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that incessant friction has sharpened their wits! The great town is cosmopolitan; all ideas start into life; there is no barrier, no prescribed course, to restrain the flights of the mind. Neither in Church nor in State have they any faith; the one and the other is for them but a show (on ne les regarde qWa la fafon a"un spectacle). All great questions are subject to doubt and discussion. In the conflict of opinion every one must make his faith for himself; and as this is practically an endless business, every mind lies open to all incertitudes. In the hollow void tuns formed, dreams, theories, fantasies, chase each other like/ »louds.'
Such is the world of which Alfred de Musset was the poet. He must be read in Paris. The localities of his poems arc familiar to every Parisian, and the spirit and sentiments of the Parisian crowd vibrate in every line. Its impetuous passions, its feverish joys, its wild agonies, its aspirations, its dreams, qre reflected in his verse. "What! so young and already so weary! So many precious gifts, a wit so fine, a tact so delicate, a fancy so mobile and so rich, a renown so early, a blooming out so suddenly of beauty and of genius, and at the samo instant anguish, disgust, tears, and cries! What a mixture! With the same gesture he adores and curses. The eternal illusion, the invincible experience, arc in him side by side, to combat and rend each other. He is old, and, at the same time, young; a poet and yet a sceptic. The Muse and her pacific beauty, Nature and her immortal freshness, Love and its happy smile, all the procession of Divine visions, had hardly passed before his eyes, when they were followed by the spectres of debauchery and of death, pouring out maledictions and sarcasms." All this is terrible and sad, and from this poet of the ghastly tumult of Paris, we turn to that other singer who, "down there in the Isle of Wight," amidst his roses and his honeysuckles, amuses himself with singing of Adelines and sleeping beauties, of Arthur and the Round-table. It is very ALFRED DE MUSSET.
pretty, and the audience of the English laureate is more distinguished than the aristocratie de bourgeois et de bohemes that rejoices in the poet of Paris; "but," says M. Taine, " I like Alfred de Mnssct better than Tennyson."
M. Taine may claim to speak with authority of France, and I have no doubt that his picture of Paris and his description of the Parisian school of poetry may be relied upon as accurate; but it was not to be expected that he should see so deeply into England, and while admitting that there is a good deal of truth in his sketch of English life, with its elegance and comfort, I must insist that it falls far short of the whole truth. Even what truth there is in the presentation of Tennyson, as the poet of the cultivated and comfortable classes of England at the present day, falls away from it if applied to the England of fifty years ago. Tennyson has educated his public. When he appeared, a few were attracted, a much larger number were repelled, but all admitted that the music was new. It may be doubted whether many country gentlemen read him even now. He began his poetical career in England at almost exactly the same time when Alfred de Musset began to publish in France. The poetical position of both men was determined by their relation to that extraordinary genius who had made the whole European world his audience a few years before. Like Carlyle in prose, Tennyson in poetry represents a triumphant reaction against the spirit and influence of Byron. Alfred de Musset, on the other hand, was the poetical child of Byron. I do not presume to pronounce upon his merits as a whole, but from what I know of his writings, I should hold it fair to describe him as a less earnest, less sagacious, less able Byron, superior, probably, in some poetical qualities, to his model, but greatly his inferior in strength. It is, indeed, remarkable that the Byronic school, having died out quickly and utterly in the land of its birth, should have flourished vigorously in France.
