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than is the “larger lay.” It is psychologically impossible for a sane man to abide in the deepest grief; passion comes and goes; moods change; emotions are in waves; Hamlet indulges in jest even in his melancholy. Tennyson began writing In Memoriam soon after the death of Hallam, but the prologue was not written before 1849-50. Although this period covers seventeen years of time, the body of the poem was completed in about two years and seven months. Even a casual reading of the poem reveals the progress of the seasons: there are three springs, Cantos 38, 83, and 115-116; the three Christmases are celebrated in Cantos 28, 78, and 104-106; and the anniversary of Arthur's death is touched upon in Cantos 72 and 99.
The Philosophy of In Memoriam. — In the strictest sense there is no philosophy in the poem; Tennyson was not elaborating a philosophy as might a philosopher like Spinoza or Hegel; he was expressing the moods of his grief and his reflections upon life and progress in “measured language." But in a loose sense there is a philosophy in this poem. A thinker like Tennyson could not discuss the meaning of life and death without giving us his philosophy. One of the few really great questions that man has been asking for thousands of years is, “If a man die, shall he live again?” Tennyson does not answer this weighty question in the negative with the cocksureness of the materialist, nor, on the other hand, does he speak with the authority of one whom the Almighty has chosen to give an exclusive divine revelation. He feels like a child crying in the night,
“And with no language but a cry.”
But there is progress from gloom to faith; the poem makes for belief rather than for unbelief. After the first “ Confusions of a wasted youth," there comes a serenity which embraces the “larger hope."
“I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
Professor Henry Sedgwick, a man who subjected his faith to the coldest scrutiny, finds in the poem
“the indestructible and inalienable minimum of faith which humanity cannot give up because it is necessary for life; and which I know that I, at least so far as the man in me is deeper than the methodical thinker, cannot give up."
Ideas on Evolution. — Wordsworth somewhere calls poetry the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge;” meaning possibly that after the geologist and astronomer, the biologist and chemist, have by frequent and painful processes of research and computation found the crude facts, the poet selects the quintessence of their labors and perpetuates the result in the form of imperishable art. This is what Tennyson has done in his In Memoriam. The first part of the nineteenth century was a period of bitter controversy between the theologian and the scientist; this unrest is reflected in Tennyson's poem. It is not improbable that a thousand years hence the inquisitive reader of the history of thought in the early part of the nineteenth century will turn to In Memoriam for an understanding of that controversial period rather than to the formal records and histories of science.
It is well to remember that theology is just as much a science as is geology, and as a science it is subject to revision. As human knowledge grows from more to more there needs to be a readjustment. But theological ideas lend themselves to readjustment more slowly than ideas on chemistry and geology, and this is eminently proper, for our ideas about theology ought to be conservative. It took centuries for our theological ideas to be readjusted to the Copernican system of astronomy; then geology caused another upheaval; and finally in Tennyson's time the cause of a new controversy was the biological idea.
Darwin's Origin of Species appeared ten years after the publication of In Memoriam, and yet there are Darwinian ideas in Tennyson's poem. . This means that these ideas were in the air. It is necessary to recall that as a university man Tennyson associated with the brightest students of his time; that the “Apostles," as they called themselves, engaged in frequent discussion of all mạnners of philosophical and scientific problems. The theory of evolution in rudimentary form, it has been pointed out, is as old as the theory of creation, but no other poet ever subdued these scientific ideas into such perfect artistic expression. As Andrew Lang points out,
“Now it was part of the originality of Tennyson, as a philosophic poet, that he had brooded from boyhood on these early theories of evolution, in an age when they were practically unknown to the literary and were not patronized by the scientific world.”
Tennyson was profoundly moved by these scientific theories, and at times he felt the foundations of his faith shaken, but he was never willing to accept a purely materialistic view of life. While accepting evolution as a theory, he never could abandon his early faith in a God of Love
This introduction to the poem, written after he had brooded over his theme for many years, and after he had struggled through despair to peace, indicates the Christianity of the man. Tennyson's faith looked ahead rather than back; he thought it was more important to believe in the high destiny of man than to be confusedly constructing a theory as to his beginnings. He sings,
"Arise and fly
Move upward, working out the beast,
Adverse Criticism. — Kingsley called In Memoriam “the noblest Christian poem which several centuries have seen;" but, while the trend of critical opinion is in accord with Kingsley's high praise, not all critics have viewed this masterpiece in such a friendly light. The popular French critic, Taine, writes:
“His long poem, In Memoriam, written in praise and memory of a friend who died young, is cold, monotonous, and often too prettily arranged. He goes into mourning; but, like a gentleman, with brand-new gloves, wipes away his tears with a cambric handkerchief, and displays throughout the religious service, which ends the ceremony, all the compunctions of a respectful and well-trained layman.”
This criticism we might dismiss with the reflection that this is the opinion of a foreigner whose spirit cannot enter into close sympathy with the moods and expression of an Englishman; but Frederic Harrison, an Englishman, made a similar remark when he wrote of the poem as having made "Tennyson the idol of the Anglican clergyman -- the world in which he was born and the
world in which his life was ideally passed — the idol of all cultured youth and of all aesthetic women."
Idylls of the King. - The four old cycles of stories around which the fancy of poets has played for many centuries are the Trojan war, the deeds of Alexander, the Arthurian romances, and the exploits of Charlemagne. The Arthurian legends have appealed especially to many of the English poets, among them the greatest, such as Milton and Spenser. The latter, when explaining to Sir Walter Raleigh his Faerie Queene, writes, “I labour to pourtrait in Arthure, before he was king, the image of a brave knight, perfected in the twelve morall vertues, as Aristotle hath devised." Milton once had in mind the writing of an Arthurian epic. In Paradise Lost he refers to
“ what resounds
And later, in Paradise Regained, he writes,
“Of faery damsels met in forest wide
By knights of Logres, or of Lyones,
The lesser English poets who have touched upon the theme are Drayton, Scott, Heber, and Sir Richard Blackmore, the last actually writing two long poems, Prince Arthur and King Arthur,
both of which have fortunately found that oblivion which dullness and stupidity deserve. William Morris, Swinburne, Matthew Arnold, Lowell, and Hovey are later poets who have found inspiration in the story of the Table Round. But it is not of any of these that we are apt to think when we meet the names of Arthur and Guinevere, of Lancelot and Elaine, of Merlin and Vivien ; it is of Tennyson, a name inseparably associated with the glory and renown of the knights of the Table Round.
The Arthurian Legend. — Among the first books printed by W. Caxton in the Abbey of Westminster was Malory's Morte d'Arthur. But Sir Thomas Malory was not the creator of the romances; they had been sung and written by many a predecessor. The legends grouped themselves about five stories - the story of Arthur; that of the Mage Merlin; that of Lancelot, "the truest lover that ever loved woman;"
" the story of the Grail; and that of Tristram and Iseult, "the first great love story of the world." There likely was a real Arthur, "but an Arthur very different from the king of medieval romances or the ideal monarch of Tennyson.” He probably lived about the year 500 A.D. Geoffrey of Monmouth, who died in 1155, is not the first writer to name King Arthur, for Nennius, a Welsh monk living about the year 800, has the first extant mention of Arthur, but to Geoffrey credit is due for amplifying the story and starting the literary fame of the hero. Next come Wace and Layamon; Wace portraying the magnificence of Arthur's court and introducing for the first time the Table Round. Wace was a Norman
. and wrote in French; Layamon turned the Norman account, the Roman de Brut, into English. Wace's story doubled Geoffrey's and Layamon's doubled Wace's. Chretien de Troies, the most famous of French writers of Round Table stories, wrote six Arthurian poems, not one of which is found in the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth. He flourished in the twelfth century. Some critics, among them Professor Foerster, think him the greatest of all poets who have told the Arthurian romances, even greater than Tennyson.
Sir Thomas Malory. - Malory was likely born about 1400,