Puslapio vaizdai

the Prologue to the poem written in 1849. Every conclusion he had come to is confirmed and re-expressed in that profound and religious psalm. All that he loved, hoped for, and believed, is there laid in the hands, held in the grace, and enshrined in the spirit of Him who is "Immortal Love."



THE main point concerning Tennyson himself on which I dwelt in the last chapter was that he had freed himself in that poem from the merely personal. He had passed in In Memoriam from the particular to the universal. Before he had finished that poem, the pain of the world of man had flowed into his soul. He had reached full manhood in his art. From this time forth then,.from 1850, when Tennyson was just over forty years of age, a vaster emotion belongs to his poetry, the solemn swell of the passion of mankind; yet the poetry does not lose, when he desires it, its happy brightness. The idyll of The Brook, published along with Maud, is as gay as it is gentle. Then, too, though his poetry has thus more than before to do with the larger life of man, he can still see Nature with the keen sight and enjoyment of youth. Moreover, he can still "follow the Gleam," still breathe with ease the ideal air, though his experience has been sad, though maturer years have led him to keep closer in his work to the facts of real life.

His poetry has certainly lost some of the animation, opulence unconsciousness in singing, which

are qualities of youth-of which qualities, however, he seemed to have less than other poets, because graver qualities, unusual in youth, balanced them; but it has gained more character; it knows itself better; it has more of the wisdom of life in it-and yet it has not lost passion. Nay, that is more profound; there is a greater general intensity of feeling on subjects worthy of deep regard. Moreover, the same width and depth of feeling with which he wrote about religion in In Memoriam now extended itself over the movements of the world. He is in closer sympathy with the life of England at home and abroad. The stories of the joys and sorrows of men and women which he took as subjects in 1842 (Dora and the rest) are now continued, but the colours in which he paints them are fuller and deeper in hue, and they are also more various. He writes of the farmer, the sailor, the city clerk, the parson and lawyer and squire. Enoch Arden, Aylmer's Field, Sea Dreams, The Brook, The Grandmother, The Northern Farmer, The Sailor Boy, prove with what variety and power and charm he wrought at this vein, and he loved to work in it to the very end.

But it was not only English life at home which engaged him. He followed up that life abroad. Rumours of war and war itself, after 1850, stirred his heart. The patriotic spirit which he felt so strongly all his life was now awakened, first by the threatening aspect of France, then by the death of the Duke of Wellington, and then by the Crimean war. Three short poems, written in 1852, and published in the newspapers, belong to the French menace: Britons, Guard your Own! The Third of

February! and Hands all round; God the tyrant's cause confound! They are sturdy, full-bodied things, and The Third of February maintained against our shameless alliance with the Man of December the moral censure of England on his murderous work :

What! have we fought for Freedom from our prime,
At last to dodge and palter with a public crime?

We are grateful to Tennyson for these words, though afterwards he seemed to be a partisan of the war in which the Third Napoleon became the comrade in arms of England: But we may pardon him for that, for it was his long hatred of Russia for her bloody work in Poland which was at the root of his approval of the Crimean war. This patriotism had soon a noble subject in the praise of the great Duke. Tennyson issued his Ode on the day of Wellington's burial, and republished it a year after with many notable changes. This is one of his finest poems. It was fitting that the foremost man in England, who had worn his honours with a quiet simplicity for so many years in the "fierce light" which shines on a world-wide fame, and in whom the light never found anything mean or fearful, should, after his death, receive this great and impassioned tribute. What he did in politics was always questionable. He was nothing of a statesman, as Tennyson calls him. He proved his inability when he was called to the Premiership. Then he was first arrogant, and afterwards perplexed by the mischief he wrought. Indeed, he was profoundly ignorant of England; but, when he found out his ignorance, he had the good sense

of a great general. He knew when to retreat, and he retreated, even though his retreat had the appearance of a flight. He stood " four-square to all the winds that blew," but when all the winds became one wind, he opened the doors to it and bade the Crown and his peers give way. This was the wisest thing he did in his old age, and it is somewhat characteristic of Tennyson that, except in one line, "rich in saving common sense," he takes no notice of it at all.

"Let all England mourn her greatest son, let all England thank God for him, and bury him with honour upon honour"—that is the motive of the beginning of the poem; and it is worthy to be felt by a poet and by a nation. Magnanimity and magnificence, great-mindedness and great-doing, are the life-blood of a people. To celebrate them with a lavish splendour when he who embodied them in life is dead, is a lesson in a people's education. Then Tennyson passes to the Duke's glory in war, and perhaps in all commemorative odes there is nothing finer than his imagination of Nelson waking from his grave in St. Paul's and wondering who was coming, with this national mourning, to lie beside him:


'Who is he that cometh, like an honour'd guest,

With banner and with music, with soldier and with priest, With a nation weeping, and breaking on my rest?"

Mighty Seaman, this is he

Was great by land as thou by sea.


This is he that far away

Against the myriads of Assaye

Clash'd with his fiery few and won;

and the poet, starting from this early battle, sketches

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