Page:Studies of a Biographer 4.djvu/63

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
49
SOUTHEY'S LETTERS

propensity'; but that propensity, he adds, 'has made me happy and will make me immortal.' He gave up his chances of a seat on the woolsack for the certainty of a place beside Milton or Spenser. He never doubted the possibility of combining the professional author with the inspired prophet. Undoubtedly the feat has been performed. Masterpieces have been written by Shakespeare and others, who turned them out in the way of business. But, in such cases, though the business motive unlocks the fountain, the spring is already full. The mind, that is, is charged with imagery and reflection: with thoughts, as Browning puts it, 'self-gathered for an outbreak' and 'chafing in the censer.' Southey seems to have imagined that preliminary accumulation was scarcely needed. He did not need any apprenticeship before setting up as a fully equipped teacher of mankind. 'It is the very nose on the face of my intellect,' he says quaintly, 'that my mind is useless without its tools.' He can never think regularly 'unless the pen be in his hand.' Then his thoughts flow as fast as the water from ' the rock of Horeb.' But without the 'wand'—the pen, that is, to strike the rock—the rock remains dry. If thinking and uttering are identical, meditation and reflection are