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Within my nature's shell I slumber curled,
Unmindful of the changing outer skies.

It is true that the "shell" he has here in mind is moral rather than intellectual; but it is none the less true that the "little world" of his thinking pursues its orbit in disdainful aloofness from the chaos of sense-impressions. One might almost conceive the poet to have been born blind, and to treat of the visible universe merely from hearsay.

Theoretically, this characteristic ought to imply a serious defect in Mr. Santayana's work; practically, I find it no defect at all, but rather a source of distinction. It is a relief, for once in a way, to escape from the importunate details of the visible world into a sphere of pure thought and pure melody. For Mr. Santayana is a very remarkable and extremely accomplished poet. The bulk of his work is so slight-it consists, so far as I know, of some sixty sonnets and fifty pages of other verse-that large epithets seem disproportionate. Yet it is difficult, without using terms of a certain emphasis, to express one's sense of the well-nourished suavity of his style, the flawless beauty of his metrical form, the aptness of his imagery, the elevation of his thought. He is a master of the sonnet, of that there can be no doubt. On an earlier page* I have spoken of the sonnet as a form in which a certain specious air of poetical merit is easily attainable; but there is nothing specious or superficial about Mr. Santayana's workmanship. Take this as an example:


Unhappy dreamer, who outwinged in flight
The pleasant region of the things I love,
And soared beyond the sunshine, and above

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The golden cornfields and the dear and bright
Warmth of the hearth-blasphemer of delight,
Was your proud bosom not at peace with Jove,
That you sought, thankless for his guarded grove,
The empty horror of abysmal night?

Ah, the thin air is cold above the moon!

I stood and saw you fall, befooled in death,
As, in your numbèd spirit's fatal swoon,
You cried you were a god, or were to be;
I heard with feeble moan your boastful breath
Bubble from depths of the Icarian sea.

With what admirable skill is the metrical scheme of this sonnet employed to emphasise its dramatic phrasing! The seventh line is perhaps a little cumbrous, and "numbèd" in the eleventh line seems to me a nerveless epithet. Otherwise it is hard to find a flaw in the poem, and harder still to find adequate praise for the splendid intensity of the close.

The main body of Mr. Santayana's sonnets falls into two sections: the first purely philosophical, the second consecrated to a spiritual love. The opening sonnet of all tells how the poet worshipped in youth at

the piteous height

Where God vouchsafed the death of man to share,

but afterwards descended in search of

a garden of delight,

Or island altar to the Sea and Air,

Where gentle music were accounted prayer,
And reason, veiled, performed the happy rite.

Then the next poem opens thus:

Slow and reluctant was the long descent,

With many farewell pious looks behind,

And dumb misgivings where the path might wind,
And questionings of nature, as I went.

The greener branches that above me bent,
The broadening valleys, quieted my mind,
To the fair reasons of the Spring inclined
And to the Summer's tender argument.

If there be not in such writing as this a very peculiar delicacy and suavity, I am the more deceived. It would be a fascinating task to follow the process of Mr. Santayana's thought from sonnet to sonnet; but it must not be attempted here. "Process," perhaps, is scarcely the right word; I doubt whether any logical development is traceable in either sonnet-sequence. Rather it would seem that, singly or in groups of two or three, the sonnets express disconnected phases of thought. At all events, as I have not space to follow out a continuous thread of reasoning, I need not go about to search for it. Each poem has certainly an individual beauty and significance of its own, quite apart from its possible relation to an ordered whole.

My last quotation was the octave of the second sonnet; here now is the sestett of Sonnet VII., which begins "I would I might forget that I am I," and deals with the burden of personality :

Happy the dumb beast, hungering for food,
But calling not his suffering his own;
Blessed the angel, gazing on all good,
But knowing not he sits upon a throne;
Wretched the mortal, pondering his mood,
And doomed to know his aching heart alone.

There is a sort of cruelty, however, in dismembering a sonnet, even when one portion of it, like these six lines, forms an independent epigram. Why present the stem without the flower or the flower without the stem? I feel I must renounce the attempt to pick out brief passages of more than ordinary beauty, and let one complete sonnet represent the sequence. After much hesitation, I choose

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