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And thro' the moss the ivies creep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.
Lo! in the middle of the wood,
The folded leaf is woo'd from out the bud
his life was easily imagined to be beautiful dream, as sweet as those which he had pictured.
Yet the men who looked closer saw that there was a fire of passion under this smooth surface. A genuine poetic temperament never fails in this. It feels too acutely to be at peace. When we quiver at the least touch, we shake and tremble under great shocks. Al ready here and there, in his pictures of country and love, a brilliant verse broke with its glowing color through the calm and correct outline. He had
Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil, felt that strange growth of unknown
Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.
But, propt on beds of amaranth and moly,
With half-dropt eyelids still,
powers which suddenly arrest a mar with fixed gaze before revealed beauty. The specialty of the poet is to be ever young, forever virgin. For us, the vulgar, things are threadbare; sixty
To watch the long bright river drawing centuries of civilization have worn out
His waters from the purple hill-
To watch the emerald-olour'd water falling
Only to hear were sweet, stretch'd out be-
Was this charming dreamer simply a dilettante? Men liked to consider him so; he seemed too happy to admit violent passions. Fame came to him easily and quickly, at the age of thirty. The Queen had justified the public favor by creating him Poet Laureate. A great writer declared him a more genuine poet than Lord Byron, and maintained that nothing so perfect had been seen since Shakspeare. The student, at Oxford, put Tennyson's works between an annotated Euripides and a handbook of scholastic philosophy. Young ladies found him amongst their marriage presents. He was said to be rich, venerated by his family, admired by his friends, amiable, without affectation, even unsophisticated. He lived in the country, chiefly in the Isle of Wight, amongst books and flowers, free from the annoyances, rivalries, and burdens of society, and
Poems by A. Tennyson, 7th ed. 1851; The
their primitive freshness; things have become commonplace; we perceive them only through a veil of ready-made phrases; we employ them, we no longer comprehend them; we see in them no longer magnificent flowers, but good vegetables; the luxuriant primeval forest is to us nothing but a well-planned and too well-known kitchen garden On the other hand, the poet, in presence of this world, is as the first man on the first day. In a moment our phrases, our reasonings, all the trappings of memory and prejudice, vanish from his mind; things seem new to him; he is astonished and ravished; a headlong stream of sensations op presses him; it is the all-potent sap of human invention, which, checked in us, begins to flow in him. Fools call him mad, but in truth he is a seer: for we may indeed be sluggish, but nature is always full of life; the rising sun is as beautiful as on the first dawn; the streaming floods, the teeming flowers, the trembling passions, the forces which hurl onward the stormy whirlwind of existence, aspire and strive with the same energy as at their birth; the im mortal heart of nature beats yet, heav ing its coarse trappings, and its beatir.gs work in the poet's heart when they no longer echo in our own. Ten nyson felt this, not indeed always; but twice or thrice at least he has dared to make it heard. We have found anew the free action of full emotion, and
her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs—
This is very frank and strong.
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of lence. The correct, measured poet
Saying, I have hid my feelings, fearing they should do me wrong;
Saying, Dost thou love me, cousin?' weep
Love took up the glass of Time, and turn'd
Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on
Many a morning on the moorland did we hear
the copses ring,
And her whisper throng'd my pulses with the fulness of the Spring.
Many an evening by the waters did we watch the stately ships,
betraved himself, for he seemed to
And our spirits rush'd together at the touch-smile of a richly-dressed girl, a sunbeam
ing of the lips.
