« FöregåendeFortsätt »
cessarily be, -- than Nathan's narrative to I usually less personal than Mr. Bright in bis David of the pet lamb stolen by the rich assaults, though he did once withstand Mr. man from the poor.
Disraeli to the face for his “ mixture of And this tendency of Mr. Bright's to re- servility and pomposity,"— but his power duce political policy and events as far as he of concentrating into a sentence scorn and can to their real meaning in their bearing loathing for a policy that he thinks dishonon domestic life, though it does, we think, est and injurious, is quite Hebrew in its not unfrequently mislead him into a view force. We need only remind our readers of war more humane than just, is closely of his denunciation of the policy of building allied with another great quality in which the Alabama:-" There may be men outhe shows some affinity to the statesmen of side, there may be men sitting amongst the Old Testament, — the faculty of vision your legislators, who will build and equip which, wherever it can, puts a picture in the corsair ships to prey upon the commerce place of an argument. Political economy of a friendly power, — who will disregard truly understood requires a good deal of the laws and the bonour of their country, imagination in one sense, but it is the clear who will trainple on the proclamation of imagination of intrinsically uninteresting their Sovereign, and who for the sake of the transactions. Mr. Bright, however, even glittering profit that sometimes waits on in his speeches on Free Trade, translates crime will cover themselves with everlasting his arguments into pictures of a higher kind, infamy." Has not that in it some of that pictures requiring power and passion to old Hebrew wrath, — anger which is not paint. Does not this bit of a speech delivered mortification, not, even in the least degree, in 1815 at a meeting of the Anti-Corn Law personal irritation, but that impersonal League, considered as a plea against the wrath which dilates character, the sort of Corn Laws, imply a very remarkable faculty wrath which Luther said was purifying, and of vision, — something indeed of a Hebrew without which he could not write ?" seer's power, though applied to a different Most of all, Mr. Bright is, we will not field of thought ? " Since the time when say, the most religious of our statesmen, we first came to London to ask the atten- he is probably not so, certainly not more tion of Parliament to the question of the profoundly religious than the Prime MinisCorn Law two millions of human beings ter, - but his religion is of the Old Testahave been added to the population of the ment type. We do not mean this in the United Kingdom. The table is here as be- sense of ecclesiastics, we do not mean that 'fore; the food is spread in about the same it rests more on “the law" and less on the quantity as before ; but two millions of fresh love of God than that of other public men; guests have arrived. ..... These two but that it is of the Old Testament type in millions are so many arguments for the the sense of affecting him directly through Anti-Corn Law League, - so many em- his political imagination, in the sense of phatic condemnations of the policy of this giving to the larger questions of political iniquitous law. I see them now in my life a special religious bearing, which they mind's eve ranged before me, old men and have not, at least do not seem to have, in young children, all looking to the Govern- the minds of other statesmen. Of course, ment for bread, some endeavouring to re- numbers of politicians besides Mr. Bright sist the stroke of famine, clamorous and use the ordinary formulæ about “Providenturbulent, but still arguing with us, — sometial" guidance. But Mr. Bright does not dying mute and uncomplaining. Multitudes speak in formulæ. He may not indeed exhave died of hunger in the United Kingdom actly believe in the “ Lord of Ilosts,” though since we first asked the Government to re-even of that he showed traces during the peal the Corn Law, and although the great great civil war in the United States. But and powerful may not regard those who he does believe in One who overrules the suffer mutely and die in silence, yet the re-evil actions even of armies, and who cording angel will note down their patient brings light out of darkness' for the endurance and the heavy guilt of those by upright, where man would least expect whom they bave been sacrificed.” Has not it. “Whether," he said, five years ago, that in it à snatch of some of the prophetic " whether the war in the United States will descriptions of famine? “Lift up thy hands give freedom to the race which wbite men towards the Lord for the life of thy young have trampled in the dust, and whether the children that faint for hunger in the top of issue will purify a nation steeped in crimes every street. ..... The young and the against that race, is known only to the Su. old lie on the ground in the streets." preme. In Ilis hands are alike the breath
Again, Mr. Bright's power of wrath, of man and the life of States. I am willing not personal vindictiveness, for no man is to commit to Him the issue of this dread contest; but I implore of Him, and I be-alarining length, though four small volumes seech this House, that my country may lift about a tragedy so rich in picture and pasnor hand nor voice in aid of the most stu- sion as this do not strike us as too much pendous act of guilt that history bas re- for any one who can really enter into Mr. corded in the annals of mankind." That Browning's works. Anyhow, the publicacertainly is not couched in the primitive tion in instalments will do much to get over and simple style of the Old Testament. this difficulty. A public that has once But remembering that it was spoken in the tasted will not be satisfied to desist till it House of Commons, it has the impress of has drunk off all it can get of the draught, that large and devout faith in God's gov- and this little volume is certainly in itself crnment of the world which is rarely enough by no means alarming, offering as it does expressed by our politicians, and which two separate pauses to the reader, and gives to politics a solemnity and grandeur rising in fascination as it travels round each of the ancient and higher kind.
