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insistence on the individual point of view; but the tints are less brilliant, the emphasis is more restrained; the rhetorical impulse still dominates, but it is the rhetoric of elegiac tenderness rather than of picturesque pomp. A wonderful limpidity of versification which, while it is always perfectly easy, is never weak, and a charming quietude of sentiment which, however near it may seem to come to the commonplace, always just escapes it—these qualities give Lamartine a distinguished place in the literature of France. They may be seen in their perfection in the most famous of his poems, Le Lac, a monody descriptive of his feelings on returning alone to the shores of the lake where he had formerly passed the day with his mistress. And throughout all his poetical work precisely the same characteristics are to be found. Lamartine's lyre gave forth an inexhaustible flow of melody-always faultless, always pellucid, and always in the same key.
During the Revolution, under the rule of Napoleon, and in the years which followed his fall, the energies of the nation were engrossed by war and politics. During these forty years there are fewer great names in French literature than in any other corresponding period since the Renaissance. At last, however, about the year 1830, a new generation of writers arose who brought back all the old glories and triumphantly proved that the French tongue, so far from having exhausted its resources, was a fresh and living instrument of extraordinary power. These writers—as has so often been the case in France were bound together by a common literary creed. Young, ardent, scornful of the past, dazzled by the possibilities of the future, they raised the standard of revolt against the traditions of Classicism, promulgated a new æsthetic doctrine, and, after a sharp struggle and great excitement, finally succeeded in completely establishing their view. The change which they introduced was of enormous importance, and for this reason the date 1830 is a cardinal one in the literature of France. Every sentence, every verse that has been written in French since then bears upon it, somewhere or other, the imprint of the great Romantic Movement which came to a head in that year. What it was that was then effected--what the main differences are between French literature before 1830 and French literature after deserves some further consideration. The Romantic School
of which the most important members were VICTOR HUGO, ALFRED DE VIGNY, THÉOPHILE GAUTIER, ALEXANDRE DUMAS, and ALFRED DE MUSSET -was, as we have said, inspired by that supremely French love of Rhetoric which, during the long reign of intellect and prose in the eighteenth century, had been almost entirely suppressed. The new spirit had animated the prose of Chateaubriand and the poetry of Lamartine; but it was the spirit only: the form of both those writers retained most of the important characteristics of the old tradition. It was new wine in old bottles. The great achievement of the Romantic School was the creation of new bottles of a new conception of form, in which the vast rhetorical impulse within them might find a suitable expression. Their actual innovations, however, were by no means sweeping. For instance, the numberless minute hardand-fast metrical rules which, since the days of Malherbe, had held French poetry in shackles, they only interfered with to a very limited extent. They introduced a certain number of new metres; they varied the rhythm of the alexandrine; but a great mass of petty and meaningless restrictions remained untouched, and no real attempt was made to get rid of them until more than a
generation had passed. Yet here, as elsewhere, what they had done was of the highest importance. They had touched the ark of the covenant and they had not been destroyed. They had shown that it was possible to break a "rule” and yet write good poetry. This explains the extraordinary violence of the Romantic controversy over questions of the smallest detail. When Victor Hugo, in the opening lines of Hernani, ventured to refer to an escalier dérobé, and to put "escalier” at the end of one line, and “dérobé” at the beginning of the next, he was assailed with the kind of virulence which is usually reserved for the vilest of criminals. And the abuse had a meaning in it: it was abuse of a revolutionary. For in truth, by the disposition of those two words, Victor Hugo had inaugurated a revolution. The whole theory of "rules" in literature the whole conception that there were certain definite traditional forms in existence which were, absolutely and inevitably, the bestwas shattered for ever. The new doctrine was triumphantly vindicated—that the form of expression must depend ultimately, not upon tradition nor yet upon a priori reasonings, but simply and solely on the thing expressed.
The most startling and the most complete of the Romantic innovations related to the poetic Vocabulary. The number of words considered permissible in French poetry had been steadily diminishing since the days of Racine. A distinction had grown up between words that were “noble” and words that were “bas”; and only those in the former class were admitted into poetry. No word could be “noble" if it was one ordinarily used by common people, or if it was a technical term, or if, in short, it was peculiarly expressive; for any such word would inevitably produce a shock, introduce mean associations, and destroy the unity of the verse. If the sense demanded the use of such a word, a periphrasis of “noble” words must be employed instead. Racine had not been afraid to use the word “chien” in the most exalted of his tragedies; but his degenerate successors quailed before such an audacity. If you must refer to such a creature as a dog, you had better call it “de la fidélité respectable soutien”; the phrase actually occurs in a tragedy of the eighteenth century. It is clear that with such a convention to struggle against, no poetry could survive. Everything bold, everything vigorous, everything surprising, became an impossibility with a diction limited to the vaguest, most general,