Sunday, June 30, 2019

Stone(d) Byron

-- And who is the best poet, Heron? asked Boland.
-- Lord Tennyson, of course, answered Heron.
-- O, yes, Lord Tennyson, said Nash.  We have all his poetry at home in a book.
At this Stephen forgot the silent vows he had been making and burst out:
-- Tennyson a poet!  Why he's only a rhymester!
-- O, get out! said Heron.  Everyone knows that Tennyson is the greatest poet.
-- And who do you think is the greatest poet? asked Boland, nudging his neighbor.
-- Byron, of course, answered Stephen.

...but Heron went on:
-- In any case Byron was a heretic and immoral too.
-- I don't care what he was, cried Stephen hotly.
-- You don't care whether he was a heretic or not? said Nash.
-- What do you know about it? shouted Stephen.  You never read a line of anything in your life except a trans or Boland either.
-- I know that Byron was a bad man, said Boland.

It was the signal for their onset.  Nash pinioned his arms behind while Boland seized a long cabbage stump which was lying in the gutter.  Struggling and kicking under the cuts of cane and the blows of the knotty stump Stephen was borne back against a barbed wire fence.
-- Admit that Byron was no good.
-- No.
-- Admit.
-- No.
-- Admit.
-- No.  No.

(Text excerpted from Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.)

Friday, June 28, 2019

Matthew Arnold on William Wordsworth; or, "On the Worth and Importance of Greatest Hits Collections" (Excerpts)

Wordsworth, has been in his grave for some thirty 
years, and certainly his lovers and admirers cannot flatter 
themselves that this great and steady light of glory as yet 
shines over him. He is not fully recognised at home; 
he is not recognised at all abroad. Yet I firmly believe 
that the poetical performance of Wordsworth is, after 
that of Shakspeare and Milton, of which all the world 
now recognises the worth, undoubtedly the most consid- 
erable in our language from the Elizabethan age to the 
present time. Chaucer is anterior ; and on other grounds, 
too, he cannot well be brought into the comparison. 
But taking the roll of our chief poetical names, besides 
Shakspeare and Milton, from the age of Elizabeth down- 
wards, and going through it, — Spenser, Dryden, Pope, 
Gray, Goldsmith, Cowper, Burns, Coleridge, Scott, Camp- 
bell, Moore, Byron, Shelley, Keats (I mention those only 
who are dead), — I think it certain that Wordsworth's 
name deserves to stand, and will finally stand, above 
them all. Several of the poets named have gifts and 
excellences which Wordsworth has not. But taking the 
performance of each as a whole, I say that Wordsworth 
seems to me to have left a body of poetical work superior 
in power, in interest, in the qualities which give endur- 
ing freshness, to that which any one of the others has 

It seems to me that Wordsworth has left be- 
hind him a body of poetical work which wears, and 
will wear, better on the whole than the performance of 
any one of these personages, so far more brilliant and 
celebrated, most of them, than the homely poet of 
Rydal. Wordsworth's performance in poetry is on the 
whole, in power, in interest, in the qualities which give 
enduring freshness, superior to theirs. 

The Excursion and the Prelude, his poems of greatest 
bulk, are by no means Wordsworth's best work. His 
best work is in his shorter pieces, and many indeed are 
there of these which are of first-rate excellence. But in 
his seven volumes the pieces of high merit are mingled 
with a mass of pieces very inferior to them; so inferior 
to them that it seems wonderful how the same poet 
should have produced both. Shakspeare frequently has 
lines and passages in a strain quite false, and which are 
entirely unworthy of him. But one can imagine his 
smiling if one could meet him in the Elysian Fields and 
tell him so; smiling and replying that he knew it perfectly 
well himself, and what did it matter? But with Words- 
worth the case is different. Work altogether inferior, 
work quite uninspired, flat and dull, is produced by him 
with evident unconsciousness of its defects, and he pre- 
sents it to us with the same faith and seriousness as his 
best work. Now a drama or an epic fill the mind, and one 
does not look beyond them; but in a collection of short 
pieces the impression made by one piece requires to be 
continued and sustained by the piece following. In 
reading Wordsworth the impression made by one of his 
fine pieces is too often dulled and spoiled by a very infe- 
rior piece coming after it. 

Wordsworth composed verses during a space of some 
sixty years; and it is no exaggeration to say that within 
one single decade of those years, between 1798 and 1808, 
almost all his really first-rate work was produced. A 
mass of inferior work remains, work done before and 
after this golden prime, imbedding the first-rate work 
and clogging it, obstructing our approach to it, chilling, 
not un frequently, the high-wrought mood with which we 
leave it. To be recognised far and wide as a great poet, 
to be possible and receivable as a classic, Wordsworth 
needs to be relieved of a great deal of the poetical bag- 
gage which now encumbers him. To administer this re- 
lief is indispensable, unless he is to continue to be a poet 
for the few only, a poet valued far below his real worth 
by the world. 

