Sort by lot low to high lot high to low View 20 50 La raison atteint sa limite. Espagne Souvenirs. Pas de deux. In Verlegung des Autoris. Leipzig, in Commission bey Boetii Seel. Leipzig, Paillart, , p. Suchalla, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Au sujet de la musique de Reynado Hahn pour le ballet Le Dieu bleu.
Palladium prints by Richard Benson. Professor Stup von Bonn ist auch hier. Sieghard Brandenburg, Munich, Treitschke vom L. Gleich ihre Ankunft in Wien hatte ich in der Zeitung gelesen u. H mit inningster Theilnahme gehorsammst treuster Diener. Sonata quasi una Fantasia… Op. It is interesting, as showing how natural and deep-rooted such allegory was in the popular mind of the Middle Ages, that a century and a half later, when the poor weavers of another rising, that of , were asked by the Duke of Norfolk who their leader was, one John Green replied in exactly the same strain — 'My lord, since you ask who is our captain, forsooth his name is Poverty, for he and his cousin Necessity have brought us to this doing.
Two Poets of the Peasantry 45 decapitated amid the yells and cat-calls of the mob; 10 religious houses were stormed; and lawyers above all found themselves so hunted down that it was death in some places to be seen wearing an ink-horn. Both then and when reaction, that summer, covered the fields of Kent and Essex with their grim harvest of gibbets, Lang- land must have been glad to lie low.
A third and last time in the nineties, with a more cautious hand, he revised his great patchwork quilt. There are signs now of en- feeblement; though in a gallant effort to keep up with the times the old man equips the defences of the Devil against Christ's Harrowing of Hell with 'brasene gonnes' — -just a little less incongruous, perhaps, than those Malory gives to Sir Modred in his revolt against King Arthur, or Chaucer to Augustus at Actium. But there is no reference at all in this final version to the rising of the poor serfs who had taken in vain the name of Piers Plowman in 10 The vocal powers of the rebels seem particularly to have shaken the nerves of their betters.
Walsingham, the monk of St. Albans, gives an amazing account of this scene and the behaviour of these 'rustici, ribaldi perditissimi, ganeones daemoniaci' — Piers Plowman seen from a very different angle. His pen trembles in his hand as he describes the rabble with their hideous names: Watte vocat, cui Thomme venit, neque Symme retardat, Bette que Gibbe simul Hykke venire iubent. They sneeze as fiercely as asses, bellow like bulls, grunt still more horribly, like swine — 'porcorum grunnitus horridiores'; they bark like dogs, howl like wolves, roar like lions, buzz like wasps, hiss like geese.
It all recalls some Bolshevik caricature of a quaking bourgeoisie. By , before the fall of his ill-fated 'kitten', Richard II, the poet himself seems to have been dead. His very grave was soon forgotten. His work lived on orphaned of his name. Yet it lived. Piers Plowman became a stock figure, like the now almost equally extinct John Bull during the last two centuries.
In 15 50 Piers Plowman itself attained the dignity of print. Crowley, its printer, admonishes his readers that, its alliterative system once grasped, 'The metre shall be very pleasaunt to reade'; and that the lan- guage though 'somewhat darcke' need not deter them, if only they will pull themselves together and 'not sticke to break the shell of the nutte for the kernclles sake' — the kernel being the benefit of finding their own short- comings 'here most charitably rebuked'.
The appetite of our ancestors for being 'charitably rebuked' and also, no doubt, for seeing the Papists rebuked not so charitably, carried the book through three editions in that one year and a fourth in There are also allusions to the poem in Bishops Bale and Ridley, echoes in Skelton and Spen- ser, a paraphrase of part by Drayton. Stow makes its author a Fellow of Oriel; David Buchanan? By Putten- ham and Meres he is fitted, looking rather lost and un- comfortable, into a place in the polite literary pedigree of Satire, between Juvenal and Bishop Hall; a classification Two Poets of the Peasantry 47 repeated by Milton the better to annoy the same bishop, who had rashly claimed to be himself the first of English satirists.
It is even possible that Milton may also have read the C-text, then only in manuscript, if indeed he borrowed from Langland that infernal artillery which too successfully bowls over the angels, and the reader also, in Paradise Lost.
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But that is not, after all, so happy an idea that it might not have occurred to both writers inde- pendently. So too, though Eunyan may have read his predecessor both for The Pilgrim s Progress and for The Holy War, it has to be remembered that allegories tend of their nature to have a family likeness. To some, indeed, these years when a Puritan farmer of Huntingdon had become master of England and the dread of Europe, may well have seemed the reign of Piers Plowman realised on earth.
But with the Restoration the writer whom Fuller could still celebrate as 'the Morning-star' of the Reforma- tion and 'by Prolepsis a Protestant' was fast setting out of sight. Byron indeed, who in finds him superior to Chaucer a writer 'obscene and contemptible' , may even have read him.
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The fact remains that for two hundred and fifty-two years, from 1 to , there was not a single edition. Since then posterity has made amends, above all by the devoted work of Skeat. And if the poet has been torn limb from limb by Professor Manly and his followers, he has been admirably put together again and his integrity defended by the late M. Jusserand, most cultured and persuasive of ambassadors, and by Professor R.
Indeed perhaps a little more than due amends have been made to him. When scholars have given, pelican-like, their heart's-blood to reanimate some creation long dead, it is most natural that they should be tempted to over-value 48 Studies French and English the fosterling that has cost them so much. And so when Skeat judges Langland, not indeed like Byron greater than Chaucer, but 'equally admirable'; when he cries that 'the supposition of such passages being written by a poet of less power than William is like supposing there may have been two Shakcspeares', with such foster- parental fondness one may sympathise but cannot, surely, even begin to agree.
What is there actually in Langland for the ordinary reader, in a world already overcrowded with good litera- ture? Allegories and sermons we find to-day almost unreadable at best; cer- tainly when, as here, they topple over one another in seething queues to get at us, there is nothing for it but to run. Allegory indeed is a sort of literary algebra. It can please still, but only when handled with a certain mathematical exactitude, a certain witty neatness of mind; as, for instance, with the Musical Banks in Erewhon. In the parables of the New Testament, in a Morality like Everyman, in La Fontaine and Bunyan, Swift and Samuel Butler, such symbolism still succeeds, because it is straight- forward; in Langland, in Spenser, in Blake's prophetic books it fails because it is muddled, and is redeemed only in part by their other qualities.
Allegory is in short a shoe that must fit perfectly, neither too rigid nor too loose, if the work that stands on it is not to limp or shuffle to a lame conclusion. It is in a word no use, like Spenser, making your hero slay Error, only to be led into error by someone else a moment after. And if Langland's method has lost its appeal, so too, for many of us, has his message. His theology has become mythology. The Seven Deadly Sins have retired from public life; we struggle in their place with seventy-seven Two Poets of the Peasantry 49 billion particular cases of conduct, too complicated for such simple principles.
Dragons have given place to microbes; chariots to internal-combustion engines, which it takes more than hammer and bellows to put to rights. And on the positive side does not a great weariness fall upon the mind at injunctions to love everybody, as a panacea for the world's ills?
And do we really want to love the inhabitants of Tasmania, or to be loved by them? Stretched so widely, the word 'love' forfeits all its depth; to gain the world, it loses its meaning. Why then read Langland? Partly for his human in- terest. A character like his, which never relaxes its stern sincerity to trifle even for a moment, is always apt to grow boring; yet it is always interesting also.
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Naked souls are rare; most of them go masked beyond recogni- tion; but Langland, whatever his faults, always rings true. And together with himself he has revealed a great deal of this strange mediaeval world that bred him. But Lang- land is more than food for historians. He is also a vivid artist in his own way — a poet gifted both in eye and ear. To think that he would one day be read for his style, would doubtless have filled him with rage and despair that human souls could be so frivolous. Yet such is the common lot of preachers and moralists.
It is simply that men's feelings about beauty are more vital than their theories about good. Hence this extraordinary fact, which from its familiarity we take for granted, that we can still enjoy even the expression of ideas like Donne's, for instance as obsolete and disgusting, morally, as the old clothes left 50 Studies French and English by a tramp in a ditch, simply for the sake of their language and their imagery. Ruskin was enraged to find it already happening to him in his own lifetime — he thundered of social injustice, and people applauded his style. It hap- pened, too, long before he died, to D.
