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EVOLUTION AND IMMORTALITY.
years, the meaning of evolution is at length beginning to be understood, and I think that, if Tennyson were now composing In Memoi'iam, he would not add the following stanza to those last quoted.
Let him, the wiser man who springs
But I was bom to other things.
These words have no force except on the supposition that the law of the lower creature remains law for the higher creature that has been developed from it. This is the reverse of the fact. If evolution requires the ape to live as a fish, then evolution may require the man to live as an ape: but if evolution pointedly, peremptorily, scientifically requires every creature to conform to the law of that stage of existence to which it has attained—if it is not proper to the frog to swim in the sea or to the bird to crawl on the clay—then evolution forbids man to be an ape, and stamps with the signet of its approbation, touches with the sceptre of its authority, every one of those appetencies of the moral nature, those passions of the spiritual life, which distinguish man as man. If, therefore, Tennyson were writing In Mcmoriam now, and if his acquaintance with the scientific attainment of his time continues as profound and as accurate, mutatis mutandis, as it was in 1849, he would, I think, substitute, for the unfortunate stanza about the greater ape, an appeal to those men of science who admit that man has risen to a higher platform of being than the ape's, to acknowledge the trustworthiness of that faith in God and that hope of immortality, which the ape has not, but which, Hume' himself being witness, man has, attained to, wherever he is not sunk almost to the brutish level, or has not, let me add, obscured, by fogs of subtle self - sophistication, what Professor 'Huxley calls the ray that visits his spirit from the "infinite Source of truth."
I know not how many pages I should fill if I were to comment upon every passage in this poem in which light is shed on themes of sacred importance, and I must content myself with noting, in the way of brief, imperfect summary, a few of the main positions taken up by the poet. The Creative Power, the Supreme Life of the universe, is Immortal Love, and this is to be worshipped as God. It is approachable, it is knowable, not by analysis of so-called contrivance in nature, not by consideration of eagle's wing, or dissection of insect's eye, but by listening to the voice of the spirit, inarticulate yet intense, reason and conscience blended in faith, the deep " I have felt my Father's presence" of the heart. The Infinite One cannot be fully known; our systems are but "broken lights" of a truth that is inexhaustible. To rest finally in these, therefore, or to substitute them for the God they partly reveal, is to fall into idolatry. Life beyond the grave is guaranteed by its being the complement of our present life; the want of our spiritual nature; the condition of a right and rhythmic human existence. Progress is the law, hope the privilege, of man's life; nor is the striving onward and upward, or the doubt it necessitates, in any measure sinful, but the reverse, if combined with tenderness of regard for all symbols of the Divine that are the object of sincere worship, and with gracious modesty in touching, more perfectly than before, the hem of God's garment. Man's living will, his own inalienably and freely, rising in the " spiritual rock " of his essential manhood, attests his relationship to God, yet without destruction of his individuality. The mystery of freewill man cannot solve ; "our wills are ours, we know not how:" but it is in the exercise of a genuine freedom that he perfects his liberty by conforming it to the law of God; "our wills are ours to make them Thine."
CHANGES IN THE LATER EDITIONS OF IN MEMORIAM.
"^TERY little alteration has been made in the later editions * of In Memoriam, and only one piece of three stanzas, embodying a thought suggested by the yew above Arthur Dallam's grave, has been added. In the outset of the poem the "old yew " had been addressed, and the poet had longed for the "stubborn hardihood" of the "sullen tree." The new stanzas, numbered XXXIX., are among the most obscure in the whole compass of In Memoriam.
01J warder of these buried bones,
And answering now my random stroke
Dark yew, that graspest at the stones
And dippest toward the dreamless head,
To thee, too, comes the golden hour
When flower is feeling after flower;
And darkening the dark graves of men,
And passes into gloom again.
These verses have an interest as illustrating Tennyson's minute attention to natural facts—an attention almost too minute to be followed by ordinary observers. That a smokelike dust rises from yew-foliage in spring when struck with a stick—that flower feels after flower in the golden springtime of love—that the bloom of the yew is a kindling of the tips, as with fine emerald flame, which darkens again into the deep black-grcen of the plant's perpetual mourning—are the facts which he weaves into the symbolism of the poem; and I suppose he means Sorrow to exult over the tree as brightening but for a very little time, and then passing " into gloom again." This may be admirable in respect of truth to nature, and may afford high delight to those who regard it as the perfection of poetry to give play to endless subtlety in the interpretation of imagery into ethies and emotion, but I think the lines abstruse to a fault.
A slight verbal change has been introduced twice or thrice. The three concluding stanzas of No. CXIII. prefigure, under a variety of aspects, the career which Arthur Hallam might have fulfilled if his life had not been cut short.
A life in civic action warm,
A potent voice of Parliament,
Should licensed boldness gather force,
Becoming, when the time has birth,
A lever to uplift the earth
With many shocks that come and go,
With agonies, with energies,
With overthrowings, and with cries.
The "many shocks" of the last verse become in recent editions the "thousand shocks"—a clear improvement, both because "thousand" is more specific than "many," and because a slight yet real charm is added by the association of the reader's ideas with Shakspeare's " thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to."
"I wake, I rise;" such was the first introduction to No. C.; it now is, " I climb the hill;" and the appropriateness of the
change is manifest, for from the summit to which the poet climbs can best be seen the "landscape underneath," the various features of which—the gray old grange, the lonely fold, the morass with its whispering reeds, the knoll of ash and hawthorn, the quarry on the hill-side, " haunted by the wrangling daw," the pastoral rivulet winding through the meadow —are detailed in the succeeding stanzas.
More important, as touching, though slightly, on the meaning, and not merely upon its poetical presentation, is the substitution of "sacred wine" for "sacramental wine" in No. XXXVIL "Dear to me," says the poet, "as sacred wine" is all that the dead friend had said. "Sacred" is the larger and more generous word of the two, farther removed than "sacramental" from suggestions of ecclesiastical partisanship.
In No. XXIV. the second stanza used to run as follows:
If all was good and fair we met,
This earth had been the Paradise
It never look'd to human eyes,
The later version has been thus modified:
If all were good and fair we met,
This earth had been the Paradise
It never look'd to human eyes,
One might almost fancy that Tennyson had a grudge against Adam. We saw that, in one of the early poems, he changed him from the "grand old gardener" into the mere "gardener Adam," and here he dismisses him from the verse altogether. The change, however, in the present instance, is for the better. There is no passage within the range of holy writ on which theological ingenuity has more daringly operated than the account of the garden of Eden and the fall of Adam. A particular school of theology has laid so much stress on its doctrine