Изображения страниц
[ocr errors]


Alfred was born in the parsonage at Somersby (near Spilsby) ip 1510. In 1829. he gained the Chancellor's niedal for the English prize poem, his subject being. Timbuctoo.' Previous to this, in conjunction with his brother Charles, he published anonymously a small volume entitled 'Poems by Two Brothers.' In 1831 appeared · Poems, chietly Lyrical, by Alfred Tennyson.' This volume contained poems since altered and incorporated in later collections. These early productions had the faults of youthful genius-irregularity, indistinctness of conception, florid puerilities, and occasional affectation. . In such poems, however, as 'Mariana,' 'Recollections of the Arabian Nights,' and

Claribel,' it was obvious that a true original poet had arisen. In 1833, Mr. Tennyson issued another volume, shewing an advance in poetical power and in variety of style, though the collection met with severe treatment from the critics. For nine years the poet continued silent. In 1812, he reappeared with Poems,’ in two volumes—this third series being a reprint of some of the pieces in the former volumes, considerably altered, with many new poems, including the most striking and popular of all his productions. These were of various classes—fragments of legendary and chivalrous story, as * Morte d'Arthur,' «Godiva,' &c.; or pathetic and beautiful, as "The May Queen' and Dora'; or impassioned love-poems, as · The Gardener's Daughter, The Miller's Daughter,' «The Talking Oak,' and "Locksley Hall. The last is the most finished of Tennyson's works, full of passionate grandeur and intensity of feeling and imagination. It partly combines the energy and impetuosity of Byron with the pictorial beauty and melody of Coleridge. The lover of Locksley Hall' is ardent, generous, and noble-minded, nourishing a youth sublime' with lofty aspirations and dreams of felicity. His passion is at first returned:

Extracts from · Locksley Hall.'
Love took up the glass of Time, and turned it in his gloring hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands
Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, passed in music out of sight.
Many a morning on the moorland did we hear the copses ring.
And her whisper thronged my pnleer with the fullness of the Spring.
Many an eveying by the waters did we watch the stately ships,

And our spirits rushed together at the touching of the lips. The fair one proves faithless, and after a inmnlt of conflicting passions-Indigna 4on. grief, self-reproach, and despair-the sufferer finds relief in glowing visions of future enterprise and the world's progress.

For I dipt into th future. far as hnman eye could see.
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens ill with cominerce, argoeies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shooting, and there rained a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navien grappling in the central blue :
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south wind rusbing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging through the thunder-storm; .;
Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battle Aags were furled
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the worid.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretiul realm in awe,

And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law. There is a marvellous brilliancy of colouring and.force of sentiment and expression in this poem, while the versițication is perfect. The ballad strains of Tennyson, and particularly his musical Oriana,' also evince consummate art; and when he is purely descriptive, nothing can exceed the minute fidelity with which he paiuts the English landscape. The poet having shifted his residence from Lincolnshire to the Isle of Wight, his scene-paiuting partook of the change.* The following is from his ‘Gardener's Daughter :'

Not wholly in the busy world, nor quite
Beyond it, blooins the garden that I love,
News from the humming city comes to it
In sound of fuperal or of marriage bells;
And, sitting muflled in dark leaves, you hear
The windy clanging of the minster clock;
Although between it and the garden lies
A league of grass, washed by a slow broad stream,
That, stirred with languid pulses of the oar,
Waves all its lazy lilies, and creeps on,
Barge laden, to three arches of a bridge
Crowned with the minster towers.

1 he fields between
Are dewry-fresh, browsed by deep-uddered kine,
And all a bont the large lime feathers low,

The line a summer home of murmurous wings. The poet, while a dweller amidst the fens of Lincolnshire, painted morasses, quiet meres, and sighing reeds. The exquisitely modulated poem of The Dying Swan' affords a picture drawn, we think, with wonderful delicacy:

Some bine peaks in the distance rose,
And white against the cold-white sky,
Shone out their crowning snows;

One willow over the river wept.

And shook the wave as the wind did sigh; The mute from Alum Bay to Carisbrooke takes you past Farriogford, wbere resided Alfred Tennyson. The house stands so far back as to be invisible from the road, but tho grounds

A careless ordered garden.