on a stormy sea, or on a spray of roses, throws all at once these sudden illuminations into impassioned souls. What verses are these, in which he represents himself in his dark little garden :
"A million emeralds break from the ruby-budded lime
In the little grove where I sit-ah, wherefore cannot I be
Like things of the season gay, like the bountiful season bland,
When the far-off sail is blown by the breeza of a softer clime,
Half lost in the liquid azure bloom of a crescent of sea,
The silent sapphire-spangled marriage ring of the land?"+
What a holiday in his heart when he is loved! What madness in these cries, that intoxication, that tenderness which would pour itself on all, and summon
Poems by A. Tennyson, 7th ed. 1881 ; Locksley Hall, 266. + Tennyson's Maud, 1856, iv. 1, p. 13
all to the spectacle and the participation of his happiness! How all is transfigured in his eyes; and how constantly he is himself transfigured! Gayety, then ecstasy, then archness, then satire, then disclosures, all ready movements, all sudden changes, like a crackling and flaming fire, rerewing every moment its shape and color: how rich is the soul, and how it can live a hundred years in a day! The hero of the poem, surprised and insulted by the brother of Maud, kills him in a duel, and loses her whom he loved. He flees; he is seen wandering in London. What a gloomy contrast is that of the great busy careless town, and a solitary man haunted by true grief! We follow him down the noisy thoroughfares, through the yellow fog, under the wan sun which rises above the river like a "dull red ball," and we hear the heart full of anguish, deep sobs, insensate agitation of a soul which would but cannot tear itself from its memories. Despair grows, and in the end the reverie becomes a vision :
O me! why have they not buried me deep enough?
Is it kind to have made me a grave so rough,
Then I cannot be wholly dumb
I will cry to the steps above my head,
"And I stood on a giant deck and mix'd my breath
With a loyal people sl outing a battle cry.. Yet God's just wrath shall be wreak'd on a giant liar ;
And many a darkness into the ligh shall leap, And shine in the sudden making of splendid
And noble thought be freer under the sun, And the heart of a people beat with one de sire ;
For the peace, that I deem'd no peace, is
And now by the side of the Black and the
And deathful-grinning mouths of the fort
The blood-red blossom of war with a heart of
This explosion of feeling was the only one; Tennyson has not again encoun tered it. In spite of the moral close. men said of Maud that he was imitat ing Byron; they cried out against these bitter declamations; they thought that they perceived the rebellious accent of the Satanic school; they blamed this uneven, obscure, excessive style; they were shocked at these crudities and incongruities; ; they called on the poet to return to his first well-proportioned style. He was discouraged, left the storm clouds, and returned to the azure sky. He was right; he is better there than anywhere else. A fine soul may be transported, attain at times to the fire of the most violent and the strongest beings: personal memories. they say, had furnished the matter of woman's delicacy, he had the nerves Maud and of Locksley Hall; with a of a woman. The fit over, he fell again into his "golden languors," into he wrote the Princess; after Maud the his calm reverie. After Locksley Hali Idylls of the King.
And somebody, surely, some kind heart will subjects which suit his talent. Tenny
The great task of an artist is to find
To bury me, bury me
Deeper, ever so little deeper."†
However, he revives, and gradually rises again War breaks out, a liberal and generous war, the war against Russia; and the big, manly heart, wounded by deep love, is healed by action and courage.
* Tennyson's Maud, 1856. xxvii. , P. 99. ↑ Ibid. xxvii. 11, p. 105.
son has not always succeeded in this. His long poem, In Memoriam, written in praise and memory of a friend who died young, is cold, monotonous, and too prettily arranged. He goes into mourning; but, like a correct gentle. man, with bran new gloves, wipes away his tears with a cambric handkerchief, and displays throughout the religious service, which ends the ceremony, all
Ibid. xxviii. 3 and 4, p. 108.
