Puslapio vaizdai

promise of principles felt to be vital-is to be strongly deprecated. There will be silent, ceaseless, irresistible growth and expansion on all hands, so long as men are honest and fearless, and faithful to themselves. From his own standing-point, each will advance unconsciously towards the common centre of truth and peace. Before they are aware, men from divers quarters will find themselves in proximity, and embrace. Ashamed and grieved that they should have been so long estranged, they will break the fetters that once held them apart, and out of the very links of their former bondage, weave the bright chain of Christian brotherhood around the united family of God.


In Memoriam. London: Moxon. 1850.

SUCH is the mystic title-page of a remarkable volume. No explanatory hint is added with the exception of these few words and letters, which following a prefatory hymn face the collection of elegiac poems of which the book consists: In Memoriam A. H. H. Obiit. MDCCCXXXIII. From internal evidence, and we suppose from direct knowledge, all the literary authorities agree in affirming that the mourner is Alfred Tennyson, and the mourned Arthur Hallam, the son of the Historian.

When grief seeks the expression of poetry, it has ceased to be a cry out of the anguished heart. While the fancy, imagination, and invention are dealing with such themes, and mechanic skill adapting the forms of unpliant words, the diverted affections must have stopped their bleeding. Time at least must have lent its healing, and the Sorrow, no more an agony of bereavement or passion, have passed into the perhaps holier form of a spiritual influence, a sentiment, a worship. Its object is translated, the sense of daily loss has been gradually softened, the memories of earth have become the hopes of heaven, and wear only spiritual looks, and speak only spiritual words. It is the soul that now communes with grief, and no longer the unshielded heart. It is necessary to remember this in our perusal of ' In Memoriam,' else a sensitive mind may be in danger of revolt and disgust at its appearance of fondling and making much of sorrow. The poems seem to have been written at intervals extending over the seventeen years which have elapsed since the death of the poet's friend. In that time grief has ceased to be a pang, and has become an aspiration and a worship: and the friend, not lost but invisible, no more felt as belonging to earth yet with all his personal relations preserved, has become one of the spiritual influences of God. In such a frame the heart, having had time to adapt itself to the altered conditions of place, intercourse, and bodily relation, has risen into a holy contentment with all that is left to it,

more perhaps than what was taken away,-with the faiths and contemplations of the soul and the spiritual imagination. We are not sure that this theory will apply to every part of 'In Memoriam.' Certainly the mere fancy seems at work at a time when from the recency of bereavement we should wish the heart alone to be at liberty to speak. When Horace invokes the precious ship that carries through the Mediterranean his dear friend, the living Virgil, we expect the poet's imagination to be as free as the breeze,-yet to us there seems more heart in the protest against the impious boldness of mankind, which disregarding the divine barrier of disuniting Ocean has borne away from him the half of his own life in the person of his friend, than in the imaginative strains with which the modern poet salutes the ship that over the same Mediterranean bears the unburied corpse of his friend to its grave at home. It is difficult to conceive that the heart could so soon bear to give itself to the contemplation of the images which the fancy so exquisitely supplies :

"Fair ship, that from the Italian shore,
Sailest the placid ocean-plains

With my lost Arthur's loved remains,
Spread thy full wings, and waft him o'er.

So draw him home to those that mourn
In vain; a favourable speed

Ruffle thy mirror'd mast, and lead
Thro' prosperous floods his holy urn.

All night no ruder air perplex

Thy sliding keel, till Phosphor, bright
As our pure love, thro' early light

Shall glimmer on the dewy decks.

Sphere all your lights around, above;
Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;
Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now,
My friend, the brother of my love."

There are no less than eight poems addressed to this ship, and most of them of a wonderful beauty, yet so full of the untroubled suggestions of fancy, and of the finest observation of external nature, and so claborately wrought

by the poetic art, that one is induced to believe, indeed to hope, that the chronology of the events is not the same with the chronology of the compositions; and that though now arranged in the order of time, the poems are not the records of the very feelings of the first anguished hours. We confess to a start of repulsion, and a wonder how any man's heart could dwell upon the image or offer it to another, when in the opening of the volume the old Yew over the tombstone is introduced for no higher purpose, for what follows is but a gloomy unspiritual dirge, than to show us the fibres netting the dreamless head, and the roots wrapped about the bones. This surely is an untender abuse of power, a needless wound to the heart. In the same way we cannot all at once sympathize with the poet's contemplation of the wreck of the vessel that carries the corpse, and of the "sea-change" on the body of his friend buried beneath the waves, nor with his ascription of it at that moment to a foolish, home-bred fancy, that it would be sweeter to our hearts that it should rest beneath the clover-sod. Yet what a living mind, what a variety of thought, sympathy, and power, is in this short poem!

"I hear the noise about thy keel;

I hear the bell struck in the night;
I see the cabin-window bright;

I see the sailor at the wheel.

Thou bringest the sailor to his wife

And travell❜d men from foreign lands:
And letters unto trembling hands;
And thy dark freight, a vanish'd life.

So bring him: we have idle dreams :
This look of quiet flatters thus
Our home-bred fancies: O to us,
The fools of habit, sweeter seems

To rest beneath the clover sod,

That takes the sunshine and the rains,
Or where the kneeling hamlet drains
The chalice of the grapes of God;

Than if with thee the roaring wells

Should gulf him fathom deep in brine;
And hands so often clasped in mine,

Should toss with tangle and with shells."-P. 15.

The "chalice of the grapes of God," is a remarkable, perhaps not a justifiable, expression, to indicate the village worshippers taking the sacramental cup around the altarrail, but it shows the Poet's power, and aim at exact truthfulness of description, for there are other intimations through the volume that his friend lay buried in the chancel and this in itself is proof that the poem was an after-thought. The volume is full of such fine links and harmonies as connect this and the preceding line, evidently suggested by the truth of facts, with the deep pathos of the following poem, in a much later part of the book::

"When on my bed the moonlight falls,
I know that in thy place of rest,
By that broad water of the west,
There comes a glory on the walls;

Thy marble bright in dark appears,
As slowly steals a silver flame
Along the letters of thy name,
And o'er the number of thy years.

The mystic glory swims away;

From off my bed the moonlight dies;
And closing eaves of wearied eyes

I sleep till dusk is dipt in


And then I know the mist is drawn
A lucid veil from coast to coast,
And in the chancel like a ghost

Thy tablet glimmers to the dawn."-P. 92.

We must give another of these exquisite poems addressed to the ship that carries the corpse, indicating, as we think, that before it could have been written, the strong grief of the torn heart had become a quiet theme for the contemplative imagination. The poet's soul leaves his body, and hovers like a bird round the death-freighted vessel.

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