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spend our genius on a Globe Theatre, or on any other vulgar manner of earning daily bread. The poet is a greater thing than his poem; let us take it solely as an evidence of his progress; and in the mean time, however he may tantalise the world with his gamut and his exercises, let all the world look on with patience, with awe, and with admiration. True, he is not making an Othello or a Hamlet; but never mind, he is making Himself.
Yet the thought will glide in upon us woefully unawares,-What the better are we? We are ever so many millions of people, and only a hundred or two of us at the utmost can be made happy in the personal acquaintanceship of Mr Tennyson or (we humbly crave the Laureate's pardon for the conjunction) Mr Dobell. In this view of the question, it is not near so important to us that these gentlemen should perfect the poet, as that they should make the poem. We ask the Laureate for a battle-song, and he gives us a skilful fantasia upon the harp; we hush our breath and open our ears, and, listening devoutly to the "Eureka!" of here and there a sanguine critic, who has found a poet, wait, longing for the lay that is to follow. Woe is upon us all that we can hear in the universal twitter is, that every man is trying his notes. We are patient, but we are not a stoic; and in the wrath of our disappointment are we not tempted a hundred times to plunge these melodious pipes into the abyss of our waste-paper basket, and call aloud for Punch, and the Times? Yes, that great poetic rebel, Wordsworth, has heavier sins upon his head than Betty Foy and Alice Fell; it is to him we owe it, that the poet in these days is to be regarded as a delicate monster, a creature who lives not life but poetry, a being withdrawn out of the common existence, and seeing its events only in the magic mirror of his own consciousness, as the Lady of Shallott saw the boats upon the river, and the city towers burning in the sun. The Poet of the Lakes had no imaginary crimes to tell the world of, nor does it seem that he regarded insanity as one of the
highest and most poetic states of man; but we venture to believe there never would have been a Balder, and Maud should have had no crazy lover, had there been no Recluse, solemnly living a long life for Self and Poetry in the retired and sacred seclusion of Rydal Mount.
It is in this way that the manner which is natural and a necessity to some one great spirit, becomes an intolerable bondage and oppression to a crowd of smaller ones. The solemn egotism, self-reserved and abstract, which belonged to Wordsworth, is more easily copied than the broad, bright, manful nature of our greatest English poet, who was too mighty to be peculiar; and the delusion has still a deeper root. It is in our nature, as it seems, to scorn what is familiar and common to all the world; priesthoods, find them where you will, are bound to profess a more ethereal organisation, and seek a separated atmosphere. Wordsworth is a very good leader; but for a thorough out-andout practical man, admitting no compromise with his theory, commend us to Anthony the Eremite, the first of all monkish deserters from this poor sinking vessel, the world. The poet is the priest of Nature; out with him from this Noah's ark of clean and unclean, this field of wheat and tares, growing together till the harvest,this ignoble region of common life. Let the interpreter betake him to his monastery, his cloister, his anchorite's cell-and when he is there? Yes, when he is there he will sing to us poor thralls whom he has left behind, but not of our ignoble passions and rejoicings, or the sorrows that rend our hearts. Very different from our heavy-handed troubles, rough troopers in God's army of afflictions, are the spectre shapes of this poetic world. True, their happiness is rapture, their misery of the wildest, their remorse the most refined; but the daylight shines through and through these ghostly people, and leaves nothing of them but bits of cloud. Alas, the preaching is vain and without profit! What can the poet do-when he is tired of his Mystic, sick of his Balder, weary of Assyrian bulls and lords with rabbit-mouths? Indeed, there seems
little better left for him than what his predecessors did before. The monk spent his soul upon some bright-leaved missal, and left the record of his life in the illumination of an initial letter, or the border of foliage on a vellum page; the poet throws away his in some elaborate chime of words, some new inverted measure, or trick of jingling syllables. Which is the quaintest? for it is easy to say which is the saddest waste of the good gifts of God.
Also it is but an indifferent sign of us, being, as we undoubtedly are, so far as poetry is concerned, a secondary age, that there can be no dispute about the first poet of our day. There is no elder brotherhood to compete for the laurel; no trio like Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey; no guerilla like Byron to seize upon the contested honour, nor Irish minstrel to strike a sugared note of emulation. Should a chance arrow at this moment strike down our poetic champion, so far from comforting ourselves, like King Henry, that we have "five hundred as good as he," we could not find for our consolation one substitute for Tennyson. Echoes of him we could indeed find by the score; but no one his entire equal in all the field. Let no one say we do not appreciate poetry; in these mechanical days there are still a goodly number of singers who could echo that unfortunate admission which cost Haverillo his life, and was the last stroke of exasperation to the redoubtable Firmilian, "I have a third edition in the press." But in spite of Smith and Dobell, the Brownings and the Mystics, our Laureate holds his place; holding his laurel with justice and right less disputable than most of his predecessors. Yet our admiration of Tennyson is perplexed and unsatisfactory. He is the first in his generation, but out of his generation he does not bear comparison with any person of note and fame equal to his own. He is small in the presence of Wordsworth, a very inferior magician indeed by the side of Coleridge; his very music-pardon us, all poets and all critics-does not flow. It may be melodious, but it is not winged; one stanza will not float into another. It is a rosary
of golden beads, some of them gemmed and radiant, fit to be set in a king's crown; but you must tell them one by one, and take leisure for your comment while they drop from your fingers. They are beautiful, but they leave you perfectly cool and selfpossessed in the midst of your admiration. To linger over them is a necessity; it becomes them to be read with criticism; you go over the costly beadroll and choose your single favourites here and there, as you might do in a gallery of sculpture.. And thus the poet chooses to make you master of his song, it does not seize upon you.
This is a kind and manner of influence which poets have not often aimed at. Hitherto it has been the object of this fraternity to arrest and overpower their audience as the Ancient Mariner fascinated the wedding guest; and we all know how helplessly, and with what complete submission, we have followed in the train of these enchanters, wheresoever it pleased them to turn their wayward footsteps. But Mr Tennyson aims at a more refined and subtle influence than this downright enslaving. A poet who writes, or seems to write, because he cannot help it, and a poet who writes, or seems to write, of set purpose and malice prepense, are two very different persons. A man of the first class could not have written In Memoriam. Had he been mourning, he must have mourned a closer grief, and broken his heart over it, ere he had wept the half of those melodious tears; but for the poet quietly selecting a subject for his poem, the wisest philosopher could not have suggested a better choice. A great deal has been said and written on this subject, and we are fully aware that grief does not make books, or even poems, except in very rare and brief instances, and that the voice of a great sorrow is a sharp and bitter outcry, and not a long and eloquent monologue. But Mr Tennyson does not present himself to us under the strong and violent compulsion of a great sorrow. It is not grief at his heart which makes him speak, using his gifts to give ease and utterance to its burden of
#20 uses them out! The poet, more composed, Is apa- does what we could not do; he makes Il re those flashes of hope or of agony into mesai pictures visible and true. Those a flimpses of the face of the dead, of his poem the moonlit marking out upon the Marie the letters of his name, those raves of his progress now from brigas to helgar in the pure heavens, A de Consistent lights and shaHi [s-maged thoughts of the siRateve, and of the sound
sympathy-but for the most part this poet holds his verse in perfect subordination, and is never overcome or led away by it. His poetry is made, it is not born. When he can round a sentence into a stanza, the effect, of its kind, is perfect; but the very form of his favourite measure, the rhythm of In Memoriam, is against any real outburst of involuntary song; for the verse which falls so sweetly when it contains all that belongs to it within its perfect crystal round, like a dewdrop, makes only a most blurred and unshapely strain when it has to eke out its sense with another and another stanza. When the necessities of his subject force him to this, the poet labours like a man threading together a succession of fish-ponds in hopes of making a river. Of themselves these silvery globes are perfect, but there is no current in them, and, work as you will, they can never flow and glow into a living stream. Yes, our Laureate unhappily is always far too much "master of his subject;" would that his subject now and then could but master him!
If it should happen, by any chance, that Mr Tennyson shared in Wordsworth's solemn conceit, and designed to make a Gothic cathedral out of his works and life, we marvel much what place in it could be given to The Princess, that prettiest of poetic extravagances. Not a Lady-chapel, though it is of a college of ladies that the story treats-not a delicate shrine, all wrought in lilies and graces of foliage, like the shrine of some sweet maiden-saint. No; the Marys, the Catherines, and the Margarets, symbolised an entirely different fashion of womankind; yet have we the greatest kindness for Ida in her girlish heroics, sincerest of all fictions-in her grand words, and her pride, her inconstant subjects, and her own selfbetraying heart. For our own part, we are so entirely weary of symbols, that we do not pause to inquire whether The Princess means anything more than it professes to mean. To us it is only a pleasant picture of the phantasies of youth.
The sweet and daring folly of girlish heroics and extravagance has not done half so much service to the
poet and story-teller as has the corresponding stage in the development of inan. Yet there is more innocence in it, and perhaps in its full bloom its pretensions are even more sublime. The delicate temerity which dares everything, yet at its very climax starts away in a little sudden access of fear-the glorious young stoic, who could endure a martyrdom, yet has very hard ado to keep from crying when you lose her favourite book or break her favourite flower-the wild enthusiast dreamer, scorning all authorities, who yet could not sleep o' nights if she had transgressed by ever so little the sweet obedience of home,—there is a charm about this folly almost more delightful than the magic of the bolder youth, with all its bright vagaries; and it is this which makes our tenderness for the Princess Ida and all her "girl graduates in their golden hair."
Strange enough, however, this phase of youthfulness does not seem to have struck any woman-poet. We have heroines pensive and heroines sublime, heroines serious and heroines merry, but very few specimens of that high fantastical which embraces all these, and into which most men, and doubtless most women, on their way to soberer life, have the luck to fall. Mrs Browning is too sad, too serious, too conscious of the special pangs and calamities which press heaviest on her sisterhood, to take note of any hap pier peculiarity. Nor is this special eye to feminine troubles confined to Mrs Browning a weeping and a melancholy band are the poetesses of all generations. "Woman is the lesser man," says the Laureate; but only woman is the sadder man-the victim set apart on a platform of injury-the wronged and slighted being whose lot it is to waste her sweetness on hearts unkind and ungrateful, say all the ladies. "Her lot is on you." The mature woman has no better thought, when she looks over the bright girl-heads, bent in their morning prayer; and wherever we have a female singer, there stands woman, deject and pensive, betrayed, forsaken, unbeloved, weeping immeasurable tears. Is a woman, then, the only creature in God's universe whom He leaves without compensa
tion? Out upon the thought! but there ought to be some Ida bold enough to proclaim the woman's special happinesses-the exuberant girl-delights the maiden meditation, fancy free-the glory of motherhood -the blessings as entirely her own as are the griefs. Bertha in the
Lane is a most moving story, sweetly told; but ye are not always weeping, O gentlest sisterhood! and where are your songs of joy?
If Mr Tennyson intends the hysterical folly of Maud for a companion picture to this one, he is indeed elevating the woman to a higher pedestal than even Ida dreamed of; for the youth is a miserable conception in comparison with this sunbright girl. In the beginning of the last reign of poets-when men, disturbed by the great rustle of the coming wings, endeavoured to find out wherein the magic consisted, to which they could not choose but yield-we remember to have seen many clever speculations on the nature of poetry "One said it was the moon-another said nay"; and it was very hard to understand the unreasonable potency of this enchantment which, indeed, clever people, unwilling to yield to an influence which they cannot measure, are perpetually accounting for by rules and principles of art. "It has always been our opinion," says Lord Jeffrey, "that the very essence of poetry, apart from the pathos, the wit, or the brilliant description which may be embodied in it, but may exist equally in prose, consists in the fine perception and vivid expression of that subtle and mysterious analogy which exists between the physical and the moral world-which makes outward things and qualities the natural types and emblems of inward gifts and emotions, and leads us to ascribe life and sentiment to everything that interests us in the aspects of external nature." Lord Jeffrey is a good authority, though sometimes this troublesome poetry put even the accomplished critic out of his reckoning; but we are sadly afraid that this deliverance of his, or at least the idea it contains, has had some share in the present insanity of all our poets in regard to Nature. Mr Tennyson may have a private
reason of his own for making such a miserable grumbler as his last hero. Mr Dobell may hold himself justified, in the heights of self-complacence, and for the benefit of art, for his atrocious Balder, a criminal, by all poetic laws, for prosiness interminable, worse than murder; but we would crave to know what right these gentlemen may have to seize upon our genial nature, and craze her healthful looks and voices to their hysterical and ghastly fancy? We are content, if he uses his own materials, that the Laureate should dabble his hollow with blood to his heart's content; but we will not consent, for a hundred laureates, to make the free heather of our hills, the kindly blossom sacred to home and to liberty, an image of disgust and horror. After all, this is a very poor trick and a contemptible-at its best much like that which Mr Ruskin denounces as the most ignoble thing in painting, the excitement of mind which comes from a successful deception, the consciousness that the thing we look at is not what it appears to be. When we feel Nature sympathising with us, it is well; but it is not well when we force her to echo our own mad fancies, of themselves forced and unreal enough. The "frantic rain," the " shuddering dark," the "maddened beach "-alas, poor poets! is force of expression not to be found by better means than by this juggle of misplaced adjectives? How widely different was the " sea change into something rich and strange" of the sweeter imagination and the greater heart!
But it is doubtless a very perturbed atmosphere in which we find ourselves when we come face to face with the last new arrival in the land of poesy, the unfortunate young gentleman whose hard fate it is to love Maud, and to shoot her brother. He has no name, this ill-fated youth; but doubtless Balder is reckoned in his roll of cousinships, and so is Mr Alexander Smith. There are three of them, ladies and gentlemen, and they are an amiable trio. Strangely as their garb and intentions are altered, there is a lingering reminis cence about them of a certain Childe Harold who once set the world aflame. Like him they are troubled