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Benson. I have seen heaps of English roraen quite ungraceful enough to be men n disguise for that matter. Their entry is 'oautifully described. They come into
A little street half garden and half house; tut could not hear each other speak for noise »f clocks and chimes, like silver hammers
falling 'n silver anvils, and the splash and stir f fountains spouted up and showering down 1 meshes of the jasmine and the rose: nd all about us peal'd the nightingale, apt in her song, and careless of the snare."
Peters. Good! and then? Benson. Of course they mean to be on ady Psyche's side, as a Cantab would say, r she is the younger, prettier, and better mpered of the two tutors. So the Prince
"sat down and wrote such a hand as when a field of corn ws all its ears before the roaring east: hree ladies of the Northern Empire pray >ur highness would enroll them with your
own lady Psyche's pupils.'"
t break of day the College Portress came:
i brought ua academic silks, in hue
B lilac, with a silken hood to each,
I zoned with gold; and now when these
were on, 1 we as rich as moths from dusk cocoons, , courtseying her obeisance, let us know i Princess Ida waited."
'eters. Ah, now for the heroine!
Enson "There at a board by tome and paper
sat, li two tame leopards couched beside her
throne, >eauty compassed in a female form, Princess: liker to the inhabitants me clear planet close upon the sun, I our man s earth; such eyes were in her
head, so much gTace and power, breathing down i over her arch'd brows, with every turn 1 through her to the tips of her lonw hands, to her feet."
Off do you like her?
:ters. The sketch is too shadowy me
s. Not definiteness enough of touch
, and surely one of those lines
Ksow. Yes, it is one of Tennyson's bets that flower and power are full
dissyllables. But the Princess will define herself better by and by. Of course, Psyche finds out her brother, and of course she is persuaded to give them a little grace ; else how should they and we see and hear any more of this Female University life? And here is some of what they saw and heard:—
"And then we strolled From room to room :—in each we sat, we heard The grave Professor. On the lecture slate The circle rounded under female hands With flawless demonstration: follow'd then A classic lecture, rich in sentiment, With scraps of thundrous Epic lilted out By violet-hooded Doctors, elegies And quoted odes, and jewels five-words lon<r, That on the stretch'd forefinger of all Time' Sparkle forever: then we dipt in all That treats of whatsoever is, the state, The total chronicles of man, the mind' The morals, something of the frame, the rock, The star, the bird, the fish, the shell, the flower' Electric, chemic laws, and all the rest, And whatsoever can be taught or known; Till like three horses that hare broken fence, And glutted all night long breast-deep in corn We issued gorged with knowledge, and I spoke ■ 'Why, sirs, they do the=e things as well as we.'"
Peters. And to be sure they mi<rht, if they were only taught.
Benson. And so might most men sew and play the piano if they were only taught. But whether it would pay i*s another question. Here is an after-dinner picture:—
"A solemn grace Concluded, and we sought the gardens: there One walk'd reciting to herself, and one In this hand held a volume as to read, And smoothed a petted peacock down with that."
A most lady-like substitute for the small terrier that a Cantab would be promenading about.
"Some to a low song oar'd a shallop by,
Or under arches of the marble bridge
Hung, shadow'd from the heat: some hid and
r> .j , , So w sat> and now when dav Droop d and the chapel tinkled, mixt with those bix hundred maidens clad in purest white, Before two streams of light from wall to wall, While the great organ almost burst his pipes' Groaning lor power, and rolling thro' the court
A long, melodious thunder to the sound
You see the finest of these descriptions have an amusing double sense. They are at once a parody on, and a description of English University life.
Peters. Yes, I remember going to Trinity Chapel with you, and those five hundred young men in surplices. How innocent and virtuous they did look—at a distance! I wonder if Princess Ida's girls tattled and gossipped as much when they pretended to be kneeling at prayers. There were two youngsters just in front of us that night who were settling the next boat-race all service time. But certainly there are many delightfully picturesque features in a Cantab's life. By the way, Carl, what has become of your sketches?
