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So the few famous men of old combined
each of them, and, measuring them, so live ?
But in Luria, now that the last victory is gained for Florence, and there is no more demand made
faculties of his mind, the reflective and ideal qualities of
My own East !
Speak, Luria! Here begins your true career
- All now is possible –
· (nay, now your word must come at last) – That you would punish Florence !
“ Husain (pointing to Luria's dead body). That is done !"
- pp. 19, 20.
We cannot leave Mr. Browning without giving one extract of another kind. His humor is as genuine as that of Carlyle, and if his laugh have not the “ earthquake" character with which Emerson has so happily labelled the shaggy merriment of that Jean Paul Burns, yet it is always sincere and hearty, and there is a tone of meaning in it which always sets us thinking. Had we room, we should be glad to give our readers a full analysis of his Soul's Tragedy, which abounds in the truest humor, Aitting from point to point with all the electric sparkle and condensed energy of wit. Wit employs itself about externals and conventionalities. Its merit lies quite as much in nicety of expression as in the idea expressed, or even more. For it is something which may be composed, and is therefore necessarily choice of form. Humor goes deeper, bases itself upon the eternal, and not the ephemeral, relations of things, and is something interfused through the whole nature of the man, and which, forcing him to feel keenly what is hollow in the outward forms of society, often makes him careless of all form. In literature, therefore, we see it overleaping or breaking down all barriers. Wit makes other men laugh, and that only once. It may be repeated indefinitely to new audiences, and produce the same result. Humor makes the humorist himself laugh. He is a part of his humor, and it can never be repeated without loss. If we take the common metaphor, that humor is broader than wit, we shall express well enough its greater carelessness of forin and precise limit. It especially behooves a poet, then, to be on his guard against the impulses of his humor. Poetry and humor are subject to different laws of art, and it is dangerous to let one encroach upon the province of the other. It may be questioned, whether verse, which is by nature subject to strict law, be the proper vehicle for humor at all.
The contrast, to be sure, between the preciseness of the metrical rule and the frolicscme license of the thought, has
something humorous in itself. The greater swing which is allowed to the humorous poet in rhythm and rhyme, as well as in thought, may be of service to him, and save him from formality in his serious verses. Undoubtedly the success of Hood's Bridge of Sighs was due in some degree to the quaintness and point of the measure and the rhyme, the secret of which he had learned in his practice as a humorous versifier. But there is danger that the poet, in allowing full scope to this erratic part of his nature, may be brought in time to value form generally at less than its true worth as an element of art. We have sometimes felt a jar in reading Mr. Browning's lyrical poems, when, just as he has filled us full of quiet delight by some touch of pathos or marble gleam of classical beauty, this exuberant geniality suggests some cognate image of the ludicrous, and turns round to laugh in our faces. This necessity of deferring to form in some shape or other is a natural, and not an ingrafted, quality of human nature. It often, laughably enough, leads men, who have been totally regardless of all higher laws, to cling most pertinaciously and conscientiously to certain purely ceremonial observances. If the English courts should ever dispense with so much of their dignity and decorum as consists in horsehair, we have no doubt that the first rogue who shall be sentenced by a wigless judge will be obstinately convinced of a certain unconstitutionality in the proceeding, and feel himself an injured man, defrauded of the full dignity of the justice enjoyed by his ancestors.
We copy one specimen of Mr. Browning's more formal and, so to speak, scholastic humor.
“Plague take all pedants, say I !
He who wrote what I hold in my hand
Leaving this rubbish to bother the land ;
and bound in leather,
Just when the birds sang all together,
And under the arbute and laurustine
From title-page to closing line.
Chapter on chapter did I count,
As a curious traveller counts Stonehenge ; Added up the mortal amount ;
And then proceeded to my revenge. " Yonder 's a plum-tree, with a crevice
An owl would build in, were he but sage ; For a lap of moss, like a fine pont-levis
In a castle of the middle age, Joins to a lip of gum, pure amber;
When he'd be private, there might he spend Hours alone in his lady's chamber :
Into this crevice I dropped our friend.
Splash, went he, as under he ducked,
- I knew at the bottom rain-drippings stagnate; Next a handful of blossoms I plucked
To bury him with, my bookshelf's magnate ; Then I went in-doors, brought out a loaf,
Half a cheese, and a bottle of Chablis ; Lay on the grass and forgot the oaf
Over a jolly chapter of Rabelais. “ Now, this morning, betwixt the moss
And gum that locked our friend in limbo, A spider had spun his web across,
And sat in the midst with arms akimbo ;
And, de profundis, accentibus latis,
I fished his delectable treatise.
“Here you have it, dry in the sun,
With all the binding all of a blister,
And reddish streaks that wink and glister
Oh, well have the droppings played their tricks! Did he guess how toadstools grow, this fellow ?
Here's one stuck in his chapter six !
“ How did he like it when the live creatures
Tickled and toused and browsed him all over, And worm, slug, eft, with serious features,
Came in, each one, for his right of trover ;