current location: current location:home >control >of Malfort Junior. During the month he played, among other text

of Malfort Junior. During the month he played, among other

2023-11-29 17:05:20 source:Surprise Intersection Networkauthor: power click:517Second-rate

While Dryden yielded to his times, Addison did not, and the Spectator became not only a literary but a moral power. In the effort to make it so he was thrown back on the largest moral influence of the day, the Bible, and throughout the Spectator and through all of Addison's writing you find on all proper occasions the Bible pressed to the front. Here again Taine puts it strikingly: "It is no small thing to make morality fashionable; Addison did it, and it remains fashionable."

of Malfort Junior. During the month he played, among other

If we speak of singing, we may remember that we sing the hymn of even poor little dwarfed invalid Alexander Pope. He was born the year Bunyan died, born at cross-purposes with the world. He could write a bitter satire, like the "Dunciad"; he could give the world The Iliad and The Odyssey in such English that we know them far better than in the Greek of Homer; but in those rare moments when he was at his better self he would write his greater poem, "The Messiah", in which the movement of Scripture is outlined as it could be only by one who knew the English Bible. And when we sing--

of Malfort Junior. During the month he played, among other

"Rise, crowned with light, imperial Salem, rise"--

of Malfort Junior. During the month he played, among other

it is worth while to realize that the voice that first sung it was that of the irritable little poet who found some of his scant comfort in the grand words and phrases and ideas of our English Bible.

With these six--Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan, Dryden, Addison, and Pope--the course of the Jacobean literature is sufficiently measured. There are many lesser names, but these are the ones which made it an epoch in literature, and these are at their best under the power of the Bible.

In the Georgian group we need to call only five great names which have had creative influence in literature. Ordinary culture in literature will include some acquaintance with each of them. In the order of their death they are Shelley (1829.), Byron (1824), Coleridge (1831), Walter Scott (1832), and Wordsworth (1850). The last long outlived the others; but he belongs with them, because he was born earlier than any other in the group and did his chief work in their time and before the later group appeared. Except Wordsworth, all these were gone before Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837. Three other names could be called: Keats, Robert Burns, and Charles Lamb. All would illustrate what we are studying. Keats least of all and Burns most. They are omitted here not because they did not feel the influence of the English Bible, not because they do not constantly show its influence, but because they are not so creative as the others; they have not so influenced the current of literature. At any rate, the five named will represent worthily and with sufficient completeness the Georgian period of English literature.

Nothing could reveal more clearly than this list how we are distinguishing the Bible as literature from the Bible as an authoritative book in morals. One would much dislike to credit the Bible with any part of the personal life of Shelley or Byron. They were friends; they, were geniuses; but they were both badly afflicted with common moral leprosy. It is playing with morals to excuse either of them because he was a genius. Nothing in the genius of either demanded or was served by the course of cheap immorality which both practised. It was not because Shelley was a genius that he married Harriet Westbrook, then ran away with Mary Godwin, then tried to get the two to become friends and neighbors until his own wife committed suicide; it was not his genius that made him yield to the influence of Emilia Viviani and write her the poem "Epipsychidion," telling her and the world that he "was never attached to that great sect who believed that each one should select out of the crowd a mistress or a friend" and let the rest go. That was not genius, that was just common passion; and our divorce courts are full of Shelleys of that type. So Byron's personal immorality is not to be explained nor excused on the ground of his genius. It was not genius that led him so astray in England that his wife had to divorce him, and that public opinion drove him out of the land. It was not his genius that sent him to visit Shelley and his mistress at Lake Geneva and seduce their guest, so that she bore him a daughter, though she was never his wife. It was not genius that made him pick up still another companion out of several in Italy and live with her in immoral relation. In the name of common decency let no one stand up for Shelley and Byron in their personal characters! There are not two moral laws, one for geniuses and one for common people. Byron, at any rate, was never deceived about himself, never blamed his genius nor his conscience for his wrong. These are striking lines in "Childe Harold," in which he disclaims all right to sympathy, because,

"The thorns which I have reaped are of the tree I planted,--they have torn me and I bleed. I should have known what fruit would spring from such a tree."

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