So with Langland. Taken as a whole, with its drab monotony of manner, matter, and metre of which brief quotations can give little conception , his work seems at times like a vast undulating desert through which the reader toils rrom dusty dune to dune, like a Crusader struggling on in pursuit of a mirage and a Sepulchre, by the shores of a Dead Sea.
It calms him always to contemplate Nature. But though the curlew may live on air, this poet cannot subsist long on the atmosphere of pure poetry; he has always to stoop earthward to catch his wriggling moral. But such moments are brief. The mists of melancholy soon settle again on Malvern Hills, and the endless procession of grey vapours resumes its march across the world of William Langland. II There remains something appealing about this sodden clayland, with its sadly dripping coverts, where Piers Plowman drives his furrow. We have a sense that this is, after all, the England of our ancestry; just as our memories of the neighbourhood where we passed our own child- hood, even if sometimes tinged with dislike, keep a certain persistent and clinging vitality of their own.
Yet, after an hour or two of mediaeval Malvern, I always find myself longing for a bluer, harder sky and lands less widowed of the sun. There comes back to me, though dim and blurred like a face not seen since long ago, the ridge of Helicon, as it rose to southward, though too far aside to reach, when I walked from Delphi to Lebadeia.
I had spent two nights sleeping among wood-shavings on the first floor of a half-built house in Arachova, vainly hoping for the mists to lift from Parnassus. I had eaten my hard-boiled eggs at that parting of the ways where Oedipus, coming too from Delphi, once met and killed his father. And I can still recall that glen leading up into the heart of Helicon, and the mixture of relief and yet regret with which I turned past it, along the track towards Lebadeia and the railway for Athens.
After three weeks alone in the mountains of Northern Greece the longing to hear English speech again had grown too intense; and the sole of my right boot ended an inch short of the toe. And yet, just as intensely, here in these wet green wastes Two Poets of the Peasantry 53 of Piers Plowman's English Midlands I find myself long- ing, almost homesick, for that Greek wilderness again — the cloudless clearness of its distances; the clean, sharp sculpture of its limestone mountains, naked but for their scattered pine and holm-oak and pale, spectral asphodel; the blue of its sky at dawn and sunset, bitten into by the hilltops with their hard and splendid line.
It was twenty- two centuries before Langland that here on Helicon another ploughman met with his very different vision of Poetry. He too was living dimly in the twilight of a heroic age, a world grown meaner and smaller since the day of seven-gated Thebes and windy Troy. He is as far from Homer's chivalry as Langland from Froissart's.
Achilles, like the Black Prince, is a memory, only more remote; and in his place sit 'gift-devouring kings', like John of Gaunt. But it is not for them with their ill-gotten riches, but for the poor that Hesiod, 11 like Langland, sings. He is no court-minstrel. Like an old shepherd piping among the fallen, moss-grown columns of a palace of forgotten kings, he uses the splendours of the Homeric hexameter to talk of ploughing and of bullocks. And yet, like Langland, he too writes of loftier things as well, of prayer as well as labour, of Heaven and Hell, of God and man, of good and evil, with all the homespun wisdom, the proverbs, the fables, of the poor.
The Theogony, a verse-mythology, and the Works and Days, on agriculture, may be by different poets; though it seems to me absurd to argue from the mention of the name 'Hesiod' at the beginning of the Theogony that he did not write the latter. Poets can and, in periods when authorship is difficult to prove, often do name themselves. In any case both these didactic works belong to a Boeotian rural school; and we are mainly concerned here with the Works and Days. But parallels in literature are mainly curiosities; it is the dif- ferences behind the likenesses that are really revealing.
Two Poets of the Peasantry 55 Let the Heliconian Muses first be sung, Mistresses of the great and holy Hill Of Helicon, where with their delicate feet They dance about the violet-shadowed spring And the high altar of great Cronion. With beauty new-bathed in Termessus' fountain, Or Hippocrene, or Olmeios adored, Round topmost Helicon they drew their dancing — Lovely, entrancing, the lilt of their rushing feet: Then, mantled with the mist, they took their way Across the midnight.
Earth, and vast Ocean, and black-mantled Night, And the rest of the sacred race of the Undying. Fair was the song they once taught Hesiod Feeding his flock on holy Helicon; Thus to me then the goddesses began, Daughters of Zeus, the Muses of Olympus: 'Shepherds of the upland, names of shame, mere bellies, Many a lie 12 our lips like truth can utter, But true things, too, at will our tongues can tell. For this sense of rivalry between the two, cf.
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A new sense of colour comes flowing from that 'violet- shadowed spring'. A new sense of beauty dances after, to the great rhythm of the hexameter, with these figures on the mountain-side,' soft-footed', 'fair and lovely', 'fair of song'. And elsewhere Langland casts only a Puritanic frown at the stained glass with which the friars are so busy to bedeck the white radiance of her eternity. Certainly, quite apart from his belief that the deities of the pagan were really devils, he would have been bewildered at the grace and gaiety that flower in this religion of a yet poorer peasantry than his, in a more barren and distracted land.
Whatever darker superstitions from the past persisted late into Greek history, this eternal miracle remains, that the genius of the Greek race, working through story-tellers already nameless and forgotten before Homer was born, could symbolise the forces of life in shapes so lovely and so apt that civilisation has never equalled them again.
Abandoned by faith, by their sheer beauty the gods of Hellas have re-conquered immortality. Whom priest and worshipper deserted, poet and painter have saved. It is possible that the names of Phoebus Apollo and the golden Aphrodite may still have a power to stir the pulses of posterity at some remote date when Jehovah is no more to Western civilisation than Marduk and Amen-Ra. This first great contrast at all events needs no stressing, between the pale abstractions of Piers Plowman — Clergye, Studye, Contricioun, Conscience, or Ymaginatif — and shapes like 'Dionysus rich in revelry' or 'Aphrodite of the danc- ing eyes' or, most typical of all, the Graces: Two Poets of the Peasantry 57 Euphrosyne, Aglaia, fair Thalia, With eyes that glance such looks of loveliness As loose man's limbs.
So fair their glances are. Only the danger of writing about the Greek sense of beauty is that readers come to picture them as a nation of aesthetes, devoting their lives to Art for Art's sake and floating about draped with white sheets, in the intervals of preciously inscribing on waxen tablets a few phrases of elaborately simple maundering. But they were not aesthetes. They cared passionately about conduct.
They lived lives of tireless activity. They would have thought Wordsworth a faineant. One must stand on the hill of Athens and look westward across the Saronic Gulf to the horn of Aegina and, beyond it, the couchant Hon of the Acrocorinth, and north, again, to Mount Parnes, the frontier of Boeotia, to realise how these people spent every hour of their existences with their ancient enemies looking straight into the very doors of their homes. It was as if Berlin were visible from Montmartre. It was only in Alexandria that Greece bred her first bookworms. In the Greek ideal of active life grace, goodness, and intelligence went, like the three Graces, hand in hand.
And so it does not seem incongruous to Hesiod to link here in the same line: Grave Themis, Aphrodite dancing-eyed, And Hebe crowned with gold. Justice, Love, Youth — however different, all three are divine. This was the triumph of their sanity. No doubt it was only an ideal and they were only human; no doubt there are dark enough blots on their history. But at least it was their ideal; and precisely the interest to us of a poet like the author of the Works and Days lies in seeing how even these hands grown horny on the plough, cunning and grasping sometimes with the hard shrewdness of a 58 Studies French and English peasant out of Balzac, yet keep their feeling for the saving grace of life.
Who was he? But he grumbles grimly enough at his father's choice of a new home, Ascra under Helicon, 'a miserable village, bad in winter, wretched in summer, never good'. Then his father died and his good-for- nothing brother Perses, by bribing those 'gift-devouring kings', the local chieftains, cheated him in the division of their inheritance.
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However, as our proverb says, 'losers have leave to chide'. Hesiod makes the most of it and addresses to 'foolish Perses' this poem, the Works and Days: which first reproaches him with his injustice; next passes to the general theme of human wickedness; then describes the Work his feckless brother must do not to starve on his ill-gotten land with an excursus on naviga- tion , and the lucky and unlucky Days he must observe.
He may indeed be a mere figure of fiction; but I see no reason to assume it. Some of the autobiographical matter, about the origin of the poet's father, sounds true enough; the rest quite well may be. This work, then, of probably the ninth century B. Only it is blessed with that golden heirloom, the Homeric hexa- meter, as against Langland's wooden alliteration; and its Two Poets of the Peasantry 59 author, grimly as he shakes his head over the world, is less frightened and fretful than Langland.
For him too: The earth is full of ills, of ills the sea. But he is at least not tormented with still deeper anxiety about Heaven and Hell to come. For him too man is fallen; one of his most famous passages is an account of the Five Ages and the world's decline from the Golden to the Iron. But here too there is at least a sense of fate rather than of sin. For Prometheus the Titan tried to cheat Zeus over sacrifices; then stole fire for men from Heaven. It was in retribution that the Gods created the first woman, Pandora.
Of her Hesiod writes rather as an old Norman farmer might view some exquisite and frivolous Parisienne. No doubt she was born for man's curse; no doubt Hermes had given her — Falsehood, and crooked tongue, and heart of thief. And yet, crabbed old moralist as he is, Hesiod remains too Greek to forget her redeeming beauty. The fair-tressed Hours wreathed her with flowers of Spring. She was evil; yet how beautiful! The old man half for- gives her; like Homer's Trojan elders with his Helen, and far more generous than the God of Eve. So Pandora brought with a smile, as we, twenty-seven centuries after, still read in our nurseries, her Jar of Evils to the house of Epimetheus; 13 and with a curiosity both feminine and 13 It is typical of the Greek temperament that this figure of Epi- metheus — 'Afterthought' — should remain dim and insignificant in the legend, unlike Prometheus — 'Forethought'.
They had that gift of 60 Studies French and English Greek we may recall the comrades of Odysseus and their equally fatal curiosity about the skin in which Aeolus had shut the winds removed the lid, let out the hornet- swarm of human ills to darken earth, and was only quick enough to keep back one of them, Hope — an evil thing, like her companions. For Hope is the mother of Great Expectations and therefore the grandmother of Despair; and yet a sweet cheat, also, one evil more without whom the rest would be more than man could bear.
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We are far here from the Hope of St. Paul, one of the three Graces of Christianity. But the Greeks were not a hopeful race. Being intelligent, they did not pretend things are better than they are; and being, like the Icelanders of the Sagas, indomitably vital, they may have made something much better, in consequence, of things as they are.
No doubt this religion of Hesiod shows, even as com- pared with Langland's, a savagery and immorality that for some readers will outweigh the happier sense of beauty in the Greek. Yet was paganism really as absurd in theory and immoral in practice as we have been brought up to assume? For with figures in Hesiod like Chaos, Earth, and Love Attraction appears a first glimmer of scientific symbolism. And as poetic symbols of the forces of life are Aphrodite or Dionysus, beautiful, terrible, beyond good and evil, further from what we now suspect to be the truth, than a single all-wise, all-righteous, all-loving Mind?
Are we not tending more and more to say of this Universe which gives life and joy with one hand, agony lasting youth, of looking always forward; the opposite of the mediaeval Christian insistence on backward-brooding Repentance and Contrition, on Remorse and the Worm of Conscience. Certainly with the Nature of many a modern poet, or the Spirits and the Immanent Will of Hardy's Dynasts , we are nearer once more to the Zeus of the Prometheus, or the Aphrodite of the Hippolytus, to the Dionysus of the Bacchae or the Venus and the 'Nature' of Lucretius, than to the Trinity of Langland. It has become far harder for a humaner world to believe at once in good and God.
None the less in certain ways Langland does remain more sympathetic. The Greek is healthier, but harder; less censorious, but less compassionate; just, but over- canny. This tone of 'devil-take-the-hindmost', one must in fairness admit, is very inferior to Langland's pity for the poor. Yet it is impossible not to be amused by some of the old Boeotian's mother-wit.
It is the voice of a man himself past forty, the individualistic peasant whose heart is in his stocking with his hard-won savings rather than looking for companionship in life. Human relations for him are business relations. No doubt, it is good to have friends, they may always come in useful; but it is still more important to be friends with your relatives, and 14 Cf. Samuel Butler's analogous precept of eating one's largest grapes first.
