DUTCH POETRY AND ENGLISH
or the Wordsworthian theology of Nature. Potgieter was never built for the comfortable sceptic. His was above all an anxious nature, a moral nature; according to the portents he should have been completely decorous and respectable in religious matters. And that he was not so was due largely, I think, to his maintenance of the old "heresy of instruction", which kept coming between him and the highest spiritual idealism. Mr T. S. Eliot, professedly no great lover of Shelley, tells us that, while this poet may inform us that he disliked didactic poetry, "his own poetry is chiefly didactic".1 But there is the widest difference between the beauty of the ideas propagated in "Alastor" and those propagated in the "Jan Salie" cycle, where the pictures presented to the Dutch "man-in-the-street" so obviously elucidate the moral tendencies of the age, that the conflict between poetry as propaganda and poetry as art never seriously arises, and the conflict over the question of poetry as entertainment but in the dimmest way:
"'Een wonder is de Nieuwe Beurs!'
Geloof het maar, Jan Salie!
Doch wacht u voor die duisternis:
Men loopt er zijn kassier soms mis,
En spreekt een aêr aan op den gis,
Juist nu de Bank zoo moeilijk is,
En 't geld zoo schaarsch, Jan Salie!"
Even when he turns back, as he does time and again, to the "gouden eeuw" of Vondel, it is not to seize upon what is best in his lyric gifts but to attempt some greater moral hit still, and so confirm himself in his reactionary theory of verbetering. Professor Prinsen makes an excellent point in suggesting that the 'Lake Poets' "beter onder het bereik vielen van onze brave Hollanders, daar ze minder excessen vertoonen" 2 than actually did Byron. He does not elaborate; for, though the truth is that
1 "The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism," p. 93.
2 Geïllustreerde Nederlandsche Letterkunde," p. 204. Italics are mine.