Works of Walter Pater
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It is the very soul of the bridegroom which goes forth to the bride: inanimate things are longing with him: all the sweetness of the imaginative loves of the Middle Ages, with a superadded spirituality of touch all its own, is in that! He comes back to the subject in Aucassin and Nicolette and notes the revival of Greek culture in the Middle Ages:. Here and there, under rare and happy conditions, in Pointed architecture, in the doctrines of romantic love, in the poetry of Provence, the rude strength of the Middle Ages turns to sweetness; and the taste for sweetness generated there becomes the seed of the classical revival in it, prompting it constantly to seek after the springs of perfect sweetness in the Hellenic world.
The Middle Ages, therefore, are characterized by a synthesis of Christianity and paganism. The religious art of the Middle Ages too is crossed by rebellious counter-currents, and Pater draws a contrast between Christian art and profane poetry, which is concerned with love and the body. The irruption of the Renaissance in the Middle Ages is seen in terms of an awakening that is both a physical liberation as well as a revolt against Christianity:. One of the strongest characteristics of that outbreak of the reason and the imagination, of that assertion of the liberty of the heart in the Middle Ages, which I have termed a medieval Renaissance, was its antinomianism, its spirit of rebellion and revolt against the moral and religious ideas of the age.
His reluctance to highlight the spiritual dimension of the Middle Ages demarcates him from Ruskin who lauded the early phase of Pre-Raphaelitism precisely because it reflected that dimension. Intense love is conducive to excess, despair or adultery. Love, in fact, enfeebles him. Hence a love defined by the absence of the beloved, choosing to be without hope, protesting against all lower uses of love, barren, extravagant, antinomian.
It is the love which is incompatible with marriage, for the chevalier who never comes, of the serf for the chatelaine, of the rose for the nightingale, of Rudel for the Lady of Tripoli.
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While many contemporaries baulked at such chivalric yet disempowering attitude to women, Pater endorses such poetical visions and that aesthetics of feminine remoteness. Once more, Pater asserts the empathy between man and nature, since even the sun and the moon reflect the general sense of oppressiveness:. Once again, he focuses on themes such as strangeness and madness:.
Here, in the literature of Provence, the very name of romanticism is stamped with its true signification: here we have indeed a romantic world, grotesque even, in the strength of its passions, almost insane in its curious expression of them, drawing all things into its sphere, making the birds, nay! Furthermore, he describes a world in which nature reflects human feelings of insanity and uneasiness.
It is prominent in his conception of Provence in the Morris essay:.
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A passion of which the outlets are sealed begets a tension of nerve, in which the sensible world comes to one with a reinforced brilliancy and relief — all redness is turned into blood, all water into tears. Hence a wild, convulsed sensuousness in the poetry of the Middle Ages, in which the things of nature begin to play a strange delirious part. Of the things of nature the medieval mind had a deep sense; but its sense of them was not objective, no real escape to the world without us. A single sentiment invaded the world: everything was infused with a motive drawn from the soul. The amorous poetry of Provence, making the starling and the swallow its messengers, illustrates the whole attitude of nature in this electric atmosphere, bent as by miracle or magic to the service of human passion.
Because of his universal poetical faculty, man has special affinities with nature and Pater insists on the imaginative and poetical faculties of the primitive mind. The making of the myth of Demeter, for example, originated in a poetical process. Fuelled by their poetical, religious but also sensuous temperaments, the ancient Greeks thought that the same life-spirit animated both the natural world and men:.
According to Ruskin, the natural elements could not reflect human feelings:. The foam is not cruel, neither does it crawl.
The state of mind which attributes to it these characters of a living creature is one in which the reason is unhinged by grief. All violent feelings have the same effect. But unlike Ruskin, he relishes in this excess of temperament that attributes intensified feelings to nature.
That he dedicated another essay to a Pre-Raphaelite artist and arranged the two pieces as sequels attests to their importance to him:. One characteristic of the pagan spirit the aesthetic poetry has, which is on its surface — the continual suggestion, pensive or passionate, of the shortness of life. This is contrasted with the bloom of the world, and gives new seduction to it — the sense of death and the desire of beauty: the desire of beauty quickened by the sense of death.
Only, in Rossetti at least, they are redeemed by a serious purpose, by that sincerity of his, which allies itself readily to a serious beauty, a sort of grandeur of literary workmanship, to a great style. The poet, stirred by his formidable imaginative powers, attributes human emotions to nature. Both Provence and contemporary poetry are concerned with physicality and passions, but these are ambivalently presented since the general mood is stifling. More information about this seller Contact this seller 3.
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Works of Walter Pater by Walter Pater
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