Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/94

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82
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

need only distinguish between the sham and the genuine article; and my own method of distinguishing is a simple one. I believe in poetry which learns itself by heart. There are poems which dominate and haunt one; which, once admitted, sting and cling to one; the tune of which comes up and runs in one's head at odd moments; and which suddenly revive, after years of forgetfulness, as vigorous and lively as ever. Such poetry, as Wordsworth told Arnold, has the characteristic of being 'inevitable,'—a phrase which has become something of a nuisance, but cannot be always avoided. You feel that the thing had to be said just as it was said; and that, once so said, nothing said by anybody else will just hit the same mark. Of course, this test, being personal, is not conclusive. I remember, I am ashamed to say it, some poetry which I know to be trash, merely, I suppose, because it jingles pleasantly; and I forget a great deal which I know to be good because I can perceive that it dominates other people; but then I do my best to keep my tastes on such occasions to myself. Now, Matthew Arnold's poetry has, in an eminent degree, the quality—if not of inevitableness—of adhesiveness. I don't know