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But o'er her meek eyes came a happy mist, Had left the ravaged woodland yet once more Like that which kept the heart of Eden green To peace; and what should not have been bad Before the useful trouble of the rain.'
For Merlin, overtalked and overworn, The second Idyll recounts the wiles of
Had yielded, told her all the charm, and slept. “ lissome Vivien,” coiled serpent-like at the feet of Merlin, and bent on drawing
Then, in one moment, she put forth the charm
Of woven paces and of waving hands, from the sage enchanter the secret of his
And in the hollow oak he lay as dead, spell. It is the story of Dalilah with a dif
And lost to life and use and name and fame. ference. The contrast of youth and age, of vanity and wisdom, of sly attack and Then crying, 'I have made his glory mine,' dexterous rebutter, is admirably sustained. And shrieking out, 'O fool!' the harlot leapt The style, the invention, and the music Adown the forest, and the thicket closed are also wonderful, and the whole so linked
Behind her, and the forest echoed 'fool.'" together that extract seems impossible without fracture of the golden chain. Yet
When so rare a thing as a new poem there is one lyric gem-one heart-shaped comes before us, it may be well to analyze pendent—that may easily be detached. it rather carefully. Perhaps we may learn This is the song of Vivien :
from its texture some secret of its principle and growth.
A close examination of the Idylls re“In love, if love be love, if love be ours, Faith and unfaith can ne'er be equal powers: minds us that the elements of poetic lanUnfaith in aught is want of faith in all. guage are the simplest possible. The
author never strives to be intensely poet“ It is the little rift within the lute,
ical in phrase or simile. No word in his That by and by will make the music mute, poem lays claim to separate notice, any And ever widening slowly silence all.
more than a single flake of snow that con“The little rift within the lover's lute,
tributes to the beauty of a winter landOr little pitted speck in garnered fruit,
It is the succession of words and That rotting inward slowly molders all.
phrases that realizes the desired effect.
Thus, in the commencement of a charming “It is not worth the keeping: let it go. idyll, third of the present series But shall it? answer, darling, answer, no; And trust me not at all or all in all."
“Elaine the fair, Elaine the lovable,
Elaine the lily maid of Astolat,” We need hardly say that the wisdom and experience of the sage are not proof each term is separately trite and simple ; against the seductive wiles of Vivien. He and taken together they suggest only a parries her assaults for a time with equal pleasing outline of youth and grace—but skill and constancy; rebuts her slander of that is just the preparation most suited to the knights, and rebukes her changing fits the artist's further purpose. Then mark of vanity and spleen; but in all such cases the filling up. Hereafter we have no to parley is to yield. Vivien is determined minute description of personal features; to have the wizard's secret. Taking ad- but the outline is filled in with moral vantage of a storm that breaks over their traits, and a quiet course of narrative heads, and hurls its bolts at their feet, she completes the portrait and the picture affects terror and repentance, and clings together : to Merlin for safety and for pardon.
“-High in her chamber up a tower to the east, "She blamed herself for telling hearsay tales : Guarded the sacred shield of Lancelot; She shook from fear, and for her fault she wept Which first she placed where morning's earOf petulancy : she called him lord and liege, Her seer, her bard, her silver star of eve, Might strike it, and awake her with the Her God, her Merlin, the one passionate love gleam; Of her whole life ; and ever overhead
Then, fearing rust or soilure, fashioned for it Bellowed the tempest, and the rotten branch A case of silk, and braided thereupon Snapt in the rushing of the river-rain
All the devices blazoned on the shield Above them; and in change of glare and gloom In their own tinct, and added, of her will, lier eyes and neck glittering went and came : A border fantasy of branch and flower, Till now the storm, its burst of passion spent, And yellow-throated nestling in the nest. Moaning and calling out of other lands, Nor rested thus content, but day by day,
Leaving her household and good father, , finest sort: every inch of it contains some
climbed That eastern tower, and entering barred her ly stuff
, some shreds of silver warp, and
portion of the legend, some web of homedoor, Stript off the case, and read the naked shield;
withal some lines of golden thread. It is Now guessed a hidden meaning in his arms,
honest, pure, and skillful workmanship Now made a pretty history to herself
throughout. Plain Saxon English is the Of every dint a sword had beaten in it, artist's raw material. His words are the And every scratch a lance had made upon it, original names of the things for which Conjecturing when and where : this cut is they stand, and so appear to be thoroughfresh,
ly identified with them, needing no transThat ten years back; this dealt him at Caer- lation in the reader's mind. Our author
lyle, That at Caerleon; this at Camelot:
always calls a spade a spade—not in the And ah, God's mercy, what a stroke was
sense of speaking coarse ideas, but in that there!
