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being dissimilar in their energy of faith. Both were holy men, consecrated to a holy work. "Of the results of his work in the Chinese field, it is difficult to speak. Undoubtedly his life there was far more powerful as an influence than an agency. It was not so much by what he said or by what he did, as by what he was, that he made his presence felt over so wide a surface of that vast land." In these days, when the work of foreign missions seems to languish, the example of this fearless Pauline missionary is stimulating and salutary.

BELLES LETTRES.

Tennyson's Holy Gra.il, And Other Poems.*—The mediajval legends of the Arthurian cycle seem to have had a peculiar interest and attraction for the mind of Tennyson. It is said that in his youth he formed the plan of composing an epic poem, extended and comprehensive, with King Arthur for its hero. In the collection of his poems published in 1843, there was a piece entitled "Morte d'Arthur," which was understood to be a fragment of the intended epic, and destined to form, in whole or in part, its closing canto. But nearly thirty years have passed, and the brilliant piece is still only a fragment. Perhaps the poet found his subject wanting in the unity of action and interest required for epic composition Perhaps he distrusted himself, doubting whether his powers of construction and development were sufficient for a great narrative poem. At all events, he has contented himself with working up detached incidents and episodes of the great story. Four of these, entitled "Enid," "Vivien," "Elaine," and "Guinevere," make up the book called "Idylls of the King," which appeared in 1859. And now four others, "The Coming of Arthur," "The Holy Grail," "Pelleas and Ettare," and "The Passing of Arthur," are found in the volume before us, and form about three-fourths of its contents. Only the last of these pieces is not wholly new; it consists of the "Morte d' Arthur," just mentioned, with a prefixed description of the battle in Lyonnesse, "that last weird battle in the West," ending with the single combat of Arthur and Modred, in which the latter is slain outright, and the former mortally wounded.

The maxim that "to the pure all things are pure" is strikingly illustrated in our poet's treatment of these Arthurian legends. The easy-going morality of the mediaeval story-tellers, their light tone of mockery, their gay and riant disregard of moral restraints, all this disappears under the hands of the modern reciter. Here the moral element is uppermost. The pleasant vices of men meet with no indulgence or tenderness. The ruinous effects of lawless passion are painted in the darkest colors. The very conception of his theme makes the poet a preacher of righteousness. It is the grand aim of his royal hero to be the founder of a society in which purity, justice, equity, charity, and every other virtue, shall be exercised and exemplified, which shall redress all injuries, reform all abuses, and change the face of the world. Such was the purpose of his Round Table, "that goodliest fellowship of famous knights, whereof this world holds record." But this hoped for paradise was lost through the weakness of its Eve. Queen Guinevere was the loveliest and most gracious of mortal women; but she could not appreciate the transcendent greatness and nobleness of her lord, and had no sympathy for his lofty and far-reaching aims. Her affections became fixed upon Lancelot, the stoutest of Arthur's knights, a man brave and generous-minded, capable of high aspiration, capable of keen remorse, but without moral energy and steadiness. The guilty passion of Lancelot and Guinevere is the fatal cancer which eats away the strength and soundness of the Arthurian society, and at last destroys its existence.

* The Holy Grail, and other Poemt. By Alfred Tennyson, D. C. L., Poet Laureate. Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co. 1870. 12mo. pp.202. VOL. XXIX. 23

Among the legends of the Round Table there is one which by its own nature is specially adapted to moral uses, such as our poet has in view. We refer to the story of the Holy Grail, the cup used by our Lord in his institution of the Eucharist,—or, as Sir Peroivale describes it, when, having exchanged the helmet for the cowl, he tells the story to an old brother of his convent:

"The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
Drank at the last sad supper with his own.
This, from the blessed land of Aromat—
After the day of darkness, when the dead
Went wandering o'er Moriah, the good faint,
Arinnithivan Joseph, journeying brought
To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn
Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord.
And there awhile it bode; and if a man
Could touch or see it, he was heal'd at once,

By faith, of all his ills; but then the times

Grew to such evil that the Holy cup

Was caught away to Heaven and disappear'd."

Now it chanced that a holy nun, sister of Percivale, had an ecstatic vision of the Grail, and, by reporting this, excited the hope that the lost treasure might be recovered, "and all the world be healed." Then a sudden and strange appearance awak. ened the enthusiasm of Arthur's knights, and the best among them vowed a vow to spend a twelvemonth and a day in quest of the Holy Grail. Arthur, who was not present at the time, heard of the act with disapproval and regret, foreseeing the dangers and evils that would come of it, but did not interfere to prevent the fulfilment of the vow. In the quest which followed, the only successful seekers were Galahad, Percivale, Bors, and Lancelot. The last, on account of his secret sin, obtained only a troubled and doubtful glimpse of the object sought. Galahad, the maiden knight, whose heart was pure, enjoyed the fullness of the beatific vision, but with it passed away from earth into} the heavenly world. Percivale, who followed him, and had a distant view of the Grail, lost all relish for an earthly life and resolved to spend his remaining days in a cloister. In describing the adventures of these knights, our author has lavished all his wealth of imagination and expression. We quote the ending of Galahad, as told by his companion, Percivale:

"There rose a hill that none but man could climb,
Scarred with a hundred wintry watercourses —
Storm at the top, and, wheu we gaiu'd it, storm
Round us and death; for every moment glanced
His silver arms and gloom'd: so quick and thick
The lightnings here and there to left and right
Struck, till the dry old trunks about us, dead,
Yea, rotten with a hundred years of death,
Sprang into fire; and at the base we found
On either hand, as far as eye could see,
A great black swamp and of an evil smell,
Part black, part whitened with the bones of men.
Not to be crost save that some ancient king
Had built a way, where, linked with many a bridge,
A thousand piers ran into the Great Sea.
And Galahad fled along them bridge by bridge,
And every bridge as quickly as he crost
Sprang into fire and vanished, tho' I yearn'd

To follow; and thrice above him all the heavens
Open'd and blazed with thunder such as seem'd
Shoutings of all the sons of God; and first
At once I saw him far on the great sea,
In silver-shining armor starry -clear;

And o'er hia head the holy vessel hung

Redder than any rose, a joy to me,

For now I knew the veil had been withdrawn.

Then in a moment when they blazed again

Opening, I saw the host of little stars

Down on the waste, and straight beyond the star

I saw the spiritual city and all her spires

And gateways in a glory like one pearl,

No larger, tho' the goal of all the saints.

Strike from the sea; and from the star there shot

A rose-red sparkle to the city, and there

Dwelt, and I knew it was the Holy Grail,

Which never eyes on earth again shall see."

It is evident that in this quest of the Holy Grail, Tennyson intends to symbolize the conduct of those who forsake the tasks that lie in their path, the necessary labors of life and society, to pursue a distant and lofty good, a virtue and excellence beyond the reach of common men. All who seek salvation for themselves or for the world by turning aside from the honest, faithful discharge of immediate and clearly indicated duties, may lay to heart the teachings of this poem. These teachings are best seen in the closing words of King Arthur:

'• And spake I not too truly, O my knights?
Was I too dark a prophet, when I said
To those who went upon the Holy Quest
That most of them would follow wandering fires.
Lost in the quagmire,—lost to me and gone,
And left me gazing at a barren board,
And a lean order—scarce return'd a tithe—
And out of those to whom the vision came
My greatest hardly will believe he saw;
Another hath beheld it afar off,
And leaving human wrongs to right themselves.
Cares but to pass into the silent life.
And one hath had the vision face to face,
And now his chair desires him here in vain,
However they may crown him otherwhere.
And some among you hold that if tho king
Had seen the sight he would have sworn the Tow:

Not easily, seeing that the king most guard
That which he rules, and is but as the hind
To 'whom a space of land is given to plough.
Who may not wander from the allotted field
Before his work be done; but, being done,
Let visions of the night or of the day
Come, as they will; and many a time they come.
Until this earth he walks on seems not earth,
This light that strikes his eye-ball is not light,
This air that smites his forehead is not air
But vision."'

There has been of late a good deal of discussion as to whether Tennyson is really a great poet. A critic in the (London) Quarterly Review has undertaken to reduce the poet to his true dimensions. He finds him not to be a master in science and philosophy, and says that when he touches on social and political questions, he does it with much candor but little success. It can hardly be expected, even of great poets, that they should be preeminent in these departments. But if it be the poet's duty to "watch what main currents draw the age" (the language is Tennyson's), we think that few have discharged it more faithfully and truly. The tendencies of advanced thought and the movements of society in the present age are, it seems to us, reflected with extraordinary vividness and force in some of his poems, particularly in his marvellous "In Memoriam." That he does not staud aloof from the social progress of the time is abundantly shown by "The Princess:" twenty-five years ago, when as yet the woman question was scarcely heard of, he felt its coming power and importance. But the critic to whom we refer has a heavier charge to bring. Tennyson, he tells us, is wanting in dramatic power. How many of England's great poets are not liable to the same imputation? Not Spenser, certainly, nor Milton (though some of his works are dramatic in form), nor Byron, nor Wordsworth. There are many who regard Browning as a dramatic genius; but the introspective monologues in which his persons go through a kind of self-dissection, an elaborate analysis of their feelings and motives, are very different from those truly dramatic works where the persons manifest their characters unconsciously in words and actions. That Tennyson does not regard himself as gifted with this faculty may be presumed from the fact that, while he has tried his powers in many directions, he has abstained wholly from dramatic composition. But one who had not a ,'profound insight

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