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He could not see, the kindly human face, Nor ever heard a kindly voice, but heard The myriad shriek of wheeling ocean-fowl, The league-long roller thundering on the reef,
The moving whisper of huge trees.
No sail from day to day, but every day
Among the palms and ferns and precipices;
The blaze upon the waters to the east;
The hollower-bellowing ocean, and again
How pitilessly must these glories have seemed to mock the solitary captive's anguish ! How natural it is that visions of home should
haunt his loneliness, presenting to him things most unlike his present
The dead weight of the dead leaf bore it
down: Thicker the drizzle grew, deeper the gloom."
The former picture derives its significance from contrast, this latter one from resemblance; for the seafog which swallows up the sunshine is emblematic of the disappointment which awaits the bright hopes of Enoch's return.
Were we writing of an author not yet known to fame, it would be as right as it would be pleasant to make long extracts from the concluding portion of the poem. But when reviewing a work which every one praises, which everybody has bought, and which it is therefore fair to suppose that every one (but those whose aversion to poetry is invincible) has read, it is needless to extract any passages which are not required to make the critic's remarks intelligible. We may therefor the sustained power and absence fore briefly record our admiration of maudlin sensibility with which the last scenes of 'Enoch Arden' are put before us. They are very pathetic; and they are never foolishly sentimental. The way in which Enoch is stunned by the news of his wife's second marriage; himself that she is happy; the pichis longing to see her, and assure ture of peace and comfort within Philip's house, which throws into stronger relief the anguish of the
wretched husband and father as he stands without; Enoch's grand (if not strictly just) self-sacrifice, as, recovering from the shock of seeing what only to hear of had been woe sufficient, he repeats his resolution to himself," Not to tell her, never to let her know:" all these
things in the hands of a French writer, aiming at the déchirant and the larmoyant, would have been morbidly painful. Mr Tennyson so tells them that they elevate our minds by the sight of a spirit refining to its highest perfection in the purgatorial fires of earth.
Three similes in this part of the poem deserve especial notice. For
merly often, and occasionally still, the Laureate has been known to indulge himself in a clever simile which, by its far-fetched air, suggests that the subject was made for it, and not it for the subject. But it is not so here. How finely appropriate it is to liken the attraction which his "lost wife's fireside" exercises on the returned sailor, to “the beacon blaze,” which “ allures "The bird of passage, till he madly strikes Against it, and beats out his weary life!"* Again, after Enoch's heroic determination, we are told that—
"Prayer from a living source within the will,
And beating up through all the bitter world,
Like fountains of sweet water in the sea, Kept him a living soul."
And when his year of hopeless toil and living death has done its work, we read of him that
"No gladlier does the stranded wreck See thro' the gray skirts of a lifting squall The boat that bears the hope of life approach,
To save the life despair'd of, than he saw Death dawning on him, and the close of all."
These three images are all good in themselves; but they derive an especial excellence from the fact, that they occur in a tale of seaadventure, narrated on a sea-beach. And when Enoch's lips, unsealed by approaching death, reveal his secret to his humble attendant, how few are the lines which set before us that contrast which sounds with such thrilling power in Job's long lamentation! the man as he once was, and the man such as calamity has made him—
"Did you know Enoch Arden of this town?'
'Know him?' she said; 'I knew him far
Ay, ay, I mind him coming down the street;
Held his head high, and cared for no man, he.'
Slowly and sadly Enoch answer'd her, 'His head is low, and no mau cares for him.
I think I have not three days more to live; I am the man.'
The dying man's last victory over selfishness (when, forbidding the woman to fetch his children, he sends to them and to his wife the
loving messages which it might grieve them too much to hear from his own lips), bespeaks not merely our pity for him, but our reverence. There is also something profoundly sad in the way in which that desolate heart, after half-claiming back the living children, feels that, in real fact, only the dead little one is left it :
"And now there is but one of all my blood,
Who will embrace me in the world-to-be."
But his last words give us comfort :
For they tell us that what he prayed for in those long years of banishment, to which his mind has wandered back, has come at last the ship to take him to the true Haven: and that the exile has at length been fetched home.
There, in our judgment, the poem should have ended. Its author, thinking differently, adds :
And when they buried him the little port "So past the strong heroic soul away.
Had seldom seen a costlier funeral."
