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POEMS OF OWEN MEREDITH (THE EARL OF LYTTON).
SELECTED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION, BY M. BETHAM-EDWARDS.
"Und so do ist der Dichter zugleich Lehrer, Wahrsager, Freund der Gõtter and der Menschen." -- Wilhelm Meister.
THE WALTER SCOTT PUBLISHING CO., LTD
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NEW YORK: 3 EAST 14TH STREET.
From "CLYTEMESTRA" - Clytemestra .... 1
From "THE WANDERER" -
The Magic Iand" ...... 8
Desire .. 9
Fatality ...... 10
Thoughts at Sunrise .... 12
Thoughts at Sunset .. 12
To Irene ........ 15
An Evening in Tuscany .. 16
The Storm .. 19
Song .... 22
The First Farewell . 23
Forbearance .. 23
To a Woman; or, the Last Wish . 24
A Love-Letter .. 24
The Message .. 31
Sea-Side Elegiaes .. 47
The Shore . 49
The Vampire .. 51
A Remonstrance ...... 52
Meeting Again ...... 56
Earth's Havings ...... 67
The Last Farewell .. 69
The Last Assurance .. . 61
The Deserted Palace 61
The Buried Heart .. 62
How these Songs were made .. 64
The Portrait ........ 65
Going back again ...... 70
Two out of the Crowd 7I
Bluebeard .. 78
Resurrection . 78
The Chess-board . 83
Fata Morgana .. 84
Consolation .. 88
A Footstep 89
Requiescat . 90
Madame la Marquise . 91
Good-night in the Porch .. 97
Spring and Winter ...... 108
SONG FROM "LUCILE "- The Bird of Paradise .. 109 [Canto II, verse 31]
FROM "SONGS OF SERVIA "-
The Stag and the Vila .. 113
Love and Sleep ...... 114
Tittle Tattle .. 116
Love confers Nobility .. 117
Neglected Flowers ...... 117
FROM "CHRONICLES AND CHARACTERS "-
Genseric .. 118
The Dauphin ........ 119
Misery .. 123
The Apple of Life ...... 132
Last Words .. 142
FROM " ORVAL "- Epithalamium ..148
FROM "MISCELLANEOUS POEMS"-
Ode to a Starling ...... 150
The Lay of the Cock .... 153
Little Ella . .. 160
Droppings ...... 163
Know Thyself ..... 164
Knowledge and Wisdom ..165
Side by Side .. 165
Divided Lives .. 171
Sacrifice .......... 172
Duty . 173
FROM "FABLES IN SONG"-
Introductory . 174
The Thistle ....... 176
The Far and the Near ... 188
The Blue Mountains; or, The Far .. 188
A Wheat-Stalk; or, The Near .. 196
Lost Treasures 200
Only a Shaving ....... 204
Questionable Consolation .. 208
FROM "GLENAVERIL "--
Part I, Canto II ..... 212
Human Destinies ...... 215
The Family .Board ...... 217
FROM "AFTER PARADISE"-
North and South ...... 219
Athens .. 220
Cintra .. 220
Sorrento Revisited ...... 228
A Sigh .. 228
Necromancy .. 229
Strangers . 229
AS the nosegay indicates the luxuriance of the garden, so should a selection epitomise the genius o£ the poet. Old acquaintances are reminded of many a familiar flower, strangers are enticed to enter. If the first may miss more than one especial favourite, they will still feel grateful for so much beauty presented to them in small compass; if the last cannot roam over the entire domain, they are compensated by the gift of lily or rose. "The poet," writes the all-sympathetic Goethe," is alike teacher, seer, the friend of gods and men." A more modest yet gracious and self-rewarding function is that of the poet's interpreter, of one who culls choicest blossoms of poesy for others, pointing to the pleasance wherein they grow.