of using plain and simple terms. There And here a thrust that might have killed, but is also the utmost clearness and directness God
in the narrative — no strange inversions Broke the strong lance and rolled the enemy and other licenses of grammar so fre
down And saved him: so she lived in fantasy.”
quently employed as the privilege of poetry and the chief distinction of poetic
language. Mr. Tennyson stands first upon And so the story proceeds, leisurely, the merit of his ideas, and then upon the quietly, as the dawn creeps on and widens simplicity and aptness of the terms by into the richer beauty of day. In this which they are conveyed. It is evident case it is the old new story of unrequited that he submits the merit of his poetry to love. We nust not be tempted to enter the severest test by thus declining all exon its merits or extract its beauties; for trinsic show. Accordingly, his style inour space would hardly serve for either, vites only the scholar, the moralist, the and something still better lies before us. student of nature, and the man of pure
Another feature may be traced in the and cultivated imagination; and to these verbal structure of this poem : it is the he yields up, without artifice or reserve, work of conscientious, laborious, and con- the chaste forms of truth and beauty summate art. We may learn from this and which it is his privilege to create. The other instances that it is the poets most poet who discards the aid of vulgar and favored by nature who fortify their genius conventional ornament relies thenceforth with the utmost resources at their com on the power of more genuine attractions; mand. It is necessary, but not enough, and it is nearly certain that greater ethical that a poet should be poet born. Nature purity will be the reward of his abstemihas often done her part when the result ous art. Poetry of the highest stamp, has been imperfect, partial, and sometimes though not expressly didactic, will always pitiful. The truth is, that moral qualities be distinguished by the dignity of its are quite as essential to the poet as intel- moral sentiments. The poem
may lectual ones; and especially that moral not be shaped by some determined moral energy which is required to exert and to purpose—that would only be analogous to coördinate all the faculties before a pro- the act of a gardener who should trim his duct of the higher imagination is perfectly yew tree to the form of a funeral monumatured. It may seem strange to say so ment; but just thoughts and noble senti. of a dainty poem, which reads like the in- ments will abound in his work like blosspiration of a quiet mood, and falls from soms on the tree, not hiding its symmetry, the lips of beauty in her boudoir in an but manifesting at once its vitality and easy, natural strain, like the silk unwind- character. This is seen in some of the ing from her silver reel—but so it is : choicest poems of our language. What every line in this volume has been forged so picturesque, so musical, so bright with at a white heat, and every dented stroke images of fancy, as the Masque of Comus ? has been given with steady, true, and de- Yet its finest passages—those that linger liberate aim. But this comparison serves longest on the ear, because they have a only to illustrate the amount and not the charm for the listening heart—are tributes kind of labor bestowed upon the work to the beauty and excellence of virtue. before us. may
compare the The last accents of the Attendant Spirit poem itself to ancient tapestry of the only betray the secret mission of the Muse,
VOL. XLIX.-No. 1.
for all the images of loveliness in which it wiles of the “lissome Vivien,” and premay please her to disport:
vents the pure and tender passion of
Elaine from meeting reciprocation in the “Mortals, that would follow me,
breast of Lancelot; while to the Queen Love virtue; she alone is free:
herself, her lord, and all his kingdom, it She can teach ye how to climb Higher than the sphery chime;
opens up all the sluices of ruin, misery, of if virtue feeble were,
and rebellion. To many readers it may Heaven itself would stoop to her.” seem that this is a perilous theme for
poetic treatment; but we are bound to This volume of Mr. Tennyson is distin- say that the relations of Arthur, and his guished by a similar exalted purity of Queen, and Lancelot of the Lake, are intone. The reader breathes an atmosphere dicated with the utmost purity and deliof moral truth as well as of summer odors; cacy. There is no tampering for a moand poetic aphorisms, glinting like dew- ment with the principles of truth and drops in the pure light of heaven, are honor; sin is nothing but blighting and scattered on all the flowers of fancy. degrading sin, and its ravages are all the Take a few gems:
more conspicuous from the exalted and
shining qualities which it so fatally ob“O purblind race of miserable men!
