The Dialogue of the Mind with Itself: Early Victorian Poetry and Poetics

The Dialogue of the Mind with Itself: Early Victorian Poetry and Poetics

The Dialogue of the Mind with Itself: Early Victorian Poetry and Poetics

The Dialogue of the Mind with Itself: Early Victorian Poetry and Poetics

Excerpt

It would be better for me that my lyre ... should be out of tune and loud with discord, and that multitudes of men should disagree with me rather than that I, being one, should be out of harmony with myself and contradict me. (Plato, Gorgias, 482)

Carlyle's verbal portrait of Dante, the visual analogue of which is the painting (Frontispiece) commonly attributed to Giotto, reveals a face in which modern elements pervade a figure of the past. It is the "mournfulest" face ever seen, Carlyle tells his audience in the lecture on "The Hero as Poet," the "face of one wholly in protest, and life-long unsurrendering battle." The child-like countenance is "congealed into sharp contradiction" by the "proud hopeless pain" etched in the tender features.

A soft ethereal soul looking-out so stern, implacable, grim-trenchant, as from imprisonment of thick-ribbed ice! Withal it is a silent pain too, a silent scornful one: the lip is curled in a kind of godlike disdain of the thing that is eating-out his heart,—as if it were withal a mean insignificant thing, as if he whom it had power to torture and strangle were greater than it. (V, 92)

The compelling power of this face is intensified when set against the features of Leonardo's famous self-portrait (Fig. 1) painted in old age. The . . .

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