It is no easy task to review in a few short pages the poetic career of Owen Meredith and the Earl of Lytton, one and the same person, yet characterised by work so widely divergent in scope and treatment as to suggest two individualities. No less might doubtless be averred of many another poet, but authorship and personality in their case being united from the onset, such contrasts are less striking. With a constancy, almost universally witnessed, a constancy often illogical enough, the vast majority of readers prefer the poet's earlier to his later utterances -- Owen Meredith to the Earl of Lytton. Such is the verdict passed on most writers winning the laurel crown in early youth. Perhaps the world is too lazy, too pre-occupied, to bestow the same amount of thought and sympathy upon their maturer achievements; it is so difficult, moreover, to believe that the same wand can enchant us twice over! But may there not in this case be another reason? When a writer has pleased, his readers, for the most part, wish to go on being pleased in the same way; no matter how often he repeats himself, if the repetition is up to his standard, nothing more is expected or asked of him. When every new work is a wholly new departure, the striking out of a new path, then he is sure, at least for a time, to forfeit popularity; he is under the necessity of creating has public. Thus it has come about that the poetic achievements of Lord Lytton's maturer years still await the fame they deserve. In the words of an able critic, "The first work in which Lord Lytton's genius did itself full justice was Glenaveril, published in 1885. By this time Owen Meredith, the poet, had well-nigh been forgotten in the Earl of Lytton, diplomatist and statesman. The great originality of this work, its wealth of ideas and creation of character, obtained no adequate recognition."  My endeavour has been to make the accompanying selection a representative one, revealing the various aspects of a many-sided genius, the subtle and the sportive, the picturesque and the reflective, the dramatic and psychological. It has also been my plan to avoid fragmentariness, and give, with one or two exceptions, only such pieces as are complete in themselves. This arrangement has necessarily led to the exclusion of descriptive passages of great brilliance and beauty, but which, gems removed from their setting, were more suited to a volume of mere extracts.
Middle-aged lovers of poetry well remember the pleasure with which they hailed the appearance of Clytemnestra. Seldom indeed has a first attempt secured its youthful author such poetic rank. This noble dramatic poem, like the " Iphigenie auf Tauris" of Goethe, is no mere echo of the old Greek drama, but an interpretation in the modern spirit of one of its most striking episodes. In the "Agamemnon," writes Dr. Donaldson, the queen's jealousy of Cassandra and guilty connection with the worthless Aegisthus, who does not make his appearance till towards the end, are scarcely touched upon as motives, and remain in the background. In Owen Meredith's Clytemnestra, her vacillating lover, like Macbeth, eager to reap the fruits of crime, but shrinking from the crime itself, is a prominent figure, the protagonist of the play, the faithless wife adducing reprisals for her slaughtered child in order to excuse the murder of her husband.
"Whate'er I am, be sure that I am that
Which thou hast made me, -- nothing of myself,"
is her passionate outpouring to Aegisthus, calling forth the fervid reply --
"Oh, you are a Queen,
That should have none but gods to rule over!
Make me immortal with one costly kiss!"
Readers will do well to turn from the extract here given, a piece of description complete in itself, to the account of the same event in the old drama.
The difference between the ancient and modern spirit is strikingly brought out. In.Aeschylus the sacrifice at Aulis reads like a page out of the "Prometheus Bound." All is rugged, stern, awe-inspiring. The poet of our own day softens the picture, a magic spell overtakes us as we read, the harmony of the numbers takes from the horror of the scene described.
Touching too, and serving as a relief to the sombre story, is the scene between the young Orestes and his sister Electra, the affectionate, neglected daughter of the murderess Queen, who, wedded to a herdsman, is the heroine of one of Euripides' charming plays.
With Clytemnestra appeared "The Earl's Return," abounding in weird description, and also some shorter pieces, several of which, old favourites, are here reproduced.
Owen Meredith's next volume, The Wanderer, was received even more warmly than the first, and here the task of selection has been comparatively easy. "The Portrait," "The Marquise," "Midges," "A Love-Letter," are among the poet's brilliant triumphs of this period. "To a Woman," in later volumes called "The Last Wish," is an entire love-story and life-story in four lines.
A few years later appeared Lucile. The author, in his touching dedication to his illustrious father, spoke of the doubt and discouragement with which he gave his new poem to the world, following a path in which he could discover no footprints before him either to guide or warn.
In reality Lucile, athough an experiment, possessed all the elements of popularity. This novel in verse appealed alike to young and old, to the practical and romantic. It contained deep human interest, a note of lofty moral aspiration, abundant knowledge of the world, a moving story having a picturesque background; lastly, the narrative was in flouring, graceful verse. The local colour of the early portion, that part of the scene laid in the Pyrenees, is especially attractive; as we read, we breathe the pine-scented air of the forest, gaze upon the deep gorges and flower?besprinkled dells, hear the thunder of the storm amid the mountains. Lucile is said to be the most popular narrative poem in America, but has not yet been given to the English public in a form within reach of all. A cheap edition of this charming story would be a public boon.
