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CHAPTER V

ENGLISH BARDS AND DUTCH REVIEWERS

Were we dealing with a great literature like English or German we could easily agree that the Romantic poets who live — the Wordsworths, the Goethes, the Shelleys, the Keats5 — are alone those who concerned themselves with life, who feit that as a thing of tremendous issues and, further, who knew how to recreate their sense of it and give to that sense a visible shape in the form of a work of art. But in the lesser literature that is Dutch there was assuredly no early nineteenth century poet who accepted his calling in the fashion of these. One poet, Bilderdijk, had, it is true, a glimpse of something important, a first intimation of life and poetry seen as one, but he, unfortunately, could not speak simply about it but must lose himself in a maze of verbosity, parentheses, and interminable notes and explanations — patently he was as constitutionally incapable as Coleridge himself of devising a new poetic scheme in which no symbols should stand between him and the outer world. But of his fellows, in turn, it can only be said that, far from ever seeming likely to go on and give expression to a dominating philosophy, they were from the first irretrievably buried in masses of sentiment and cloudy verbiage. There was in poets like Bogaers, Da Costa, Staring, Tollens, Beets, Van Lennep, an incurable lack of selfcriticism; at no time had they a clear or passionate idea as to the nature of their mission; not one of them ever properly grasped the principles of his art — "custom lies upon it with a weight". Content they were to make their poetry a medium for the ex-

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