There is another thing. Wordsworth classified his 
poems not according to any commonly received plan of 
arrangement, but according to a scheme of mental 
physiology. He has poems of the fancy, poems of the 
imagination, poems of sentiment and reflexion, and so 
on. His categories are ingenious but far-fetched, and 
the result of his employment of them is unsatisfactory. 

Poems are separated one from another which possess a 
kinship of subject or of treatment far more vital and 
deep than the supposed unity of mental origin which was 
Wordsworth's reason for joining them with others. 

Disengaged from the quantity of inferior work which 
now obscures them, the best poems of Wordsworth, I 
hear many people say, would indeed stand out in great 
beauty, but they would prove to be very few in number, 
scarcely more than half-a-dozen. I maintain, on the 
other hand, that what strikes me with admiration, what 
establishes in my opinion Wordsworth's superiority, is 
the great and ample body of powerful work which 
remains to him, even after all his inferior work has been 
cleared away. He gives us so much to rest upon, so 
much which communicates his spirit and engages ours! 

This is of very great importance. If it were a com- 
parison of single pieces, or of three or four pieces, by each 
poet, I do not say that Wordsworth would stand deci- 
sively above Gray, or Burns, or Coleridge, or Keats, or 
Manzoni, or Heine. It is in his ampler body of powerful 
work that I find his superiority. His good work itself, 
his work which counts, is not all of it, of course, of equal 
value. Some kinds of poetry are in themselves lower 
kinds than others. The ballad kind is a lower kind; the 
didactic kind, still more, is a lower kind. Poetry of this 
latter sort, counts, too, sometimes, by its biographical 
interest partly, not by its poetical interest pure and sim- 
ple ; but then this can only be when the poet producing it 
has the power and importance of Wordsworth, a power 
and importance which he assuredly did not establish by 
such didactic poetry alone. Altogether, it is, I say, by 
the great body of powerful and significant work which 
remains to him, after every reduction and deduction has 
been made, that Wordsworth's superiority is proved. 

To exhibit this body of Wordsworth's best work, to 
clear away obstructions from around it, and to let it 
speak for itself, is what every lover of Wordsworth 
should desire. Until this has been done, Wordsworth, 
whom we, to whom he is dear, all of us know and feel to be 
so great a poet, has not had a fair chance before the 
world. When once it has been done, he will make his way 
best not by our advocacy of him, but by his own worth 
and power. We may safely leave him to make his way 
thus, we who believe that a superior worth and power in 
poetry finds in mankind a sense responsive to it and 
disposed at last to recognise it. Yet at the outset, before 
he has been duly known and recognised, we may do 
Wordsworth a service, perhaps, by indicating in what his 
superior power and worth will be found to consist, and 
in what it will not. 

Long ago, in speaking of Homer, I said that the noble 
and profound application of ideas to life is the most 
essential part of poetic greatness." I said that a great 
poet receives his distinctive character of superiority from 
his application, under the conditions immutably fixed by 
the laws of poetic beauty and poetic truth, from his ap- 
plication, I say, to his subject, whatever it may be, of 
the ideas 

" On man, on nature, and on human life,"

which he has acquired for himself. The line quoted is 
Wordsworth's own; and his superiority arises from his 
powerful use, in his best pieces, his powerful application 
to his subject, of ideas "on man, on nature, and on 
human life." 

Voltaire, with his signal acuteness, most truly re- 
marked that "no nation has treated in poetry moral 
ideas with more energy and depth than the English 
nation." And he adds : "There, it seems to me, is the 
great merit of the English poets." Voltaire does not 
mean, by "treating in poetry moral ideas," the compos- 
ing moral and didactic poems; — that brings us but a very 
little way in poetry. He means just the same thing as 
was meant when I spoke above "of the noble and pro- 
found application of ideas to life"; and he means the 
application of these ideas under the conditions fixed for 
us by the laws of poetic beauty and poetic truth. If it 
is said that to call these ideas moral ideas is to introduce 
a strong and injurious limitation, I answer that it is to do 
nothing of the kind, because moral ideas are really so 
main a part of human life. The question, how to live, 
is itself a moral idea; and it is the question which most 
interests every man, and with which, in some way or 
other, he is perpetually occupied. A large sense is of 
course to be given to the term moral. Whatever bears 
upon the question, "how to live," comes under it. 

