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that our race will come to find an ever surer and surer stay? It is simply this—that all great poetry, all great art, brings us into touch, into communion with that harmony which is the basis of the universe, the harmony in which all our discords are resolved. All great art does this, and this is the one test of its greatness. It does not follow that great art must be didactic or philosophical, any more than that there must be a definite moral to every great story.
But all great art shows the relation between its subject and the Eternal harmonies. A broken boot or an old tree-stump will serve as a subject for great art, if the artist can hold them up against the light of Eternity. Turner's picture of the “Fighting Temeraire towed to her last restingplace” is a popular but perfect example of great art, and the difference between that picture and the majority of merely pleasant sea-pictures is simply in the perfection of the relation established between the temporal details and the light of Eternity.
This relation can be established in a thousand ways as the spirit moves the artist. Tragedy is not only a purging of the soul, it is sloughing off of the temporal for the Eternal, and that is why in its greatness it is sublime. There
is no sublimity in meaningless annihilation, the death of an insubstantial toad under a nonsensical harrow; but there is sublimity in Hamlet's dying cry to his friend who would fain follow him—
“ Absent thee from felicity awhile,”
66 God so
the only commentary upon which isloved the world.” In tragedy it is obvious that the things of Eternity are affirmed or postulated only by an inspired denial of the merely temporal. But mere denial, mere negation, can
never be great art.
When Macbeth cries, “ Out, out, brief candle!” he is not coldly asserting as a scientific fact that man's life is brief and worthless. His words may superficially support that conclusion ; but that is not the whole of their import or content. The words have an emotional side ciying out in anguish against that conclusion. l'hey have that strange, deep, harmonious import of the greatest poetry, which is only vouchsafed to us when (as our fathers believed might happen to a man praying) some mysterious sluices are opened between the soul of man and the Infinite, and the Deep comes flooding in. Many generations of our fathers have understood this seeming paradox that the words proclaiming all things to be vanity, over and above that proclamation,
may postulate a passionate gospel. The cry of Macbeth has something of the same emotional content as the book of Ecclesiastes—and it goes to swell the terrible cry of Calvary, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”
This book contains some of the greatest lyrical poetry in the English language, arranged with a view to the elucidation of the great positive values which all great art contains. Such an arrangement is necessarily arbitrary, divisions will over-lap, and those who look for a definite philosophy will find statements as varied as those of Ecclesiastes and the Sermon on the Mount. But taking their deeper values, and allowing each poem to be elucidated by its neighbours, according to the plan of the book, there may be a few readers who will find in the body of this volume something of what Matthew Arnold promised them, and find it more easily than in the usual kind of anthology. Three poems which have a special appeal to our own times are Matthew Arnold's “Morality," Tennyson's "Wages," and the “Last Lines” of Emily Brontë. They form something like an irreducible minimum of faith and hope,on which the grander fabric of poems like " Abt Vogler" can find something of a foundation; an irreducible minimum on which the mind can still find foothold,
through its darkest and most disastrous hours. They afford this foothold by the definite facts they give us, quite apart from the great gifts they convey to us by the power and beauty of their. art. But this need not be insisted upon, as we are here more concerned with the positive values of art itself, and the way in which great poetry, as an art, brings us into communion with the Eternal Harmonies. Metre and rhythm (and their corresponding principles of harmony in other arts) have no small part to play in this, though they are more a consequence than a cause in all the greatest work. The music of intellectual exaltation, linking all things near and far, has its positive source in that eternal fount of harmony from which this great metrical, cosmos, these pulsing hearts and swinging tides and wheeling stars, proceed. All these rhythms and cadences and harmonies of art carry an affirmation with them. They are constructive even when superficially they seem to deny our own limited creeds. In a word, they are literally poetry. Swinburne, denying one idea of God in the hymn to Proserpine, vehemently postulates another idea of God; and, denying himself the more familiar outlets for religious feeling, re-affirms and worships the Omnipotent and Eternal in his Odes to Victor
Hugo. It is a mistake to think that the terms of the title of a poem usually contain all that the poem itself
conveys. These Odes to Victor Hugo, for instance, are, in the most complete sense, acts of idolisation. Swinburne, in other words, insisted on having his own ritual. He may have been wrong in this; but there is no mistaking the "one ultimate Throne before which he swings this golden censer, the One that remains while the many change and pass :
" All crowns before this crown
Triumphantly bow down
All souls applaud, all hearts acclaim,
In the same way, point by point and principle by principle, in one poem or another, through his own form of ritual, this so-called anti-Christian re-affirms practically every emotion, and, more than that, every dogma of Christianity. He may write hymns to that one limited power in the universe-Aphrodite; but he cannot shut his eyes to the presence of other and higher powers. It is not to Aphrodite that the bursting breast of cancer must bring its terrible passion; and, when this “anti-Christian” is confronted by the terrible