Benson. Infaiidumjubesrenovare. They were so free-spoken that no one in this land of liberty dared publish them. But we live in hope. Do you recollect what Titmarsh says of the great Jawbrahim Heraudee, how after having circumvented bis enemies and made a great fortune, he "spent his money in publishing many great and immortal works?" That's what we mean to do some day, so help us Puffer Hopkins!
Peters. Ominous invocation! But how fares the Prince meanwhile?
Benson. He is invited to take a geological ride with the Princess. You may be sure he seizes the opportunity to discuss the plan she had made for herself in contrast with that which others had made for her, not forgetting to say a good word or two for himself.
"' I know the Prince, I prize his truth; and then how vast a work To assail this gray pre-eminence of man! You grant melicense ; might I use it? Think Ere half be done perchance your life may fail; Then comes the feebler heiress of your plan, And takes and ruins all; and thus your pains May only make that footprint upon sand Which old recurring waves of prejudice Resmooth to nothing: might I dread that you, With only Fame for spouse and your great deeds For issue, yet may live in vain, and miss Meanwhile what every woman counts her due, Love, children, happiness?'
And slio exclaimed: 'Peace, you young savage of the northern wild.
What! tho' your Prince's love were like a grfi Have we not made ourselves the sacrifice? You are bold indeed: we are not talk'd tolls Yet will we say for children, would they gr<* Like field-flowers everywhere! we like tka
well. But children die; and let me tell you, girl, Howe'er you babble, great deeds cannot die. They with the sun and moon renew their i? Forever, blessing those that look on them. Children—that men may pluck them from ra
hearts, Kill us with pity, break us with ourselves. O children! there is nothing upon earth More miserable than she that has a son And sees him err: nor would we work for ft* Tho' she perhaps might reap the applause
Who learns the one Pou Sto whence »te
hands May move the world, though she herself effic But little: wherefore up and act, nor shriui For fear our solid aim be dissipated Of frail successors. Would indeed we had In lieu of many mortal flies, a race Of giants, livi ng each a thousand years, That we might see our own work out, and wa!:' The sandy footprint harden into stone."
After their philosophic equitation thr luxuriate in a tent,
"elaborately wroar* With fair Corinna's triumph; here she stax Engirt with many a florid maiden cheek, The woman-conqueror; woman conquered lie The bearded victor of ten thousand hymM: And all the men mourned at his side."
There is an instance, one out of manr I the poem, of the admirable way in wt> all the adjuncts are artistically in keepbf Tennyson always seems to keep in miol Fuseli's rule " that all accessories shooU be allegorical," and this makes him en nently the painter of poets. And W comes what all the critics consider the jra of this work.
Peters. Isn't it a blank-verse songab a "the days that are no more'?" I remei ber seeing that quoted in three Lend* periodicals the same day. I bought uV* at the railway station.
Benson. Even the same. There is» unanimity of opinion about it, which it ■•! seem ridiculous to oppose, but I do etc didly confess to you that I don't like il »•' well as some other things in this very p*21 Perhaps it is from utter want of agTeemw1 with the sentiment. The past is for n*' sweet season, not a sad one at all—in o* sequence no doubt of my fearfully antiqu* ted conservative sympathies. I never could (eel, even though a great poet has sung it before Tennyson,
• Tliat a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remember
ing happier things,"
Peters. That is the true critical fashion, "'art, to dilate upon your own feelings and leglect your author.
Benson. Straightforward is the word hen. In vino verilas. When they begin
0 drink, the secret's let out and great is he flutter. The Prince, scornfully expel•d, lights on the camp of his own father, ho had heard of his danger, (it was a ipital offence for any male to infringe on le University limits,) and marched down < rescue him. Poor Psyche is there; le has lost herself and her child: hear hat a touching lament she makes for it:—
\h me, my babe, my blossom, ah my child, y one sweet child whom I shall see no more! >r now will cruel Ida keep her back; id either she will die from want of care, •sicken with ill usage, when they say le child is hers—for every little fault, le child is hers; and they will beat my girl, membering her mother: O my flower!
they will take her, they will make her hard, id she will pass me by in after-life [dead, ith some cold reverence worse than she were mother that I was to leave her there,
lag behind, scared by the cry they made,
1 lay my little blossom at my feet,
1 I will take her up and go my way,
he medley is true to its name. After
pathos we have some fighting, for
e are three brothers of the Princess,
fellows all, and one, Arac, a tremen
* champion. He bullies the Prince, and eupon the North and South agree to t it out, fifty to fifty. I am sure Tenm had the Ivanhoe tournament in his [ when he wrote this. Arac knocks
every one, ending with the Prince; nobody is killed, though there is much ne in of iron plate and bruising of Ls. Then the Princess, under whose
very garden wall the melee has taken place, comes down with her maidens and opens her gates in pity to the wounded, and so the women lose their cause in gaining it. You may imagine the catastrophe —the Prince ill in bed, and the Princess nursing him and reading to him, and what must follow thence. But it is beautifully worked out. He lies in delirium, until she from watching him, and listening to his mutterings, and casting sidelong looks at "happy lovers heart in heart," (what a felicitous expression!) begins herself to know what love is. At last he wakes,
"sane but well nigh close to death, For weakness; it was evening ; silent light Slept on the painted walls, whereon were
wrought Two grand designs; for on one side arose The women up in wild revolt, and storm'd At the Oppian law. Titanic shapes, they
cramm'd The forum, and half crush'd among the rest A little Cato cower'd. On the other side Hortensia spoke against the tax; behind A train of dames: by axe and eagle sat, With all their foreheads drawn in Roman scowls, And half the wolf's-milk curdled in their veins, The fierce triumvirs, and before them paused Hortensia pleading: angry was her face.
(How the lion-painters had had it all their own way! There is great humor in that picture, as well as artistic keeping.)
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 sighed; 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 whisperinglv: 'If you be what I think you, some sweet dream, I would but ask you to fulfil yourself; But if you be that Ida whom I knew, I ask you nothing; only if a dream, Sweet dream, be perfect. I shall die to-night. Stoop down and seem to kiss me ere I die !'"
Do you remember a somewhat similar appearance in Miss Barrett, where the Lady Geraldine visits her poet-lover, and he takes her for a vision?
"Said he, wake me by no gesture, sound of breath, or stir of vesture"
Peters. Excuse me, but I never yet undertook to admire Miss Barrett, and would much rather you should read straight on.
Benson. It is a pity to interrupt so fine a passage.
"I could no more, but lay like one in trance That hears his burial talked of by his friends, And cannot speak, nor move, nor make one sign, But lies and dreads his doom. She turned; she
paused; She stoop'd; and with a great shock of the
heart, Our mouths met; out of languor leapt a cry, Crown'd passion from the brinks of death, and up Along the shuddering senses struck the soul, And closed on fire with Ida's at the lips; Till back I fell, and from mine arms she rose, Glowing all over noble shame, and all Her falser self slipt from her like a robe, And left her woman, lovelier in her mood Than in her mould that other, when she came From barren deeps to conquer all with love, And down the streaming crystal dropt, and she Far-fleeted by the purple island-tides Naked, a double light in air and wave, To meet hergraces where they decked her out For worship without end, nor end of mine, Stateliest, for thee!"
Peters. I suppose our classical poet had one of the Homeric hymns to Venus in his mind, when he sketched that comparison.
Benson. Possibly, but there is no verbal resemblance that I recollect. Let us see. Here is the shorter Hymn to Aphrodite. You shall have it word for word:
"Fair Aphrodite, goddess g&lden-crowned,
Homer, as you perceive, dwells upon the
ornaments of the goddess more than ■,: her native charms. But now for oc Prince and Princess again. He has slept
"Fill'd thro' and thro' with Love, a happ sleep,"
and is awaked by her reading a sort of se enade to him, and a beautiful one it iListen:—
"Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk; Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font: The fire-fly wakens; waken thou with me.
Now droops the milk-white peacock like ghost, And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.
Now lies the Earth all Danae to the stai*. And all thy heart lies open unto me.
Now slides the silent meteor on and leave? A shining furrow, as thy thought in me.
Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
By-and-by they come to an explanation He makes an admirable confession of b faith, and a more admirable explanac. and history of it, even thus :—
"' Alone,' I said,' from earlier than I know.
And this is his satisfactory conclusion :
Enter the General.
the tapis now? One of the nine male rnuscs of Boston, eh?
Peters. No, 'indeed! but Tennyson's Princess, which our friend is well nigh enchanted with.
The General. It is two years or more since I heard Carl talking of that poem. The literati in England must have been expecting its appearance for a long time. And it seems to me surprising that they have not shown more disappointment—that is, if, as seems perfectly natural, they meant to judge it by the standard of the author's former works.
Benson. Then you are greatly disappointed?
The General. Not greatly, for I never was a violent Tennysonian. But I shall be surprised if you are not dissatisfied.
Peters. Carl looks incredulous: hs wants your reasons, General.
The General. He shall have them. First, let us begin with the vehicle and lress of the ideas, the mere structure of :he verse. Knowing that you all agree with me in the importance of this, I have w fear of being thought hypercritical. Every one must see on reading the poem, hat much of the versification is on the Italian model. Now this may be a perfectly iroper innovation. It is possible that
O swallow, swallow~if I could follow and light,"
* as natural and suitable a line in the one mguage as
u Molto egli opro con senno e con la mano"
i in the other; so I will not dwell on this oint, though it certainly admits of dispute. tut there are many lines built on no model t all, in short, not verse at all. What do ou say to this?
"Strove to buffet to land in vain: a tree;"
Timorously and as the leader of the herd."
And there are plenty not quite so lame ; these, but very faulty, such as—
Albeit so mask'd, madam, 1 lovo the truth."
Now we have a particular right to animadvert upon these things in Tennyson, because his harmony of versification is always insisted upon (and in many cases I admit with all justice) by his admirers. Here, then, he fails upon his own ground. And it cannot be from haste, for we know that the Princess has been some years in preparation; it must be either from wilful carelessness, or some perversity of theory. So much for the first charge.
Next, there is to be found in this poem a superabundance of quaint and harsh expressions. I do not refer to the affectation of dragging in antiquated words, such as "tilth," and "thorpe," and "enringed;" but to such phrases as these:—
"And then we past an arch Inscribed ton dark for legible." "On some dark shore just teen that it was rich."
"Seldom she spoke, but oft Clomb to the roofs, and gazed alone for hours On that disastrous leaguer, swarms of men Darkening her female field; void was her use"
meaning that "her occupation was gone," I suppose; but it is not easy to get that sense, or any sense out of the words.
The next fault I have to find is a very serious one. Your pet poet, Carl, is terribly gross, repeatedly and unnecessarily so. There, don't make such large eyes, but listen. The Princess
"Was proxy-wedded with a bootless calf,"
to the Prince. Where was the need of allusion or reference to this barbarous and disgusting custom of a dark age? You can't say it was introduced to preserve historical accuracy, for there is no historical or chronological keeping in the poem. The Princess talks geology and nebular hypotheses, and the Prince draws his similes from fossil remains. Then, again, the break at the close of the innkeeper's speech—why, the suggestion conveyed by it would be low for Punch, and only in place in the columns of a Sunday newspaper. And why the Prince's question about the want of anatomic schools in the female University, but for the indiscreet inuendo which it conveys?
Benson. You grow over nice, General.
The General. Nay, if I did, you would hear me objecting to the whole scene of the three young gentlemen's dis