Imágenes de páginas

all the essential elements of such perform-er and riches absorbs the energies that ance, And in spite of the puerile egotisms would otherwise exert themselves in shapeand dawdling prate into which the poem ful melody. But had we minds full of the so often wanders, the first five cantos of idea and the strength requisite for such Don Juan, forming in point of bulk about work, they would find in this huge, harassa half, have more of fiery beauty and native ed, and luxurious national existence the sweetness in them than anything we know nourishment, not the poison, of creative art. of in our modern literature. There is also The death-struggle of commercial and polia wide range and keenness of observation; tical rivalry, the brooding doubt and reand were some trivialities struck out, as morse, the gas-jet flame of faith irradiating they so easily might be, no capital defect its own coal-mine darkness-in a word, our would remain but the weakness of specu- overwrought materialism fevered by its own lative culture visible in all Lord Byron's excess into spiritual dreams—all this might philosophical excursions. In the latter serve the purposes of a bold imagination, half of the poem, and unhappily when he no less than the creed of the antipoetic Puis on English ground, the lax shapelessness ritans became poetry in the mind of Milton, of structure, the endless, slipshod, yawny and all bigotries, superstitions, and gore-dyloungings, and vapid carelessness of exe- ed horrors were flames that kindled steady cution, become very disagreeable in spite light in Shakspeare's humane and meditaof passages rich with imperishable beauty, tive song. wit, and vigour, such as no other modern Of all our recent writers the one who Englishman or man could have approached. might seem at first sight to have most On the whole, with all its faults, moral and nearly succeeded in this quest after the poetic, the earlier portion of this singular poetic Sangreal is Crabbe. No one has book will probably remain, like the first ranged so widely through all classes, emhalf of Faust, the most genuine and strik. ployed so many diverse elements of circuming monument of a whole recent national stance and character. But nowhere, or literature. But the weakness as to all re- very, very rarely, do we find in him that cent thought, and the incomplete ground. eager sweetness, a fiery spirituous essence, plan, place it somewhat lower than cou'd yet bland as honey, wanting which all be wished. And at best it is but one book, poetry is but an attempt more or less laudin an age that produces annual thousands. able, and after all, a failure.

Shooting Little therefore as is all that has been arrows at the moon, one man's bow shoots done towards the poetic representation of higher than another's; but the shafts of all our time—even in the looser and readier alike fall back to earth, and bring us no form of prose romance—it is hard to sup- light upon their points. It needs a strange pose that it is incapable of such treatment. supernatural power to achieve the im. The still unadulterated purity of home possible, and fix the silver shaft within the among large circles of the nation presents orb that shoots in turn its rays of silver an endless abundance of the feelings and back into our human bosoms. characters, the want of which nothing else Crabbe is always an instructive and in existence can supply even to a poet. forceful, almost always even an interesting And these soft and steady lights strike an writer. His works have an imperishable observer all the more from the restless ac- value as records of his time; and it even tivity and freedom of social ambition, the may be said that few parts of them but shifting changes of station, and the wealth would have found an appropriate place in gathered on one hand and spent on the some of the reports of our various comother with an intenseness and amplitude of missions for inquiring into the state of the will to which there is at least nothing now country. Observation, prudence, acuteness, comparable among mankind. The power of uprightness, self-balancing vigour of mind self-subjection combined with almost bound are everywhere seen, and are exerted on less liberty, indeed necessitated by it, and the whole wide field of common life. All the habit of self-denial with wealth' beyond that is wanting is the euthusiastic sympathy, all calculation—these are indubitable facts the jubilant love, whose utterance is in modern England. But while recognized melody, and without which all art is little as facts, how far do they still remain from better than a laborious ploughing of the that development as thoughts which philo- sand, and then sowing the sand itself for sophy desires, or that vividness as images seed along the fruitless furrow. which is the aim of poetry! It is easy to In poetry we seek, and find, a refuge say that the severity of conscience in the from the hardness and narrowness of the best minds checks all play of fancy, and the actual world. But using the very

substance fierceness of the outward struggle for pow. of this Actual for poetry, its positiveness,



