Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

we

one

back, might prefer, alas! to see thou Cockney pretender !” what fun was going on

out of should say ;

" thou hop 'o my doors rather than to examine the thumb! thou frog that wouldst store of publications which occupy swell into the semblance of the our thoughts within: so we shall lordly master of the meadows ! go on soberly with our own work, -go hang a calf's skin on thy as befits a faithful servant of the recreant limbs !” And so did public, hoping for many months to our predecessors before us. A come to help the judgment and great glamour was in their eyes, develop the natural good taste of blinding them to the inevitable our respected masters, and summon certainty that

generation no spirits out of their repose. passes away and another comes.

We know, however, among the There was nothing said about books before us, which the old critics “School-miss Alfred,” we recollect of Maga would select by instinct for with a shudder. But what then? the first word. We are afraid they There are few so high-minded, few were not very genial to the first so enlightened, but would have appearance of the great poet of done the same. And time has our day. He was not a poet of brought its revenges. To us, who their day. Theirs was an age of now fill their places, it is Tennygiants, and the young aspirant who son who is the monarch, and the came in with a new dawn after youngsters his juniors are imthe glory of such a blaze of prime pertinent, as he once appeared. as that which shown upon Words. We are very sure that the slim worth, Coleridge, Southey, Byron, volume which we have here from Shelley, Keats, not to speak of our the poet's hands is the one to own ever - beloved and supreme which those critics would have first Magician of the North : is apt to turned; and there is, we will not look like a little unnecessary pre- deny, a certain humorous satistender-an upstart and interloper faction in discussing Locksley —

• seeking to oust the true monarchs Hall’ in presence of the effigies of from their thrones—or at least to those whose “ Lay of the Lovelorn" replace them, which is quite as can never be dissociated from that offensive to the worshipper. We fine work.

.

It is, we believe, unhave our doubts whether even we, derstood as one of the qualities impartial and unbiased we of a great poem, that it should know ourselves to be, would not lend itself seductively to the uses be animated by something of this of parody. Never, perhaps, was feeling towards any little young there such a parody as that of Bon man of twenty or so who should Gaultier. We are half ashamed to appear with a couple of volumes confess that the version of the misunder his arm, and the mani- chievous imitator so lingers in our fest intention of taking the noble ear, that without thought we can

Haslemere and Fresh- not identify which is which. water by the beard. " Begone

as

peer of

“I hold the grey barbarian lower than the Christian” {child, }

,

—which is it? and is it Tennyson We protest we are quite unable to or Bon Gaultier who talks of wor- reply. Let not Lord Tennyson shipping “Mighty Mumbo-Jumbo chafe at the disrespect, for there in the Mountains of the Moon ?" is none intended. The laughter

more.

has no bitter meaning in it. The fulfilled. He knows that nothing ridicule means admiration as true, is so good, yet nothing so bad, as perhaps more real and sincere he once thought; and that if his than the gush of effusive worship efforts may have been less fruitful which is one of the least whole- than he hoped, yet in the hand of some attendants of a great poet's God lies all his works, and that undisputed reign.

in everything there is something Sixty years after ! i A long which shows the trace of the life is, thank heaven, no rare divine. This matured and high thing among the immortals: but philosophy, the lesson of long conit is not often that they bring us tinuance, the best encouragement in baskets of gold and silver the to trust and patience, which may ripened fruit of their musings, as be read in the dim eyes of many this little volume professedly does. a voiceless old grandfather, makWordsworth, the last old man of ing his poor shred of humanity that high race, put forth instead, a noble thing, is not the lesson the tender chronicle of his early which the old poet teaches. The years, the Prelude to

existence, burden on his lips is failure. Once with its revelations of the poetic he hoped, but hopes no child, and pictures of the school- Once in that buoyancy of inspiboy and the youth, as he ap- ration with which youth springs proached the other limit of his out of its painful heartbreaks and life. Perhaps it was on the whole despairs, he had cried Forward ! a better inspiration. When Ten- hoping all things from the fairy nyson (he must pardon us, the tales of science and the long reoffensive prefix of that new lord- sults of time.