the compunction of a respectful and there is in them a sort of rustle of joy well-trained layman. He was to find anger, desire; they live more than we. his subjects elsewhere. To be poeti- more warmly and more quickly. They "cally happy is the object of a dilettante- are ever in excess, refined, ready to artist. For this many things are neces- weep, laugh, adore, jest, inclined to sary. First of all, that the place, the mingle adoration and jests, urged by a events, and the characters shall not nervous rapture to opposite extremes. exist. Realities are coarse, and always, They sally in the poetic field with imin some sense, ugly; at least they are petuous and ever changing caprice and heavy; we do not treat them as we joy. T satisfy the subtlety and super should like, they oppress the fancy; at abundance of their invention, they reed bottom there is nothing truly sweet and fairy-tales and masquerades. In fact, beautiful in our life but our dreams. the Princess is both. The beautiful We are ill at ease whilst we remain Ida, daughter of King Gama, who is glued to earth, hobbling along on our monarch of the South (this country is two feet, which drag us wretchedly not to be found on the map), was here and there in the place which im- affianced in her childhood to a beautipounds us. We need to live in an- ful prince of the North. When the other world, to hover in the wide-air time appointed has arrived, she is kingdom, to build palaces in the clouds, claimed. She, proud and bred on to see them rise and crumble, to follow learned arguments, has become irritated in a hazy distance the whims of their against the rule of men, and in order moving architecture, and the turns of to liberate women has founded a unitheir golden volutes. In this fantastic versity on the frontiers, which is to world, again, all must be pleasant and raise her sex, and to be the colony of beautiful, the heart and senses must future equality. The prince sets out enjoy it, objects must be smiling or with Cyril and Florian, two friends, picturesque, sentiments delicate or obtains permission from good King lofty; no crudity, incongruity, brutal- Gama, and, disguised as a girl, gets adity, savageness, must come to sully mission to the maiden precincts, which with its excess the modulated harmony no man may enter on pain of death. of this ideal perfection. This leads There is a charming and sportive grace the poet to the legends of chivalry. in this picture of a university for girls. Here is the fantastic world, splendid to The poet gambols with beauty; no the sight, noble and specially pure, in badinage could be more romantic or which love, war, adventures, generosity, tender. We smile to hear long learned courtesy, all spectacles and all virtues words come from these rosy lips: which suit the instincts of our Euro-There sat along the forms, like morning pean races, are assembled, to furnish them with the epic which they love, and the model which suits them.
That sun their milky bosoms on the thatch,
The Princess is a fairy tale as sentimental as those of Shakspeare. Tennyson here thought and felt like a "Acadernic silk; in hue the lilac, with young knight of the Renaissance. The a silken nood to cach, and zoned with mark of this kind of mind is a super-gold,. as rich as moth from dusk abundance, as it were, a superfluity of cocoons." Amongst these girls was sap. In the characters of the Princess, Melissa, a child— as in those of As You Like It, there is an over-fulness of fancy and emotion. They have recourse, to express their thought, to all ages and lands; they carry speech to the most reckless rashness; they clothe and burden every idea with a sparkling image, which drags and glitters around it like a bro-hances the magic of the scene. The cade clustered with jewels. Their * The Princess, a Med.ey, rath ed. 1864, ii nature is over-rich; at every shock 34 ↑ Ibid. ii. 46.
"A rosy blonde, and in a college gown
words "College” and “ Faculty " bring
"Leaning there on those balusters, high
her foot slips, and she falls into the river; the prince saves her, and wishes to flee. But he is seized by the Proctors and brought before the throne." where the haughty maiden stands ready to pronounce sentence. At this mo ment
A hubbub in the court of half the maids
Above the empurpled champaign, drank the The father of the prince has come with
That blown about the foliage underneath,
At every gesture, every attitude, we
"Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Dear as remember'd kisses after death,
The three friends have gone forth with the princess and her train, all on horseback, and pause near a coppicefeather'd chasm,"
"till the Sun
Grew broader toward his death and fell, and all The rosy heights came out above the lawns." Cyril, heated by wine, begins to troll a careless tavern-catch, and betrays the secret. Ida, indignant, turns to leave;
• The Princess, a Medley, 12th ed. 1864, iii. ↑ Ibid. v. 76.
his army to deliver him, and has seized
And you look well too in your woman's
Well have you done and like a gentleman.
Then men had said-but now-What hinders