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THIRTY-FOUR years ago the name let on something like equal terms, of Alfred Tennyson was only known and you will find their number en
to a small circle of admirers; larged to four by the lenient, and Kims and the worthiest of these did not confined to two by the severe. It
long remain to cheer his friend's was different fifty years ago. Then
labours by his sympathy and gener- it might be hard for bystanders, 4 ous praise : but departed, leaving seeing so many doing worthily in
to him a double legacy of enduring the race, to assign to each aspirant regrets and precious memories to the place he had a right to occupy.
enshrine in noble verse. A few Now we are getting used to see one 1 years later, and Alfred Tennyson man standing alone in the foremost
had still to content himself (like rank, and none stepping forth to
He will find in it no such party-spirit. It is far otherwise now. gusts of passion as drive confusing The British public has wisely ceased clouds over the clear moonlight to inquire into its poets' political in 'Maud;' which poem a young
‘ opinions; and there are few rival lady of our acquaintance finished candidates for the distinction of perusing, uncertain whether its being its chosen bard. Call upon heroine were dead or alive. No any good judge to reckon up the metaphysics, no bits of recondite names of men still living, who might pbilosophy, no puzzles like the 'Pa(their fates favouring) have con- lace of Art;' no mystic forms like tended with Tennyson for his chap- those perplexing maidens in the
Enoch Arden, &c.' By Alfred Tennyson, D.C.L., Poet-Laureate. London: Edward Moxon & Co. 1864.
101st division of 'In Memoriam, here adorns his clerk's holiday ? about whose numbers and symbolic Will not some eyes which never signification no two Tennysonians wept over the sorrows of his young were ever known to agree. Cock- May Queen,” feel a kindly tear neys indeed may find . The North- bedim them as his faithful photoern Farmer's' dialect difficult, and graph of the “Grandmother” in we ourselves cannot profess to think her elbow-chair appeals to their love the sermon in. 'Aylmer's Field' for the aged ? Will those by whose easier to take in at one hearing sweet voices this volume's shorter (though for a very different reason) lyrics will be sung at Yule-tide, in
) than the most abstruse of Bishop many a hall and parsonage, care to Butler's. We also boldly risk the be told that these later efforts are confession, that if “The Voyage' not worthy of those earlier songs has anyone very decided mean- which first taught England that ing, of the half - dozen which Tennyson (like his own Elaine) might be fitted to it, we have could “sweetly make and sing”? failed to fathom its import. So, Was not the Welcome to Alexantoo, the latter of the two 'Sea- dra' (here reprinted) copied as eaDreams' is, we suppose, an al- gerly from one newspaper to anlegory like the first. It may be other, as was the noble dedication that we think we see the truth it is of the ‘Idylls' to the memory of meant to convey; but it is not so the late Prince Consort; without a clearly put that it would be wise hint of how clearly these two poems for any interpreter of dark sayings show that, if other men have one to stake his credit on its explana- reason for thinking it “better to go tion while its author lives to con- to the house of mourning than to the tradict him. Hereafter, learned Ger- house of feasting," poets have two? man critics may find a delightful Not that we at all mean to inmental exercise in expounding these sinuate that the Laureate's new two poems, and may evolve mean- volume is calculated to give pleaings for them out of their
sure to none but those who read ternal consciousness to their heart's for entertainment. That smaller content. But, with the exception class who regard a poem as a work of these few passages, the book be- of art; who do not so much infore us can be understood without quire what story it tells, as how it a commentator. And, for the very is told ; who are its personages, as reason that the scholiast's labours whether they are correctly reprewould be thrown away upon it, it sented : readers, whose practised is sure to delight the general reader. ears watch for the music of verse, That, in these days, very pains- moving its “many-twinkling feet " taking person knows how to be in varied cadence, will read Enoch thankful to great poets, when they Arden' (and much besides in this condescend to write things which volume) with very complete satisare not too hard for him. In his faction : unless they choose to spoil estimation this volume will very it by comparing them with the very likely eclipse its predecessors. For greatest of their author's previous does it not contain two stories, each performances. For of the first of as interesting as a novel, told in these new poems especially we may musical verse ?—'Enoch Arden,' so safely say, both with regard to its like a tale by Mrs Gaskell ; and subject and execution, that if its
, * Aylmer's Field,' which (before his author has not unfrequently soared reconciliation with the British aris- higher, he has often sunk much tocracy) would have made a first- lower,--that though he has many rate subject for Mr Kingsley? Is times before attempted some far it not pleasant to see such bright greater thing, those attempts have hues of poetry cast on seaside trips, not always met with so full a measas those with which the Laureate ure of success.
* Enoch Arden' is a true idyl to write thus is no very difficult 3 (so we believe the word should be attainment. We only answer, Let
spelt). It is a simple story of a them try. It is well known that easy seafaring man's sorrows; not as- writing proves very hard reading. piring to the dimensions or pomp- There is no doubt that the converse ous march of the strain which sings of this is true, and that, mostly, heroes and their exploits; but easy reading has been very
hard charming the heart by its true writing. But art's true triumph pathos, and the ear by a sweet is to make the reader insensible to music of its own. It fulfils, so far the labour which it has cost. That as we understand them, the condi- expended on 'Enoch Arden' effects tions of the modern Idyl ; which this so completely as to require, and are, to depict the joys and sorrows well repay, very close attention. of humble life-to describe those Amongst other things, we have
beauties of nature which, unper- been struck by the delicate managemeceived, enhance the former and ment of that slight infusion of the
: soothe the latter--and (most im- supernatural which adds dignity le portant of all) to be short. Such to its humble hero's fate; and it e notably (to take instances from the seems the more worth pointing out,
Laureate's earlier poems) are · The because its necessary unobtrusive* Gardener's Daughter,' and 'Dora,' ness makes it liable to pass un
with their sweet English land- noticed. scapes and true and tender feeling. Everyone knows with what Similar idyls abound in Words- great effect the supernatural is inworth's poems; but had he under- troduced into works of imaginataken such a tale as 'Enoch Arden,' tion. It vastly enhances the imwe feel certain he would have left portance of their heroes : for those our last condition unfulfilled. The must needs be of great account, for moralisings of Enoch in his soli- or against whom the Powers of the tude, the poet's own observations Unseen are fighting. And to the on his griefs, and on his Annie's reader it discloses a vista into disquietude, &c., might have en- shadowy realms, which indefinitely
riched the poem with precious enlarges the scenes presented to his of pearls of philosophy, but would view. But this powerful engine de certainly have robbed it of the should be employed very sparingly.
merit of brevity. Now, one thing When author leads us, as especially to be praised in ‘ Enoch Southey does, into the intimate Arden,' is the conciseness of lan- society of ghosts and genii, familiguage with which the poet tells his arity breeds contempt (as says the story. He indulges in no digres- homely proverb), and they quickly sions, in no descriptions which are lose their awfulness. Most of all not required for its full compre- is it needful to be cautious in our hension; he rehearses no long con- use of the supernatural in a tale of versations, and makes no unneces
humble life and of modern times. sary remarks of his own. On the The few superstitions which still one hand, there is no sentimental linger amongst us, form no part of dawdling over the sad situations any recognised creed, and are not which occur in the narrative; on openly acknowledged even by those the other, there is no hurry in its who hold them. It was different march, and no excessive compres- for the tragic poet who represented sion of any of its portions. These witches in his plays when trials for are excellences which it seems, to witchcraft were of common occurthe inexperienced, easy to reach; rence; or for him who made his the like may be their judgment whole tragedy turn on an oracle's on the smooth flow of the verse of fulfilment when men still went to this
poem ; and perchance some of consult Apollo at Delphi. And our young friends may think that even those poets took good care not
to strike lowly heads with these “So these were wed, and merrily rang the
bells, awful lightnings ; to reserve their chief supernatural terrors for the Merrily rang the bells, and they were wed.
But never merrily beat Annie's heart. fates of chieftains and kings. In a A footstep seem'd to fall beside her path, poem like ` Enoch Arden,' it would She knew not whence; a whisper on her be an unpardonable error to give She knew not what; nor loved she to be foreshadowings of the future any- left thing like the place held by the Alone at home, nor ventured out alone." words of the weird sisters in Mac
And, besides prediction and prebeth,' or by the oracle's responses sentiment, we have Annie's mystein the 'Edipus Tyrannus.' Mr Tennyson has been so far from her own interpretation) justifies
rious dream, which (according to committing this mistake, that he her second marriage. Still doubtscarcely calls the reader's attention
ing Enoch's fate, she opens her to his prophecies, and not at all to
Bible to see what words will first their accomplishment. It is for
meet her eye.
It falls on
“ Under this reason that we are particular in remarking them. They are of a palm-tree." (The palm-tree should in remarking them. They are of it not be ?) Thereupon she falls three sorts - unconscious predic
asleep and dreams—the truth. For tions, presentiments, and dreams.
she beholds Enoch seated “ Under The first unconscious propbecy occurs at the beginning of the poem. he doubtless was at that moment
a palm-tree, over him the Sun;" Its destined heroine, Annie, says
in the island on which he had been to her two boy-playmates, in her childish ignorance, that she would echo of her wedding-bells is so soon
wrecked, and where the ghostly be little wife to both.” Wife to
to torment his ear. But the true both her fate dooms her to be.
vision is but a lying dream to his The second is uttered later on, when her first husband tells her of think of palms as real trees grow,
wife. In ber simplicity she cannot the long voyage he means to undertake ; and she exclaims, after flies to scriptural associations :
ing in foreign lands. Her mind vainly trying to dissuade him from it,
“He is gone, she thought, he is happy,
he is singing 6. Well know I
'Hosanna in the highest:' yonder shines That I shall look upon your face no
The Sun of Righteousness, and these be
palms Well, then,' said Enoch, 'I shall look on
Whereof the happy people strowing cried yours.
'Hosanna in the highest!'” In that most touching scene near and the last obstacle to her marthe close of the poem, when Enoch, riage with Philip is removed. shrouded in the darkness without, Now these foreshadowings of the gazes on his lost wife through the future may be believed or disbewindow, his own words come true; lieved at pleasure. Men may rewhen, on his deathbed, he kindly gard them as a guardian angel's says of her,
warnings. They may equally con“She must not come, sider them as mere singular coinFor my dead face would vex her afterlife,"
cidences. Their ancient credit yet
survives to some extent. Of old he causes the fulfilment of hers. men have echoed a chance wordIn the next place, we have Annie's spoken with one intent, caught up presentiments. Her husband's tools, with another—as an unerring and as they sound for the last time in divine direction; and even their house, strike her ear as if few comparatively attach no weight raising “her own death-scaffold.” whatever to dreams and presentiAnd when, after she has long ments. Especially would such a mourned him as dead, she marries woman as Annie think her own of again, we read
importance. We may be sure that,
after she knew the truth, she would how the way in which the sailor's en often dwell on their mysterious voice, resting on the pause in the i meaning, and on how she had fail- psalm he had weekly chanted, sym
ed to apprehend it till too late. bolises, as nothing else could do,
Curious felicities of expression of But if the Laureate thus knows this sort occur often in the poem. bere to
how to deal with the unwarranted We mean words which exactly ren-
“Howsoe'er it was, how fine, for instance, are
After a lingering-ere she was aware
Like the caged bird escaping suddenly, the quotations from the Bible in
The little innocent soul flitted away.”
The idea of life escaping like a
ful ideas are;* but the music of go.
the lines (the hurried rhythm of And fear no more for me; or, if you fear, the last one denoting the mother's Cast all your cares on God; that anchor anxiety, its abrupt conclusion how
the little heart suddenly ceases to
Mr Tennyson's own." To the first nautical phrase we in- There is another secret of the Laudeed strongly object. In real life reate's strength-one which has been men do not delight in the slang often pointed out before-observaof their calling as much as books ble in the poem we are considering. make them doleast of all in their The way in which he suits his backmost solemn moments. We hope to ground of landscape to the figures see ship-shape omitted in future edi- in his foreground, and so pictures tions. But who can fail to admire the aspects of nature as seen by a the rest of the speech? or to notice human eye and felt by a human
*“ Thou, as a bird escapes, art vanished from me;
Gone with o'er-hasty leap to Hades down.”
-Eur. Hip. 829.
“Soul of mine, pretty one, flitting one, Hospes comesque corporis,
Guest and partner of my clay,
Whither wilt thou hie away,-
Pallid one, rigid one, naked oue-
Never to play again, never to play?”.