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ical criticism, to bring any poet under a | Tennyson and Wordsworth's illustrious classification is extremely difficult ; in pupil, Matthew Arnold, and another to the case of Tennyson, whose genius is institute a comparison between him and so many-sided, it is almost impossible. the line of living poets from Mr. FredYet, as regards the various methods of erick Tennyson down to the present confronting nature characteristic of the hour. various poets, it may be convenient in And as to Tennyson's relations to the the present essay to divide all poets into Greek and Latin poets, even if there the three following groups; though we were room here to give these relations must always bear in mind that, as the more than a hurried glauce in passing, members of one group are constantly there would be no need to do so after seeming to pass into another, no inva- Mr. Herbert Paul's study of them in riable line of demarcation can be drawn his brilliant contribution to this series between them.

last March. First, poets who, whether from original impulse or from the influence of With regard to the first of the three the artistic methods of their time, treat classes of poets indicated above, those nature simply as the background of the who, always feeling that human story

The proper study of mankind is man, Secondly, poets upon whom nature produces a kind of ecstasy that may be use nature merely as a background for called Sufeyistic, an ecstasy resulting some dramatic picture, Homer, Dante, in a rapturous hymn to her glory, and Chaucer belong to this class no less rather than in a vivid picture of her clearly than do Æschylus, Sophocles, features.

and Shakespeare. 6. We call Homer And, thirilly, poets whose impulse is an epic poet," said Mr. Gladstone in simply to paint the features of nature in Chambers's 66 Encyclopædia,”? but he every detail of their beauty, using the is instinct from beginning to end with human story merely as an artistic raison the spirit of the drama, while we find in <l’être for an objective representation of him the seeds and rudiments born of its nature, or at least a representation as form.” objective as the medium at the com- An admirable criticism! While in mand of an artist whose material is the art of Æschylus and Sophocles the words will allow.

scenery is of necessity left mainly, In trying to lind Tennyson's place if not altogether, to those sister-arts among these groups, it is here proposed | which pure drama calls in to aid that 10 consider him in relation mainly to illusion which is the poet's quest, in those English poets who immediately the art of Homer the descriptive paspreceded him, and whose methods in sages always advance the dramatic acall things were inspired, more or less, lion ; or, if they do not actually carry by the neo-romantic temper — the poets it on, Homer always takes care that who form what has been called by they shall seem to be doing this. So Mr. Stedman “ The Georgian group, dramatic is he — almost more dramatic though it will sometimes be necessary than the dramatists themselves — that to glance for a moment at the more there is not in either of the two epics prominent Victorian poets now living, any descriptive passage so apparently such as Mr. Swinburne and Mr. Wil- written for its own sake as that descripliam Morris, by way of illustration. tion by Sophocles of the groves he

Restrictions of the space at our com- loved. mand necessitate this restriction of When Homer makes mention of the survey. To institute a proper compar- earth's " soft arms," it is in connection ison between Tennyson and Browning with the human story ; it is to call up would alone require a separate article ; the pathetic picture of the unconscious another article would be required in Helen's brothers asleep forever in those order to institute a comparison between larms. When he alludes to Lacedæmon,

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it is to remind us that it is the “ father- | paint for his own enjoyment and ours a land” of those dead heroes who sleep beautiful picture of man's life, when he there :

paints nature, it is merely as a back"Ως φάτσ' τους δ' ήδη κάτεχεν ουσίζοος αια

ground to this human picture. Had έν Λακεδαίμονι αύθι, φίλη εν πατρίδι γαίη.

the trees and rivers he loved, the

daisies that made his heart leap like a Again, in that famous passage in the child's whenever he looked upon then, eighth Iliad, translated by Tennyson or the birds whose carols were so dear himseif in language as divine almost as to him, lost their association with the Homer's own, every word of a passage human story, they would have lost for so picturesque that it might really have him much of their charm. been introduced partly to gratify the Although Tennyson does not belong poet's own love of description seems specially to this group, although his somehow to add to the reader's expect- deep knowledge of nature prevented ance of the glorious fighting to come him from really looking upon her as with daylight.

