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according to the theory of the Mesmerists, is diffused throughout the body on some occasions of unusual excitement. His body seemed to think; and, on the other hand, he sometimes appears hardly to have known whether he possessed aught but body. His whole nature partook of a sensational character in this respect, namely, that every thought and sentiment came upon him with the suddenness, and appealed to him with the reality of a sensation. It is not the lowest only, but also the loftiest part of our being to which this character of unconsciousness and immediateness belongs. Intuitions and aspirations are spiritual sensations; while the physical perceptions and appetites are bodily intuitions. Instinct itself is but a lower form of inspiration; and the highest virtue becomes a spiritual instinct. It was in the intermediate part of our nature that Keats had but a small part. His mind had little affinity with whatever belonged to the region of the merely probable. To his heart, kindly as he was, everything in the outer world seemed foreign, except that which for the time engrossed it. His nature was Epicurean at one side, Platonist at the other — and both by irresistible instinct. The Aristotelian definition, the Stoical dogma, the Academical disputation, were to him all alike unmeaning. His poetic gift was not a separate faculty which he could exercise or restrain as he pleased, and direct to whatever object he chose. It was when
by predominance of thought oppressed' that there fell on him that still, poetic vision of truth and beauty which only thus truly comes. The burden of his inspiration came to him in leni * aurâ,' like the visits of the gods; yet his fragile nature bent before it like a reed; it was not shaken or disturbed, but wielded by it wholly.
To the sluggish temperaments of ordinary men excitement is pleasure. The fervour of Keats preyed upon him with a pain from which Shelley was protected by a mercurial mobility; and it was with the languor of rest that Keats associated the idea of enjoyment. How much is implied in this description of exhaustion ! • Pleasure has no show of enticement, and • Pain no unbearable frown; neither Poetry, nor Ambition, nor • Love have any alertness of countenance; as they pass me by
they seem rather like three figures on a Greek vase ---two men and a woman, whom no one but myself could distinguish in • their disguisement. This is the only happiness ; and is a rare
instance of advantage in the body overcoming the mind.' (P. 264. vol. i.) A nobler relief was afforded to him by that versatility which made him live in the objects around him. It is thus that he writes: - I scarcely remember counting on any happiness. I look not for it, if it be not in the present hour,
• Nothing startles me beyond the moment. The setting sun • will always set me to rights; or if a sparrow were before my
window, I take part in its existence, and pick with it, about the 'gravel.' (P. 67. vol. i.) Elsewhere he speaks thus of that form of poetic genius which belonged to him, and which he contradistinguishes from the egotistical sublime. It has no self. • It is every thing and nothing—it has no character — it enjoys • light and shade—it lives in gusts, be it foul or fair, high or . low, rich or poor, mean or elevated -- it has as much delight ' in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. (P. 221. vol. i.) In this passage, as elsewhere, he seems to confound versatility with the absence of personal character. That versatility of imagination is however by no means incompatible with depth of nature and tenacity of purpose we have already observed; and our opinion is confirmed by a remark of Mr. Milnes, whose life of Keats, from which we have so largely quoted, is enriched with many pieces of admirable criticism. Keats's versatility showed itself, like Mr. Tennyson's, not only in the dramatic skill with which he realised various and alien forms of existence, but also, though to a lesser degree, in the fact that the character of his poetry varied according to the model he had been studying. In • Endymion' he reminds us of Chaucer and Spenser ; 'in · Hyperion' of Milton; in his Cap and Bells' of Ariosto; and in his drama, the last act of which is very fine, of Ford. Mr. Milnes remarks, with reference to the last two works, that Keats's occasional resemblance to other poets, though it proves that his genius was still in a growing state, in no degree detracts from his originality. He did not imitate others, Mr. Milnes observes, so much as emulate them; and no matter whom he may resemble, he is still always himself.
The character of Keats's intellect corresponded well with his large imagination and versatile temperament. He had not Mr. Shelley's various and sleepless faculties, but he had the larger mind. Keats could neither form systems nor dispute about them; though germs of deep and original thought are to be found scattered in his most careless letters. The two friends used sometimes to contend as to the relative worth of truth and of beauty. Beauty is the visible embodiment of a certain species of truth; and it was with that species that the
mind of Keats, which always worked in and through the sensi1 bilities, held conscious relations. He fancied that he had no
access to philosophy, because he was averse to definitions and dogmas, and sometimes saw glimpses of truth in adverse systems. His mind had itself much of that negative capability? which he remarked on as a large part of Shakspeare's greatness, and which he described as a power of being in uncer• tainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching
after fact and reason.' (P. 93. vol. i.) There is assuredly such a thing as philosophical doubt, as well as of philosophical belief: it is the doubt which belongs to the mind, not to the will; to which we are not drawn by love of singularity, and from which we are not scared by nervous tremours; the doubt which is not the denial of any thing, so much as the proving of all things; the doubt of one who would rather walk in mystery than in false lights, who waits that he may win, and who prefers the broken fragments of truth to the imposing completeness of a delusion. Such is that uncertainty of a large mind, which a small mind cannot understand; and such no doubt was, in part, that of Keats, who was fond of saying that every point of thought is • the centre of an intellectual world. The passive part of intellect, the powers of susceptibility and appreciation, Keats possessed to an almost infinite degree: but in this respect his mind appears to have been cast in a feminine mould; and that masculine energy which Shakspeare combined with a susceptive temperament unfathomably deep, in him either existed deficiently, or had not had time for its development.