For 'if there's an accident in your house, neighbours arrive in their shirt-sleeves to give the modern equivalent , while friends wait to put on their coats'. You must also keep a jag-toothed dog and feed him well. And then be sure to get servants without any children — servants' children are a nuisance. As for your own marriage, marry, about thirty, a girl of twenty; not a widow, so that you can train her properly; and let her be a neighbour's daughter — but keep your eyes open so that you don't suddenly find you have made yourself the village laughing-stock.
For man can find no prize more worth the winning Than a good wife; nor grislier than a bad — Some giddy thing, that will roast the best of husbands Without a fire into a raw old age. The good wife has here her word of praise; but it is the bad who makes Hesiod bitterly witty. We may remem- ber Pandora. Again and again in these pages we seem to be listening to the shrewd common sense of Benjamin Franklin or Jeremy Bentham or, still more, of William Cobbett with his Advice to Young Men. It is all a little repellent; yet, somehow we go on listening to this sun- burnt wrinkled figure, who seems, as he speaks, to keep shaking a sad and disapproving head at life; for there is a sincerity in this worn face, not altogether unlike Lang- land's, a quiet enjoyment of his own irony, a flicker, at moments, of dry humour in the eyes that have seen, and seen through, so much in life.
If you must go sailing', he says to 'foolish Perses': If you must turn your feckless heart to trade By sea, to escape from debt and unlovely hunger, Two Poets of the Peasantry 63 I will tell you, too, the ways of the echoing deep — Although small skill is mine in ships or sailing. For I never sailed in ship the waste of waters Save to Euboea from Aulis. Here to the northern reader it must be explained that to pass the tiny strait from Aulis to Euboea is about as adventurous as crossing Woolwich Ferry. Yet Hesiod, despite his humour, remains a solitary figure. We may take his advice or leave it; he does not ask us to like him — what good would that be?
He sings to please himself. Even his little picture of happiness is a lonely one. Then give me a great rock's shadow and wine of Biblis, Milk-bread, and milk from goats just going dry, And flesh of a forest heifer, that has not calved, Or a first-born kid's; and shining wine to drink, Deep in the shade, with hunger satisfied, With on my face the West wind blowing free Across some spring, unfailing, undefiled.
Not all the realm of Pelops, nor treasure past appraising, Nor feet more fleet than wind are anything to me: Let me sing beneath this boulder, with my arms about you, gazing At our flocks together grazing and the sea of Sicily. We realise again that this rustic Worldly Wiseman is, all the same, a poet. Cobbett jeers at Shake- speare; Hesiod, though infinitely distant, remains his kin. Being so solitary, he is indeed little interested in drawing full-length characters, in creating other human beings — far less so not only than Shakespeare or Chaucer or Homer, but less than Langland with his Seven Deadly Sins.
Hesiod's human figures, even Pandora, pass in a single flashing phrase and are gone. His Wife of Bath roasts one husband for a lifetime; but she only takes one line to do it in. But the man that does not flinch can still find profit; Lest want should grip you in the darkened days, Nursing a swollen heel in your thin hand. Never has poverty-stricken tramp been painted with more artistic economy than in those last five Greek words.
There stands misery, vivid, but not sordid. Langland would have given us several lines about his rags and the lice walking on them; Mr. Joyce, several paragraphs. But this peasant, with no pretensions to 'nobility', is free from that morbid preoccupation with squalor which plays on the frayed nerves of modern intellectuals, like a slum-cat walking on the keys of a piano.
It is strange that we should still need lessons in taste from a Boeotian ploughman of B. Then to Olympus from, the wide-wayed earth, Wrapping white mantles round their lovelinjss, To join the Immortals, from the sons of men Honour and Righteousness shall flee away.
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This poem lives partly because its author has left us, unintentionally and by the way, one vivid portrait — his own. It lives still more, I think, because this man who seems so loveless towards brother or countryman, wife or friend, had yet one hidden passion, hidden perhaps even from himself; a passion for the hard earth and the harsh calling to which in return for a niggard livelihood he devoted a life of perpetual toil. Most of these last indeed have a little straw of 66 Studies French and English picturesque or moral sentiment in their hair — except only Michael.
This man, one feels, has him- self put his hand to the plough, like Burns and Clare; but not, like them, looked back towards other callings. His farmer's year has for its very beginning a roll of religious music, a line for which Marlowe would have given his ears, a peal of thunder beyond the compass of our tamer tongue. When rise in Heaven the Atlantic! A sacred service, for him, his labour remains always; rendered to that 'fair-crowned Demeter' who had not refused, so legend said, to give her divine body of old to Iasion among the furrows of a thrice-ploughed field, and whose broken statue three thousand years later was still being used by the peasants of Eleusis, its magic virtue not yet wholly faded, to fertilise their midden.
Take heed whenever you hear the crane's voice crying High in the cloudy heaven her yearly cry, Her warning of winter's rains and the time for ploughing, Piercing his heart, that has no ox to plough. Already in that last line is it fanciful to see a regret that goes even deeper than mere fears of famine — the wretched- ness of the countryman who sees Nature, like a lost mis- tress, going her way without him; and suffers in some dumb instinct like a caged migrant bird?
When first the topmost leaves upon the fig Open as wide as the footprints of a crow. When the wild artichoke flowers, and the shrill cicada Perched on his tree pours down his piercing song From wings a-quiver, in summer's toilsome time. When up green stalks climbs the House-carrier To shelter from the sultry Pleiades.
When 'cuckoo! I heard, O Polypaides, I heard the bird's shrill crying, That comes to tell the tiller that time has come to plough; And it stabbed the heart within me, to think my lands were lying, My own fair fields, in keeping of other masters now; That no team of mine is straining against the yoke today, Because by its cursed pilots our city's cast away. The misery of the unemployed is nothing new. In the winter weather when No-bones gnaws his feet By the fireless hearth within his grisly lair.
This last reference to the winter-diet of the polyp, supposed to live then like a bear on his own paws, is playfully fantastic. But how vivid are all these descrip- tions only the more so for their air of only being admitted strictly on business, not for pleasure or mere ornament! How exact is the picture of the opening fig-leaf, with its eager look of clutching like an opening claw at the air and warmth of spring!
Hesiod is no St. Virgil lays a cuckoo's egg of pan- theistic speculation in his rookery; Burns, like Langland, fastens a moral, though a charming one, upon his mouse. They are not necessarily the worse for it; but they become less simple. Langland himself, though his hero is a plough- man, reminds us rather of a country lad migrated to a town. He has indeed seen for himself, birds'-nesting perhaps, how the magpie builds where the thorns grow thickest; but most of his 'wild worms in woods' and 'fowl of many colours' are as generalised as embroideries on a tapestry.
His interest in the courtship of peacocks suggests to us, not field and coppice, but the gardens of the great; and to him, as we have seen, a sermon on continence. Crabbe, again, has at times something of the Greek's directness; but he is wordier and he indulges that botanical preference of his for the weeds in a landscape. Two Poets of the Peasantry 69 Clare is closer to Hesiod. He too speaks as a labourer bred upon the land, not a polite poet on a holiday from town, pursuing a few touches of nature along the hedge- rows with a pencil and notebook.
But Clare is a labourer out of work, a charming idler — Hesiod's man 'that has no ox to plough'. The old Boeotian merely flings a glance from his keen thousand-wrinkled eyes at his snail, as he goes to work; while Clare broods over his, with a memory of Shakespeare and of other poets before him, as he lingers — To note on hedgerow baulks, in moisture sprent, The jetty snail creep from the mossy thorn, With earnest heed, and tremulous intent, Frail brother of the morn, That from the tiny bent's dew-misted leaves Withdraws his timid horn, And fearful vision weaves. The picture is almost painfully lovely in its delicacy.
Je lui dis que non. Quand M. Elle vivait. Un dieu! Je pouvais le voir encore en Bloch. Autour de ces traits nouveaux on faisait fleurir une nouvelle jeunesse. Alors je le regardai mieux. Je pris M. Mais surtout ils reproduisaient les traits de leurs parents. Je lui dis bonjour, elle chercha quelque temps, mais en vain, mon nom sur mon visage.
Je lui fis des compliments sur sa jeunesse. On la laisse dans son coin. Du reste, elle est un peu gaga. Il y avait un M. Loubet et M. Reinach sont des voleurs ou de grands citoyens. Le familier des Guermantes? Lebrun, M. Et les petits-enfants de Bloch seraient bons et discrets presque de naissance.
Related Origine du prénom Sosthène (Oeuvres courtes) (French Edition)
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