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The Optical Metaphor: Victorian Poetics and the Theory of Knowledge Author(s): W.

David Shaw Reviewed work(s): Source: Victorian Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Spring, 1980), pp. 293-324 Published by: Indiana University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3827337 . Accessed: 03/09/2012 08:14
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W. David Shaw

THE POETICS

OPTICAL AND THE

METAPHOR: THEORY OF

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- if it is a verbal structure set up visual images. If poetryis mimetic beside the world that it describes then any critical theory about poetrymust analyze the dominantoptical metaphors,the models of the mind as transparentwindow, self-reflecting mirror,telescopic lens, or refracting prism, which invariably determine our ways of since Plato's time have triedto freethe seeing the world.Philosophers mind fromits dependence on optical aids by positingthe standardof an image-free vision of the real. But in the Victorianage, under the impact of criticaland skeptical theoriesof knowledge,the poet, like the philosopher, of discomes to recognizethat thereis no possibility It is in to the real. the aid a defection of optical avowing metaphor and aids at all, but not a question of eliminating metaphoricmodels of deciding which aids to use. For, despite the retreatof the old interto the principle of pretativemodels, the allegiance to hermeneutics, is itself, strengthened. interpretation When a Victorian epistemologistlike F. H. Bradley defines the identityof a thing as the view we take of it, the credence that instead realitiesis transferred could no longerbe given to image-free to those same realitiesunderstoodto be images. The world no longer evokes a poet's image of it: the poet's changingimages evoke a world. As Bradley concludes,"thereis no way of qualifyingthe Real except metaphorsof the observingmind, by appearances,"by the distorting "and outside the Real there remainsno space in which appearances" (in which visual images and illusions of the real) "could live."' If
'F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality: A MetaphysicalEssay (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1893), p. 489.

REALITY HAS OFTEN BEEN INTERPRETED THROUGH THE REPORTS GIVEN BY

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that impels us to place things realityis itselfa metaphor,something - to see A as B and C as D, in the depthsof some undera perspective stereoscopicvision- then thereexistsno original,independentof the mind'spicturesof the real, forits copies to usurp. In such a world the optical metaphorshave an extraordinary power to determinethe demands of the poet or the epistemologist upon his world. For that world is clearlya product of his own interpretative models, a manifestation of the same picture-making energyor power. Behind every criticaleffort it is possible to discern a distinct theoryof knowledge.If the poet's mind is essentiallya self-reflecting mirror or kaleidoscope,then,as FrancisBacon argues,the levityof the will be no substitute forthe burden of history. Poetry poet's fictions then becomes the organ,not of truth, but of mere illusion or makcbelieve, what Bacon calls "feignedhistory."2 If, on the otherhand, the window,as mostneopoem,likethemind,is a transparent, unrefracting classical mimetic theorists will be assert,the poet's power of invention to a subordinate role. In in the North an influential relegated essay BritishReview (August 1853), David Masson dramatizesthe central in Victorianpoetic theory conflict as an oppositionbetween these two alternatives:between the idealizing epistemologyof Bacon and the mimetictheoriesof Aristotle.3 Until the nineteenth most theoriesof poetryconcede century, eitherthe imaginativepower of the poet or the cognitivedignityof
Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning,Bk. II, in Selected Writings of Francis Bacon, ed. Hugh G. Dick (New York: Random House, 1955), p. 244. 3 [David Masson], Review of E. S. Dallas's Poetics and Alexander Smith's Poems, NorthBritishReview, 19 (1853), 297-344. Bacon's poet creates an idealized world, but in no sense a true one. In the classical theory of Aristotle, on the otherhand, the not a more idealized world than is normally poet presents, perceived but a more essential world- one in which the finaland formalcauses are more readilydiscernible. But in most neoclassical conceptions of poetry, based on Aristotle'sdoctrine of is relegated to a subordinaterole. Masson does not trace mimesis,the imagination the history of such conceptions, but a word may be added here. Though a neoclassical theoristlike Thomas Hobbes analyzes the compoundingpower of the imagination, is developedby wherebyit can join two images to forma third,its power of invention Hobbes only in relationto naturalphilosophy, not in relationto poetryand the arts. In the epistemologies of David Hume and Adam Smith,imaginationclaims a more centralplace, as heir to the dethroned but it is far frombeing recogunderstanding, nized as an organ of truth.When pre-Romantic critics from Bacon down to John the primacyof the poet's imaginationand of his Dryden and JosephAddison affirm power,as a result,to presentan idealized world,theyacquiesce in Bacon's divorceof art fromtruth.Addison, for example, in combininga Baconian poetics of merely "feigned history"with Hobbes's theoryof the imagination'scompounding power, is an essentiallyempirical poetic. Influenced,I think, by John Locke's formulating demonstration that the secondaryqualities are a product of the perceivingmind, Addison's doctrineof the secondaryimaginationallows the poet more imaginative license than the neoclassical theoryof Hobbes. But because the poet still "humours the imaginationby mending and perfecting nature where he describes a reality," Addison'stheory, like Bacon's, is fictitous in essence.
2

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the poet, but not both at once. Only for the great Romantic poets, forWilliam Wordsworth and S. T. Coleridge, does every act of existential perceptionbecome an act to which the perceivercontributes an essentialingredient of his own knowledge,ratherin the way that a chemical element leaves its imprinton a spectrogram. Thus, even - his observation, for example, that Wordsworth's simplestjudgment he "saw a crowd / A host,of golden daffodils" ("I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," 3-4)- is, in Kant's terminology, a synthetica priori judgment.His propositionis not merelytautological,or analytic,for its predicate adds experientialknowledge that is not implicitin the subject. Yet the grammaticaland human subject, the lyric "I" of Wordsworth's poem, brings to his experience of the daffodils,not simplythe spatial and temporalcategoriesthat Kant insistsupon, but other mental and imaginative qualities which entitle Wordsworth to call the mind"lord and master"over "outwardsense" (The Prelude, XII.222). Because every existential perceptioncelebrates the creative power of the perceivingmind- its godlike power to bring order out of chaos - the poetic activitythat proceeds to refineand exalt this power is being most imitativeof the way the world is put together when it is most freelyexercisingits prerogative.In the language of window when mostfaithfully as a transparent optics,it is functioning or it is operatingat the same time as a refracting glass prism. Until the 187os, when a new interestin formalism begins to displace the preoccupationwith earlier optical models, most of the to challengingcriticaltheoryof the Victorianage arises in an effort resolve the claims of Masson's two traditions.Matthew Arnold propounds his influentialdoctrine of the "imaginative reason," J. H. Newman develops his theoryof the "illativesense," Robert Browning triesto unite "fancywith fact,"and JohnRuskinpropoundshis innoto keep the vative theoryof the "naturalistideal" - all in an effort on the one a fidelity window and the mirror, to natureand experience, hand, and a range of moral and imaginativelicense, on the other,in some kind of balance. In practice, however, the combination of models produces a more complicatedpicture than Masson's bipartite model suggests. In order to see how unexpected combinationsproboth the poetic theoryand duce new theoretical strains, complicating the I shall to of try provide some compass points by practice age, which to chart our way, not just throughMasson's two, but through traditions. fivedistinct In what follows,each criticaltraditionis aligned with an hisVictorianexample. Since the torical antecedent and a contemporary
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epistemological models that have traditionallyexercised the most over theoriesof poetic creationare theologicalin origin,I authority have associated each theoryof knowledge with a philosophical or biblical model of divine creation. But oftenthe scope of a model's stemsfromthe propertiesof visual perceptionthat are peauthority culiar to specificoptical metaphors.Such metaphorsare particularly importantin mid-VictorianEngland, where astronomersat Camthe sun and moon and were learningto bridge were photographing use visual images as a trace,something stencilledoffthe real, directly like a finger or a death mask. For an era that print played with such discovered as the the diorama, newly optical games panorama, the and the magic lantern,a varietyof visual metaphors, stereopticon, to the time-lapsephotographand rangingfromthe telescopic mirror the kaleidoscope,help clarify the main theoriesof knowledgeand the kind of criticaltheory and poetic practicethat each tradition entails. I The first theoryof knowledge,which assumes both a Platonic and an empirical form,affirms that the truthis independentof the instrument-the optical telescopic mirroror the window-through which the observertriesto view it. The productof a particulartheory of knowledgethat separatesthe simulacrum on the one side fromthe and on the Platonic realism depreciates original other, perfectcopy the poet's images as the inferior copies of a copy; they are true in so far as they mirror somethingreal, a sham in so far as they are no morethanresemblances. As A. N. Whiteheadonce observed, "the worst of a gulfis . . . that it is verydifficult to know what is happening on the further side of it. This has been the fate of the God of traditional Christianrealism may tryto heal the rift, the sundering theology."4 of the mind fromits objects, by substituting for Plato's second-rate God of the world,who is a mere icon or image, a doctrineof Incarthepersuasiveagencyof God is made immanent in the nation,whereby world. One of the most valiant Victorianefforts to heal the rift, by using the analogy of the familyand the sacramentsof the churchas "the visible with the invisible "signsof a spiritualsociety"connecting is F. D. Maurice's The Kingdomof Christ.5 world," treatise, three-part
'A. N. Whitehead,"The New Reformation," Adventures of Ideas (London: Macmillan, 5 F. D. Maurice, "Signs of a SpiritualSociety,"The Kingdomof Christ,pt. II, sec. vi (London: Everyman, n.d.), p. 160.
1933), p. 169.