nothing more than the background of Of course it is impossible here to the human story, his artistic instinct touch upon the descriptive passages in was so true and so sure that in his narany of Homer's successors in epic and ratives he is as careful as Homer, as narrative art. Yet, in order to elucidate careful as Chaucer, never to let the the classification of the poets above movement of the reader's imagination made, a word or two must be said about be arrested by the unnecessary obtruour own Chaucer,

sion of landscape, however beautiful. The healthiest poet that has appeared in modern literature, save Walter Scott, With regard to the second group of Chaucer shows in his poetry nothing poets, those upon whom the beauty of but the sweet acceptance and melodious nature produces a vague rapture, a kind utterance of that same spirit which of Sufeyistic ecstasy, it may, perhaps, informs Scott's stories in poetry and be safely affirmed that none of these prose — the spirit that enjoys the are to be found among the Greeks. beauty of this beautiful world as it is. The temper, indeed, is mystical, and Of that beauty, however, the part perhaps it had originally much to do played by nature's loveliness is in no with sun-worship. It is called here way the first.

Sufeyistic because it reached its acme Ebullient as is his delight in the beau- in the Persian Sufeyistic poets. But of ties of nature, when he does dwell upon course it is nothing more than the rethem for their own sake he always takes sponse to that marvellous magnetic as much care as ever Homer did, or the power which nature exercises over cersinger of the “ Chanson de Roland,” tain temperaments. In order to show or the sagaman of the Völsunga Saga, what this temper really is, I cannot do not to linger so long over them as to better than quote the following striking create the impression in the reader's verses from “Ferridoddin," as given by mind that the poet's own interest in Mr. Vaughan :his men and women has cooled.

Joy ! joy ! I triumph now; no more I know The riches and the wonderfulness of Myself as simply me. I burn with love. man's life occupy his imagination as the centre is within me, and its wonder they did Homer's - occupy it so en- Lies as a circle everywhere about me. tirely that the riches and the wonderful- Joy! joy ! no mortal thought can fathom ness of nature, which in poets of the third group take the primary place, are I am the merchant and the pearl at once. with him quite secondary. Though his Lo! time and space lie crouching at my

feet. delight is to paint pictures - though of all English poets he is the most purely Joy ! joy! when I would revel in a rapture,

I plunge into myself, and all things know. artistic, and cares not from what source he draws his material so that he can The late Professor Palmer considered

me.

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all Sufeyism to be the worship of the There we will sit on that beautiful moungood and the beautiful, as expressed by tain, and watch the little stars in nature's beauty ; and he promised some

their sleepless flight. day to show that it was nothing more than the development of the primeval Among English poets, Coleridge disreligion of the Aryan race.

played a good deal of this temper, and The trutlı seems to be that this ec- | Wordsworth had much more than Colestatic temper has but little to do with ridge, as may be seen from the followraces, but is the individual expression ing example : of certain exceptional souls to be found

The sounding cataract in several races. In Celtic poetry that Haunted me like a passion. hymn to May day, which, whether it

I have felt was or was not written by “Ossian's A presence that disturbs me with the joy father,” as affirmed by the editor of the Of elevated thoughts, a sense sublime 66 Transactions of the Ossianic Society,” of something far more deeply interfused, is certainly very old, is full of this re- Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, sponse to nature's magnetism, and is And the round ocean and the living air, very beautiful with its description of And the blue sky and in the mind of man the heath spreading out its long hair as A motion and a spirit which impels if in delight at the blackbird's song and All thinking things, all objects of all the cuckoo's chant. The Finns and the thought, North American Indians have not

And rolls through all things. much to do with the Aryans, yet they Keats, too, in the “Ode to a Nightinseem to know this ecstasy. The poet gale,” passes gloriously into this mood. of the Kalevala exclaims :

But, of course, it is to Shelley among

English poets that one naturally turns The waves of the sea have spoken to me; when the Sufeyistic rapture of the nathe wild birds have taught me, the music ture-intoxicated poet comes under disof many waters has been my master.

cussion. An essay might be filled with And Mr. Leland has translated a most examples of Shelley's ecstatic hymus remarkable Wabanaki song which seems to nature and about nature, full of a to disclose much of this same ecstasy, Sufeyism such as is surpassed in no though the human love-passion is no literature, and such doubt mingled with it.

equalled until the appearance of Mr.

Swinburne, upon whom Shelley's mantle Come, my inoo sarge, let us go up that in this respect seems to have fallen.

shining mountain, and sit together Indeed it would be difficult to say on that shining mountain ; there we which is the most overflowing with the will watch the beautiful sun go down

quality under discussion, Shelley's from the shining mountain.

* Ode to the West Wind ” and the There we will sit, till the beautiful night traveller arises above the shining

“ Ode to a Skylark,” or Mr. Swinmountain ; we will watch him, as he burne's nature-lyrics, from the choclimbs to the beautiful skies.

ruses in “ Atalanta” down to his latest We will also watch the little stars following poem. Of this temper Tennyson shows their chief.

nothing; for such impassioned adWe will also watch the northern lights dresses to nature as occur in “ Maud”

playing their game of ball in their are inspired by a lover's passion for his cold, shiny country.

mistress, and have nothing to do with There we will sit, on the beautiful monn- the Sufeyistic passion of the nature

tain, and listen to the thunder (Ba- intoxicated poet. Nor is there any sign

dankac) beating his drum. We will see the lightning when she lights ilate the beauty of a landscape and

in his poems that before he can assimher pipe.

make it his own he has to translate the We will see the great whirlwind running a race with betchi-vesay (squall). mental image of it into poetic diction

and metre, as Weber had to translate

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his mental image of a landscape into

Twilight poured the language of absolute music.

On dewy pastures, dewy trees,

Softer than sleep. With regard to the third group of To say that, as a painter of the beaupoets, those who give us pictures of ties of nature for their own sake, Tennature that seem painted for their own nyson stands before all the “Georgian sake, whatever might have been the real poets” is, no doubt, to utter a bold impulse of any one of the ancient poets saying, for it is to put him in this (whether Sophocles in the “Edipus respect above very great masters in Coloneus" felt the impulse to go on de- this line : above the poet who wrote scribing his beloved groves, or whether “ The Prelude," “The Excursion," Æschylus in the “Prometheus” felt and the lines on Tintern Abbey ; above the impulse to make a picture of the him who wrote “Christabel," above dimpling deep, or in the “ Agamem- him who wrote the ode to a skylark,

» felt the impulse to pursue his above him who wrote the “Ode to a marvellous description of the sultry Nightingale.” In depicting landscape, sea), as a matter of fact, it is only the whether by the painter's art or the poets of the modern world who have poet's, there are always two matters for exhibited in any great degree the im- consideration : the contour of the land pulse to linger over the beauties of na- and the life, vegetable and animal, that ture until the human interest of the clothes it, and it is necessary to bear in poem is weakened. For, lovely as are mind that the poet who takes a first the descriptive touches of Theocritus place in rendering one of these two and his followers, they cannot be said elements of a landscape will sometimes to arrest the dramatic action; they take only a second place in rendering make it move a little more slowly, that another; though, of course, there is is all.

no psychological necessity why this In the modern world, the country should often happen. that has produced William Browne and In delineating the contour of the James Thomson, William Wordsworth land, Tennyson allows himself a freeand John Clare, stood at the head of dom of composition unknown to the art all others in the matter of descriptive of Wordsworth. It is this as much as poetry, even before Tennyson came. anything which lends that brilliance

But have not the very words, “ Ten- to his pictures which is one of their nyson as a nature-poet,” a magic in chief characteristics.

These pictures them? I think they will carry the are flashed, not upon the mental permind of many a reader of this review ception merely of the reader, but upon far away from the dust and noise of his very senses. the London season, to that well-remem- The method is legitimate enough, bered day when first he revelled in the as Coleridge, judging from his own delights of Tennyson's English idylls, descriptions, woull have allowed ; but reading the precious little green volume, Wordsworth would not have perhaps, under the elms of an English tioned it. For while Wordsworth's home, as he lay, a dreamy boy, on the one desire is to paint the contour of grass, undisturbed by any sound save the land before him with the same the bird-voices from the ticket, the accuracy with which Tennyson paints caw of the homing rooks sailing towards vegetation, Tennyson's desire is to the spinney, the low of a cow knee- seize the characteristic features of the deep in the river-shallows glittering land's outline, and exercise upon them golden at one moment, at the next rosy, that artistic composition of which he is or the crunching sound of teeth crop- so great a master. The composition of ping and tearing the daisied grass be- the landscape in Coleridge's “Kubla side the brook, as a feeding horse drew Khan” is scarcely more bold and more nearer and nearer with lazy stamp of triumphant than is the composition of foot and swish of tail, while

some of Tennyson's quiet pictures.

