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THE CROWTH OF POLTIC FAME.
promise was trying his 'prentice hand upon the lyre of English Song.
Undaunted by the frigid reception of his first venture, Tennyson published a second volume in 1833, containing, besides corrected reprints of some former poems, many new compositions, which marked a striking advance both in thought and style. Those who then read for the first time The Lady of Shalott, The Miller's Daughter, Ænone, The Lotus Eaters, and, above all, The Queen of the May, an exquisitely touching picture of a pretty wilful village girl fading away' amid the brightening blossoms of an English spring, felt that a new well of poetic thought had burst out to gladden and make green the arid roads of modern life. One part of a poet's lofty mission is to battle with that tendency to the common-place and the matter-of-fact, which belongs to a moneygetting age, by affording such nutriment to the imagination as may keep its fair shoots from withering away in the hot and dusty' struggle of our daily lives. And no English poet of modern days has more nobly fulfilled this exalted function than he who has given us the sweet fruits of genius that have just been named.
The critics of 1833 were unkind and unjust to the youthful singer; and for nine years the sweet voice was silent. But it was not the silence of an idle life. Locksley Hall was unfolding its pathetic and passionate beauty. The Gardener's Daughter and Dora were budding into life. Lady Clara Vere de Vere, one of the sternest rebukes ever levelled at the cold arrogance and deadly cruelty of high-born beauty, was in preparation. And such fragmentary poems as Morte d’Arthur and Godiva, dealing with the chivalrous and feudal times of old England, were giving earnest of what the minstrel might do in some future day, should he choose his theme from that dim past, through whose mists we see in broken outline, with here and there a glimpse of brilliant colour shining through a rift, confused groups of giant men, whose life was summed up in the battle, the tilt-yard, the chase, and the carouse.
in 1842 appeared two volumes, containing the poems to which we have referred with many others of remark- 1842 able beauty, the victory was won. Another King Alfred
was crowned in England, whose realm has wider bounds and whose sceptre has another power than the sceptre and the realm of the illustrious Saxon.
Tennyson's next work was published in 1847,-a fanciful poem of the epic class, written in blank-verse, entitled The Princess, a Medley. At a little pic-nic on the grassy turf within a ruin, seven college men tell the tale in turn, and
" The women sang Between the rougher voices of the men, Like linnets in the pauses of the wind."
A prince and princess are betrothed, but have never met.
He loves the unseen beauty; she, influenced by two strong-minded widows, hates the thoughts of marriage, and founds a University for girls. Disguised in female dress, the prince and two friends don the academic robe of lilac silk, and mingle with the gentle under-graduates. All goes well— lectures are duly attended-until upon a geological excursion the princess falls into a whirling river, and is snatched from the brink of a cataract by her lover. The secret being thus discovered, the pretenders are expelled, in spite of a life saved. Then comes war between the kingdoms; the prince is struck senseless in the strife; and as Ida, the Head of the College, moves round the sick-bed, where he lies hovering between life and death, a new light dawns upon her. She begins to feel that the gentle ministrations of home are a fitter study for her sex than the quadrature of the circle or the properties of amygdaloid. By degrees
“ A closer interest flourished up,
We never think of characterizing the poem by adjectives like "sublime" or "magnificent," for it pretends to no such qualities as these express.
-“ Exquisite,” “ beautiful," " graceful,” « tender," are rather the words we choose. A delicate playfulness runs
through every page, like a golden thread through rich brocade. But with the sweet satiric touch there often mingles a tone of deep social wisdom, which exalts the poem far above mere pretti
Some of the intervening lyrics are the perfection of lingual music, especially those lines descriptive of the dying echo of a bugle-note sounded amid the rocky shores of a lake.
Early in life a great sorrow had fallen upon Tennyson. Arthur Henry Hallam, the historian's son, who had been the poet's bosom friend at college and had been affianced to his sister, died in 1833 at Vienna. Stunned by the heavy blow, the surviving friend long refuses to be comforted; and the black shadow of the pall and the coffin broods upon his soul. But merciful time works its cure, The shadows turn grey, are touched with light, and at last roll off in golden clouds. “The sad mechanic exercise" of weaving verses in memory of his dead companion restores the mourner to himself, and brings him back to take renewed pleasure in the days that pass. But the gaiety of youth is gone; the graver brow and somewhat saddened voice tell of one who has 1850 drunk of that bitter cup, which Infinite Wisdom often prepares to purify the soul and fit it for higher deeds. Such were the circumstances in which this work—the history of a human sorrow—was composed. Not until 1850 did the group of poems, which, to the number of one hundred and twenty-nine, make up
tho tributary In Memoriam, appear in a printed volume. The stanza, in which all are written, is the well-known eight-syllabled quatrain; to which a very simple modification of rhyme, an exchange between the third and fourth lines, imparts an uncommon tone, —
“I hold it true whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all."
The lost friend, dying at Vienna, was borne to England and buried in the chancel of Clevedon Church in Somersetshire. How beautifully these circumstances are woven together in the following lines, which condense in their simple language the spirit of all the scenery round that lonely tomb :
Tennyson's early life amid the fens of Lincolnshire and Cam. bridge led him to paint, in his earlier poems, the features of such landscapes as are common there. The barren-moor—the tangled water-courses, embroidered with brilliant flowering weeds—the great mere, shimmering in the frosty moonlight—the pool, fringed with tall sword-grass and bristling with bulrushes, meet us continually in his first volumes. But his manhood has been spent in a different scene. At Farringford in the Isle of Wight, on the road from Alum Bay to Carisbrook, he has resided for many years, amid green undulating woodland, thick with appletrees, and fringed with silver sand and snowy rocks, on which the light-green summer sea and the black waves of winter flow with the changeful music of their seasons. The landscape of southern England, where green and daisied downs take the place of the grey wolds to which his young eyes were accustomed, is often painted in his later works. Within his quiet home by the sea the stalwart, dark-bearded poet lives among his children and his books, strolling often, no doubt, beyond the privet-hedge that bounds his lawn and garden, but seeing little society except that of a few chosen friends. When Wordsworth died in 1850, the vacant laurel was worthily
conferred on the author of “Locksley Hall” and “The 1850 Princess." His Ode on the Death of Wellington, which is
the chief work he has produced in his official capacity,
though somewhat monotonous, sounds in many passages like the roll of the muffled drums that startle Nelson in his sleep beneath the pavement of St. Paul's, as the car of bronze bears a dead soldier to his side.
"THE IDYLLS OF THE KING."
asaud and other Poems were published by Tennyson in 1855. « Maud” is scarcely so fine a work as many that preceded it from the same pen. A squire's daughter, wooed by a new-made lord, prefers another gentleman, who is somewhat of the Byronic stamp. The serenade or invocation, sung by the lover as he waits at dawn for Maud among the roses and lilies in the Hall garden, after the guests of the evening have gone, is full of passionate fire and delicacy of thought. In the duel, which results from the discovery of their meeting, Maud's brother is killed, and her sweetheart has to flee the land. The Crimean war is then hauled most incongruously into the dream,—for it is now the dream of a dead man,—and “the blood-red blossom of war with a heart of fire,” flaming from the cannon's mouth, lights up the concluding scene of a wild, ill-jointed tale, rich, however, in such splendours of English expression as few but Tennyson can producc.
We now notice, very briefly, the Laureate's latest work, of his longer poems undoubtedly the best.* Turning his gaze back into that dim past from which he had already drawn one or two striking scenes, he reproduced the shadowy court at Caerleon, where King Arthur and his knights won their dusky-bright renown. He has succeeded admirably in setting before us the brilliant and the darker sides of that old and well-nigh for- 1859 gotten life, in the four tales which form The Idylls of the King. The delicate Enid, riding in her faded silk before her cruel lord,—the sweet and faithful Elaine gazing tenderly on the shield of her absent knight,—the crafty beauty, Vivien, weaving 'her spells round old wizard Merlin to shear him of his strength, and shrieking, as the forked lightning splinters an oak hard by,—and, finest picture of all, the guilty Queen Guinevere lying in an agony of remorse at the feet of Arthur, her tear-wet face crushed close to the convent floor, and her dark, dishevelled hair floating in the dust, while the noble forgiveness of the injured King and his sad farewell pierce her to the very soul,--these are the subjects of the song. The "Idylls" are in blank
* We must look upon "Il Memorian" rather as a group of clegies-& fuaeral wreathe of waingled asphodel and yew-than as a single poem.