Imatges de pÓgina


I do not propose in this paper to enter into a critical analysis of the writings of any poet or poets, but rather to examine the characters of those whose work I dwell upon, and see, firstly, whether in these men have been exemplified the qualities which, we are taught, go to make the occultist; secondly, whether those poets whose characters have displayed such tendencies are also the most mystical in their teachings; and, thirdly, whether the mystical poets have also been the greatest. Now, I hold, and hold very strongly, as my personal opinion, that the true poet is inspired; that is to say, that he is one who has accumulated a vast store of knowledge through many lives, and consequently, a boundless power of sympathy, with man and nature. For the unsympathetic person is more often inexperienced than unfeeling, as you can perceive by the occasionally extraordinary intolerance of youth; you cannot know what you have never felt.

The great poet then, let us grant, is the being with a vast store of experience, worth recording by the Ego. His lower organization is such that at times the divine light shines through, and the man knows and speaks what he knows without conscious effort. But, it may be objected, you make of your poet a species of pope. If you assume that any person speaks from a superhuman store of knowledge, you set up an oracle whose dictumn you are bound to obey. But, alas! our poets are compelled to manifest themselves to us upon the lower planes, and by the prosaic methods of pen, ink, and the printing press; otherwise, I fear that we should very few of us benefit by their divine wisdom, acting upon its own plane. As my poets are among iny most valued mentors, for myself I am willing to accept some uninspired passages for the sake of the echo of the voice that knows. We will leave out of the question the elder poets; those whose characters and work I propose to glance

the comparatively modern: Scott, Byron, Tennyson, and Blake ; I select the first and second as the types of the nonoccult; the third and fourth as types of the mystical. Let me first dwell upon the causes which, in my judgment, precluded Scott and Byron from being occult in their teaching, and then consider Tennyson's and Blake's mysticisms, which were of distinctly differing types, though agreeing, as must all mysticisin, in fundamental points. I am aware that Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley are also to be ranked among the occult and inspired, but the late Laureate and Blake must suffice for my present purposes.

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There are certain qualities of mind, which are found very generally in all great poetic geniuses, and certain methods of life and tendencies of thought and action which inevitably veil the God within. The man in whom the God is veiled is never the great poet; he may write brilliant, stirring, excessively clever verse, but he is never inspired. Therefore I thiuk we may here hail the cause of the greatest being also the most occult, as I believe we shall discover thein to be. The man whose mind is tossed on the waves of the sea of life, the man who cares for applause, the man to whom the existing shows of the world are much, can never be illuminated by the highest light, he never can write from the individuality, but always from the personality; very excellent, admirable, masterly work he may do, but it is not inspired. One never says to oneself: this man was caught up to the third heaven to hear and see things unspeakable.

One of our best poetic critics, in speaking of the marvellous freshness and spontaneity of Blake's songs—and in truth the Songs of Innocence might have been written by an inspired child-has said: “The kingdom of a perfect song is like the kingdom of Heaven-one must enter it as a little child." Let us take this saying in conjunction with one from The Voice of the Silence : “The pupil must regain the child state he has lost, ere the first sound can fall upon his ears." Assuming that these two axioms are true, we shall expect to find the most exquisite song-writers also the inost mystical and occult in their teachings; and we shall also expect to find in them, on the lower planes of consciousness, some of the qualities of the child, and some of the characteristics stamping the personality of the occultist. Now firstly as to the songs. I have stated my conviction that Scott and Byron were not occult; I

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furthermore state my opinion that they were neither of them great poets. I should place Tennyson and Blake infinitely higher than either of them. Of course this is a matter of individual opinion, but in such a case one can only argue from one's opinion. Now which of these four famous men have been the successful song writers ? Scott and Byron wrote few songs; Tennyson and Blake literally, if I may use so familiar a term, bubbled over with thein ; they broke into song as the nightingale does, and inark this—as unconsciously. Scott wrote songs; Byron wrote a few songs; but read the song of Fitz-Eustace from Marmion, “ Where shall the lover rest ? " then read Byron's pretty-mannered “There be none of Beauty's daughters,”and contrast them with Blake's“Piping down the valley wild” and the “Nurse's Song,” and with Tennyson's “Tears, idle Tears.” In the work of the last two poets you hear the thrill of the harps of the New Jerusalein ; the music from the kingdom of the little child. To me it is significant that Tennyson so preeminently excelled in the song.

