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initiation. Mr. Tennyson develops this phrase, and talks of " fools of habit," men who are led by habit and not reason, or of the will being the "fool of loss," when its grief overmasters it and dries up its forces. It is thus that he builds on his models, not by imitation of what they have actually done, but by continuing to build on the lines which they laid down, but on which they had erected nothing. He might have found a model in Petrarch's "sonnetti e canzoni in morte di madonna Laura;" but he takes nothing from them except a general and far-off resemblance. Their first intention is objective—to speak of Laura, and to make her name live. Mr. Tennyson doubtless had a like intention with regard to his friend; indeed, he gives many more particulars of his character than Petrarch gives of Laura; but his first intention was to show how grief may be transfigured by love, and may become the master of the soul, to instruct it in all truth, and to lead it into all good. If men, he says in the first sonnet, may rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things, cannot they also turn their losses into gain, and make their tears blossom and bear fruit? Grief then, its uses and the method of utilizing it, make up the primary notion of "In Memoriam." Its motto might be Constance's:
"Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Mr. Tennyson's grief, or rather his mourning mind, in the same way puts on the form of his lost friend, reproduces his image in itself, and moulds itself upon the form and circumstances and mental habits of the departed one. Grief thus becomes personified, and so may be at least the proxy for, if not the real presence of, the absent friend; and the poet's soul, in espousing its own sorrow, marries itself to him:
"O sorrow, wilt thou live with me,
In this way the union of two souls, which is always the conclusion of the premises of love, is arrived at. But the means are somewhat different from those usually employed. For instance, in Mr. Tennyson's school the beloved object is only a loan
of nature. When it drops away, love is left; and ripened love is the end for which the friend was lent. In the old sonneteers one object of love only fades away to be replaced by another. As each beloved one falls away by death or otherwise, it reveals a better and higher object behind it, on which the widowed love can fasten itself, not forgetting what it has lost, but finding it again in a better and higher form in the new object, which thus becomes "the grave where buried love doth live," the master image in which the images of all former loves may be viewed. In the ultimate outcome no doubt both processes agree. The most subjective of poets must project his own image on the world, and make it his object. And whether the object is the poet's own mind filled with the image and recollections of a lost friend, or whether it is the lost friend himself idealized in the memory of the poet, the same words must necessarily be used, the same affections will be evoked, and the same thoughts will be communicated to the reader. With Mr. Tennyson the lost friend himself becomes the higher object. Death transfigures him; he becomes an angelic spirit, of mighty but undefined powers, a guardian to protect, a teacher to prompt, a form into which any ideal of excellence in wisdom or knowledge can be fitted. He becomes the impersonation of love, and thus becomes deified:
"Known and unknown, human, divine!
As he grows more distant for knowledge hegrows nearer for love. His known outline fades away, becomes indefinite and elastic enough to comprehend all objects of love, and therefore to have a kind of divine omnipresence, "loved deeper, darklier understood:"
"Thy voice is on the rolling air,
But this identification of the limited with the unlimited is not pantheistic, because for Mr. Tennyson the limited strictly keeps its own individuality and personality. It is enclosed, not absorbed:
"Eternal form shall still divide
Thus the lover still retains the love for the distinct personality, and is at the same time able to give a wellnigh infinite expansion to that personality, to invoke its presence that it may aid and infuse good thoughts, to tremble before it, to "treat it, in a word, as the Catholic devotee treats his favorite saint. That this is the necessary development of love all the philosophers who have treated most deeply upon it are agreed, in spite of the reclamations of the divines.
The progress of the poem is marked quite as much by its chronological succession as by the development of its idea. The Christmas season, as it comes round, is duly noted, and the departed friend's birthdays are religiously kept. Thus we find that three years are assigned as the period of the growth of the idea, from the mere blank feeling of loss with which the poem begins to the apotheosis of the departed with which it ends. The poet does not conceal from himself or his readers that all this conclusion is a dream of his own, his "own phantom chanting hymns," expressive of his
"trust that those we call the dead
But his dream must be true, because it is so noble:
"In my spirit will I dwell,
And thus he considers himself entitled to describe his lost friend not as what he really was, but as what love tells him he would have been, with a lovelier hue lent to him by distance. He considers his own spirit as wife to the departed spirit, and therefore entitled to speak of him as the widow is entitled to speak of her lost paragon.
But the poem embraces more than the old sonneteers usually included in their intention. They generally treated of love in an abstract way, and therefore generalized all the lovable qualities which they celebrated in such a manner that no distinct image of the individuality of the person celebrated can be extracted from their sonnets. Mr. Tennyson seems to have resolved to avoid this defect; but his resolution, while it has added interest to the portrait of his friend, has also added a polemical tone to the poem, which is slightly out of time with the dominant chord of
sorrow. For when a strongly individualized portrait is held up as the great ideal, which at last becomes everywhere present, the individual qualities of the soul thus portrayed become rules and laws imposed upon men dogmatically. Mr. Tennyson's doctrine may be soundenough; but it is only one of the many codes possible to be insisted on as the guides of life, and is polemically exalted above all others. It is doubtless an excellent rule to meet all perplexities and doubts manfully, without shirking them, and yet to avoid combating them with the sole arms of reason and knowledge without the aid of obedience, reverence, and wisdom. The ideal friend
"touched a jarring lyre at first, But ever strove to make it true.
Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
At last he beat his music out: .
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
He fought his doubts and gather'd strength,
And laid them ; thus he came at length
To find a stronger faith his own."
And the conclusion of the whole poem is made to be the acquisition of this
"faith that comes of self-control,
It has been said that "In Memoriam" is tinctured with scepticism. The scepticism, if any, is only that which is found in the religious writings of all those men who, to enhance the greater certainty, treat the lesser as none at all; who, because the next world is so true, resolve that this shall be only a dream, and so, because they throw doubt upon that which is seen and known, are scarcely credited when they explain that they do so only to magnify the undoubtfulness of that which is invisible and unknown.
It will be evident that the poem is in its matter and form perfectly homogeneous to the early poetical attitude of Mr. Tennyson. It is a dream; it is a progress of feelings, not of action; it is moreover a process where the change is said to be brought about by an external influence, and not to be due only to internal self-development. Even the poetry
itself is attributed to a force over which
"I do hut sing because I must,
The work is therefore, though published
"'Tis better to have loved and lost,
and in "The Two Voices" there are the
"So careful of the type she seems,
But in these quasi sonnets Mr. Tennyson's \ quietism found its most natural outlet. The dreaminess and stillness which reign throughout the poem flow in accordance with its idea. There is no suspicion of contrivance or manufacture. The art is concealed. It does not seem built on theory, as in "The Lotos-Eaters." It does not suggest as its origin that the poet said to himself, "Now let us dream," or, " Let us pretend to be dreaming." The cause was adequate to the effect; and the result is a poem which, on the whole, may claim a place, if not in the same rank, at least in the same category as Petrarch's sonnets and canzonets, or Shakespeare's sonnets.
"Maud" was published in 1855. It is both psychologically in sentiment, and artistically in expression, a development of the motive of " Locksley Hall." There are naturally two directions in which Mr. Tennyson's poetical psychology tends. In representing man determined by circumstances and floating down the stream, he may exhibit him either on a placid current of love or grief, or on a boiling and surging torrent of anger and hate. The two courses have this altogether in common, that both represent man as the playthings of an external power:
"We are puppets, man in his pride, and beauty
The hero of "Locksley Hall" and the
