Algernon Charles Swinburne

 

 

William Blake. A Critical Essay.
II. Lyrical Poems.

 

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WE must here be allowed space to interpolate a word of the briefest possible comment on the practical side of Blake's character. No man ever lived and laboured in hotter earnest; and the native energy in him had the property of making all his atmosphere of work intense and keen as fire — too sharp and rare in quality of heat to be a good working element for any more temperate intellect. Into every conceivable channel or byway of work he contrived to divert and infuse this overflowing fervour of mind; the least bit of engraving, the poorest scrap or scratch of drawing or writing traceable to his hands, has on it the mark of passionate labour and enjoyment; but of all this devotion of laborious life, the only upshot visible to most of us consists in a heap of tumbled and tangled relics, verse and prose mainly inexplicable, paintings and engravings mainly unacceptable if not unendurable. And if certain popular theories of the just aims of life, duties of an earnest-minded man, and meritorious nature of practical deeds and material services only, are absolutely correct — in that case the work of this man's life is certainly a [86] sample of deplorable waste and failure. A religion which has for Walhalla some factory of the Titans, some prison fitted with moral cranks and divine treadmills of all the virtues, can have no place among its heroes for the most energetic of mere artists. To him, as to others of his kind, all faith, all virtue, all moral duty or religious necessity, was not so much abrogated or superseded as summed up, included and involved, by the one matter of art. To him, as to other such workmen, it seemed better to do this well and let all the rest drift than to do incomparably well in all other things and dispense with this one. For this was the thing he had to do; and this once well done, he had the assurance of a certain faith that other things could not be wrong with him. As long as two such parties exist among men who think and act, it must always be some pleasure to deal with a man of either party who has no faith or hope in compromise. These middle-men, with some admirable self-sufficient theory of reconciliation between two directly opposite aims and forces, are fit for no great work on either side. If it be in the interest of facts really desirable that "the poor Fine Arts should take themselves away," let it be fairly avowed and preached in a distinct manner. That thesis, so delivered, is comprehensible, and deserves respect. One may add that if art can be destroyed it by all means ought to be. If for example the art of verse is not indispensable and indestructible, the sooner it is put out of the way the better. If anything can be done instead better worth doing than painting or poetry, let that preferable thing be done with all the might and haste that [87] may be attainable. And if to live well be really better than to write or paint well, and a noble action more valuable than the greatest poem or most perfect picture, let us have done at once with the meaner things that stand in the way of the higher. For we cannot on any terms have everything; and assuredly no chief artist or poet has ever been fit to hold rank among the world's supreme benefactors in the way of doctrine, philanthropy, reform, guidance, or example: what is called the artistic faculty not being by any means the same thing as a general capacity for doing good work, diverted into this one strait or shallow in default of a better outlet. Even were this true for example of a man so imperfect as Burns, it would remain false of a man so perfect as Keats. The great men, on whichever side one finds them, are never found trying to take truce or patch up terms. Savonarola burnt Boccaccio; Cromwell proscribed Shakespeare. The early Christians were not great at verse or sculpture. Men of immense capacity and energy who do seem to think or assert it possible to serve both masters — a Dante, a Shelley, a Hugo — poets whose work is mixed with and coloured by personal action or suffering for some cause moral or political—these even are no real exceptions. It is not as artists that they do or seem to do this. The work done may be, and in such high cases often must be, of supreme value to art; but not the moral implied. Strip the sentiments and re-clothe them in bad verse, what residue will be left of the slightest importance to art? Invert them, retaining the manner or form (supposing this feasible, which it might be), and art has lost nothing. Save the shape, and art will take care of the [88] soul for you: * unless that is all right, she will refuse to run or start at all; but the shape or style of workman-ship each artist is bound to look to, whether or no he may choose to trouble himself about the moral or other bearings of his work. This principle, which makes the manner of doing a thing the essence of the thing done, the purpose or result of it the accident, thus reversing the principle of moral or material duty, must inevitably expose art to the condemnation of the other party — the party of those who (as aforesaid) regard what certain of their leaders call an earnest life or a great acted poem (that is, material virtue or the mere doing and saying of good or instructive deeds and words) as infinitely preferable to any possible feat of art. Opinion is free, and the choice always open; but if any man leaning on crutches of theory chooses to halt between the two camps, it shall be at his own peril — imminent peril of conviction as one unfit for service on either side. For Puritanism is in this one thing absolutely right about art; they cannot live and work together, or the one under the other. All ages which were great enough to have space for both, to hold room for a fair fighting-field between them, have always accepted and acted upon this evident fact. Take the Renaissance age for one example; you must have Knox or Ronsard, Scotch or French; not both at once; there is no place under reformers for the singing of a "Pléiade." Take the mediæval period in its