If we turn from the poet to the man, from the works to the life, the retrospect is less painful in the case of Keats than of Shelley. He also suffered from ill-health, and from a temperament which, when its fine edge had to encounter the jars of life, was subject to a morbid despondency: but he had many sources of enjoyment, and his power of enjoyment was extraordinary. His disposition, which was not only sweet and simple, but tolerant and kindly, procured and preserved for him many friends. It has been commonly supposed that adverse criticism had wounded him deeply: but the charge receives a complete refutation from a letter written on the occasion referred to. In it he says, ' Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic on his own works. ... I will write independently. I have written independently without judgment. I may write indepently, and with judgment, hereafter. The Genius of Poetry must work out its own salvation in a man. I was never 6 afraid of failure.'
There are, however, trials in the world from which the most imaginative cannot escape; and which are more real than those which self-love alone can make important to us. Keats's sensibility amounted to disease. •I would reject,' he writes, 'a · Petrarchal coronation on account of my dying day — and because women have cancers!' A few months later, after visiting the house of Burns, he wrote thus, His misery is a
dead weight on the nimbleness of one's quill: I tried to forget it ... it won't do. ... We can see, horribly clear, in the * works of such a man, his whole life, as if we were God's spies.' (P. 171.) It was this extreme sensibility, not less than his ideal tendencies, which made him shrink with prescient fear from the world of actual things. Reality frowned above him like a cliff seen by a man in a nightmare dream. It fell on him at last! The most interesting of all his letters is that to his brother (p. 224. vol. i.), in which he, with little anticipation of results, describes his first meeting with the Oriental beauty who soon after became the object of his passion. In love he had always been, in one sense: and personal love was but the devotion to that in a concentrated form which he had previously and more safely loved as a thing scattered and diffused. He loved and he won; but death cheated him of the prize. Tragical indeed were his sufferings during the months of his decline. In leaving life he lost what can never be known by the multitudes who but half live: and poetry at least could assuredly have presented him but in scant measure with the consolations which the Epicurean can dispense with most easily, but which are needed most by those whose natures are most spiritual, and whose thirst after immortality is strongest. Let us not, however, intrude into what we know not. In many things we are allowed to rejoice with him. His life had been one long revel. • The open sky,' he writes to a friend, sits upon our senses like a sapphire crown: the air is our robe of state; the earth is our throne; and the sea a mighty minstrel
playing before it!' Less a human being than an Imagination embodied, he passed, like a new-born spirit,' over a world that for him ever retained the dew of the morning; and bathing in all its freshest joys he partook but little of its stain.
Shelley and Keats remained with us only long enough to let us know how much we have lost
We have beheld these lights but not possessed them.' The genius of the poet whose latest work we have discussed at the beginning of this paper has been more justly appreciated than that of either of them: But it will now probably be asked to which of the two great schools of English poetry illustrated by us he is to be referred? The answer to that question is not easy, for in truth he has much in common with both. His earlier poems might sometimes be classed in the same category with those of Shelley and Keats: For, the three have in common an ardent temperament, a versatile imagination, and an
admirable power of embodying the classical; but in other respects they differ widely. Tennyson has indeed, like Keats, with whom he has most in common, a profound sense of the beautiful, a calm and often soft intensity, a certain voluptuousness in style, that reminds us of the Venetian school of painting, and a marvellous depth and affluence of diction - but here the resemblance ends. We do not yet observe in his works, to the same degree, that union of strength with lightness and freedom of touch, which, like the unerring but unlaboured handling of a great master, characterised Keats's latest works. On the other hand, Tennyson has greater variety. Wide indeed is his domain ---extending as it does from that of Keats, whose chief characteristic was ideal beauty, to that of Burns, whose songs, native to the soil, gush out as spontaneously as the warbling of the bird or the murmuring of the brook. Even in their delineation of beauty, how different are the two poets. In Keats that beauty is chiefly beauty of form; in Tennyson that of colour has at least an equal place: one consequence of which is, that while Keats, in his descriptions of nature, contents himself with embodying separate objects with a luxurious vividness, Tennyson's gallery abounds with cool farstretching landscapes, in which the fair green plain and winding river, and violet mountain ridge and peaks of remotest snow, are harmonised through all the gradations of aerial distance. Yet his is not to be classed with that recent poetry which has been noted for a devotion, almost religious, to mere outward nature. His landscapes, like those of Titian, are for the most part but a beautiful background to the figures. Men and manners are more his theme than nature.
His genius seems to tend as naturally to the idyllic as that of Shelley did to the lyrical, or that of Keats to the epic.
The moral range of Mr. Tennyson's poetry, too, is as wide as the imaginative. It is remarkable how little place, notwithstanding the ardour of Shelley and of Keats, is given in their works, to the affections properly so called. They abound in emotion and passion: in which respect Mr. Tennyson resembles them; but he is not less happy in the delineation of those human affections which depend not on instinct or imagination alone, but which, growing out of the heart, are modified by circumstance and association, and constitute the varied texture of social existence. His poetry is steeped in the charities of life, which he accompanies from the cradle to the grave. He has à Shakspearean enjoyment in whatever is human, and a Shakspearean indulgence for the frailties of humanity; the life