" Nor love thy life, nor hate ; but, what thou liv'st. 
Live well ; how long or short, permit to heaven." 

In those fine lines, Milton utters, as every one at once 
perceives, a moral idea. Yes, but so too, when Keats 
consoles the forward-bending lover on the Grecian 
Urn, the lover arrested and presented in immortal re- 
lief by the sculptor's hand before he can kiss, with the 

"For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair" — 

he utters a moral idea. When Shakspeare says, that 

"We are such stuff 
As dreams are made of, and our little life 
Is rounded with a sleep," 

he utters a moral idea. 

Voltaire was right in thinking that the energetic and 
profound treatment of moral ideas, in this large sense, is 
what distinguishes the English poetry. He sincerely 
meant praise, not dispraise or hint of limitation; and 
they err who suppose that poetic limitation is a necessary 
consequence of the fact, the fact being granted as Voltaire 
states it. If what distinguishes the greatest poets is their 
powerful and profound application of ideas to life, which 
surely no good critic will deny, then to prefix to the term 
ideas here the term moral makes hardly any difference, 
because human life itself is in so preponderating a degree 

It is important, therefore, to hold fast to this: that 
poetry is at bottom a criticism of life; that the greatness 
of a poet lies in his powerful and beautiful application of 
ideas to life, — to the question: How to live. Morals are 
often treated in a narrow and false fashion, they are 
bound up with systems of thought and belief which 
have had their day, they are fallen into the hands of 
pedants and professional dealers, they grow tiresome to 
some of us. We find attraction, at times, even in a 
poetry of revolt against them; in a poetry which might 
take for its motto Omar Kheyam's "" words: "Let us 
make up in the tavern for the time which we have wasted 
in the mosque." Or we find attractions in a poetry 
indifferent to them, in a poetry where the contents may 
be what they will, but where the form is studied and 
exquisite. We delude ourselves in either case; and the 
best cure for our delusion is to let our minds rest upon 
that great and inexhaustible word life, until we learn to 
enter into its meaning. A poetry of revolt against moral 
ideas is a poetry of revolt against life; a poetry of in- 
difference towards moral ideas is a poetry of indifference 
towards life.

Epictetus "had a happy figure for things like the play 
of the senses, or literary form and finish, or argumen- 
tative ingenuity, in comparison with "the best and 
master thing" for us, as he called it, the concern, how to 
live. Some people were afraid of them, he said, or they 
disliked and undervalued them. Such people were 
wrong; they were unthankful or cowardly. But the 
things might also be over-prized, and treated as final 
when they are not. They bear to life the relation which 
inns bear to home. "As if a man, journeying home, 
and finding a nice inn on the road, and liking it, were 
to stay for ever at the inn! Man, thou hast forgotten 
thine object; thy journey was not to this, but through 
this.' But this inn is taking." And how many other 
inns, too, are taking, and how many fields and meadows! 
but as places of passage merely. You have an object, 
which is this: to get home, to do your duty to your 
family, friends, and fellow-countrymen, to attain inward 
freedom, serenity, happiness, contentment. Style takes 
your fancy, arguing takes your fancy, and you forget your 
home and want to make your abode with them and to 
stay with them, on the plea that they are taking. Who 
denies that they are taking? but as places of passage, as 
inns. And when I say this, you suppose me to be 
attacking the care for style, the care for argument. I 
am not; I attack the resting in them, the not looking to 
the end which is beyond them." 

The idea of the high instincts and affec- 
tions coming out in childhood, testifying of a divine home 
recently left, and fading away as our life proceeds, — this 
idea, of undeniable beauty as a play of fancy, has itself 
not the character of poetic truth of the best kind; it has 
no real solidity. The instinct of delight in Nature and 
her beauty had no doubt extraordinary strength in 
Wordsworth himself as a child. But to say that uni- 
versally this instinct is mighty in childhood, and tends to 
die away afterwards, is to say what is extremely doubtful. 
In many people, perhaps with the majority of educated 
persons, the love of nature is nearly imperceptible at ten 
years old, but strong and operative at thirty. 
Wordsworth tells of what all seek, and tells of it at its truest and 
best source, and yet a source where all may go and draw 
for it. 