broadest sense; not to speak of the notably heretical and immoral Albigeois with their [89] exquisite school of heathenish verse, or of that other rebellious gathering under the great emperor Frederick II., a poet and pagan, when eastern arts and ideas began to look up westward at one man's bidding and open out Saracenic prospects in the very face and teeth of the Church—look at home into familiar things, and see by such poems as Chaucer's Court of Love, absolutely one in tone and handling as it is with the old Albigensian Aucassin and all its paganism, * how the poets of the time, with their eager nascent worship of beautiful form [90] and external nature, dealt with established opinion and the incarnate moralities of church or household. It is easy to see why the Church on its own principle found it (as in the Albigensian case) a matter of the gravest necessity to have such schools of art and thought cut down or burnt out. Priest and poet, all those times through, were proverbially on terms of reciprocal biting and striking. That magnificent invention of making "Art the handmaid of Religion" had not been stumbled upon in the darkness of those days. Neither minstrel nor monk would have caught up the idea with any rapture. As indeed they would have been unwise to do; for the thing is impossible. Art is not like fire or water, a good servant and bad master; rather the reverse. She will help in nothing, of her own knowledge or freewill: upon terms of service you will get worse than nothing out of her. Handmaid of religion, exponent of duty, servant of fact, pioneer of morality, she cannot in any way become; she would be none of these things though you were to bray her in a mortar. All the battering in the world will never hammer her into fitness for such an office as that. It is at her peril, if she tries to do good: one might say, borrowing terms from the other party, "she shall not try that under penalty of death and damnation." Her business is not to do good on other grounds, but to be good on her own: all is well with her while she sticks fast to that. To ask help or furtherance from her in any extraneous good work is exactly as rational as to expect lyrical beauty of form and flow in a logical treatise. The contingent result of having good art about you and living in a time of noble writing or painting may no doubt be [91] this; that the spirit and mind of men then living will receive on some points a certain exaltation and insight caught from the influence of such forms and colours of verse or painting; will become for one thing incapable of tolerating bad work, and capable therefore of reasonably relishing the best; which of course implies and draws with it many other advantages of a sort you may call moral or spiritual. But if the artist does his work with an eye to such results or for the sake of bringing about such improvements, he will too probably fail even of them. Art for art's sake first of all, and afterwards we may suppose all the rest shall be added to her (or if not she need hardly be overmuch concerned); but from the man who falls to artistic work with a moral purpose, shall be taken away even that which he has — whatever of capacity for doing well in either way he may have at starting. A living critic * of incomparably delicate insight and subtly good sense, himself "impeccable" as an artist, calls this [92] "the heresy of instruction" (l'hérésie de l'enseignement): one might call it, for the sake of a shorter and more summary name, the great moral heresy. Nothing can be imagined more futile; nothing so ruinous. Once let art humble herself, plead excuses, try at any compromise with the Puritan principle of doing good, and she is worse than dead. Once let her turn apologetic, and promise or imply that she really will now be "loyal to fact" and useful to men in general (say, by furthering their moral work or improving their moral nature), she is no longer of any human use or value. The one fact for her which is worth taking account of is simply mere excellence of verse or colour, which involves all manner of truth and loyalty necessary to her well-being. That is the important thing; to have her work supremely well done, and to disregard all contingent consequences. You may extract out of Titian's work or Shakespeare's any moral or immoral inference you please; it is none of their business to see after that. Good painting or writing, on any terms, is a thing quite sufficiently in accordance with fact and reality for them. Supplant art by all means if you can; root it out and try to plant in its place something useful or at least safe, which at all events will not impede the noble moral labour and trammel the noble moral life of Puritanism. But in the name of sense and fact itself let us have done with all abject and ludicrous pretence of coupling the two in harness or grafting the one on the other's stock: let us hear no more of the moral mission of earnest art; let us no longer be pestered with the frantic and flatulent assumptions of quasi-secular clericalism willing to think the best of all sides, and ready even, with con[93]secrating hand, to lend meritorious art and poetry a timely pat or shove. Philistia had far better (always providing it be possible) crush art at once, hang or burn it out of the way, than think of plucking out its eyes and setting it to grind moral corn in the Philistine mills; which it is certain not to do at all well. Once and again the time has been that there was no art worth speaking of afloat anywhere in the world; but there never has been or can have been a time when art, or any kind of art worth having, took active service under Puritanism, or indulged for its part in the deleterious appetite of saving souls or helping humanity in general along the way of labour and progress. * Let no artist or poet listen to the bland bark of those porter dogs of the Puritan kingdom even when they fawn and flirt with tongue or tail. Cave canem. That Cerberus of the portals of Philistia will swallow your honey-cake to no purpose; if he does not turn and rend you, his slaver as he licks your hand will leave it impotent and palsied for all good work.

