Algernon Swinburne: The Critical Heritage

By Clyde K. Hyder | Go to book overview
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F. W. H. Myers on Swinburne’s Weltanschauung


Myers (1843-1901), poet, essayist, and special student of psychic phenomena, shared with Swinburne classical attainments and especially an enthusiasm for Sappho. His essay on the modern poets was notable (in its time) for being a serious estimate of Swinburne’s thought.

From ‘Modern Poets and the Meaning of Life’, Nineteenth Century, January 1893, xxxiii, 93-111 (93-100, for the part dealing with Swinburne); reprinted in Science and a Future Life with Other Essays (1893).

But earth’s dark forehead flings athwart the heavens
Her shadow crown’d with stars—and yonder—out
To northward—some that never set, but pass
From sight and night to lose themselves in day.
I hate the black negation of the bier,
And wish the dead, as happier than ourselves
And higher, having climb’d one step beyond
Our village miseries, might be borne in white
To burial or to burning, hymn’d from hence
With songs in praise of death, and crown’d with flowers!


Wordsworth, Darwin, Tennyson—the three greatest Englishmen of our century—all now have passed away. Greatest I call them, not for personal faculties alone, which are hard to compare as between the many men of genius whom our age has produced, but because it seems to me that these men’s faculties have achieved most in the most important directions, in the intuition, discovery, promulgation of fundamental cosmic law. And by cosmic law I here mean, not such rules merely as may hold good universally for matter, or motion, or abstract


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