Nevertheless, we are not to suppose that everything is 
precious which Wordsworth, standing even at this peren- 
nial and beautiful source, may give us. Wordsworthians 
are apt to talk as if it must be. They will speak with 
the same reverence of The Sailor's Mother for example, 
as of Lucy Gray. They do their master harm by such 
lack of discrimination. Lucy Gray is a beautiful success; 
The Sailor's Mother is a failure. To give aright what he 
wishes to give, to interpret and render successfully, is not 
always within Wordsworth's own command. It is within 
no poet's command; here is the part of the Muse, the 
inspiration, the God, the "not ourselves." In Words- 
worth's case, the accident, for so it may almost be called, 
of inspiration, is of peculiar importance. No poet, 
perhaps, is so evidently filled with a new and sacred 
energy when the inspiration is upon him; no poet, when 
it fails him, is so left "weak as is a breaking wave." I 
remember hearing him say that "Goethe's poetry was not 
inevitable enough." The remark is striking and true; 
no line in Goethe, as Goethe said himself, but its maker 
knew well how it came there. Wordsworth is right, 
Goethe's poetry is not inevitable; not inevitable enough. 
But Wordsworth's poetry, when he is at his best, is 
inevitable, as inevitable as Nature herself. It might 
seem that Nature not only gave him the matter for his 
poem, but wrote his poem for him. He has no style. 
He was too conversant with Milton not to catch at times 
his master's manner, and he has fine Miltonic lines; 
but he has no assured poetic style of his own, like 
Milton. When he seeks to have a style he falls into 
ponderosity and pomposity. 
Wordsworth owed much to Burns, and a style of perfect 
plainness, relying for effect solely on the weight and 
force of that which with entire fidelity it utters, Burns 
could show him. 

"The poor inhabitant below 
Was quick to learn and wise to know, 
And keenly felt the friendly glow 
And softer flame ; 
But thoughtless follies laid him low 
And stain'd his name."

Every one will be conscious of a likeness here to Words- 
worth; and if Wordsworth did great things with this 
nobly plain manner, we must remember, what indeed he 
himself would always have been forward to acknowledge, 
that Burns used it before him. 

Still Wordsworth's use of it has something unique and 
unmatchable. Nature herself seems, I say, to take the 
pen out of his hand, and to write for him with her own 
bare, sheer, penetrating power. This arises from two 
causes: from the profound sincereness with which Words- 
worth feels his subject, and also from the profoundly 
sincere and natural character of his subject itself. He 
can and will treat such a subject with nothing but the 
most plain, first-hand, almost austere naturalness. His 
expression may often be called bald, as, for instance, in 
the poem of Resolution and Independence; but it is bald 
as the bare mountain tops are bald, with a baldness which 
is full of grandeur. 

Wherever we meet with the successful balance, in 
Wordsworth, of profound truth of subject with profound 
truth of execution, he is unique. His best poems are 
those which most perfectly exhibit this balance.

On the whole, then, as I said at the beginning, not 
only is Wordsworth eminent by reason of the goodness 
of his best work, but he is eminent also by reason of 
the great body of good work which he has left to us. 
With the ancients I will not compare him. In many 
respects the ancients are far above us, and yet there is 
something that we demand which they can never give. 
Leaving the ancients, let us come to the poets and poetry 
of Christendom. Dante, Shakspeare, Moliere, Milton, 
Goethe, are altogether larger and more splendid lumi- 
naries in the poetical heaven than Wordsworth. But I 
know not where else, among the moderns, we are to find 
his superiors. 

To disengage the poems which show his power, and 
to present them to the English-speaking public and to 
the world, is the object of this volume. I by no means 
say that it contains all which in Wordsworth's poems is 
I have spoken lightly of Wordsworthians: and if we 
are to get Wordsworth recognised by the public and by 
the world, we must recommend him not in the spirit of a 
clique, but in the spirit of disinterested lovers of poetry. 
But I am a Wordsworthian myself....
It is not for nothing that one has been brought 
up in the veneration of a man so truly worthy of homage; 
that one has seen him and heard him, lived in his neigh- 
bourhood and been familiar with his country. No Words- 
worthian has a tenderer affection for this pure and sage 
master than I, or is less really offended by his defects. 
But Wordsworth is something more than the pure and 
sage master of a small band of devoted followers, and 
we ought not to rest satisfied until he is seen to be what 
he is. He is one of the very chief glories of English 
Poetry; and by nothing is England so glorious as by her 
poetry. Let us lay aside every weight which hinders our 
getting him recognised as this, and let our one study be 
to bring to pass, as widely as possible and as truly as 
possible, his own word concerning his poems : — "They 
will co-operate with the benign tendencies in human na- 
ture and society, and will, in their degree, be efficacious 
in making men wiser, better, and happier." 

Friday, June 14, 2019

"Lo-Fi Summer Single (2018)"

Thursday, January 31, 2019

"To Carry You Home" by Olde(r) Love(rs)

Friday, January 4, 2019

Introducing Olde(r) Love(rs)

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Stone Byron