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86. Behold the child, etc. Wordsworth had in mind a particular child, Hartley Coleridge, but the language is applicable to childhood in general.
87. Pigmy = a very diminutive person. From Gr. pugme, the distance from the elbow to the knuckles, through the Lat. and Fr. Originally applied to a fabulous race of dwarfs.
103. Cons to study over, examine into. From A. S., cunnian, to test, examine.
the stage on which the whims, follies, and
104. Humorous stage caprices of mankind are exhibited.
III. Best philosopher, because of his spontaneous love, joy, trust. See sketch of Wordsworth.
128. Custom = the ordinary usage and requirements of practical life. 144. Fallings from us, vanishings, etc. — Refer to the shadowy remembrances of a previous life — remembrances that startle us at times with a consciousness of our immortality, and lead our thoughts to higher things than the material world about us. See Wordsworth's note above.
FOR half a century Alfred Tennyson stood at the head of English poetry. It is hardly too much to claim that he was the best representative of the culture of the Victorian age. His extraordinary poetic genius was supported by broad scholarship. He absorbed the deepest and best thought of his age; and instead of mere passing fancies, his poetry embodies a depth of thought and feeling that gives it inexhaustible richViewed from an artistic standpoint, his work is exquisite. He surpassed Pope in perfection of form; he equalled Wordsworth in natural expression; he excelled both Scott and Byron in romantic narrative; and he wrote the only great epic poem since the days of Milton.
Few poets have been more fortunate than Tennyson. His life was one of easy competence. In the retirement of a cultivated home, and in a narrow circle of congenial friends, he steadily pursued his vocation. Never did a poet consecrate himself more entirely to his art. He wrote no prose. He did not entangle himself in business, which has fettered many a brilliant genius. He encumbered himself with no public office. by which his poetic labors might have been broken. His career, like an English river, quietly flowed on among fertile hills and blooming meadows. Perhaps it might have been better had he lived a little less in retirement. Contact with the rude world might have given a more rugged strength to his verse, relieving in some measure the excessive refinement that is possibly its greatest fault.
The principal events in the life of Tennyson are the publiIcation of his successive volumes. He was born at Somersby in Lincolnshire in 1809, the son of a clergyman, and the third
of twelve children. It was a gifted family, which Leigh Hunt called "a nest of nightingales." After a careful training in the parsonage under his father, Alfred was sent, with two brothers, to Trinity College, Cambridge. The bent of his mind early showed itself; and in 1827, in connection with his brother Charles, he sent forth, as yet an undergraduate, a volume entitled "Poems, by Two Brothers." As in the case of Byron, this first volume gave no token of genius. The poetry was correct, but unreadably dull.
In 1829, in competition with Arthur Hallam, Tennyson won a medal for his prize poem on the subject of "Timbuctoo." This work contained some faint intimations of his latent powers. His literary career really opened in 1830 with a volume of "Poems, Chiefly Lyrical." With much that was faulty and immature suppressed by the author in subsequent editions of his works this volume announced the presence of a genuine poet. He did not, however, receive the recognition he deserved. Christopher North, in Blackwood's Magazine, mingled censure and praise - his censure being of the positive kind then in vogue. The poet resented the criticism; and in a volume published a little later, we find the following reply:
"You did late review my lays,
You did mingle blame and praise,
When I learnt from whom it came,
I forgave you all the blame,
I could not forgive the praise,
Among the pleasing lyrics in this volume are "Lilian," "Recollections of the Arabian Nights," and especially “Mariana.”
"The sparrow's chirrup on the roof,
The clock slow ticking, and the sound
Which to the wooing wind aloof
The poplar made, did all confound