Houses of Sleep
Willow Woman
East West
Decline of Taste
Note on Yeats
Oscar Wilde
Again on Hokku
On Poetry
Again on Poetry
Morning Fancy
Ink Slab 





ROSSETTI had enough philosophy and theory, but what is most interesting in him as a poet, I believe, is not in them but in the very place where they were powerless—I mean the place where, like a light which brings out the shadow, they only appeared to present the other indefinable quality. I am glad his forethought and afterthought did not kill his inspiration. His art tried its utmost to give it the best possible light; and he cou!d not be satisfied, as it seems to me, till he had taken its earthly life and flame out, and made it to be an art perfect after all desires. What we have in him. therefore, is the intensity that has subsided, the ecstasy that has become silent, the hope that has come to its rest. I admire the proud manner with which he soared above the journalism of his own day, which exists, not only to-day but any day, only to trouble the heart of art ; however, he made his art, on the other hand, often too uncomfortable to look at simply through over-studied carefulness, and even the [98] saddest sort of zeal, and made us think that the beauty of his song was a confession, not a revelation such as I wish all poetry to be. It was beautiful, of course, when he was right, but in the reverse ease he was a lost one, and perfectly unbearable. It is sad his excessive consciousness turned often to be mere artificiality. I always ask myself, when I read his poems, how long he spent for the distillation of his thought before he finally wrote it; even a poem he wrote on the spot, which was very rare, however, in his case, gives us an impression of great deliberation; this has, doubtless, some advantage, but often results in weakness. He was one of the most fastidious workers in poetry as he was in painting; it seems to me that he hated nothing more than profusion, and from that great hatred of profusion, made his loam of life asunder to create a simple thing. His simplicity was most beautiful as it had clarified from profusion. However, the life he imagined was not a happy one. He was too absolute in aim; his finding it very hard to satisfy himself is rooted in solitariness. The first thing we feel from reading his work is an uncompromising pride in [<99] his art, and the mysterious dash into a world where only a strange intellect knows how to enjoy the material warmth and human softness. It is perfectly outrageous to call him a material-1st; he made himself able, through the very virtue of material, to enter straightway into the heart of spirituality; it is more proper to say that he alone found the right meeting ground of spirit and material. He never could think anything spiritual apart from form and colour; the form and colour were divine themselves in his thought. They were at once the symbol of what they represented in spirit; he could not think of them merely as form and colour He was, in that respect, quite Oriental.
    If he had one great fault as a poet, it was that he always knew, too well indeed, what he was going to write; he could never forget himself. I do not think it was from his over-consciousness of his critical power; it may be that he could not become so bold to trust only in his impulse, or that his own art, he thought, was not a thing to play with, but to respect with all his heart. His intellect was too noble to forget the irriagination; what appeared quite [<100] logical and critical in his emotion is nol the real part at all.
    I have been for many months now studying with my students in college on Rossetti, starting with his lyrics and almost finishing his sonnets. I found that it was more easy in truth for them to understand him (appreciate too), striking enough to say perhaps, than even Longfellow of homespun simplicity. It may be from the reason that they are too old to be content with him at an imaginary fireside, or they are too young yet to really appreciate him as they are in the age when spiritual speculation is more attractive. I think that the acclimatisation of Western art and literature of the modern type which has been encouraged here, though not generally, but among the discerning class, made them feel akin to Rossetti already, even before studying him. And the fact that he had a limitation, which was of an Eastern kind, was doubtless a large reason of this immediate reception; as he never tried to conceal his limitation, it always appeared prominently, but, on the other hand, to delight some people (and us) immensely, He is the poet whom we can [<101] only love or hate; and we are glad we love him. It is perfectly singular to say that you can at once understand all his work, as if a single piece of poem, when you have once found how his energy worked, what association he sought for evoking emotion; and you will find in him rarely a surprise when the sound, colour, and form have become in mutual relation with you; in fact, you will get from him what you expect. From such a point of view, he is never a great poet.
    However, his attitude as a poet is most admirable; and I should say it is not a question with us whether he was a small poet or a big one. Indeed, his attitude makes us respect and think of him perhaps more than he was in fact; what he lacked we will fill at once with imagination, and when he is too perfect our imagination will make him imperfect to advantage, taking its usual free course, and let us feel his fresh beauty; thus he is a gainer in either case. It goes without saying that he was democratic on the one hand; we see only that cosmopolitan side of beauty and emotion, and allow ourselves to speculate and connect with [<102] him a dear friendship. He is one whom we always find to approach and interesting to listen to; while listening, we grow very enthusiastic, and are extremely glad thinking that he wrote most beautifully what we often thought and could not find a voice for.

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