« PrécédentContinuer »
• And when four years were wholly finished,
She threw her royal robes away,
“Where I may mourn and pray.
So lightly, beautifully built :
When I have purged my guilt.”' This concluding stanza contains a deep and true philosophy. The spirit that has learned to pray, and has recognized the solemn obligations of daty, may once more tenant its · Palace of Art,'no longer as its proud lord, but as the recipient of its delights from a greater One; and no more in selfish isolation, but in happy and sympathizing fellowship with the great brotherhood of man.
The students of Mr. Tennyson's writings, however, would, after all, perhaps prefer to illustrate his descriptive powers by his dealings with the great world of human emotion and passion. Every phase in turn is touched by him, and with what inimitable truth and purity! - from the cheerful sunlight of love which invests The Miller's Daughter,' The Gardener's Daughter,' and the ballad of · Lady Clare ;' to the noble, self-sacrificing affection which charms us in
Dora ;' the wild and passionate rage of 'Locksley Hall, now sickening to despair, and now arousing dreams of high ambition and new enterprise ; the morbid agony of love depicted in Maud,' brightening for a moment into wild exultation, only to be lashed by circumstances into madness, from which there is no deliverance but by the tumult and excitement of conflict for a great cause; the serene stateliness and magnificent indignation of the Lady Ida in * The Princess, softening into tenderness despite herself; the pure affection drawn in In Memoriam,' a love wonderful as that of David and Jonathan, 'passing the love of women ;' and, finally, to pass by many others, that most touching picture of Elaine deserted in the tower, broken-hearted, yet loving on :
. So in her tower alone the maiden sat;
came her father, saying in low tones,
"And in those days she made a little song,
O, Love, if death be sweeter, let me die.
Sweet death, that seems to make us loveless clay;
Call and I follow, I follow ! let me die.'” Now, wherefore this strong and constant realization of all the depths and tendernesses in the human heart? I think I can give Tennyson's own answer. These, too, like the facts of nature, are steps to the Divine. Love unriddles many secrets now; it shall one day uoriddle the secret of the universe. The very disorders of love, as in Maud,' show how divine it is. Many persons have, indeed, strangely misunderstood this poem, as though the poet were in full sympathy with its morbid hero. There could not be a greater mistake. Both ‘Maud' and 'Locksley Hall’are tales of disappointed love, and of the resolution to overcome vain longing and despair by energetic action. If the older is the nobler poem, it is because its hero
We see him in a passing mood, enraged and embittered by the faithlessness of her whom he had loved; but he conquers his mighty sadness, and addresses himself with new energy and hope to the activities which he had been almost ready in his wretchedness to forswear for ever. In the struggles and victories of science and of peace, he is once more ready to take his part with Men, the brothers, men, the workers, ever reaping something new; That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do.'
is a nobler man.
'Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward, let us range. Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. Through the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day: Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay. Mother-Age (for mine I knew not), ħelp me as when life begun: Rift the hills, and roll the waters, flash the lightnings, weigh the Sun!' But the youth introduced in Maud' has been soured from the beginning. He loses all appreciation of the 'wondrous Mother-Age’ in the tricks, meannesses, and falsehoods which he sees all around him, and which he believes have made his home desolate. From
the first, his love is moody, and in its joy extravagant. The wild exasperation of having his cup of joy suddenly dashed to the ground by hated hands in the moment of its richest fulness, with the scenes that follow—the duel, the death of Maud-complete the overthrow of reason, and for a time there is madness; how wonderfully depicted, all who have read the poem will remember. What naturally succeeds the partial recovery? The mind and heart, utterly at war with society-believing that the social scheme has wrought all its misery, and covered it with self-contempt—what remedy would so readily present itself as that of eager, hot-blooded action? Storytellers of all ages have made their heroes, when disappointed and world-weary, to rush into the thick of battle, seeking dear-bought victory or an honourable grave. Why quarrel with Mr. Tennyson for following the ancient precedent ?-even though the lesson be insinuated, that in a community like ours there is a possibility of such growth of selfishness, and regard for material interests, as may need, in the view of the Eternal Providence that governs the nations, the sharp remedy of war. That wars and rumours of wars 'must needs be before the end, we know on the highest authority; and if So, who so fit to draw the sword as men like the hero of this poem? Our age produces many such ; and if ever they are to be wrought into manliness, it will be by the discipline of the camp, and the stern ordeal of warfare. For some men the worst thing that can be done with them, and for others the best, is to make them soldiers.
