Imágenes de páginas

that the king, her father, describes it to the young Prince who has sought his court, and in vain demanded the fulfilment of the early contract. He speaks of her two widow friends (pp. 18, 19.):

• They fed her theories, in and out of place
Maintaining that with equal husbandry
The woman were an equal to the man.
They harp'd on this; with this our banquets rang;
Our dances broke and buzz'd in knots of talk;
Nothing but this: my very ears were hot
To hear them. Last, my daughter begged a boon
A certain summer-palace which I have
Hard by your father's frontier: I said no,
Yet being an easy man, gave it; and there,
All wild to found an University

For maidens, on the spur she fled.' The utmost that the Prince can obtain is permission to seek hier out, and use his own powers of persuasion. Accompanied by two faithful friends, Florian and Cyril, he returns northward to the neighbourhood of the Princess' university, which no man is allowed to enter on pain of death. The three adventurers however effect an entrance, disguised as students. The Princess is thus presented (p. 25.): –

• There at a board, by tome and paper, sat,
With two tame leopards couch'd beside her throne,
All beauty compass'd in a female form,
The Princess; liker to the inhabitant
Of some clear planet close upon the Sun,
Than our man's earth: such eyes were in her head,
And so much grace and power, breathing down
From over her archi'd brows, with every turn
Lived thro’her, to the tips of her long hands,

And to her feet.' It would be difficult to exceed the skill with which this female university is described. Even

Even the colleges of our native land, though devoted to manly studies, once held in them a certain feminine clement of seclusion, decorous observance, innocence, sanctity, and obedience-of which the gown survives as the symbol. In early times, indeed, they were households on a larger scale, collected round the hearths of the church. Mr. Tennyson has availed himself of the points of analogy, touching more rarely those of contrast, and treating them in a spirit rather of friendly raillery than of satire. In his management of a theme so perilous as the adventures of three young men in a secular nunnery, there is no offence against good taste or good manners. He does all honour to the purity of a high though erring intention; sees only what is worthiest to be seen, and turns even the aberrations of female wilfulness into the graceful, the winning, and the womanly. The first thing that the disguised youths do is to attend lecture. The Lady Blanche and the Lady Psyche are the most famous of the professors. They enrol themselves among Psyche's pupils. (P. 28.)

•As we enter'd in, There sat along the forms, like morning doves That sun their milky bosoms on the thatch,

A patient range of pupils.' Her lecture begins with science, and ends in something more like song. Psyche, though she had been married to a nobleman of the southern land, is the sister of Florian; nor can his disguise protect him long from her recognition. After much pleading, however, the young men prevail upon her to keep their secret

, on condition of their specdy departure. The next evening the Princess heads a riding party, to take the dip of certain strata in the base of the neighbouring hills. All the evening they climb the precipices, and after their repast sing songs. The following, rather a suspicious one, is that sung by the Northern Prince (pp. 69, 70.):

O Swallow, Swallow, flying, flying South,
Fly to her, and fall upon her gilded eaves,
And tell her, tell her what I tell to thee.

O tell her, Swallow, thou that knowest each,
That bright and fierce and fickle is the South,
And dark and true and tender is the North.

O Swallow, Swallow, if I could follow, and light
Upon her lattice, I would pipe and trill,
And checp and twitter twenty million loves.

• O were I thou that she might take me in,
And lay me on her bosom, and her heart
Would rock the snowy cradle, till I died !

• Why lingereth she to clothe her heart with love,
Delaying as the tender ash delays
To clothe herself, when all the woods are green?

O tell her, Swallow, that thy brood is flown :
Say to her, I do but wanton in the South,
But in the North long since my nest is made.

«O) tell her, brief is life but love is long,
And brief the sun of summer in the North,
And brief the moon of beauty in the South.


[ocr errors]

O Swallow, flying from the golden woods,
Fly to her, and pipe and woo her, and make her mine,

And tell her, tell her, that I follow thee.' Before the evening is over, Cyril breaks in with some wild boisterous catch, and

quite forgets the necessity of mimicking the female voice. The strangers are consequently discovered: and a sudden flight ensues. As the Princess gallops away in indignation, her horse stumbles upon the bridge, and she is precipitated into the river just above the falls. While her maidens clap their hands and scream upon the bank, the Prince plunges into the flood, and after a hard struggle brings her safe to land. Again she mounts, and with her train reaches the university. Downcast and with a slower pace the discovered youths follow. They are brought before the judgment-seat of the incensed Princess, who is not in the most placable of moods. (P. 78.)

They haled us to the Princess, where she sat
High in the hall: above her droop'd a lamp,
And made the single jewel on her brow
Burn like the mystic fire on a mast-head,
Prophet of storm : a handmaid on each side
Bow'd toward her, combing out her long black hair
Damp from the river; and close behind her stood
Eight daughters of the plough, - stronger than men !
Huge women blowzed with health, and wind, and rain
And labour. Each was like a Druid rock;
Or like a spire of land that stands apart

Cleft from the main, and clang'd about with mews.' It is in vain that the Prince boldly pleads his love, and urges his contract.

