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most particular and delicate of processes, first as related to accuracy, and then to mechanical beauty, so that the old manuscripts are generally beautifully written and perfectly correct. It is a curious fact that the pens used by the monks of old were metal ones. They wrote upon parchment or vellum; their ink was a composition of soot or ivory-black and gum; they used pumice-stone in case of erasures; and they had an awl-like instrument, called a punctorium, for making dots. Metallic pens were used until the seventh century, when quills were introduced; and until the tenth century the substance on which they wrote was vellum, when paper came into use. It seems that even in this Providence had wisely ordered for the good of man, as many of the monastic manuscripts are still in a fine state of preservation, the writing being beautifully distinct and clear. The multiplication of books in those days was neither the easy nor cheap thing it is now, and, consequently, had the substance upon which they were written been less durable, we would have been more ignorant than we even now are of history. The monks, from being the only men of education in Europe at one time, completely monopolised the process of bookmaking, in all its forms; and they enjoyed the profits of bookselling also, as large estates were frequently set apart for the purchase of these valuable volumes, which ultimately came to the church. The vellum upon which these books were written was often of a very expensive kind, being purple in colour, in order to show to advantage letters of gold, silver, and parti-colours; and the binding was often very gorgeously embossed and lettered, although rude and heavy in its construction. A good idea of old books may be formed from those specimens now to be seen with illuminated title-pages and heavy oak-like bindings, which are at present becoming fashionable. The most common binding was a rough white sheepskin pasted over wooden boards, with large brass bosses; while the outsides of those intended for the service of the church were inlaid with gold, silver, ivory, and precious stones. Some books were covered with lead, and some had wooden leaves, but in the times of Froissart binding in velvet, with silver clasps and studs, began to be adopted for rich men's books. The monks also illuminated the title-pages of their volumes, and in this they were often assisted by the first painters of their age. This process, however, never attained to anything like perfection in their hands; the drawing and design were always confused and faulty; and colouring and gilding were the only two elements of the art in which they reached to a state of excellence. The pictures drawn upon their books were generally according to the nature of the subject treated of in the book, and the title itself was generally formed of letters of gold and azure mixed. Sometimes the labours of the monks, in writing and illuminating, so increased upon their hands that they introduced laymen to their studies, taught them the arts, and thus undoubtedly extended a taste for literature beyond the convent walls. This was regarded as an innovation upon monastic rules, and was as seldom as possible resorted to. The printing-press, however, soon superseded the labour of the monks, and rendered the profession of scribe as unprofitable as obscure; and in the year 1460, the art of engraving superseded that of illuminating. The last specimen of ancient illuminating is said to be preserved at Oxford, in the Lectionary or Code of Lessons for the Year, composed for Cardinal Wolsey. The process of illuminating is said to owe its origin to the very same principle as that upon which little picture-books for children, with illustrated alphabets, are produced-in order to render knowledge attractive to the senses in times of darkness and ignorance.
These employments of bookmaking were not the only ones, however, in which the monks excelled. The useful arts were cherished and cultivated by them, because, being theoretically men of peace, and acting as much as was convenient upon the principle they professed, they had both leisure to work and the tendencies towards productive labour. They were excellent sculptors and painters, were beautiful turners and carpenters, and also first-rate arti
ficers in gold and jewellery work. All these employments were developed upon the decorating of their churches and altars, which, it is well known, were splendid monuments of art and taste; and music and even chemistry were cultivated in these institutions. It is to monks that the discovery of coffee, Peruvian bark, gunpowder, and many other useful articles is attributed. Thomas de Bamburgh, a monk of Durham, was employed to construct two great warlike engines for the defence of Berwick, which shows the fame this ecclesiastic had attained in these rude times as a handicraftsman; and at Wells there is still preserved an astronomical clock, which was made by one Lightfoot, a monk of Glastonbury, in the year 1325. The process of a monk's education was very tedious and very hard upon the intellect. They were generally men of much learning, although in many cases the most learned were the least pious.
It was as priests of the Church of Rome that the early reformers acquired their learning, and being filled with zeal and love of truth, they were on the one hand taught of the hierarchy the tergiversations of the Church of Rome, and on the other inspired to denounce and impeach them. Most of the candidates for the priesthood entered the monasteries when very young, and the traditions concerning the church were carefully repeated to them; the young men were also required to commit the Psalter to memory without omitting or changing a single word in the original, and this painful study was the occupation of many solitary hours in a lonely cell. Latin was also an essential study, being the language of the Septuagint; and French, after the Norman conquest, became an especial branch of acquirement. Writing and accounts were added to these lingual branches, and then the arts already specified, with gymnastic exercises, made up the routine of a monk's education. Their process of education, however, was at the best superficial. They were not taught to cultivate the understanding, and they never attained to anything like eminence in intellectual development. They never exemplified great literary ability, considering the opportunities and leisure they possessed; and the most elaborate or excellent of their works will never bear the least comparison with those of laymen of a later day. Any recluse can acquire the power of arranging words and sentences grammatically, and he may be able to discourse upon the ideas which have been left to him as the metaphysical heritage of a school; but a man must get out to the world, and hold converse with nature, before he can become its exponent and interpreter. William Shakspeare, the truant woolcomber boy of Stratford-upon-Avon, gathered more knowledge, in his everyday circumstances of life, in listening to common men and observing common phenomena, than did all the wall-circumscribed and formally-schooled monks who had gone before him. Monks never will make great poets or great philosophers; and although we confess ourselves indebted to them for the preservation of the Greek philosophies, we have not to thank them for anything very original of their own. It was not want of capacity in these men which prevented them from shining in the galaxy of genius; it was the circumscription of their sphere of observation. Genius must have a broader theatre in which to develop itself than the narrow circle of a monastery, where only one half-developed half of the human economy presents itself to the eyes and thoughts of youth The world was given to man as a great book, where he should read of the might and glory of God, and from which he should draw corroborations of the revealed superiority of his own nature over all the works below. It was laid before him that he might grow in knowledge, as from his Bible he may also grow in grace, so that whatever tends to shut us out from the one or the other must be wrong in the sight of God. Monachism strikes at the root of original and vigorous thought. Moral sympathy is denied the exercise of all its varied powers, for it is shut up within the prison-walls of the convent, while nature is excluded from entering it. To monastics, however, we repeat, the world does not owe universal execration. but some thanks.
'A POET is born, not made,' says Cicero, by which remark he means that the gift or faculty of song is a primary endowment, and not acquired artificially or by teaching and training. Nearly at the head of such true born' poets of nature, in whom the inspiration and the faculty divine' are developed so early in life, and so strikingly, as to leave no doubt of their proper vocation on earth, stands John Keats, the subject of our present sketch. Indeed, among all those whom Shelley beautifully styles the inheritors of unfulfilled renown,' no other name in English literature, save that of Chatterton, can claim for a moment even to rank on an equality with that of Keats. Bruce, Henry Kirke White, and others cut off, like them, Michael in their opening promise, must be assigned a much lower, though still most honourable place in the poetical scale. Not dissimilar were the fates of the two youthful sons of genius for whom we have thus claimed especial preeminence. The story of the marvellous boy who perished in his pride,' shadowed forth but too closely the career of his equally unfortunate successor, on whose high spirit the injustice of the world produced nearly the same disastrous effects; and, yet, short as was the existence here of the subject of the present notice, he lived long enough to ensure an immortality of fame. Grievous it must always be, nevertheless, to reflect on the brevity of his course, and the more so, as his last fragmentary composition was indubitably the grandest of all his works, exhibiting few or none of those blemishes, arising from youth and inexperience, which marred here and there the perfectness of his previous productions. In the poem alluded to, the Hyperion,' he rises into a style of sustained power, which makes us regret its unfinished state almost as much as Milton lamented that Chaucer should have Left half told
The story of Cambuscan bold.'
Byron, by no means inclined to over-rate the peculiar effusions of a genius like that of Keats, yet records his opinion, that the fragment of Hyperion seems actually inspired by the Titans (early giants), and is as sublime as Eschylus.' It may in truth be well compared to one of those wonderful torsos of antiquity, whose incompleteness cannot hide the grandeur of the original conception or the beauty of the execution, and only rouses the fancy to imagine what the work would appear in a state of entirety. Had Keats written nothing else, his name must have gone down to posterity as a genuine child of the muses. Coming ages will not allow the applicability of the words Yes! of the young bard himself, uttered in a moment of physical weakness, and when yearning for the repose of the grave, 'Here lies one whose name was written in water!' Touching language, but not just or true.
The model which he chiefly loved and followed among the works of the mighty dead, was the minor poetry at, or at least will be no matter of marvel to those who of Shakspeare; and, among the moderns, his great fahave particularly noted certain characteristics common to vourite was Leigh Hunt. This is scarcely to be wondered the poets in question, far apart as they may stand otherwise. Eye-painting is their especial and predominant feature; that is, painting (in words) either from a close and minute observation of actual objects in nature, or from fancy-subjects not less vividly presented to the mental apprehension. Keats seems to have felt this style of composition most congenial to him, and adopted it so completely, that even where he describes objects entirely supernatural, and not to be seen with the eyes of the body, he pictures lain directly before his actual vision. them forth with as much point and force as if they had feeling, in truth, as if they must have been virtually if not really palpable to his sight, however impalpable to that of others. He was, indeed, One cannot help
One of the inmost dwellers in the core
Of the old woods, when Nymphs and Graces lived-
ON READING CHAPMAN'S HOMER.
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
Looked at each other with a wild surmise,
John Keats was born on the 29th of October, 1796. His parents were of humble station comparatively, but well situated in the world as regarded pecuniary circumstances. Very early in life did the divine afflatus' descend, apparently, upon his spirit, for his teachers at Enfield School became soon cognisant of his poetical tendencies, and encouraged him to cultivate them in his academic exercises. He was destined by his relations to the medical profession, though whether in the ambiguous English character of an We had intended to mark such lines and passages in this apothecary or dispenser of medicine, or of a regular surgeon little piece as struck us most forcibly, but we desisted on or physician, does not clearly appear. He was bound ap- recollecting Sheridan's remark when presented with the prentice, however, to a surgical practitioner at the age of Beauties of Shakspeare in one volume. Very good,' said fifteen, and continued for a year or two to go through the he, but where are the other nine?' ordinary drudgery attendant on such a position. When we lity of power about this sonnet which, in like manner, think of the spirit thus trammelled, we cannot but enter- renders it vain to specialise single beauties. Let the There is an equatain a strong (though perhaps very foolish) feeling of re-reader look at it as a whole, and mark with what force gret, every hour of that young life expended on the mortar and pestle being to all seeming a loss to the poetical literature of his country. However, the soul of song was in him, and long before he had reached manhood, he had both cultivated his mind highly by poetical reading, and had himself attempted to embalm his maturer thoughts in
and congruity the comparison of poetry to a continent is
fection of this style of composition, exemplifying, to use the words of Keats himself
'The sonnet swelling louldly
Up to its climax, and then dying proudly.'
Yet, as it stands recorded in Blackwood's Magazine,' certain critics could find nothing in this sonnet worthy of note, saving as it afforded room for a sneer at the implied confession of a want of knowledge of Greek. The present editor of the Quarterly' forgot, seemingly, what Ben Jonson has told us of Shakspeare himself, namely, that he could boast of small Latin and less Greek.' But, as we shall notice more particularly afterwards, to be a friend of Leigh Hunt was to carry the mark of the beast,' in the estimation of the partizan critics of those days.
In the year 1818, Keats again came before the public, producing his poem of Endymion,' the longest ever composed by him. Most readers will recollect the fable connected with this mythological name, and which forms the ground-work (a very slight one) of the piece. A youth of Mount Latmos, when sleeping on its slopes by night, becomes the object of a most fervent passion to Diana or Phoebe, the imaginary divinity of the Moon; and he is fancied ultimately, after much coy delay on the part of the inamorata, to have been rapt up by her into the heavens to enjoy there a wedded immortality. Never was there theme more congenial to the imagination of a bard, than this story of Endymion' proved to that of Keats. He says, at the outset, The very music of the name has gone into my being.' And the whole poem is one long moon-lit dream, like its subject; or, perhaps, it may be better compared to a wild fantasia on the Eolian harp, played by a fitful breeze on a lovely summer night. There are in it whole lengthened passages of consummate beauty-passages exquisite in point of thought, and melodious exceedingly in regard of expression. Individual similes, again, of the happiest description are scattered up and down profusely; and from no poem in the language, perhaps, could more perfect single lines be produced. Keats here shows himself, indeed, to be a complete master of rhythm, making, without any visible effort, the sound to echo completely the sense. For example, is not the very noise of
the waters heard in this line?
'The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea.'
But without positively echoing the sense in this manner, there are multitudinous single lines in the Endymion,' which, while perfectly expressive of the intended sense, are so harmoniously constructed as to gratify the ear like the finest music. For example:
'Ere yet the bees
Like old Deucalion mountain'd o'er the flood,
'While tiptoe Night holds back her dark grey hood.'
No old power left to steep
A quill immortal in their joyous tears.'
We quote these lines almost at random, for the poem is rich in such to excess, and we quote them chiefly to point out how completely either a fine natural ear, or observation, had taught to Keats the secret of composing melodious verse. Let young cultivators of the art mark how freely the vowels are varied in the above lines, particularly where the emphasis is laid, and they will find the real explanation of the musical effect of the verse. Milton, also, knew this secret well, and if the opening of 'Paradise Lost,' and others of his finest passages be examined, the variety of vowels introduced will be found to be the main source of their melody.
Let us now select a few of the similitudes interspersed through the poem of 'Endymion,' that we may justify the warm praises bestowed already on its author on this score. The sister of Endymion watches him sleeping
And as a willow keeps
A patient watch over the stream that creeps
'Yet it is strange, and sad, alas! That one who through this middle earth should pass Most like a sojourning demigod, and leave His name upon the harp-string.'
'Sideway his face reposed
On one white arm, and tenderly unclosed,
Then there ran
Two bubbling springs of talk from their sweet lips.'
Cold, oh! cold indeed
Those dazzled thousands veil their eyes
Sweet as a musk-rose upon new-made hay.' But we might go on endlessly with the selection of such images, so rich in them is the Endymion.' We shall only notice further the beautiful way in which the poet marks time and space, not prosaically measuring them by the minute and inch, but indicating what he wishes in a mode truly poetic and original.
And now as deep into the wood as we
Ere a lean bat could plump its wintry skin.'
'About a young bird's flutter from a wood.'
These images, while sufficiently accurate for poetical purposes, are at the same time highly original and finely expressed. Indeed, originality is the most marked feature in the writings of Keats; and what feature may rank above originality in poetry?
We can only afford space for a short continuous passage from the poem of 'Endymion,' and shall select an address to the moon, its divine heroine :
'Oh Moon! the oldest shades 'mong oldest trees
And yet thy benediction passeth not
One obscure hiding-place, one little spot
Hitherto we have expended commendations only on the poem of 'Endymion,' and such as it well deserves; but, with all its beauties, it has also many faults. Perhaps these could not be better characterised than in the opening words of the author's own brief preface. Knowing within myself the manner in which this poem has been produced,' he says, 'it is not without a feeling of regret that I make it public. What manner I mean will be quite clear to the reader, who must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every error denoting a feverish attempt, rather than a deed accomplished.' He continues to remark that he would not have published, could castigation have done the poem good, but that its foundations were too sandy, and that he must be content to see it die away, sustained only by the hope that, while it was dwindling, he might be fitting himself for verses worthy to live.' Disclaiming the wish to forestall criticisms, he adds, however, that,