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echoes, nothing-worth." Francis Allen had picked this, the eleventh, from the hearth, and kept it for his friend, " the parson Holmes." Whether the eleven Books said to have been burned had any other than an imagined existence, I cannot tell; but the Mortc D'Arthur is much more closely modelled on Homer than any of those Idyls of the King into which it was subsequently fitted. Not only in the language is it Homeric, but in the design and manner of treatment. The concentration of the interest on the hero, the absence of all modernism in the way of love-story or passion-painting, the martial clearness, terseness, brevity of the narrative, with definite specification, at the same time, of detail, are exquisitely true to the Homeric pattern. In some places the language reads like actual translation. Sir Bedivere, when Arthur sent him to cast the brand Excalibur into the mere, gazed upon the jewelled hilt and stood,
This way and that dividing the swift mind,
That is exactly what Homer would have said. The knight, taking np Arthur to carry him to the barge,
Swiftly strode from ridge to ridge,
These are, indeed," Homeric echoes," and they prepare us to find that the few lines which Tennyson has translated from the
* I have to thank a correspondent for calling my attention to the fact that this expression, which certainly has a most Homeric sound, is neither more nor less than a literal translation of Virgil's line, Atijue ammum nunc hue Celeron, nunc dieidit illuc. Tennyson has paid much attention to the Mantuan imitator of Homer, nis superb line, What time the mighty moon was gathering light, in Love and Death, is obviously an echo of Virgil's Luna, revertaUes quum primum colligil ignes.
Iliad are perhaps the finest translation in the language. It will be no digression to quote them here—they cannot be divided.
ThE Night Bivouac Under The Walls Of Troy.
So Hector spake; the Trojans roar'd applause;
Iliad, VIII. 542-5C1.
I should pronounce these lines, so far as I am able to judge, quite faultless, but for the omission of the leathern thongs with which the horses were bound to the cars. Homer could no more have forgotten the stout leathern thongs by which all risk of a stampede in the night was avoided, than Carlyle could forget the Spanish snuff on Frederick's blue coat with red facings. If, however, Tennyson took time to translate one of the great Books of the Iliad in this fashion, we might have some experience in England of the fiery enthusiasm with which the Greeks delighted in their Homer.
I have often grudged the devotion of so much of Tennyson's energy to manipulation of the Arthurian legends. The singer who does not speak to the heart of his own time may be a most entertaining artist, but is not a poetic seer, vested with the authority proper to such. He may delight the eye with forms of beauty moulded as delicately as those of antique gems, or please the ear with fairy tales, but he will not be a law-giver in the household. Tennyson has always been aware of this. "Nature," he says, " brings not back the Mastodon," nor man the modes and habitudes of other times; and his reason for printing the Mortc D'Arthur was not because it was Homeric, but because "some modern touches here and A-'" there redeemed it from the charge of nothingness." In his final dedication, also, to Queen Victoria, of the Idyls of the King, he is careful to point out that he has not meant the interest to be antiquarian, but present and perennial. The poem, he says, is
New-old, and shadowing Sense at war with Soul
Having, in addition to the occasional readings of many years, gone again carefully over the whole of the Idyls, I must, for my own part, confess that all grudgings and regrets have melted away in their splendor and fascination; and that, though the subject is liable to objections perhaps unanswerable, though the quality of the poetry in some places, owing to this faultiness of subject, sinks from the elevation of epic style, and tends toward the quaint and the archaic, though in some parts we seem to be looking upon exquisite poetic pantomime, and in some upon the fantastic extravagances of religious mania; yet, take them all in all, they form an inestimable addition to English literature.
The Coming of Arthur is a mere introduction to the Books that follow; useful, somewhat tiresome, happily brief. Gareth and Lynette is a tale which Mr. Morris would have handled felicitously; it is dainty reading; but Tennyson seems to me to be in it still only half in earnest. Ingenious readers find profound allegorical meanings in this piece, but I am not sure that those meanings do not belong to them as much as to the poet. At all events, he here sets before us in one or two effective lines the appearance of Arthur's Court when the Roundtable was in the beauty of its morning. The "long-vaulted hall" is filled with
The splendor of the presence of the King
his proudly loyal knights around him. Gareth saw
In all the listening eyes
Arthur tells Gareth that his knights
Are sworn to vows
We are thus enabled to form an idea of Arthur's scheme of beating his foes and enuobling his subjects, by means of a brotherhood of dauntless and heroic knights constituting the Round-table; which idea accompanies us throughout the successive Books of the poem. All this is real enough; but the notion of Gareth, a prince by birth, serving as a kind of male Cinderella, and the character of his adventures in subduing the absurd creatures against whom he fights in the interest of Ly
nette, throw us back into fairy-land. The portrait of Lynette is brightly touched:
A damsel of high lineage, and a brow
Quite in keeping with her tip-tilted nose and hawk-eyes are her petulant, testy ways with her true knight, whom, on account of his apprenticeship in the kitchen, she haughtily repels, holding her tip-tilted nose with finger and thumb when he comes near, by way of hinting that he brings with him airs from the lower regions.
Gcraint and his submissive Enid are more real than Garcth and his intractable Lynette, and memorable lines occur here and there in the Book, as those spoken of the villagers by Gcraint, to which Tennyson calls our attention by giving them, with slight modification,twice over:
They take the rustic murmur of their bourg
In the morbid suspicion and crazy jealousy of Geraint, we are probably intended to discern the first adumbration of those clouds and storms which are gradually to blot out the whole glory of the Round-table. The existence of mortal taint is fully revealed in the next Book, which contains the triumph of Vivien over Merlin. In respect of power Tennyson has never surpassed the description of the guilty loves of Merlin and Vivien. Byron has done nothing in passion-painting to equal this piece; and those crities who say that Tennyson writes for women, whereas Byron wrote for men, might learn from it that it is not because he is unable to depict the unhallowed raptures of desecrated love that Tennyson has shunned subjects which attracted Byron, but because he is still more at