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But forrealismin general,Christianas well as Platonic, God is emireal. nentlyreal, and the world and the human mind are derivatively God is necessaryto the human mind,but the mind and its world are not necessaryto God. of a Platonic-Christian the influence AmongVictoriantheorists, of theoryof knowledgecan be discernedmost clearly in the writings H. theoretical Newman and In his Patmore. J. early essay Coventry "Poetry,with Reference to Aristotle'sPoetics," Newman Platonizes Aristotle.6 Because Platonic-Christian realism consigns the poet to a derivativeworld,one that is sundered fromits divine original,Newman, like Sir Philip Sidney and Plato, calls upon the poet to imitate the divine Maker by forming a model of certainsuperiortypes.These are the formsof Sidney's golden or unfallenEdenic world, obscured by nature. Poetry is to historyor biography,Newman argues, what mathematicallaws in physics are to natural phenomena: poetryunveils the archetypes, the models of manyimperfect copies in the fallen world.By combining the primary idealizingimpulsein Platonicpoetics with a second more skeptical impulse, with a defense of the poet's as a necessaryconsequence of his deep emotionand ineffable obscurity subject matter,Newman arrivesat a typical realist conclusion. Since the image is absolutelydistinctfromthe object depicted, there is no activityas practical magic, as way the poet can use his image-making or gaining power over anything.Only in an a way of appropriating eschatologicaldreamvisioncan the poet arresttheprocessof desacralifromthe world of sacred times zation that separates him irrevocably and places. But even in the apocalypticmode of Newman's own poem "The Dream of Gerontius," the Christianrealistmust draw aside the before he can veil of nature,using the mind as a telescopic mirror, the demons, in the of soul to an ideal which vision Gerontius, penetrate and the angels are shown to participatein the sacred realityof the Newman discerns. eschatologicalmysteries In an essay entitled "A People of a StammeringTongue," CoventryPatmore combines the epistemologyof a Christianrealist witha different theoryof knowledge,one which draws "the long bow of mysticism" to use Whitehead'sphrase (p. 169) - in order to colthe temporalworld. The habit of speaking lect evidences of God from in symbols,enigmas,or parables bridges the gulf between the word
6 The essay is published in the first numberof the London Review, founded in 1829,

in J. H. Newman's Essays Critical and Historical (London: B. M. and is reprinted see Alba H. Warren, Pickering,1871), I, 1-29. On Newman'sPlatonizingof Aristotle, English Poetic Theory, 1825-1865 (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1950): "Newman's theoryof poetryis Platonic and romantic,and is fundaof the Poetics" (p. 36). mentally opposed to the theory

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and the Word by makingthe simple,self-evident of a mystic intuitions the measure of the real. Though Patmoreconcedes that the language of "interjection, doxologies, parables, and aphorisms"has "no conbut that of a commonheat and light,"he commends necting unity it as the language of real apprehension, the naturallanguage of what Newman calls "real" as opposed to "notional' assent.7 A Christianrealistlike Browning'sDavid in "Saul" or like Patmore's lyric celebrant in "The Child's Purchase," for whom God is God runs the risk unspeakablyreal, fearsthat any attemptto mirror of subvertingHis grandeur,of demoting His primacy.Yet to heal the rift betweenthe mind and its objects,a rift by which the universe is in principle torn apart, David must focus God throughthe telescopic lens of "A Face like my face," "a Hand like this hand" (310the Creator throughan "Essential 311), just as Patmoremust refract a "Prism Alone we see / . . . lightin its triplicdrop" (51), whereby/ like Alfred,Lord Tennyson's ity" (79-81). A less doctrinalvisionary, Percivale in "The Holy Grail," presentsthe simultaneousappearance and withdrawalof the sacred object as a magnificent whorl of puland contraction. of most satinggrowth Composed Tennyson's congenial - the passing of Galasubjects- illusion,flux,and self-concealment had is a palimpsest,both artfuland marvelouslyelemental. On selfsheetsof light,outlinesof the grail are awesomelystencilled, effacing and heaven and earth rising fallinglike the billows of a sea, flooding with tides of grandeur.As an artistof northern landscapes, Tennyson, like J. M. W. Turner,findsin the aurora borealis a deliriumof light thatreleaseshis mostaustereand ravishing visions.Liberated from any controlledonly by the precisionand specifictheologicalsignificance, majesty of Tennyson's lyric art, the splendor of the Holy Grail, seems tensed glimpsed as througha veil and strangelyshimmering, into transition, alive and luminouswithfrightening possibilities. But even as Tennysonuses Percivale's splendid auroral vision of "the spiritualcity and all her spires" ("The Holy Grail," 526) to make us aware of the ordinary but important sense in whichan autumn in become a night England may fitting receptacleforthe lightand fire of heaven, his art of optic focussingclearly exalts a potential for vision- an expectationthat revelation"may come tomorrowin the ix.22) simplestword" (Wallace Stevens,"The Aurorasof Autumn," over anythingthe observer may actually see. To increase the Platonist'scompassionforreality, forthe world and time,a sacramental
7CoventryPatmore,Principlein Art, Religio Poetae, and Other Essays (London: B. Bell, 1889), p. 259.

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realist like Browning'sFra Lippo Lippi must give the Word a local habitation. Fra Lippo's celebration of "The shapes of things,their colors, lightsand shades, / Changes, surprises"("Fra Lippo Lippi," to use 284-285) is in fact a paradisaic text.A kind of Franciscanism, Roland Barthes'sphrase, "invitesall words to perch, to flock,to fly offagain" in a "marbled,iridescent" hymnof praise.8In Gerard Manley Hopkins's "Pied Beauty,"anotherTe Laudamus, a paean to God "fordappled things"(1), the Christianrealist'scontinuousjubilation gorgeshim with language. Intoxicatedwith the sound of his alliterattags ing words,which he flings pell-mell,Hopkins uses discontinuous and phrases- the veryexcess of "Whateveris fickle, "swift, freckled," slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim" (8-9) - to rediscover God under of sensory of everyvariety pleasure. The Christian teemingimpressions realistteaches the Platonista new love forthe world by using a paradise of wordsto bringheaven down to earth. Gravid with the ballast of John Locke's primaryqualities, a second formof realism anchors in the most solid propertiesof the of Hopkins'sChristian"reel-ist," physicalworld the heady intoxication who is always in danger, like the Platonist,of "reeling" into bliss. Unlike the "reel-ist," the Lockean empiricistlooks througha transbut of Plato's archetypes, parentglass or window,not on the divinity on the dense, impervious sovereigntyof things. Enshrined in the associationistaccount of mind and nature to be found in the Utilitarian descendants of Locke and David Hartley (in James Mill's Analysisof the Phenomenaof the Human Mind, in J.S. Mill's editorial notes to his father'swork, and in his own System of Logic), the realisttheoryof knowledge,in its empiricalform, posits three operations. The mind receives, as througha window, preexistingdata of sensation; it recognizes patternsin these received data; then it proundergeneralconcepts.9 thepatterns ceeds to classify J.S. Mill's theory of knowledgeis still based on a primary fact-gathering process of inBut the role duction,framedon a model of truthby correspondence. to in as to intuition judgment opposed imagination) given (rooted
8 Roland Barthes,The

9 J. S. Mill identifies when he statesin his Logic: "I hear a man's these threeoperations voice. This would pass, in commonlanguage, for a directperception.All, however, which is reallyperception, is that I hear a sound. That the sound is a voice, and that the voice of a man, are not perceptionsbut inferences." John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic, in Collected Worksof JohnStuartMill, ed. JohnM. Robson (Toronto: Universityof Toronto Press, 1973), VIII, 642. By searching,in Humean terminology, it or cause and effectamong the impressions for patternsof resemblance,contiguity, is able to translatethe raw data of perceptioninto material receives,the imagination suitableforthe thinking facultyto treat.

Wang, 1975),

p. 8.

Pleasure of the Text, trans.Richard Miller (New York: Hill and

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(which is channelled throughmemory) transforms completely the account of Thomas Hobbes and JamesMill. mechanistic If we are lookingforVictoriansurvivalsof the earlierempirical we we must turn,not to J. S. Mill himself, whose criticism tradition, shall treatlater under the Baconian tradition, but to criticslike G. H. Lewes, HerbertSpencer,and Leigh Hunt. Hobbes's mechanistic model, the window of the poet's mind to a fadingmemoryof which confines sensual images, or "decaying sense," survives in Leigh Hunt's condemnationof "fancy"forbringing together"by the will and pleasure ... images not in theirnature connected."10 His distinction between beand to distinction Addison's "fancy" "imagination"corresponds with tween false and true wit. Reacting against his early infatuation Hegelian aestheticsand influenced by Herbert Spencer's attemptin his "Philosophyof Style" to definethe psychological conditionsfor effective revivesa more potentoptical G. H. Lewes briefly expression, versionof the mechanisticmodel. - the clarityand A legacy of the Cartesian criterion of truth distinctness of the mind's ideas - Lewes's defense of clear vision exclear images he of Wordsworth's plains why insistson the superiority to Edward Young's obscure ones. Withoutcondoningthe bondage to natureof an uncomposedphotograph, which retainsa materialvestige of its subjectin a way no paintingcan, Lewes contendsthatthe poet's of a snaplucid mentalvision,in emancipating itselffromthe tyranny the sovereignty of sharply celebrateand reaffirm shot,will continually etched sensoryimpressions.1What Lewes says applies to such indelibly stamped visual images as the yew tree or the burial ship in In Memoriam,images which obsess the mourner, which cling to his he remembers. memorylike a nightmare Reviving,in wholly secular terms,somethinglike the primitivestatus of images, Lewes's clear and distinctideas are magical extensions of theirsubject. They are a it, of gaining control over it, rather potent means of appropriating as if the poet's words were suddenly to become words of power, of a talismanor magic formula. acquiringthe properties
10Leigh Hunt, Imaginationand Fancy; or Selectionsfromthe English Poets (London: Smith,Elder, 1844), p. 30. The quotation appears in an introductory essay, "An Answerto the Question'What is Poetry?'" images which have the vividness 1Thus, Lewes criticizesCharles Dickens for reviving which produce effects of photographs, that "have the coercive force of realities,excluding all control,all contradiction." Incapable of prizing as a prerogativeof the mind its abilityto withdrawfromthe tyranny of the outwardeye, Dickens's animal intelligencehas produced, in Lewes's view, an amalgam of "mingled verisimilitude and falsityaltogether unexampled."See his "Dickens in Relation to Criticism,"rpt. in G. H. Lewes, The Principles ed. T. S. Knowlson(London: of Success in Literature, W. Scott,n.d.), p. o00.

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If thereis to be a God in this new world of sensoryobjects, it is the Deist God, who created the densityof an exteriorworld, then retiredfromHis creation.Instead of merelypulling the rightstrings to activate his characterslike puppets, the poet, as an absentee God, must efface himself before the imperviousnessof a world that is genuinelydense but free- independentof its creator.To walk "barefootinto reality," as Wallace Stevensputs it ("Large Red Man Reada verse novelist like Browningmust recover for poetry the ing," 6), empiricalresidue of ordinary experience.A vast amountof descriptive detail excitesour curiosity as the precise an interest about so arbitrary taste and color of the court lady's poison in "The Laboratory,"as it excitesour interest in the decapitated Jew's head and the Madonna's breast in "The Bishop Orders His Tomb." Our delightin the bishop's eroticPan, jammed in between St. Praxed and Moses, is our hallucinatoryrelishof reality.It is our joy in the verytouch and feel of sensuof what once existed in baroque sculptureas ality,in the materiality a veritableconceit in stone. In the cluttered Victoriandecor of Tennyson'sprologue to The as in full-scale"novel in verse" Elizabeth BarrettBrowning's Princess, Aurora Leigh, the poet retrievesalbums of trivia- snapshots of a dense, myopicworld. By being essentiallylavish of particulars, many of Tennyson'sdomesticidylls catch the reader in a web of minutely told circumstance. A monologue like "Caliban Upon Setebos" is an atoll built of microscopicorganisms, a myriadof coursing"eft-things" whose minuteness the checks (5), impact of the sea stormssent very Setebos. of the Instead by advancing story,a vast agglomerationof trifles in The Ring and the Book confirms the mimeticcontractof the this is a text about the that as window the reader poem by assuring real world. Through meticulousdocumentationin the court records of the seventeenth-century Roman murdertrial,the poem's historical fittedinto schemes action becomes part of a systemof information, of classification and storage.RobertBrowning's dogged accumulations redefinehistoricalreality as itself an item for visual exhibition,an for scrutiny archival fragment and reconstruction. II The second theoryof knowledge,which assumes both a Berkeraises the ghost of philosophic idealism. leyan and a Baconian form, in the Originating philosophy of consciousness of James Frederick
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Ferrier and culminatingin the absolute idealism of its subtlest exin Victorianthoughtconponent F. H. Bradley,the idealist tradition tinues to exercise a profound,though now neglected, influenceon both the theoryand practice of Victorianpoetry.In its most extreme form,idealism simply reversesthe postulates of realism. Instead of or the Hobbesian realist,that with the Platonic-Christian affirming, the object of knowledge is independentof the knower,the idealist assertsthat the knowingmind is independentof the world. Ferrier's philosophy of consciousness,which is the Victorian counterpartof Bishop Berkeley'ssubjective idealism, insiststhat the real is always "mecum." The ontological premise of Ferrier'sidealism is also the premise of the Hindu: the axiom that the world is one because he feels it one, that the "I" is Brahman,the world-principle, the all. The reductio ad absurdum of the idealist axiom-no object without a - is emotionalgnostimirror subject,no worldwithouta self-reflecting Sordello'screed: faithneverfarremovedfrom cism,an epistemological "I feel, am what I feel,know what I feel; / So much is truthto me" (Sordello, VI.435-436). Like some mysticalsouls who reject dogma to reach pure faith,Sordello forgets that intelligencecan never exist in a vacuum. It requires a situationto bring it into play, to promotea possible idea to the dignityof actual thought, makingtruththe token of successfuloperation. In his Institutes Ferrierargues that the mind's of Metaphysics, fromgoing below a certainlimit; capacityforknowledgeis prohibited it cannot descend to the apprehensionof less than the minimum scibile per se, which Ferrier definesas the "object plus subject."12 Ferrierbelieves that the gulfbetween the human mind and the mind of God, betweenepistemology and ontology, can be bridgedby means of carefully constructed if Berkeley's"esse est But logical argument. or Ferrier's "the the percipi," object mecum,"is inseparable unit of cognition,as Ferrierinsists,how can the idealist unhinge the world fromhis mind?13 It occursto some of Ferrier'sfellowidealists,includand that God and the world may be merely ing Tennyson Browning, Ferrier'sself-reflecting mind writ large. In emphatic parody of the Hebraic God's creationex nihilo is the omnivorous mind of Ferrier's idealistnot condemnedto communewithghosts, to feed on shades and
J. H. Ferrier,The Institutes of Metaphysics:Theory of Knowingand Being (Edinburgh: W. Blackwoodand Sons, 1854), prop. III, p. 106. 13 For a similarcriticism of Ferrier,see FrederickCopleston,A Historyof Philosophy (New York: Doubleday, 1967), VIII, pt. I, 186: "On Ferrier'spremissesit appears to followthatGod Himself,as thought the subject by me, mustbe object-for-a-subject, being myself."
12

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self-reflections? Is his mind not locked withina prison-house of solipin "The Palace of Art?" intellectual sism,like Tennyson'sself-isolated The frightening solitude of this Hebraic model is implicitin Puttenham's Elizabethan manual, the Art of English Poesy George (1589), which envisages a poet who "without travail to his . . Imaginationmade all the world of nought."In the nineteenth century, the threatof solipsismis never far removedfromWordsworth's utterances about the poet's spontaneousoverflowof powerfulfeeling,or fromShelley's idealist metaphorof the poet as a solitarylyre, swept into music by the passing breeze. The same threatreappears in the Victorianage in JohnKeble's notion that poetry is "the indirectexand in the essays of pression . . . of some overpoweringemotion"14 the Spasmodic critic,SydneyDobell, forwhom all poetryapproaches the conditionof dramaticperformance. Dobell calls the poet's ability to transform his mind into the mind of othercharactersthe power of that resemblesa gigantic But it is a transfiguration "transfiguration." soliloquy more than it resemblesa play; forthe whole drama is performed,not on a stage, but withinthe private theatre of the poet's mind.The poet's mimeticgiftsare of a peculiar kind,fortheyremain, as Dobell says, "the perfectexpressionof a perfecthuman mind" or, as David Masson says, the "phantasmagory" of a dreamer.15 the nineteenthTo presentthe mind as a self-reflecting mirror, with a remarkablenew genre,the spiritual century poets experiment like melodrama in the confessionor monodrama.What looks at first verse narratives of the Spasmodic school, or in a dramaticconfession like Browning'sParacelsus or Pauline, may simplybe "a convention of characterization" designed, as Robert Preyerobserves,"to provide a rapid means of entry" into the poet's mind,"the real subject of the the language of Sordello,Paracelsus, narrative."'6 Secretand eccentric, and Pauline comes as close as poems can to the intimatecenter of speech. They compose a poetry of private language, before words streamoutward,losing energyand pressureas they struggleto make contact with an alien world. Such poetry uses every safeguard of flatness of secondarycharof conventional obliqueness,of reservation, acterization,to preserve the secret knowledge and shared memories
14JohnKeble, Review of JohnGibson Lockhart's

Life of Sir Walter Scott, BritishCritic and Quarterly Theological Review, 24 (1838), 426-427. " SydneyDobell, "The Nature of Poetry,"Thoughtson Art, Philosophy,and Religion (London: Smith, Elder, 1876), p. 7. David Masson, "Theories of Poetry and a New Poet," rpt.in Essays Biographicaland Critical (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1856),
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Robert Preyer, "Robert Browning: A Reading of the Early Narratives,"ELH, 26


(1959), 536.

p. 430.

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of an elect group. Because the verses of Pauline seem to formamong themselvesan esotericorder of meaning,they can use language as a formof password,granting admissiononlyto a select nucleus of privileged readers. Under the pressureof intenselycompressedfeelingin Sordello, grammarcontractsand the normal connectinglinks of discourse fall away. A product of the mind's self-reflecting such mirror, is dense with and seems to evolve language compacted implication along several grooves of grammaticalpossibilityat once. The more plural the textbecomes,the morethe reader mustworkto share in its secrecy;the moreone mustlabor,in the privacyof one's own reading, to restoreor reconstruct it. A second idealist tradition,found in Utilitarian critics like fromBacon. In order to J. S. Mill and W. J. Fox, derives ultimately and divides his world in two, deBacon push poetry religionaside, veloping a merelyidealizing theoryof the poetic imaginationso that he may devote himself to an empiricalstudyof the inductivesciences. the of poetryas a pursuitdevoid of cogDismissing "feignedhistory" nitive dignity, Bacon is then able to pass safely fromthe entertainments of the theaterinto "the judicial place or palace of the mind" (Bacon, p. 247). In his earliest theory,a legacy of his Utilitarian epistemology,J. S. Mill follows Bacon in separating poetry and theologyfromphilosophyand science: both are alternativeways of the world. In his posthumously interpreting published Essays on ReMill's the model of is Gnosticmodel,which creation ligion, theological sundersmatterfromspirit.The world-builder is the adversaryof the true God, omnipotent but cruel,just as the sovereignof this world is the scientist, not the poet, since if we are seekingknowledgewe must turn to the mind's more inductive operations: association by conalone informs the mind about the naturaloccasions of its own tiguity experience. In so inclusiveand self-critical a thinker as J. S. Mill, however, it is possible to discern the outline of at least three epistemological is the Baconian model,which in poetry, models. Most prominent as in divides the world in two,and which formulates a distinction theology, between two kinds of association. We can associate our ideas emotionally,accordingto some desire of the mind,as the poet associates them,or we can group ideas, as do men of science and business,ac. . . made for the classifications cordingto what Mill calls "artificial convenience of thought and practice."17Even in altering what is
17 J. S.

Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1961),

Mill, "Thoughtson Poetryand Its Varieties,"first publishedin 1833 and revised in 1859; rpt. in Victorianson Literatureand Art,ed. RobertL. Peters (Englewood
pp. 90-91.

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merely successive in experience,the second method of association must still observe principlesof spatial and temporalconnection.The rather than sucpoet, on the other hand, associating synchronously linked into a web sense ideas that are of similar, cessively, brings single not by temporal or spatial bonds but by bonds of emotion. Mill's which can trace its venerable ancestryback to Aristotle, distinction, between distinction becomes the basis of Roman Jakobson's influential the metaphoricand metonymic between association of writing, poles and associationby contiguity.s1 by similarity Two othermodels of the mind- one teleological and the other Hobbesian - play crucial roles in Mill's poetic theories.When analyzing the teleologyof art in the sixthbook of his Systemof Logic, Mill affirms that poetry,as one branch of art (which includes ethics and politics), "proposes to itselfan end to be attained, definesthe end, and hands it over to the science" (Mill, Logic, p. 944). In illuminating the magic lanternof the poet's mind casts its beam generalprinciples, into a kingdomof ends or final causes. No longer the antithesisof science but its necessary counterpart, poetry,like the other arts, is now perceived to be at faultonly in denouncingscience and wishing can to be omnivorous.Neitherprinciple,the poetic or the scientific, be allowed to monopolize life's values.19 Still a third theory of knowledge, a legacy of Hobbesian empiricism,survives in Mill's a Baconian poetic poetic theories.For even when Mill is formulating he claims that the poet's functionis to describe,not the lion, theory, but the emotionsit evokes (Mill, "Thoughtson Poetry,"p. 82). Mill is unwillingto eliminatethe lion altogetherbecause he is reluctant to surrender the truthclaims of poetry. Stubbornlyretaininga corverb respondence theoryof truthin his use of the representational "describe,"Mill continuesto hover between a Baconian model of the mirror and a Hobbesian model of the poem as poem as self-reflecting glass or window. He partly reconciles these models by transparent a memory,based on a model of the developing theoryof affective mind as an obscure or darkened glass. Mill suggests that a poet's intuitive(as opposed to judgmental) formof inferencemay still be
18 Roman Jakobson, "Two

Aspects of Language and Two Types of Linguistic Disturbances," in Fundamentals of Language, ed. Roman Jakobson and Morris Halle ('S-Gravenhage: Mouton, 1956), p. 58. 19 In Mill's 1833 essays,"the poetryof culture"and of "a naturally poetic temperament" beare opposed. But in his London Review article of 1835, the poet-philosopher, to the mere poet. Mill's cause he combinestwo virtues,is naturallyto be preferred ability to criticize and enlarge his premises about poetry gives to these essays a not merely dialectic, but life. For what distinguishes, delightfuland exhilarating intelligenceitself from mere observingis the power of revising and synthesizing which Mill displaysto an eminentdegree. thought,

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confirmed by judgment if the emotions he associates, even though to no eventsin presenttime,were in factevoked by past corresponding in memory, obscured which a commemorative events, poem like In Memoriamor The Prelude may suddenlyrestore to life. No such ambivalence among Baconian, Hobbesian, and teleoW. J.Fox, forwhom logical models persistsin Mill's fellowUtilitarian, the empiricist's on window naturebecomes a mirror on the soul. Fox's of the mind,forwhom art is less a magic poet is praised as a scientist lanternthan a microscope, an optical instrument that allows a master like to dissect the most intricaterecesses of psychologist Tennyson mania or obsession.20Whenever Tennyson seems to be opening a window on a landscape or a scene, he is traininga microscopeon a mind obsessed or diseased, turninga settinglike the vale of Ida in "Oenone" or Mariana's desertedcottageintoa regionof the soul. Similardualismsof factand imaginative sense of factpersistin the theoriesof G. H. Lewes, Alexander Smith,and their American A. B. Johnson."The difference between a rationalist contemporary and a poet," says Lewes, "is that the imaginativemind sees images where ordinaryminds see nothingbut signs" (Lewes, p. 34). Rationalistswho dwell among the formsof logic are inclined to reject as crude and unthinkableeverything not fully expressible in their between the language logical signs. But Lewes's semanticdistinction of signs and the language of images is an attempt,not to denigrate the latter, but to show that the two are cognitively distinct. As M. H. Abramshas shown,a similardistinction in AlexanderSmith's important article"The Philosophy of Poetry," publishedin Blackwood'sMagazine (December 1835), anticipates the poetic theoryof I. A. Richards, whichis grounded, like Mill's,on the opposition betweenthe referential and emotiveuses of words.21 who apthe theorist AmongLewes's and Mill's contemporaries, to the language plies a Baconian theoryof knowledgemostrigorously of science and art is the American philosopher Alexander Bryan In A Treatise of Language, Johnson Johnson. anticipatesC. L. Stevenson's distinction betweenthe emotiveand descriptive uses of words in
20 Thus

forpoems like "Supposed Confessions"and "Mariana," Fox praises Tennyson's abilityto "obtain entranceinto a mind as he would make his way into a landscape; he climbsthe pineal gland as if it were a hill in the centreof the scene." W. J. Fox, Review of Tennyson, Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830), WestminsterReview, 14 Victorian Scrutinies: Reviews of Poetry, 1830(1831); rpt. in Isobel Armstrong, 1870 (London: AthlonePress, 1972), p. 76. M. H. Abrams, "The Semantics of Expressive Language: Alexander Smith," The Mirrorand the Lamp (New York: Oxford University Press, 1953), pp. 148-155, especiallyp. 151.

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moraldiscourse.22 RudolfCarnap and A. J.Ayer,Johnson Anticipating relegates the language of metaphysics,poetry, and religion to the Only science, grammaticaldomain of exclamation and interjection. which uses a declarativesentence type, is cognitive.Johnsonlocates the language of morals and education, whose grammaticalmood is and whose functionis neither cognitive imperativeor interrogative nor expressivebut practical,midway between art and science. Like is the Victorianancestor A. B. Johnson J.S. Mill and AlexanderSmith, all of whom of a host of logical positivists in the twentiethcentury, to solve the of central propose problems philosophyby distinguishing - especially instruments betweenthe mind'sepistemological rigorously between the self-reflecting mirror of an emotiveuse of words and the window of a referential use. When not reducing one to transparent the other,logical positivists are all agreed that between the psychic microscope of a wholly secularized theory of man's word and the theoryof God's Word some telescopic lens of a Platonic-Christian tensionmust always exist,until the actual and the possible meet at infinity. The Victorian poetry that most memorablyperpetuates the of meaninginto two exhaustivemodes of discourse,emotive sundering is a poetry of lyric escape like the proem of "The and referential, of the hedonist in "The Ancient Lotos-Eaters"or the lyric effusions discourse Sage." Both uses of emotive language put the referential - Ulysses and the Sage -within recantatory of their antagonists brackets. Even when Victorian poems of debate alternate between emotive and referential meanings,as in the debate waged between Fancy and Reason in La Saisiaz or between the idealist and the skeptic in "The Two Voices," both voices are internalized.Instead of - what openinga window on the world,each poem uses a microscope recesses the to itself" mind with Arnoldcalls a "dialogue of the probe of the poet's soul. Either the mind triesto be omnivorous, devouring the glass of nature,or else naturetriesto eclipse the mind.In orderto based on a primodel of the scientist, oppose the dominantdescriptive must keep recreating poetry process of induction, maryfact-gathering to the forms of language. But it mustdo so without reverting expressive are and words whose of the discourse lotos-eaters, grammar private swathed in hedonistic reverie until the material referenceof their language is all but lost. For, as Tennysonknows,to drop the world in
2 AlexanderB. Johnson, A Treatise of Language, ed. David Rynin (1836; rpt. ed., of CaliforniaPress, 1947). Berkeley:University

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order to grasp realityis to commitexquisite suicide: it is to exhale one's spiritin a void. In an effort to unify to prove thatthe poet, like theirsensibility, the scientist, can continueto assimilatethe richness of experience, Victorianpoets experiment withmanyvariationsof the pure lyricgenres. and dramaticmonologues,the In a host of mask lyrics,monodramas, revision a of theirown geographyof self. radical major poets attempt It is by assumingthe actor'smask that Tennysonand Browningcome to know Ulysses and Fra Lippo, and it is in these roles that they also discover themselves.Through the empathic role-playingof a "transto use W. J.Fox's metaphor, Vishnu," migrating Tennysonand Browning seek theanswerto a question: is the poet's free-wheeling projection a into nature and otherpeople capable of evolving a true identity, union of factand imaginative and emotive sense of fact,of referential meanings?In the great monologues,perhaps; but in proclaimingthe freedomand sovereignty, too oftenthese dramaticgenres role-player's rift the seek to Instead of findinga true self heal. perpetuate they whose unity is dynamic,Browningis obsessed by the fear that his maskshave made him a huckster, a streetvendor of emptyidentities. Thus in his longestpoem, The Ring and the Book, role-playing takes the formof a concertedcarnival. In showing how the lawyers'roleof the buffoonery playingpushes the masquerade to the limit,reviving triesto exorcisethe greatcarnivalof his monologues. history, Browning Because role-playing of life, now bars access to the actual intensities finds he must the of cast aside masks St. Browning George finally and Christ, a naked self,an essential"R.B.," beyond all the recovering roles he has assumed. The poet who hopes to unifyhis or her worldwho hopes to be led by the noble self-confidence of the rationalist to thatultimategoal ofthought wherescience is foundto be a poetrythat - must that guesses the principleof experience succeeds, an intuition join togetherin logical wedlock descriptionand creation,"what is" and "what ought to be." He or she must come to embrace a different and a different epistemology genericform. III The third theory of knowledge, which entertainsa doctrine of qualifiedor relativerealismand to this end combinesselected elementsof the first two traditions, derives ultimately fromthe critical rationalismof Kant. It assumes both a skeptical and a constructive
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form,depending on which optical model- the analogical mirroror criticalrationalism therefracting glass - it uses. In its skepticalversion, posits the existenceof supersensibletruths.Under certain conditions these truthswould become knowable and known. But as Augustine affirms of an ineffableCreator, in this life our knowledge remains onlyby analogy,glimpsed partialand shadowy.Truthcan be mirrored as "through a glass darkly," per speculum in aenigmate,as Augustine says. Accordingto Kant, the eternalveritiesof the pure reason- the of the soul - are existenceof God, for example, and the immortality possible factsof experiencerelatedto the purpose of our presentmoral knowledge. Incapable of being broughtinto focus throughthe telewindow the transparent or through scopic lens of Platonic rationalism, within tradition of the realist,they give rise to a skeptical,agnostic Victorianthought. For British Kantians like Sir William Hamilton and H. L. Mansel, man's window on an unknowable God becomes an ever of such ideas as God and darkeningglass. The poetic counterparts of the imaginationwhich, acare those representations immortality "much to occasion however,any defithoughtwithout, cording Kant, ever be can no Because nite thought."23 adequate to an aesconcept theticidea or to an idea of the pure reason, the supersensibletruths ofpoetry, whichmirror by analogya possible worldof purposivemeanbe can never completely compassed or made intelligible by ings, language. But, being less remote than God, the poet's constructions forma bridge or causeway, spanningthe gulf that spreads between on the near side of nature,and the the conceptsof the understanding, - those beacons of purpose reason the ideas of supersensible pure shore. whichcontinueto draw the mindfroma farther What Kant calls an "aesthetic idea," and what the Victorian or "ideal concrete," is a theorist David Masson calls a "fictitious" his the to resultof imagination"over a number poet's ability spread over sensoryattributes" of kindredrepresentations, which, in Kant's words,"arouse more thoughtthan can be expressedin a concept determined by words" (Kant, p. 428). Thus Tennyson's comparison which of the orgiasticmusic in "The Vision of Sin" to a nightingale, allows is followedby a sparkle,a circle,and the colors in a rainbow, sensathe poet to expose in sharplyetched detail a nerve-dissolving be hardlydescribableat all. Justas Arthur tionwhichwould otherwise
23ImmanuelKant, Critique of Judgment, pt. I, sec. 49, trans. J. H. Bernard,in Kant Selections,ed. T. M. Greene (New York: Charles Scribner'sSons, 1929), p. 426.

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Hallam praises the poet of sensation for making such comparisons the signatureof fineemotions,"too subtle and too rapid to admit of corresponding phrases,"so Masson praises the poet's power to express ineffablestates by clusteringover "with . . . parasitic fancies" the stem of his original thought.24 In impressionistically sketchingthe hedonisticenergyof his vision,Tennysonfindsthat with the aid of such fancieshe can expressmore,and thinkwith greaterclarityand power, than when he is writingmore discursivelyin his poetry of debate. In givinga sensoryshape to "the Ideas of invisiblebeings, the - to use some of Kant's of the blessed,hell,eternity, creation" kingdom own examples the visionarypoet of "The Dream of Gerontius," or of such nightmare landscapes as Childe Roland's wastelandand James Thomson'sCity of Dreadful Night,is not simplysubmitting the shows of thingsto the desiresof the mind.Like Bacon's poet, he is remolding nature,but always in accordance withanalogical laws - withthe laws - and always "in accordance of Ruskin'sImagination Contemplative with principleswhich occupy," in Kant's system,"a higherplace in Reason" (Kant, p. 426). In presentinga supernaturalvision, or an ineffable shade of emotion,throughan analogical mirror, the poet of or of vision to the in eschatalogical nightmare understanding restoring an abundance of undeveloped materialto which the mind paid too little attentionwhen tryingto formulateits original concepts. The to borrow poet's "intellectualsecretion of fictitiouscircumstance," Masson's phrase ("Theories of Poetry,"p. 435), is not necessarily superiorto otherformsof intellectualoperation,but is epistemologitwists and turns and jumps of the cally distinct.The idiosyncratic in a of events quicken the visionarypoet presenting phantasmagoria Kant as add "much ineffable mind; observes,they thought." on the poet an importance which Though Kant's model confers is inconceivablein the idealizingtradition of Bacon, it grantshim only a veryprecariousfootholdon the heightsof supersensibletruth,on those towering"cliffs of fall" he seeks in vain to scale. For a more constructive model- one which views the mind,not as an analogical but as a refracting mirror, glass or prism- we mustturnto a different region of Kant's epistemologicalmap. Ironically,it is not when reon art in the strictsense but when enunciatinga theoryof flecting
24

ArthurHallam, "On Some of the Characteristics of Modem Poetry," Englishman's Magazine (August 1831); rpt.in Victorian Poetryand Poetics,ed. Walter E. Houghton and G. RobertStange, 2d ed. (Boston: HoughtonMifflin, 1968), p. 856. David Masson, "Prose and Verse in De Quincey," BritishQuarterlyReview (July 1854), rpt.in Essays Biographicaland Critical,p. 462.

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knowledgethat Kant chartsthe way fora more constructive appraisal - foran account in which the poet, no less of the human imagination thanthe scientist, can finally accede to grace. Instead of subordinating the poet's intuitions to the conceptsof the scientist, as he does in the the treatise devoted specificallyto art, Kant Critique of Judgment, now realizes that sense impressions do not enter the mind as ideas of sensation, or as ideas of imagination, untilthe mindgives themform. This formis not identical with the formwhich understanding gives to ideas of sensation,for it is much simpler,more intuitive.Implicit in Kant's insistencethat the mind mustfirst converta crude sensation intoan imagination workof thought can begin is beforethe interpretive an important into the far from how passivelymirimagination, insight glass or prismroringsensation,is able to functionas a refracting As Coleridge and such dominatingthe brute violence of its world.25 Victoriandisciples of Kant and Coleridge as T. H. Green and F. D. Maurice realize, the primaryimagination,as "the prime agent and the livingpower" of all human perception, mustfirst fashionthe solid in its context of it be each sensum before can firmly placed strength the work of by interpretive thought. The theological model of creation behind this new theoryof perceptionis Plotinus'sbasic figureof divine emanation. Combining with Plotinus's Plato's optical metaphor of the mind as a reflector of the Patmore envisages the new biarchetype projector,Coventry lateral transactionbetween the mind and an externalobject as the glass or prism ("The Child's passage of light througha refracting is an active Purchase," 79-81). Perception partnershipof "taking," mind is a "creator and receiver "making,"and "giving." Since the both, / Workingbut in alliance with the works / Which it beholds" (The Prelude,II.258-260), the spectrait createsare at once a product of its refracting of the lightthat it transmits. glass and an alteredform the poet of sense into ideas of imagination, By converting impressions simply enlarges and refinesthe capacity of every human mind to
25 And yet BenedettoCroce argues, with some justice, I think,that Kant fails to deor qualifyingimagination velop this insightwith sufficient rigor: "The characterizing which is aestheticactivityought to have occupied in the Critique of Pure Reason," Croce says, "the pages devotedto the discussionof space and time,which would thus a real TranscendentalAesthetic,a real prologue to the transcenhave constituted dental Logic." Benedetto Croce, Aesthetic,trans. D. Ainslie (New York: Noonday Press, 1909), p. 279. Kant may fail to analyze the process by which the mind transbefore it can use them as data formsits sense impressions into ideas of imagination for thought.He may also fail to show how this activityof consciousness,as refined implicitin Kant's by the poet, makes art a cognitiveact. But there is nevertheless that withoutimaginationthere would transcendental aesthetic a crucial recognition be no termsfor the intellect to apprehendor relate.

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All nineteenth-century dominateits sensations. theoriesof imagination which tryto establishthe commerceof the poet's mind withnatureas a true and lawful marriage,as a genuine giving-and-taking, are indebted to Kant's revolutionary new model of perception. Among the Victoriantheoristswho struggleto maintain the union of matchingand making,descriptionand creation,implicitin Kant's model of perception,are John Ruskin,in his restlesspursuit of a "naturalist ideal," and MatthewArnoldand Walter Pater, in their eloquent defense of what both call "imaginative reason." Equally zealous in theirefforts to combinethe models of the mind as reflector and projectorare Aubreyde Vere, Arthur Hallam, and RobertBrowning,all of whomseek to accommodatethe claims of receptionand emanation in two distinctkinds of poetry.26 For E. S. Dallas's dramatic a making as for "Maker-see," poet, Browning's poetryis a performance, or a doing, ratherthan a passive transmitting.27 The intense labor ritelike "AbtVogler"or "Saul" can penetrate enacted in a performative its articulate to the visionsthatare at the heartof nature,constituting to the the celebrants work at if are form,only height of prepared theirintellectualenergyand imaginative power. What linksthe celein Harvest"withAbt Vogler and Saul is a shared brantin "Hurrahing perception that work is necessary if the human imagination,overcomingthe elusivenessof all visionsthat attend on any labor of perfeat of lifting ception,is to participateat last in Hopkins'smomentous the world,of "half"hurling"earthforhim offunder his feet" ("Hurthe more boldly the poet rahingin Harvest,"14). At such moments, can celebrate the power of his imaginationto light up the world,to he celebrate the mind's sovereignty over nature,the more faithfully a priorijudgments.Becan imitatethe mind'sformation of synthetic cause the mind is a prism,it is not just a receptorof lightbut a prosubstance. of the refracting jectorof spectra,each bearingthe imprint Such a mind can at last reconcilethe conflicting claims of natureand imagination.It can adjudicate the claims of matchingand making, joiningin logical wedlockthe descriptive categoriesby means of which
26Thus, Arthur Hallam seeks a dual allegiance to "sensation" and "reflection" ("On

of Modem Poetry,"rpt. in VictorianPoetryand Poetics, Some of the Characteristics p. 850); Browningtries to combine truthsof fact and "truthsof force" in a new fellowship(The Ring and the Book, Bk. I) and envisages a combinationof subjective and objective poetryin his "Essay on Shelley"; and Aubrey de Vere, con"two chief schools of English poetry,"insiststhat "the highestpoetryrests trasting on Poetry,[London: of contending claims" (Essays Chiefly upon a rightadjustment Macmillan, 1887], II, 98). 27See E. S. Dallas, Poetics: An Essay on Poetry(London: Smith, Elder, 1852), p. 255; and Browning, Sordello,III.864-868.

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events in nature are foreverbeing stabilized and ordered by the physicalsciences,and the claims of the moral and metaphysicalcategories by means of which God and human nature are traditionally interpreted. IV The problemleftunsolvedby the thirdtheoryof knowledgeis how imaginativetruthcan be universal as well as individual: how can it be valid at the momentno poet or recreativeobserveris verifyingits validity? The fourththeory of knowledge tries to answer this question by reinstating a doctrineof purpose. Unlike the transcendent purposes of the Platonic-Christian theory,a theory which turnsthe mind into a telescopic mirror, the purposes of this fourth traditionare now made immanent in nature.A doctrineof immanent the purpose may adopt stereoscopic vision of neo-Hegelians like F. H. Bradley,who in superimposing diversepicturessees the real immanent in all its appearances, endowed with a newly acquired solidityand depth. Or it may draw upon evolutionary theoryto temits to a form of immanent vision, poralize teleology that is proclaim realized over intervalsof time,like the speeded-up picturesof objects in time-lapsephotography. The first and more conservative alternativesometimesassumes a theological form: a doctrineof sacramentalimmanence.In a poet like Hopkins, the fourththeoryof knowledge even revives the analogical methods of medieval theology.Through a four-term analogy of proper proportionality, which superimposespictures of "the just man" and his "graces" and of Christand "the featuresof men's faces" to dramatize the multitudeof planes on scopic vision of Christ-man which the analogy between divine and human grace, throughthe pivotal power of God's immanence, may operate. In the same sonnet, a phrase like "God's eye" becomes a hinge word on which Hopkins's analogy can be made to turn,producinga near chiasmus that adumbratesthe mysterious God between two mysterious entities, symmetry and man: "Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is" (11). Theological formsof immanent teleologyappear as well in the theoreticalwritings of E. S. Dallas and CoventryPatmore.According to Dallas, the highestformof sacramentalimmanenceis realized in Christianart by a dramatic artistwho, in drawing near to God, "is
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into the Divine likeness"(Dallas, p. 256). Patmoreenuntransformed in his essay "Religio Poetae": the poet of sacraciates a similartheory to Dante the polysemousmeaningsfamiliar mentalnature,in reviving and Spenser,is characterizedby alertnessof vision,by a facultyof spiritual insightthat "enables him to detect in external nature the likenesses and echoes of spiritualrealities" (Patmore, p. 221). Designed to elucidate the modes of real apprehensionaccessible to the celebrant of a spiritualizednature in such lyrics of ritual praise as Browning's"Saul," Hopkins's sonnet "Hurrahingin Harvest,"or Patmore's own masterpiece"The Child's Purchase," these sacramental theoriesof poetryare carefully distinguished by Patmore,in his essay idealizon "Christianity an Experimental Bacon's merely Science,"from a thesis that once again illustrates ing theoryof art. In a statement of this essay - the dependence of poetic theoryon epistemological models- Patmore contendsthat Bacon's philosophy"was even baser than his political career,and it did not deal with 'things,'which are the objects of Wisdom,but withphenomena,which are onlyhintsand of realitiesdiscoveredby that which is philosophyincorroborations deed" (Patmore,p. 254). Though occasionallyinspiredby theologicalmodels,a less doctrinaireform of immanence can be found in Ruskin, Arnold, and SydneyDobell. When Dallas praises Ruskin'sModern Paintersas the best exposition of "the theologyof art" (Dallas, p. 251), he is praising Ruskin for tryingto combine classical and Christianmodels of immanent form.For Aristotle's theoryof imitation, presupposingas it model of immanent does a metaphysical teleology,a model in which the finaland formal in the materialcause, allows causes are immanent Ruskinto maintainthat the Greeks,no less than Dante, stroveto embody the ideal, to incarnatethe divine, to realize what Ruskin calls "the naturalistideal." According to Ruskin, the artist'spenetrative imagination, by superimposing picturesof the particularand the general, the concreteand the universal,captures not an idealized or an abstractedbut an essentialversionof the world. The optical analogy is neither the self-reflecting mirrorof Romantic traditionnor the transparentwindow of neoclassicism,but rather the simultaneous perspectivesof a stereoscope. Arnold'sendorsement visioninforms A similar power of multiple to the inof simultaneousenergy and restraint in art, contributing tense compressionhe findsin Dante and Milton,the mastersof the "grand style severe." At its most elliptical, stereoscopic vision is Instead of saying "A is B" we say abridged to simple juxtaposition.
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"A, B." The power of such stereoscopicpicturesresides in theirability to retaintheirown individuality, even as the analogies of proper proportion (Browning's Caponsacchi is to Pompilia as Perseus is to Andromedaas St. George is to the dragon's victimas Christis to his intothe total identibride the Church) are abbreviatedinto metaphor, fication of myth:Caponsacchi is Perseus-St.George-Christ. In the critical theory of Sydney Dobell, as in the absolute idealism of F. H. Bradley, stereoscopicvision, as the most radical formof metaphor("A is B is C is D"), produces a systemof symbolic Dobell's "perfecthuman poem" is the ideal syneccorrespondences. a doche, "congruouspassage in that Poem of the Universe,"and "a Poet" (Dobell, word in the eternal utteranceof the One Almightly is potentiallyidentical with everything p. 65), in whom everything else. In such a world, where the stereoscopicformof vision may be as Northrop Frye observesof the "hypothetically applied to anything," anagogic meanings of Revelation,28 all nature is contained within a like F. H. Bradley's absolute. Such a containingformis single form, a concrete universal: unlike Plato's archetypes,it does not sit apart fromthe world, but descends into phenomena and is immanentin all their appearances. To create a concrete universal the poet may methodof Tennyson's"Demeter and Persephone" employthe mythical The Ring and the Book, whose main charactersexpand or Browning's destinieslaid out forthem into archetypesby unconsciously fulfilling in classical and biblical myth.Thus Caponsacchi is both Browning and Perseus, both Christand St. George; just as Persephone'sreturn is both reunionwithher motherand a seasonal change, both a pagan Such total mythic renewal and a promise of Christianresurrection. but a unity-inof A and B and of C and D is not uniformity, identity vision of an analogical It embodies the poet's multilayered difference. with each other according world in which objects can be identified withoutlosing the signature to a systemof symboliccorrespondences of theirown distinctive forms. In order to understandVictorianmythand the concept of an historianmust turn,I think,not to the literary organizingarchetype, the researches into myth of George Grote, Max Muller, Benjamin Edward Tylor,but to the Higher Critics or the anthropologist Jowett, and the Victorianneo-Hegelians. To grasp what NorthropFrye has called the "anagogic" phase of myth,the historianmust grasp what as Edward Caird and F. H. Bradley,followsuch idealist philosophers
28 Frye, Anatomyof Criticism(Princeton,New Jersey:PrincetonUniversity Northrop
Press, 1957), P. 124.

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ing Hegel, mean by the "concreteuniversal": a metaphoricidentification of A and B while each A and B retainsits individualform.For Victorianpoets like Hopkins and ChristinaRossetti, the concreteuniversal assumes the formof sacramentalcorrespondences between natureand grace.But forBrowning in The Ringand the Book,it becomes a mythicalmethod, somethingto be reinventedand recovered. In to disexploringthe recoveryof a mythicalmethod,it is important such of a stable mythicalidentity, tinguishbetween the presentation as that possessed by Tennyson'sDemeter or by George Meredith's Skiageneia in "The Day of the Daughter of Hades," and a more evolutionarymethod,such as the mythof cosmic change fashioned by Meredithin "The Woods of Westermain." Like a stereoscopictoy that transforms two objects or plates into a single,three-dimensional model of sacramentalimscene, any manence is essentiallystatic. In order to rotate the pictures,till the' objects begin to move as in a kineoscope or a time-lapse stationary photograph,the hierarchicalmodel of a static scala natura must be made dynamic.As the book of nature is turnedinto movingpictures the pages, a temporal,evolutionarymodel allows us to by flicking what the individual consciousnesswill in time become. But envisage thereis no shortcut to the finalpage of history. No matter how fastwe the pages tillfigures flick beginto jump and objectsmove- the mind thathopes to compass the sum of the evolutionary drama,what Hegel calls "Objective Mind," must pass throughevery intervening stage. Accordingto the Hegelian theoryof knowledge,the finalpage of the book is simplythe mind itselfin the dynamicact of realizingitself not spatially,as in the fixed sacramental model of immanentform - but temporally, throughprogressive change and evolution. In Victorian thought,a theoryof purposive evolution is exin the scientific of Samuel Butler. pounded mostvoluminously writings The theory's theologicalequivalent is the Stoic neo-Platonicmodel of a generativesoul in nature.Vergingat times on pantheism, this theomodel informs the monistic side of radical, logical Coleridge'sthought most immediatelyindebted to F. W. J. Schelling. As D. G. James has shown, it appears to influenceColeridge's teaching that genius mustact on the feelingthat body is but a striving to become mindthat it is mind in its essence.29The doctrineof a purposive soul in
29 In Scepticismand Poetry (London: Allen and Unwin, 1937), D. G. James discerns life: his rejection of Schelling'sdevelopment a turning pointin Coleridge'sintellectual "a development of Kant's thought, Coleridgewas later to call a materialism" (p. 200), and his acceptance of a Christiandevelopment of Kant's thought, "such as he was in factto supply" (p. 200).

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natureis a stronginfluence, too, among the Victorianneo-Hegelians, in the philosophyof immanenceenunciated by Edward particularly Caird.30 The same evolutionarymodel reappears in F. H. Bradley's - to use his own Spinozisticdoctrinethat all "limitedtransparencies" optical analogy- finallydisappear, absorbed into "an all-embracing clearness,"devoured like clouds before the sun.31But to preventthe into a void that may reopen sun fromcollapsinginto a viewless unity, the yawning chasm in Spinoza's system,Bradley incorporatesinto his evolutionarymodel the Hegelian doctrine of degrees of truth. Instead of sunderingmind from matter (the dualistic fate of our first two theoriesof knowledge), Bradleyproclaimsthat the only road to the absolute lies through and the world. But as the pageant history of historyis speeded up, we discover,not the Hegelian "slaughter- the esbut the outlines of a hierarchicalsystem bench of history," calator of Tennyson's"great world's altar-stairs / That slope through darknessup to God" (In Memoriam, LV.15-16). As we might expect, the influenceof a Hegelian theory of knowledgeon poetic theoryis mostapparentin Hegel's own Lectures as the early Its chieflegacy to such Victoriantheorists on Aesthetics. G. H. Lewes, E. S. Dallas, and, much later, the idealist criticW. P. of genres.This approach Ker is an evolutionary approach to the theory the idea that at the end of the evosometimesentails as its corollary art will eventuallytransform its task accomplished, lutionary process, itself into dialectic. The Victorian theoristmost directlyinfluenced model is the youngG. H. Lewes. In a review by Hegel's evolutionary written for of Hegel's posthumously published Lectures on Aesthetics, the Britishand Foreign Review in 1842, Hegel's ardent disciple avers that "four years' constantstudy" of the master's Lectures "has only served the more to impress [him] with its depth and usefulness." phase of art Hegel's exaltation of the third or Romantic-Christian thatall poetryis "the beautifulphasis standsbehind Lewes's testimony of a religiousidea." The highestreaches of poetryare clouded in ob-

30 study,The Evolutionof Religion (New York: MacEspecially in Caird's two-volume to the Philosophyof millan, 1893). See also his brotherJohn Caird's Introduction Religion (Glasgow: J. Maclehose, 1904). in a review of F. H. Bradley's Appearance 31 Quoted by AndrewSeth Pringle-Pattison and Realityin the Contemporary Review, 66 (1894), 714-715. The metaphorof the uses the simile and the transparent windowframe glass is Bradley's; Pringle-Pattison 'like of "the whitelight of the UNICA SUBSTANTIA" devouringall determinations clouds beforethe sun" (p. 713).

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scure analogies: it remainsforphilosophyalone to consummatethese to renderthemunivocaland clear. symbols, the influence of Hegel is mostpervasivein Though less explicit, the generic theoriesof a later Victoriancritic,E. S. Dallas. His distinction in Poetics: An Essay on Poetry (1852) among primitive lyric,classical epic, and Romanticdramaticformsis an original developmentof Hegel's distinctionamong a primitivesymbolical,an intermediate Romanticphase of art. Like classical, and a culminating Dallas believes the that Hegel, highest phase is the third,the Romanticdramaticphase, which offers a uniquely Christianformof art. The sacramentalritesof a Christianpoet demand, not the "historical faith"of an epic chronicler, but the "saving faith"of a celebrantwho inventshis own interpretative the truth, models,and who appropriates as in a trulydramatic"receptionof the Gospel." Amongthe Victorian neo-Hegelians,the Hegelian model is particularly prominentin the aestheticwritings of W. P. Ker, a contributor to the volume of Essays in PhilosophicalCriticism publishedin 1883 by AndrewSeth [PringlePattison] and R. B. Haldane. Ker's essay on "The Philosophyof Art" affirms the Hegelian theorythat in the art of Christianity, as opposed to Greek art, "thereis no need, no possibilitythat the image should fromthe accuratelyrepresentthe reality.They are incommensurate first." is "doomed to fail." Because "it is in the unseen Poetry'seffort and the spiritualthat the chiefbeauty" (or, as Hegel would say, the chief sublimity) "dwells, inexpressibleby art," Ker concludes, with Lewes and Hegel, that even at its most exalted, in its RomanticChristianphase, art "is not the highestmode in whichthoughtreveals itself."32 The fatefulriftbetween "the image" and "reality,"between the poet's word and its referent, is apparentin the evolutionary poetry of Browningand Meredith. In struggling to envisage a generative soul in nature, bothpoets find thereis no way to name the soul without it Even its as the primal force of this soul fights making secondary. the of the and aniway through restraining mineral, weight vegetable, mal worlds at the climax of Paracelsus, Browningseems always to bend his wordsaway: respectforthe primacyof the world soul forces The way to preservethe priority Browningto bypass its description. of the generativesoul is not to have it named. Instead, it is deflected througha whole cycle of speeded-up verbal snapshotsand through detours of simile: "like a dancing psaltress,""Like a smile striving
AndrewSeth [Pringle-Pattison] 32 and R. B. Haldane, Essays in PhilosophicalCriticism
(1883; rpt. ed., New York: B. Franklin, 1971), pp. 185, 178.

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with a wrinkledface" (Paracelsus, V.656-670). We must glimpse the world soul throughthe gaps between words, throughthe elliptical syntaxthat drops its connectives,speeding up the descriptionas in time-lapsephotography. The surpriseis that Browning'sasyndeticstyle can set such a breathlessview of thingsto such compellingmusic. The sense of an energy freed fromnature mounts in the insistentmarch of verbs: it is concentrated in the motionsof the heaving "centre-fire," passing fromone animated object to another, as the moltenore: intothestone's outbranches Winds heart, bright barren In hidden river-beds, mines, spots bask. sunbeams Crumbles into fine sandwhere (V.655-658). The quoted lines,whichbringto a climaxa headlong rushof alliteratof a kind of dynamismin nature,of an ing sounds,are characteristic because of the boisterous b's. For energythat is more irrepressible b bubbles again, a moment sound takes over,or ratherthe effervescent like the eruptinglava of the volatile "young volcanoes . .. , cyclopswith theireyes on flame"(V.662-663). like, / Staringtogether As "the earth changes like a human face" (V.654), Paracelsus rapidlyturnsthe pages of nature'sbook, using its picturesto illustrate Paracelsus says about nature a text.The reader knowsthat everything sermonabout purposive is a figurative a textforBrowning's exemplum, evolution, about "the consummationof this scheme" of things in "man" (V.683): we are in the presence of a veritablebook of instruction.And yet,strangeto say, the generative soul, in all its irrepressible text.Because is justwhat is leftout of Browning's passion and primacy, to the ponderous Paracelsus is unwilling to submit to constraints, "stone,""mines,"and "barren . . . beds" of the inanimate world, he of nature, seizes opportunities for advance, forhuman appropriations by acts of impulse,extravagance,and passionate preference.But his instinctiveappropriationof an animate principle in nature is continuallybeing curbed by a soberingawareness that the primal energy can be neithernamed nor tamed by words. The daemonic energy can be defined preciselyas the gap whichexistsbetween language and its referents: the generativesoul itselfcontinuesto enjoy the primacy to suggesta purposive of the unnamed.All the challengelies in trying eludes the in a that poet's grasp and will not energy things, spirit One mightadd that in any neo-Hegelian aesthetic, quite formulate. thepriority ofthe real is exactlywhat eludes everypoetic performance,
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since (as Ker and Lewes both aver) the referent and its sign are "infromthe first." commensurate

V After1870, the rise of a formalist tradition,founded upon a of fictions in the theory symbolic philosophyof science and religion, treatsthe images of the artistas materialrealitiesin theirown right. Instead of likeningthese images to shadows,to the mere copies of an becomes a potentmeans forturning the tables on original,formalism reality for turningit into a shadow. The disappearance of dimensions of depth (the spatial depth of a stereopticon and the temporal of a into depth time-lapsephotograph) brings being a new region of copresence,which resemblesthe merelytwo-dimensional surface of kaleidoscopes.Like fragments of colored glass, the sensoryimages of many Pre-Raphaelite poems de-Platonize our understandingof reality. They make it less plausible to reflect upon experienceaccording to the distinction between signs and theirreferents. the By purifying stunningChristian imagery of its theological content,a poem like "The Blessed Damozel" turns its sensoryfragments into rich, mysteriousdeposits,leftin the wake of whateveremittedthem,like photoD. G. Rosgraphicimages. Broughtinto a single realm of proximity, setti'serotic and religiousfragments are what they are: paint on his canvas. As in Tennyson's"The Hesperides," such a poet tries to do with sensoryobjects what metaphordoes with verbal comparison.He or she musttrust objectsenoughto be a poet of sensationwho abolishes the distinctionbetween copies and originals. Because the sensory no longer"mean" anything in the sense of referring fragments beyond themselvesto an original,they are a means both of appropriating realityand of makingit obsolete. An important influence on the ascendancy of formalism is the revival of scholarlyinterestin Plato, especially at Oxford.33 A theotheoriesof knowledge is Plato's theoryof logical model forformalist divine Forms. For Plato's divine eros, incitingthe soul towards atThe renewal of Platonic studies at Oxfordis associated in particularwith the name 33 of BenjaminJowett, who became a fellow of Balliol College in 1838 and occupied the chair of Greek from 1855 to 1893. He translatedPlato's Dialogues and contributed to a revivalof interest in Greekthought duringthe courseof his long teaching career. T. H. Green and Edward Caird, both prominent in the idealist movement, were at one time Jowett's pupils. Pater's Plato arndPlatonism (1893) and his postad quem of the revival. humously publishedGreek Studies (1895) markthe terminus

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tainment,truth itself becomes a formal principle. Pater's formalist dictumthat"all art constantly aspirestowardsthe conditionof music," and Wilde's doctrinethat "art never expresses anythingbut itself," are anticipatedby some of the HigherCriticsof the Bible.34 They come to view all literature, like the Bible, as a self-contained verbal system: the credence that could no longer be given to historicalreferences in the Bible is now to be given to realitiesthat have not, in Arnold's famousphrase,"materialized" themselves "in the fact,in the supposed fact,"whichis now construed to be an image, an illusion.35 Comparable developmentsin the Victorianphilosophyof science also encourage thinkers to look anew at the formalqualities of art. With a disarming candor,T. H. Huxley confidesthat all scientific ideas are symbolicfictions. In "The Progressof Science," Huxley reall realist theories of knowledge by redefiningscientific pudiates "not as ideal truths,the real entities of an intelligible hypotheses, Like R. G. world behind phenomena,but as a symbolicallanguage."36 Boscovich, who views matternot as extensionbut as mathematical or like the physicistJames Clerk pointsservingas centersof "forces," Maxwell, who replaces the solidityof matterwith fieldsof force,with purely formalpatternsin space, Huxley concedes that "all our interand symbolic."37 pretationsof naturalfact are more or less imperfect If F. H. Bradley'sdoctrineof an Absolute,beyondthe instability of appearances,providesa philosophicdefenseof immanent teleology the pheof his treatment of (our fourth skeptical theory knowledge), nomenal world itselfprovidesan equally potentmodel forformalism. All appearances, Bradley argues, are relational,and the relational is unreal.Most epistemologies They grantprimacyto the object signified. treat the relational formsthat signifyas mere notations,as a mere in orderto arriveat truth. systemof signs which must be interpreted But if Bradley is right,and there exists only an unreal networkof
(1873), rpt. in Selected Writingsof Walter Pater, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Signet Classics, 1974), p. 55. Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying," in Literary of Nebraska Criticismof Oscar Wilde, ed. Stanley Weintraub (Lincoln: University Press, 1968), p. 194. 35Appearingat the beginningof Arnold's essay "The Study of Poetry,"the statement to a work called The Hundred is a revisionof a passage fromArnold'sintroduction GreatestMen (1879). See Poetryand Criticismof MatthewArnold,ed. A. Dwight Culler (Boston: HoughtonMifflin, 1961), p. 306. of Science" (1887), in ThomasHenryHuxley: Selections 36T. H. Huxley,"The Progress Illinois: CroftsClassics, 1948), fromthe Essays, ed. AlbureyCastell (Northbrook, p. 58. 37 T. H. Huxley, "Science and Culture" (1880), in Huxley: Selections,p. 49. Huxley's referenceto Boscovich and Clerk Maxwell appears in a footnotein "The Progress of Science," p. 56.
4 WalterPater, "The School of Giorgione,"The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry

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differential relationswithnothing at the center, thentheresurvivesno to remain privilegedconcept or ideology that allows the interpreter outside the play of forms.By alteringand displacing the center of truthduringthe analysisof the formalsystemitself,Bradleyprepares the way in the influential first book of his Appearance and Reality (1893) for Jacques Derrida's notion of a "systemedecentre." Like the stabilityof the Pater, whose eloquent nominalismdisintegrates mind no less than the stabilityof nature, Bradley, in his skeptical moments,turns the world into a fluxof relations. He provides an epistemologicalmodel of Ferdinand de Saussure's linguisticsystem, of infinite relationswithout accordingto whichthereis onlya network a center,"onlydifferences withno positiveterms."38 The purely formal,nominalisttheoryof knowledge is not influentialduringthe early and mid-Victorian periods. But before the finalquarter of the nineteenth there century begins to emerge,even among criticslike Arnold,the notion that poets and criticsare primarily concerned, not with decipheringtruthsthat lie outside of but ratherwith the freeplay of form language and its play of forms, itself.By the phrase "criticism of life," Arnold means the "disinterested love of a freeplay of the mindon all subjects,forits own sake."39 Arnold'sreaders have not sufficiently realized, I think,how close to Kant's sense of the term"criticism" Arnold Arnold'sown use remains.40 admiresa skeptical,open intelligence, one that can unmaskas fictions or as mere postulates of the practical reason, truthsabout God and which most philosophers,less critical and disinterested immortality than Kant, accept in a fiercelypartisan or dogmatic way. Just as Arnoldpronouncesreligionto be morality temperedwith emotion,so his definition of poetryas "criticism of life" may be interpreted, in the Kantian sense, as an exposure of the merelyfictivestatus of the truthswhich poets and theoristshave traditionally dreamed of deoutsidethe realm of art and its signs. ciphering - which The free explorationof a world of styles and forms have no truth, no ideological primacy, but which are offered for disinterested and active interpretation, as a surrogate fortheologicaland
38Ferdinand de Saussure, Cours de linguistique generale (Paris: Payot, 1969): la langue il n'y a que des differences sans termes positifs" (p. 166).
39 MatthewArnold,"The 40 For

"dans

a helpful summaryof Arnold's familiarity with German idealist thought,see Park Honan, "Fox How and the Continent:MatthewArnold'sPath to the European Sentimental School and 'La Passion R6flechissante,'"VictorianPoetry, 16 (1978), 58, 61.

Arnold, p. 245.

Functionof Criticism," in Poetryand Criticismof Matthew

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other modes of dogma- is already evident in Arnold's remarkably influential essay "The Study of Poetry."Here criticismbecomes the exercise of that very quality of disinterested inquiry which Arnold extolsin Cultureand Anarchy. The criticnow accepts his free,creative function.He glories in the active force of words, in the power of Arnold'spoet of "naturalmagic"to evoke a worldof self-created forms. medium of Such a criticcan joyfully to examine the poetry proceed withoutlookinganxiouslyback, in a spiritof nostalgic guilt,to older mimeticcodes which radicallylimitthe play of formsby settingup a verbal structure beside the factsit describesand calling that structure true only if it seems to provide a satisfactory correspondenceor picture. It is a shortstep from the free,inquiring, criticalside of Arnold to the eloquent skepticismof Pater, Swinburne,and ArthurSymons. The fluxof sensationsthat extinguishes the lightof the mind,and relentlesslydissolves the stable formsof nature,impels Pater, in order to avert total self-destruction, to take refugein art. Before the light of sense goes out, Pater must aspire "to bum always with [a] hard, gemlikeflame."In the absence of any otherultimatemeaningsin his world, to "maintain this ecstacy," which becomes his measure of "successin life,"opens an unboundedspace forthe freeplay of forms.41 the skeptic Withoutstriving to stretch apprehensioninto literaltruth, to fixand stabilize can take solace from the formal play, since the effort cease to be the world has proved a vain ambition.Verbal structures the form of thingsat all, fornot onlyis theirperspectivecreated by an observerbut also their very character.The more Pater's critic,like his poet, transforms thingsin seeing them,the morehe seems,through some occult trick of optics, to revive the impressionor image, the unique item of ecstasy, in some particularof his own chosen style. Salvation lies in turningthingsinto formsof one's own sensibility: it lies in liberating the critic's(no less than the poet's) medium. The cognitiveskepticismthat accompanies the dissolutionof all othertruthhas an unforeseenresult on the theoryof poetry. In its chief value lies late Victorian and twentieth-century formalism, in an increased critical activity,in the heightenedzeal with which poetics examinesits own postulates.It means, too, that in the poetry the formalelementsof art are of Victorianaesthetesand Symbolists, Thus in Swinburne'slines: continuallyexceeding what they signify.
41Walter Pater, Conclusion to The Renaissance, in Selected Writings, p. 60. On the Lockean epistemology implicit in this passage, see William E. Buckler, "Marius the 148-149, 154, 164Epicurean: Beyond Victorianism," Victorian Poetry, 16 (1978), 165.

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"Wan waves and wet winds labour, / Weak ships and spiritssteer" the formalexcess of the verbal 19-20), ("The Garden of Proserpine," and the tremorof the w's, do the lure of the sibilant s sounds music, not so much describe as suggest or evoke a picture as ominous and mysteriousas a seascape by Turner, but much more abstract. A luxuriousbut strident art is already detachingitselffromeverything its own but medium. Synaesthesiaand alliterationofferthemselves as a surplus,as a formalexcess, which engendersa play of largely formalsignification. In Symbolist poems like "The Hesperides"and "Childe Roland," is no longera strangeand incongruousaberrationfrom discontinuity a confident knowledgeabout the worldwhichthe poet and his readers share. By cuttingaway the narrativelinks, allowing a generalized asyndeton to perforate discourse, the Symbolist poet removes all coherentreferents. The dismantling of narrativereleases unarrested irony: it becomes a means of keeping the reader withina symbolic system,grantingmaximumscope to the play of formalelements oftento mere hints,symbols,and echoes. The Symbolists'discontiand anders-streben, nuities,theiruse of multiplesyntax, synaesthesia, are all endorsed and catalogued by ArthurSymons.With the same overwhelming pathos that Pater conveys,Symons acknowledgesthat "it is with a kind of terror that we wake up, everynow and then,to the whole knowledgeof our ignorance."42 The void in natureis somealone The remains.But that art can moderate. final uncertainty thing into decorum the mystery, the terror new art helps domesticate taming - not by actingas a self-reflecting mirror or as a window on the void, but by servingas somethingto divert the eye, to amuse it with its many-coloredglass, its kaleidoscope of ever changing shapes and
forms.43

VictoriaCollege, University of Toronto

Movementin Literature(New York: Dutton, 1919), 42Arthur Symons,The Symbolist P. 325. 43Readers may wish to consulttwo complementary conessays. Though not specifically a fineanalysisof optical models in Viccerned withpoetic theoryand epistemology, torianpoetrycan be foundin GerhardJoseph'sessay, "VictorianFrames: The Winof Browning, dows and Mirrors Arnold,and Tennyson,"VictorianPoetry,16 (1978), Models 70-87. In a supplementary essay, "Mimesis as Invention: Four Interpretative I tryto apply the theories in Victorian in New Literary Poetry,"forthcoming History, of knowledgeand poetry analyzedin thisessay to selectedVictorian poems.

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