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now laboriously struggle to transport ourselves; and so with stinted enough result, catch some reflex of the Reality which for them was wholly real, and visible face to face. Whenever it has come so far that your "Machinery" is avowedly mechanical and unbelieved, what is it else, if we dare tell ourselves the truth, but a miserable, meaningless Deception, kept up by old use and wont alone? If the gods of an Iliad are to us no longer authentic Shapes of Terror, heart-stirring, heart-appalling, but only vague, glittering Shadows, what must the dead Pagan gods of an Epigoniad be, the dead-living Pagan-Christian gods of a Lusiad, the concrete-abstract, evangelical-metaphysical gods of a Paradise Lost? Superannuated lumber! Cast raiment, at best; in which some poor mime, strutting and swaggering, may or may not set forth new noble Human Feelings (again a Reality), and so secure, or not secure, our pardon of such hoydenish masking; for which, in any case, he has a pardon to ask.
'True enough, none but the earliest Epic Poems can claim this distinction of entire credibility, of Reality: after an Iliad, a Shaster, a Koran, and other the like primitive performances, the rest seem, by this rule of mine, to be altogether excluded from the list. Accordingly, what are all the rest, from Virgil's Æneid downwards, in comparison? Frosty, artificial, heterogeneous things: more of gumflowers than of roses; at the best, of the two mixed incoherently together: to some of which, indeed, it were hard to deny the title of Poems; yet to no one of which can that title belong in any sense even resembling the old high one it, in those old days, conveyed, when the epithet "divine" or "sacred," as applied to the uttered Word of man, was not a vain metaphor, a vain sound, but a real name with meaning. Thus, too, the farther we recede from those early days, when Poetry, as true Poetry is always, was still sacred or divine, and inspired (what ours, in great part, only pretends to be), - the more impossible becomes it to produce any, we say not true Poetry, but tolerable semblance of such; the hollower, in particular, grow all manner of Epics; till at length, as in this generation, the very name of Epic sets men a-yawning, the announcement of a new Epic is received as a public calamity.
'But what if the impossible being once for all quite discarded,
the probable be well adhered to: how stands it with fiction then? Why, then, I would say, the evil is much mended, but nowise completely cured. We have then, in place of the wholly dead modern Epic, the partially living modern Novel; to which latter it is much easier to lend that above-mentioned, so essential "momentary credence" than to the former: indeed, infinitely easier; for the former being flatly incredible, no mortal can for a moment credit it, for a moment enjoy it. Thus, here and there, a Tom Jones, a Meister, a Crusoe, will yield no little solacement to the minds of men; though still immeasurably less than a Reality would, were the significance thereof as impressively unfolded, were the genius that could so unfold it once given us by the kind Heavens. Neither say thou that proper Realities are wanting: for Man's Life, now, as of old, is the geniune work of God; wherever there is a Man, a God also is revealed, and all that is Godlike: a whole epitome of the Infinite, with its meanings, lies enfolded in the Life of every Man. Only, alas, that the Seer to discern this same Godlike, and with fit utterance unfold it for us, is wanting, and may long be wanting!
'Nay, a question arises on us here, wherein the whole German reading-world will eagerly join: Whether man can any longer be so interested by the spoken Word, as he often was in those primeval days, when rapt away by its inscrutable power, he pronounced it, in such dialect as he had, to be transcendental (to transcend all measure), to be sacred, prophetic, and the inspiration of a god? For myself, I (ich meines Ortes), by faith or by insight, do heartily understand that the answer to such question will be, Yea! For never that I could in searching find out, has Man been, by Time which devours so much, deprivated of any faculty whatsoever that he in any era was possessed of. To my seeming, the babe born yesterday has all the organs of Body, Soul, and Spirit, and in exactly the same combination and entireness, that the oldest Pelasgic Greek, or Mesopotamian Patriarch, or Father Adam himself could boast of. Ten fingers, one heart with venous and arterial blood therein, still belong to man that is born of woman: when did he lose any of his spiritual Endowments either; above all, his highest spiritual Endowment, that of revealing Poetic Beauty, and of adequately receiving the same? Not the material, not the sus
ceptibility is wanting; only the Poet, or long series of Poets, to work on these. True, alas too true, the Poet is still utterly wanting, or all but utterly: nevertheless have we not centuries enough before us to produce him in? Him and much else! — I, for the present, will but predict that chiefly by working more and more on REALITY, and evolving more and more wisely its inexhaustible meanings; and, in brief, speaking forth in fit utterance whatsoever our whole soul believes, and ceasing to speak forth what thing soever our whole soul does not believe, - will this high emprise be
accomplished, or approximated to.'
