Doubt it nothe had his own sorrows: those Sonnets ofhis will even testify expressly in what deep waters he had wadedand swumstruggling for his life;- as what man like him ever failed to have to do? Another curious document, some considerable number of years later, is a Letter of Dante's to the Florentine Magistrates, written in answer to a milder proposal of theirs, that he should return on condition of apologizing and paying a fine. He and Owen were two famous World War I poets that wanted to make people back in Britain aware that they were often being lied to by military authorities and government officials. This man too hada right stroke in himhad it come to that! Carlyle gives us the evolution of the heroic through history by tracing the stories of: — Odin, the hero as a god or as divinity; — Muhammad, the hero as prophet of god; — Dante, the hero as poet; — Luther, the hero as priest; — Johnson, Burns and Rousseau, or the hero as a man of letters; and — the hero as king. Which Englishman we ever made, in this land of ours, which million of Englishmen, would we not give up rather than the Stratford Peasant? It is the soul of Dante, and in this the soul of the middle ages, rendered forever rhythmically visible there. But it is as with common men in the learning of trades. Divinity and Prophet are past.
He was born at Florence, in the upper class of society, in the year 1265. We need not spend time in defining. Has not each man a soul? How a man, of some wide thing that he has witnessed, will construct a narrative, what kind of picture and delineation he will give of it,--is the best measure you could get of what intellect is in the man. It is beautiful how Dante works it out. That is not the real fruit of it! Whether they did or not is beside the point or even an obstruction to the point.
Although he was born upper class, the political machinations of Florence drug him down. It is of the inmost essence of his genius this sort of painting. For two-thousand years, in fact. If you canthere isin prose or versein action or speculationall manner of hope. He served as a solider but was later sent to a mental hospital after he wrote a declaration which some saw as rebellion against his country.
The setting of the poem falls within the boy's imagination. We did not account him a godlike Odinwhile hedwelt with us;- on which point there were much to be said. To the seeing eye that something were discernible. He had met in boyhood a certain Beatrice Portinari, a beautiful little girl of his own age and rank, and grown up thenceforth in partial sight of her, in some distant intercourse with her. Or perhaps stated more correctly, history is nothing but the history of the heroic. I think it is the mournfulest face that ever was painted from reality; an altogether tragic, heart-affecting face.
The third stanza not only introduces the writer of the poem as a character, but also reminds readers that that other poet character is long dead. Hope has now dawned; never-dying Hope, if in company still with heavy sorrow. It is as an emblem of the whole genius of Dante. But within her injunction to Aeneas that there lies the task is the implicit understanding that to truly become a hero requires more than completion of the task; one must also return safe and alive. And, could you come up with a better defense of books than this: Certainly the Art of Writing is the most miraculous of all things man has devised. Observe too how all passionate language does of itself become musical,--with a finer music than the mere accent; the speech of a man even in zealous anger becomes a chant, a song. It seems to me, our apprehension of this matter is, for most part, radically falsified thereby.
Stephen's, on the hustings or elsewhere, was it that brought this Shakspeare into being? Hisvirtuesall of themwill lie recorded in his knowledge. The grand fundamental character is that of Great Man; that the man be great. She died: Dante himself was wedded; but it seems not happily, far from happily. Which brings us to the third stanza and the unusual direct introduction of the poet by name into the verse. Mankind had advanced to the point where he no longer stooped to such low intellectual things. It is some poor character onlydesiring to laughand have the credit of witthat does so. Sassoon again tries to show that death on the battle field is not a glorious duty, but a lonely and terrifying thing; an ordeal that men should not be ostracised about and made to feel guilty and cowardly.
The built houseseems all so fit- everyway as it should beas if it came there by its own lawand the nature of things- we forget the rude disorderly quarry it was shapedfrom. The rurality of the setting is further accentuated when Tagore talks of the 'cattle' and 'wide fields'. He has had no voice of genius, to be heard of all men and times. Odin's Runes were the first form of the work of a Hero; Books written words, are still miraculous Runes, the latest form! He is immensely brave as he rushes forward to face his new found enemies, but this seemingly tough character also has a softer side. If I say, therefore, that Shakspeare is the greatest of Intellects, I have said all concerning him. It is the one sole secret of continuing long memorable. You will try him so.
The Poet as Hero You've heard me, scornful, harsh, and discontented, Mocking and loathing War: you've asked me why Of my old, silly sweetness I've repented-- My ecstasies changed to an ugly cry. Withal the joyful tranquillity of this man is notable. Perfect, more perfect than any other man, we may call Shakspeare in this: he discerns, knows as by instinct, what condition he works under, what his materials are, what his own force and its relation to them is. We are wrong to understand heroes as ambitious. He knew not, more than we do, what was really happy, what was really miserable. No man works save under conditions. The Book;--and one might add that Portrait commonly attributed to Giotto, which, looking on it, you cannot help inclining to think genuine, whoever did it.
The Hero as Divinity, the Hero as Prophet, are productions of old ages; not to be repeated in the new. The magic sword melts to its hilt. For rigor, earnestness and depth, he is not to be paralleled in the modern world; to seek his parallel we must go into the Hebrew Bible, and live with the antique Prophets there. In the secret heart of these people it still dimly reveals itself, though there is no accredited way of uttering it at present, that this rustic, with his black brows and flashing sun-eyes, and strange words moving laughter and tears, is of a dignity far beyond all others, incommensurable with all others. Acts of Parliament, on the whole, are small, notwithstanding the noise they make. Necessities of language do perhaps prescribe such forms of utterance; we must speak, I am aware, in that way, if we are to speak at all. Hero, Prophet, Poet,--many different names, in different times, and places, do we give to Great Men; according to varieties we note in them, according to the sphere in which they have displayed themselves! He is practically the summary for us of all the various figures of Heroism; Priest, Teacher, whatsoever of earthly or of spiritual dignity we can fancy to reside in a man, embodies itself here, to command over us, to furnish us with constant practical teaching, to tell us for the day and hour what we are to do.