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which his verse illustrates with a genial cheer or a forlorn pathos, is life in its homely honesty, life with its old familiar associations and accidents, its 'merry quips' remembered sadly at the death of the old year, its flowing can’ and its empty
cup. The truth of this statement will at once be recognised by all who have read his · Miller's Daughter,' his May Queen,' and New Year's Eve,' with their beautiful Conclusion'; his · Dora,” • Audley Court,' • Talking Oak,' or his Lyrical • Monologue.
Nor is his intellectual region less ample. Many of his poems are the embodiment of deep philosophical speculations on the problem of life. We allude to such pieces as the Palace of Art,' «The Two Voices,' the Vision of Sin,' and those brief but admirable political poems, “ You ask me why though ill at ease,' and 'OP old sat Freedom on the Heights.' In these poems, whether metaphysical or ethical, there is a characteristic difference between the style of Mr. Tennyson and Shelley; the latter of whom was essentially dogmatic in the corresponding part of his works, while the former, with an interest not less deep in the intellectual and political progress of the human race, speaks only in the way of suggestion, and in his significant hints
reminds us of Mr. Keats's expression, · Man should not dispute or assert, but whisper results to his neigh• bour. In this department of Mr. Tennyson's poetry we can, perhaps, trace the influences of German literature, modified by an English mind, and, we are glad to observe, by English traditions.
Mr. Tennyson's genius, so far as we can pretend to judge of what is so large and manifold, is, perhaps, on the whole, most strikingly characterised by that peculiar species of versatility which, as we have already observed, is the application of the dramatic faculty to other subjects instead of the drama. All his important poems are complete embodiments, not merely illustrations of the subject treated. Each is evidently the result of long musings, meditative and imaginative; and each represents, in its integrity and distinctness, an entire system of thought, sentiment, manners, and imagery. Each is a window from which we have a vista of a new and distinct world. In each too, we come to know far more of the characters than is explicitly stated; we know their past as well as their present, and speculate about their associates. How much, for instance, of our time and country do we find in *Locksley Hall,' that admirable delineation of the modern Outlaw, the over-developed and undisciplined youth, the spoilt child and cast-away son of the nineteenth century! How many tracts
against asceticism are condensed in his St. Simeon! Whether idyllic or philosophic in form, not a few of these poems are at heart dramas. If it were true, which we cannot believe, that the drama is amongst us but an anachronism, such poems would be perhaps the most appropriate substitute for it. They are remarkable also as works of art. Mr. Tennyson is a great artist; nor would it have been possible without much study, as well as a singular plastic power, to have given his poems that perfection of shape which enables a slender mould to sustain a various interest.
It is frequently asked whether Mr. Tennyson is capable of producing a great and national work. Hitherto such has obviously not been his ambition; nor can we think any man wise who, instead of keeping such a design steadily before him, and making all his labours a preparation for it, embarks on the execution of it at a period earlier than that at which his faculties and his experience approach their maturity. A great poem is a great action; and requires the assiduous exercise of those high moral powers with which criticism has no concern, and action much; - courage, prudence, enterprise, patience, selfreliance founded on self-knowledge, a magnanimous superiority to petty obstacles, a disinterested devotion to art for its own sake, and for that of all which it interprets and communicates. Should Mr. Tennyson devote himself to a great work, he has already exhibited the faculties necessary for his success : But, whether he writes it or not, he has taken his place among the true poets of his country. With reference to a national poem, and to our previous observations concerning the ideal and the national in poetry, we may remark, that Mr. Tennyson's progress has constantly been towards the latter, while he has carried along with him many attributes of the former. His early poems, steeped as they were in a certain fruit-like richness, and illumined by gleams of an imagination at once radiant and pathetic, like the lights of an evening horizon, were deficient, as all young poetry is, in subject and substance. They had then also a defect, which they shared with much of Shelley's and some of Keats's — that of appearing poetry, distilled from poetry, rather than drawn from the living sources of life and of truth. But that defect has long since been corrected; and it is observable, that in proportion as his poetry has become more robust and characteristic, it has also become more home-bred. He has given us admirably characteristic landscapes from almost all countries; but it is plainly among the meads and lawns of his native land that his imagination finds a home. Nor is it English scenery only that he illustrates with such truth and power, but English manners likewise; indeed, when we say that his poetry does not shrink from the interests and accidents of daily life, it is especially English life to which we refer. It is not merely the romantic tale that he records, as in “Godiva' and · The Lord of Burleigh,' but many a modern trait from the village green, the corn-field, the manorhouse, many a recollection from college life, or the social circle. The tale which we have reviewed, though not English in subject, is yet eminently English in its setting. That modern England does not contain the materials of poetry we cannot believe, as long as we find that it produces the faculties that tend to poetry; but those materials unquestionably are obscured by the rubbish that now overlays them; and to extricate and exhibit them requires, therefore, unusual poetic discernment. The difficulty of illustrating our modern manners is increased by the fact that they include much from which poetic sympathies recoil. A deep interest in national manners and history is the best imaginative preparation for a national poem. In what way the poetical side of modern life might be seized and set forth on a large scale, is a problem well worth consideration; but our limits deter us from even an attempt at the solution of it. Assuredly that life will not be poetically exhibited merely by allusions to its outward accidents, — its railways, and its steamboats, or by the application of poetry, in the spirit of a partisan, to the disputes of the hour. To delineate modern life, the first thing must be to understand human life; and the second to trace its permanent relations as they are modified by the more essential characteristics of modern society. In this process the poet will be assisted in proportion as his sympathies are vivid, as his habits are thoughtful, and as his versatile imagination unites itself to fixed principles. The sympathies which give power to those who feel them, are such as help their immediate objects likewise. The man must feel himself a part of that life which he would illustrate (though the poet in the man, must ever preserve his isolation); the hand must inform the heart, and the heart direct the mind; for it is through the neighbourly duties alone that the universal relations of society become understood vitally. Scanned in speculation alone, they are a theme for the philosopher, not the poet.