separate wind of the spiral in which the We are by no means insensible to those narrative mounts upwards towards a compolitical qualities of Mr. Bright's which tend plete view of the tragedy on which it is to identify him with some of the poorest based. elements of our modern middle-class preju- | The story itself, as far as the mere gerne dice. Still, take him as a whole, and we goes, is easily told. Mr. Browning found sball scarcely find another statesman in the on a bookstall in Florence, — the descrip House who does so much to give to our tion of the scene of the discovery is one of political life the simplicity of a passion that the most graphic passages of the poem, — is neither petty nor personal; the vision of amidst much rubbish, an old book, part one who sees many of those implied mean-print, part MS., purporting to be the ings of abstract policy on which other men actual pleadings in a Roman murder case only reason and think; who expresses, with of the year 1698, in which one. Count so great a power to kindle in others, the Guido Franceschini, of Arezzo, with four wrath which political meanness and selfish- cut-throats in his pay, murdered his wife, a ness deserve; and who discerns so steadily, child of seventeen years who had a fortthrough the blinding twilight which we call night ago borne him an heir, and with her day, the vision of a world of order diviner the old couple who had brought her up, and nobler than our own. Surely, with all and who had at first given themselves out his faults, Mr. Bright is not a figure whom as her parents. The Count and his four . our national Parliament could spare. accomplices were arrested before the death
of the wife (Pompilia), who survived ber wounds four days. Count Guido pleaded, first, that the murder was a justifiable vin
dication of his honour, since his wife had From The Spectator. fled from his house to Rome with a certain MR. BROWNING'S NEW POEM.* handsome priest, Canon Caponsacchi, and · As Mr. Browning issues his new poem in had been incited to this crime by the old instalments, we may well suppose that he couple who had brought her up, and who wishes it to be read, and studied, and con- / bad passed themselves off on her husband as ceived in instalments ; indeed, that, with her parents. To this the prosecuting counthe help his prologue gives us, each of the sel rejoined that he by his horrible cruelty subsequent parts (of which each volume, and treachery had deliberately set a trap except the first, which contains two, will for her, intending to drive her from his seemingly contain three) will form a whole home in this Canon's company in order that in itseli, organically complete, though he himself might get a divorce and still suited, like each of the parts of the old keep her property, - that the girl was pure Greek trilogies, to constitute, in conjunc- of all guilt, and that the letters produced tion with the other poetic facets or develop- as hers to Caponsacchi had been delibements of the same story, a still more im- rately forged by the husband, she herself bepressive and various whole. So far as we ing unable either to read or write; on can judge from the quarter now presented which the judgment of the tribunal was to us, no one of Mr. Browning's works is death to Guido and bis accomplices. likely to take a stronger hold on the public Thereupon, however, there was an appeal mind, if any so strong - the only disadvan- to the Pope in person, as Count Guido, tage being what the public may think its though a layman, bad taken some steps to• The Ring and the Book. By Robert Browning, I slight extent entitled to the special privi
wards holy orders, and was to a certain M.A., Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. 18 In 4 vols. Vol. I. Smith and Elder. 1868. | leges of the priesthood; whereupon the LIVING AGE. VOL. XII.
