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OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE;
ON THE LATTER'S AIM;
SHELLEY AS MAN AND POET,
(BEING A REPRINT OF THE INTRODUCTORY ESSAY TO
FOR E TALK,
Tuis Essay interested me so much when I first read it, that I have got leave from its Writer, and the representatives of its Publisher, whom I thank heartily for their kindness, to reprint it as the first publication of the Browning Society
The interest lay in the fact, that Browning's “utterances” here are his, and not those of any one of the “so many imaginary persons 1” belvind whom he insists on so often hiding himself, and whose necks I, for one, should continually like to wring, whose bodies I would fain kick out of 's the way, in order to get face to face with the poet himself, and hear his own voice speaking his own thoughts, man to man, soul to soul. Straight speaking, straight hitting, suit me best?
The main subject of the Essay is SHELLEY, his life, his nature, work and art. And to any reader of Pauline and Memorabilia 3, it will be no surprise to find (p. 19) that it was the dream of Browning's boyhood to render some signal service to Shelley's fame and memory; while to the student and lover of Shelley, what can be more worthful than the criticism and loving tribute of a mind and spirit like Browning's ? But it was not the praise or estimate of Shelley that drew me to this Essay; it was Browning's statement of his own aim in his own work, both as objective and subjective poet, that so interested me, and that makes the Essay a necessity to every student of Browning who would understand him. We now know in what spirit, with what aim our poet, so far as he is subjective, has undertaken his work :
"He ... is impelled to embody the thing he perceives, not so much with reference to the one below, as to the One above him, the supreme Intelligence which apprehends all things in their absolute truth. ... Not what man sees, but what God sees—the Ideas of Plato, seeds of creation lying burningly on the Divine Hand-it is toward these that he struggles. Not with the combination of humanity in action, but with the primal elements of humanity, he has to do ; and he digs where he stands,-preferring to seek them in his own soul as the nearest reflex of that absolute Mind, according to the intuitions of which he desires to perceive and speak. Such a poet does not deal habitually with the picturesque groupings and tempestuous tossings of the forest-trees, but with their roots and fibres naked to the chalk and stone.” (p. 7, below. See too p. 10, at foot.)
See note to “ Lyrics” in Bells and Pomegranates II, Poems, 1849, Poet. Works, 1863, i. 1, &c.
? The end of The Ring and the Book gives the defence of maskt advances and flank movements :
“Art may tell a truth Obliquely, so the thing shall breed the thought,
Nor wrong the thought, missing the mediate word.” But if the reader is thick-headed, or can't spare time to study and think a poem out, should not a poet give him a helping hand by a 'mediate word '?
3 See too Sordello, Works, 1863, iii, 254-5. My father knew Shelley, attended his wife in 1816, and often told us about him.