Page:Satires and profanities -microform- (1884).djvu/17

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viii.
Preface.

Thomson's sympathy with radical and revolutionary causes is not much noticed by Mr. Dobell, but it was very strong. He was secretary for some time to the Polish Committee in London, and his glorious lines on "A Polish Insurgent,: which I for one can never read without tears, proves that he might have written the noble songs that George Eliot hoped he would compose. He sympathised with all self-sacrifice, all lofty aspiration, and in particular with all suffering. This last emotion was often betrayed by a look rather than expressed in words. I vividly remember being with him once on a popular holiday at the Alexandra Palace. We were seated on the grass, watching the shifting groups of happy forms, and exchanging appreciative or satirical remarks. Suddenly I observed my companion's gaze fixed on a youth who limped by with a pleasant smile on his face, but too obviously beyond hope of ever sharing in the full enjoyment of life. Thomson's eyes followed him until he passed out of sight, and the next moment our eyes met. I shall never forget the gentle sadness of that look, its beautiful sympathy that transcended speech, and made all words poor.

Thomson's life was a long tragedy. He inherited from his father a fatal curse,, and in his youth he lost the beautiful girl to whom he was engaged. She was the object of his passionate adoration, and allusions to her often occur in his poems. Her image mingled with all the sombre panoramas of Love and Death and Grief that passed before the eyes of his imagination. Yet I do not agree with Mr. Dobell in regarding this bereavement as the cause of his life-long misery. She was, I hold, merely the peg on which he hung his raiment of sorrow; without her, another object might have served the same purpose. He carried within him his proper curse, constitutional melancholia. From long and careful observation I formed this conclusion, and it explains Thomson's life and philosophy. I would not dogmatise, however; for the profundities and subtleties of the human heart baffle all calculation. Certitude is now impossibel The seal of eternal silence is set on Thomson's lips—"after life's fitful fever he sleeps well." He is buried at Highgate, and his darling lies, I suspect, in an unknown grave. Death has at last united them, but their love survives in the glory of immortal song.