with cases in my father's name ;
Piled high, packed large, where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small, nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow in the morning's dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
At last, because the time was ripe,
As the earth
Plunges in fury when the internal fires
Have reached and pricked her heart, and throwing flat
The marts and temples, the triumphal gates,
And towers of observation, clears herself
To elemental freedom; thus my soul,
At Poetry's divine first finger-touch,
Let go conventions, and sprang up surprised,
Convicted of the great eternities
Before two worlds.
OTHER MODERN ENGLISH POETS AND
ROBERT SOUTHEY.–1774-1843. Poet-laureate from 1813 to 1843. A writer of great industry: His prose is superior to his poetry, which is of the lake school mainly, and not of the highest order.
PRINCIPAL PRODUCTIONS. "Madoc;" " " The Curse of Kehama;” “ Thalaba, the Destroyer; "Joan of Arc;" “ All for Love;" “ The Pilgrim of Compostella;” “Life of Nelson;" “A History of Brazil;” “Lives of Wesley, Chatterton, White, and Cow per;
"Lives of the British Admirals;" “ Colloquies on Society."
SHERIDAN KNOWLES. — 1784-1862. One of the most successful of modern dramatists. His best known plays are “ Caius Gracchus,”. “ Virginius, “William Tell,”. “ The Beggar of Bethnal Green,
" " The Hunchback, “ The Wife, a Tale of Mantua,” and “ Love." Besides these, he wrote several other popular plays and other works.
William E. AYTOUN. — 1813, Edinburgh. “Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers;" “Bothwell;” “Firmilian;" and, with Theodore Martin, “ Ballads by Bon Gaultier.”
Philip JAMES BAILEY. — 1816. Author of “Festus," a work of remarkable power, “The Angel World," “ The Mystic,” “The Age, a Colloquial Satire."
CAROLINE ANNE SOUTHEY.–1787–1854. Authoress of the beautiful tales, “ The Young Gray Head,” “ The Murder Glen," "Walter and William,” and “The Evening Walk ;', also'' Ellen Fitzarthur," “ Birthday and other Poems," Solitary Hours,” and other pieces of prose and poetry of much merit.
Martin FARQUHAR TUPPER. — 1810. “Proverbial Philosophy;” “ An Author's Mind;" “ The Crock of Gold.”
ELIZA COOK. - 1817. “ The Old Arm - Chair,” and many other popular pieces.
Miss JEAN INGELOW. “ The High Tide.”
WILLIAM THOM. 1789-1848. • Rhymes and Recollections."
BRYAN Walter PROCTER (better known as “BARRY CORNWALL”). — 1790. “ Marcian Colonna;" · Flood of Thessaly; " " Dramatic Scenes; " " Mirandola; “ The Sea;”
The Sequestration of a Bereaved Lover; "“ A Pauper's Funeral;" " A Petition to Time; A Prayer in Sickness; The Stormy Petrel.” HENRY HART MUMAN. — 1791-1868. “ Fazio; Samor;"
" “ The Fall of Jerusalem; " " The Martyr of Antioch; History of Latin Christianity."
JOHN CLARE. — 1793. “ Poems of Rural Life;" “ The Village Minstrel.”
HARTLEY COLERIDGE. 1796-1849.
" Livesc Northern Worthies;” “ The First Sound to the Human Ear;" " Night; ” “ A Vision;" “Sunday;" “ Prayer.”
DERWENT COLERIDGE. 1800. "Memoir of Hartley Coleridge.”
SARA COLERIDGE. 1803-1852. “Phantasmion."
THOMAS HAYNES BAYLEY. - 1797-1839. 66 The Soldier's Tear;” “I'd be a Butterfly; 6. The First Gray Hair;" "I Never was a Favorite;”! " Why don't the Men propose ?"
WILLIAM MOTHERWELL. — 1797-1835. “Scottish Minstrelsy; ” “ Jeanie Morrison."
ALARIC ALEXANDER WATTS. 1799. “ Poetical Sketches;” “Lyrics of the Heart;' “Death of the Firstborn;" “ To a Child blowing Bubbles;
My Own Fireside;' “ The Gray Hair."
John EDMUND READE. “ Italy;" “ Revelations of Life ;' “ Cain and Catiline."
WINTHROP MACKWORTH PRAED. – 1802-1839. “ The Red Fisherman ; " Quince.”
RICHARD HENRY HORNE. 1803. “Orion;' ” “ Cosmo de Medici;” “Death of Marlowe."
CHARLES SWAIN. 1803. “The Mind;" “ English Melodies; ” “ Letters of Laura D'Auverne.”'
THOMAS KIBBLE HERVEY. — 1804–1859. Editor of “The Athenæum;” “ Australia; Modern Sculpture;' England's Helicon.” THOMAS Ragg. - 1808. “ The Deity:” “Martyr of Verulum;”
"" Heber.” RICHARD MoxckrON MILNES. 1809. “Poems of Many Years;” “ PalmLeaves;”
"Life of Keats; Youth and Manhood; Labor;" * Rich and Poor."
CHARLES MACKAY. - 1812. " Voices from the Crowd;" “ Town Lyrics;" “ Ægeria;
" 66 The Salamandrine;" “ The Watcher on the Tower;" “ The Good Time Coming;
"** The Three Preachers; ""What might be Done.” ROBERT NICOLL. 1814–1837. “ Thoughts of Heaven;" “ Death.” FRANCES BROWN. - 1816. “ The Star of Atteghei; '
" 66 Vision of Schwartz;”. " Lyrics." MAT IEW ARNOLD.
" The Strayed Reveler ;" “ Empedocles on Ætna." COVENTRY PATMORE.
“ Tamerton Church-Tower;" “ The Angel in the House."
GEORGE MACDONALD. - 1826. 6. Within and Without;' " " Phantastes."
GERALD MASSEY. 1828. “ Babe Christabel;'
DENIS FLORENCE M'CARTHY.
All of whom have written in a
style more or less worthy of
the pupil's attention.