[ocr errors]

shrewdness, detailedness, incongruity, and labourers. If he has not given us back our adding no peculiar power from within, we age as a whole transmuted into crystalline do no otherwise than if we should take clearness and lustre, a work accomplished shelter from rain under the end of a roof-only by a few of the greatest minds under spout.

the happiest circumstauces for their art, yet To Mr. Wordsworth of course these we scarce know to whom we should be remarks on Crabbe would be by no means equally grateful as to him who has enriched applicable. Yet even he has exhibited us with any shapes of lasting loveliness only one limited, however lofiy region of won from the vague and formless infinite.' life, and has made it far less his aim to Mr. Tennyson has done more of this kind represent what lies around him by means than almost any one that has appeared of self-transference into all its feelings, than among us during the last twenty years. to choose therefrom what suits his spirit of And in such a task of alchemy a really ethical meditation, and so compel man- successful experiment, even a small kind, out alike of their toilsome daily paths scale, is of great worth compared with the and pleasant nightly dreams, into his own thousands of fruitless efforts or pretences severe and stately school of thought. The on the largest plan, which are daily present movements of human life, nay its clamouring for all men's admiration of varied and spontaneous joys, to him are their nothingness. little, save so far as they afford a text for a The first of these two volumes consists mind in which fixed will, and stern specu- of republished poems, and may be regarded, lation, and a heart austere and measured we presume, as all that Mr. Tennyson even in its pity, are far more obvious wishes to preserve of his former editions. powers than fancy, emotion, or keen and He has sifted in most cases his earlier versatile sympathy. He discourses indeed harvests, and kept the better grain. There with divine wisdom of life and nature, and are some additions of verses and stanzas all their sweet and various impulses; but here and there, many minute changes, and the impression of his own great calm ju- also beneficial shortenings and condensadicial soul is always far too mighty for any tions. Tbe second volume, however, is all-powerful feeling of the objects he pre- on the whole far advanced in merit beyond sents to us. In his latest volume there is a the first. There is more clearness, solidity, poem with the date of 1803, At the Grave and certainty of mind visible in it throughof Burns, full of reflective tenderness. But out : especially some of the blank-verse it is noticeable that even here Burns is in- poems—a style almost unattempted in the teresting, not for his own sake, and in his earlier series—have a quiet completeness own splendid personality, but with refer- and depth, a sweetness arising from the ence to Mr. Wordsworth’s mind and the happy balance of thought, feeling, and exeffect of the peasant's poetry on hiin. We pression, that ranks them among the riches are glad indeed to have any pretext for of our recent literature. citing this beautiful stanza (p. 53);

The collection includes poems of four

markedly different kinds :-1. The Idyllic, • Well might I mourn that he was gone

in which there is sometimes an epic calmWhose light I hail'd when first it shone, ness in representing some event or situation When, breaking forth as Nature's own, of private life, sometimes a flow of lyrical It show'd my youth

feeling, but still expanding itself in a narraHow verse may build a princely throne tive or description of the persons, events, On humble truth.'

and objects that fill the poet's imagination.

2. The purely Lyrical-odes, songs, and In thus pointing to the problem which the more rapid ballads, where the emotion poetry now holds out, and maintaining that is not only uppermost, but all in all, and it has been but partially solved by our most the occasions and interests involved appear illustrious writers, there is no design of but casually and in hints. 3. Fancy pieces: setting up an unattainable standard, and those, narnely, of which the theme is borthen blaming any one in particular for rowed or imitated from those conceptions inevitably falling short of it. Out of an age of past ages that have now become exso diversified and as yet so unshapely, he tremely strange or quite incredible for us. who draws forth any graceful and expressive In these the principal charm of the work forms is well entitled to high praise. Turn- can spring only from the vividness and ing into fixed beauty any part of the shifting grace of the imagery, the main idea making and mingled matter of our time, he does | no direct impression on our feelings. 4. what in itself is very difficult, and affords There is a class of Allegories, Moralities, very valuable help to all his future fellow.' didactic poems. We might add another,

of Facetiæ ; but in these the writer, though His bowstring slackend, languid Love, not unmeaning or without talent, seems Leaning his cheek upon his hand, far inferior to himself, and they happily fill

Droops both his wings, regarding thee;

And so would languish evermore, but a small part of his pages.

