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ALFRED TENNYSON moves on his way through life, heard, but by the public unseen. We might put to him a question similar to that which Wordsworth put to the cuckoo :
“O blithe new-comer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice.
Or but a wandering voice ?"
“Even yet thou art to me
A voice, a mystery."
the fairest of incense burners, and breathing volumes of ambrosial essences with a very complacent air ; you may find him as the great gun of a popular periodical; you may meet him at some dilettante breakfast; you may follow him from one great dinner-table to another, and at last to that of the Lord Mayor. But in few or none of these places will you find Alfred Tennyson. “He is gone down into his garden, to his beds of spices, to feed in his garden and gather lilies." You may hear his voice, but where is the man ? He is wandering in some dream-land, beneath the shade of old and charmed forests, by far-off shores, where
« All night The plunging seas draw backward from the land
Their moon-led waters white: " by the old mill-dam, thinking of the merry miller and his pretty daughter; or is wandering over the open worlds, where
“ Norland whirlwinds blow.” From all these places ; from the silent corridor of an ancient convent; from some shrine where a devoted knight recites his vows : from the drear monotony of “the moated grange," or the ferby forest beneath the “talking oak," comes the voice of Tennyson, rich, dreamy, passionate, yet not impatient; musical with the airs of chivalrous ages, yet mingling in his song the theme and the spirit of those that are yet to come.
The genius of Tennyson is essentially retiring, meditative, spiritual, yet not metaphysical; ambitious only that itself, and not the man, shall be seen, heard, and live. So that his song can steal forth; catch by a faint but aërial prelude the ear quick to seize on the true music of Olympus; and then, with growing and ever-swelling syinphonies, still more ethereal, still fuller of wonder, love, and charmed woe, can travel on amid the listening and spell-bound multitude, an invisible spirit of melodious power, expanding, soaring aloft, sinking deep, coming now as from the distant sea, and filling all the summer air; so that it can thus triumph in its own celestial energy, the poet himself would rather not be found. He seems to steal a way under the covert of friendiy boughs ; to be gone to caves and hiding crags, or to follow the stream of the grey moorland, gathering
" From old well-heads of haunted rills,
And the hearts of purple hills,
Jewel, or shell, or starry ore." The orator may climb heights of most imperial influence over the public mind, the statesman of power over the public destiny, the merchant may gather stupendous wealth from every zone, the patriot produce and carry on to success the most dazzling schemes for human good : these disturb not the equanimity of Tennyson-the spirit of poetry that is conferred on him he accepts as his fortune, his duty, and his glory. In short, he has all that he can conceive of, or desire. He knows that through that his applauses, though less riotous than those of the orator, will endure the longer ; that he has
" Narized warra) w art, perhaps
cerise bumers are in it a commission to work with or against the statesman, as that
y come nan may be good or evil; that even into the ear of the princeliest perviz xealth he can whisper a startling word of human counsel, or can VAWE . nove to deeds of mercy; and that there is no patriot who can be of the limiter more patriotic than him whose voice, from day to day and year to
Alfred Tag gear, is heard in the stillest and most teachable hours of the most of oming to be amply endowed and teachable natures. Over all the faculties, the in het
p ranks, the influences of human life, poetry maintains a suggestive worth the and immortal supremacy, for it becomes the more aspiring spirit of
the age in the school and the closet ere it comes forth upon the
world. It mingles itself with whatever is generous, ambitious, perplanning seas conceptive of greatness and of virtue, and often speaks in the man in DWCE-berd Tak power by a deed of glorious beneficence that falls like a blessing
thinking of thy from heaven on the heart of afflicted genius. Laring over the Set Of this profound and blessed reliance on the all-sufficiency of his
art, perhaps no poet ever furnished a more complete example than
Alfred Tennyson. There is nothing stirring, nothing restless, nothing : from the ambitious, in its tone ; it has no freaks and eccentricities by which ne where di so it seeks to strike the public notice. There are no evidences of any
op of the secret yet palpable artifices at work to urge it on, and thrust it King out." or before you in magazines and reviews. Quiet in itself, it comes
not in so quietly under your eye, naturally as the grass grows or the bird ring in his was sings, and you see, hear, and love it. From this absence of all bustle
and parade of introduction, or of the violence of attack upon it die met dies from the display of prominent antagonist principles, political or we can theological, as in the cases of Byron and Shelley, we are often sur
i prised to find Tennyson still wholly unread in quarters where poetry coste is read with much avidity, and to hear others lamenting that he does
not put forth a poem more commensurate with his purely poetic
temperament. But the very nature of Tennyson's genius is to be de contented with what it is. It is happy in itself as the bird upon
the bough. It is rolled into itself, living and rejoicing in its own
being and blessedness. It has no deadly thirst for draughts of s spirits from other worlds, no feverish wrestlings for mere notoriety, osno ostentatious display of gigantic agonies and writhings under a * dark destiny, no pictures of plunging down into depths of mystery
and of woe beyond the diving powers of ordinary mortals. It is healthy, clear, joyous, for the most part, and musical as nature itself. In entering into the region of Tennyson's poetry, you enter one of sun and calm,—the land of romance, of dream, of fairy ; the land of beauty, glory, and repose, stretching on through all the regions of the earth, wherever genius has alit in any age, wherever mind has put forth its forms of divinest grace. It belongs to what may be termed the romantic school, yet it is often purely classical. You see in such poems as the Lotus Eaters, Enone, Ulysses, &c., that Tennyson loves to sit by the immortal wells of Homer; to wander amid the godlike habitants of the Greek Elysium. But whether there, or at the court of “great Haroun Alraschid," or in the spellbound castles of German Legend, or in our own middle ages, he alike infuses into all his subjects the spirit of the romantic: that spirit
prelude to ben, with
the bo being
porter of wealth her
which at once invests everything which it touches with the vitality of beauty, of tenderness, and of purity heavenly, and yet
"Not too good
For human nature's daily food." Alfred Tennyson loves to individualize ; to select some person or scene from the multitude or the mass, and to throw himself wholly into it. From the heart of this personage or group of personages he speaks for the time, the unerring oracle of human nature. We are seized, engrossed, charmed, entranced, for the space of this impersonation ; for it is human nature in all the power of its beauty and its greatness, of its passions and its sufferings, of its eternal yearnings and its unquenchable love, its daring, its crime and desolation, that unfolds to you its history and its inner life. There is no man, except Shakspeare, who has more thoroughly and eminentiv possessed this faculty of interpretation, of comprehending and giving voice to the infinite laws and movements of universal humanity; and there is no other who has been endowed for the purpose with a gift of speech so rich, genial, and specially demonstrative. We have no misgivings, as we read Tennyson, whether anything be poetry or not; we have no feeling of a want in the phraseology. Thought, language, imagery, all flow together from one source; that of a genius creative in all the attributes of life, or in the life itself,—in colour, taste, motion, grace, and sentiment. Whatever is produced, lives. It is no dead form ; it is no half sentient form ; it is perfect in spirit, in beauty, and in abode.
The poetry of Tennyson, like that of Shakspeare, seems to possess a music of its own. It is evidently evolved amid the intense play of melodies which are as much a part of the individual mind itself, as the harmonies of nature are a part of nature. Like Shakspeare, Tennyson is especially fond of, or rather haunted by musical refrains, and airs that are not invented, but struck out ; that cannot be conceived by any labour of thought, but are inspired ; and that once communicated to the atmosphere, will go cbiming on for ever.
To an unheard melody,
Of richest pauses evermore
Drawn from each other, mellow - deep." Of these refrains, Oriana, and the Lady of Shalott, present striking examples.
“ When Norland winds pipe down the sea,
Oriana." Or you may take the very first little melody with which this volume opons.
Where Claribel low lieth
At noon the wild bee hummeth
About the mossed head-stone:
At midnight the moon cometh
And looketh down alone.
Her song the lintwhite swelleth,
The clear-voiced mavis dwelleth,
The fledgling throstle lispeth, Proton W here Claribel low-lieth.
The slumberous wave outwelleth, !
The babbling runnel crispeth,
The hollow grot replieth,
Where Claribel low-lieth." * This little poem derives its charm, much easier to feel than seinades describe, from the instinctive selection of the most exquisitely
kutiful imagery, and the most felicitous phraseology. Nature, wanth her loveliest attributes, is made to express the regrets of
***ection. Tubo ! But the progress of mind and purpose is very conspicuous in the
S ems of Tennyson. The first volume of his present edition is rich te b excess with all the charms of genius; but it can bear no com
Larison with the elevated character and human object of many poems ja as the second volume. In the earlier stages of his career, the gay
Ni pet rather luxuriates in the wealth of sentiment than the golden Feri e of virtue, which he finds stored up by all-bountiful nature, for
»le use of his genius. He chants many merry ditties, full of elastic e-race, like that to Airy, Fairy Lilien. He draws female characters l orious as divinities, affluent in charms, warm with love, the
sabels, and Eleanors, and Madelines of the volume. He works out Ta n other class of lyrical poems, such as Mariana in the Moated as jrange, The Miller's Daughter, The Lady of Shalott, all most inim
table of their kind, where every word is, as it were, a jewel of ::poetry too precious ever to be lost again. Where the landscape is s ainted with the pencil of a great master-a Claude or a Poussin of be poetry--where we see the golden corn-field, the evening sun gleam
ing on the old towers of enchanted beauty, where the birds sing, and the river runs as in a glorified dream ; where every knight in his burnished greaves, or lady in her tapestried chamber, is presented as in the glass of Agrippa, living, moving, yet alone in the charmed scene of an unapproachable life! Where every minute falls numbered and weighed from the hand of Time, and a great sentiment of weary existence and waiting is gradually let down upon you with the pressure of a nightmare! Or again, where the scenery
and loves of rural life are, as in the Miller's Daughter, sketched with in the pleasing and buoyant heart of Nature herself, and we are made
to feel what brooks of love and happiness, bankful, flow through many a lowly place! Beyond these advance the passionate sorrow of Oriana, the drowsy richness of the Lotus Eaters, the splendid painting of The Palace of Art, and the Dream of Fair Women; but not one of these is to be compared for a moment to Locksley Hall, or the Two Voices, in breadth of human sympathy, in a development of the great spirit of progress, in a union of all that those earlier poems possess of vigorous and beautiful with that sense of duty