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These strike me as very wonderful stanzas. To express their delicate and subtle meaning in prose would have been too difficult for the great majority of men, and Tennyson expresses it with the utmost possible lucidity in exquisite verse. But the logic of the general argument is not at this point so good as the poetry. It may perplex a captious disputant, but will hardly convince an honest doubter. I think Tennyson might have ventured to buttress it by reference to the Heavenly Friend formerly mentioned, and to the "labor working to an end," which, though "through thick veils," he apprehends in the universe. If, by a process of creative evolution, conducted through uncounted millions of ages, God has matured the spirit, man, until he has been able to look up and sec his Father's face, until he has realized his distinctness from matter and his relationship to God, until he has recognized, as the two supreme realities, the finite spirit, man, and the Infinite Spirit, God, then man may entertain a sure and confident hope that no material dissolution will have power to destroy him, and may believe that his Heavenly Friend, who has revealed himself to man as he has not revealed himself to the beasts of the field, made him immortal when he capacitated him for worship.
The first Voice, though not confessing itself vanquished, now retires from the conflict. The light of the Sabbath morning breaks upon the poet. He releases the casement and sees the people pressing on to the house of God, where each enters "like a weleome guest." The second Voice is now at his ear. It announces "a hidden hope." This idea of a mystery of hope and promise in the world—veiled from us for good reasons for the present—is one that has dwelt deeply in Tennyson's mind. It appears in the "awful rose of dawn" which God makes himself at the end of the Vision of Sin. The last words in the poem before us arc, " Rejoice! Rejoice!"
Such is this extraordinary performance. I have quoted largely, for it would have been quite impossible for me to convey an idea of Tennyson's metaphysical poetry by converting it into the bald propositions of metaphysical prose. But I have not quoted enough to do justice either to the continuity of the reasoning or to the loveliness of the verse. The poem contains nearly 160 stanzas, and I hope that the reader will turn to it for himself, in order to gather up the missing links of the argument and the missing jewels of the poetry.*
* The following letter, which the Rev. Mr. Kirkman, of St. Stephen's, Hampstead, kindly permits me to print, needs little introduction. Having heard, from a common friend, that Mr. Kirkman had talked of my papers on The Two Voices, and knowing, from the experience of a good many years, that his remarks were likely to be racy, I asked him to let me have them in black and white. My readers will, I think, agree with me that they are suggestive and original.
Hampstead, November 29th, 187S.
I fear such kindly-disposed persons as and you would but
commit the mistake of taking sparrows for nightingales or eagles if you gave any heed to casual remarks of mine. It is only because I have always been exceedingly interested in The Two Voices that I ventured to criticise your criticisms, which I had so much gratification in reading. I have often thought of a small volume on that and a few other choice short poems, because I find nothing more beneficial to the mind, or more pleasing, than a thorough searching out of all harmonies contained in one such a poem. It exercises one's ingenuity, and the poet so immensely agrees with one's self! So it is an accident, or else a deep-laid intention, both results of one law of similar thought in reflective minds free of preconceived notions as fixed forever, that a vast portion of The Two Voices is almost verbatim taken from (?) Lucretius and Seneca.
The only two observation* I did not go with (in all humility) are (1) the opening remark about suicide. It is not that—or so nakedly that—the Voice recommends; which would argue that the man was in an unsound state of mind, or bordering on insanity, or In It according to a British jury! Then he was unfit to reason. But tec arc not all of us usually under this impulse; and I suppose Two Voices to be what more or less goes on in every reflective mind in the present day. That is, Hamlet's To be or not to be!—the general conflict between the value and worthlessness of life. I should say the Two Voices are the Intellect and the Heart. Voice No. 2 always, or almost, gives emotional replies; the other dry intellectual arguments. Besides, you cannot help Agreeing with Voice Vo. 1, only less than you do with Voice Vo. 2. This must ever be the state of the human mind, or until far higher stages in this evolution of us and ours! Especially, InTHE TWO VOICES.
Mortality is an emotional longing, and not an inlellectital conviction. And so the argument for it is distinctly conducted by the "main battery" as you call it. We know Cleombrotus for one committed suicide because of his boundless joy at the thought of immortality. Hut my hesitation No. 2 was about "the elements were kindlier mixed." This is not the circumstances; for they could not be worse than in Stephen's case: but it was his physical and mental construction fed and met by the new Truth in Christ, which Galen distinctly calls rpairio, and the Latins, after the Greeks, harmonia. This is why gentle and lymphatic physical constitutions take life and its problems so gently—
"Gently conies the world to those
and we sanguine constitutions (like your poor servant) care too much about truth and its issues, and things in general. But the highest natures combine these two peculiarities in a Kpaair or apuovta—like Make, Spinoza, Stephen—just the op/mite of Schopenhauer, Heine, Swift, Fichte (?), Carlyle, and those great minds not kindly mixed. Forgive my preaching. But, after all, emotion, the weakest, yet triumphs, and its conclusions of Jot And Trust are what gives strength to the intellect, and leads, like the little child leading the bear, or In Memoriam, Xo. 114.