What need of the first of these lines? What need to tell us that the noble fisherman was strong and
* Contrast the same simile in 'The Princess,' where Ida is said to stand
"Fixt like a beacon-tower above the waves
Not to speak of the disproportion between the terror raised by these words and the small amount of "ruin" which ensues, the image seems a violent one to apply to a beautiful girl, however steadfast in her anger!
heroic, when the poet has just completed his fine delineation of his strength and heroism? And what need of the two last? The costly funeral sounds an impertinent intrusion. We cannot doubt for a moment that Philip gave honourable burial to the man whom he had so deeply, though so unwitting ly, wronged. But the atonement is such a poor one, that it looks like a mockery; and we would rather hear nothing of it. Why disturb in our minds the image which what went before had left there?-the humble bed on which the form, so often tempest-tossed, reposes in its last sleep; the white face, serene in death, waiting for the kisses which it might not receive in life. "Ciò che'l viver non ebbe, abbia la morte."
Obeying that attraction to the sea which 'Enoch Arden' leaves behind it, we feel inclined next to cast a passing glance at the 'Sea Dreams.' As Theocritus, in one of his idyls, gives us the talk of two townswomen of his own day, hastening to a festival, so here the Laureate records for our edification the far weightier sayings of two townspeople of our time, during the festive rest from toil which a visit to the sea-side affords them. A stern critic might, indeed, find fault with them as somewhat too magniloquent. He might ask whether it is not incongruous for a city clerk (however superior to city clerks in general) to complain of
his treacherous friend in such Shakspearean terms as the following:
"I found a hard friend in his loose accounts,
A loose one in the hard grip of his hand, A curse in his 'God-bless-you:' then my
Pursued him down the street, and far
Among the honest shoulders of the crowd, Read rascal in the motions of his back, And scoundrel in the supple-sliding knee."
He might inquire whether poor artists' daughters are usually so well read in the ancient moralists,
as the clerk's worthy wife proves herself by her rejoinder :
"He that wrongs his friend Wrongs himself more, and ever bears about A silent court of justice in his breast, Himself the judge and jury, and himself The prisoner at the bar, ever condemn'd." While praising the clever imitation of the satire of the eighteenth century, with which the clerk brands the hypocrite who has wronged him (the two first lines of which might be sworn to as Pope's any day), he might yet pertinaciously beg to be informed how a satire of the presumed date could contain a reference to Bible-meetings :
"With all his conscience and one eye askew, So false, he partly took himself for true. Nor deeds of gift, but gifts of grace he forged,
And, snake-like, slimed his victim ere he gorged;
And oft at Bible-meetings, o'er the rest
To spread the word by which himself had thriven."
And, lastly, he might point at the the two dreams are told, as a reckpomp of gorgeous language in which less expenditure of poetic wealth, alike unsuited to the occasion and to the persons who employ it.
be some truth in these observations. Nor can we deny that there would But we might reply, and we do, that in like manner our old friends Tityrus and Menalcas are more polite and more poetical than the shepherds of actual life; and that if the clerk chose to pass off his own composition as an "old satire," he had a right (poetically speaking) to do so. Indeed, what reasonable liberties can we forbid a man to take, who has enriched our stock of quotations with such a saying as this:
"How many will say, 'Forgive,' and find A sort of absolution in the sound To hate a little longer?"
Or this, which we like still better:— "Is it so true that second thoughts are best?
Not first, and third, which are a riper first ?"
We can find no fault, and only wish for ourselves visions as fair when next we sleep beside the sea as those two dreams; in the last of which we seem to hear the musical roar of the swelling tide so plainly :
"But round the North, a light, A belt, it seem'd of luminous vapour, lay,
And ever in it a low musical note Swell'd up and died; and as it swell'd, a ridge
Of breaker issued from the belt, and still Grew with the growing note, and when the note
Had reach'd a thunderous fullness, on those cliffs
Broke, mixt with awful light.
And then the great ridge drew, Lessening to the lessening music, back, And pass'd into the belt and swell'd again Slowly to music.”
The Laureate's reputation rests on few firmer pillars than are afforded it by some of the monologues among his earlier poems. It is natural, therefore, to turn with eager expectation to the three in his new volume. The third most amply satisfies; the two first do not altogether disappoint it. No one of the three is (like 'Locksley Hall' and the greater part of 'St Simeon Stylites') a soliloquy. Nor is any one of them like the conclusion of their author's 'Ulysses,' an address to an audience, numerous though mute. They are each, as are several of his other monologues, spoken to a single hearer. As the mother in the Queen of May,' so in the Grandmother,' the little girl is the only listener. Eos alone hearkens to the lamentations of "Tithonus,' as mother Ida to those of 'Enone;' and the 'Northern Farmer' gives the whole benefit of his strange experience to the person who fills the unenviable place of his sick-nurse.