 

 

[Die Anmerkungen stehen als Fußnoten auf den in eckigen Klammern bezeichneten Seiten]

[88] * Of course, there can be no question here of bad art: which indeed is a non-entity or contradiction in terms, as to speak of good art is to run into tautology. It is assumed, to begin with, that the artist has something to say or do worth doing or saying in an artistic form.   zurück

[89] * Observe especially in Chaucer's most beautiful of young poems that appalling passage, where, turning the favourite edgetool of religious menace back with point inverted upon those who forged it, the poet represents men and women of religious habit or life as punished in the next world, beholding afar off with jealous regret the saltation and happiness of Venus and all her servants (converse of the Hörsel legend, which shows the religious or anti-Satanic view of the matter; though there too there is some pity or sympathy implied for the pagan side of things, revealing in the tradition the presence and touch of some poet): expressly punished, these monks and nuns, for their continence and holiness of life, and compelled after death to an eternity of fruitless repentance for having wilfully missed of pleasure and made light of indulgence in this world; which is perfect Albigeois. Compare the famous speech in Aucassin et Nicolette, where the typical hero weighs in a judicial manner the respective attractions of heaven and hell; deciding of course dead against the former on account of the deplorably bad company kept there; priests, hermits, saints, and such-like, in lieu of knights and ladies, painters and poets. One may remark also, the minute this pagan revival begins to get breathing-room, how there breaks at once into flower a most passionate and tender worship of nature, whether as shown in the bodily beauty of man and woman or in the outside loveliness of leaf and grass; both Chaucer and his anonymous southern colleague being throughout careful to decorate their work with the most delicate and splendid studies of colour and form. Either of the two choice morsels of doctrinal morality cited above would have exquisitely suited the palate of Blake. He in his time, one need not doubt, was considerably worried and gibbered at by "monkeys in houses of brick," moral theorists, and "pantopragmatic" men of all sorts; what can we suppose he would have said or done in an epoch given over to preachers (lay, clerical, and mixed) who assert without fear or shame that you may demand, nay are bound to demand, of a picture or poem what message it has for you, what may be its moral utility or material worth? "Poetry must conform itself to" &c.; "art must have a mission and meaning appreciable by earnest men in an age of work," and so forth. These be thy gods, O Philistia.   zurück

[91] * I will not resist the temptation to write a brief word of comment on this passage. While my words of inadequate and now of joyless praise were in course of printing, I heard that a mortal illness had indeed stricken the illustrious poet, the faultless critic, the fearless artist; that no more of fervent yet of perfect verse, no more of subtle yet of sensitive comment, will be granted us at the hands of Charles Baudelaire: that now for ever we must fall back upon what is left us. It is precious enough. We may see again as various a power as was his, may feel again as fiery a sympathy, may hear again as strange a murmur of revelation, as sad a whisper of knowledge, as mysterious a music of emotion; we shall never find so keen, so delicate, so deep an unison of sense and spirit. What verse he could make, how he loved all fair and felt all strange things, with what infallible taste he knew at once the limit and the licence of his art, all may see at a glance. He could give beauty to the form, expression to the feeling, most horrible and most obscure to the senses or souls of lesser men. The chances of things parted us once and again; the admiration of some years, at last in part expressed, brought me near him by way of written or transmitted word; let it be an excuse for the insertion of this note, and for a desire, if so it must be, to repeat for once the immortal words which too often return upon our lips;
                "Ergo in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale!"   zurück

[93] * There are exceptions, we are told from the first, to all rules; and the sole exception to this one is great enough to do all but establish a rival rule. But, as I have tried already to say, the work — all the work — of Victor Hugo is in its essence artistic, in its accident alone philanthropic or moral. I call this the sole exception, not being aware that the written work of Dante or Shelley did ever tend to alter the material face of things; though they may have desired that it should, and though their unwritten work may have done so. Accidentally of course a poet's work may tend towards some moral or actual result; that is beside the question.   zurück

 

 

 

 

Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

Algernon Charles Swinburne: William Blake. A Critical Essay.
London: Hotten 1868.

