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Her unadorned golden tresses wore
Dis'hevelled, but in wanton ringlets wav'd
As the vine curls her tendrils, which impli'd
Subjection, but requir'd with gentle sway.

Neither the magnificence of the form of Paradise Lost nor the nobility of its meaning and purpose can be shown by quotations. In a few lines from the sixth book we can see, however, what Milton believed to be the very essence of that right conduct which God wills to have from all His creatures. S. Michael, returning to Heaven Voice "

after his fight with the Rebel Angels, heard a utter these words:

Servant of God, well done, well hast thou fought
The better fight, who single hast maintain'd,
Against revolted multitudes the cause

Of truth, in words mightier than they in arms:
And for the testimony of truth hast borne
Universal reproach, far worse to bear

Than violence: for this was all thy care

To stand approv'd in sight of God, though worlds
Judg'd thee perverse.

If we let ourselves look only at the surface of Beowulf and Paradise Lost, it is easy to see nothing but a difference so great that we fancy nothing could bridge it. But we have first to realise that Beowulf was written down at an early stage of our national life, probably, as a matter of fact, in the tenth century, the one among all those between the first and the twentieth which is usually believed to have cared least for learning and education. It may not have deserved Cardinal Baronius' description, an age, iron, leaden, dark." In the East many scholars were busy; in Western Europe Odo of Cluni lived, and Gerbert and Fulbert of Chartres. England had S. Dunstan, her " first Minister of Education," who did his best to spread learning, even to the details of caring for the accurate copying of books; at Glastonbury he was helped by S. Ethelwold of Abingdon, of whom the remembrance lasts that it was ever sweet to him to teach little children."

But at the best it was a very different age from Milton's seventeenth century. Between the two, Europe had recovered and read the great literatures of Greece and Rome. After the partial fall of the Roman power in the sixth century, learning could only flourish in any part of Europe from which war, for a while, departed. Sometimes England, at others Ireland, or part of France, or some remote district of Germany or Spain would enjoy a little temporary peace and quiet. Then in monasteries, where Greek and Latin classics were more or less carefully kept, the monks and their scholar friends read them. By the beginning of the thirteenth century, after the fall of Constantinople in the twelfth, which had driven many Greek scholars West, a considerable measure of peace was restored in Europe, and a race of scholars grew up in Italy, Holland, England, France, Germany, who sought everywhere for Greek and Latin books— bought, borrowed, sometimes stole them-and copied and multiplied them. They not only read and loved them themselves, but brought up their children, quite young boys and girls, to love them too, not by way of learning a foreign language, but for sheer enjoyment of what was written in them.

Milton, living later still, naturally had a classical education; and so, as might be expected, the form of Paradise Lost is ornamented, polished, marked everywhere by learning, while Beowulf is the plain tale of some man to whom scholarship was not his first concern, but who delighted in a story of daring and adventurous life.

But if we go below the surface, a likeness between the two can be traced. In both we find interest in human character and in the happenings which arise out of human differences. We find courage, loyalty, a sense of honour, comradeship, an enduring, stark clinging to duty, however difficult; we find, too, the same scorn of material possessions when these compete with moral and spiritual claims.

Again, in all three of these epics the "supernatural

"

plays a great part, as it does, in one form or another, in all European literature from Greek tragedy to to-day. By the supernatural playing a part is meant the belief that beyond this world which we can see and touch there is another region which we know by our spiritual insight, or by our conviction of right and wrong, by our appreciation of beauty, and through religious experience. The expression may be difficult, but not the thing itself. To our ancestors it meant magic weapons-Hrunting, Nægling, or Gae Bulga; the "screaming " of " eldritch beings from the rims of shields and tips of spears; though even so we must never forget that in Beowulf the supernatural force of moral right is always present, however hard-pushed the fighter may be.

"

By Milton's time, after sixteen centuries of Christianity, the idea of the supernatural has expanded and risen; man's higher powers, according to him, are aided by angels, and sustained by a Personal God. But the essence of the idea remains, that beyond our natural world and powers there is other, greater, personal Power.

CHAPTER III

LYRICS, FROM EARLY DAYS TO THE COMMON

OF

WEALTH

F all poems the Lyric appeals to most people because, as Mr. Maurice Hewlett says, " it must come from the heart "; and, after all, everyone has a heart, while not everyone has a "head," in the sense of caring extremely for what is reasonable, thoughtout, or learned.

In the story of most nations, therefore, a lyrical taste at least shows itself early. A long time may pass before a people produce finished, perfect lyrics; but a desire for song, and song about something which really interests. the singer, whether a child or a grown-up person, seems to exist in most of us.

Few poems remain from Anglo-Saxon times: the greatest is the epic Beowulf. But there are some short ones-e.g., The Wanderer, which probably comes from eighth-century Northumbria. He was a wanderer by sea and land; he speaks of himself as one who—

through the watery-way for a long time must
row with his hands over the rime-cold sea;

and then, in the very next lines as

an earth-stepper, remembering hardships.

Northumbria looks out to the grey waters of the North Sea, and her inland moors and wastes are often roughgoing still.

Other poems are The Ruin, of which much is lost; The Wife's Complaint; The Husband's Message; and The Seafarer, which last, though it is not a lyric, but a

mixture of narrative and lamentation, yet has little lyrical passages which burst in when the cloud of trouble and fear lifts for a moment from the poet's mind.

These lines could be sung to music; if to a melancholy melody, not without some discords:

There I nothing heard but the howling of the sea,
The ice-cold wave, and 'whiles, the wild-swan's song.
Screaming of the gannet sufficed me for joy

And the swoughing of the seal instead of men's mirth:
Instead of mead-drinking, the sea-mew's singing.
Storms beat the stone cliffs, and the sea-swallow,
Icy-feathered, answered; and the ocean-eagle,
With storm-wet wings, continually screamed.

When the Seafarer's mood changed, he sang, as if to the lyre, of beauty and joy:

Trees, rebloom with flowers, boroughs grow fair,
Beautiful the fields become, as the world revives;
All things then remind the man of lively mood,
Should he in his mind so think to journey
Over the flood-way, far off to wander.

He could not, however, keep his heart cheerful for long. The prospect might seem fair, but he had been mistaken so often that his song soon fell down to a note of boding fear:

Every cuckoo calls a warning, with his word of sorrow;
Summer's watchman singeth, sorrow bides his time,
Bitter is the breast's hoard.

By the end of the thirteenth century Englishmen had learned to write lyrics, rather before indeed, for this Cuckoo Song, which belongs to the second quarter, is one of the most joyous, freshest lyrics in our speech. It loses something, of course, when turned into a modern dress, but it is still full of the spring, of the world's young freshness:

Sing, cuckoo ! now! Sing, cuckoo !
Sing, cuckoo ! Sing, cuckoo, now!

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