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Amroo,” continued Baroni to an Arab near him, “you have listened to this ever since you first tasted liban, and it still pleases you!"
“I am never wearied with listening to fine language,” said the Bedouin ; “perfumes are always sweet, though you may have smelled them a thousand times."
Except when there was some expression of feeling elicited by the performance, a shout or a laugh, the silence was absolute. Not a whisper could be heard ; and it was in the most muffled tone that Baroni intimated to Tancred that the great sheik was present, and that, as this was his first appearance since his illness, he must pay his respects to Amalek. So saying, and preceding Tancred, in order that he might announce his arrival, Baroni approached the pavilion. The great sheik welcomed Tancred with a benignant smile, motioned to him to sit upon his carpet, rejoiced that he was recovered, hoped that he should live a thousand years, gave him his pipe, and then, turning again to the poet, was instantly lost in the interest of his narrative. Baroni, standing as near Tancred as the carpet would permit him, occasionally leaned over and gave his lord an intimation of what was occurring.
After a little while, the poet ceased. Then there was a general hum, and great praise, and many men said to each other, “ All this is true, for my father told it to me before.” The great sheik, who was highly pleased, ordered his slaves to give the poet a cup of coffee, and, taking from his own vest an immense purse, more than a foot in length, he extracted from it, after a vast deal of research, one of the smallest of conceivable coins, which the poet pressed to his lips, and, notwithstanding the exiguity of the donation, declared that God was great.
“O, sheik of sheiks,” said the poet, “what I have recited, though it is by the gift of God, is in fact written, and has been ever since the days of the giants; but I have also dipped my pen into my own brain, and now I would recite a poem which I hope some day may be suspended in the Temple of Mecca. It is in honor of one who, were she to rise to our sight, would be as the full moon when it rises over the desert. Yes, I sing of Eva, the daughter of Amalek” (the Bedouins always omitted Besso in her genealogy), “ Eva, the daughter of a thousand chiefs. May she never quit the tents of her race ! May she always ride upon Nejid steeds and dromedaries, with harness of silver! May she live among us forever! May she show herself to the people like a free Arabian maiden!
!” “They are the thoughts of truth," said the delighted Bedouins to one another; "every word is a pearl.”
And the great sheik sent a slave to express his wish that Eva and her maidens should appear. So she came to listen to the ode which the poet had composed in her honor. He had seen palm trees, but they were not as tall and graceful as Eva; he had beheld the eyes of doves and antelopes, but they were not as bright and soft as hers; he had tasted the fresh springs in the wilderness, but they were not more welcome than she, and the soft splendor of the desert moon was not equal to her brow. She was the daughter of Amalek, the daughter of a thousand chiefs. Might she live forever in their tents, ever ride on Nejid steeds and on dromedaries with silver harness, ever show herself to the people like a free Arabian maiden !
The poet, after many variations on this theme, ceased amid great plaudits.
“He is a true poet,” said an Arab, who was, like most of his brethren, a critic; "he is, in truth, a second Antar.”
"If he had recited these verses before the King of Persia, he would have given him a thousand camels,” replied his neighbor, gravely.
“They ought to be suspended in the Temple of Mecca,” said a third.
“What I most admire is his image of the full moon that cannot be too often introduced,” said a fourth.
“Truly the moon should ever shine,” said a fifth. “ Also, in all truly fine verses there should be palm trees and fresh springs.”
Tancred, to whom Baroni had conveyed the meaning of the verses, was also pleased. Having observed that on a previous occasion the great sheik had rewarded the bard, Tancred ventured to take a chain, which he fortunately chanced to wear, from his neck, and sent it to the poet of Eva. This made a great sensation, and highly delighted the Arabs.
Alfred Tennyson was born in Lincolnshire in 1810. He is the son of a clergyman, and one of a numerous and gifted family. He was educated at Cambridge. Before finishing his course he published a volume containing the series of airy portraits, which, read now in the light of his great fame, seem exquisite, but were condemned by the critics then, as the dainty affectations of a poetaster. In his second volume was published The Miller's Daughter, and The May Queen, both fuli of human interest, and remarkable for a subtile skill in wordpainting. But his third volume, which contained The Gardener's Daughter, Locksley Hall, Dora, Ulysses, and the first of the legendary tales of Arthur's Court, established his reputation as the first of English poets; and upon the death of Wordsworth, in 1850, he was appointed Poet Laureate. His principal poems since published are, The Princess, In Memoriam, Maud, The Idyls of the King, Enoch Arden, and The Holy Grail.
Tennyson is generally considered to be a philosophical poet, and it is true that there is more of reverie and more of deep meditation than of apparent movement in his smoothly finished verse. But there is not one of the poems just named, no matter with what nice care its perfect epithets have been chosen, that is not alive to the core with some of the passions of our nature. His style has been stigmatized as "enamelled," but his enamel is like Milton's and Gray's, burned into the classic shape it covers, and as indestructible as the great thoughts it adorns.
The student who would know how the old Saxon element of the language can be moulded into the most terse, musical and picturesque blank verse must read the series of idyls (forming a real epic), upon the Knights of the Round Table. The characters are strongly drawn ; the incidents are in due perspective, and the style appears so simple, that at first one does not suspect either the vigor that inspires or the art that has rounded the verse. The songs of Tennyson, especially those in The Princess, have a delicious melody, to which the finest music can hardly add any charm.
Another trait must be noticed, and that is ihe pictorial art of the poet. Every stanza in his descriptive poems brings up a vivid scene to the least imaginative reader; the earth, the sky, and the sea are seen to be in harmony with the feeling of the hour; and by their sympathetic aspect give dignity and intensity to the human element.
Tennyson is a man of large stature, dark in complexion, with a full beard and abundant hair. He lives mostly at Faringford, in the Isle of Wight, not far from the Queen's residence. His aversion to meeting strangers is peculiarly strong; and the determined silence, or the short and gruff phrases by which even the most cultivated visitors and admirers have been repelled, leave us without much knowledge of his social character. Many a celebrity is most safely worshipped at a distance.
THE PASSING OF ARTHUR.
So all day long the noise of battle rolled
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere :
Of Camelot, as in the days that were.
To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere :
So saying, from the ruined shrine he stept,
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,
That both his eyes were dazzled, as he stood,
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere : “Hast thou performed my mission which I gave ? What is it thou hast seen ? or what hast heard ?"
And answer made the bold Şir Bedivere : “ I heard the ripple washing in the reeds, And the wild water lapping on the crag.”
To whom replied King Arthur, faint and pale:
Then went Sir Bedivere the second time
“ And if indeed I cast the brand away,