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Catholic University Bulletin.

Vol. V.

JANUARY, 1899.

No. 1.

"Let there be progress, therefore; a widespread and eager progress in every century and epoch, both of individuals and of the general body, of every Christian and of the whole Church; a progress in intelligence, knowledge and wisdom, but always within their natural limits and without sacrifice of the identity of Catholic teaching, feeling and opinion."-ST. VINCENT OF LERINS, Commonit, c. 6.






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The "Odes" of Coventry Patmore are so well known to students of metres and to the lovers of what is called the mystic quality in poetry, that they may be considered in the interest of both with unfailing profit. They owe much of their essence to St. Teresa and to St. John, and all that attracts the lovers of the science of poetic form to the force of this essence exerted to find adequate expression. It may be said that the practice adopted by Mr. Patmore is, like the later musical forms of Wagner, not a sign of regular progress, but a vagary, or a mere diversion from the regular track of progress. For instance, what apparently answers in music to verbal rhyme is easily discovered in the scores of Haydn and Mozart; the absence of this is noticeable in Beethoven and Wagner. In verse the continual rhyme, accompanied by the regular cæsura, is a distinguishing characteristic of Pope and Scott;-Patmore accepts the rhyme and the cæsura, but, in his noblest poems, uses them irregularly, or rather spontaneously by making the pause depend on feeling and the rhyme on the emphasis of accent. The practice of Patmore is a sign of a finer conception of the clothing of poetry. Whether the changes in the musical forms be more than a vagary, I am not enough of a musician to know, but as to metres, I believe that Patmore's variations from classical English verse form indicate that the


poetry of the twentieth century will achieve the expression of subtler meanings than the poetry of any preceding era. The change in Patmore's methods is evident only in the poems which to the refined sense of the world are beginning to be great."

In these poems he feels rather than knows that finish and tone melody and harmony may be best reached by minimizing rhyme, which is often used "to cover a multitude of sins of harmony." In writing unrhymed verse, "the poet has to depend upon the melodious movement of the individual verses, pause-melody, and the general harmony of toning." Students, theoretical and practical, of the science and art of verse know that it requires all the forces of a poet to sustain himself without rhyme," which to the unskillful is often a veritable life-preserver, and the only power which keeps much unpoetical stuff afloat.”1

There is a prejudice against the "domestic" poetry of Coventry Patmore in that class of minds which cannot tolerate even Wordsworth when he aims for simplicity and achieves simpleness. And yet there are many who love "The Angel in the House," and who find no fault with the jingling rhymes of "The Rosy Bosom'd Hours," the story of a wedding journey:

"At Dawlish, 'mid the pools of brine,

You stept from rock to rock,
One hand quick tightening upon mine,

One holding up your frock.

"On starfish and on weeds alone

You seemed intent to be,

Flashed those great gleams of hope unknown
From you, or from the sea?

"Ne'er came before, ah, when again
Shall come two days like these,
Such quick delight within the brain,
Within the heart such peace?

"I thought, indeed, by magic chance,
A third from heaven to win,

But as, at dusk, we reached Penzance,
A drizzling rain set in."

1 Dr. Corson: Primer of English Verse. Ginn & Co.

There are some, too, not appalled by the close of "The Girl of All Periods":

"And Ben began to talk with her, the rather
Because he found out that he knew her father,
Sir Francis Applegarth, of Fenny Compton,

And danced once with her sister, Maud, at Brompton;
And then he stared until he quite confused her,
More pleased with her than I, who but excused her;
And, when she got out, he, with sheepish glances,
Said he'd stop, too, and call on old Sir Francis."

In justice, however, to the admirers of this sort of poetry, let us quote Mr. Aubrey de Vere:


"Of the longer poems which attempt exclusively to describe the finer emotions of modern society, the most original and most artistic is Mr. Coventry Patmore's Angel in the House; a poem," he adds, "which is better than a thousand a priori arguments in favor of the school to which it belongs. Others, instead of representing have caricatured modern life. They seem to have forgotten that the railway whistle and the smoke of the factory chimney are but accidents of our age, as powder and patch were accidents of the preceding one, and that the true life of the nineteenth century must lie deeper.""1

In spite of Aubrey de Vere, one of the most acute and just of critics, it is difficult to enjoy a poem of realism without an ever-present fear that the tea-cups may fall or the piles of bread and butter come down suddenly. Tennyson's realism is so enameled that there seems to be less danger of breaking its surface; he gives it such a pastoral character that it is as unartificial as an idyll of Theocritus and as elegant as a scene done by Watteau. The late Lord Lytton in "Lucile" escaped simpleness by becoming romantic. This, Patmore does not attempt; he goes on, with his recurrent rhymes, chronicling, with an audacity that is dazzling, the every-day affairs of life in a place where nothing ever happens. Miss Austen, in her most domestic novels, was not more realistic, and Crabbe's verses are tumultuous compared with his; but here, while confessing myself as of those who have prejudices,-not perhaps founded on principles,-against "The Angel in the House," let me quote Aubrey de Vere again when he speaks

1 Essays, Literary and Ethical. By Aubrey de Vere, LL. D. Macmillan & Co.

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