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The enchanting "I have led her
home," in "Maud," is an example of this kind of lyric at its highest
point of perfection._

_A branch of lyrical poetry which has been very widely cultivated in the
Victorian age is the philosophical, or gnomic, in which a serious chain
of thought, often illustrated by complex and various imagery, is held in
a casket of melodious verse, elaborately rhymed. Matthew Arnold was a
master of this kind of poetry, which takes its form, through Wordsworth,
from the solemn and so-called "metaphysical" writers of the seventeenth
century. We class this interesting and abundant section of verse with
the lyrical, because we know not by what other name to describe it; yet
it has obviously as little as possible of the singing ecstasy about it.
It neither pours its heart out in a rapture, nor wails forth its
despair. It has as little of the nightingale's rich melancholy as of the
lark's delirium. It hardly sings, but, with infinite decorum and
sobriety, speaks its melodious message to mankind. This sort of
philosophical poetry is really critical; its function is to analyze and
describe; and it approaches, save for the enchantment of its form,
nearer to prose than do the other sections of the art. It is, however,
just this species of poetry which has particularly appealed to the age
in which we live; and how naturally it does so may be seen in the
welcome extended to the polished and serene compositions of Mr. William
Watson._

_Almost a creation, or at least a complete conquest, of the Victorian
age is the humorous lyric in its more delicate developments. If the past
can point to Prior and to Praed, we can boast, in their various
departments, of Calverly, of Locker-Lampson, of Mr. Andrew Lang, of
Mr. W. S. Gilbert. The comic muse, indeed, has marvellously extended her
blandishments during the last two generations, and has discovered
methods of trivial elegance which were quite unknown to our forefathers.
Here must certainly be said a word in favor of those French forms of
verse, all essentially lyrical, such as the ballad, the rondel, the
triolet, which have been used so abundantly as to become quite a feature
in our lighter literature. These are not, or are but rarely, fitted to
bear the burden of high emotion; but their precision, and the deftness
which their use demands fit them exceedingly well for the more
distinguished kind of persiflage. No one has kept these delicate
butterflies in flight with the agile movement of his fan so admirably as
Mr. Austin Dobson, that neatest of magicians._

_Those who write hastily of Victorian lyrical poetry are apt to find
fault with its lack of spontaneity. It is true that we cannot pretend to
discover on a greensward so often crossed and re-crossed as the poetic
language of England many morning dewdrops still glistening on the
grasses. We have to pay the penalty of our experience in a certain lack
of innocence. The artless graces of a child seem mincing affectations in
a grown-up woman. But the poetry of this age has amply made up for any
lack of innocence by its sumptuous fulness, its variety, its magnificent
accomplishment, its felicitous response to a multitude of moods and
apprehensions. It has struck out no new field for itself; it still
remains where the romantic revolution of 1798 placed it; its aims are
not other than were those of Coleridge and of Keats. But within that
defined sphere it has developed a surprising activity. It has occupied
the attention and become the facile instrument of men of the greatest
genius, writers of whom any age and any language might be proud. It has
been tender and fiery, severe and voluminous, gorgeous and marmoreal, in
turns. It has translated into words feelings so subtle, so transitory,
moods so fragile and intangible, that the rough hand of prose would but
have crushed them. And this, surely, indicates the great gift of
Victorian lyrical poetry to the race. During a time of extreme mental
and moral restlessness, a time of speculation and evolution, when all
illusions are tested, all conventions overthrown, when the harder
elements of life have been brought violently to the front, and where
there is a temptation for the emancipated mind roughly to reject what is
not material and obvious, this art has preserved intact the lovelier
delusions of the spirit, all that is vague and incorporeal and illusory.
So that for Victorian Lyric generally no better final definition can be
given than is supplied by Mr. Robert Bridges in a little poem of
incomparable beauty, which may fitly bring this essay to a close:--_

_"I have loved flowers that fade,
Within whose magic tents
Rich hues have marriage made
With sweet immemorial scents:
A joy of love at sight,--
A honeymoon delight,
That ages in an hour:--
My song be like a flower._

_"I have loved airs that die
Before their charm is writ
Upon the liquid sky
Trembling to welcome it.
Notes that with pulse of fire
Proclaim the spirit's desire,
Then die, and are nowhere:--
My song be like an air."_

Edmund Gosse.




Victorian Songs

"Short swallow-flights of song"

TENNYSON




[Decoration]

HAMILTON AÏDÉ.

1830.


_REMEMBER OR FORGET._

I.

I sat beside the streamlet,
I watched the water flow,
As we together watched it
One little year ago;
The soft rain pattered on the leaves,
The April grass was wet,
Ah! folly to remember;--
'T is wiser to forget.

II.

The nightingales made vocal
June's palace paved with gold;
I watched the rose you gave me
Its warm red heart unfold;
But breath of rose and bird's song
Were fraught with wild regret.
'T is madness to remember;
'T were wisdom to forget.

III.

I stood among the gold corn,
Alas! no more, I knew,
To gather gleaner's measure
Of the love that fell from you.
For me, no gracious harvest--
Would God we ne'er had met!
'T is hard, Love, to remember, but
'T is harder to forget.

IV.