There are two principal dangers incurred in composing a monologue. The one that of rendering it, like an Euripidean prologue, a conventional narration of facts by a person who has no sufficient reason for rehearsing them, apart from the dramatic necessity of making them known to the
audience. Mr Tennyson has avoided this first peril with his usual success. His Farmer has no long history to relate. That of Tithonus may be safely supposed already known. And the Grandmother has a right to tell as much as she pleases of her own story; both because her young auditor cannot know much of it, and because it is the privilege of old age to be garrulous. The second, and greater difficulty, is one which the writer of the monologue has to overcome in common with the dramatist. He must preserve the propriety of its speaker's character throughout. He must not suffer him to reflect on his own case with the sharp-sightedness of a bystander. Nor must he make him think aloud (unless in some exceptional cases of overmastering feeling); for that would be to confound the monologue with the soliloquy. Now we think that 'Tithonus' will be found (the exception stated being allowed) to satisfy these conditions. In 'The Northern Farmer' we seem to discover one or two slight inconsistencies. At least he quotes the Psalms very correctly for a man who by his own account had such faint perceptions of what went on in church during his attendance there. And, though the boldness with which he questions the dealings of Providence towards himself is conceivable as the thought of the mind, it seems hardly so when it finds expression in words. A greater authority than Mr Tennyson tells us that when the fool said, There is no God," he said it in his heart. Surely when a yet greater fool owns God, and nevertheless presumes to blame the wisdom of His appointments, it will be done in his heart too! There is, however, something very masterly in the life-like sketch of the man, with which his discourse furnishes us. The subject is painful, but it is very cleverly treated. How fine are the touches which set him before us in his imperturbable selfsatisfaction, as he reflects on his landlord's confidence, the "qua
lity's" admiration, and his own extreme usefulness! His dislike to modern improvements; his insensibility to the rebuke of a man whom he thinks less valuable to the world than himself; above all, his inability to conceive how matters can go on at all after his own death (which yet he would rather hasten than demean himself by taking the unpalatable advice of a tottler"), are put before us inimitably well. There is something in the state of mind here described which we may all be the wiser for considering; and which we especially hope country rectors will see to be written off for their instruction. That respectable farmer, who seems to listen with such rapt attention to his Reverence's sermon every Sunday, perhaps, like his northern brother, never knows what he means, only thinks he has " summat to say." And how many of us all are satisfied that we come up fairly to our own standard of duty, without considering that, if not so eccentric as our poor friend's here, it may yet be a long way from correct! Much would we like to think that he recovered and lived to understand the "Parson" better.
The representation of extreme old age in the Grandmother' is very accurate. The freshness with which long-past events live in aged minds, as well as their loss of memory for, and interest in, recent occurrences, are described with great truth. The beginning of the poem is confused; and in its progress it runs clearer, exactly like the talk of the very old. The only fault we have to find is, that the old woman appears too much alive to her own state. She explains why she cannot weep at the sad news she has just heard; she makes the sort of reflections on age as a time of peace which we might expect from a stranger looking on. Now a mind so dead to the present as hers is, would hardly be capable of doing this. To our thinking, the prettiest parts of the poem are the aged woman's recollections of her children, and of her
His dear little face was troubled, as if with anger or pain:
I looked at the still little body-his trouble had all been in vain.
Willy I cannot weep, I shall see him
For But I wept like a child for the child that was dead before he was born." Altogether the hand which penned 'The Queen of the May' is not disgraced by 'The Grandmother.' We say both of it and of 'The Northern Farmer' (more than we can say of some of the other minor poems here) that the two pictures were so well worth painting, that to do so was no waste even of Mr Tennyson's precious time.
'Aylmer's Field,' the second poem in this volume, differs in subject from the scenes of humble life which we have hitherto examined. Like 'Maud,' it is a tale of young affection blighted by parental cruelty; but, unlike 'Maud,' it is cast into a narrative, not a lyrical shape. In that case the pride of wealth, in this the pride of station and of lineage, destroys the happiness of two faithful lovers. The date of the story is in the closing decade of the last century.
It is, we think, indisputable that this poem (though abounding in fine passages) is, as a whole, less satisfactory than 'Enoch Arden.' For this we are disposed to assign two reasons. The first is, that, fully to engage our interest, the subject of a narrative poem should have a certain remoteness from ourselves. If its hero is our contemporary, he should be removed from us, either by place, as in stories of adventure in foreign lands, or by station, as in tales of lowly life. Sir Walter Scott chose no subject for his narrative poems more recent than Charles I.'s reign. And it may be doubted whether