of tyranny, and his sympathy for nations struggling for freedom, so long as massacre, anarchy, and destruction of private property did not form part of the process of its attainment. Some critics have asserted that the poet's calm and dispassionate nature contrasted poorly with Browning's generous enthusiasm for the leaders of revolt against oppression, often men who fell before victory came, men who on the battle-field or on the scaffold poured out for their country,

The last libation that liberty draws
From the heart that bleeds and breaks in her cause.

And they remind us that the excesses of the French revolution, the rising of a whole nation against the brutal feudalism of many centuries, should not blind the poet's eyes against the inalienable right of rebellion against proved wrongs and oppressions. But Tennyson at the age of twenty-one put his life in his hand to assist the Spaniards in revolt under Torrijos, in 1830, thus showing most practically his sympathy with a just cause. In later life he received Garibaldi, the liberator of Italy, with great enthusiasm ; and General Gordon, who freed the Soudan for a time-alas! too short-found the most cordial of welcomes at Farringford. His spirited sonnet on Montenegro (1877) inspired by Mr. Gladstone's description of the country and its famous history, is a fine tribute to that indomitable race

They kept their faith, their freedom, on the height
Chaste, frugal, savage, armed by day and night ...
O smallest among peoples ! rough rock-throne
Of freedom, warriors beating back the swarm
Of Turkish Islam for five hundred years.
Great Tsernagora / never since thine own
Black ridges drew the cloud and brake the storm
Has breathed a race of mightier mountaineers.

Nobly has this gallant people reminded us of the poet's grand thought, expressed in his drama, The Cup

In wars of freedom and defence
The glory and grief of battle won or lost
Solders a race together.

The spirit of this sonnet carries on that of Wordsworth in his famous Sonnets to Liberty, wherein the gallant Andreas Hofer, Toussaint l'Ouverture, Palafox and others, received worthy tributes of praise from an English poet who loved freedom, but utterly abandoned the cause of French “ Liberté ” after the massacres of September, 1792.

See also how Tennyson expresses the very essence of altruistic heroism in these lines from that singular selfquestioning poem, The Two Voices. The good voice urges the life-weary hero

To pass, when Life her light withdraws
Not void of righteous self-applause
Not in a merely selfish cause-
In some good cause, not in mine own,
To perish wept for, honour'd, known,
And like a warrior overthrown;
Whose eyes are dim with glorious tears,
When, soil'd with noble dust, he hears
His country's war-song thrill his ears.
Then, dying of a mortal stroke,
What time the foeman's line is broke
And all the war is rolled in smoke.

When freedom is crushed, and can only be restored by war, Tennyson heartily cheers on its warrior, but he must have a righteous cause, and he dreads, above all, the tyranny of the mob, when led by Communists, whom he describes as

Men loud against all forms of power

Unfurnished brows, tempestuous tongues
Expecting all things in an hour,

Brass mouths, and iron lungs.

He repeatedly warns us against the dangers of an armed revolutionary populace who would indeed leave us onlyFreedom free to slay herself, and dying while they

shout her name. Tennyson, however, knows when to assert popular rights by force, as in his indignant remonstrance against the attempted gagging of our Press by the House of Lords, in 1852, lest the bitter reproaches of refugee Frenchmen and our own liberals against Napoleon III for his despotic usurpation of power by the coup d'etat should bring on war with France

As long as we remain, we must speak free
Tho' all the storm of Europe on us break.

What! have we fought for freedom from our prime
At last to dodge and falter with a public crime ?
Shall we fear him? Our own we never feared.
From our first Charles by force we wrung our claims,
Prick'd by the Papal spur, we reared,
We flung the burthen of the second James.
I say, we never feared l and, as for these
We broke them on the land, we drove them on the seas.

The glowing patriotism which pervades Tennyson's poems was firmly rooted in his inmost being. With him it was a passion, not a mere sentiment. Yet its quality was made wiser and more discriminating by his fairness of mind, his intense love of truth, his clear perception of our national failings, and his desire to be just even to our national enemies.

“True patriotism is rare," he once observed, “the love of country which makes a man defend his landmarks, that we all have, and the Anglo-Saxon more than most other races: but the patriotism that declines to link itself with the small fry of the passing hour for political advantage—that is rare, I say. The Duke of Wellington had both kinds of patriotism.” The Earl of Chatham, father of William Pitt, who protested with his dying breath against the war which cost England her American colonies, had the latter and rarer kind of patriotism.

No poet ever filled the court appointment of Poet Laureate with such patriotism, loyalty, and independence of spirit. Tennyson would have been the first to denounce in powerful verse any infraction by the sovereign of the rights of the people. In him the “patriotism of instinct," born and bred within him, combined with the “patriotism of reason," ably defined by Mr. Chamberlain in his recent Glasgow address; and it was intensified by that profound · admiration for the classic heroes of Greece and Rome which formed a part of what he called “the Passion of the Past.” Take that magnificent outburst of patriotism which is now one of our most treasured English classics,the Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington. How perfectly does the poet interweave the characters and glorious deeds of the Iron Duke and of the gallant Nelson with moral lessons derived from our past achievement of national freedom, and with earnest advice how to maintain it unimpaired! To my mind the pith of this grand poem lies in the couplet

Not once or twice, in our fair island-story
The path of duty was the way to glory.

If we review England's countless "little wars," as they are called, in the light of these lines, we shall condemn

many of them, despite our admiration of the deeds of heroism that attended them, because they were outside our path of duty, therefore unrighteous, and therefore disastrous in their end. Quite in the patriotic spirit of Sir Walter Scott's famous lines, “Breathes there the man with soul so dead,” etc., is Tennyson's early sonnet, “Love thou thy Land,” which Wordsworth praised as “solid and noble in thought, and stately in diction.”

Love thou thy land with love far-brought

From out the storied past, and used
Within the present, but transfused
Through future time by power of thought.

True love, turn'd round on fixéd poles,

Love, that endures not sordid ends,

For English natures, freemen, friends,
Thy brothers, and immortal souls.

A new phase of Tennyson's genius appeared in 1852, when there was current throughout England a not unfounded fear of invasion by France under that schemer, Napoleon III, who was seeking to divert the indignation of French patriots from his cruel usurpation of power, and to reward his army, which had been the instrument of his coup d'etat. Several National Songs for Englishmen, of which “ Britons, Guard your Own” and “Hands all Round” are the most spirited, were published by the Laureate in the London Examiner. These songs did not rouse the public much, not being written in metre suitable for popular music, and only three of them were reprinted by the author in his subsequent volumes of poems. From the later version of "Hands all Round” Tennyson omitted one of the best verses, the appeal to the United States in case of our invasion by a foreign power. It runs thus :

« ElőzőTovább »