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present struggle. A poet does not write for one country or for one age, but for all nationalities and for all time. Guidi Windows," also, is the best memorial of its author's high-minded and unwearied efforts in behalf of Italy. That country owes a great debt of gratitude to her, who gave more than hearty sympathy and co-operation in the hour of conflict, even words of hope and cheer when the boldest patriots threw down their arms almost despairingly. The spirit of the following lines, written when the Italian cause looked prosperous, is the spirit she maintained throughout all its
Her future to be strong and not afraid;
Her very statues send their looks before."
It is not the cause of Italy alone, however, that Mrs. Browning espouses in " Casa Guidi Windows," but the catholic cause of right and freedom. Turning away her eyes mournfully from the contemplation of the wrongs of her adopted country, she addresses each civilized nation in turn, beseeching mercy for the oppressed. The sin of slavery could not fail to move a thinker and worker like Mrs. Browning; and she did not content herself with the laconic protest against it in this general appeal. Her most effective poem on this subject is "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point." "The Curse for a Nation" is a passionate, prophetic expostulation; but, as a whole, it is rough, and in energy and force not to be compared with "The Cry of the Children," one of her noblest productions. There are no lines in the former equal to these:
"How long,' they say, 'how long, O cruel nation,
Will you stand to move the world, on a child's heart, —
Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation,
And tread onward to your home amid the mart?
Our blood splashes upward, O gold-heaper,
And your purple shows your path!
But the child's sob in the silence curses deeper
But, though we may not put "The Curse "
among Mrs. Browning's best efforts, we cannot, as others have done, find
fault with its spirit, which is humane and womanly,- more sorrowful than angry. She who scorchingly rebuked the sins of her own nation could not be expected to treat more tenderly the sins of other lands. But we are a sensitive people; and our iniquities, as well as our weaknesses, must be handled delicately!
Mrs. Browning's admiration for Napoleon III. has been another cause of dissatisfaction; and in so far as she would endeavor to prove him good as well as great, there is reason for censure. The time, however, has not come for the just measurement of such a man; and posterity may yet assent more fully than we think to the poet's judgment. “Every age, through being held too close, is ill discerned"; and it is genius alone that can exert " a double vision."
Not only as a poet and a worker, whose worthy aims were worthily executed, is Mrs. Browning to be honored and reverenced. The life she led is part of her "accomplished work." In beauty and purity, it is an unwritten poem; and its silent, indirect influence will be potent and permanent as the more obvious and positive effect of her writings. United, they exert a twofold power, and claim a twofold homage. They are also mutual interpreters. We see how the woman has moulded and shaped the poet, and the poet the woman; and it is through the poet especially that we learn to understand the woman. Consequently, in an analysis of her character, we must chiefly confine ourselves to this source of revelation. No biography, however minute and accurate in details, can ever be as significant as the "Sonnets from the Portuguese" and "Aurora Leigh." What she felt, as well as what she thought, is revealed in these. In the career of the poet is disclosed the inner life of the woman. And though all facts relating to her personal history will be eagerly sought and carefully treasured up, there is no memoir that could so easily be dispensed with as that of one who has already given us the autobiography of her inmost soul. What she says of herself is infinitely more precious than anything that could be said of her.
Her individual characteristics require little commentary. Her poems, as we have intimated, are the faithful transcript of her moral and intellectual traits; and we have only to
look at her through the medium of these to obtain a distinct portrait. Thus viewed, we have the likeness of one who was truly and beautifully feminine. Her intellect, as we have already said, was in harmony with her heart; and the proportions of each in her spiritual constitution were so perfect, that we can detect no undue preponderance of either, the intellectual power visible in her poems never obscuring the essential essence of womanhood. No one, indeed, but a woman could have written such poems.
"Fortitude, constancy, and devotion" have been termed the crowning excellence of the feminine character. To these must be added a gentle nature and a pure heart, and Mrs. Browning possessed them all in no stinted measure. Miss Mitford says of her: "Such is the influence of her manners, her conversation, her thousand sweet attaching qualities, that they who know her best are apt to lose sight altogether of her learning and of her genius, and to think of her only as the most charming person they ever met." She seems always to have retained this winning simplicity and perfect freedom from outward pretension. Hers was indeed "a true, princely courtesy of inward nature," not affected by any worldly distinctions. The woman who took far more pride and pleasure in being identified as "the mother of that beautiful boy," than as the author of " Aurora Leigh," had certainly no craving ambition for either power or fame to gratify. Her actions were prompted by a self-forgetting love, and she sought the welfare of her age far more than its applause. Such a union of whatever is great and lofty in genius with all that is pure and lovely in woman, is very rare; so rare that it will be interesting to trace some of the causes that contributed to the exquisitely blended development. Grief, the first agent, did its work thoroughly. Insight is one of the attributes of genius, but a great grief quickens marvellously the perceptive faculties. "Eyes that have wept much see clear," and Mrs. Browning owed not a little of her intimate knowledge of the human heart and her entire and earnest sympathy with all phases of suffering to those sad years unavoidably so introspective. Patience and submission are the compensating blessings the invalid may gain, and these were VOL. LXXII. — 5TH S. VOL. X. NO. I. 8
hers to the fullest extent. The silent heroism of this period of her life is inexpressibly touching. There is no pining wretchedness in the bearing of her cross. Sorrow and illness wrought their best discipline, bringing to her that peace which is akin to blessedness. The poems written during the season of seclusion and grief breathe a subdued thankfulness, and tell of a serene resignation. The Sonnets from the Portuguese reveal what life had been to Elizabeth Barrett, and also what life became to her when, by the recuperative power of a great passion, she triumphed over sorrow and the grave. For love was the next teacher, perfecting what grief began. Moved by this, she looked out upon the world with still deeper and clearer vision, her sphere of duty growing wider as her heart expanded. New light and brilliancy are reflected in her verses. As a great happiness steals into her life, her song rings out with a richer and more triumphant tone. Peace has risen to joy; but still to joy partaking largely of the nature of peace.
Underlying these mighty influences was yet another and a mightier, her deep and steadfast religious faith. This was as strong and active as her reasoning powers were acute and subtile, and the pride of the latter never overcame the convictions of the former. With nothing morbid or narrow in her piety, she held to the doctrines of the church in which she was born and nurtured. From the following and similar passages, it is easy to discern the foundation of her religious trust.
"Alas! long-suffering and most patient God,
Mrs. Browning's genius and virtue, taken in connection with
the peculiar blessings of the fifteen last years of her life, make her career without a parallel in the history of illustrious women. The lives of women of genius have been so frequently sullied by sin, as well as darkened by sorrow, that it has been accepted almost as an axiom, that their intellectual gifts are a curse rather than a blessing, and that those who are endowed with them must forego the purer and better joys which are the portion of their less eminent sisters. The justice of this broad inference may well be doubted. In the greater number of instances of marked unhappiness in the cases in question, it will be found, we imagine, that it was not on account of their genius that they sinned or suffered, but on account of serious defects either in character or education. Such defects are quite as common in others of the sex. The errors and sorrows of the illustrious are widely known and discussed. But lives without distinction and publicity are blighted every day, and many are sinful and unfeminine who are destitute of mental power and wanting in mental culture. One of the saddest memoirs ever given to the world is that of Charlotte Bronté; but her genius had nothing to do with the circumstances that threw such gloom over her young life. On the contrary, this was her solace and support. It peopled with glorious visions the little room in the Yorkshire parsonage, which the sisters paced unmindful of the cold and the dark ness; and by its kindly aid she emerged into a healthier atmosphere, and the genial sunshine. In the compensations of this world, if genius has more acute sensibilities, it has greater resources. "Une plus grande intensité de vie est toujours une argumentation de bonheur; la douleur, il est vrai, entre plus avant dans les ames d'une certaine energie, mais à tout prendre. Il n'est personne, qui ne doive remercier Dieu de lui avoir donné une faculté de plus." This acknowledgment has more weight, coming from the lips of one of incomparable abilities. In intellectual strength Madame de Staël is the peer of Mrs. Browning, while in the comprehension and statement of abstract thought she is somewhat her superior. As a prosewriter, she holds the same rank among those of her sex that Mrs. Browning holds as a poet. "L'Allemagne" and "Aurora Leigh," as works of art, may stand side by side. But