hero of "Maud" both excuse themselves for feelings and judgments which they know are not morally defensible by an antecedent suffering which has deprived their will of its power, and has made them impotent to resist the onset of passion. Both are strong muscular men, capable of bodily and even mental endurance as soldiers and officers, but incapable of mastering their passions, expelling their dreams of revenge, or denying themselves the morose delight of brooding over such dreams. It is not without reason that the poet chooses men of this class to be the vehicles of his socialistic complaints against that silent war between every man and his neighbor which grows up duriDg a long peace. When Shakespeare has to make analogous complaints he puts them into the mouths of Tullus Aufidius's serving-men. Peace, they say, rusts iron, increases tailors, breeds ballad-makers ; it is a very apoplexy, a lethargy, mulled, deaf, sleepy, insensible, and a grievous wronger of neighborhood; it makes men hate one another, because they have less need of each other. If Mr. Tennyson puts charges like these into more educated lips, he too provides that the servile tincture shall not be wanting; he makes the speaker the slave of the everpresent memory of a great wrong. As the Elizabethan dramatist would put unpalatable truths into the mouths of his fools, so Mr. Tennyson, willing to ventilate his feelings about social scandals, devises a character who would naturally inveigh against them in unmeasured terms. Such characters may be men of the school of Shylock, whose wrongs partly justify their ferocity, and whose eloquence and invective beget a desire to take away the just grounds of their malice. The life of the hero of "Locksley Hall" is blighted by being crossed in love: that of the hero of "Maud," by a gigantic swindle practised on his father, which caused the old man's suicide. The boy's memory is oppressed with the remembrance of the night when he was waked
"By a shuffled step, by a dead weight trailed, by a whispered fright,"
and "the shrill-edged shriek of a mother," when the corpse was brought home. He grows up lonely, parsimonious, revengeful. He is cured by the love of Maud, the daughter of the man who had ruined his father. But Maud's brother, scented and "curled like an Assyrian bull," comes between them. He strikes his sister's lover, and is shot by him in a duel. The murderer flies, returns to find Maud dead, becomes mad, and is restored to reason by the national upheaval at the beginning of the Crimean War. The poem is a lyric monologue, consisting of envious invective, gradually mastered by love, then the idyllic joy of love, then anger, despair, madness, and patriotic enthusiasm. There is rush and motion enough in it; but the rush is that of a planet rather than that of a spirit. The movement is determined by the motive; and the motive is not created by the will of the man moved. It is a helpless whirl of a man overmastered by a self-imposed necessity in the form of passion. Such overmastering fatality is a phase of poetical experience which some of the greatest poets have • almost exclusively fastened upon. It is the subject-matter of yEschylas's monotonous sublimity. It is the ground idea of Shakespeare's Richard III. But hakespeare put into no other of his dramas the classical background of an overbearing fate. To have exhibited life under this aspect once was enough: the great and universal artist turned himself to some other of nature's myriad facets. But Mr. Tennyson has not this command over variety- He can sing his divisions only on one tone. With him love is lord of all, the sovereign balm or mortal bane of the spirit. For good or evil love is the only real power which his poetry recognizes. The very bitterness of the hero of " Maud" is distilled out of his love for his father, and out of his patient self-sacrifice to the service of his widowed and waning mother. The love of Maud sweetens this bitterness; but her loss drives him back upon himself, and nurses his bitterness into madness.
As Mr. Tennyson carefully adapted his music to the dreamy idleness of his " Lotos-Eaters," so he as carefully adapts his metre to the irregular and hard thoughts in "Maud." It begins with the metre of "Locksley Hall"—the long trimeter iambic, generally with one or two anapaests in one or two of the even places, and sometimes with anapaests in every place, as in the line:
"I mi sick of the hall and the hill, I am sick of the moor and the main.''
But a great change in character is introduced by making the alternate lines rhyme, instead of the consecutive ones. With such long lines this distance between the jingles gives a notion of rough, uneven motion which the poet clearly studied to produce. In the third section the metre changes the iambus and anapa;st for the trochee and dactyl. It answers to the first irresistible impression of Maud on the man's mind, and his vain efforts to re- . sist it:
"Cold and clear-cut face, why come you so cruelly meek,
Breaking a slumber in which all spleenful folly was drowned?"
