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manity strives to realize itself to free itself - in the individual. This is the whole concern of man's life. Whatever else he may be doing is by the way, and only a means to this supreme aim.
Literature, along with all other forms of fine art, is the product of the soul's effort to realize in consciousness its ideal and true self. Its genetic principle is life itself; or, ignoring the outer form, literature is life experience, the experience the soul has with itself in striving for the realization of its own true worth. As the triangle is constructed by a peculiar form of activity, so literature is born of a peculiar form of the soul's activity under the impulse of selfrealization. Thus literature is life primarily, and not form. The form is only the manifestation of the life.
Broadly, then, literature deals with human life. It does not treat of plants or planets, of rocks or rivers, of material things or physical laws. Its problem is within the spiritual world of man's own experience. Of course other subjects deal with human life, but literature deals with that which is universal and essential in human nature. The constructive energy of literature, as already stated, is that of the soul in striving to realize its inherent and ideal worth. Humanity is striving to appear in the individual. Hence literature does not deal with the superficial and passing interests of life. Every individual has private interests which are not essential to his humanity, and which may find no place in the lives of others. Such isolated experiences are not the subject-matter of literature. When the poet gives utterance to his own experience he voices also the experience of the race.
Lowell tells us that a literary man must not air his private liver complaint to the public. Literature cannot even treat of class interests; it must voice the humanity in man.
Thus we come to the great fact of the universality of literature. When Whittier says
"Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
he is voicing universal experience. respond to the relief when he says :—
“Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
And all hearts
In "The Barefoot Boy" Whittier quickens the universal sympathy for the joys of boyhood. In reading "Little Lord Fauntleroy" there is universal response to the kindness which begets kindness. The fox in the fable, after exhausting himself by jumping to reach the sweet and luscious grapes, skulked away declaring the grapes to be sour. And so man, in failing, diminishes the object of his search in the disappointment and defeat which survive. Esop has voiced this sentiment for more than two thousand years, and it has been the heart's method of recovery since its first disappointment. Millet's "Angelus is renowned, not because of its attributes as a mere picture, but because it touches a universal chord of religious devotion. "Breaking Home Ties" found a lingering response in every observer in the World's Fair Art Gallery. In "In Memoriam " Tennyson is wrestling with the problem of bereavement, and trying to ground his faith in the immortality of love; so that
he may at least feel that it is "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." In this he speaks the race's effort to free itself from the bondage of bereavement; it is the heart's own problem, - the problem of humanity.
Thus literature is born of that which is essential and abiding in human nature. It does not voice the temporal and accidental in human life. It belongs to no class or country. It knows neither time nor place; it can neither be dated nor located. "Its place is apart, where time has no sway in the pure realm of art.”
We often try to compliment an author by saying that he is American; as when it is said that Bryant is our distinctively American poet. Let it be hoped that such praise is not merited. In a superficial sense, one may be called an English writer because he is an Englishman and uses the English language; but if he speak from the true fountain of literature in the inner life, his nationality disappears and the English language becomes too narrow for his theme, which is soon translated into various tongues. Again, the writer may use local incidents and local scenery of this country or that, but these are only accidents and mere conveniences to his purpose. In this sense Bryant is quite American. In "Thanatopsis," "the hills rockribbed and ancient as the sun " were Bryant's own Berkshire hills, but that freedom from the blighting thought of death which comes from contemplating the sublime composure with which nature views death is for humanity and not for America. The waterfowl by which Bryant expressed faith in the guidance of Divine Providence was an American bird, but the faith which it symbolized is the ideal of every human heart. Longfellow, taking an incident in colonial life,
wrote "Evangeline," and so might be said to be a colonial poet; but the constancy of woman's devotion, which is the inspiring soul of the poem, is of human interest the world over. Burns wrote in the Scotch dialect about his own Scotch mouse, but the tender sympathy for the "sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie," which his plow colter had so rudely thrust from its nest, had in it nothing of Scotch accent. And when, by way of consolation, he says to the mouse,
"Still thou art blest compar'd wi' me!
he is expressing human - not Scotch nature. The Hoosier poet Riley is Hoosier in his dialect, but universal in his tender sympathy, touching pathos, and playful humor. "That old Sweetheart of Mine is neither his nor a Hoosier, but an omnipresent haunting vision to the sons and daughters of men.
Just in proportion as literature assumes temporal and local value does it lose literary character. Whittier's war poem, "Massachusetts to Virginia," is a masterpiece when considered in relation to what occasioned it, but it loses point and value in the calming of the troubled waters; but "Snow-Bound" is as enduring as the home life about the fireside which it celebrates. A literary theme must not be subject to the vicissitudes of time and place. As Lowell well puts it, "Literature that loses its meaning, or the best part of it, when it gets beyond the sight of the parish steeple, is not what I understand by literature. To tell you when you cannot fully taste a book that it is be
cause it is too thoroughly national is to condemn the book. To say it of a poem is even worse, for it is to say that what should be true of the whole compass of human nature is true only to some north-and-by-easthalf-east point of it. I can understand the nationality of Firdusi when, looking sadly back to the former glories of his country, he tells us that the nightingale still sings old Persian; ' I can understand the nationality of Burns when he turns his plow aside to spare the rough burr thistle, and hopes he may write a song or two for dear auld Scotia's sake. That sort of nationality belongs to a country of which we are all citizens, that country of the heart which has no boundaries laid down on the map."
This standard of universality is of great value in tracing the history of literature, and is itself further illustrated and made distinct in that process. Chaucer ranks fairly well as thus measured, and stands out from among his contemporaries because he rose to the point of speaking to man as man. He followed the period of great discoveries, and of the Reformation in which man discovered himself. Chaucer was born of the Renaissance; and the historical conditions permitted the enjoyment of life on its own account. Chaucer indulges in the overplus and luxury of life, in life as all know it and enjoy it. Then followed the Wars of the Roses and other depressing influences; and for two hundred years the writings of men are distracted and limited to partial views and conflicting interests. And then comes the new lease on life; and with it Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton. Shakespeare is the product and exponent of the soul's full consciousness of itself, and measures above the other two by the standard of uni