ANN MORGAN'S LOVE.* Mn. Minser, who is, if we mistake
not, the author of "Dorothy," a poem which was received with great appre- ciation by its readers a good many years ago, calls his new poem a "pedestrian poem," by which we understand him to- mean that it moves at a quiet pace, and without any of those- episodes of rapture and exaltation which we are accustomed to regard as almost characteristic of the higher poetry. That. is true enough ; but we very much doubt whether it is not a. narrowness of criticism,—and indeed the narrowness of a. particular school and age of criticism,—to regard the essence- of poetry as consisting in this liability of the poet to be as it were carried off his feet. We should admit that such poetry as Pope's, of which it is the most striking characteristic to- be in a very high sense artificial,—in other words, constructed by deliberate purpose so as to excite admiration by the bril- liancy of its finely-cut and glittering facets,—is not the model of the true poet ; but is both more elaborately constructed,. and less spontaneous, less a sample of the inmost nature of the author, than true poetry. But we should not admit this. of all quiet poetry, of such poetry as that of Cowper or Golds- mith, or, we think we may add, Mr. Munby, whose Muse,. though she is not very lofty, is certainly thoroughly spon- taneous and unaffected. We think it is more or less of the- essence of true poetry to flow from the deepest part of a man's nature, and not like the poetry of epigram and happy anti- thesis, to owe its origin almost entirely to a high form of intellectual ingenuity or even wit. Poetry of this latter kind
• Ann Morgan's Low: a Pedestrian Poem. 4 irthar Manb7. London:. Beeves and Turner.
is, we think, a little alien to the very heart of poetry, though it gives considerable pleasure, and polishes its work so highly as sometimes to conceal the elaborate artifice to which it owes its origin. But if Mr. Munby's verse is pedestrian, and takes no high flights above the earth, it is at least perfectly spontaneous, and springs from a very pure and vivid well- spring.
Mr. Munby takes for his subject the charm of domestic labour in a true woman, even when it hardens the hands and extinguishes all that superficial delicacy which is usually con- sidered half the attraction of true womanhood. We rather wonder that he did not include in the mottoes on his title-
page some lines from Clough's " Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich," in praise of the damsels who devote themselves to honest
work, whether it be that of " potatoe-uprooting," or that of the laundry or the kitchen :—
" Oh if they saw it and knew it, we soon should see them abandon
Boudoir, toilette, carriage, drawing-room and ball-room, Satin for worsted exchange, gros de naples for plain linsey- wool sey, Sandals of silk for clogs, for health lackadaisical fancies !
Yes, we should see them delighted, delighted ourselves in the seeing, Bending with blue cotton gown skirted up over striped Linsey- woolsey.
Milking the kine in the field, like Rachel, watering cattle, Rachel when at the well, the predestined beheld and kissed her."
That would have expressed the radical thought of Mr.
Munby's poem better, perhaps, than either of his actual mottoes. The sweetness in women's domestic labour, in their willing service to the humble wants of man, is Mr. Munby's theme ; and he even presses it so far as to suggest that the more menial the service rendered is, the more effectually it pene- trates the heart of man ;—that, judged by the laws of " Archi-
tectural Beauty in Application to Woman," the type which is called by the satirist "the sculliony stumpy columnar," m;ght come out the most " moving " of all. We hold that there is a trace of this rather exaggerated view of the attrac- tiveness of the most menial type of service in Mr. Mnnby's
book, because he makes his hero search in vain for any trace of this love of simplicity and of domestic service within the limits of his own class. He has to go out of it before he can find the true heart of service in women, and has to put up with hard red hands, rough speech, bad grammar, and a positive devotion to scrubbing and mopping as the true sphere of women :—
"He meanwhile Among the ladies of his rank and age Sought vainly for a heroine, to match His unsuspecting servant. Surely they, Advantaged by their training and their birth, Must be superior to a girl like this !
But she, obscure and humble though she were, Was yet original : and what were they?
Mere imitations, commonplace and cheap.
Of something other than themselves. He saw Their life, their knowledge, their accomplishments, Their very pastimes, were not of their own, But changed and fashion'd by each fleeting hour Of popular applause. If they had sense, And merit, and a purpose, they grew vain,
Presumptuous, or eccentric ; and if not—
Why, that was worse than t' other!" (pp. 27-28.)
Surely he must have been most unlucky. No man who knows women will have failed to see many who have delighted in the washing and dressing of children, in the happy work of garden- ing and tending of flowers, and even in the arranging of the table and in the homeliest work of the needle and the laundry.
A man who has to go beneath his own natural level of taste and culture to find the true homeliness of woman's nature must be either a singularly unfortunate or a singularly unobservant man ; nor can we see what advantages the labour of scrubbing and cooking and gathering up manure for the garden, which Mr. Munby's hero so much admires in his wife, has over the tending of children, the plain needlework of the fireside, and the care of the garden, which come so naturally to the most delicate and refined women in all spheres of life. It is perfectly true, no doubt, that a servant who has been accustomed all her life to rougher work is all the better for loving it and not being ashamed of it, for delighting in her clogs, her pails, her scrubbing-brushes, and the humblest utensils of her service. It is quite true that such unaffected eagerness to do the homely work of a house is beautiful in one who has been brought up to it; but it is not true that beauty of this kind is nobler than the beauty of cultivated tastes and refined sympathies and subtle discriminations, and we should not envy the man who had to sacrifice all the natural preferences of his own sphere in life, before he could find the feminine simplicity and reality of which he was in search.
However, if we ignore the topsy-turvy fastidiousness which seems to be positively repelled by the least preference for what may be called convent;onal refinement, and to think such conventional refinement an absolute bar to simplicity of nature,—which, of course, it is not, any more than is the equally conventional preference for clogs and mops and hard red hands, a bar to such simplicity,—Mr. Munby's story of Ann Morgan's Love is full of truth and beauty. The girl's keen belief in the intrinsic value of her love, even though it has to encounter serious difficulties in its inconsistency with the natural associations and tastes of her husband's and master's relations and friends, is very powerfully delineated, and Ann Morgan is probably quite right in thinking that with her maturely formed tastes for homely household labour, she would be foolish in attempting to turn herself into a half-and-half lady instead of a devoted servant, since it was in the latter position that her husband had learned to love her, and it was the latter position tha* really brought out her heart's best qualities. As a half-and- half lady she might have lost the love which she had gained as a humble servant. Let us listen to her reasoning when she tells him that as he has chosen to marry a servant who
loved him, he must bear with her for continuing always a servant who loves him, and for refusing to become a pinch-
beck lady :— "' Well then, if so be it's that,
Yo've nowt to reckon, Sir ! Yo've took me oop. A wench as always work'd for yo for love Better tall waages ; an' yo've gi'en me right To sit beside ye, an' to read to ye, An' hear ye tell a many hunderd things As niver cooms into Bich beads as mine, For want o' knowin : that's what yo ha' doon ; An' thank ye for it ! But yo canna think All that could mak' me different : Bless your heart !
Why, onny menseful woman sich as me 'Ud feel like Ah do, what a thing it is To maate hersel filch a mon as yo. But wat, Ah've doon it, an' Ah sticks to it, An' thankful too. Eh, Master! dunna think As Ah forget what yo ha' bin to me, An' always will be ! But Ah says again, Ah mun joost love ye i' my own poor way, An' not i' your way. Ah can be a wife, But not a equal—niver!'
Should she forsake her class, and seem to say
She was no longer one of them ? Not she !
She knew their labours and their homely life, And knew no other : she would be to him Companion ? Yes, if he would make her one; But most of all, a minister for love, As she had been for wages. No one else Could so secure the comfort of his home And keep his dwelling cleanly; no one else Knew all his habits and his daily wants As she did; should she leave to other hands All that her own hands had been wont to do So long and so intently ? Could she bear A stranger housemaid or an alien cook, Another maid of all work like herself, To come between her and her proper place, And do her duties, while she left her sphere To play at prettiness, and entertain Folk who despised her P No! her honest heart Revolts at such a thought, and doubly warms Toward the coarse apron and the cotton frock And servant's cap, that she had always worn, And would wear, will he nill he, to the end.
Not even he, the Master whom she loved, Should keep her longer from that lowly work For which God made her. That was her resolve."
That, as it seems to us, is good poetry, though it is, as Mr. Munby calls it, pedestrian poetry,—poetry with no high flights of expression, but only the simple utterance of a genuine but noble mind. There are many poems of much more ambitions form which do not reach the genuine pathos and beauty of Ann Morgan's Love.