Serene, imperial Eleanore.'
The first and third of these classes-the
Idylls and Fancies—are, in our view, of the

Of the
poem To

-;' much need not greatest meril, and differ in little but the

be said. Clear-headed friend' is the most stranger and more legendary themes of the ludicrously flat beginning of a serious poem latter series, while they resemble each that we have ever seen proceed from a real other in a somewhat spacious and detailed

poet; and the construction of the final style of description, with, however, an strophe is so obscure that we have in vain evident general predominance of personal attempted to disentangle it into any meanfeeling, sometimes masked by the substitu- ing. Yet few readers can be required to tion of an imaginary narrator for the real spend as much time on such a matter as we poet.

are both bound and glad so to employ. In We shall speak first of the second class, the same verses kingly intellect' is at least which we have called Odes. Claribel, in that connection a phrase of vague rheto* Lilian,' • Isabel,' 'Madeline,' • Adeline,' ric. The two little poems to the Owl' are • Eleanore,' and Margaret,' -—all are rap- at best ingenious imitations of the manner tures in honour of ladies. 'Isabel' is similar of some of Shakspeare's and his contemin style and plan to the rest, but differs by poraries' songs; well done enough, but not being addressed to a matron, not a maiden; worth doing. and though, like the others, eupnuistic

The Recollections of the Arabian Nights' enough, and coldly ingenious, is pleasant is of a better kind. The writer does not as a relief from the unrealities of rhetorical in this seem painfully striving after topics, sentiment. There is a beautiful idea in it images, variations, and originalities, but

- with much verbalmelody and many writing from lively conception of a theme dainty phrases, far beyond the reach of any which offered in abundance the material but a man of genius, however inaptly genius suited to his fancy and ear. The poem is may be spent in dressing make-believe

at once brilliant and pleasing : but we may emotions with far-fetched rhythmic orna- remark that its merit is of a kind which ment. •Claribel' is a sort of lament over

presents itself somewhat too easily to a a dead woman. The other

young ladies

reader of the tales it recalls; that there is seem to have the advantage of being still little progress in imagery, and none in alive, but their poetic environment is not for that the less ghostly and preternatural

, thought, beyond the first stanza, in all the In all of these pieces the will to write adapted to our modern European brains

following thirteen; and that some meaning poetry seems to have supplied might perhaps have been insinuated under (insufficiently) the place of poetic feeling; those gorgeous eastern emblems without though one sees that only a poet could injury to their genuine Asiatic import. have written them. The heroines are The gold and red arabesque repeats itself, moonshine maidens, in the number of



square of the pattern, with unwhom Mr. Tennyson is really as uncon deniable splendour, but somewhat wearyscionable as Solomon or Mahomet. It may ing monotony. be suspected that neither the Arab prophet

The Ode lo Memory' aims at a far nor Jewish king would much have approved higher sort of excellence. Had it preceded, such questionable charms as black-beaded instead of following, Mr. Wordsworth's eyes and crimson-threaded lips. We of a

Platonic Ode,' it would have been a memmore metaphysical generation grow heartily orable poem. The elder poet's solemn weary of the delicacies, and subtleties, and super-fineries of

rapture on the 'Recollections of Childhood'

many mysterious is comparable, in its way, to the Portland passions, and phantom objects, as carefully funeral vase, were that lighted, as it ought discriminated as varieties of insects by

to be, from within : on a purple ground, Ehrenberg, or fossils by Owen.


dark as midnight, still and graceful snowwhole style smells of musk, and is not white figures, admitting of endless interprewithout glimpses of rouge and pearl- tations, all more or less fitting, but none, powder. We have found nothing here at once more distinct and graceful than the perhaps, conclusive. Mr. Tennyson has

caught some of the same feeling, and much following lines, and these are marred by of the rhythm, but has not even earned what the two final epithets:

was still within his power, the praise of a greater variety and richness of painting,



