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and simplicity of the thought, its mingled ancient and modern air, and its careful inweaving into the whole body of the story, make these classical things of his unique. No one has ever done them in the same fashion, and the fashion is extraordinarily interesting
In The Sea Fairies the thought is the weariness of the ceaseless labour of the world. "Why toil so much for so little? Take the joy of rest and love. Sleep, before the great sleep." We shall see how this excessively simple thought is splendidly wrought out in The Lotos-Eaters. It is enough now to say that this is the first of these classical poems, and, so far as method is concerned, it is similar to them all. This, then, is also a new thing.
Once more, on this poem, we have in it and The Mystic the first clear sound of the blank verse of Tennyson. These lines from The Mystic belong to
He, often lying broad awake, and yet
In intellect and power and will, hath heard
Still more prophetic of a new blank verse are the lines at the beginning of The Sea Fairies :
Slow sail'd the weary mariners and saw,
Between the green brink and the running foam,
Shrill music reach'd them on the middle sea.
No one, with an ear, can mistake the novelty of
the verse. It is plainly done by one who had read Milton, but it is not Milton's way; it is Tennyson's own; and it is charming to hear the first note of a music which has delighted us so long in two lines like these:
Slow sailed the weary mariners and saw,
Between the green brink and the running foam.
These, then, are the new things in the poems of 1830. It remains to speak of his conception of what a poet was, and of himself as poet.
I have said that Tennyson was conscious all his life of being set apart as a prophet, and of the duties which he owed to humanity. His life, in his own mind, was weighted with the sense of these duties. He would have quoted for himself that noble passage in which Milton pictures himself and realises what sort of character the lofty poet must possess. He would have felt with that equally noble passage in The Prelude, where Wordsworth describes himself as consecrated to his work by Nature and by God. And it <marks that change in the temper of England of which I wrote at the beginning, that Tennyson could not conceive, like Keats, of his work as done for beauty's sake alone, but also for the sake of humankind, The new earnestness and excitement of the world compelled him to conceive of his work with the same intensity as Wordsworth when, writing under the enrapturing and fresh enthusiasm of humanity and buoyant with youthful vigour, he came at first to Grasmere. Wordsworth paints his soul, its outlook and its energy, in undying lines at the end of The Recluse; and the comparison of these (which
I commend to my readers) with Tennyson's verses on The Poet is full of delightful interest.
In that poem, Tennyson lays down, and out of his own inward experience, what he conceived himself to be, and how he conceived his work; and he never abandoned, betrayed, or enfeebled his conception It is a remarkable utterance for so young a man, weighty with that steadiness of temper which, if it diminished spontaneity in his art, yet gave it a lasting power.
The poet in a golden clime was born,
With golden stars above;
Dower'd with the hate of hate, the scorn of scorn,,
That is the beginning, and the first needs of the poet's nature could scarcely be better expressed. Then he speaks of the clear insight into God and man which is the best gift of the poet.
He saw thro' life and death, thro' good and ill,
He saw thro' his own soul.
The marvel of the everlasting will,
An open scroll,
Before him lay.
Then his thoughts, blown like arrow-seeds over
the whole world with melodies and light, take root,
and become flowers in the hearts of men, till high
desires are born, and truth is multiplied on truth,
And thro' the wreaths of floating dark upcurl'd
Rare sunrise flow'd.
And in that sunrise, Freedom clothed in wisdom came upon Man, and shook his spirit, and ruined anarchies and oppressions. This was Tennyson's
youthful conception of his work, and we should never forget it when we read his poetry, though we are tempted sometimes to think that he forgot this last part of it himself. I quote the final verses, and from the book of 1830. Their note is new. Their power, in contrast with the light verse that was contemporary with them, is the revelation of a poetic resurrection :
And Freedom rear'd in that august sunrise
When rites and forms before his burning eyes
There was no blood upon her maiden robes
But round about the circles of the globes
*And in the bordure of her robe was writ
Hoar anarchies, as with a thunder-fit.
Her words did gather thunder as they ran,
So was their meaning to her words. No sword
But one poor poet's scroll, and with his word
* Recast in 1842.
And in her raiment's hem was traced in flame
All evil dreams of power-a sacred name.
THE POEMS OF 1833
THREE years after the volume of 1830, Tennyson published the little book of 1833, containing thirty new poems. In this second volume he wrought still further at the new veins he had struck, and turned their ore into finer shapes. But he not only developed work he had already begun; he found fresh and different veins of poetry, opened these also, and made out of their gold new creations full of the spirit of youth hastening to a greater excellence. Evolution then of the subjects discovered in 1830-creation of new subjects in 1833these are the matter of this chapter.
But first, it is well to mark how the artist, as artist, grows. He cannot cease inventing; new things, new forms spring up under his hand; ever uncontent because the unattainable of Beauty lures him on. "If thou givest me," cries Beauty in his heart, "a thousand shapes, there are yet a million more which thou mayest invent for me, and yet I shall not be exhausted." He who feels that allurement and hears that cry has the artist's temper; he who can embody what he feels and hears, in ever varying forms, till old age touch him