George Meredith

(1828 - 1909)


Meredith gives us the clear significance
of a seeing identity of the soul of man
with the hidden soul in earth-nature.


Lucifer in Starlight

On a starred night Prince Lucifer uprose.
Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend
Above the rolling ball in cloud part screened,
Where sinners hugged their spectre of repose.
Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
And now upon his western wing he leaned,
Now his huge bulk o’er Afric’s sands careened,
Now the black planet shadowed Arctic snows.
Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars
With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
He reached a middle height, and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he looked, and sank.
Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law.

Sri Aurobindo’s remarks:

«Meredith with his greater force of thinking gives us the clear significance of what is here only a powerful indication, a seeing identity of the soul of man with the hidden soul in earth-nature:

I neighbour the invisible
So close that my consent
Is only asked for spirits masked
To leap from trees and flowers.
And this because with them I dwell
In thought, while calmly bent
To read the lines dear earth designs
Shall speak her life on ours.

And the same turn emerges too in direct thought on the large aspects of life, as in such a phrase as

Lonely antagonist of destiny,

or that which describes

The listless ripple of oblivion,

lines which give us by some deep suggestion to the spiritual sight a whole abiding soul aspect of man and the universe in a single revealing expression. The effort of poetry of this kind of inspiration may be defined by adapting another expression of Meredith’s,

To spell the letters of the sky and read
A reflex upon earth else meaningless.

And the fullness of that which it points to beyond itself, is a movement to unite the life of the earth, not lessened, not denied, not cast away, but accepted, with its own hidden spiritual reality, the one crucial movement necessary for man before he can reach that perfection which the race shall have on its heights, when

The vile plucked out of them, the unlovely slain,
Nor forfeiting the beast with which they are crossed,
To stature of the Gods they shall attain.
They shall uplift their earth to meet the Lord,
Themselves the attuning chord.»

«When Meredith writes of “Colour, the soul’s bridegroom”, he has got the intimate revealing image of this fuller and higher intuitive manner, or in his lark’s

silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break:

when he writes, again,

Norknow the joy of sight
Who deem the wave of rapt desire must be
Its wrecking and last issue of delight,

he has got the perfected turn of the direct intuitive word of thought in its more crowded manner of suggestion, — the kinship in the last line to the Shakespearian manner is close, — as too its more clear and limpid speech in other turns,

The song seraphically free
From taint of personality;

and in the lines,

Dead seasons quicken in one petal spot
Of colour unforgot,

He has it ready for an intuitive and vivid spiritual interpretation of Nature.»

Song in the Songless

They have no song, the sedges dry,
And still they sing.
It is within my breast they sing,
As I pass by.
Within my breast they touch a string,
They wake a sigh.
There is but sound of sedges dry;
In me they sing.