In the following year (1861) the Songs of Servia were given to the world. "What they are," wrote the poet in his Introduction, "let the reader decide. What they are meant to be is nothing more than a rude medium through which to convey to other minds something of the impression made upon my own by the poetry of a people among whom literature is yet unborn; who in the nineteenth century retain, with the traditions, many also of the habits arid customs of a barbarous age; and whose social life represents the struggle of centuries to maintain under the code of Mahomet, the creed of Christ.
"It is indeed this strange intermixture of Mahometan with Christian associations which gives to the poetry of the Servs its most striking characteristics. It is the sword of a Crusader in the scabbard of a Turk. That, however, which mainly distinguishes this from all other contemporary poetry with which I am acquainted is the evidence borne on the face of it, of an origin, not in the heads of a few but in the hearts of all. This is a Poetry of which the People is the Poet!"
Awaiting a popular re-issue of the Serbski Pesme, all familiar with these "native wood-notes wild" will welcome old favourites here, whilst readers now introduced to them for the first time will enjoy a poetic treat. Artless, joyous, or plaintive by turns, we are reminded as we read of the national Slavonic music, especially of the songs of the Steppes, as lately rendered in Paris by a band of Russian vocalists. Just as the physiognomies of the singers were strikingly contrasted with their voices, the men having many of them wild half?Tartar faces, whilst their singing was of the sweetest, tenderest, most pathetic imaginable; so in the Sons of Servica, the naiveté, even ruggedness of the measures, are allied with airiest fancy and melancholy grace. In both, too, is conspicuous a certain espieglerie, a roguishness, in keeping with themes so primitive, an art so untutored.
From the succeeding volumes, Chronicles and Characters (1869), selection has necessarily been limited. The length of these poems, mostly narrative, has shut them out of a volume limited in size, yet nowhere else are the author's wealth of fancy and mastery of versification more apparent. Lord Lytton revels to rhyme, and has made some developments of it peculiarly his own, a point returned to later on. These poems are all rhymed, and abound in striking description. Take, for example, the passage entitled "A Blind Man sees far," from the "Siege of Constantinople." Alone sits the sightless old Doge Dandolo, and beholds with his mental vision the triumph of Venice in the East. He
----- saw, as in a trance,
Constructed out of golden circumstance,
The steadfast image of a far-off thing
Glorious and full of wonder...
Into the deep blue sky the golden spires
That top the milk-white towers, like windless fires;
O'er gardened slopes, slant shafts of plumy palm
Lean seaward from hot hillsides breathing balm.
Green, azure, and vermilion, fret with gold,
Blaze the domed roofs in many a globed fold
Of splendour, set with silver studs and discs:
And, underneath, the solemn obelisks
And sombre cypress stripe with blackest shade
Sea terraces, by summer overlaid
With such a lavish sunlight as o'erflows
And drops between thick clusters of wild rose
And clambering sparweed, down the sleepy walls
To the broad base of granite pedestals
That prop the grated ramparts, round about
The wave-girt city; whence flow in and out
The wealth and wonder of the Orient World:
And, high o'er all this populous pomp, unfurled
In the sublime dominions of the sun,
And fanned, by boating Bosphorus breezes won
To waft to Venice each triumphant bark
The winged and warrior Lion of St. Mark?"
Or take this description of Cyprus from "Caterina Cornaro":--
" In Cyprus, where 'live Summer never dies,
Love's native land is. There the seas, the skies,
Are blue and lucid as the looks, the air
Fervid and fragrant as the breath and hair,
Of Beauty's Queen; whose gracious godship dwells
In that dear island of delicious dells,
Mid lavish lights and languid glooms divine.
There doth she her sly, dainty sceptre twine
With seabank myrtle spray and roses sweet
And full as, when the lips of lovers meet
The first strange time, their sudden kisses be
There doth she lightly reign; there holdeth she
Her laughing court in gleam of lemon groves,
The wanton mother of unnumbered Loves!"
Goethe says somewhere that painters should live in palaces. Doubtless Lord Lytton's poems owe much of their rich colouring to the writer's early acquaintance with some of the loveliest and most favoured regions under the sun. Owen Meredith is indebted to the diplomatist, the ambassador. Readers, compelled to do most of their travels by proxy, may here transport themselves to those romantic lands, which by turns became his home.
The Chronicles and Characteristics must not, however, be regarded entirely from the objective point of view. In some of these pieces reflecting various phases of life, thought, and history, the framework is made subsidiary to the idea, the background to the story. A deep, passionate note of sympathy with suffering humanity, is struck in "Misery" and "The Dauphin"; subtle psychological problems are worked out in "The Botanist's Grave," with its moral--
" The world, perchance after all, knows already enough, what is wanted
Is not to know more but how to imagine, the much that it knows."