At this critical moment the college is suddenly beleaguered by an armed host. The father of the Prince, a rough fierce old man with hoary hair and a fiery eye flashing beneath it, had thought from the first that an appeal to arms was the orthodox mode of settling the question of the repudiated contract. From that scheme he had been dissuaded; but hearing that his son has made his way into the forbidden precinct, and jealous lest mischance should befall him there, he has hastily collected his army, surprised the little priggish king, the father of our formidable heroine, and surrounded the university. The Princess is equal to the emergency; and her native character, which is heroic and self-devoted, asserts itself. She refuses to surrender, and quells the tumult. (Pp. 88, 89.)

* From the illumin'd hall
Long lanes of splendour slanted o'er a press
Of snowy shoulders, thick as herded ewes,
And rainbow robes, and gems and gemlike eyes, .

And gold, and golden heads ; they to and fro
Fluctuated, as flowers in storm, some red, some pale,
All open-mouth'd, all gazing to the light,
Some crying there was an army in the land,
And some that men were in the very walls,
And some they cared not; till a clamour grew
As of a new-world Babel, woman-built,
And worse-confounded: high above them stood
The placid marble Muses, looking peace.

Not peace, She look'd, the Head: but rising up
Robed in the long night of her deep hair, so
To the open window moved, remaining there
Fixt like a beacon-tower above the waves
Of tempest, when the crimson-rolling eye
Glares ruin, and the sea-birds on the light
Dash themselves dead. She stretch'd her arms and call'd

Across the tumult - and the tumult fell!'
The Prince is expelled by the eight daughters of the plough.'

From this moment the story gradually becomes more serious. The Princess has been from her infancy the delight of three warlike brothers; they too collect an army, and the rival hosts meet ere long beneath the walls of the maiden college. The Prince rides forth to the hostile camp, and has an interview with the brothers of the Princess. He challenges them to submit the dispute to the arbitrament of a combat, to be fought by fifty chosen knights on each side. The combat takes place, in the presence of both courts; and the Prince, with his two friends, after a terrible conflict, is left on the plain among the dying and the dead.

The next book begins with the Princess' song of triumph but ends with her defeat. This scene has a greatness of character beyond perhaps any other part of the poem. In it more than anywhere else, the large performance breaks through the narrow limits of the unambitious design; and we recognise, as we glance around on its manifold sources of interest — the wounded Prince, the unhappy father, the mother pleading for her child, the indignant warrior, and the Princess slow to yieldan epic breadth of effect as well as style of handling. Accompanied by her maidens, and holding in her arms the infant child of Psyche, whom she had taken to herself on its mother's flight, Ida descends to the battle-field.

An enemy more formidable than armed hosts there assails her - Pity. It is not by physical suffering alone that she is confronted. Psyche pleads hard for the restoration of her child. Cyril forgets his own wounds while vindicating her claims. The memory of old friendship comes to their aid, — and Psyche is forgiven. Old Gama bitterly reproaches his daughter. The Prince's father refuses her aid. Reality comes suddenly home to one whose life has been a dream; and nature will have her way. •Let the wounded be carried into the university,' she exclaims, overwhelmed by the passion of sudden grief; Psyche * shall be Cyril's nurse; she will herself tend her chief enemy.' She speaks, and it is done. The Prince gains, unconsciously and in defeat, the privilege after which in health and strength he had in vain aspired.

The conclusion need hardly be narrated — unless we too could tell it as it is told by the poet. The wounded knights, after a struggle discreetly prolonged, recover. The remedial process was apparently rather empirical in character, consisting, in a large measure, of transfusion and counter-irritation. By degrees renovated strength glided, from the touch of their youthful nurses and very friendly physicians, into the veins of the wounded warriors: by degrees fever left the wearied head; but a kindred unrest was transferred into the hearts (how recently occupied only by learned cares) of those who were piously grateful for the work of their own hands. The knights live; and the ladies indulgently favour their devotion. In ice itself there are different degrees of coldness. Psyche is already betrothed to Cyril, and Melissa, the daughter of the spiteful Blanche, to Florian; while the Princess still holds out, like Teneriffe or *Atlas unremoved.' Example, however, is dangerous; idleness is more so; and Ida's great design has been brought by compulsion to a stand still. Remorse, also, as well as compassion, has been dealing with her; and Spring-tide falls at last upon Ida's heart. One evening the Prince awakens from a long trance, and for the first time is conscious of outward things. Seldom has love been so described. (Pp. 148–150.)

I saw the forms: I knew not where I was:
Sad phantoms conjured out of circumstance,
Ghosts of the fading brain, they seem'd; nor more
Sweet Ida. Palm to palm she sat : the dew
Dwelt in her eyes, and softer all her shape
And rounder show'd : I moved : I sigh'd : a touch
Came round my wrist, and tears upon my hand!
Then, all for languor and self-pity, ran
Mine, down my face; and with what life I had,
And like a flower that cannot all unfold,
So drench'd it is with tempest, to the sun,
Yet, as it may, turns toward him, I on her
Fixt my faint eyes, and utter'd whisperingly:

6“If you be, what I think you, some sweet drvam,
I would but ask you to fulfil yourself :
But if you be that Ida whom I knew,

« AnteriorContinuar »