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In his twentieth year he published a poem called “Pauline," which he has never acknowledged, and of which he now appears to be ashamed. It has little merit beyond a certain faint evidence of sensuous feeling running through it ; that kind of murmuring music which ever accompanies a poet in his walk through life.
In 1836 his first acknowledged poem appeared, called “Paracelsus," and it is the opinion of many of the critics of the day that this will be the work by which he will be the most remembered. A critic has remarked, that one of the finest thoughts of modern times is embalmed in three lines in this
“ There are two points in the adventure of a diver,
First when a beggar he prepares to plunge,
Festus, I plunge!" An eminent poet remarked that Mr. Browning had lost the chief force of the thought by the first line, which he maintained was very prosaic; he suggested that it ought to be altered, as
“ There are two moments in a diver's life," &c.
This is a point for the author. We named this to Mr. Browning, who acknowledged his own line was feeble.
Mr. Browning's Paracelsus excited little attention. Mr. Forster, of the Examiner, praised it, Mr. Fox, of the Monthly Repository, and Heraud's New Monthly Magazine--and there was an end of the matter. It, however, gave the poet a quiet pedestal for his future station, and he is now so proud of his young creation that he generally places it as his peculiar characteristic, and calls himself author of Paracelsus.
To Paracelsus succeeded a tragedy, called Strafford, which, owing to Mr. Forster's influence with Mr. Macready, was performed. The great tragedian acted Strafford—but all his efforts were unavailing. It was the tragedy of spasms; the want of personal interest is too deeply felt to allow of any doubt, and the work of a strong mentality
I rose up in the silent night,
The wind is raging in turret and tree-
O the Earl was fair to see.
The wind is blowing in turret and tree-
O the Earl was fair to see."
O rare pale Margaret,
As perfume of the cuckoo flower ?"
" There lies a vale in Ida, lovelier far
Than all the valleys of Ionian Hills,
Locksley Hall,” we have the indignant rebuke which a young poet pours out to the world, occasioned by the lady of his love marrying another-a dull every-day sort of husband. The hopeless desolation of the abandoned lover is finely expressed.
The sufferer, invoking his betrayer, her loveliness and her falsehood, by the memory of their former happiness, says that such a memory is a crown of sorrow
Drug thy memories lest thou learn it, lest thy heart be put to proof,
In no poem has Tennyson displayed more the peculiarity of his genius than in the lotos-eaters: the truth of the picture is heightened by the fascinations thrown round it; like a supernatural portrait, you know it to be such by the light of its halo. There is a haunting music in the lines, which seem to droop beneath the weight of their drowsy perfume.
“ Where all things always seemed the same,
The mild-eyed melancholy lotos-eater came.
Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
They sat them down upon the yellow sand,
“ There is sweet music here, that softer falls
Than petals from blown roses on the grass,
Why are we weighed upon with heaviness,
Hateful is the dark-blue sky,
Let us alone. What is it that will last ?"! As a specimen of a great poet, in another phase, we have that wonderful condensation of the suggestive, (already referred to.)
In this, the matter is darkly hinted, and shadowed forth, giving a force and awe to it far beyond the most literal description. The enunciation is in hieroglyphics, but full of meaning.
“We were two daughters of one race,” &c. The madness of the narrator is subtlely announced by the refrain,
“ The wind is blowing in turret and tree :" And the poet then throws a wonderful interest over the scene by the parallel line,
“ Oh the Earl was fair to see.” This is done with the intention of first suggesting it as a doubt to the reader, and then taking it for granted, and insisting upon it as a truth, that the madness was produced by the struggle in the maiden's bosom between revenge and love.
The common opinion as to the story is, that a young lady to revenge the seduction and death of her sister by a young nobleman, resolves to have vengeance: she therefore affects a great love for the seducer, inspires him with a passion, and in a moment of dalliance stabs him to the heart: she then has his dead body taken to his mother's feet.
The more poetical version appears to us to be, that she did not actually commit the self-abandonment and murder, but went mad in the contemplation of the proposed vengeance, and imagines in her delirium all that is described : it is still heightened by the possibility that her love for her sister's betrayer, interfering with her vengeance, precipitates her insanity. With these preliminary suggestions we leave the poem to the understanding of our readers.
We must not conclude our sketch without offering as a triumph of poetical skill the exquisite poem of Godiva: the opening lines, however, seem in bad taste:
“ I lounged with grooms and parties on the bridge,” &c.