Close to the ridge of a noble downlooked very pretty and thoroughly Engljah. In another verse of the poem from which I have anoted-the invitation to the Rev. F. D. Maurice-he exactly describes the sitas tion of Farringford :

For groves of pine on either hand.

To break the blast of winter, stand:
And further in the hearr channel

Tumbles a billow on chalk and sand. Every one well arqnainted with Tennyson's writings will have noticed how the spirit of the scenery which he has depicted has chan-ed from the glooming Aats.' the level waste' were stretched wide and wild the waste enormous marsh.' which were the reflex of his Lincolnshire observation, to the beautiful meadow and orchard t!:oronghly English ruralities of the Garrienai's Dawonter and The Brook Many glimpses in the neighbourhood of Farringford will call to mind descriptive passages in these last named poems. -Letter in the Daily Veins. The laureate has also an estate in Surrey (Aldworth, Haslemere), to which he retreats when the tourists and admirers becomo oppressive is the Isle of Wight.

[ocr errors]

Above in the wiod was the swallow,
Chasing itself at its own wild will;
And far through the marish green and still,

The tangled water-courses el pt,

Shot over with puple, and green, and yellow.
The ballad of “The May Queen' introduces similar scenery:

When the flowers come again, mother, beneath the waning light,
You'll never see me more in the long gray fields at night;
When from the dry dark wold the summer airs low cool

On the out-grass and the sword-grass, and the buirush in the pool. • The Talking Oak’ is the title of a fanciful and beautiful poem of seventy-five stanzas, in which a lover and an oak tree converse upon the charms of a certain fair Olivia. The oak-tree thus describes to the lover her visit to the park in which it grew:

Extracts from 'The Talking Oak.'
•Then ran she, gamesome as the colt, But not a creature was in sight:
And livelier than a lark

She kissed me once again.
She sent her voice through all the holt
Before her and the park. ...

*Her kisses were so close and kind,

That, trust me on my woru,
And here she came, and round me played, Hard wood I am, and wrinkled rind,
And sang to me the whole

But yet my sup was stirred:
Of those three stanzas that you made
About my "giant bole;"

And even into my ipmest ring

A pleasure I discerned, • Add in a fit of frolic mirth

Like those blind motions of the Spring, She etrove to span my waist :

That shew the year is turned. ...
Alas! I was so broad of girth,
I could not be embraced.

• I. rooted here among the groves,

But languidly adjust "I wished myself the fair young beech My vapid vegetable loves That here beside me stands.

With anthers and with dust : That round me, clasping each in each, She might have locked her hands. ... •For ah! my friend, the days were brief

Whereof the poets talk, O muffle round thy knees with fern, When that, which breathes within the And shadow Sumner-chace!

leaf, Long may thy topmost branch discern Could slip its bark and walk. The roofs of Sumner-place!

But could I, as in times foregone. But tell me, did she read the name From spray, and branch, and stem, I carved with many vows,

Have fucked and gathered into one
When last with throbbing heart I came The life that spreads in them.
To rest beneath thy boughs ?

She bad not found me so remiss;
O yes; she wandered round and round But light'y issuing through,
1 hese knotted knees of mine,

I would have paid her kiss fur kiss, And found, and kissed the name she With usury thereto.'

found. And sweetly murmured thine.

O flourish high, with leafy towers,

And overlook the lea; *A tear-drop trembled from its scurce, Pursue thy loves among the bowers, And down my surface crept

But leave thou mine to me.
My sense of touch is something coarse,
But I believe she wept.

O flonrish, hidden deep in fern,

Old oak. I love thee well; Phen flusbed her cheek with rosy light; A thousand thanks for what I learn, She glanced across the plain;

And what remains to tell.

And the poet, in conclusion, promises to praise the mystic tree even more than England honours his brother-oak,

Wherein the yonuger Charles abode

Till all the paths were diin,
And far beloic the Roundhead rode,

And hummed a surly hymn.
The last two lines furnish a finished little picture.

Still more dramatic in effect is the portrait of the heroine of Coventry.

She sought her lord, and found him, where he strode
About the ball, among his dogs, alone. ...

She told bin of their tears,
And prayed him, If they pay this tax, they starve.'
Where it he stared, replying. half amazed,
You would not let your inttle finger ache
For such as these !! But I wonld die.' said she.
He laughed, and swore by Peter and by Paul :
T'hen filliped at the diamond in her ear;.
O ay, ay, ay, you t:ilk !'—*Alas!' she siid,
* But prove ine what it is I would not do.'
And from a heart as rongi as E-au's hand,
He answered : Riile you nked through the town,
And I repeal it;' and nodding as in scorn
He parted, wit i great strides among his dogs.

So left alone, the passions of her inind-
As winds from all the compass sbift avd blow
Made war upou each other for an hour,
Till pity won. She sent a herald forth,
And bade bin cry, with sound of trainpet, all
The hard condition; but that she would loose
The people: therefore, as they loved her well,
From then till noon no foot should pace the street,
No eye look down, she p:issing; but that all.
Should keep within, door shut, and window barred.

Then fled she to her inmost bower, and there
Unclasped the wedded eagles of her belt,
The grim Earl's gift; but ever at a b eath
She lingered. looking like a sunimer moon
Half-dipt in cloud : anon she shook her head,
And showered the rippled ringlets to her knee;
Unclas herself in basie; adown the stair
Stole on ; and, like a creeping sunbeam. slid
From pillar into pillar, until she reached
The gateway; there she found her palsrey trapt
In purple blazoned with armorial gold.

Then she rode forth, clothed on with chastity:
The deep air listened round her as she rode,
And all the low wind hardly breathed for fear.
The little wide-mouthed hends upon the spouts
Had curving eyes to fee; the parking car
Made her cheek flame: her pufrey's footfall shot
Light horrors throngh her pulses: the blind walls
Were full of chiuks and holes; and overhead
Fantastic gables, crowdiny, stared : but she
Not less through all bore up. till, last, she saw
The white-flowered elder-thicket from the field
Gleam through the Gothic archways in the wall.

Then she rode buck, clothed on with chastity:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

And one low churl, compact of thankless earth,
The fatal byword of all years to come,
Boring a little auger-hole in fear,
Peeped—but his eyes, before they had their will,
Were shrivelled into darkness in his head,
And dropt before him. So the Powers, who wait
On noble deeds, cancelled a sense misused;
And she, that knew not, passed: and all at once,
With twelve great shocks of sound, the shameless DOOR
Was clashed and hammered from a hundred towers,
One after one: but even then she gained
Her bower; whence reissuing, robed and crowned,
To meet her lord, she took the tax away,

And built herself an everlasting name. An extract from “The Lotos-eaters' will give a specimen of our poet's modulations of rhythm. This poem represents the luxurious lazy sleepiness said to be produced in those who feed upon the lotos, and contains passages not surpassed by the finest descriptions in the · Castle of Indolence.' It is rich in striking and appropriate imagery, and is sung to a rhythm which is music itself.

The Lotos-eaters.
Why are we weighed upon with heavinegs,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
While all things else have rest from weariness ?
All things have rest: why should we toil alone,
We only toil, who are the first of things,
And make perpetual moan,
Still from one sorrow to another thrown....
Lo! in the middle of the wood.
The folded leaf is wooed from ont the bud
With winds upon the branch, and there,
Growe green and broad, and takes no care,
Sun-steeped at noon, and in the moon
Nightly dew fed; and turning yellow
Falls, and floats adown the air.
Lo ! sweetened with the enmmer light.
The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow,
Drops in a silent antamn night.
All its allotted length of days,
The flower ripens in its place,
Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toll,
Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.
Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
Let us alone. What is it that will last ?
All things are taken from us and become
Portions and parrels of the dreadful Past.
Let us alone. "What pleasnre cap we have
Towar pith evil? Is there any peace
In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
All things have rest. and ripon toward the grave
In silence: ripen. fall and crase :
Give us long part or denth dark death, or dreamfnl ensa.
How sinnt it from hrarinthe downward stream,
With half-rhut rype ever to peem
Talling asleep in a half-dream!

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »