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“There is sweet music here, that softer falls
Why are we weighed upon with heaviness,
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.
Mr. Tennyson's last production is “The Princess, a Medley,” the largest and the most ambitious of his works; it is also his greatest failure. The subject is a sort of counterpart, or “female half” to the plot of Shakspere’s “Love's Labor Lost;” it may also be considered as a pleasing banter on the rights of woman. It relates to a certain philosophical princess, who founded a college of women, to be brought up in high contempt of the present lords of the creation. The royal champion of the rights of woman has been betrothed to a neighboring prince, and the poet, assuming the character of this prince, narrates the tale.
The royal mistress of a college, where no men are permitted to make their appearance, scouts the idea of being bound by any such pre-contract. The lover, however, will not resign the lady; he resolves to insist upon the fulfilment of the bond. He therefore sets forth with two companions, Cyril and Florian. They disguise themselves in female apparel, and gain admission to the palace college of fair damsels.
“There at a board by tome and paper sat,
“We did not think in our own hall to hear
Singular to say, the princess has selected two widows, Lady Blanche and Lady Psyche, for the chief assistants in her new establishment; both of these have children, one an infant. The three disguised knights place them under the tuition of Lady Psyche, who proves to be the sister of Florian. This leads to a discovery:
“My brother! oh, she said,
All three appeal to Psyche's feelings; she agrees to conceal the discovery, on condition that they will steal away as soon as possible. The princess rides out, and summons her three new pupils to attend her; after much long and learned discourse, they sit down to a pic-nic. Here Cyril, forgetting his womanly reserve, sings a merry stave, which discovers all ; a general flight ensues. The Princess Ida falls into a stream, owing to her horse taking fright. The prince, of course, saves her; it, however, avails him nothing. He is brought before her, she sitting in state. She is guarded by eight mighty daughters of the plough. She then scornfully dismisses him. The prince's father arrives with an army to liberate his son; the fair virago's brother comes with another for her protection. A battle ensues, and the lover is dangerously wounded. Compassion rises in the heart of Ida, she nurses the wounded prince, and while she nurses, love finds an entrance. The college is broken up, and marriage closes the poem.
It is impossible for a true poet to write a long poem without revealing some snatches of his genius, and, although generally speaking, this poem is a mournful instance of mistaken powers, it abounds in fine passages. For example, the beauty of the following lament, made by Lady Psyche, when deprived of her child by the princess, is very striking:
“‘Ah me, my babe, my blossom, ah my child !
After the combat between Arac and the prince, when all parties had congregated on what had been the field of battle, this child is lying on the grass— “Psyche ever stole
A little nearer, till the babe that by us, -