But I suggest, As A Churchman, that T7ie Two Voices was evidently a glorious dire (dear) penalty for lying in bed and oversleeping himself on a Sunday morning, and not getting up in time to go to church! If at E minutes toll those sweet three had looked np at him in return, and seen him drawing up the blinds in his chcinisc-fle-nuit,they would have "blessed" him with the advice to come and hear our dear minister, and you will be told all the truth, with the additional advantage of Infallibility. I am so sorry I troubled you; but I do heartily appreciate your intense admiration of that which is my first favorite poem.
Yours very sincerely, J. Kirkman.
On this I make but three observations :—First, that the question taken up at the outset of the poem is explicitly suicide or not suicide, which question, involving as it does nice ethical, social, and theological considerations, was thought worthy of careful meditation by Shakspeare, Goethe, and Hume; second, that when I speak of the "circumstances" of Stephen, I mean all the conditions of the case, including, as highly important, those referred to by Mr. Kirkman; and, third, that I cannot admit the argument from evolution in favor of immortality to be merely emotional.
CENONE, TUK LOTOS-EATEK8, ULYSSES, SIMEON 8TYLITES.
T HAVE dwelt so long upon a few poems that I must guard myself against being supposed to overlook or to underrate a number of pieces which I may not have been able to consider. Many of these are of the very highest excellence, and would repay analysis line by line. (Enone, The May Queen, The Gardener's Daughter, Tithonus, Godiva, The Lotos-Eaters, Ulysses, Lucretius, St. Simeon Stylites, Galahad, The Day Dream, are all, in their widely-varying fashions, masterly.
Ginonc was a Nymph of Ida loved by Paris, the son of Priam and Hecuba, King and Queen of Troy, before he decided between the rival goddesses in their strife about the golden apple. Aphrodite, to whom he adjudged the prize, having promised to give him the most beautiful woman in the world to wife, he deserted Ginone, and went to Greece to woo Helen. Tennyson shows us GJnone among the crags of Ida musing upon her sad history and faithless lover. Consummately beautiful as is the poem, it nevertheless illustrates the extreme difficulty, if not impossibility, of effecting a genuine resuscitation of antiquity in modern literature. The same remark applies to Goethe's Iphigenie auf Tauris, a work which, in the serenity and tenderness of its tone, recalls OEnone, though its much larger extent and dramatic form preclude minute resemblance. Goethe's heroine is a wise, gentle, blueeyed, golden-haired German girl; Tennyson's is an English young lady; in both poems the vein of sentiment is distinctively modern. Ginonc wails melodiously for Paris without MODERN CLASSICISM.
the remotest suggestion of fierceness or revengeful wrath. She does not upbraid him for having preferred to her the fairest and most loving wife in Greece, but wonders how any one could love him better than she does.
Most loving is she?
A Greek poet would have used his whole power of expression to instil bitterness into her resentful words. The classic legend, instead of representing Ginone as forgiving Paris, makes her nurse her wrath throughout all the anguish and terror of the Trojan War. At its end, her Paris comes back to her. Deprived of Helen, a broken and baffled man, he returns from the smoking ruins of his native Troy, and entreats (Enone to heal him of a wound which, unless she lends her aid, must be mortal. GJnone gnashes her teeth at him, refuses him the remedy, and lets him die. In the end, no doubt, she falls into remorse, and kills herself—this is quite in the spirit of classic legend; implacable vengeance, soul-sickened with its own victory, dies in despair. That forgiveness of injuries could be anything but weakness—that it could be honorable, beautiful, brave—is an entirely Christian idea; and it is because this idea, although it has not yet practically conquered the world, although it has indeed but slightly modified the conduct of nations, has, nevertheless, secured recognition as ethically and socially right, that Tennyson could not hope to enlist the sympathy and admiration of his readers for his GSnone, if he had cast her image in the tearless bronze of Pagan obduracy.
It is not impossible that our newest school of classical renaissance, guiltless as it is of any tincture of Christian sentiment or sympathy, may restore certain tones of the Pagan