Unser Auszug: S. 85-93.

URL: https://archive.org/details/williamblakecrit00swinrich
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000475323
URL: https://books.google.fr/books?id=mJ1RAAAAcAAJ

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck

 

 

 

Werkverzeichnis

Verzeichnisse

Shepherd, Richard Herne: The Bibliography of Swinburne.
A Bibliographical List, Arranged in Chronological Order, of the Published Writings in Verse and Prose of Algernon Charles Swinburne (1857-1887).
New Edition. London: Redway 1887.
URL: https://archive.org/details/cu31924029651092

Wise, Thomas J.: A Bibliography of the Writings in Prose and Verse of Algernon Charles Swinburne.
Vol. 1. London: Clay 1919.
URL: https://archive.org/details/cu31924087913202

Wise, Thomas J.: A Bibliography of the Writings in Prose and Verse of Algernon Charles Swinburne.
Vol. 2. London: Clay 1920.
URL: https://archive.org/details/cu31924087913210

Wise, Thomas J.: A Bibliography of the Writings in Prose and Verse of Algernon Charles Swinburne.
London: Heinemann; New York: Wells 1927 (= The Complete Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne, Bd. 20).



Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Mr. George Meredith's "Modern Love:" –
(Letter to the Editor).
In: The Spectator.
Nr. 1771, 1862, 7. Juni, S. 998-632-633.
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000639061

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Baudelaire. Les Fleurs du mal.
In: The Spectator.
Nr. 1784, 1862, 6. September, S. 998-1000 (Ungezeichnet). [PDF]
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000639061

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Poems and Ballads.
London: Hotten 1866.
S. 65-76: Anactoria.
URL: https://archive.org/details/poemsballads0000swin
URL: https://archive.org/details/b29012685
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100629227
URL: https://books.google.de/books?id=H-hOAAAAcAAJ

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Notes on Poems and Reviews.
London: Hotten 1866.
URL: https://archive.org/details/notesonpoemsand01swingoog
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001024616
URL: https://books.google.fr/books?id=7K0OtUcnQlYC   [New York u. London 1866]

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Mr. Arnold's New Poems.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 2, New Series, 1867, 1. Oktober, S. 414-445.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008882609
URL: http://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/title/715786-1

Notes on the Royal Academy exhibition, 1868.
Part I. by Wm. Michael Rossetti.
Part II. by Algernon C. Swinburne.
London: Hotten o.J. [1868].
URL: https://archive.org/details/gri_33125011175656
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011606313

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: William Blake. A Critical Essay.
London: Hotten 1868.
URL: https://archive.org/details/williamblakecrit00swinrich
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000475323
URL: https://books.google.fr/books?id=mJ1RAAAAcAAJ

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: AVE ATQUE VALE.
In Memory of Charles Baudelaire.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 3, New Series, 1868, 1. Januar, S. 71-76.
URL: https://archive.org/details/fortnightlyrevi01morlgoog

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: The Poems of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 7, New Series, 1870, 1. Mai, S. 551-579.
URL: https://archive.org/details/fortnightlyrevi01bygoog
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/006056638

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Under the Microscope.
London: White 1872.
URL: https://archive.org/details/undermicroscope00buchgoog   [Portland, Maine 1899].

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Victor Hugo: L'Année Terrible.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 12, New Series, 1872, 1. September, S. 243-267.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008882609
URL: http://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/title/715786-1

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Essays and Studies.
London: Chatto u. Windus 1875.
PURL: http://mdz-nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bvb:12-bsb11168133-5
URL: https://archive.org/details/essaysandstudie04swingoog
URL: http://reader.digitale-sammlungen.de/resolve/display/bsb11168133.html

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Songs of the Springtides.
London: Chatto u. Windus 1880.
S. 37-64: On the Cliffs.
URL: https://archive.org/details/songsspringtide00goog
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000122982

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: A Century of English Poetry.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 28, New Series, 1880, 1. Oktober, S. 422-437.
Aufgenommen
Algernon Charles Swinburne: Miscellanies.
London: Chatto u. Windus 1886, S. 25-49.
URL: https://archive.org/details/miscellanies01swingoog
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001112402

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Short Notes on English Poets:
Chaucer; Spenser; the Sonnets of Shakespeare; Milton.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 28, New Series, 1880, 1. Dezember, S. 708-721.
Aufgenommen
Algernon Charles Swinburne: Miscellanies.
London: Chatto u. Windus 1886, S. 1-24.
URL: https://archive.org/details/miscellanies01swingoog
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001112402

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Wordsworth and Byron.
In: The Nineteenth Century.
Bd. 15, 1884: April, S. 583-609; Mai, S. 764-790.
URL: https://archive.org/details/nineteenthcentu05unkngoog

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: A Study of Victor Hugo.
London: Chatto u. Windus 1886.
URL: https://archive.org/details/astudyvictorhug01swingoog
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001796984

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Miscellanies.
London: Chatto u. Windus 1886.
URL: https://archive.org/details/miscellanies01swingoog
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001112402

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Whitmania.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 42, New Series, 1887, 1. August, S. 170-176.

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Mr. Whistler's Lecture on Art.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 43, New Series, 1888, 1. Juni, S. 745-751. [PDF]

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Studies in Prose and Poetry.
London: Chatto u. Windus 1894.
URL: https://archive.org/details/studiesinprosea01swingoog
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001426660


Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Les Fleurs Du Mal and Other Studies.
Hrsg. von Edmund Gosse.
London: Printed for Private Circulation 1913.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/002781737

Lang, Cecil Y. (Hrsg.): The Swinburne Letters.
6 Bde. New Haven: Yale University Press 1959/62.

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: New Writings by Swinburne or Miscellanea Nova et Curiosa.
Being a Medley of Poems, Critical Essays, Hoaxes and Burlesques.
Hrsg. von Cecil Y. Lang.
Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press 1964.

Hyder, Clyde K. (Hrsg.): Swinburne Replies.
Notes on Poems and Reviews. Under the Microscope. Dedicatory Epistle.
Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. 1966.

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Major Poems and Selected Prose.
Hrsg. von Jerome McGann u. Charles L. Sligh.
New Haven u. London: Yale University Press 2004.

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Uncollected Letters.
Hrsg. von Terry L. Meyers.
3 Bde. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2005.

Swinburne, Algernon Charles: Selected Writings.
Hrsg. von Francis O'Gorman.
Oxford: Oxford University Press 2020.

 

 

 

Literatur

Apel, Friedmar: Konkurrenz im Traumland. Algernon Charles Swinburne bei Stefan George, Hugo von Hofmannsthal und Rudolf Borchardt. In: George-Jahrbuch 11 (2016/17), S. 13-26.

Connolly, Thomas E.: Swinburne's Theory of Poetry. Albany, N.Y. 1964.

Christ, Carol T.: Victorian Poetics. In: A Companion to Victorian Poetry. Hrsg. von Richard Cronin u.a. Malden, MA 2002, S. 1-21.

Erle, Sibylle / Paley, Morton D. (Hrsg.): The Reception of William Blake in Europe. 2 Bde. London 2019.

Haggarty, Sarah (Hrsg.): William Blake in Context. Cambridge 2019.

Kay, Andrew: Swinburne, Impressionistic Formalism, and the Afterlife of Victorian Poetic Theory. In: Victorian Poetry 51.3 (2013), S. 271-295.

Lyons, Sara: Algernon Swinburne and Walter Pater. Victorian Aestheticism, Doubt and Secularisation. Leeds 2015.

Martus, Steffen u.a. (Hrsg.): Lyrik im 19. Jahrhundert. Gattungspoetik als Reflexionsmedium der Kultur. Bern u.a. 2005 (= Publikationen zur Zeitschrift für Germanistik, 11).

Maxwell, Catherine u.a. (Hrsg.): Algernon Charles Swinburne. Unofficial Laureate. Manchester 2013.

Méry, Marie-Claire: L'art et la vie. Swinburne selon Hugo von Hofmannsthal et Rudolf Kassner. In: Le texte et l'idée 11 (1996), S. 65-89.

Neumann, Markus: Der deutsche Swinburne. In: Rudolf Borchardt. Hrsg. von Heinz Ludwig Arnold u.a. München 2007 (= Text + Kritik; Sonderband), S. 47-60.

Raymond, Meredith B.: Swinburne's Poetics. The Hague u.a. 1971.

Rooksby, Rikky: A Century of Swinburne. In: The Whole Music of Passion. New Essays on Swinburne. Hrsg. von Rikky Rooksby u. Nicholas Shrimpton. Aldershot u.a. 1993, S. 1-21.

Waithe, Marcus / White, Claire (Hrsg.): The Labour of Literature in Britain and France, 1830-1910. Authorial Work Ethics. London 2018.

Warner, Eric / Hough, Graham (Hrsg.): Strangeness and Beauty. An Anthology of Aesthetic Criticism 1840–1910. 2 Bde. Cambridge u.a. 2009.

 

 

Edition
Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer