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This tribute, indeed, to the men who, in times past, had mutinied under the leadership of Eurylochus, takes us somewhat aback. But the modern poet had resolved to ignore the ugly business in Thrinacria, which his mediaeval predecessor had evidently never heard of. For both, then equally, the solar herds remained intact; they were left to graze and chew the cud in peace, instead of bellowing portentously upon spits; no crime was committed; no penalty had to be exacted; and Ulysses effected his return, not, as Homer related, in the guise of a solitary castaway, but in command of his own 'vermilion-prowed' ship, worked by a faithful crew.
Tennyson usually took his classical subjects from uncanonical sources. Like the Attic dramatists and vasepainters, he preferred the cyclical and post-Homeric outgrowths to the authorised legends. (Enone caught his fancy in the pages of Quintus Smyrnaeus, familiarly known as 'Quintus Calaber;' and' Quintus Calaber' was only rescued from oblivion by Cardinal Bessarion's discovery of the fourteen Books of his Trojan epic among the manuscript treasures of a convent at Otranto. He wrote it in journeyman fashion in Asia Minor, probably soon after the death of Constantino. And, through the magic of Tennysonian verse, a creation of loveliness took shape from the
'Grecian tale re-told,
Quintus, too, intimated the possibility of a meeting with 'the great Achilles' in the Happy Isles far away to the West. The Homeric Ulysses was fully aware of the place and lot of Achilles after death. He saw and conversed with him in Hades, and reported his sombre dissatisfaction at finding himself a helpless subject of Persephone. Through the reverence, however, of later legend-mongers, he was transferred from her realm to the honourable status of a Pontic hero. The island of Leuke, near the mouth of the Borysthenes, was assigned as his abode, with Medea his wife; and he made its approach perilous, being a wrathful ghost, difficult of propitiation, and even capable of dark atrocities. Then, as the centuries rolled on, and the Euxine became frequented, his residence there began to appear incongruous, and his quarters were shifted further afield. Quintus Calaber established him in the Fortunate Islands, well beyond the range of ordinary cruises. Tennyson accepted the arrangement, and it is likely to be permanent.
The whole texture of the poem of 'Ulysses' shines with gems of reminiscence. Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, each contributes to adorn a piece none the less original for its modulation into unexpected keys, of remembered harmonies. Music from afar thrills us in lines, the exquisite charm of which renews the youth of old beauties. Vital meanings develope in them; implications are divined and rendered obvious. Homer merely says that Ulysses ' suffered greatly;' he was distinguished as 'much-enduring;' the name 'Odysseus' is rooted in the significance of pain. Tennyson adjusts the balance by adding that he had ' enjoyed greatly,' and was minded to 'drink life to the lees;' thus setting before us no passive victim of destiny, but one who resolutely chose the rapture of a strenuous existence with its inevitable alternations of poignant anguish. Altiora peto. No'twilight'of the gods' for him, but the sunshine and shadow of human vicissitudes.
Compare, again, Tennyson's 'rainy Hyades' with the 'pluviasque Hyadas' of the iEneid. Virgil uses the epithet conventionally; Tennyson conjures up the scene and season when
'Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Those particular stars, it is true, had as little to do with wet weather as the Pleiades with the sailing season. The imputed connexion depended, in each case, upon an etymological misunderstanding. But this, from the poetical viewpoint, was of small consequence.
The Shakespearian Ulysses avers that
'to have done is to hang Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail In monumental mockery.'
The Tennysonian Ulysses exclaims :—
'How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
The superiority of the copy to its model is visible at a glance. Unmistakeably the simile of the disused armour has, in the latter passage, spread 'saffron wings.' It has assumed the perfect form destined for it. Such metamorphoses are not uncommon. Plagiarisms are often justified by their felicity. Who can blame the raising of an immortal flower from an unpromising and neglected seed? Who would prohibit the fitting of the 'golden phrase' to some derelict 'coin of fancy'? Thus a pedestrian sentence of Boethius was glorified by Dante into the nightingalecadence of Francesca da Rimini's melancholy utterance :—
'Nessun maggior dolore Che ricordarsi del tempo f dice Nella miseria.'
And similar examples might be multiplied.
That the Odyssey should have found completion in the Divine Comedy is certainly one of the strangest facts in the history of literature. Dante, who never had the opportunity of surveying the Homeric edifice, laid most unexpectedly its coping-stones in their place. In so doing he unconsciously put the finishing touch to the Epic of Troy. No genuine addition was subsequently made to it. Ages had been required for its elaboration. Generation after generation of Hellenic and Hellenistic poets and poetasters had contributed to develope or decorate it. The great Roman singer gave it currency in the West; its vitality was prolonged by the fabrication of narratives adapted to the changing spirit of the Byzantine epoch. Finally, the trouveurs manipulated, with the license of mediaeval fancy, the varied themes it presented, one of which took, from Dante's transforming imagination, its consummate shape. The curtain drops upon the vision of Ulysses lifted to the empyrean region where man dies for an idea, yet tormented by his relentless Ghibelline master as having sinned against the nascent world-empire. The stage is cleared; the traditional characters of the ancient company give place to the dramatis persona of knightly romance. Then came the turn of the national and religious epos—of the 'Lusiads,' the 'Gerusalemme Liberata,' of ' Paradise Lost and Regained.' It looked forward as well as backward. It did not rest in the past which it celebrated. For the modern European nations were just waking to self-consciousness, and the stress of life was strong upon them. When it relaxed, and the glare and dust of struggle began to be dissipated, the morning of the world was perceived to have lost none of its dewy freshness, and the charm of the antique stories re-asserted itself. To the revival we owe the grace and melodious subtlety of Tennyson's '(Enone ' and ' Ulysses.'
Aet. V.—The Scenery of England and the Causes to which it is due. By the Right Hon. Lord Avebuey, F.R.S., D.C.L. (Oxon.), LL.D. (Cantab. Dublin et Edin.), &c. London and New York: Macmillan & Co., 1902.
Ttere are mingled the pleasures of memory and the pleasures of hope. For every one in South Britain with the least pretension to culture and patriotism the volume is replete with pictured scenes that will either recall the past or determine the future of delightful excursions. With a guide of refined taste, ample knowledge, and a long trained habit of scientific reflexion, travellers who know all the ground will see with new eyes each well-remembered landscape. Over an earlier sky for some of these spectators the heyday of youth and dear companionship may have spread a roseate glow, which finds no counterpart in diagrams and sections, or even in the best-executed photogravures. For this and similar losses many will unconsciously find compensation. They will easily glide into the conviction that the thoughts and lessons here set before them were present to their own minds when they themselves visited the mountains and plains, the sand dunes and estuaries, the rocks and rivers, the caverns and gorges, with which nature has sculptured and diversified this little island patch, this wave-bitten England. They may persuade themselves that it was principally for thinking those thoughts and reading those lessons that they devoted rare and scanty holidays to expensive and fatiguing journeys. Authors ought not to feel any sort of disgust with us when we their clients make these innocent assumptions of being self-taught. It is the secret of their popularity. They seem to do for us what Socrates thought could really be done if he supposed, as Plato would have us believe, that all knowledge is merely memory which needs to be awakened. Certainly the most popular scientific writers are those who so unravel the tangled skein of natural philosophy that the thread passes through our fingers as though it had never been knotted.
Not so very long ago geology was regarded as a rather dangerous, unsettling study for a young man to take up. Now it would be thought rather clownish for a man either young or old not to have some general acquaintance with its principles and conclusions. Among the latter there is none more convincingly proved than that the history of the globe and of our own island shows many an interchange of land
VOL. CXOVI. NO. OOCOI. H
and sea surfaces. The very things that have been taken as patterns and standards of the steadfast and unalterable have been shown to have no stability. It is the same throughout nature. The fixed stars owe their apparent fixity only to inconceivable distance, which makes our eyes incapable of appreciating their equally inconceivable rapidity of movement. By degrees all the educated world is becoming penetrated with the commonplaces of science. But while this is happening, the scholars, the students of the old learning, the bookworms, continue their researches not into nature, but into literature, with a result that is sometimes rather a shock to modern pride, though it may support the Socratic dictum that knowledge is recollection, and may help a scientific writer to persuade us in regard to any modern discovery that we knew it all the time. Lord Avebury begins his book by quoting from Ovid the geological doctrine of a continual interchange between sea and land, attested by the discovery of sea-shells far from the ocean. The quotation stops short of the less easily verified assertion that old-fashioned anchors have been found on mountain tops. It might, however, well have been continued for the sake of the two following lines, which forcibly illustrate a passage occurring later on in the present volume. According to this, Mackintosh, in his ' Scenery of England and Wales,' 1869,' assumes throughout that the modelling of the surface
*of our island has been effected by the sea; and it is because 'it has, I think,' says Lord Avebury, 'been clearly proved 'that it is mainly due to rain and rivers that I differ 'from him so much as to the interpretation of the facts: 'the valleys are not mainly due to the sea, and the plains are 'not generally marine, but river plains.' Ovid, in the first century of the Christian era, it will be seen, agrees with this judgement of the twentieth century, since his verses evidently declare that smooth plains have been carved into valleys by the downflow of rivers, and that mountains have been brought to a low level by the downpour of rain.* But hundreds of years before Ovid, Herodotus bore his testimony to geological exchanges. He saw that islands were being gradually joined to continents. He appealed to 'shells
•upon the mountains' as an evidence that what in his day
* 'Et vetus invents est in montibus ancora summis;
Metam. xv. 265-267.