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Milton, in singing of his friend, tells us how he himself loved to pass his mornings.
For we were nursed upon the self-same hill,
Fed the same flock by fountain, shade, and rill;
Together both, ere the high lawns appeared
Under the openiug eyelids of the morn,
Wc drove afield, and both together heard
What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
Battening our flocks with the fresh dews of night,
Oft, till the star, that rose, at evening, bright,
Toward heaven's descent had sloped his westering wheel.
And the intense Puritanism which occupied Milton's mind, and the minds of a vast proportion of Milton's countrymen, in 1637, appears in his finding or making occasion, in lamenting the fate of drowned Lycidas, to summon St. Peter to rebuke the hireling clergy of the day.
Last came, and last did go,
The pilot of the Galilean lake;
Two massy keys he bore of metals twain
(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain),
lIe shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake:
"How well could I have spared for thee, young swain,
Enow of such, as for their bellies' sake
Creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold.
Of other care they little reckoning make,
Thau how to scramble at the shearers' feast,
And shove away the worthy bidden guest;
Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold
A sheep-hook, or have learn'd aught else the least
That to the faithful hcrdman's art belongs!"
The hungry sheep, meanwhile, " look up and are not fed" by the recreant shepherds, while "the grim wolf" or Rome "devours apace." The stern Puritan, however, sees the two-edged sword of St. Michael being unsheathed in the background.
But that two-headed engine at the door
Shelley, too, in describing the poetical mourners round the bier of Keats, gives us a portrait of himself:
'Midst others of less note Rime one frail form,
A phantom among men; companionless
As the last cloud of an expiring storm,
Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,
Had gazed on Nature's naked loveliness,
Actseon-like, and now he fled astray
With feeble steps o'er the world's wilderness,
And his own thoughts, along that rugged way,
Pursued, like raging hounds, their father and their prey.
His head was bound with pansies overblown,
And faded violets, white, and pied, and blue;
And a light spear topped with a cypress cone,
Round whose rude shaft dark ivy-tresses grew
Yet dripping with the forest's noon-day dew,
Vibrated, as the ever-beating heart
Shook the weak hand that grasped it; of that crew
He came the last, neglected and apart;
A herd-abandoned deer, struck by the hunter's dart.
But the scheme of In Memoriam permits Tennyson to speak of himself more than would have been graceful in Milton or Shelley; almost as much, indeed, as of Arthur Hallam; and to dwell as long as he pleases upon the characteristies of his time. In Memoriam, therefore, reflects the second half of the nineteenth century like a mirror. Hallam is not, strictly speaking, the subject of the poem; he has merely furnished the occasion and suggestion of it. About one hundred and thirty pieces, each complete in itself, are knit into a true poetic unity by being set to one key-note, pervaded with one sentiment, colored by one feeling, idea, thought. More is not required of anyone of them than that it should have some relation, even though indirect and distant, to the friendship between Hallam and Tennyson. They thus become to a very large extent autobiographical; and their autobiographical interest is higher
than their biographical in the proportion in which Alfred Tennyson is a more important and interesting person than Arthur Hallam. In point of fact, the weakest parts of In Memoriam — and it was impossible that in a poem of such extent there should not be difference in the quality of parts— arc those which arc devoted exclusively to Arthur. Gifted, noble, and delicate-minded, there is no reason to believe that Tennyson's friend had strength enough to gain, if he had lived, a permanent place in literature. The picture of him in the capacity of oratorical archer, aiming his arrow better than his fellow-debaters, is finely executed.
And last the master bowman, he
Would eleave the mark. A willing ear
The rapt oration flowing free
From point to point, with power and grace
And music in the bounds of law,
To those conclusions when we saw
And seem to lift the form, and glow
In azure orbits heavenly-wise;
And over those ethereal eyes
It is unfortunate, in view of this exfilted description, that the likeness of Arthur Hallam, published in a recent edition of In Memoriam, should be singularly disappointing. Gentle intelligence and refinement are the highest qualities which you can possibly attribute to the original of such a portrait; the want of any reserve of power, any deep thoughtfulness or force, is conspicuous in the face and decisive.
Heart-affluence in discursive talk
From household fountains never dry;
That saw thro' all the Muses' walk.
This we easily believe of the bright youth whose lips wear an ingenuous smile as he looks on the book in his hand; but no such powers can be supposed to slumber under the smooth features as are attributed to Arthur in the next verse.
Seraphic intellect and force
The hearer in its fiery course.
Exaggeration, however, on this point was the most venial of faults in the writer of In Memoriam, and he, I think, must be base indeed who fails to perceive the inimitable marks of sincerity and affection in Tennyson's delineation of his friend. The charm of the autobiographical passages is so exquisite that every reader wishes there had been more of them, and they are introduced with a subtle grace and a deep, unconscious modesty, which exclude any suggestion of egotism. There is more of Tennyson in In Memoriam than of Milton in Lycidas or of Shelley in Adonais, and yet, judging from the respective productions, I should say that Tennyson was less self-centred and egotistical than either Shelley or Milton.
Nothing in the poem is nobler than the introductory stanzas. They contain a brief presentment of several of the most important ideas that emerge in the course of the work.
Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen Thy face,
Believing where we cannot prove.
Belief in foundation-truths rests not upon proof drawn out in articulate logic, but upon convictions, authoritative instincts, judgments of the reason and the conscience, which arc intertwined with the "final, deepest root of the being of man, whereby he grows out of the invisible, and holds on his God
home." This is one of the main propositions which constitute the intellectual framework of the poem. The pout proceeds to express his reverent confidence in God.
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
And Thou has made him: Thou art just .
Thou accrnest human and Divine,
Our wills are ours, to make them Thine.
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of Thee,
Immortal Love, the Divine-human Son of God, is Tennyson's essential conception of the adorable Sovereign of all things. "The highest, holiest manhood, Thou." High and holy manhood is the best realization for us of the Divine, better than all the power, the law, the glory of the world. But Sovereign Love can be seen by faith only. Infinite force is suggested by the material universe; but there is no voice in the breast to tell us that force, even though infinite, deserves worship; not to Power but to Love do we bow down. Love, however, we cannot prove to be infinite. No accumulation of instances of beneficence in the universe could logically warrant us in crowding out or ignoring the instances of pain and anguish wInch abound; nevertheless the Love, whose apparent shortcoming is the problem, the riddle, the maddening mystery of the universe, is diviner than the power. Tennyson disguises no fact in the world of realities. He avoids with innate repugnance that habit of slurring over the evil in nature, and dwelling only upon the good, which lends a character of vacuity