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that does not quite tally with the familiar order of his days as they were lived under the roof of his inseparable friend and fellow-poet, the ‘Theodore Watts' of other years—Mr. Watts Dunton. They kept an even tenour enough as time went on, especially after the illness in 1904 which prostrated him for a season.
A five-mile ramble under the open sky, during which he thought out and completely shaped down to the last line any poem he had in his mind, so that afterwards it was written down without the change of a syllable ; a return then to a late lunch party with two or three guests, when he was as companionable and witty, as full of interest in the newspapers and events of the day, as before he had been selfabsorbed and solitary; and an evening of books and bookish delights, when often some newly discovered quarto, say a play of Dekker's or Webster's, was opened between the tall candlesticks by whose light he invariably read. So the days went by.
Old books, and best of all, old play books, were never to him, what they seem to the multitude, soulless things, closed testaments of dead men. They were communicative and magnetic, alive and enlivening companions. It was so when he was a boy, as we know by the uncontrollable excitement he showed over a copy of Victor Hugo's Notre Dame, which he carried home to Capheaton in his holidays, and
him his first Hugo fever. It was so up to the very end, as you realised in watching him over his beloved quartos and the plays that he wrote about in his sonnets on the Elizabethan dramatists, including unconsidered trifles like Doctor Dodypol and Nobody and Somebody
Whose fame forlorn time saves not nor proclaims
Who in our time has known these forgotten dramatists as did he-Haughton, Barnes, blithe burly Porter, Rough Rowley, light Nabbes, lean Sharpham, ‘soft Davenport sad-robed,' and 'Brome, gipsy-led across the woodland ferns '? The room that housed these treasures, his own special sanctum, was walled and enveloped in books, those of his own earlier contemporaries included ; noticeably Robert Browning's and Dante Rossetti's poems, and Sir Henry Taylor's Philip van Artevelde. The influence of Browning and Rossetti faded out of his pages as he advanced. But that of the latter, and of the medieval French poets he loved, was shown in Swinburne's tribute to his translation from Villon, The Ballad of the Ladies of Old Time, * so incomparably rendered,' so far beyond any feat of the younger poet's in that way; and it was to be seen in the influence of pictures like Bocca Baciata upon his own painted rhyme and medieval fantasy.
The influence of Rossetti's poems and pictures, his theory of art, exorbitant and all-engrossing, his neo-Romanticism and his Italianate temper, upon Swinburne, might easily be over-estimated.
But it gave stimulus to his early imagination; did him a master's inestimable service, did him possibly, too, some human damage.
Having admitted this, we have to remember that Atalanta in Calydon, still among his longer poems his masterpiece, was mainly written under Rossetti's roof, and that it shows remarkably little trace of him. There is more of his influence in Chastelard ; much more in some of the ‘Poems and Ballads.' Swinburne spoke of Chastelard in later days with amused contempt as a play conceived and partly written by a younger poet only half escaped from the college walls ; but surely it recalls Rossetti's studio, too ? Chastelard, although published a year after Atalanta, was written earlier. In fact, I believe the latter was begun the day after the former was finished.
Swinburne left Oxford in 1858 or 9, having already there made acquaintance with William Morris and other congenial spirits. His first book, The Queen-Mother and Rosamund, published in 1861, is crude and often imitative, but it is magically informed with the spirit of poetry; and there are lines in Rosamund that show how he was reading his Elizabethans, and seeking for a mode suited to his own imaginative conceit and sense of words :
I that have held a land between twin lips
God thinks not of me as contemptible. But it is clear, as one looks back, that the writer of these ardent plays, although he confessed that his first ambition and his most urgent was to do something not unworthy of a young countryman of Marlowe the teacher and Webster the pupil of Shakespeare,' was much more strongly moved by lyrical than by dramatic impulses. He conceives his scenes as pictures or as songs: his people are wonderfully set in the stage scene ; but it is rare that they speak individually, or from innate dramatic compulsion. They are like people figured in tapestry and it is the poet behind the arras, and swaying them as he moves to and fro, whose emotional, monotonously heightened voice we hear.
This image occurs to one naturally as a result of having heard the poet at any time read or recite any poem of his aloud. The unusual volume and sonority of his voice heard in an ordinary room like his study at the ‘Pines' were startling on a first experience. I remember hearing him read Ex-Voto, and at first feeling almost overwhelmed by the orchestral tones, as he chanted, verse by verse : When their last hour shall rise
If aught my soul would say Pale on these mortal eyes,
Might move to hear me pray Herself like one that dies,
The birth-god of my day And kiss me dying
That he might hearken, The cold last kiss, and fold
This grace my heart should crave, Close round my limbs her cold
To find no landward grave Soft shade as raiment rolled
That worldly springs make brave, And leave them lying,
World's winters darken,
First printed in the Athenæum, Ex-Voto is one of the second series of 'Poems and Ballads.' This must have been very near the dividing equator in his career, the year when he began his second stage. If we try to range now the stars of his first period with those of the second, we have to remember that, born in 1837, he published in 1861 his first boyish book of plays ; went on with his dramatic studies in Chastelard, in which he was still feeling his way; then dropping it as the lyric impulse supervened, wrote Atalanta in Calydon, one of the few really supremely great things done in poetry in all the century, and one which proved triumphantly that he had found his way. So far his masters are clearly enough to be distinguished. Shakespeare, Browning, and Rossetti are the chief influences in the first three plays ; Æschylus, Landor and Shelley, all certainly helped him to speed his mingled lyric and dramatic imagination in Atalanta.
Meanwhile he was writing some of the ‘Poems and Ballads' that were to shake the coteries and provoke a storm of criticism. In this book, the guiding spirits are much mingled ; black, white and grey ; classic, medieval, and modern; they included Sappho, Catullus, Lucretius, Gautier, Baudelaire, Hugo, and again Rossetti, and again Browning. Why did the book cause such an outcry? Plainly enough because it was flagrantly at odds with the Victorian tradition that, gross as may be the excesses it covers, shuns the language of animal passion, sensuous and unashamed, common to the Latin races. One cannot wonder that the book was attacked, though the mode and incidency of the attack were unworthy, seeing that it came from a fellow-poet who had put on a mask and a Mother Shipton's cap for the occasion. Two of the poems that came in for especial censure were Faustine and the Laus Veneris. Let us hear what the poet has to say in his own defence in reply to his critics :
Faustine is the reverie of a man gazing on the bitter and vicious loveliness of a face as common and as cheap as the morality of reviewers, and dreaming of past lives in which this fair face may have held a nobler or fitter station ; the imperial profile may have been Faustina's, the thirsty lips a Maenad's, when first he learnt to drink blood or wine, to waste the loves and ruin the lives of men ; through Greece and again through Rome she may have passed with the same face which now comes before us dishonoured and discrowned. Whatever of merit or deinerit there may be in the verses, the idea that gives them such life as they have is simple enough: the transmigration of a single soul, doomed as though by accident from the first to all evil and no good, through many ages and forms, but clad always in the same type of fleshly beauty. The chance which suggested to me this poem was one which may happen any day to any manthe sudden sight of a living face which recalled the well-known likeness of another dead for centuries : in this instance the noble and faultless type of the elder Faustina, as seen in coin and bust. Out of that casual glimpse and sudden recollection these verses sprang
grew. And of Laus Veneris he writes :
Of the poem in which I have attempted once more to embody the legend of Venus and her Knight, I need say only that my first aim was to rehandle the old story in a new fashion. To me it seemed that the tragedy began where hitherto it had seemed to leave off. The immortal agony of a man lost after all repentance-cast down from fearful hope into fearless despair-believing in Christ and bound to Venus--desirous of penitential pain and damned to joyless pleasure this, in my eyes, was the kernel and nucleus of a myth comparable only to that of the foolish virgins, and bearing the same burden. The tragio touch of the story is this : that the Knight who has renounced Christ believes in him ; the lover who has embraced Venus disbelieves in her. Vainly and in despair would he make the best of that which is the worst-vainly remonstrate with God, and argue on the side he would fain desert. Once accept or admit the least admixture of pagan worship, or of modern thought, and the whole story collapses into froth and smoke.
He alludes, then, to the account by Baudelaire of Wagner's Tannhüuser, as given in Paris, and points the reader to the magnificent passage in which M. Baudelaire describes the fallen goddess grown diabolic among ages that would not accept her as divine.'
In this defence of his treatment of forbidden themes, we see at once that Swinburne was not a writer gifted with extraordinary music and imagination, who had no moral sense and no reasoning lobe in his brain, as was often declared afterwards. He had his intellectual side highly developed too. But he was, like most lyric poets, led by emotions not by ideas; and his ideas were too often caught up only when his flying machine was about to start, and the parish church and its moral boundaries were about to drop away and diminish to an anthill's compass. The same impulsiveness marked him as a religious and political rebel. There he owed his first lesson in individual liberty, I imagine, to a very early master, his grandfather, Sir John Swinburne of Capheaton, who had been a friend of Mirabeau and who lived to be near a hundred without abating a jot of his viking courage and contempt for expedient ways of thought. One hears the old man eloquent once and again in the poems; it is his voice that sounds, speaking to the impetuous boy, standing wide-eyed at his knee, in Songs before Sunrise :
Master, what of the night ?
Child, night is not at all
Save in our star-stricken eyes.
Look we but once nor before
Night is not then any more.
We have to take the one break for liberty with the other. The same indifference to customary sentiment that marked his first book of the ecstasy and liberty of love, gave him his charter in going to Italy, and becoming fired by the ardour of the liberators there. His Song of Italy, inscribed 'with devotion and reverence' to Mazzini, is the first book of this testament of his to the European struggle for the life and soul of a race. It was published in 1867 ; and its accent still unforgettably recalls the event :
Thou too, O little laurelled town of towers,
Clothed with the flame of flowers,
From thy sweet hillside fold
And every blowing plume,
As the outer hills and air,
Our highest heroic head,
The maiden face of fame
And patient as the hours ;
That levels life and death;
Treads doy n reluctant time;
A virgin with chaste eyes,
Praise her, and him, our chief.
O Fonte Branda, sing.
As inspiriting a pean of a hero ever sung, the Song of Italy yet shows one of the besetting snares of its writer, caused by excess of the lyrical over the logical impulse. The poem is a third longer than its ideal argument demands. Four years later came, however, Songs before Sunrise, the one book in which the ideas and the emotions act and react musically and intrinsically upon one another; in which the War of Liberation of Humanity,' to use Arnold's phrase, seemed to find once and for all its English voice. The very dialect of liberty seems to be enlarged by this noble book, which breathes a humane and a religious ardour, a love and a longing for morning light and a hatred of darkness, not to be found elsewhere unless it be in his especial masters, Shelley at home or Hugo abroad. And at the end of the