KEATS AND SHELLEY AND "DE NIEUWE GIDS"
free to refashion the world on the pattern of his dreams. "Ellen" proved conclusively that its author had either to attain to some final vividness of vision, or allow the strains of his music to die away in bitterness and despair. But hard as he wrought to resolve his composition into a cosmic symphony of love, he failed, and found himself well-nigh carried back to the lachrymosity of early sentimentalists like Young and Feith.
Much of this criticism applies to the whole attempt of Van Eeden to interpret Shelley. If his command of the springs of beauty was less wide than with the English poet, so also could he not bring to the task the same superb intellectual abstraction. His tendency was ever to interpret too literally and exactly; the sheer loveliness of an "Adonais", the pure defiance of a "Prometheus", were largely beyond his powers; 'the egotistical sublime' in him was always working to keep the individualities of the sense-world from fading away and allowing the gaze to be fixed undistractedly upon the 'Life of Life'. In all this, of course, we must make generous allowance for the constitutional melancholy that dogged him to the end; for he was, indeed, a man born to sorrow as the sparks fly upwards. Though — let it be noted — when he can, even momentarily, shake off this depression, and when he undertakes a less devious flight than his natural inclinations urged, he is often amazingly successful; I think particularly of "De Noordewind" in which, as in the Ode to the West Wind", there is a definite interplay of the abstract and the concrete — the objects of the external world are dealt with, but only to be valued for what they suggest, not for themselves:
"Hoog wil ik stijgen met den Noordewind,
boven 't gerucht der stemmen . .
"Ik wil ééns vrij zijn, ééns oneindig vrij,
dat er geen liefde en lachen om mij is,
geen zoete stem, geen blik van vrienden-oogen,
geen weekheid en geen weemoed en geen lust."