Mr. Tennyson's ethical teachings are all on the side of purity, truth, and bravery. He is not, indeed, always careful to have a moral at all. Like those popular lecturers, whose fashion it is just now to impress upon their audiences that no instruction is intended, our poet, in one of his lighter pieces, disclaims any grave purpose.
"So, Lady Flora, take my lay,
find no moral there,
What moral is in being fair.
The wild-weed flower that simply blows ?
Within the bosom of the rose ?
In bud, or blade, or bloom may find,
A meaning suited to his mind.
In Art like Nature, dearest friend ;
Should hook it to some useful end.' Beauty, indeed, is its own justification ; so, to a certain extent, is humour, especially when it takes the form of honest, downright fun.
This last, also, is a gift of Mr. Tennyson, else he had not written
Will Waterproof's Monologue,' or the story of 'The Goose.' But his prevailing tone, and that by evident preference, is serious, and his'morals' are manifold. I can adduce but an instance or two. It may be questioned whether human literature presents anywhere a more touching exhibition of repentance in its grovelling shame, and of forgiveness in its serene majesty and love, than in the last parting of King Arthur and his sorrowing queen, Guinevere. The lines are so well-known, that we will not fill our pages with the long quotation. To glance at a very different topic, although in some respects kindred; – The Princess,' albeit in the author's view 'a medley,'has its very decided moral, in the break-up of that ladies' college, with all its' sweet girl-graduates in their golden bair.'
*For woman is not undevelopt man
May these things be!
pass over other matters, again, however we may regret that the poet has chosen old-world scenery for so many of his poems, none can doubt that he is, with all his heart and soul, an Englishman of to-day. I do not know where else we can look for so keen an appreciation of our national character and need. The following stanzas, for instance, from the ' Dedication to the Queen,' while their opening will be felt to be most pathetic now, strike a chord of noble patriotism. Do they not at once augur a new Reform Bill, and explain our recent fervour in the case of the American aggression?
* May you rule us long, "And leave us rulers of your blood
As noble till the latest day! May children of our children say, She wrought her people lasting good.
• Her court was pure, her life serene;
God gave her peace, her land reposed;
A thousand claims to reverence closed
Who knew the seasons when to take
Occasion hy the hand, and make
Which kept her throne unshaken still,
her people's will, And compass’d by the inviolate sea.' Mr. Tennyson's Englishman is free, noble, brave. Yet he knows how to regulate his freedom; and, while exulting in his liberty, to bow to the superior majesty of truth. Knowledge is great, but reverence is greater. In politics extremes are false; the spirit of freedom turns them to scorn with lips divine.' All tyranny is evil, but especially that in which
*Banded unions persecute
When single thought is civil crime,
No power or wealth can make a nation great that is wanting in reverence, or 'disdains the wisdom of a thousand years, and of all time. True progress is attained, when
“By degrees to fulness wrought, The strength of some diffusive thought,
Hath time and space to work and spread.' Does this sound too conservative for some of my readers ? They cannot fail, at least, to be aroused, not only to admiration, but to a sense of personal responsibility, of the preciousness of our true national honour, and of the sanctity of individual duty, by such words as those with which the great Poet, the patriot Englishman, followed the great Duke, the man of action, to his honourable tomb.
• A people's voice ! we are a people yet,