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And yet so consummate an artist is | Streams o'er a rich ambrosial ocean isle, he that the effect is that of realism. It And crimson-lined the stately palm is the exercise of this composition in

woods rendering the scenery of his native

Whisper in odorous heights of even. county which has so often proved a And it is equally difficult to imagine stumbling-block to writers like Mr. that, had he himself undergone Enoch G. M. Napier, the Rev. A. J. Church, Arden's experience on the coral island, Mr. Cuming Walters, and other charm- he could have given us a picture more ing writers, who, in their love for Ten- vivid, and at the same time more true, nyson, would fain localize his pictures. than this :

As the author of “Nature in Books,” The league-long roller thundering on the Mr. Anderson Graham, well says, how- reef, ever,

The moving whisper of huge trees that

branch'd When he sang the song of the brook he was not celebrating the clear and rapid And blossom'd in the zenith, or the sweep streamlet that glances past Tetford with a

Of some precipitous rivulet to the wave, ripple like a smile just breaking into laugh- As down the shore he ranged, or all day ter ; but the summer setting of his immortal

long burden — the fairy forelands, the sailing Sat often in the seaward-gazing gorge, blossom, the fresh wet ferns — belongs to a

A shipwreck'd sailor, waiting for a sail : flat country.

No sail from day to day, but every day

The sunrise broken into scarlet shafts The truth seems to be that, plastic as Among the palms and ferns and precipices ; is the poctic temperament, apt as it is The blaze upon the waters to the east; to recall those special aspects of nature The blaze upon his island overhead ; by which in childhood the poet was The blaze upon the waters to the west ; surrounded, there is sometimes an an- Then the great stars that globed themselves cestral strain in human nature which

in Heaven, is stronger than any environment, giv- The hollower-bellowing ocean, and again ing a man an instinctive passion for The scarlet shafts of sunrise — but no sail. mountain scenery, or for woodlands, or More wonderful still is the following for the sea, irrespective altogether of picture of a city on a distant mountainbirthplace associations.

And to side, as viewed through the desiccated Tennyson, so masterly is his hand in air of a tropical (lesert country, where painting nature, that it is not so easy objects at an immense distance are seen as is generally supposed to say what dwarfed, as though the observer were kind of landscape he paints best. looking through the wrong end of a

The perfection of his descriptions of telescope :Lincolnshire scenery should not blind He seems as one whose footsteps halt, us to the perfection of his other descrip- Toiling in immeasurable sand, tions of nature, where the scenery is of And o'er a weary sultry land, a very different kind.

In the power Far beneath a blazing vault, of calling up imaginary landscape he Sown in a wrinkle of the monstrous hill, never had an equal, save Coleridge, The city sparkles like a grain of salt. among English poets. Had he been as As regards his exercise of composition familiar with the loveliness of the in landscape, if we compare that passage Pacific islands as Herman Melville or in “ The Prelude " where Wordsworth Mr. Louis Stevenson, it is difficult to paints the moon rising over Snowdon imagine how he could have described it with one of Tennyson's bits of mounmore gorgeously than he has done in tain scenery, we shall see the fundathose marvellous verses to Milton : mental difference between the methods Me rather all that bowery loneliness,

of the two poets : The brooks of Eden mazily murmuring, For instantly a light upon the turf

And bloom profuse and cedar arches Fell like a flash, and lo ! as I looked up,

Charm, as a wanderer out in ocean, The Moon hung naked in a firmament Where some refulgent sunset of India Of azure without cloud, and at my feet

LIVING AGE. VOL. LXXXIII. 4263

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