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The hand is freedom's in a glove of sin,
Thou feel'st its point moving within,
Thou art a gamester where thou sittest;
Thou candleman; ne'er yet thou littest
I see thy funeral procession all,
White chanting priests;
Thou art an ox within the priestly stall,-
Destruction fattens thee for morrow's dinner,
Bastes thee with money;
The meat upon thy bones to many a sinner
Great arbiter of elegancies fine,
Lord of the fashion,
Within thy veins runneth no better wine
Than Ego's passion.
France, when full drest for her next party,
And have a ruler fatter and more hearty,
In much the same strain of uncouth, but keen and vigorous invective, Blake-like, Orsonic, are "The Pope," "Napoleon I.: What of him?" and "The Lawyers: What of them ?" I select the last, p. 215, for citation; just observing that "Men of the Time" informs us that Dr. Wilkinson's father was a special pleader, and author of several well-known law-books.
"Ranged on stools, there they sit,
There they sit from age to age:
And on all sides lo! they look
When she bastes a venison haunch,
Fatly for a monarch's paunch.
And the beauty of their dream,
Lo! the logic skeletons
Serve them for their meat with stones,
And for reasonings they try
How the logic-stones will fry.
They have ghosts of actors poor
Lord, how long shall these offend?
They shall live on bench of glee,
They shall date with quarrel, years:
Time, with hypocritic tears:
Long as luxury hath tether,
They shall warm their arid leather.
And as long as grasping man
Lawyers shall dwell in their woods.
Blame them not, but blame thyself:
Thou dost feed all thine own pigs."
How pungent in their truth are some of these lines! As in the first, the fourth and fifth, and the last four stanzas. We have space for but two more very short pieces. The first is " 'Harebells," p. 221
"Wills that lie in coverts dim,
That is meant for ears of wind alone :
For the belfry of the spirit-world,
And the fairies only dream they hear,
Which they put on for that express desire.
But 'tis only in heavens very high
That the sounds of flowers and the dews sigh,
The other is called "Two Verses for E.," p.
"Late in the evening, gold diffused
To all the sky is given :
East, West, North, South, none is refused
The last good gold of heaven.
And so when death gives gold of good,
More hearts than those around that stood,
As before observed, I have cited only from the more spontaneous poems, springing directly from the native genius and mother wit, leaving aside the longer compositions whose materials were quarried by laborious studies, such as the "Hahnemann," "Fourier," "Tegnér," "Dalton," "Swedenborg," though these likewise contain many noteworthy things I have gone upon the principle well expressed by Blake (whether correct or not in his application of it) in his "Descriptive Catalogue": "The Greek Muses are daughters of Mnemosyne or Memory, and not of Inspiration or Imagination, therefore not authors of such sublime conceptions."
And now, in conclusion, I may confess that pondering once more how much that is pure and wise and beautiful is contained in this almost unknown book, notwithstanding all the wilful disadvantages under which it was written, I half repent me of the severity of certain of the strictures I have passed upon portions of it; though the sharpest of these strictures were but the very same which Wilkinson had previously passed upon a genius as great, a visionary as genuine as his own over-idolised master; upon one who had nobler fire in his spirit, a more genial heart in his breast, than the ever-placid dogmatic Swede; upon one who soared in lyric raptures of which the other was as unsusceptible as a stone; upon one who was free from that dreary, monstrous, methodic madness which kept piecing and
patching away, year after year, for a whole generation all the shreds and tatters of Hebrew old clo's, in the desperate delusion of thus making a sufficient and everlasting garment for the illimitable Universe of Life. And, moreover, can we help being angry, do we not well to be angry when, our poor race pining for illumination, some of the most fulgent spirits obstinately refuse to be effulgent; will not let their light shine forth before men, but carefully hide it under a bushel? The supreme warmth and light of genius and intellect are so rare, so sorely needed, yet so unaccountably wasted! I mean not in such instances as those of Swedenborg and Comte, where the long chronic monomania of the decadence followed an acute attack of mental disease in the prime; I think of a Maurice scourging himself with those "forty stripes save one," the Thirty-nine Articles, and burying his genius in the deathly vaults of the mouldering English Church; of a Newman dismembering himself of intellect and will, and perishing in the labyrinths of the Roman Catacombs; of a Wilkinson immolating his splendid powers on the altar built of dead men's bones, of a demented dogmatism more implacable than the old heathen altars of merely bodily human sacrifice. When I first read in the great preface to the "Human Body" (1851), that he hoped never again to come forth with the pen, a mournful verse from a place of most mournful frustrate life arose in my memory, and recurs now as I ponder these lives, so frustrate of their full development and happiness in usefulness, a verse of Matthew Arnold's stanzas from that sepulchre of Death-in-life, the Grande Chartreuse :