Modern usage and the effect of the printed page have to-day made of the song in literature almost a silent piece of music, and it is hard for us when we take up a new book of poems to realise what the lyric idea originally was and what the conditions were that gave the art its congenial form. How are we to relate an intellectual lyric, written for the book and for the abstruser part of a man, like Browning's--
"Let the mere star-fish in his vault
Crawl in a wash of weed, indeed,
Rose-jacynth to the finger-tips:
He, whole in body and soul, outstrips
Man, found with either in default":
to the rain-song of the savage?--
"While Benga doth praise thee,
And Padi sings to thee,--
Stop, Rain, Stop!"
Yet as we go on we find the art virtually unchanged, and still ask of the lyric poet the old quickening of the pulses and the same power of kindling thought by musical suggestion and increase in the sensation of life. One of the aims of this book is to show broadly how the lyric principle, through all the changes that taught it the literary habit, yet maintained its powers, from the time when The Seafarer was written to that of Swinburne's Songs before Sunrise. To explain the full process, however, it is not enough to record only the growth of the pure lyric, which openly called itself so. The observer is driven over and above that to watch every sign of its life, however sporadic, whether displayed in the usual forms or not. He has to account for the presence in . . .