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We close our extracts from Tennyson with the poem of “Ulysses.” For its length, it is certainly one of the most grandly solemn pieces of wisdom in English literature. The unbroken majesty of its tone, the calm depth of its thought, the picturesque images which serenely blend with the fixed feeling of the piece, the spirit of hoar antiquity which pervades it, and the clearness with which the whole picture is brought home to the imagination, leave upon the soul a most profound impression of the author's genius.
“It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I meet and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart,
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, counsels, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. .
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch where through
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use !
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge, like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle—
Well loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port: the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and, sitting well in order, smite
The sounding furrows: for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
The poetry of BRYAN WALLER PRoctor (Barry Cornwall) has splendid traits of genius. Passages might be clipped from his writings which no poet would disown. The difficulty with him is, that he writes often in a “fury and pride of soul,” without having definite ideas and images. Feeling, — strong, vehement, rushing feeling, — which clutches at illustrations speaking to the ear and sensibility rather than the imagination, is the inspiration of much of his poetry. Occasionally his verse splits on the rocks of obscurity and rant. But there is a breadth of passion in some of his poems, which, whether it is expressed in vast and vague metaphors, or simmers and gleams in radiant fancies, or is poured out on his page in one hot gush, or leaps deliriously down the “dark, deep, thundering river” of his style, has ever a kindling effect on sensibility. There never was a poet more honest in the expression of his nature. His songs are the reflections of all moods of his mind, and he cares not if the sentiment of one contradicts that of another. In grief, or love, or fear, or despair, at the festive board or the bed of sickness, wherever and whenever the spirit of song comes to him, it takes the color of the emotion which animates or saddens the moment. He is a large-hearted and most lovable man; and his poetry is admired because it is the expression of his character.
Proctor is not deficient in fineness as well as fulness of passion. There is a depth of meaning in some of his pieces which is felt in the remotest sanctuaries of our being. Though a little affectation and daintiness may occasionally creep into his delineations of the softer passions, he has given us many exquisite pictures of pensive beauty. The tenderness of a kindly and generous heart, and the thoughtfulness of a brooding spirit, are often displayed in his writings. His imagination acts with as much effect, perhaps, in shedding over his representations of feeling a warm, rich, golden flush, as in shaping beautiful and graceful images. Without taking into consideration the passionate beauty of many of his dramatic scenes, his songs would be sufficient to stamp his reputation. For the union of voluptuous repose with the most perfect purity, what can excel the following : —
“Tread softly through these amorous rooms:
For every bough is hung with life,
And kisses, in harmonious strife,
Unloose their sharp and winged perfumes!
From Afric, and the Persian looms,
The carpet's silken leaves have sprung,
And heaven, in its blue bounty, flung
These starry flowers, and azure blooms.
“Tread softly: By a creature fair
The deity of love reposes,
His red lips open, like the roses
Which round his hyacinthine hair
Hang in crimson coronals;
And passion fills the archéd halls;
And beauty floats upon the air.
“Tread softly—softly, like the foot
Of Winter, shod with fleecy snow,
Who cometh white, and cold, and mute,
Lest he should wake the Spring below.
O, look! for here lie Love and Youth,
Fair spirits of the heart and mind;
Alas! that one should stray from truth,
And one — be ever, ever blind!”
Had we space we should like to extract “A Petition to Time,” “The Lake has Burst,” the address “To the Singer Pasta,” and, indeed, a number of Mr. Griswold's
other selections from Proctor. We pass over them, however, to insert “The Storm,” a grand example of imagination pervaded by the most powerful feeling, and throwing off images of the intensest beauty and grandeur.
“The spirits of the mighty sea
To-night are wakened from their dreams,
And upward to the tempest flee,
Baring their foreheads, where the gleams
Of lightning run, and thunders cry,
Rushing and raining through the sky.
“The spirits of the sea are waging
Loud war upon the peaceful night,
And bands of the black winds are raging
Through the tempest blue and bright;
Blowing her cloudy hair to dust
With kisses, like a madman's lust!
“What ghost now, like an Até, walketh
Earth—ocean—air? and aye with Time,
Mingled, as with a lover talketh 7
Methinks their colloquy sublime
Draws anger from the sky, which raves
Over the self-abandoned waves |
“Behold ! like millions massed in battle,
The trembling billows headlong go,
Lashing the barren deeps, which rattle
In mighty transport, till they grow
All fruitful in their rocky home,
And burst from frenzy into foam.
“And look 1 where on the faithless billows
Lie women, and men, and children fair;
Some hanging, like sleep, to their swollen pillows,
With helpless sinews and streaming hair,
And some who plunge in the yawning graves |
Ah! lives there no strength beyond the waves?