Orval, or the Fool of Time, appeared in 1869. Suggested by an analysis of a Polish poem, the work is quite unlike any other by the author. Orval, in turn, suggests Faust, Manfred, and Cyprian of Calderon's famous play. The key-note to his story or to theirs is--
" We are fooled
By time and plagued with granted prayers. Henceforth.
Let man, whose realm is the Actual, leave
To the great God, what by the greedy grasp
Of his impatient passion, man destroys,
-- `The Ideal Beauty!"
The dialogue is in blank verse, and the treatment of a weird, complex story, highly imaginative and poetic.
Fables in Song belong to 1874. It is not easy to characterise these two volumes, containing poems so directly opposed to each other alike in form and spirit. Lord Lytton has made fable-land his own, maybe it is the poetic region in which he most delights. Here we find his charming testimony to Aesop and the fanciful but touching description of "The Forest whose name is Fable," hidden from the busy, unreflective crowd, but accessible to artless, childlike natures.
The stories which may be strictly classified as fable, deal not only with the sayings and doings of the animal world, but of the supposititious sayings and doings of inanimate nature. Every object, natural or artificial, is made a sentient, observant entity, and thus endowed, is able to afford alternate warning, amusement, or instruction. Many of the parables abound in humorous touches. It is a curious region to which we are transported, a region wherein men and women hold only the secondary place, or perhaps do sot so much as exist, whilst even nature is sometimes kept is the background or banished altogether. A consummate knowledge of the world and of the springs moving human conduct is here displayed.
Some of the poems, on the other hand, can hardly come under the category of fable at all. To this list belong "The Wheat-Ear," and " The Thistle," each full of tenderest meaning, and showing the closest observation of nature.
A lapse of nearly tea years brings us down to the publication of Lord Lytton's epic of modern life, Glenaveril. Why is it that whilst Lucile attained immediate popularity, this far more brilliant, original, and finished work yet awaits the recognition it deserves? The reason is not hard to discover. Lucile, sparkling, full of life, colour, and movement, appealed to the vast majority of renders. It is a book for relaxation, not study, one we may put in our pocket, like a novel, for spare moments.
Glenaveril belongs to a wholly different stamp. The plot is very involved. It occupies two closely-printed volumes; it contains political satire sure to offend very large numbers; last of all, it exacts attention.
On the other hand, the two foster-brothers, whose life-story is so intricately and tragically interwoven, the old German pedant, the modern Robinson Crusoe, Cordelia -- could not the author have invented a name for his heroine -- all these are charming creations. Interspersed with the narrative are brilliant passages, reflective and dramatic, also some of those fables and fairy tales in which Lord Lytton has hardly a rival, and his high level of artistic finish is everywhere maintained
Yet even sympathetic readers might desire certain excisions. The work would undoubtedly gain much by judicious condensation. A poem sent into the world in the form of two bulky volumes is unavoidably handicapped from the practical point of view -- to put it bluntly, as a marketable commodity. Only one or two extracts are given from Glenaveril, but readers must go to the poem itself for any grasp of its scope and character.
The following verses may be taken as the keynote:--
"What she sees in love
Is life's moat sacred mission from above.
A mission to which few are called, perchance,
And fewer still are chosen, to effect
The revelation and deliverance
Of a sublime evangel, whose elect
Evangelists, each worldly circumstance
That contradicts its troth, must need reject ...
How should I know what passes in the high
Ethereal regions of which some like hers
Are the inhabitants! Such regions lie
Beyond my reach, where Earth with Heaven confers!
Yet though I cannot comprehend them, I
The more revere those wondrous characters
Whose lives bestow on all the human race
A higher dignity, a grander grace.
And is that girl I humbly reeqgniae
One of those rare surpassing souls whose glow
Gladdens the world with beautiful surprise,
Like great creative poets."
The speaker is a blunt, shrewd, matter-of-fact American. In George Eliot's novels, the painful problem almost invariably before us is the subjection of the more elevated nature to the inferior. In Glenaveril we find a cheerfuller, we will hope, truer theory. The effect of ideal characters upon those infinitely below them, only attracted upward by virtue of sympathy, is subtly and beautifully worked out.
With the little volume entitled After Paradise; or, Legends of Exile (1887) closes this brief survey. Concerning the poet's latest effort I cannot do better than quote from a critic before alluded to. "The best of these poems are not only superior to anything Lord Lytton has yet produced, but are such as to entitle him to a very high place among contemporary poets. The merit, however, of these last is of a peculiar order, and that, perhaps, not likely to attract a very large circle of readers. The peculiarity consists in a combination of two elements -- the fantastic and the philosophical. Lord Lytton transports us into a world of airy fancy, a world purely imaginative; yet through all the imagination the reflective vein runs so strongly as to make it clear that as much importance is attached to the underlying thought as to the poetical medium in which it is conveyed. In this peculiar department of poetry Lord Lytton appears to us to have established something like a claim to pre-eminence. The `Legend of Music' and `UrieI' are poems as original as they are beautiful, and we do not think any other living writer could have produced them.... For originality, for wealth of poetic diction, for the harmonious flow of its verse, and for the subtle and creative fancy which it displays, the `Legend of Music' deserves to take its rank with the best poems the century has produced"
The Legends of Exile form a series, and must be read as a whole to be understood and appreciated. On this account, also because of its length, much to my regret, I have been obliged to leave out the "Legend of Music," which would best convey the spirit and range of the volume.
Whence comes the Ideal? This is the problem the poet has set himself to work out, on lines of his own. Imbued with the philosophy of Plato, he regards,
"Our birth as but a sleep and a forgetting "--
knowledge as a reminiscence of what we have experienced in a former condition.
" Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing."
The Ideal is therefore memory, a bright ray shot up from a sun that has for ever sank behind our mortal horirron. It will easily be seen how well the Biblical story of the Fall lends itself to such a theory. Music, love, poetry, are recollections, dreams, the Ideal itself a golden vision, never to be grasped. Pessimistic as is this doctrine, and opposed to the modern Socialistic dictum, "The Golden Age is before us and not behind," we must remember that the poet's ideal refers to spiritual things only, not to the material side of existence, which certainly shows a progressive and no retrograde movement. Is there riot truth here? Can we look about us and feel sure that we are any nearer an inner ideal of life than Plato? Is there not a certain measure of truth in Renan's wail over the gradual vulgarisation of life and society? 
In "Uriel" and "Strangers," detached pieces forming no part of The Legends of Exile, the same theme is handled with great power and pathos.
The first is a parable which each reader may interpret after his own fashion. Be they "bright-eyed desires," passions, enthusiasms, or ideals, the Legions which Uriel led forth to do battle with the world, at the bidding -- shall we say of duty, ambition, love, or imagination? -- lie vanquished around him. He is but chief of a slaughtered band. Yet once more the voice makes itself heard, urges him forth a second time to became the sport of destiny, to be finally crushed and overcome. In the cold, cynical atmosphere of disenchantment he hears another voice -?
" Some say it is Despair,
And others say it is Experience."
" Strangers" will appear at first sight to many readers fragmentary,
obscure, perhaps incoherent. Those who read and re-read will, we think, accord
it a foremost place among Lord Lytton's shorter poems. The deepest note of human
feeling is here struck. And it is one of sadness, even of despair. The ideal
world of spiritual-minded humanity is a disillusion. Love, able to re-create
after its own image, becomes in turn victim of its magnanimity. The mission
of the lofty, angelic nature, is to love, to sacrifice self and to suffer! --
a conclusion sad enough, but borne out by the history of the world from the
beginning until now.
Our poet, whose sympathy is ever with what is elevated and noble, leaves a more inspiriting message to the work-a-day world.
"Deep in Natures undrained Cornucopia,
Every good that man seeks, he shall find:
And to fools, only fools is Utopia
The abode of the hopes of mankind.
For whate'er God hath made for man's good
He hath granted man means to attain;
Say thou therefore `I will,' not `I would,'
Undeterred by the coward's disdain."
Having now surveyed the harvest, we offer this sheaf of golden grain, feeling sure that the reader's thanks, as well as our own, will be heartily accorded the generous author who has permitted such lavish gleanings.
Note: In accordance with Lord Lytton's wishes, the poems, as far as possible, appear according to the date of their original publication. Many of the early pieces are from revised versions.
 See the Scots' Review, 1887.
 Donaldson's Theatre of the Greeks.
 "Pent-etre la, vulgarite generale sera-t-elle un jour la condition du bonheur des elus. La vulgarite Amerricaine ne brulerait point Bruno, ne persecuterait point Galilee. Nous u'avous pas le droit d'etre fort difficiles." -- Renan, Souvenirs de Jeunesse.