ART. IV.-1. Rudimentary Electricity ; being a concise Exposi
tion of the General Principles of Electrical Science, and the Purposes to which it has been applied By Sir W. SNOW
HARRIS, F.R.S. London: 1848. 2. Regulations of the Electric Telegraph Company. London:
1849. 3. Traité de Télégraphie Electrique, renfermant son Histoire, sa
Théorie, et la Description des Appareils. Par M. l'ABBÉ
THE 'HE curiosity of the British people, which the wonders of
science bave fed so profusely for the last fifty years, has latterly not only spread over a larger area as knowledge has diffused itself, and increased in intensity as it grew by what it fed on, but has also remarkably altered its direction. From the days of the Stuarts down to a comparatively recent period, the unscientific portion of the nation was chiefly interested by marvellous natural phenomena ; and concerned itself little in even the most practical applications of the experimental sciences. In our own day a totally opposite feeling prevails. A worthy naval captain comes home to announce that he has seen a great sea serpent. His account is scarcely published, before it is depreciated, criticised, and derided, from one end of the island to the other. The Gentlemen of England who sit at home at ease' may differ among themselves as to what the good captain did see, but are quite at one as to what he did not see. In the seventeenth century any number of sea serpents would have been credited; and the bigger and more uncouth they were, so much the better. None, indeed, of the treasures of natural history which the British Museum can now exhibit, are half so strange as a Londoner could take his country cousin to, in the times of the Commonwealth and the Restoration. Feathers could then be produced which had dropped from the tail of the Phoenix. Ostriches were to be seen which, unlike the birds of the present day, had not pecked their way into the world through an eggshell, but had been born alive. Bones were plentiful, of giants compared with whom Goliath was a dwarf. Petrified babies were not very rare; or solid thunderbolts, or unicorns' horns — or barnacles which had first been shell-fish, and then changed into Solan Geese! Our forefathers rejoiced for the most part in believing such things; and the few that were sceptical could only hazard a doubt. Credulity, however, never absorbs the entire man. It appears, on the contrary, to necessitate a countervailing scepticism. Credulity
and scepticism, indeed, are two blind imps playing at see-saw. Neither sees his opposite, — although each would be flung off if not counterbalanced by the other; and the arc which the one describes determines the space through which the other must travel. The terrified gazer at cornets and implicit believer in astrology made himself amends, accordingly, by denouncing as a wizard the man who showed him the sun's spectrum on a wall, or the image of a tree turned upside down in a camera obscura; so that even the contemporaries of Newton thought it prudent to hide, under anagrams and verbal enigmas, their more striking discoveries from the vulgar observer. His faith was unlimited in one direction, and his intolerance in another; and he allowed each full play. To slay one's enemies was not only a lawful but honourable thing; to hang, draw, and quarter a traitor was the duty of a loyal subject; to shut up a man stricken with the plague, and leave him to his fate, was the most tender mercy which he could expect; but to dissect the dead body of foe, traitor, or plague-patient was a crime against God and man! The credulous believer in a thousand imaginary natural and supernatural phenomena, unconsciously revenged himself for his credulity, by a fixed disbelief in man's power to conquer physical nature; and would not have stirred from his door to witness the most curious mechanical invention-or have wished it success, or expected good from it.
But these things have been long completely changed. The popular mind, like a magnet struck with lightning, which reverses its poles, so that it points to the south with the end which formerly pointed to the north, — has been so electrified by the triumphs of experimental science, that it has whirled round like the disordered compass-needle; and what it formerly admired it now despises, and what it once despised it now admires. Had it been wise, it would have kept much of its old faith, (to which it will yet return) and would have been content with adding to its previous beliefs whatever it found admirable in the youthful or regenerated sciences. But at present, when there seems no end to the achievements of experimental science, these achievements alone engross attention; and the public has not yet had time to count the cost, or grow weary of its new toy. It was not at all necessary, however, that botany or zoology should be thrown aside, because chemistry and electricity had recently abounded in wonders. A nettle or a limpet, the meanest weed or humblest insect, still more a nautilus or a humming-bird, is, after all, at least as curious a thing as gun-cotton or chloroform ; and a torpedo or gymnotus is in reality a much more wonderful machine than a voltaic battery. Many-voiced,