These notable, and not unfounded, though partial and deepseeing rather than wide-seeing observations on the great import of REALITY, considered even as a poetic material, we have inserted the more willingly, because a transient feeling to the same purpose may often have suggested itself to many readers; and, on the whole, it is good that every reader and every writer understand, with all intensity of conviction, what quite infinite worth lies in Truth: how all-pervading, omnipotent, in man's mind, is the thing we name Belief. For the rest, Herr Sauerteig, though one-sided, on this matter of Reality, seems heartily persuaded, and is not perhaps so ignorant as he looks. It cannot be unknown to him, for example, what noise is made about 'Invention;' what a supreme rank this faculty is reckoned to hold in the poetic endowment. Great truly is Invention; nevertheless, that is but a poor exercise of it with which Belief is not concerned. 'An Irishman with whisky in his head,' as poor Byron said, will invent you, in this kind, till there is enough and to spare. Nay, perhaps, if we consider well, the highest exercise of Invention has, in very deed, nothing to do with Fiction; but is an invention of new Truth, what we can call a Revelation; which last does undoubtedly transcend all other poetic efforts, nor can Herr Sauerteig be too loud in its praises. But, on the other hand, whether such effort is still possible for man, Herr Sauerteig and the bulk of the world are probably at issue; -- and will probably continue so till that same 'Revelation,' or new 'Invention of Reality,' of the sort he desiderates, shall itself make its appearance.
Meanwhile, quitting these airy regions, let any one bethink him. how impressive the smallest historical fact may become, as con
trasted with the grandest fictitious event; what an incalculable force lies for us in this consideration: The Thing which I here hold imaged in my mind did actually occur; was, in very truth, an element in the system of the All, whereof I too form part; had therefore, and has, through all time, an authentic being; is not a dream, but a reality! We ourselves can remember reading, in Lord Clarendon,1 with feelings perhaps somehow accidentally opened to it, certainly with a depth of impression strange to us then and now that insignificant-looking passage, where Charles, after the battle of Worcester, glides down, with Squire Careless, from the Royal Oak, at nightfall, being hungry: how, 'making a shift to get over hedges and ditches, after walking at least eight or nine miles, which were the more grievous to the King by the weight of his boots (for he could not put them off when he cut off his hair, for want of shoes), before morning they came to a poor cottage, the owner whereof being a Roman Catholic was known to Careless.' How this poor drudge, being knocked up from his snoring, 'carried them into a little barn full of hay, which was a better lodging than he had for himself;' and by and by, not without difficulty, brought his Majesty 'a piece of bread and a great pot of buttermilk,' saying candidly that "he himself lived by his daily labour, and that what he had brought him was the fare he and his wife had:" on which nourishing diet his Majesty, 'staying upon the haymow,' feeds thankfully for two days; and then departs, under new guidance, having first changed clothes, down to the very shirt and 'old pair of shoes,' with his landlord; and so, as worthy Bunyan has it, 'goes on his way, and sees him no more.' Singular enough, if we will think of it! This then was a genuine flesh-and-blood Rustic of the year 1651: he did actually swallow bread and buttermilk (not having ale and bacon), and do fieldlabour: with these hobnailed 'shoes' has sprawled through mudroads in winter, and, jocund or not, driven his team a-field in summer: he made bargains; had chafferings and higglings, now a sore heart, now a glad one; was born; was a son, was a father; toiled in many ways, being forced to it, till the strength was all worn out of him: and then lay down 'to rest his galled back,' and sleep there till the long-distant morning! — How comes it,
1 History of the Rebellion, iii. 625.
that he alone of all the British rustics who tilled and lived along with him, on whom the blessed sun on that same 'fifth day of September' was shining, should have chanced to rise on us; that this poor pair of clouted Shoes, out of the million million hides that have been tanned, and cut, and worn, should still subsist, and hang visibly together? We see him but for a moment; for one moment, the blanket of the Night is rent asunder, so that we behold and see, and then closes over him forever.
So too, in some Boswell's Life of Johnson, how indelible, and magically bright, does many a little Reality dwell in our remembrance! There is no need that the personages on the scene be a King and Clown; that the scene be the Forest of the Royal Oak, 'on the borders of Staffordshire:' need only that the scene lie on this old firm Earth of ours, where we also have so surprisingly arrived; that the personages be men, and seen with the eyes of a Foolish enough, how some slight, perhaps mean and even ugly incident, if real and well presented, will fix itself in a susceptive memory, and lie ennobled there; silvered over with the pale cast of thought, with the pathos which belongs only to the Dead. For the Past is all holy to us; the Dead are all holy, even they that were base and wicked while alive. Their baseness and wickedness was not They, was but the heavy and unmanageable Environment that lay round them, with which they fought unpre-. vailing: they (the ethereal god-given Force that dwelt in them, and was their Self) have now shuffled-off that heavy Environment, and are free and pure: their life-long Battle, go how it might, is all ended, with many wounds or with fewer; they have been recalled from it, and the once harsh-jarring battle-field has become a silent awe-inspiring Golgotha, and Gottesacker (Field of God)! Boswell relates this in itself smallest and poorest of occurrences: 'As we walked along the Strand to-night, arm in arm, a woman of the town accosted us in the usual enticing manner. "No, no, my girl," said Johnson; "it won't do." He, however, did not treat her with harshness; and we talked of the wretched life of such women.' Strange power of Reality! Not even this poorest of occurrences, but now, after seventy years are come and gone, has a meaning for us. Do but consider that it is true; that it did in very deed occur! That unhappy Outcast, with all her sins and