Page:Studies of a Biographer 4.djvu/69
This, however, suggests to ordinary criticism that in the 'epics' the literary gentleman does not get sufficiently out of sight. After the excellent Joan of Arc has astonished the priests of her day by versifying a bit of Rousseau, we have to listen to a series of extracts from chronicles, and to consult authorities as to the medieval methods of warfare, which tend to damp one's ardour, and I humbly confess that my efforts to read later poems have generally been frustrated by the
St. Antidius and sat for his portrait to the Spanish painter, and enlivened medieval chronicles with the quaint legends which Southey delighted to unearth. The ballads are better, I think, than the Ingoldsby Legends, because they are less vulgar and less elaborately funny. Southey tells us how he first read the legend of the 'old woman of Berkeley' in a chronicle chained to the upper shelf of the neglected library in a Spanish convent, having to stand on a chair to reach his treasure, and how he set about his verses 'that very evening.' We have the genuine man of letters looking up in playful mood, delighted by the nugget of quaint absurdity which has enlivened his labours, and pouring out his ballad with spontaneous and infectious delight.