Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors]

The darkness of his soul avers that it is viler to breathe and watch, than once from dread of pain to die; adding—

“Art thou so bound
To men, that how thy name may sound
Will vex thee lying underground?

Go, vexed spirit, sleep in trust;
The right ear, that is filled with dust,
Hears little of the false and just.

“Hard task to pluck resolve!” I cried,
From emptiness and the waste wide,
Of that abyss, or scornful pride.”

He urges that the future may bring a happier time.

“To sing the joyful paean clear,
And sitting, burnish without fear
The brand, the buckler and the spear.”

Appealing at the same time to the old visions of future glory, which may yet come to pass. It may yet happen

“In some good cause—not in mine own
To perish, wept for, honored, known,
Like a great warrior overthrown :

Whose eyes are dim with glorious tears,
When soiled with noble dust, he hears
His country's war-song thrill his ear.

Then dying of a mortal stroke
What time the foeman's like is broke,
And all the war is rolled in smoke.”

The desponding spirit declares all these are but the “stirrings of the blood,” those impulsive delusions, without which life would expire beneath the steadfast weight of misery, and the daily, hourly invasion of wrong. He concludes this strain with a verse painfully revolting to the egotism of man. “For every worm beneath the moon,

Draws different threads, and late and soon
Spins, toiling out his own cocoon.

O dull, one-sided voice, (said I,)
Wilt thou make every thing a lie,
To flatter me that I may die?

I know that age to age succeeds,
Blowing a noise of tongues and deeds,
A dust of systems and of creeds.

I said—I toil beneath the curse,
But knowing not the universe,
I fear to slide from bad to worse.

And that in seeking to undo
One riddle, and to find the true,
I knit a hundred others new.

Consider well—the voice replied, - His face that two hours since hath died, Wilt thou find passion, pain or pride?” All the miseries of the human race pass over his head; he is insensible to all. Earthquakes rouse him not. Finely, subtly, logically, the poet answers the doubter— “If all be dark—vague voice—I said, These things are wrapt in doubt and dread, Nor canst thou show the dead are dead.” Oh! the volume of thought, the world of suggestion, the chaos of doubt in that one line—

“Thou canst not show the dead are dead.”

Finely Hope threads the perplexing maze of poetical metaphysics, and artistically utters, as an apology for the insufficiency of language, to render the mysterious clear.

“I cannot make this matter plain,
But I would shoot, howe'er in vain,
A random arrow from the brain :

As old mythologers relate,
Some drought of Lethe might await
The slipping through from state to state.

And here we find in trances, men
Forget the dream that happens then,
Until they fall in trance again.

I might forget my weaker lot;
For is not our first year forgot?
The haunts of memory echo not.

The still voice laughed—I talk, said he,
Not with thy dreams—suffice it thee -
Thy pain is a reality.”

The brighter spirit says in reply—

“Why set not forth, if I should do -
This rashness, that which might ensue,
With this old soul in organs new 7”

How marvellously poetry condenses in a single expression a course of thought, sufficient to “make us pause again”—

“Whatever crazy sorrow saith,
No life that breathes with human breath,
Has ever truly longed for death.

'Tis life, whereof our nerves are scant,
Oh, life not death for which we pant,
More life—and fuller—that I want—”

To this the spirit of gloom and despondency answers—

“in quiet scorn, Behold, it is the Sabbath morn ?”

This is the pivot of the argument:
“The sweet church bells began to peal.”

“On to God's house the people prest,
Passing the place where each must rest,
Each entered like a welcome guest.

One walked between his wife and child,
With measured footfall firm and mild,
And now and then he gravely smiled.

The prudent partner of his blood
Leaned on him, faithful, gentle, good,
Wearing the rose of womanhood. .

And in their double love secure,
The little maiden walked demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.

These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.

I blest them, and they wandered on:
I spoke, but answer came there none—
The dull and bitter voice was gone.

A second voice was at mine ear,
A little whisper, silver clear—
A murmur—“be of better cheer.”

And forth into the fields I went,
And nature's living motion lent,
The pulse of hope to discontent.

I wondered at the bounteous hours,
The slow results of winter showers,
You scarce could see the grass for flowers.

I wondered while I passed along,
The woods were filled so full with song,
There seemed no room for sense of wrong.
So variously seemed all things wrought,
I marvell'd how the mind was brought
To anchor by one gloomy thought.

And wherefore rather I made choice
To commune with that barren voice,
Than him that said ‘rejoice—rejoice.’”

Thus closes one of the most magnificent emanations of poetical thought of modern times, and it is certainly an effort in which Tennyson puts forth all the force and beauty of his muse. A captious critic of the day has declared that this is only an elaboration of Shakspere’s “To be, or not to be.” The best answer is to leave the public to read the two compositions. Tennyson's is a singular instance of the skill with which an argument can be logically and poetically carried on in a few emphatic words. On natural grounds the subject is argued—revelation is left properly out of the question; for this struggle of doubt could never rise in a christian's mind. It might, and does, no doubt, occur at some seasons in every imaginative nature, and we here find the matter brought to the test of sensation, and decided against gloom and despair, even without the irresistible voice of revelation. The Ulysses is very finely done: there, however, the merit ends. Originality does not belong to it: Tennyson took the idea from a paper in Leigh Hunt's Indicator, and Lamb supplied Hunt with the subject in a conversation one night, when that fine old wit amused them with an extempore fantasia, or imaginary biography of the Grecian wanderer, after his return to Penelope, or, as he jocularly called her “the weaver” or “stocking darner.” In AEnone the poet has attempted to infuse his own life into the pallid statues of antiquity; as an evidence of his variety, he reverses the attempt in his Death of Arthur. There are fine passages in this fragment of an epic, but notwithstanding the beauty of some of the thoughts it leaves a weariness on the mind which con

« ElőzőTovább »