good old Pope, Innocent XII., then eighty-ness of outline, and sometimes an intelsix years of age, and near his end, re- lectual touch of caricature, often a sharp viewed the case himself, at the instance, sarcasm, that could not have proceeded amongst others, of the Emperor's Envoy, from the inside of the situation he is paintwho took the side of the nobleman; and ing for us, that could only proceed from after reviewing it, ordered the exec tion to one outside it like himself, but who is looktake place immediately, in the most public ing (very keenly) into it. He paints, as he spot in Rome. Such is the mere skeleton always paints, with wonderful swiftness and of the story. Mr. Browning makes it, of brilliance, but also with a certain wilful course, after his fashion, the occasion for a carelessness and singularity, — something rich and shrewd semi-dramatic picture of like the qualities shown in old David Cox's all the various influences at work in the fine water-colour sketches, and with a Roman society of the day; of the provincial singular contempt for sweetness and finish society in the country towns of the Pope's of style. In fertility of intellectual redominions; of the poor nobility, the hang- source there is no poetry anywhere like ers-on of the Church, who danced attend- Mr. Browning's; in the brilliancy of his ance on the Cardinals, boping for profitable descriptions of character he has no rival; sinecures; of the professional Roman law- but for beauty of form he seems to us to yers, deep in ecclesiastical precedents, and have, as usual, almost a contempt. We Ciceronian eloquence, and in tbe verses of do not mean that there are not here and Horace and Ovid, who pleaded in the case; there one or two lines of perfect loveliness, of the eloquent and brilliant worldly - not only in thought, but expression, Churchman of the time, part priest, part but that even the very finest are marred fashionable poet; and finally, of the popu by the close proximity of crabbed English, lace of Rome itself. It is part of Mr. and grammar so condensed as to be either Browning's plan to give us the view taken grating or excessively obscure, and that of this great case from all sides. In this very frequently his narrative, though lucid volume, after his own prologue, he gives us enough in drift, is couched in almost carethe view favourable to Count Guido taken fully eccentric English, — singular nouns by one half of Rome, and then the view with no article, and used in the abstract favourable to his victim taken by the other sense; plural adjectives accumulated on half of Rome. In the three subsequent one substantive as the Germans only pile volumes be is to give us, first, the, educated them; new-coined combinations of nouns or critical view of the pending trial taken like “ ring-thing," the need for the coinage in the most refined Roman drawing-rooins ; not being very clear; oddly interpolated then the criminal's own defence; then the ejaculations (quaint gestures of the narradying wife's statement of her own case; tor, as it were, interspersed in the narrathen the speech of the handsome young tive); and now and then a parenthesis, Canon who took her away from Count which is so long, striking, and interesting Guido's cruelty at Arezzo; then the law- in itself as to break the current of the story yers' pleadings on either side ; finally, the in which it is imbedded, and give a groworking of the old Pope's mind on the day tesque effect to the whole, as if one gem when he gives the final judgment; then were imbedded in the surface of another,Count Guido's last confession; and last, the a curiosity, compounded of two beauties, poet's own final presentation of the pure but so compounded as to be itself not beaugold of the tragedy, set free from all the tiful, only odd. Mr. Browning begins his alloys of accidental onesided criticism.
story very characteristically. He says:Here is room enough for the free working of Mr. Browning's genius, and in this “Do you see this square old yellow Book, I tose first volume, which is all we at present
l' the air, and catch again, and twirl about have, Mr. Browning's genius certainly has
By the crumpled vellum covers, - pure crude
fact, its fullest swing. He overflows, as he
Secreted from man's life when hearts best always overflows, in intellectual point, in
hard, acute comment, in quaint illustration. He
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuis, as he always is, semi-dramatic, with the
ries since ?" keenest of all eyes for every qualifying circumstance which alters the point of view That seems to us highly expressive even of each age and each individual, — never of the intellectual fashion in which Mr. quite dramatic, for we never lose sight of Browning treats his subjects, tossing them the critical eye of the poet himself, who in the air to catch them again, twirling discriminates all these different shades of them about by their crumpled outside surthought, and losses them off with a sharp-l faces, and generally displaying his sense of mastery, and the enjoyment which be-l immense and inexhaustible intellectual anilongs to it, by acts not unfrequently some- mation, we come to speak of the power thing resembling caprice. Thus, the ran- with which the subject is treated, it is dom, boyish, and almost freakish account almost impossible to speak too highly. Alof what Mr. Browning did with his intel-ways remembering that Mr. Browning's lectual prize when he had got it, seems to modes of thought never change as he us as remarkable a piece of exuberance of passes from one point of sight to another; intellectual spirits as ever an imaginative that, while rendering each new view, writer of the first order indulged in:
individual or local, or it may be a class or
party view, — with equal force and ability, 'I took my book to Rome first, tried truth's
the style of discourse, the springy, sharp power On likely people. "Have you met such names ?
definitions, the acute discriminations, the Is a tradition extant of such facts ?
rapier-like thrusts of logic, are all the Your law courts stand, your records frown &
poet's own, and used by every one of his row:
characters in succession, it is impossible What if I rove and rummage?' '- Why, to speak too highly of the power with which you'll waste
he paints one "facet" after another of the Your pains and end as wise as you began !' tragedy he has taken for his theme. His Every one snickered : Names and facts thus own argument of what he is going to give old
us is itself, barring the puns and such oddiAre newer much than Europe news we find ties, as brilliant a picture in miniature of Down in to-day's Diario. Records, quotha ? the social and moral conditions affecting Why, the French burned them, what else do the public view of such a crime as Count the French?
Guido Franceschini's in 1698, as was ever The rap-and-rending nation! And it tells Against the Church, no doubt, - another gird
drawn of the past. The sketch of the At the Temporality, your Trial, of course?
"view taken by that half of Rome favourable '- Quite otherwise this time,' submitted I ;
to Count Guido's pardon begins perhaps *Clean for the Church and dead against the in
ainst the in a strain of thought somewhat too world,
plebeian for the admirably intellectual The flesh and the devil, does it tell for once.' characterizations in which the supposed - The rarer and the happier ! All the same, speaker afterwards indulges. It seems to Content you with your treasure of a book, us, for instance, scarcely the same critic And waive what's wanting ! Take a friend's who was 80 eloquent about the fine effect advice!
presented by the bodies of the poor old It's not the custom of the country. Mend murdered pair when laid out in the Church Your ways indeed and we may stretch a point :lof San Lorenzo with a profusion of waxGo get you manned by Manning and new-l lights all round them, and who afterwards
manned By Newman, and, mayhap, wise-manned to
gives us this description of the Canon Ca
ponsacchi, - but whether it be or not, the boot By Wiseman, and we'll see or else we won't! description is not the less vivid :Thanks meantime for the story, long and strong, A pretty piece of narrative enough,
" And lo Which scarce ought so to drop out, one would
There in a trice did turn up life and light, think,
| The man with the aureole, sympathy made flesh, From the more curious annals of our kind.
The all-consoling Caponsacchi, Sir ! Do you tell the story, now, in off-hand style,
A priest - what else should the consoler be? Straight from the book? Or simply here and
d With goodly shoulder blade and proper leg, there,
A portly make and a symmetric shape, (The while you vault it through the loose and
And curls that clustered to the tonsure quite.
This was a bishop in the bud, and now Hang to a hint? Or is there book at all,
A canon full-blown so far: priest, and priest And don't you deal in poetry, make-believe,
Nowise exorbitantly overworked, And the white lies it sounds like?'”
| The courtly Christian, not so much Saint Paul
As a saint of Cæsar's household : there posed he Characteristic of Mr. Browning though Sending his god-glance after his shot shaft, they be, these extremely bad puns on Man- Apollos turned Apollo, while the snake ning's, Newman's, and Wiseman's names do Pompilia writhed transfixed through all her not seem to us fit element for a prologue
spires.” which is to introduce us to so great a theme, although boldly, freely, and buoy- Or take the description in the same divi. antly treated, as is usual with Mr. Brown-sion of the poem of how Count Guido's ing. When overlooking the irregularities passion was excited on hearing of the birth of style, the wilful caprices of the poet's lof an heir whom he had supposed (or
ather is by the speaker supposed to have Thus saintship is effected probably : supposed to be illegitimate, - how | No sparing saints the process ! - which the
more “The overburdened mind
Tends to the reconciling us, no saints, Broke down, what was a brain became a blaze
To sinnership, immunity and all.” In fury of the moment.”
– how powerful the description of Count Or again, take this dramatic excuse for a cui
Guido driving bis wife, “hemmed in by her man who revenges an insult to his personal
| household bars," to destruction by chasing honour by an act of personal violence, with
her“ about the coop of daily life;" how out calling in the aid of law :
grand and touching the picture of the bat" Had Guido, in the twinkling of an eye, tered mind of the old confessor who was so Summed up the reckoning, promptly paid him sure of Pompilia's innocence ! That morning when he came up with the pair
“ Even that poor old bit of battered brass At the wayside inn, - exacted his just debt
Beaten out of all shape by the world's sins, By aid of what first mattock, pitchfork, axe
Common utensil of the lazar-house — Came to hand in the helpful stable-yard,
Confessor Celestino groans, • 'Tis truth, And with that axe, if Providence so pleased,
All truth, and only truth : there's something
else, Cloven each head, by some Rolando-stroke, In one clean cut from crown to clavicle,
Some presence in the room beside us all, Slain the priest-gallant, the wife-paramour,
Something that every lie expires before : Sticking, for all defence, in each skull's cleft
No question she was pure from first to last.'" The rhyme and reason of the stroke thus dealt, In short, the little volume, as a whole, To-wit, those letters and last evidence
contains perhaps more of Mr. Browning's Of shame, each package in its proper place, brilliant intellectual flashes of many-colBidding who pitied undistend the skulls,
oured light than almost any of his hitherto I say, the world had praised the man. But
published works. no! That were too plain, too straight, too simply fire, there is no passage like that apostro
For pathos, and what comes near to lyric just! He hesitates, calls Law, forsooth! to help.
I phe which ends the prologue, the first And law, distasteful to who calls in law
couplet of which is the most truly inspired When honour is beforehand and would serve, in all the range of his poems; but why has What wonder if law hesitate in turn,
he ended such a passage with three lines so Plead her disuse to calls o' the kind, reply, utterly obscure, - open to so many guesses Smiling a little, 'Tis yourself assess
and so little certainty, -as those whicb The worth of what's lost, sum of damage done: conclude it :-What you touched with so light a finger-tip, You whose concern it was to grasp the thing,
“O lyric Love! half-angel and half-bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire, Why must law gird herself and grapple with ?
Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun, Law, alien to the actor whose warm blood Asks heat from law, whose veins run lukewarm
Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
And sang a kindred soul out to his face,
Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart -
earth Heinous, forsooth?”
Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched Still more powerful is, we think, the third
their blue, division of the poem, which gives the pop And bared them of the glory - to drop down, ular form of the view favourable to the To toil for man, to suffer or to die, victims and against the murderer. It is This is the same voice : can thy soul know again, of course, Mr. Browning who
change? speaks behind the mask; but the mask is
Hail, then, and hearken from the realms of good, and the voice behind tells as care
help! fully what the supposed speaker might
Never may I commence my song, my due have felt, as if it did not give it in Mr.
To God who best taught song by gift of thee, Browning's idiom. How fine is the sar
Except with bent head and beseeching hand
That still, despite the distance and the dark, casm here.
What was, again may be ; some interchange “ Though really it does seem as if she here, Of grace, some splendour once thy rery Pompilia, living so and dying thus,
thought, Has had undue experience how much crime Some benediction anciently thy smile:A heart can hatch. Why was she made to Never conclude, but raising band and head learn
Thither where eyes, that cannot reach yes - Not you, not I, not even Molinos' self
yearn What Guido Franceschini's heart could hold ? | For all hope, all sustainment, all reward,