페이지 이미지

in literature who is nearly his counterpart; but the raven had some dignity, and was not so intensely egotistical, so profoundly selfish, as this ungainly, gaunt, and ominous Radical."

The verse quoted has always seemed to me very bad, and I am not sure that the unlikelihood of Maud's loving such a man is much exaggerated. But in the passage now added a potent reason is assigned why Maud should be attracted toward the solitary, why she should sympathize with his distress, understand his brooding indignation with things in general, and give him the opportunity of making her acquainted with that better nature which lies indestructible beneath his repellent manners. When Maud's mother was dying, aud she and her brother hung over the bed, she, the mother, had said something which left an indelible impression upon Maud's mind:

She said,
When only Maud and the brother
Hung over her dying bed—
That Maud's dark father and mine
Had bound us one to the other,
Betrothed us over their wine,
On the day when Maud was born;
Seal'd her mine from her first sweet breath.
Mine, mine by a right, from birth till death.
Mine, mine—our fathers have sworn.

This bond had been dissolved by the suicide of one of the fathers, in a state of madness induced by the ruin brought upon him by the dishonorable conduct of the other; but Maud had always nursed the idea that it was her duty, for her mother's sake, to be reconciled to the son of the suicide, and while he was gloomily cursing the family of his father's destroyer, Maud was kneeling in foreign churches praying that they might be friends. This accounts for everything; varies the interest and deepens the pathos of the poem; is, in one word, masterly. The love of Maud is no longer unintelligible.

[blocks in formation]

I need not linger on what remains of the poem. The brother and the enamored lord surprise Maud and her lover at a secret interview. A duel between the brother and the lover follows, and, as Aytoun said, procumbit hum* bos, the dandy-despot falls. This brings back over the sky of the hero darkness thicker than had formerly wrapped it. A new verse definitely ^ informs us that Maud dies—the fact could previously be but guessed at . The mind of her lover, never very firm, now gives way completely, and when he next opens his mouth to sing, he is a moaning invalid over whom there seem to have passed long years of grief and pain, He is haunted by a phantom, that reminds him of Maud, but cannot be recognized for her:

A shadow flits before me,

Not thou, but like to thee:

Ah Christ, that it were possible

For one short hour to sec

The souls we loved, that they might tell us

What and where they be.

A period of wilder lunacy succeeds. He fancies himself dead and buried, and yet, with the contradictory persuasions of frenzy, that he is with others in an asylum, or, perhaps, with a company of dead men in some unimaginable place:

See, there is one of us sobbing,

Xo limit to his distress;

And another, a lord of all tilings, praying

To his own great self, as I guess;

And another, a statesman there, betraying

His party secret, fool, to the press;

And yonder a vile physician, blabbing

The case of his patient—all for what?

To tickle the maggot born in an empty head,

And wheedle a world that loves him not,

For it is but a world of the dead.

He wails and raves, cursing the "wrctchedest age since time began," that cannot even "bury a man;" while now and then the thought of Maud comes in like a gleam of pallid light, a strain of melancholy music.

In Part III. he is sane and calm, capable of sympathizing with the high ambition of a people resolute to do justice, and glad that England, in the Crimean war, has undertaken to wreak God's wrath " on a giant liar," and that there flames along the Baltic deep "the blood-red blossom of war with a heart of fire."

Last of all, six lines are added, in which the meaning and moral of the poem are grandly summed up.

Let it flame or fade, and the war roll down like a wind,
We have proved we have hearts in a cause, we are noble still,
And myself have awaked, as it seems, to the better mind;
It is better to fight for the good than to rail at the ill:
I have felt with my native land, I am one with my kind,
I embrace the purpose of God, and the doom assign'd.

Instead of calling Maud, as we now have it, a failure, I should pronounce it well worthy of Tennyson's genius.



TT is from the publication, in two volumes, in 1842, of the early poems in the form which they have since, on the whole, until quite recently, retained, and of English Idyls and additional pieces, that the world-wide range and firm establishment of Tennyson's reputation are to be dated. With great judgment and self-control, he put aside comparatively weak and questionable matter, a lafge portion of which had been pointed out by Christopher North—dressing his line of battle like a skilful general, for the decisive charge. When thirty years more had gone by, he was able to replace in his volumes not a little of what had, in 1842, been excluded — as troops might be admitted to a festive review, or triumphant march into the capital, which had not been trusted in the crisis of the campaign. It would have been well—I cannot help remarking as I pass—for the fame of his reviewer if a similar process had been applied to his own works. Professor Wilson had great genius and rich culture; he impressed Scott as fitted to become the foremost man of his time, and awoke enthusiasm in the more severely critical mind of Carlyle; his writings abound with imaginative exuberance, pathetic tenderness, and picturesque beauty: but he composed with immense haste; had no idea, as is memorably evinced in his critique on Tennyson, when he began an article, of what he might say before he got to the end; and availed himself, for the sake of present effect, of any triviality, jest, political squabble, or social fashion which flitted across the public stage at the moment. The consequence is that the Noctes Ambrosiance, to which Wilson's contemporaries never referred save in terms of positive eestasy, has, as a whole, become unreadable by the present generation, nor am I sure that even the selection from it by so qualified a hand as Mr. Skelton's will escape oblivion; while the critical and descriptive essays, though redolent of life and brightness, and containing "rural pictures" which, says Ebenezcr Elliot, " before God, I believe have lengthened my days on earth," have many passages which weaken the general impression.

And yet ^Yilson was professionally a critic. So rare is the combination of a consummate critical faculty with great productive genius. Tennyson has proved himself to be possessed of both. I am far from sure, however, that his emendations of his early poems have been uniformly felicitous. He appears to me to have sometimes forgdtten what was due to the feelings under which he first wrote—the legitimate jurisdiction and authority, within limits, over the text, of that fervor of inspiration which originally gushed forth in song. In the first version of Clara Vere de Vere, for example, there is this stanza:

Trust me, Clara Vere de Vere,
From you blue heavens above us bent,

The grand old gardener and his wife
Smile at the claims of long descent.

These words came glowing from Tennyson's heart, and the third line took the car of the world, and obtained domicile in current literature wherever the English tongue is spoken. In recent editions it runs thus—

The gardener Adam and his wife,

a line which, formally unexceptionable though it may be, would hardly have struck the general imagination like the other.

In the later version of A Dream of Fair Women, a much more important alteration occurs. In that poem, one of Tennyson's masterpieces, there is a description of the death of Iphi

« 이전계속 »