« ПретходнаНастави »
too strong for the artist; and in criticising the picture of Bannockburn we may fairly say, not that it is as grand as Flodden, for it is not, but that it would be difficult to improve it, consistently with the preservation of a minuteness which is almost that of a despatch.
With this hurried sketch I must close the subject. Many of the minor poems well deserve a lengthened notice. Some of his ballads in particular are exceedingly beautiful, but the necessary limits of a lecture forbid me from entering into them.
In casting our eyes back over the space we have traversed, we ask naturally—what are its limits? It is permitted to none, even the most gifted, to range over the poetic field in all its wide extent. The temple of Nature is too vast to allow any to minister in her every shrine. In which of these shrines has Walter Scott been our guide? Is he the hierophant of Eleusinian mysteries? Is he the expounder of thoughts and feelings, which only an initiated few can comprehend; or does he minister to a larger worship? He is—and I say it with no feeling of disparagement—the priest of the outer court. Few indeed can penetrate to the innermost shrine. But there is many an artificial grotto, and many a false priest, who excludes the light because he would have you worship a base idol-because he would have you see, in an obscurity which himself has made, the darkness that veils the true sanctuary. So is it never with Walter Scott. He revels in the light. Whatever be his true stature, at least he lets you see it. He raises no mist that he may present to you a magnified image of himself.
Would that we could banish from the world of poetry an exclusiveness which hides from each of us so much real beauty. Why should a worship be here so sectarian, which is in painting so truly catholic. Raphael, Teniers, Salvator Rosa—who does not feel how different are the emotions which these names evoke; yet who will deny to each one of them the title of a great painter. Not alone in a “Transfiguration,” or a “Holy Family," have we learned to trace the inspired hand of genius. We can read it upon the rocks which Salvator has peopled with outlawseven in the ale-house which Teniers has filled with Dutch boors. Why should our poetic vision be more limited. Why can we not admire-worship if you will, the genius of Wordsworth, or of Tennyson, without being blind to the glories of Byron, or of Scott ?
I repeat; it is in no disparaging tone that I have called Scott “ the priest of the outer court.” For we do a base wrong to the glories of that Great Temple, if we think that only in its inmost recesses are to be found those forms of grandeur, and beauty, and love, which are the objects of the poet's adoration. They are everywhere-throughout all nature in the world of spirit, and in the world of matter--in thoughts that lie almost too deep for utterance--in the passions that float, brilliant or terrible, upon the stream of life. They meet us in the crowded street; the smoke and dust of the battle cannot hide them on the Alpine peak-in the depths of the untrodden forest—they are there too.
And if you would know whether Walter Scott was a true priest of Nature, ask, not in what shrine he ministered, but whether his homage was paid with the true impassioned loyalty of a poet's heart. I am not afraid of the answer.