« PrécédentContinuer »
ose who are guide het hers
a book, which at least acknowledges them and does them homage
These words suggest the true explanation of Mr. Tennyson religious influence, and shew why this power to guide the minds men exists independently of dogmatic teaching. He interpre religiously 'the deepest thoughts and feelings of human being Or, rather, he seeks to give these thoughts and feelings wings b which to soar to heaven.
Is it fanciful to say, that God has two strong angels charged wit the commission to bring his own Truth and human hearts int loving accord ? The home of one of these angels is in heaven, an with the everlasting gospel in her hand, she speeds her downwar way, to arouse, to instruct, and to save. Her name is Doctrin The home of the other is on earth : hier mission is to bear the sou of men upward to the far-distant blue. Her name is Aspiratior Her wings are often weary ; but she meets her sister angel in th firmament, and the two together guide, with mutual aid, up to th throne of God. To those who have never aspired, Doctrine come in vain. The glad tidings may be comprehended, even welcomed but the joy is selfish, the creed narrow. But to those who seek b Aspiration alone to win the heaven, the upward flight become weary, the vision dim. Well is it if the drooping spirit does no sink into some dreary deep of scepticism ; and even should i sustain itself in the realm of purity and light, the sense o Mystery is stronger than the grasp of Faith.
My readers will be able to apply the parable. Mr. Tennyson is the poet of Aspiration. The home of his guiding angel is on the earth. The emotions and affections of the heart, when deepest purest, arouse him to the search for the Divine. Nor is the search in vain. His spirit ascends into an atmosphere of light and truth But this truth is recognised chiefly by its accordance with thos feelings which first prompted it to aspire. There is little recogni tion of an assurance from without even of a Divine assurance Hence is there often a sense of outer mystery and of inward weak ness, where surely the Christian gifts of strength, and knowledge and trust, are most needed.
I falter where I firmly trod,
Upon the great world's altar-stairs,
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hope.' It may be said that this is but a passing mood, incidental to the strongest faith. Perhaps so ; and yet, is not the attitude so magnificently yet sadly pictured, rather the posture of one who has striven to climb because urged by promptings from within, than of one who soars because summoned by light from above? But the same point may be illustrated from passages which express the poet's brightest and happiest faith. Take for instance, The Two Voices.' One voice is that of doubt, bewilderment, and dread, ever saying in the soul, ‘Better to end all ; there is no certainty, no rest; no worth in man, no hope in eternity :' the other is the voice of Faith, still urging the lesson of stedfast hope, and craving the gift of fuller life. How is the debate concluded ? So far as the intellect is concerned, in utter uncertainty. Neither man's better nature, nor his worse, can be said to have the mastery. Arguments on both sides are exhausted ; there is absolutely no decision.
I ceased, and sat as one forlorn :
The casement, and the light increased
And now and then he gravely smiled.
The little maiden walked demure,
Remembering its ancient heat.
A little whisper, silver-clear,
A notice faintly understood,
"A little hint to solace woe,
A hint, a whisper breathing low,
That every cloud that spreads above
How beautiful this is ! Yet, is there not a better solution to th mystery? True, it is much that Nature in her tenderest lovelines: and the emotions of the heart when purest and loftiest, chime wit! man's aspirations after a better life: but there are moods of though and hours of experience when these influences would be all unfelt Suppose the poet, instead of gazing forth, in the bright Sabbat] morning upon a scene so fair as that which he has made to live befor us, had been compelled to look out upon some alley of a crowded city where, in the murky atmosphere, want, crime, despair, seemed to reign paramount, where the sound of the sabbath-bell was upheard or but awakened fierce blasphemies, would it have been so easy to silence the bitter and discordant voice of doubt? No, the hear needs something beyond itself. There are times when the appea to its secret testimony would be to solicit the approach of scepticis and fear. It is a wise interpreter ; but an insufficient oracle In its most exultant aspiration it loses its way, sad and be wildered; and there is no hope for it but to lean, in meekness an silence, upon His testimony, who hast said, 'I am the Resurrection and the Life:- Come unto me, and I will give you rest.
The power, then, and the weakness of Mr. Tennyson's religiou teachings, are attributable to the same source. He is powerfu because he takes his stand upon that which is noblest an mightiest in the human heart. I have felt' is the refutation scepticism and the warrant of faith. But he is weak, because th external testimony, proceeding from One who is greater than th heart, appears to go for so little. How are those who have no
felt,' to make their way to trust and peace? For this last questio also, our poet may have an answer. It would, perhaps, be rash t conclude, from the absence of explicit reference to that warrant for faith which is a part from, and beyond ourselves, that he does not i reality rest his trust in the sure testimony of God. Nay, there ar
occasional very touching references to the sacred story. The hope of immortality is strengthened, to say the least, by the record of the miracle at Bethany : while love and devotion in their utmost intensity are exemplified in Mary's reverent love for Him, who is the Resurrection and the Life.
* Behold a man raised up by Christ!
The rest remaineth unreveal'd;
He told it not; or something sealed
· Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thought her mind admits,
But he was dead, and there he sits, And He that brought him back is there. · Then one deep love doth supersede
All other, when her ardent gaze
Roves from the living brother's face,
Borne down by gladness so complete,
She bows, she bathes the Saviour's feet
Whose loves in higher love endure;
What souls possess themselves so pure,
Why, then, should not the poet's faith be that of the simpler Christian, based on accredited testimony, and exulting in full assurance? The poem following that just quoted, seems to say with a pathetic sadness, O, that it could be so !
O thou that after toil and storm
May'st seem to have reached a purer air,
Whose faith has centre everywhere,
Her early Heaven, her happy views;
Nor thou with shadow'd hint confuse
Her hands are quicker unto good:
Oh, sacred be the flesh and blood
The sister' here is the wiser of the two. The 'form' into which her faith casts itself is but the reflection of the thought of God, -the greatest of His thoughts revealed to man-even the incarnation of Himself. Nay, does not the poet himself say this in lines which soon follow ?
• Tho' truths in manhood darkly join,
Deep-seated in our mystic frame,
Where truth in closest words shall fail,
When truth embodied in a tale
With human hands the creed of creeds,
In loveliness of perfect deeds,
More strong than all poetic thought.' Where could we find a nobler comment upon the inspired declaration that the Mystery of godliness was manifested in flesh ? And why, we ask, should the poet even appear to turn away from this revelation of the True and the Divine, to take counsel of our own weak affections and weaker reason? What a poem would In Memoriam have been, had its exulting key-note being from the first, 'I know in whom I have believed !' As it is, the affections in their loftiest aspirations and most prophetic moods, are often very sad. For,
• Who shall so forecast the years,
And find in loss a gain to match ?
Or reach a hand thro' time to catch
The far-off interest of tears ?' There is a message from Heaven which answers even these questions. Affection, blinded with its weeping, may cease to yearn so vainly. Reason, staggered by the vastness of the problem, may forebear its efforts to work out a solution. Both may reverently hearken to a yoice, sweeter, mightier, than their own.
'Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me.
In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.'
I would have told you, and spared you all those tears ! But you have been left to shed them that you may reap their 'far-off interest'
— nay, their hundred-fold recompense, in the fulfilment of the promise, ‘I will come again and receive you unto Myself.'
For our poet there are two oracles, each potent to unlock the secrets of the universe. These are Love and Death. And when the voice of love is silent, or confused and lost amid the harsher voices of the world, it is a sad consolation to remember that it is death who 'Keeps the keys of all the creeds,' and to wait for a reply to the heart's most passionate questionings, until it has passed