But sixty years ships is too much for our patience) have passed and these wonders returns in his old age to the strain are “staled by frequence, shrunk of his beginning, it is not so much by usage," and have not accomof the tender grace of the day plished their promise. that is dead that he thinks, as impulse has

produced-what? of the languor of the present and Nothing ! More misery in the disappointments of the past. streets, more vice in our blood. Nothing can be more benign and He bids his grandson, who is now delightful than the aspect of an the heir of all things, who is sufold man turning back, with the fering as he did from a false love, mellow light of experience in his to adopt another rule. To do his eyes with half a smile over all best, hoping for little, is all he those sincerest transports of mis-. can suggest to the new hero. ery and rapture through which he Not to think that he can change has passed, and half a sigh over the face of things, yet not to the high expectations which, at cease hoping that “ Love will contheir best, are never more than half quer at the last.”

That great

our

You, my Leonard, use and not abuse your day.
Move among your people, know them, follow him who led the way;
Strove for sixty widow'd years to help his homelier brother-men,
Served the poor and built the cottage, raised the school and drain'd the fen.

i Locksley Hall. Sixty Years after. By Alfred Lord Tennyson. London: Macmillan & Co.

a cry

poor.”

we

Follow you the star that lights a desert pathway, yours or mine;
Forward till you see the highest human nature is divine.
Follow light and do the right-for man can half control his doom-

Till you find the deathless angel seated in the vacant tomb." This is the shadowed yet not hopeless, no gospel but unhopeful conclusion which the of anger and pain. Nevertheless poet offers to those who come there are still gleams of sweeter after him, instead of the passion- experience. The husband for ate gospel of progress which in- whom Cousin Amy deserted her spired his own youth. We will poet-lover, turned out on the whole not quote the more particular re- somethimg much better than jealcords of his disappointment. The ous fancy depicted him. Sixty critics of the newspapers have al- years after it is possible to do ready pointed out all that is harsh justice. Instead of making his and painful in the poem, the dread- wife “ lower to his level day by ful picture of "glooming alleys,” day,” it is he who is the example, " sordid attic," and all that is most who “served the poor and built terrible in the warrens of the the cottage, as it behoves his de

Harsh is the strain and scendant to do.
“Worthier soul was he than I am, sound and honest, rustic Squire,

Kindly landlord, boon companion--youthful jealousy is a liar.” (Oh-h! how that last phrase with us from those shrill falsetto jars!) And because we love our notes to a strain in which the old poet, even when feel that music still breathes with chastened there is a nobler dignity in silence sweetness, perfect as in his prime, than in those harsh echoes of when the old poet tenderly recalls the past, we bid the gentle reader the visions of the past. who desires no blame to turn

Yonder in that chapel, slowly sinking now into the ground,
Lies the warrior, my forefather, with his feet upon the hound.
Cross'd! for once he sail'd the sea to crush the Moslem in his pride.
Dead the warrior, dead his glory, dead the cause in which he died.
Yet how often I and Amy in the mouldering aisle have stood,
Gazing for one pensive moment on that founder of our blood !
There again I stood to-day, and where of old we knelt in prayer
Close beneath the casement, crimson with the shield of Locksley—there,
All in white Italian marble, looking still as if she smiled,
Lies my Amy dead in child-birth, dead the mother, dead the child.
Dead, and sixty years ago, and dead her aged husband now,
I, this old white-headed dreamer, stoopt and kiss'd her marble brow.
Gone the fires of youth, the follies, furies, curses, passionate tears,
Gone like fires and floods and earthquakes of the planet's dawning years.
Gone the comrades of my bivouac, some in fight against the foe,
Some through age and slow diseases, gone as all on earth will go.
Gone, with whom for forty years my life in golden sequence ran,
She, with ail the charm of woman, she with all the breadth of man,
Very woman of very woman, nurse of ailing body and mind,
She that link'd again the broken chain that bound me to my kind.

Gone for ever! no; for since our dying race began,
Exer, ever, and for ever was the leading light of man.”

We must add one fine passage imperial concerns might hang on in which, after a burst of indig- the verdict of ignorance, the poet, nant scorn over the working of after he has bidden us fiercely the Demos, and the chance that “take the suffrage of the plow, the honour of England in all her suddenly changes his tone

“ Nay, but these would feel and follow the Truth is only you and you,

Rivals of realm-ruining party, when you speak were wholly true.
Plowmen, shepherds, have I found, and more than once, and still could find
Sons of God, and kings of men, in utter nobleness of mind.
Truthful, trustful, looking upward to the practised hustings-liar,

So the Higher wields the Lower, while the Lower is the Higher."
Thus the poet though for a mo-

no doubt the dramatic monologue" ment he is a pessimist, and sad of Tennyson's old age will be with disappointment and righteous treated as more or less autobiorage, yet cannot shut his eyes to graphical, and discussed by anxious the underlying good.

historians eager to find some hidden We will not do Lord Tennyson fact of life beneath every line, as the injustice to make any comment has been done in other cases. It is upon the unfortunate essay in singular, however, to step from the domestic comedy-tragedy which forms the greater part of this vol- “ Poor old voice of eighty, crying after ume. The obstinacy with which

voices that have fled," so old a sovereign of the public in- to the record, palpitating with sists upon making the world take youthful pangs and delights, of back its adverse verdict, is compre- one who never got beyond the hensible enough, however much it first ecstasy of living, or learned may be regretted. To feel that he the wisdom or was tamed into the has failed is a disagreeable surprise sobriety of mature manhood. The for one who has succeeded so con- reader who loves literature for itstantly. But there are some de- self will have anticipated with ficiencies which ought to be ac- interest the Life of Shelley,' knowledged even in the Temple of which has been for some time in Fame itself, and one of these is, preparation by hands so careful that assuredly our Laureate, with and cultivated as those of Proall his powers, does not possess that fessor Dowden. Much has been dramatic skill which is given to already written on the subject, and many meaner men.

the name of the poet has been conFrom poetry it is but a step to fused with many autobiographical poetical biography, scarcely in- records, in which other men have deed, in this instance, a step at all; done their best to interest the for in the time to come, which we world in the part they themselves trust may be long delayed, when played in his hapless story, quiie the records of the present reigning as much as to chronicle the facts name shall take their place among and certainties that concerned other memorials of poets departed, their hero. Hogg, Peacock, Med

1

1 The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Kegan Paul, Trench, & Co.

By Edward Dowden, LL.D.

London :

up

win, Trelawney, and how many He has been able to add some names beside, will occur to the chapters to the record, making

, recollection of every reader- it continuous, and to fill all contemporary

witnesses, and the breaks and intervals in eager to tell everything, and a other places from correspondences little more perhaps than every- abridged and suppressed. The book thing, they knew. There followed is not one of criticism. It is not a silence after the futter of all intended to expound either the these voices, and the interest con- strange chaotic beliefs and wild nected with the poet drooped in social theories of the poet, or the the partial and momentary decay modes and methods of his wonderof nature; but fame has now ful art. The position of Shelley had time to come back, and the as a poet is one of those things reputation of Shelley has risen into beyond argument and reason, on what is perhaps an extravagant which there has never been any reactionary splendour. Of late real conflict of opinion. Even in years it has become a fashion with those mad days of youth when a small but enthusiastic sect to Queen Mab ” affronted the world, place the poet on a pedestal which and the poet's bark was launched is something more than that of upon no gentle stream, but in the poetical fame, and to claim for him midst of a whirlpool, the wondernot only the merited laurel of a ful boy took the imagination capgreat singer, but strange crowns tive with a spell impossible to of olive and myrtle, the reward shake off. We believe, even now, of the philosopher and moralist. that the number of readers who Professor Dowden fortunately does are familiar with his longer poems not join in these exaggerated the bewildering sweetness of claims. His aim is not to sup- “ Alastor," the gorgeous visions of port any theory, but to set before the “Revolt of Islam," or even the us with a fulness of detail not pre- exquisite melody of some parts of viously attained, the much confus- the “Prometheus”- '-are comparaed and wandering career of one tively few,-as few as those who of the most wayward, if also one follow Wordsworth through all the of the mo:t interesting, beautiful, valleys and over all the mountains and bewildering spirits that ever of the “Excursion"; yet Shelley was clothed in flesh and blood. calls forth a warmer enthusiasm He has collected and examined than his austere and noble senior. the many fragmentary pictures in He has the suffrages of those who which Shelley and the curious are capable of judging, and of those figures assembled round him have who are not. The full flowing appeared in glimpses before a stream of perfect sound which puzzled world. What has hitherto carries him along has what we been 10 seek in many books, all may venture

to call an almost more or less imperfect, may now mechanical power over multitudes finally be found with authority in incapable of understanding his this. Mr W. M. Rossetti, in the poetry in any higher sense.

That biography prefixed to his edition melodious medium borrows the of Shelley's works, had already results of another art. It has the done much; but Professor Dow- supreme effect of music transportden, with

a ing, by the endless wonder of its more perfect command of all harmonies, minds from which its the sources of information, has en- intellectual meaning may be hid, larged and completed the work. and which want no more than that

[ocr errors]

more

space and

« PoprzedniaDalej »