ePub 版

Her sense; but most she loathed the hour
When the thick-moted sunbeam lay
Athwart the chambers, and the day
Was sloping toward his western bower.
Then said she, "I am very dreary,
He will not come," she said;

She wept, "I am aweary, aweary,
O God, that I were dead!"

At this period the poet's muse was very active. In 1832 appeared another volume, which exhibited more fully his poetic gifts, and made a notable contribution to English verse. He easily took his place at the head of the younger race of singers. His lyrical power, his mastery of musical rhythm, his charm of felicitous expression, and his exquisite handling of form and color, are everywhere apparent. His breadth of sympathy is shown by his successful treatment of ancient, mediæval, and modern themes. The "May Queen," with its tender pathos, at once touched the popular heart. In "Lady Clara Vere de Vere," the nobility of character is presented in proud contrast with the nobility of birth:

"Howe'er it be, it seems to me,

'Tis only noble to be good.

Kind hearts are more than coronets,

And simple faith than Norman blood."

In "The Lotus-Eaters," how exquisitely the sound is wedded. to the sense : —

"In the afternoon they came unto a land,

In which it always seemèd afternoon.

All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
And like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem."

Among the other pieces deserving mention in this volume. are "The Lady of Shalott," "Enone," "The Miller's Daughter," ," "The Palace of Art," and "A Dream of Fair Women."

For ten years Tennyson published nothing except a few pieces in periodicals. Perhaps he had been discouraged by the want of appreciation on the part of professional critics. But he was by no means driven from his art. This intervening period was devoted to serious study. He enlarged his intellectual range, and perfected himself in artistic expression. He ripened into maturity.

In 1842 appeared a new volume, in which are found many of his choicest pieces. He was no longer simply a master of lyrical harmony; he had become also a thinker and teacher. Here appears his first work in connection with the legend of Arthur and the Round Table. Milton and Dryden had both thought of the Arthurian cycle as the subject of an epic poem. It was reserved for Tennyson to realize the idea; and so well has he done his work, that we may congratulate ourselves that the older poets left the field unoccupied. Listen to the forceful beginning of the "Morte d'Arthur:"

"So all day long the noise of battle rolled
Among the mountains by the winter sea."

Where can we find a more graphic touch than the description of the flinging of Arthur's sword?

[ocr errors]

"The great brand

Made lightnings in the splendor of the moon,

And flashing round and round, and whirl'd in an arch,
Shot like a streamer of the northern morn,

Seen where the moving isles of winter shock
By night, with noises of the northern sea."

Here is a picture from "The Gardener's Daughter: "

"For up the porch there grew an Eastern rose,

That flowering high, the last night's gale had caught,
And blown across the walk. One arm aloft -
Gown'd in pure white that fitted to the shape —
Holding the bush, to fix it back, she stood.
A single stream of all her soft, brown hair
Pour'd on one side: the shadow of the flowers

[ocr errors]

Stole all the golden gloss, and, wavering
Lovingly lower, trembled on her waist -
Ah, happy shade — and still went wavering down,
But, ere it touched a foot that might have danced
The greensward into greener circles, dipt,
And mixed with shadows of the common ground!
But the full day dwelt on her brows, and sunn'd
Her violet eyes, and all her Hebe bloom,
And doubled his warmth against her lips,
And on the bounteous wave of such a breast
As never pencil drew. Half light, half shade,
She stood, a sight to make an old man young."

"Dora" has the charm of a Hebrew idyl- a poem that can hardly be read without tears. "Locksley Hall,” a story of disappointed love, is known to all, and many of its lines have passed into daily use :—

"In the spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;

In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.”

"Godiva" is a story of heroic self-sacrifice with many an exquisite passage. As the heroine returned to the palace, —

"All at once,

With twelve great shocks of sound, the shameless noon
Was clash'd and hammer'd from a hundred towers."

Almost every poem deserves particular mention. "Edward Gray" and "Lady Clare" are delightful ballads in the old style. "Ulysses" is a strong treatment of a classic theme. In "The Two Voices," "St. Simeon Stylites," and "The Vision of Sin," the poet enters the domain of theology. The little song called "Farewell" gives expression to a feeling of sadness that has arisen in every sensitive bosom.

"Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea,
Thy tribute wave deliver;

No more by thee my steps shall be,
Forever and forever."

The burdening sense of loss on the death of a loved one never had stronger expression than in the little poem beginning, "Break, break, break:"

"And the stately ships go on

To their haven under the hill;

But oh, for the touch of a vanish'd hand,

And the sound of a voice that is still."

In 1847 appeared "The Princess." The author called it "A Medley;" and such it is, composed of medieval and modern elements. Half jest, and half earnest, it yet reaches a serious solution of the vexed problem of woman's education :·

"For woman is not undeveloped man,

But diverse; could we make her as the man,

Sweet love were slain: his dearest bond is this,

Not like to like, but like in difference.

Yet in the long years must they liker grow;
The man be more of woman, she of man;

He gain in sweetness and in moral height,

Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,
Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind;

Till at the last she set herself to man,
Like perfect music unto noble words."

The romantic story is delightfully told; and the songs interspersed among the several parts are, perhaps, the finest in our language. Where can we match the "Bugle Song?"

"The splendor falls on castle walls

And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.

Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,

Blow, bugie; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying."

In 1850 appeared "In Memoriam," the best elegiac poem ever written, and one that will perhaps never have a rival. It is written in memory of Arthur Hallam, a bosom friend of

Tennyson's, and a young man of rich gifts of mind and heart. A bright career seemed open to him; but while travelling in Germany for his health, he suddenly died at Vienna, in 1833. The poet's heart was wrung with grief; and under the weight of bereavement, he set himself resolutely to a consideration of the great mysteries of life, death, God, providence, eternal life. He does not deal with these subjects like a theologian or philosopher; but rising above the plane of the understanding, he finds his answers in the cravings of the heart and the intuitions of the spirit.

No other poem is so filled with the thought and feeling peculiar to our age. It rejects the seductive materialism of recent scientific thought; it is larger and less dogmatic than our creeds. With reverent heart the poet finds comfort at last in the "strong Son of God:


[ocr errors]

"Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:

Thou madest man, he knows not why;
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

Thou seemest human and divine,

The highest, holiest manhood, thou:
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Our little systems have their day;

They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;

For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow."

But no single quotation is sufficient to illustrate the depth and richness and beauty of this wonderful production.

The year in which "In Memoriam" appeared, Tennyson succeeded Wordsworth as poet laureate. The greater part of

« 上一頁繼續 »