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AS Tennyson any message, or is he merely
"an idle singer of an empty day”? Is he content to leave us in admiration of his beautiful art without a guiding gleam for the conduct of life? Does he give us any great verities upon which we may stand, as upon rock, in the midst of the surging voices of doubt ? Does he sing of the ultimate man—the final triumph of the race; or does he wail a requiem over lost ideals, and a creed out-worn ?
By careful classification of the related poems I have striven, in the following pages, to extract the teaching of the poet. We shall find that he not only gives an ethical law for the guidance of life, but an answer to those deeper questions that utter their tremulous voices in the shrine of the soul.
The Ethical Poems naturally fall into two groups, and as they delineate the victory and the defeat
of the soul I have called them Poems of Life and Poems of Death. The ethical law, which is the pivot of the groups, may be thus formulatedthe soul must rule the senses and not the senses rule the soul, while the soul itself must be ruled not by self but by that higher love that finds its deepest life in sacrifice.
I have placed "In Memoriam" Ethical Poems—though it is partly a religious epic --for the reason that it affords a powerful illustration of the conflict of soul with subtle doubt.
The second division deals with the Emotional Poems. The first group falls under the classification of the Sanctity of Love, and reveals the poet both as a perfect artist and a pure moralist. The second group I have called the Degradation of Love in which the passion of his indignation burns like flame.
The third division comprises the Religious Poems, in which will be found Tennyson's threefold message of immanence and immortality and evolution, along with side-lights, indicating the relation of the poet
to certain creeds-viz. Mysticism, Calvinism, Latitudinarianism, and Spiritism.
The poet is reported to have said that the English people positively hated poetry and would not read it. Doubtless there is a popular dislike of poetry, but the reason lies in its almost enforced obscurity. When the meaning is clear, the most prosaic yield to its charm.
I hope it may be found that I have done something towards drawing out the teaching of Tennyson, and that this book may be of service as an introductory study to students, who should, however, carefully read the original poems in the order in which they are classified, along with the delightful "Memoir” by Hallam, Lord Tennyson, to which I am indebted for some explanatory footnotes. I may, also, be allowed to thank Lord Tennyson for a kind letter in reference to my book, an extract from which, on the next page, I am permitted to publish.