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poems, and at each revision he usually improved them. Perhaps the very ease with which Lowell wrote when in the mood made him careless of correcting. Moreover, despite his protest that he is a good versifier, we cannot help feeling that many lines in "Sir Launfal," such, for example, as "And the wanderer is welcomed to the hall," are unjustifiably rough, and that Lowell did not possess the firmness or the delicacy of touch so marked in the great melodists. Then, too, like Tennyson's "Princess," the poem is wanting in marked structural unity. The parts are beautiful; and we can see, when we think, what they have to do with each other; but they do not so grow together into one, that we feel that every part is absolutely necessary to the rest of the poem.

We may, however, recognize these defects, but maintain that the poem is great in spite of them. If "The Vision of Sir Launfal" has lost anything from the rapidity of its composition, it has gained more. It has caught in a manner perhaps unequalled by any other writer the spirit of “the high tide of the year." It fairly throbs with the vitality so infectious as to carry us along with a delight few poems can inspire. Again, if we accept Lowell's belief that "the proof of poetry is that it reduces to a single line the vague philosophy which is floating in all men's minds," we must accord a high place to "The Vision of Sir Launfal." The poem is the flower of the strong conviction of young manhood, a power making for righteousness. Lastly, if Lowell possessed the double nature he so often claimed, and the "Biglow Papers" show the humorous side at its finest, "The Vision of Sir Launfal" best represents the other; it is the work of Lowell the enthusiast with his slight touch of mysticism.

Suggestions for Teaching and Study

In studying "The Vision of Sir Launfal," it is well first of all to note carefully the significance of the opening stanza.

If we take the poem from what this stanza would have us, as an improvisation, and as such permitted the liberty allowed in such composition, we shall more thoroughly catch its spirit and understand its structure.

A teacher must use his own judgment in determining just how much study is called for by the text, just how much study of the meaning of words, of allusions, and of constructions. We must recognize that Lowell is not easy reading, and at the outset the teacher must see that the class have a fair understanding of the meaning of the more difficult lines. All definitions of words to be found in the usual dictionaries have been omitted, as have also, in most instances, the explanation of the numerous lines requiring class discussion and comment. Many passages to be committed so readily present themselves as to require practically no suggestions. Again, each teacher must decide for himself what emphasis he will place on the moral of the Vision; he may well realize that the lesson is an integral part of the poem and has a distinct ethical value. Even as a lesson to be learned by heart, if it can be remembered, it is worth having; but if the student can actually realize a small part of what the poet felt in conceiving these face-to-face words with Christ, not to speak of what such a vision actually could be to one so privileged as to have it, if one's spirit actually is vitalized by such a thing as this, then other matters will seem of much less importance.

A few books and poems for collateral reading may be suggested. Tennyson has treated the story of the search for the Holy Grail in his "Sir Galahad" and "The Holy Grail." Chatterton's "An Excellent Balade of Charity," Longfellow's "The Legend of the Beautiful Gate," and William Vaughn Moody's "Good Friday Night" offer some interesting points of comparison with "Sir Launfal." Lowell's "A Parable" gives us another presentation of the false and the true worship and love of Christ; while the beginning of "Under the Willows" and "Al Fresco " present two delightful descriptions

of June. Through his poems Lowell has commemorated many of the events of his life. "She Came and Went," "The Changeling," and "The First Snowfall" are among the best of his autobiographic verses. Scudder's "Life of Lowell " (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.) is the best biography. Charles Eliot Norton has edited two volumes of Lowell's letters (Harper & Bros.). Lowell ranks among the best of letter writers in English. Edward Everett Hale's "James Russell Lowell and His Friends" (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.) is also to be recommended.

Questions for General Study and Review

Why is it usually considered that the scene of the story is laid in England?

What do we learn from the poem of the customs of chivalry?

What lines sum up the lesson of the poem?

Make a list of the archaic words in the poem. Try to explain in each instance why the poet chose the older form.

What marked changes in the movement of the poem do you note? Try to discover in each instance how Lowell's mood shows itself in these variations.

Study Lowell's use of contrasts. How has he employed it in the structure of the poem? in its spirit? in the movement? Has the poet drawn many of his comparisons from nature? Why?

Compare the attitude shown toward nature in "The Ancient Mariner" with that in "The Vision of Sir Launfal."

Compare this description of June with Riley's "Knee-deep in June." How does the spirit of the one differ from that of the other? What things are of common interest to the two poets?

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