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nothing worthy of death or bonds, but he did not fall, as those who perished in the summer of 64, a sacrifice to the rage and cruelty of Nero. The exact year of his death cannot be determined, but we may, with a high degree of probability, assign it to the last three or four years of Nero's reign, that is to the period between 65 or 66 and 68.




"A still small voice spake unto me:
'Thou art so full of misery,

Were it not better not to be?'"

"The Lord let the house of a brute to the soul of a man;
And the man said, 'Am I your debtor?'

And the Lord,-'Not yet: but make it as clean as you can,
And then I will let you a better,'"

THE late Principal Shairp defined the province of poetry as follows: ". . . the whole range of existence, or any part of it, when imaginatively apprehended, seized on the side of its human interest, may be transfigured into poetry. There is nothing that exists except things ignoble and mean, in which the true poet may not find himself at home." It was an attempt at definition which Mr. R. H. Hutton has very properly criticized because of its too radical exclusion of the ignoble and the mean. The poet, like the preacher, must recognize the cogency of the old dictum, Humani nihil alienum.

"And the shamed listeners knew the spell

That still enchants the years,

When the world's commonplaces fell

In music on their ears."

It has been so from the beginning. It will be so until the end. And it is unfortunately true that the ignoble and the mean form a part of life's commonplace. When Wordsworth sang of "the still sad music of humanity," he recog

nized the fact that the poet must take account of the ignoble and the mean if he would interpret life, and for that very reason he must write much of his music in a minor key.

But it is one thing to take account of the commonplace with especial reference, if you please, to the ignoble and the mean, and it is a very different thing to deal with it exclusively, or to treat it as though it were out of all real relation to the ideal. Such a course, if consistently pursued, is likely to keep a man in the category of the minor poets all his days, in spite of the fact that his art may reach a high stage of development. The world demands that the poet, like the preacher, shall reflect life, including life's commonplace; but it will withhold the meed of greatness from both unless they are able to show how this commonplace may be brought into harmonious relation to the ideal. It knows instinctively that neither poet nor preacher can be great except he be something of a prophet.

It was the lack of this prophetic spirit among English poets that Jowett used to lament, not without some exaggeration. "They have," he somewhere wrote, "art and sentiment and imagination, but no moral force. Our dear friend Clough had a touch of something that might have been great had he been in other circumstances." These words suggest the distinction which will be recognized in this article between the major and the minor poet. Granted for the moment that both are equal in the technique of their art, the latter generally poses as the creature of his time, admitting the supremacy of the Zeitgeist, while the former justifies his claim to preeminent place and power by his evident mastery of circumstance and his ability to make the Zeitgeist do his bidding. In the development of my subject I shall confine myself mainly to the minor English poets of the last five and thirty years, partly because the distinction to which I have just referred is more clearly marked in recent English poetry than elsewhere, and part

ly because the space at my disposal permits the cultivation of but a little corner of a boundless field.

About a generation has elapsed since the world of wouldbe pessimists consented to lay Byron and Heine on the shelf for a time, and to recognize in Leopardi a leader after its own heart. There was always a suggestion of the "shilling-shocker" about Byron. No man ever loved to bait Mrs. Grundy better. And there was, too, something sensual about the man's personality, that wrought itself into his work, tainting much of it with an odor of lubricity that is not altogether agreeable to civilized nostrils. Heine, on the other hand, was a hybrid as respects both nationality and intellectual character, possessing not a little of the hybrid's unnatural and occasionally unearthly beauty, and something, too, of the hybrid's lack of fiber and inability to perpetuate himself.

But in Leopardi the age found a mocker to its mind. He, better than any of his predecessors, voiced the utter weariness of a human heart fed upon the promises of material progress. It is difficult to quote Leopardi, but the following lines from the "Palinodia," as translated by Mr. Townsend, will illustrate my meaning. He has been speaking of the boasted prosperity of the future, and assures his friend Gino Capponi:


And fraud with mediocrity combined,
Will to the surface ever rise, and reign.
Authority and strength, howe'er diffused,
However concentrated, will be still

Abused, beneath whatever name concealed
By him who wields them; this the law by Fate
And nature written first in adamant:

Nor can a Volta with his lightnings, nor

A Davy cancel it, nor England with

Her vast machinery, nor this our age
With all its floods of Leading Articles.
The good man ever will be sad, the wretch
Will keep perpetual holiday."

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Such outbursts remind us of Mr. Cotter Morison's lament, that "Nothing is gained by disguising the fact that there is no remedy for a bad heart."

Leopardi died in 1837, at the comparatively early age of thirty-nine. He saw but the beginnings of the material and philosophical revolution of the century. But when his greatest English disciple wrote his greatest poem, the century was nearly three-quarters done, and had pretty effectually declared its character. In the world of material progress men had yoked electricity to the steam of Leopardi's day, and in the realms of science and philosophy Evolution had become a name to conjure with. But neither material progress, nor unexampled advance in scientific attainment, nor a new factor in philosophy, sufficed to bring any ray of hope to the profound melancholy of James Thomson. He was a friend of the late Mr. Bradlaugh, who had begun life as a regimental schoolmaster, and who sustained it by means of more or less fitful employment in journalism and business. Opium, alcohol, and insomnia played their sorry parts in it, and the end came in University College Hospital in 1882, while Thomson was in his forty-eighth year. His "City of Dreadful Night" was published in 1874, and was so little known, or else so speedily forgotten, that when an enterprising publisher attempted the other day to reprint some of Mr. Kipling's fugitive newspaper articles relating to Calcutta, he chose this same title, apparently unaware that it had been appropriated. It is a significant comment upon the world's willingness to let that which has a manifest savor of death in it go to its own place, however brilliant the conception and execution may be.

The City of Dreadful Night is the abode of Melancholia -a city vast and somber, lying beside a tideless sea, nobly built, well inhabited, but upon which no sun ever rises. Its life, Prometheus-like, is ever renewed, and ever eaten

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