human nature is true only to some northand-by-east-half-east point of it. I can understand the nationality of Firdusi when, looking sadly back to the former glories of his country, he tells us that ‘the nightingale still sings old Persian’; I can understand the nationality of Burns
when he turns his plough aside to spare the rough burr thistle, and hopes he may write a song or two for dear auld Scotia
That sort of nationality belongs to a country of which we are all citizens,— that country of the heart which has no boundaries laid down on the map. All great poetry must smack of the soil, for it must be rooted in it, must suck life and substance from it, but it must do so with the aspiring instinct of the pine that climbs forever toward diviner air, and not in the grovelling fashion of the potato.
Any verse that makes you and me foreigners is not only not great poetry, but no poetry at all. Dunbar
's works were disinterred and edited some thirty years ago by Mr. Laing
, and whoso is national enough to like thistles may browse there to his heart's content.
I am inclined for other pasture, having long ago satisfied myself by a good deal of dogged reading that every generation is sure of its own share of bores without borrowing from the past.
A little later came Gawain Douglas
, whose translation of the Aeneid is linguistically valuable, and whose introductions to the seventh and twelfth books—the one describing winter and the other May
——have been safely praised, they are so hard to read.
There is certainly some poetic feeling in them, and the welcome to the sun comes as near enthusiasm as is possible for a ploughman, with a good steady yoke of oxen, who lays over one furrow of verse, and then turns about to lay the next as cleverly alongside it as he can. But it is a wrong done to good taste to hold up this item