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138 CELTIC POETRY.
knowledge of the language and an appreciation of its method as the expression of thought, be completely saturated with the knowledge of the time, and possess the literary conscience and taste to be completely faithful to the original spirit. The most conspicuous example in our time of an attempt to reproduce the spirit of legendary romance in original poetry is, of course, The Idylls of the King, and the impress of a very thorough study and saturation of the spirit of the ancient chronicles is as visible as the exquisite substance of original poetry. But the stories of The Idylls of the King are based upon, rather than closely reproduce, the legends of Arthurian romance, and the spirit has been elevated and refined by that of modern poetry and the nature of Tennyson's own genius to essential unreality. They are like the pictures of Madonnas and mediaeval saints done by a modern painter of genius with all the skill and technique of art, but without the sense of devotion which shows through the ruder sketches of the earlier and greatly inferior painters, who were inspired by something more than merely artistic enthusiasm. It is needless to say that for a poet to possess the self-restraint to be entirely faithful to his originals, and aim mainly at reproducing their form as well as spirit, is more rare, and may be said to have less power, than one who creates an original structure of poetry upon the