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as Praed's models were required from poetry. Lord Houghton, who may be regarded as having in several ways taken up and carried on the poetical work of Praed, enjoyed the better fortune of growing up during the years when the more imaginative and richer poets had obtained the tardy recognition which waits upon more original gifts. It is also known that Mr. Monckton Milnes, whilst at Cambridge, was among that distinguished band of students, one of whom left a promise of future greatness such as youth can rarely give, whilst another consecrated his friend's memory in a series of elegiac poems which stands alone in our literature. Fortunate in the friendship of Arthur Hallam and of Alfred Tennyson, with others whose names will occur to some of our readers, and himself (it may be added) descended from families where intellect was held in honour, Lord Houghton affords one more proof of a truth which, though overwhelmingly proved by the history of poetry from the earliest ages, strangely needs to be reiterated in these days of the boasts of science and the glorification of the self-taught ;the truth that the highest and widest literary cultivation of his time is essential, if a poet is to do full justice to his gift. Granting, of course, the existence of an original or instinctive genius, ninctenths of success in all the Fine Arts are demonstrably due to education, -education in the Oxford and Cambridge sense, oldfashioned, conventional, literary, classical, limited, if you will :Lay on and spare not ... but it is this which has given us England's poetry! Shakspeare, always exceptional, is the one just possible exception. But we will return to this question briefly at the close of the paper.
Having profited by these great advantages, Lord Houghton seems to bave set himself from the first to the endeavour to throw into verse the emotions and the thoughts which society (in a less limited signification than Praed's) suggests to a cultivated man, who is himself an actor in what he describes. The experiences of foreign travel, the reminiscences of personal friends, viewed always in a similar frame of sentiment, may be added. We may
here recall those limitations which have been noticed as attaching to verse thus conceived of. Deeper feelings and thoughts occur, indeed, in Lord Houghton's poetry than in Praed's; and he has, here and there, not been unwilling to give them expression; but in general he avoids more than a subdued rendering of the moment chosen. It is often rather a meditative echo of thought or passion which he presents, than a lyrical reproduction of them: he sets them to music, as people set Shelley or Tennyson, more rarely creating them again, as it were, in a song, as Beethoven did with Goethe's • Egmont.'
Poetry of the high imaginative kind might be thought of, (for illustration's sake), as a soliloquy; at most, as a dialogue between the poet and his reader. But Verse, as we have tried to define it, addresses itself rather to a circle of sympathetic friends, or to hearers harmonised in tone by the moderation and reserve which are a note of refined society. The larger portion of the selection which Lord Houghton has issued looks to such for its fit audience. Leaving the humorous side of life, which found an interpreter in Praed, Moore, Hood, and Byron occasionally, (but far most powerfully in Byron when he chose), the collection before us deals with the more emotional elements in English life, or those which invite reflection upon the contrasts of existence in the minds of cultivated men. What we move among are not the great elementary passions, but the more complex or subtle forms which they take under the sophisticating influences, as Lear might have named them, of civilization. Yet Lord Houghton's verse is singularly free,—whether in subject or in diction,—from the merely artificial colours of society, from painting fashion or frivolity. The notes of the world's great lyrical singers have a greater compass; but within the range adopted, -and it is no small range-Lord Houghton's are true notes: and he never strains them. There is a pervading tone of elegance; an entire freedom from affectation, the finish of a writer who knows the best models, and has put all he can into his work before leaving it. We might apply to his poetical aim the graceful words ascribed to the youthful Virgil :
“Si laudem adspirare, humilis si adire camenas,
si patrio Graios carmine adire sales possumus, optatis plus jam procedimus ipsis :
hoc satis est ! A large number of pictures are thus presented from that experience which we all recognise, but which had not been put into verse, or not put so well, before. Such are the contrasted situations in the two poems following:
• They seemed to those who saw them meet,
Alas that Love was not too strong
• The words that trembled on your lips
grace you gave,
- May be, without a further thought,
But even now, in calm review
Nor wholly just what you have done.' Friendship in its different phases; tributary memorials to the · dead, of which those · Arthur and Ellen Hallam’ and Mrs.
Edward Denison,' strike us as the most tender and effective; a
Thus patriotism could each soul imbue
Was as a father's counsel to his son.' The most successful of Lord Houghton's narratives appears to us the one which closes his volume. Under the title • The Northern Knight in Italy,' this recounts that famous legend of the Middle Ages which sets forth, with a vigour and an indifference to orthodox sentiment highly refreshing to those wearied by the stupid marvels and monastic morality of the ill-named “Golden Legend,' the great conflict between the Old and the New Religions as it then presented itself to men's ininds: Paganism in its sensuous phase, and the triumph of a too-ascetic Christianity. The Christian warrior Tannhäuser, wandering astray into a wild wood, is gradually drawn into the temple of Venus. There, under the magic influence of reviving faith, the image is reanimated with life; the ruined sanctuary blazes once more in the purple light of its august loveliness ; song and flowers and beauty awake from the sleep of ages; the Goddess reasserts herself; and then ..... But we must refer the curious to Heine's narrative for the ancient conclusion of the legend, which Lord Houghton has, we know not why, deprived of its full significance. The poet may have had his own reasons for this; but whichever treatment of the moral of the tale be the best, his 'Northern Knight’is written with great delicacy and grace; the struggle in Tannhäuser's mind, and the enchantment which falls on him, half hallucination and half witchery, are skilfully touched; and the whole poem has a fluent sweetness and evenness in the verse which incline us to regret that the author has not oftener employed the more sustained metre which we find here.
By what deep memory or what subtler mean
Had trusted in the endless bliss and bloom