The question of essential importance, however, is whether it was Tennyson or Alfred de Musset that went to the purer fount of inspiration, whether it was the accepted poet of France or the accepted poet of England, that based his reputation upon the nobler originality, the deeper and stabler truth. Byron was the poet of rebellion; and in their own place and time, rebellion and revolution are indispensable. You must storm the batteries of old error, oppression, falsehood, before you can lay bare a foundation for the new temple of truth. A revolutionary process has been going on in our general European system for upward of a hundred years, a process involving enormous demolition; and if any one reflects for a moment on the number of infamous and cruel laws, class privileges, effete institutions, pernicious dogmas, which in that time have been swept from the face of the earth, and from the heaven of man's spirit, he will find reason to conclude that this revolutionary demolition has been salutary and beneficent. But far more difficult than the work of demolition is the work of construction; and it is to constructive work that the greatest poets, thinkers, and men of science in the last fifty years have been more and more addressing themselves. Granted that all falsehood and superstition must be cist aside, that kings and priests, if they are to exist at all, must, like the Sabbath, exist for man—What then? Is there any truth that will endure? Are there any laws in accordance with which society can be rightly constituted? M. Taine does not allege that Alfred de Musset professed or attempted to answer such questions. There is, indeed, a living French poet who has attempted to answer them, and I confess to being somewhat surprised that M. Taine, in selecting from the French poets of the century a rival to Tennyson, did not mention one who seems to me incomparably greater than De Musset—Victor Hugo. To rear the edifice of a reconstituted society is a task which Hugo expressly undertakes, proudly claiming for himself to have conTHE FILLARS OF SOCIETY.
tributed something toward setting up two of its chief pillars— "respect for the old, and love for children." But it is not to the streets of Paris, glaring with the lights of cafe and theatre, that Victor Hugo would send the poet for a true inspiration; nor would he accept it as the task of the poetic seer to minister new excitement to forlorn profligates, whose faces arc wrinkled and heads bald at thirty. His counsel to the poet is to go to the woods and the shores, and to beat out the music of his verse in tune with the song of the leaves, and the hymn of the waves; or, to take it in his own bright, melodious French:
Va dans les bois, va sur les plages;
Compose tes chants inspires
Et l'hymne des flots azures!
Adopting Hugo's imagery, I should say that, among the pillars of a reconstituted society which Tennyson has labored to set up, the most conspicuous have been responsibility to God and reverent trust in the Supreme; faithfulness and constancy in the marriage relationship; mutual affection and mutual fitness, in contradistinction to worldly advantage, as the terms and motives of the marriage tie; love of mankind, love of country, enthusiasm for knowledge, faith in freedom, hope of immortality. A stable and happy society in which these, or at least most of them, should not be found, is the dream of sheer delirium, and any "liberty" which should permit them to be trodden down would but unchain the brute elements in human nature, to tear and rend each other in the slime of a devastated civilization. I do not, of course, affirm that society must be constituted as our present society is constituted. 1'lato, in his Republic, sketches a very different order of society from ours, but in his scheme also license and disorder are absolutely put down. The day has gone by when civilized nations can undergo the discipline of political or ecclesiastical slavery; but it is essential to their well-being that the discipline of freedom, the discipline of virtue, the discipline of justice, truth, and law, should succeed the discipline of slavery. Tennyson has been the foe of conventionality, and has cut sharp and deep into "the social lies that warp us from the living truth;" as M. Taine admits, he has been the partisan of no ecclesiastical system; but Carlyle himself has not looked with loftier disdain upon those ravings of the Satanic school, according to which the coming race is to obliterate all moral codes, and to pig in sensual brutishness amidst the crumbling debris of the sanctuary and the home.
M. Taine has all the right in the world to prefer Alfred de Musset to Tennyson, but I cannot recognize the justice of his application to Tennyson of the term " dilettante." To be scrupulously fair, indeed, I must say that he does not give Tennyson this name directly. Alfred de Musset, he tells us, " was not a mere dilettante, content with tasting and enjoying;" and as he is expressly contrasting the French with the English poet, we cannot help feeling that he intends to imply that Tennyson is what De Musset was not. A dilettante poet I take to be one who puts together his poems and polishes them up verse by verse, in the spirit in which a virtuoso collects cups or vases, for the pleasure of looking at them, and the vanity of being known to possess them, without any view to expressing truth or benefiting mankind. Once or twice Tennyson may have written in this mood. The Day-dream, perfect as is its workmanship, is little more than a play of fancy, light and brilliant as the tints of sunlight in foam. If its delightfulness is not enough to wan-ant its production, as I believe it to be, the poet has no better apology for producing it. But in general Tennyson writes with deep and solemn purpose, and it ought to have occurred to M. Taine that an English poet might be as sincere and earnest in celebrating a pure morality as a Parisian poet in revelling in paradox, extravagance, and vice. Tenny