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

nor has precipitated with Shelleyan passion seems oddly misnamed. It is full of true the stream that slept so calmly in Mr. and vehement, yet musical passion ; and it Wordsworth's mountain-lake.

suggests the strong flow of Lesbian poetry, There could hardly be a more decisive and particularly the well-known fragment proof of Mr. Tennyson's inaptitude for Or- of Sappho addressed to a woman. Whence, phic song than the last six lines of this then, the name ? Lesbos has hardly gained poem :

by becoming a part of Turkey, or Sappho

by turning into Fatima. But the poem is My friend, with thee to live alone, beautiful: we scarcely know where in EngMethinks were better than to own lish we could find anything so excellent, as A crown, a sceptre, and a throne:

expressing the deep-hearted fulness of a O strengthen me, enlighten me! I faint in this obscurity,

woman's conscious love. Many will read Thou dewy dawn of memory.'

it as if it belonged only to some Fatima or

Sappho to feel with this entireness of abanTo tell Memory, the mystic prophetess donment. But there are hundreds of woto whom in these transcendant 'initiations men in the West end of London and in we owe all notices connecting our small in the East end too—who would find it only dividuality with the Infinite Eternal, that a strain that nature had already taught converse with her were better than crowns

them. and sceptres! Memory might perhaps re

' Lady Clara Vere de Vere' aims at less, ply- My friend, if you have not, after en

and though of no very rare cast, is successcircling the universe, traversing the abyss ful in all that it attempts. Mr. Tennyson of ages, and uttering more than a hundred seems to have intended to be very severe lines, forgotten that there are such toys on

in this remonstrance to a flirt. But the that poor earth as crowns and sceptres,

it damsel who deserved it would certainly were better for you to be alone, not with, rather have been flattered than provoked but without me. Think how sublime a

by such a tribute to her powers, doctrine, that to have the beatific vision is

The Blackbird,' • The Death of the Old really better than the power and pomp of Year,' and · Edward Gray,' are all sufficithe world. Philosophy, that sounds all ently good for publication, but not for dedepths, has seldom approached a deeper Guinevere' is of similar tone, but not ex

tailed criticism." • Sir Launcelot and Queen bathos.

Of the little poem called Circumstance' traordinary merit. The last but one apwe shall quote the whole, pleased to find pears to be the best stanza : something that we can produce in support of our admiration for a large class of Mr.

Now on some twisted, Tennyson's poems, on which we have not

Now by some tinkling rivulet,

On mosses thick with violet, yet touched:

Her cream-white mule his pastern set:

And now more fleet she skimmed the plains · Two children in two neighbouring villages Than she whose elfin prancer springs Playing mad pranks along the heathy leas; By night to eery warblings, Two strangers meeting at a festival;

When all the glimmering moorland rings Two lovers whispering by an orchard wall; With jingling bridle-reins.'-Vol. ii., p. 207. Two lives bound fast in one with golden ease; Two graves grass-green beside a grey church

In one less careful of his melody-and tower, Wash'd with still rains, and daisy-blossomed ;

we have few very recent writers so sucTwo children in one hamlet born and bred ; cessfully careful of it—we should hardly So runs the round of life from hour to hour.



remark on the harsh ro's in these

latter lines, so unsuitable to the vague and Much is not attempted here, but the gliding fluency of the image. more performed. How simple is the lan Under the head of FANCIES we class all guage; how quietly flowing the rhythm; how those poems relating to distant and marvelclear the images ; and with what pleasant lous circumstances and persons such as we enigmatic openness do the few lines set be- can only conceive, and that very imperfectfore us all the little tale of the two villagers, ly, by a conscious removal of our thoughts playing, parted, meeting, loving, wedding, into regions of which we have no experidying, and leaving behind them two orphan ence, and which seem to us half impossible. children ! It is a small tone of natural | In some instances the poet only attempts feeling, caught and preserved with genuine to reproduce outward relations of society art, and coming home to every bosom that and a kind of feeling which have departed sweet words can penetrate at all.

from our common life- as in “The Sisters,' • Fatima' is of a far higher pitch, but I The Beggar Maid,' •St. Simeon,' and 'St.

Agnes.' In others, and the greater num-/ those of brazen statuary on tombs, brilliant ber of these pieces, he rushes away with as stained glass, musical as the organ-tones us into the ruins and sepulcbres of old su- of chapels. And as some of these romantic pernatural beliefs-dear to him, however, songs remind us of Paul Cagliari, othersnot as still partly credible, or as ever having those especially that have been dreamt upon been sacred and awful to mankind, but for the lap of the Greek Muse-are akin to the graceful strangeness of the figures that the creations of a still greater painter than they suggest and are linked with. This the Veronese, Correggio. So mild and mythological poetry is not of equal interest mournful in interest are these, so perfect and difficulty with that which produces as in harmony of images and rhythm, we albrilliant and deep effects from the ordinary most grieve at last to waken from our realities of our own lives. But it is far trance and find we have been deluded by from worthless. Some German ballads of a this kind by Goëthe and Schiller--nay, by now dumb. Scarcely fabled magic could Bürger and by Heine—have great power be more successful. The effect is the reover every one, from the art with which sult evidently of great labour, but also of the imagination is won to accept as true admirable art. As minstrel conjurations, what we still feel to be so strange. This perhaps, in English, 'Kubla Khan' alone is done mainly by a potent use of the mys- exceeds them. The verse is full of liquid terious relation between man and nature, intoxication, and the language of golden and between all men towards each other, oneness. While we read, we too are wanwhich always must show itself on fitting dering, led by nymphs, among the thousand occasions as the visionary, the ominous, the isles of old mythology, and the present fades spectral, the 'eery,' and awful conscious- away from us into a pale vapour.

To beness of a supernatural somewhat within our witch us with our own daily realities, and own homely flesh. It appears to us that not with their unreal opposites, is a still Mr. Tennyson has neither felt so deeply as higher task; but it could not be more some other poets-Coleridge, for instance, thoroughly performed. in Christabel'--the moral ground on The Morte d'Arthur,' the first poem in which this oracular introsentient part of the second volume, seems to us less costly man is firmly built, nor has employed its jewel-work, with fewer of the broad flashes phantasmagoric power with such startling of passionate imagery, than some others, witchery. But there is almost always a and not compensating for this inferiority vivid elegance and inward sweetness in his by any stronger human interest. The mielfin song, whether Gothic or Grecian, and raculous legend of 'Excalibar' does not he sometimes even uses the legends of come very near to us, and as reproduced Pagan antiquity with a high perfection of by any modern writer must be a mere indreamy music.

genious exercise of fancy. • The Dying Swan,” • The Merman,' and however, is full of distinct and striking • The Mermaid,' are figments wbich he has description, perfectly expressed ; and a not connected with any feeling that could tone of mild, dignified sweetness attracts, render us willing to believe, nor with any though it hardly avails to enchant us. The meaning that would give them value as poet might perhaps have made the loss of symbols. There is a kind of unhappy. ma- the magic sword, the death of Arthur, and terialism in some of these attempts at spi- dissolution of the Round Table, a symbol ritualizing nature, and in the midst of some for the departure from earth of the whole beautiful images we are stopped short by old Gothic world, with its half-pagan, allfancies equally farsought and unpleasant; poetic faith, and rude yet mystic blazonries. see, for instance, vol. i., p. 73.

But it would be tyrannical exaction to reThere are, however, hardly any of these quire more philosophy in union with so legendary poems that might not well be fiery and productive a fancy. No one but cited as examples of solid and luminous Coleridge among us has ever combined a painting. We must admit that Mr. Ten- thoroughly speculative intellect with so nyson has scarcely succeeded, perhaps has restless an abundance of beautiful imagery not tried, to unite any powerful impression as we find in Mr. Tennyson ; and the on the feelings with his coloured blaze. younger minstrel has as much of the reIt is painted—though well painted-fire. Hection proper to an age like ours as any But in animated pomp of imagery, all in living poet except Mr. Wordsworth, and as movement, like a work of Paolo Veronese, any but a very few deceased ones. fow things that we know could rival these The gift of comprehensive thoughtfulcompositions. His figures are distinct as' ness does not, however, show itself to ad

The poem,

« AnteriorContinuar »