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But, liberal enlightened reader of Blackwood, look thou at flood and fell at thy leisure, take solitary meditations among the mountains in due moderation, and, as you value our good opinion, make no odious and invidious comparisons between the woods, and the waters, and the rocks, which nature made for thy wonder and admiration. Look and listen-eat, drink, and be merry; and God bless you.
[When this Review was written, Mr Tennyson had published none of those grander and more finished compositions which have given him a place among the immortals. His early volumes contained several pieces which his own good sense, confirmed perhaps by the animadversions of his reviewer, has induced him to expunge from the standard edition of his works. This must be borne in mind, in order that the critic may be acquitted, on the one hand, of undue severity, and, on the other hand, may get credit for the sagacity with which he predicts, in no uncertain terms, the advent of a genuine poet, who only required to be true to his own genius to secure the highest honours of his vocation. The republication of these trifles, and of the strictures to which they gave rise, will certainly detract nothing from the fair fame of the illustrious Laureat; while it may be profitable to some, and must be interesting to all, to mark the slight blemishes which obscured the early rising of a star which now shines the brightest in the firmament of living English Poets.]
ALMOST all men, women, and children, are poets, except those who write verses. We shall not define poetry, because the Cockneys have done so; and were they to go to church, we should be strongly tempted to break the Sabbath. But this much we say of it, that everything is poetry which is not mere sensation. We are poets at all times when our minds are makers. Now, it is well known, that we create nine-tenths at least of what appears to exist externally; and that such is somewhere about the proportion between reality and imagination. Millions of supposed matters-of-fact are the wildest fictions of which we may mention merely two, the rising and the setting of the sun. This being established, it follows that we live, breathe, and have our being in Poetry-it is the Life of our Life—the heart of the mystery, which, were it plucked out, and to beatno more, the universe, now all written over with symbolical characters of light, would be at once a blank
1 Poems, chiefly Lyrical. By ALFRED TENNYSON.
obscurely scribbled over with dead letters; or rather, the volume would be shut up-and appear a huge clumsy folio with brass clasps, bound in calf-skin, and draperied with cobwebs. But instead of that, the leaves of the living Book of Nature are all fluttering in the sunshine; even he who runs may read; though they alone who sit, stand, or lie, pondering on its pages, behold in full the beauty and the sublimity, which their own immortal spirits create, reflected back on them who are its authors, and felt, in that trance, to be the spiritual sound and colouring which vivifies and animates the face and the form of nature.
All men, women, and children, then, are manifestly poets, except those who write verses. But why that exception? Because they alone make no use of their minds. Versifiers— and we speak but of them—are the sole living creatures that are not also creators. The inferior animals- as we are pleased to call them, and as indeed in some respects they are -modify matter much in their imaginations. Rode ye never a horse by night through a forest? That most poetical of quadrupeds sees a spirit in every stump, else why by such a sudden start should he throw his master over his ears? The blackbird on the tip-top of that pine-tent is a poet, else never could his yellow bill so salute with rapturous orisons the reascending Sun, as he flings over the woods a lustre again gorgeous from the sea. And what induces those stock-doves, think ye, to fill the heart of the grove with soft, deep, low, lonely, far-away, mournful, yet happy-thunder; what, but Love and Joy, and Delight and Desire, in one word, Poetry -Poetry that confines the universe to that wedded pair, within the sanctuary of the pillared shade impervious to meridian sunbeams, and brightens and softens into splendour and into snow divine the plumage beautifying the creatures in their bliss, as breast to breast they croodendoo on their shallow nest!
Thus all men, women, and children, birds, beasts, and fishes, are poets, except versifiers. Oysters are poets. Nobody will deny that, who ever in the neighbourhood of Prestonpans beheld them passionately gaping, on their native bed, for the flow of tide coming again to awaken all their energies from the wide Atlantic. Nor less so are snails. See them in the dewy stillness of eve, as they salute the crescent Dian, with horns
humbler indeed, but no less pointed than her own. The beetle, against the traveller borne in heedless hum, if we knew all his feelings in that soliloquy, might safely be pronounced a Wordsworth.
Thus are we all poets-high and low-except versifiers. They, poor creatures, are a peculiar people, impotent of good works. Ears have they, but they hear not-eyes have they, but will not see-nay, naturalists assert that they have brains and spinal marrow, also organs of speech; yet with all that organisation, they seem to have but little feeling, and no thought; and but by a feeble and monotonous fizz are you made aware, in the twilight, of the useless existence of the obscure ephemerals.
But we fear that we are getting satirical, than which nothing can well be more unbecoming the character of a Christian : So let us be serious. Many times a month do we hint to all such insects, that Maga looks upon them as midges. But still will they be seeking to insinuate themselves through her long deep veil, which nunlike she wears at gloaming; and can they complain of cruelty, if she brush them away with her lily hand, or compress them with her snow-white fingers into unlingering death? There is no such privileged place in this periodical world now as the fugitive Poets' Corner. All its regions are open to the inspired; but the versifier has no spot now wherein to expand his small mealy wings; and you see him sitting disconsolate as one of those animalculæ, who, in their indolent brownness, are neither flies, bees, nor wasps, like a spot upon dandelion or bunweed, till he surprises you by proving that he has wings, or something of that sort, by a feeble farewell flight in among nettles some yards off, where he takes refuge in eternal oblivion.
It is not easy to find out what sets people a-versifying; especially nowadays, when the slightest symptoms of there being something amiss with them in that way, immediately subject them not only to the grossest indignities, but to the almost certain loss of bread. We could perhaps in some measure understand it, were they rich, or even tolerably welloff; in the enjoyment, let us suppose, of small annuities, or of hereditary kail-yards, with a well in the corner, overshadowed with a bourtree-bush; but they are almost always, if in at the knees, out at the elbows; and their stockings seem to have
been compiled originally by some mysterious process of darning upon nothing as a substratum. Now nothing more honourable than virtuous poverty; but then we expect to see him with a shuttle or a spade in his hand, weaving "seventeen hunder linen," or digging drains, till the once dry desert is all one irrigated meadow, green as the summer woods that fling their shadows o'er its hay-cocks. He is an unsufferable sight, alternately biting his nails and his pen, and blotching whiteybrown with hieroglyphics that would have puzzled Champollion. Versifying operatives are almost always half-witted creatures, addicted to drinking; and sell their songs for alms. Persons with the failing, in what are sometimes called the middle classes, or even in more genteel or fashionable life, such as the children of clerks of various kinds, say to canal or coal companies, are slow to enter upon any specific profession, trusting to their genius, which their parents regard with tears, sometimes of joy, and sometimes of rage, according as their prophetic souls see the brows of their offspring adorned with laurels, or their breeches with tatters. Sensible parents crush this propensity in the bud, and ruthlessly bind the Apollos apprentices to Places; but the weaker ones enclose contributions to Christopher North as if they had never heard of his crutch, and thus is the world defrauded of many a tailor. What becomes of all the versifiers when they get old-if, indeed, they ever do get old-we never yet heard any plausible conjecture; though we have ourselves seen some in middle age, walking about, each by himself, looking as if he were sole survivor of the Seven Young Men, with his unmeaning face, and his umbrella under his arm, though the dust may have been lying three inches thick, and laughing to scorn the thinspurting showers of the water-carts, that seemed sent there rather to raise than to lay the ghost of a dry summer. 'Tis said that from this class is drawn the supply of theatrical critics.
Now and then, by some felicity of fortune, a versifier enjoys a temporary revenge on stepdame Nature, and for a while is seen fluttering like a butterfly among birds; or rather heard cheeping like a mouse among a choir of nightingales. People take it into their heads to insist upon it that he is a poet. They solicit subscriptions, get him into print, and make interest with newspaper editors to allow him to review himself twice a-week through the season. These newspapers