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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 ento a small circle of admirers; larged to four by the lenient, and 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, ons 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 & right to occupy, enshrine in noble verse. A few Noro we are getting used to see one years later, and Alfred Tennyson man standing alone in the foremost had still to content himself (like rank, and none 'stepping forth to other and yet greater poets) with challenge his right to that pre-emihoping to find "fit andience, thongh nence. Thus, alike by his merit and few;" perhaps, too, at times to his good fortune, has it come to pass complain that the fewness of an au- that Mr. Tennyson has been for dience does not, of necessity, insure some time the elect poet alike of its fitness. But he “ 'bated not a the British Court and of the British jot of heart or hope." He sent nation; that be wears worthily on forth volume after volume clad in living brows that laurel which Hope's livery --one, too, robed in bas before now 'only come in time darker hues of mourning; and to grace a poet's bier; and that, if while he did so, bis circle of ad- he needs any fresh assurance that mirers widened, till it bas at last in his case the many have heartily become extensive enough to include accepted the verdict of the few, he nearly all who can read English. has only to inquire of his publisher Doubtless the hushing of political how many copies of 'Enoch Arden' strife, and the absence of formidable he has sold in the short time which competitors, have contributed to bas elapsed since its appearance. this result. The bards who sang The Laureate has been gratefal while Arthur Wellesley fought, were beforehand to his admiring readers. numerous enough to form separate He has written (we do not say it in schools, and to divide the literary any of the bitterness of his own world into bostile camps of ad- misanthropic hero) “to the purmirers and detractors; whilst that pose, easy things to understand," catholic spirit which, appreciating for the most part; and things, too, various styles of beauty fairly, which they will be the better for should have meted even-banded jus- understanding. There is little to tice to them all, was often hindered bewilder the reader in his new volin its exercise by prejudice and party- ume. He will find in it no such 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 philosophy, no puzzles like the 'Pa(their fates favouring) have con- lace of Art;' no mystic forms like tended with Tennyson for his chap- those porplexing 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. Cook- "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 her we ourselves cannot profess to think 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 sang at Yule-tide, in than the most abstruse of Bishop many a ball 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 any one 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, too, Was not the Welcome to Alexanthe latter of the two Sea-Dreams' dra' (here reprinted) copied as eais, we suppose, an allegory like gerly from one newspaper to anthe first. It may be that we other, as was the noble dedication think we see the truth it is meant of the 'Idylls' to the memory of to convey ; but it is not so the late Prince Consort; without a clearly pat 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 thicking it “better to go tion while its author lives to con- to the house of mourning than to the tradict him. Hereafter, learned Ger- honse of feasting," poets have two? man critics may find & delightful Not that we at all mean to inmental exercise in expounding these sinuate tbat the Laureate's new two poems, and may evolve mean- volume is calculated to give pleaings for them out of their own in- 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 two passages, the book be- of art; who do not so much inquire fore us can be understood without 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 ears is sure to delight the general reader. 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 bas many rate sabject for Mr. Kingeley? Is it : times before attempted some far not pleasant to see such bright hues greater thing, those attempts have 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 idył to write thus is no very difficult (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 is pathos, and the ear by a sweet 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 bumble life-to describe those Amongst other things, we have beauties of nature which, upper- been struck by the delicate manageceived, enhance the former and ment of that slight infusion of the soothe the latter--and (most im- supernatural which adds dignity portant of all) to be short. Such to its bumble bero's fate; and it notably (to take instances from the seems the more worth pointing out, Laureate's earlier poems) are "The because its necessary unobtrusiveGardener's Daughter,' and 'Dora,' ness makes it liable to pass unwith their sweet English land- noticed. scapes and true and tender feeling. Every one 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 sach a tale as 'Enoch Arden,' tion. It vastly enbances the imwe feel certain he would bave 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 à vista into disquietude, &c., might have en- sbadowy realms, which indefinitely riched the poem with precious enlarges the scenes presented to his pearls of philosophy, but would view. But this powerful engine certainly bave 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 bension; 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 band, there is no sentimental linger amongst us, form no part of dawdling over the sad situations any recognised creed, and are not wbich 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 bis the like may be their judgment wbole 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 awful lightnings ; to reserve their Merrily rang the bells, and they were wed. chief supernatural terrors for the But never merrily beat Annie's heart. fates of chieftains and kings. In a A footstep seemid to fall
beside her path,
She knew not whence; a whisper on her poem like 'Enoch Arden,' it would be an unpardonable error to give She knew not what ; nor loved she to be foreshadowings of the future any- Alone at home, nor ventured out alone." thing like the place held by the 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. rious dream, wbich (according to Tennyson has been so far from ber own interpretation) justifies 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 a palm tree.” (The palm-tree should in remarking them. They are of it not be ?) Thereapon she falls three sorts-unconscious predictions, asleep and dreams—the truth. For presentiments, and dreams.
she beholds Enoch seated “Under The first unconscious prophecy a palm-tree, over him the Sun;" as occurs at the beginning of the poem. be doubtless was at that moment Its destined heroine, Annie, says in the island on which he had been to her two boy-playmates, in her wrecked, and where the ghostly childish ignorance, that "she would echo of her wedding-bells is so soon 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 bis The second is uttered later on, wife. Io her simplicity she cannot when her first husband tells her of think of palms as real trees growthe long voyage he means to un- ing in foreign lands. Her mind flies dertake ; and she exclaims, after to scriptural associations: vainly trying to dissuade him from it,
“He is gone, sho thought, he is happy, he
** 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
Hosanna in the highest l'” 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 bis 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 then as a guardian angel's says of her,
warnings. They may equally con"She must not come, sider them as mere singular coin. For my dead face would vex her after- cidences. Their ancient credit yet life,"
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 now 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 often dwell on their mysterious voice, resting on the pause in the meaning, and on how she had fail- psalm he had weekly chanted, symed to apprehend it till too late. bolises, as nothing else could do, And thus these judicious touches his soul's repose on the to him, of the supernatural make the tale all-consoling truth which it conin which they occur seem addition- tains? ally natural and lifelike.
Curious felicities of expression of But if the Laureate thus knows this sort occur often in the poem. how to deal with the unwarranted We mean words which exactly renbeliefs of the simple, and how to der the thought, so arranged that extract from them poetic embellish- their sound echoes, or forms a ment, be also knows how to make musical accompaniment to it. Of & noble use of their religious faith. this the lines describing Annie's The grandest_and most poetical second 'marriage (quoted some way book in the English language lies back) are an instance. The wedas open to the poor as to the rich; ding-bells ring in the first two and is often more deeply pondered lines. Those which succeed run by the former than by the latter. heavily with the weight of forebodAnd it is not too much to say that ing which they carry. Of the same some of the most beautiful passages sort is the description (earlier still in 'Enoch Arden' are those in which in the poem) of the death of Annie's Holy Scripture is reverently quot- little one: ed. Not to refer again to Annie's
“Howsoe'er it was,
After a lingering-ere she was awaredream; how fine, for instance, are
Like the caged bird escaping suddenly, the quotations from the Bible in The little innocent soul fitted away." Enoch's homely farewell to her! The idea of life escaping like a * Annie, my girl, cheer up, be comforted;
bird is indeed old, as most beautiLook to the babes, and till I come again ful ideas are;* but the music of Keep everything ship-shape, for I must the lines (the burried 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
holds. 1. He not yonder in those uttermost
the little beart suddenly ceases to Parts of ihe morning! if I flee to these, beat, and then the pause after it Can I go from Ilim i and the sea is His, The sea is His: He made it."
betokening the mother's sorrow) is
Mr. Tennyson's own.t 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 the calling as much as books ble in the poem we are considering. make them do- least of all in their The way in which he suits his backmost solemo moments. We hope to ground of landscape to the figures see ship-shape omitted in future edi- in bis foreground, and so pictures tions. “But who can fail to admire the aspects of nature as seen by a the rest of the speecb? 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." "Ορνις γαρ ώς τις εκ χερών άφαντος εί, πήδημ' ες "Αιδου κραιπνον δομήσασά μου.
--Eur. Hip. 829. + The "flitting" soul recalls to our mind Mr. Merivale's admirable translation of the dying emperor's address to his own. We may earn some reader's thanks by quoring it here: Animala, vagula, blandula,
"Soul of mine, pretty one, flitting one,
Guest and partner of my clay,
Whither wilt thou hie away -
PalNd one, rigid one, haked one,
Never to play again, never to play?