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TENNYSON

POET, PHILOSOPHER, IDEALIST.

CHAPTER I.

EARLY DAYS: “POEMS BY TWO BROTHERS."

"What vague world-whisper, mystic pain or joy,
Thro' these three words would haunt him when a boy

Far-far-away?
"A whisper from his dawn of life? a breath
From some fair dawn beyond the doors of death

Far-far-away?
“Far, far, how far? from o'er the gates of Birth,
The faint horizons, all the bounds of earth,

Far-far-away?"

-Far-Far-Away.

THE poet of yore was a “maker,” a “doer”; not a seer of visions or a dreamer of dreams; not the idle singer of an empty day. He was a leader of men, standing out preeminent as prophet and sage-a beacon in times of darkness, casting a living light along the path of duty. Such a man is, in many cases, the sole or central figure in a dark or shadowy picture looming through the past. His influence does not die: it is transmitted from bard to bard, each of whom catches the last notes of melody only to begin anew and in deeper tones the long-continued theme. We can hear these hero-minstrels always above the rush and roar of battle, the tossing and tumult of years, the changes and chances of time. When man groaned under tyranny, the

A

strains of these sweet singers soothed the madness of despondency, and inspired the combat for redress. When the rights of a people were menaced, from their midst would rise the bard to give a tongue to their wrongs and a voice to their desires. He roused up heroes whom the times demanded and the wretched sought, and often in the hour of peril would himself seize axe or sword, and, putting himself at the head of hosts he had thrilled, would rush forth "to strive a happy strife." As soldier and as guide the man's double nature was asserted. Whilst, as he denounced oppression, his “words did gather thunder as they ran,” he could attune his lyre to softer strains and higher themes, teaching of hope and patience in the hour of trial, and honour in the time of adversity. The poet was the exponent of national feeling. Legislation is the product of a high civilisation; and in a rude and growing state, when government is unsettled and authority vested in a few, the wants and aspirations of the multitude can only be revealed in some huge outburst of long-pent feeling. What wonder that the poet became “ the people's voice”? Song is often but history, accurately recording or reflecting predominating sentiments and popular movements. The poet's mission is undeniable, and great is he who realises and fulfils it. He may cull, preserve, and hallow the beauty and sublimity of the past; treasure olden forms and ancient saws; safeguard the laws which led to good and progress; prepare the way for future excellence. Conservative and pioneer, watcher and adviser, ever to the fore, yet revering the past, he is the supreme counsellor, sympathiser, guide

Dower'd with the hate of hate, the scorn of scorn,

The love of love. It is the poet who, with the “viewless arrows of his thought,” has

Bravely furnish'd all abroad to Aling

The winged shafts of truth,
To throng with stately blooms the breathing spring

Of Hope and Youth.

Never had poet loftier conception of his duty, never did poet live up to a higher ideal, than Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the last and greatest of England's Laureates. With an intuitive perception of his destiny he chose and lived his poet-life, never swerving from his course, never diverting his glance from the goal, far-off, towards which he journeyed. He was poet all in all, from his earliest youth unto that dark hour when, with an open volume of Shakespeare before him, he passed into the silent land. As his work had been conceived, so had it been wrought. His belief in the poet's consecration was indisputable; the end and purpose he was designed to serve were fully recognised. He compared the poet's mind first to a crystal river, “ bright as light, and clear as wind,” and then to "holy ground,” where

Leaps a fountain
Like sheet lightning,

Ever brightening
With a low, melodious thunder ;

It springs on a level of bowery lawn,
And the mountain draws it from Heaven above,
And it sings a song of undying love.

Alfred Tennyson was born on the sixth day of August 1809, a year which is also memorable for giving birth to Mendelssohn and Chopin, masters in the world of music; Darwin, who has left an enduring mark upon the annals of science; Gladstone, scholar and statesman; Abraham Lincoln, the American president; Elizabeth Barrett Browning, unrivalled as poetess; Edgar Poe, the great strange genius; Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes, who stands at the head of living American poets, and takes rank with the greatest. Among others born in 1809 were Mary Cowden Clarke, John Stuart Blackie, Charles Lever, and Lord Houghton. Such constellations of genius are not without parallel ; in fact, nature seems to love to surprise the world with sudden prodigality and abundance of good gifts. The annus mirabilis 1809 is almost comparable with that time

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