Coming to his mysticism, which I propose to contrast with Blake's, I think that Tennyson's songs are better than Blake's—even putting out of account the almost matchless mastery of the English language, which caused his technique to be more perfect than that of the earlier poet. Tennyson and Blake both wrote spontaneously, but Tennyson took more pains with technicalities, with the subsequent polishing. Byron too, I believe was a quick and spontaneous writer, but to me, he has facility, not inspiration. I do not believe that any really great poet has ever worked laboriously at his poetry-not, that is to say, during the incarnation in which he manifests as a poet. How can he? he draws upon a store of knowledge laboriously gained, and now at his free disposal when he can reach it at all. But here coines in another point: he cannot reach it, unless he has certain qualities of the lower mind, certain methods of life, certain habits of viewing the universe and himself. When the lower mind can respond to, and use the wisdom of, the higher, then we hail the inspired poet, and the lower mind has but occasionally to supply some technicalities of more felicitous phrasing. Tennyson wrote the passage in "Maud" commencing "Dead, long dead," in twenty minutes ; and it is admitted, unless we take some exception to

verse ten, to be a marvellous picture of insanity. What enabled the great poet, upon whose sanity no doubt has been cast as upon Blake's, to think and feel as a madman thinks and feels, if it were not past experience ?

When I stated that Scott was not, as I think, a really great poet, I did not mean to be little his genius. The impress of Scott's honest, strong, human personality is upon his work. It is delightful; no one admires his genius more than I do; I rank Manse Headrigg even above Mrs. Poyser, and Scott's poetry I love.

I love the fire and vigour and the swing of Marmion. One can smell the air of the moors and see the heather in The Lady of the Lake; and this is just where the point comes in: Tennyson was as strongly English as Scott was Scotch, while Blake was of no nation; but when Tennyson is distinctly inspired he may take English metaphors, but he is no longer English-while Scott is always Scotch. He writes from a very noble personality:

Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land ?

I am quite sure Blake never said anything of the kind to himself, and I should not accuse him of being a “dead soul.” But that is how Scott felt ; Scott was nothing of the child; he was the single-minded, honest-purposed man of great and delightful talents.

The same great critic to whom I have already referred has spoken of Scott as being possessed by the "passion of the past." It is most true; and the child lives in the present and the future.

This, it may be objected, is surely not a bar to occultism, for do not occultists and theosophists belaud the past ?

No; they laud the wisdom of the past, which is also the wisdom of the present and the future, the timeless wisdom. The wisdom of the ancients, “not of an age, but for all time,” is not of the “good old times ”—and these old times Scott loved; he loved the "things seen” if they were noble, or even picturesque and romantic; he did not love the symbolical. He loved the goodly manifestation of such things as fired his fancy—he loved feudalisin—he would

almost have justified rack and thumb-screw, if he might have had back chivalry, and the gallant knighthood. All this is indicative of the man who writes from the personality; to whom the objects of sense, however good and noble, do appeal most strongly. Scott speaks in the person of the old minstrel, and his very sprites and goblins are stamped with feudalism ; witness the White Lady of Avenel. He employs the machinery of the “supernatural” frequently to add picturesqueness, as in The Lay of the Last Minstrel, but it is only the physical body of mysticism, if I may be permitted the phrase, that he uses. He was romantic, sympathetic, singleminded, as a inan, but he was the antipodes of the mystic. The circumstances of his life forced him into the practical stress and strain of the struggle for existence, and though he certainly did not write such good poetry when he did not write it spontaneously, I do not think his prose works suffered much from this cause. I do not think that anyone can read even the parts of Scott's works in which he writes of the planes of existence hidden from most men, and not feel that they were hidden from the writer too; that he neither saw nor sensed them. The White Lady is emphatically a feudal retainer, and the most intuitional sentiment in Scott that I can recall is in his prose work of Woodstock, where he points the moral that the denizens of the astral world must yield before the steady purity of purpose, the faith in God-i.e., in the divine Ego-of the old minister. But this, though in it the divine spoke in Scott, is not really occult, and he evidently discredits any other agency in the disturbances—that caused Bletson, the sceptic, to sleep with a bible under his pillow—than that of the loyal servants of the old knight. I do not mean that the divine did not speak in Scottas a man—as it does in nearly all of us; but I do say that it did not speak in him as a poet, that the divine fire did not descend upon him directly, but spoke through righteous tendencies, as in other good and gifted men-gifts and righteousness attained by him in previous lives. (To be continued.)


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