In the ninth section the lyric and love element begins to predominate, and all runs comparatively smoothly till the hero sings his joy at Maud's love for him. Perhaps here the music may be meant to imitate the bumping and thumping of the happy heart, which deliriously denies that it does bump, and asserts that it never before beat so smoothly:
"I have led her home, my love, my only friend;
There is none like her, none;
And sweetly on and on,
Perhaps the violence of passion hardly justifies the ruggedness of the measure. The love lyrics that succeed are many of them very beautiful. One of them," Come into the garden, Maud," at once struck the fancy of musicians, and seemed spontaneously to clothe itself in melody. In the second part, the lyrics are meant to represent the deadness of the heart that forfeited its good just when enjoyment was within its grasp—a living deadness, gradually degenerating into the crisis of madness. The madness is found in the fifth section of the second part. It is madness with a method in it, a cloak to cover the satiric venom of the dead heart, rather than genuine impulsive madness. It is the madness rather of Edgar, than of Lear, of Hamlet than of Ophelia. The man fancies he is dead and buried, and sings:
"Wrctchedest age, since Time began,
Not a betl was rung, not a prayer was read;
There is none that does his work, not one;
Mr. Tennyson has chosen a psychological subject which could only be treated with sovereign inerrancy by the poet of Hamlet and Lear. Among living Englishmen it is not the Laureate, but Mr. Browning, who approaches nearest to the ideal treatment of like situations, whether we regard his matter, the subtlety of his thoughts, or the methodical ruggedness of his metre, which is his form.
The "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" was fitly bound up with "Maud," as a piece in the same musical key; but its discords and halting progressions are less justified by its thoughts than are those in " Maud." In fact, it reads like a Laureate's obligato accompaniment to a national event, prompted by duty and aspiration instead of creative energy and inspiration. The form is justified by the circumstances of the time, not by the thoughts of the poem. It harmonized with the ceremonies of the day; it is not in harmony with the event in retrospect. Indeed, the thoughts are almost painfully commonplace. The author seems to have considered himself the mouthpiece of the nation, bound to say in verse what the newspapers said in prose on the occasion, and to dress up the thoughts of journalists in his own language. And this is only a type of Mr. Tennyson's political position. His ideas appear in general to be those of the majority. He yields to the impulses of the time, or rather of the present, for the week or month often reverses the judgment of the day or hour. Thus he assumes the whole war fervor of 1854 at the end of " Maud," as he afterwards assumes the whole hero-worship of the nation towards the Duke of Wellington and the Prince Consort, to whose memory he dedicates the "Idylls of the King." Among the other poems printed with " Maud" is ,: The Brook," which proves that, in the midst of all his painful endeavors to assimilate his music to that of which Walt Whitman may stand as the symbol, he still cultivated his old ear, and kept up his unrivalled power of idyllic composition. "Maud" seems to be the final outcome of a vein which is certainly not exhausted, but which Mr. Tennyson does not seem able to work with perfect success.
In the "Idylls of the King" he carried to perfection the kind of poetry which had always flowed from him in the happiest mariner. We have seen how many-sided and versatile the idyll becomes in his hands. It is no longer a mere pastoral; but, remaining fundamentally idyllic, it borrows from every other species of poetry, and becomes dramatic, epic, or lyrical as well. The "Idylls of the King" are properly idyllic episodes of the epic of Arthur, and are in themselves far more like cantos of an epic poem than the pretended eleventh book of the supposed "Epic" which was published in 1842. They are however fundamentally idyllic. They all have their centre and their base in love. Each idyll exhibits love in a distinct relation :—the adoring but jealous husband and the perfect wife, in "Enid ;" Solomon snared by the wiles of the harlot, in "Vivien ; " a man so true to his false love that he lets his true tove die of a broken heart, in " Elaine ;" the repentance of the false wife and the Christian forgiveness of the wronged husband, in "Guinevere." There is plenty of action in the stories; but the author, true to his poetic nature, exhibits it as it were through a veil—a dim medium which seems to deprive action of its sudden resolve, and to make it appear simply as the necessarv result of combinations long preparing. The persons drift helplessly into action, instead of being arbiters of their own choice. Thus we get a dream of action instead of its imaged reality. The will is the great test of the waking state : freedom is absent from dream. In dreams character is moulded by circumstances: awake, man is in a great measure independent of circumstance. He builds his character out of circumstance, but is not himself built up by the stones which are only the materials of the edifice. Hence the correlation of dreaminess and fate in poetry. Mr. Tennyson exemplifies in his works this correlation; in order to maintain his ideal stillness in passages so eventful as those of the " Idylls of the King," he is obliged to conduct his personages with closed eyes, by the spells of presentiments and voices which re-echo in their ears, leading them, not against their will, but by compelling their will and making it too strong to assert its own deliberate freedom. Thus when Elaine insists upon going to nurse the wounded Lancelot, her father says to her: