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THAT a new king should arise over Egypt, which knew not Joseph," was but the natural order of events. The wonder is that nothing less than the death of one Pharaoh, and the succession of another, could oust a favorite from his position. Statesman or author, that public man is fortunate, who does not find himself subjected to the neglectful caprices of his own generation, after some time be past and the duration of his influence unusually prolonged. There is a law founded in our dread of monotony, in that weariness of soul which we call ennui-the spiritual counterpart of a loathing which even the manna that fell from heaven at last bred in the Israelites a law that affects, as surely as death, statesmen, moralists, heroes,-and equally the renowned artist or poet. The law is Nature's own, and man's perception of it is the true apology for each fashion as it flies. But Nature, with all her changes, is secure in certain noble, recurrent types, and so there are elevated modes of art, to which we sometimes not unwillingly bid farewell, knowing that after a time they will return, and be welcome again and for


At present we have only to observe the working of this law with respect to the acknowledged leader, by influence and laurelled rank, of the Victorian poetic hierarchy. He, too, has verified in his recent experience the statement that, as admired poets advance in years, the people and the critics begin to mistrust the quality of their genius, are disposed to revise the laudatory judgments formerly pronounced upon them, and, finally, to claim that they have been overrated, and are not men of high reach. Such is the result of that long familiarity whereby a singer's audience becomes somewhat weary of his notes, and it is exaggerated in direct ratio with the potency of the influence against which a revolt is made. In fact, the grander the success the more trying the reaction. It is what the ancients meant by the envy of the gods, unto which too fortunate men were greatly subjected. Alternate periods of favor and rejection not only follow one another in cycles, by generations, or by centuries even; but the individual artist, during a long career, will find himself tested by minor perturbations of the same

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kind, varying with his successive achievements, and the varying conditions of atmosphere and time.

The influence of Alfred Tennyson has been almost unprecedentedly dominant, fascinating, extended, yet of late has somewhat vexed the public mind. Its reposeful charm has given it a more secure hold upon our affections than is usual in this era, whose changes are the more incessant because so much more is crowded into a few years than of old. Even of this serene beauty we are wearied; a murmur arises; rebellion has broken out; the laureate is irreverently criticised, suspected, no longer worshiped as a demi-god. Either because he is not a demi-god, or that through long security he has lost the power to take the buffets and rewards of fortune "with equal thanks," he does not move entirely contented within the shadow that for the hour has crossed his triumphal path. The little poem, "A Weed," is the expression of a genuine grievance: his plant, at first novel and despised, grew into a superb flower of art, was everywhere glorious and accepted, yet now is again pronounced a weed because the seed is common, and men weary of a beauty too familiar. The petulance of these stanzas reveals a less edifying matter, to wit-the failure of their author in submission to the inevitable, the lack of a philosophy which he is not slow to recommend to his fellows. If he verily hears "the roll of the ages," as he has declared in his answer to A Spiteful Letter," why then so restive? Why not recognize, even in his own case, the benignity of a law which, as Socrates said of death, must be a blessing because it is universal? He himself has taught us, in the wisest language of our time, that


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compare his works with those of his contemporaries. To forestall, so far as may be this steadfast judgment of posterity, is the aim and service of the critic. Let us separate ourselves from the adulation and envy of the moment, and search for the true relation of Tennyson to his eraestimating his poetry, not by our appetite for it, but by its inherent quality, and its lasting value in the progress of British



There have been few comprehensive reviews of Tennyson's poetical career. The artistic excellence of his work has been, from the first, so distinguished that lay critics are often at a loss how to estimate this poet. We have had admirable homilies upon the spirit of his teachings, the scope and nature of his imagination, his idyllic quality—his landscape, characters, language, Anglicanism; but nothing adequately setting forth his technical superiority. I am aware that professional criticism is apt to be unduly technical; to neglect the soul, in its concern for the body," of art. My present effort is to consider both; nevertheless, with relation to Tennyson, above all other modern poets, how little can be embraced within the limits of an essay! The specialist-reviewer has the advantage of being thorough as far as he goes. All I can hope is to leave no important point untouched, though my reference to it may be restricted to a single phrase. This article, therefore, is rather the manual for a study of Tennyson than a study in itself. Quotations are not to be thought of; but every line of his poetry is in every household; besides, where so much is faultless, who shall decide at what length and when to quote?

Ir seems to me that the only just estimate of Tennyson's position is that which declares him to be, by eminence, the representative poet of the recent era. Not, like one or another of his compeers, representative of the melody, wisdom, passion, or other partial phase of the era, but of the time itself, with its diverse elements in harmonious conjunction. Years have strengthened my belief that a future age will regard him, independently of his merits, as bearing this relation to his period. In his verse, he is as truly "the glass of fashion and the mould of form," of the Victorian generation in the Nineteenth

Century, as Spenser was of the Elizabethan court, Milton of the Protectorate, Pope of the reign of Queen Anne. During his supremacy there have been few great leaders, at the head of different schools, such as belonged to the time of Byron, Wordsworth, and Keats. His poetry has gathered all the elements which find vital expression in the complex modern art.

Has the influence cf Tennyson made the recent British school, or has his genius itself been modified and guided by the period? It is the old question of the river and the valley. The two have taken shape together; yet the beauty of Tennyson's verse was so potent from the first, and has so increased in potency, that we must pronounce him an independent genius-certainly more than the mere creature of his surroundings.


Years ago, when he was yet comparatively unknown, an American poet, himself finely gifted with the lyrical ear, was so impressed by Tennyson's method, that, in perfect sincerity," he pronounced him "the noblest poet that ever lived." If he had said "the noblest artist," and confined this judgment to lyrists of the English tongue, he possibly would have made no exaggeration. Yet there have been artists with a less conscious manner and a broader style. The laureate is always aware of what he is doing; he is his own daimonthe inspirer, and controller, of his own utterances. He sings by note, no less than by ear, and follows a score of his own inditing. But, acknowledging his culture, we have no right to assume that his ear is not as fine as that of any poet who gives voice with more careless rapture. His average is higher than that of other English masters, though there may be scarcely one who in special flights has not excelled. him. By Spencer's law of progress, founded on the distribution of values, his poetry is more eminent than most which has preceded it.

I have inferred that the very success of Tennyson's art has made it common in our eyes, and rendered us incapable of fairly judging it. When a poet has length of days, and sees his language a familiar portion of men's thoughts, he no longer can attract that romantic interest with which the world regards a genius freshly brought to hearing. Men forget that he, too, was once new, unhackneyed, appetizing. But recall the youth of Tennyson, and see how complete the revolution with which he has,

at least, been coeval, and how distinct his music then seemed from everything which had gone before.


He began as a metrical artist, pure and simple, and with a feeling perfectly unique -at a long remove, even, from that of so absolute an artist as was John Keats. had very little notion beyond the production of rhythm, melody, color, and other poetic effects. Instinct led him to construct his machinery before essaying to build. Many have discerned, in his youthful pieces, the influence of Wordsworth and Keats, but no less that of the Italian poets, and of the early English balladists. I shall hereafter revert to "Oriana," "Mariana," and "The Lady of Shalott," as work that in its kind is fully up to the best of those modern Pre-Raphaelites who, by some arrest of development, stop precisely where Tennyson made his second step forward, and now censure him for having gone beyond them.

Meaningless as are the opening melodies of his collected verse, how delicious they once seemed, as a change from even the greatest productions which then held the public ear. Here was something of a new kind! The charm was legitimate. Tennyson's immediate predecessors were so fully occupied with the mass of a composition that they slighted details: what beauty they displayed was not of the parts, but of the whole. Now, in all arts, the natural advance is from detail to general effect. How seldom those who begin with a broad treatment, which apes maturity, acquire subsequently the minor graces that alone can finish the perfect work! By comparison of the late and early writings of great English poets, Shakespeare and Milton, one observes the process of healthful growth. Tennyson proved his kindred genius by this instinctive study of details in his immature verses. In marked contrast to his fellows, and to every predecessor but Keats,-" that strong, excepted soul," he seemed to perceive from the outset that Poetry is an art, and chief of the fine arts: the easiest to dabble in, the hardest in which to reach true excellence; that it has its technical secrets, its mysterious lowly paths that reach to aërial outlooks-and this no less than sculpture, painting, music, or architecture, but even more. He devoted himself, with the eager spirit of youth, to mastering this exquisite art, and wreaked his thoughts upon expression, for the expression's sake. And what else should

one attempt, with small experiences, little concern for the real world, and less observation of it? He had dreams rather than thoughts; but was at the most sensitive period of life with regard to rhythm, color, and form. In youth feeling is indeed "deeper than all thought," and responds divinely to every sensuous confrontment with the presence of beauty.

It is difficult now to realize how chaotic was the notion of art among English versemakers, at the beginning of Tennyson's career. Not even the example of Keats had taught the needful lesson, and I look upon his successor's early efforts as of no small importance. These were dreamy experiments in meter and word-painting, and spontaneous after their kind. Readers sought not to analyze their meaning and grace. The significance of art has since become so well understood, and such results have been attained, that "Claribel," "Lilian," "The Merman," "The Dying Swan," "The Owl," etc., seem slight enough to us now; and even then the affectation pervading them, which was merely the error of a poetic soul groping for its true form of expression, repelled men of severe and established tastes; but to the neophyte they had the charm of sighing winds and babbling waters, a wonder of luxury and weirdness, inexpressible, not to be effaced. How we lay on the grass, in June, and softly read them from the white page! To this day, what lyrics better hold their own than "Mariana" and the "Recollections of the Arabian Nights." In these pieces, however, as in the crude yet picturesque "Ode to Memory," the poet exhibited some distinctness of theme and motive, and, in a word, seemed to feel that he had something to express, if it were but the arabesque shadows of his fancy-laden dreams. Of a mass of lyrics, sonnets, and other metrical essays, published_theretofore,-some contained in the Poems by Two Brothers (1827), and others in the original volume of 1830,-I say nothing, for they show little of the purpose that characterizes the few early pieces which our poet himself retains in his collected works. One of them," Hero and Leander," is too good in its way to be discarded; the greater number are juvenile, often imitative, and the excellent judgment of Tennyson is shown by his rejection of all that have no true position in his lyrical rise and progress.

The volume of 1832, which began with


"The Lady of Shalott," and contained Eleänore, "Margaret," "The Miller's Daughter," "The Palace of Art," "The May Queen," "Fatima," "The LotosEaters," and the 'Dream of Fair Women," was published in his twenty-second year. All in all, a more original and beautiful volume of minor poetry never was added to our literature. The Tennysonian manner here was clearly developed, largely pruned of mannerisms. The command of delicious meters; the rhythmic susurrus of stanzas whose every word is as needful and studied as the flower or scroll of ornamental architecture-yet so much an interlaced portion of the whole, that the special device is forgotten in the general excellence; the effect of color, of that music which is a passion in itself, of the scenic pictures which are the counterparts of changeful emotions;-all are here, and the poet's work is the epitome of every mode in art. Even if these lyrics and idyls had expressed nothing, they were of priceless value as guides to the renaissance of beauty. Thenceforward slovenly work was impossible, subject to instant rebuke by contrast. The force of metrical elegance made its way and carried everything before it. From this day Tennyson confessedly took his place at the head of what some attempt to classify as the art-school: that is, of poets who largely produce their effect by harmonizing scenery and detail with the emotions or impassioned action of their verse.

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The tendency of his genius was revealed in this volume. The author plainly was a college-man, a student of many literatures, and, though an Englishman to the core, alive to suggestions from Italian and Grecian sources. His Gothic feeling was manifest in "The Lady of Shalott" and The Sisters;" his classicism in "Oenone;" his idyllic method, especially, now defined itself, making the scenery of a poem enhance the central idea-thought and landscape being so blended that it was difficult to determine which suggested the other.


I have elsewhere examined with some care the relations between Tennyson and Theocritus, and the general likeness of the Victorian to the Alexandrian period, and do not propose to review this special ground. Enough to say that the Greek influence is visible in many portions of the volume of 1832, sometimes through almost literal translations of classical passages. "Oenone"

modeled upon the new-Doric verse, ranks with "Lycidas" as an Hellenic study. While this most chaste and beautiful poem fascinated every reader, the wisest criticism found more of genuine worth in the purely English quality of those limpid pieces in which the melody of the lyric is wedded to the sentiment and picture of the idyl: "The Miller's Daughter," "The May Queen" and "Lady Clara Vere de Vere." More dewy, fresh, pathetic, native verse had not been written since the era of "As You Like It" and "A Winter's Tale." During ten years, this book accomplished its auspicious work, until the author's fame and influence had so extended that he was encouraged to print the volume of 1842, wherein he first gave the name of idyls to poems of the class that has brought him a distinctive reputation.


At the present day, were this volume to be lost, we possibly should be deprived of a larger specific variety of Tennyson's most admired poems than is contained in any other of his successive ventures. is an assortment of representative poems. To an art more restrained and natural we here find wedded a living soul. The poet has convictions: he is not a pupil but master, and reaches intellectual greatness. His verses still bewitch youths and artists by their sentiments and beauty, but their thought takes hold of thinkers and men of the world. He has learned not only that art, when followed for its own sake, is alluring, but that, when used as a means of expressing what cannot otherwise be quite revealed, it becomes seraphic. We could spare, rather than this collection, much which he has since done: possibly


Maud" without doubt, idyls like "SeaDreams" and "Aylmer's Field." Look at the material structure of the poetry. Here, at last, we observe the ripening of that blank-verse which had been suggested in the "Oenone." Consider Tennyson's handling of this measure-the domino of a poetaster, the state garment of a lofty poet. It must be owned that he now enriched it by a style entirely his own, and as well-defined as those already established. Foremost of the latter was the Elizabethan, marked by freedom and power, and never excelled for dramatic composition. Next, the Miltonic or Anglo-Epic, with its sonorous grandeur and stately Roman syntax, of which "Paradise Lost" is the masterpiece, and "Hyperion" the finest specimen in modern times. That it really has no

place in our usage is proved by the fact that Keats, with true insight, refused, after some experience, to complete "Hyperion" on the ground that it had too many "Miltonic inversions"-meanwhile blank-verse had been used for less imaginative or less heroical work; notably, for didactic and moralizing essays, by Cowper, Wordsworth, and other leaders of the contemplative school.

"So all day long the noise of battle rolled Among the mountains by the winter sea."

Tennyson's is of two kinds, one of which is suited to the heroic episodes in his idyllic poetry--the first important example being the "Morte d'Arthur," which opened the volume of 1842, and is now made a portion of the Idyls of the King. I hold the verse of that poem to be his own invention, derived from the study of Homer and his natural mastery of the Saxon element in our language. Milton's Latinism is so pro-"The Talking Oak," that marvel of grace nounced as to be un-English; on the other and fancy, the nonpareil of sustained lyrics hand, there is such affinity between the in quatrain verse; as exquisite in filagreesimple strength of the Homeric Greek and work as "The Rape of the Lock," with an that of the English in which Saxon words airy beauty and rippling flow, compared prevail that the former can be rendered with which the motion of Pope's couplets into the latter with great effect. Tennyson is that of partners in an eighteenth century recognizes this in his prelude to "Morte minuet. Here is the modern lover reciting d'Arthur," deprecating his heroics as "faint," Locksley Hall," which, despite its sentiHomeric echoes, nothing worth." But mental egoism and consolation of the almost with the perusal of the first two heart by the head, has fine metrical quality, lines, is fixed in literature, and furnishes genuine illustrations of the poet's time. In "The Two Voices" and "The Vision of Sin" the excess of his speculative intellect makes itself felt; but the second of these seems to me a strained and fantastic production; for which very reason, perchance, it drew the attention of semi-metaphysical persons who have no perception of the true mission of poetry, and, by a certain affectation, mistaken for subtilty, has excited more comment and analysis than it deserves. The Day Dream," like "The Talking Oak," gives the poet an opportunity for dying falls, mellifluous cadences, and delicately fanciful pictures. The story is made to his hand; he rarely invents a story, though often, as in the last-named poem, chancing upon the conceit of a dainty and original theme. Here, too, are 'Lady Clare," "The Lord of Burleigh," and Edward Gray," each a simple, crystalline and flawless ballad. Nor has Tennyson ever composed, in his minor key, more enduring and suggestive little songs than Break, break, break!" and "Flow down, cold. rivulet, to the sea!" both, also, in this volume. His humor, which seldom becomes him, is at its best in that half pen




we see that this style surpasses other blank-verse in strength and condensation. It soon became the model for a score of younger aspirants; in short, impressed itself upon the artistic mind as a new and vigorous form of our grandest English

or too little, but faultless as a whole. Who can read it without tears? "Godiva" and "The Gardener's Daughter" demand no less praise for descriptive felicity of another kind. But, for virile grandeur and astonishingly compact expression, there is no blank-verse poem, equally restricted as to length, that approaches the "Ulysses:" conception, imagery, and thought, are royally imaginative, and the assured hand is Tennyson's throughout.

I reserve for later discussion the poet's general characteristics, fairly displayed in this volume. The great feature is its comprehensive range; it includes a finished specimen of every kind of poetry within the author's power to essay. The variety is surprising, and the novelty was no less so at the date of its appearance. Here is


The other style of Tennyson's blankverse is found in his purely idyllic pieces "The Gardener's Daughter," "Dora," "Godiva," and, upon a lower plane, such eclogues as "Audley Court" and "Edwin Morris." "St. Simeon Stylites" and "Ulysses" has each a special manner. In the first-named group, the poet brought to completeness the Victorian idyllic verse. The three are models from which he could not advance in surpassing beauty and naturalness unequalled, I say, by many of his later efforts. What Crabbe essayed in a homely fashion, now, at the touch of a finer artist, became the perfection of rural, idyllic tenderness. "Dora" is like a Hebrew pastoral, the paragon of its kind, with not a quotable detail, a line too much

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