The streamlet now is frozen,
The nightingales are fled,
The cornfields are deserted,
And every rose is dead.
I sit beside my lonely fire,
And pray for wisdom yet--
For calmness to remember
Or courage to forget.

[Decoration]


_OH, LET ME DREAM._

FROM "A NINE DAYS' WONDER."

Oh! let me dream of happy days gone by,
Forgetting sorrows that have come between,
As sunlight gilds some distant summit high,
And leaves the valleys dark that intervene.
The phantoms of remorse that haunt
The soul, are laid beneath that spell;
As, in the music of a chaunt
Is lost the tolling of a bell.
Oh! let me dream of happy days gone by, etc.

In youth, we plucked full many a flower that died,
Dropped on the pathway, as we danced along;
And now, we cherish each poor leaflet dried
In pages which to that dear past belong.
With sad crushed hearts they yet retain
Some semblance of their glories fled;
Like us, whose lineaments remain,
When all the fires of life are dead.
Oh! let me dream, etc.


[Illustration: Full-page Plate]




_LOVE, THE PILGRIM._

SUGGESTED BY A SKETCH BY E. BURNE-JONES.

Every day a Pilgrim, blindfold,
When the night and morning meet,
Entereth the slumbering city,
Stealeth down the silent street;
Lingereth round some battered doorway,
Leaves unblest some portal grand,
And the walls, where sleep the children,
Toucheth, with his warm young hand.
Love is passing! Love is passing!--
Passing while ye lie asleep:
In your blessèd dreams, O children,
Give him all your hearts to keep!

Blindfold is this Pilgrim, Maiden.
Though to-day he touched thy door,
He may pass it by to-morrow--
--Pass it--to return no more.
Let us then with prayers entreat him,--
Youth! her heart, whose coldness grieves,
May one morn by Love be softened;
Prize the treasure that he leaves.
Love is passing! Love is passing!
All, with hearts to hope and pray,
Bid this pilgrim touch the lintels
Of your doorways every day.

[Decoration]




[Decoration]

WILLIAM ALLINGHAM.

1824-1889.


_LOVELY MARY DONNELLY._

Oh, lovely Mary Donnelly, my joy, my only best!
If fifty girls were round you, I 'd hardly see the rest;
Be what it may the time o' day, the place be where it will,
Sweet looks o' Mary Donnelly, they bloom before me still.

Her eyes like mountain water that 's flowing on a rock,
How clear they are, how dark they are! they give me many a shock;
Red rowans warm in sunshine and wetted with a show'r,
Could ne'er express the charming lip that has me in its pow'r.

Her nose is straight and handsome, her eyebrows lifted up,
Her chin is very neat and pert, and smooth like a china cup,
Her hair 's the brag of Ireland, so weighty and so fine;
It 's rolling down upon her neck, and gathered in a twine.

The dance o' last Whit-Monday night exceeded all before,
No pretty girl for miles about was missing from the floor;
But Mary kept the belt o' love, and O but she was gay!
She danced a jig, she sung a song, that took my heart away.

When she stood up for dancing, her steps were so complete
The music nearly kill'd itself to listen to her feet;
The fiddler moaned his blindness, he heard her so much praised,
But bless'd his luck to not be deaf when once her voice she raised.

And evermore I 'm whistling or lilting what you sung,
Your smile is always in my heart, your name beside my tongue;
But you 've as many sweethearts as you 'd count on both your hands,
And for myself there 's not a thumb or little finger stands.

'T is you 're the flower o' womankind in country or in town;
The higher I exalt you, the lower I 'm cast down.
If some great lord should come this way, and see your beauty bright,
And you to be his lady, I 'd own it was but right.

O might we live together in a lofty palace hall,
Where joyful music rises, and where scarlet curtains fall!
O might we live together in a cottage mean and small,
With sods o' grass the only roof, and mud the only wall!

O lovely Mary Donnelly, your beauty 's my distress.
It 's far too beauteous to be mine, but I 'll never wish it less.
The proudest place would fit your face, and I am poor and low;
But blessings be about you, dear, wherever you may go!

[Decoration]


_SONG._

O spirit of the Summertime!
Bring back the roses to the dells;
The swallow from her distant clime,
The honey-bee from drowsy cells.

Bring back the friendship of the sun;
The gilded evenings, calm and late,
When merry children homeward run,
And peeping stars bid lovers wait.

Bring back the singing; and the scent
Of meadowlands at dewy prime;--
Oh, bring again my heart's content,
Thou Spirit of the Summertime!


_SERENADE._

Oh, hearing sleep, and sleeping hear,
The while we dare to call thee dear,
So may thy dreams be good, altho'
The loving power thou dost not know.
As music parts the silence,--lo!
Through heaven the stars begin to peep,
To comfort us that darkling pine
Because those fairer lights of thine
Have set into the Sea of Sleep.
Yet closèd still thine eyelids keep;
And may our voices through the sphere
Of Dreamland all as softly rise
As through these shadowy rural dells,
Where bashful Echo somewhere dwells,
And touch thy spirit to as soft replies.
May peace from gentle guardian skies,
Till watches of the dark are worn,
Surround thy bed, and joyous morn
Makes all the chamber rosy bright!
Good-night!--From far-off fields is borne
The drowsy Echo's faint 'Good-night,'--
Good-night!



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