Sir Lancelot is the “flower of How many among us at this very hour
bravery,” as Guinevere is “the pearl of Do forge a life-long trouble for ourselves
beauty;" but a blot is on the escutcheon By taking true for false, or false for true; Here through the feeble twilight of this world of the one, while passion, frailty, and reGroping, how many, until we pass and reach morse uncrown the other. Hear how the That other, where we see as we are seen! fallen knight, whose face is marred more
with deep anguish than with wounds, “ And that he sinned is not believable ; soliloquizes in a moment of repentance : For, look upon his face! but if he sinned, The sin that practice burns into the blood,
“Why did the King dwell on my name to me? And not the one dark hour which brings re
Mine own name shames me, seeming a remorse,
proach, Will brand us, after, of whose fold we be:
Lancelot whom the lady of the lake Or else were he, the holy King, whose hymns Stole from his mother-as the story runsAre chanted in the minster, worse than all." She chanted snatches of mysterious song
Heard on the winding waters, eve and morn But now we come to speak of the high She kissed me, saying, “Thou art fair, my est feature of this work, and that which child, gives harmonious expression to the whole. As a king's son,' and often in her arms Mr. Tennyson has mastered the chief dif She bore me, pacing on the dusky mere. ficulty of his subject : in combining its
Would she had drowned me in it, where'er
it be! loose and scattered elements he has suc
For what am I? what profits me my name ceeded in imparting an almost epic unity
Of greatest knight? I fought for it and have it: and grandeur. Though not without sepa Pleasure to have it, none; to lose it, pain; rate interest and significance, the idylls of Now grown a part of me; but what use in it? this volume are associated poems, and will To make men worse by making my sin known? be read to most advantage as a connected Or sin seem less, the sinner seeming great ? series. Nothing can exceed the effect of Alas! for Arthur's greatest knight, a man their advancing power and beauty when
Not after Arthur's heart! I needs must break
These bonds that so defame me : not without thus studied as a whole, and followed to
She wills it: would I if she willed it? nay, their magnificent close in the idyll of
Who knows? but if I would not, then may “Guinevere.” Three principal characters God, are distinguished from the first; but it is
I pray him, send a sudden Angel down only by degrees that their figures shine To seize me by the hair, and bear me far, prominently out; then the group begins And fling me deep into that forgotten mere to absorb all interest and attention, and
Among the tumbled fragments of the hills.” finally one prostrate but still queenly shape
We learn no more of Lancelot except fixes the solemn moral on our minds for- incidentally; but some hint is here affordever. All trial and disaster seem to spring, ed of the reality and fruit of his contrition ; more or less directly, from the conduct of the Queen. It brings her favorite Enid
“So groaned Sir Lancelot in remorseful pain, under suspicion, prompts the artifices and Not knowing he shonld die a holy man."
The character of Arthur is conceived in and sublime departure to a death no less the happiest manner. He is the blameless mysterious than his birth. King; the very type and model of restored The crime has been discovered before humanity. If the poet had intended to the dawning repentance of the lovers set forth the person of Christ in relation could take effect. Sir Lancelot has fled to his faithless Church, he could hardly beyond the sea; Sir Modred rebelled have chosen a better representative. But against his uncle, the King; and Guinevere there is no hint of this occult allusion. has hurried to a distant convent. The fuWe have to view King Arthur as a man, gitive Queen comes unattended and unmoving in a rude and sinful world; and known, and a young novice is set to wait in this point of view it is evident that his upon her. The garrulity of this little perfectness would have the stamp of un- maid, to whom all the rumors of King reality, but for one fatal drawback arising Arthur's trouble are known, cause infinite out of this very uniformity of excellence. distress to the unhappy Queen. At length His fault is too much meekness. In his she begins to hum" an air the nuns had public rule, and in his knightly character, taught her ; Late, so late!” and the new The King is perfect; but a dash of strong and sad inmate exclaimshumanity is wanting to make him lord of his own hearth. No infirmity of his nature Sing, and unbind my heart that I may weep." awakens sympathy or calls for solace, and no warmth of passion flushes his statu Then the little novice sings: esque repose. His figure throws no shadow; and so the tender partner of his “Late, late, so late! and dark the night and throne finds no refuge from his glory in
chill! the congenial shelter of his side. The ar
Late, late, so late! but we can enter still. tistic value of this circumstance is very
Too late, too late! ye can not enter now. great. It provides the tragic elements of "No light had we; for that we do repent; discord, error, and misfortune. It brings
And learning this the bridegroom will relent. the impeccable and mighty King within
Too late, too late! ye can not enter now. the natural range of trouble. Above all, this feature of cold abstract perfection in “No light: so late! and dark and chill the the hero was necessary to protect the un
night! happy Queen from utter loathing and con
Oh! let us in that we may find the light !
Too late, too late! ye can not enter now. tempt. We can not withhold some human pity when she exclaims
“Have we not heard the bridegroom is so
sweet? "I thought I could not breathe in that fine air.
Oh! let us in, though late, to kiss his feet ! That pure severity of perfect light,"
No, no, too late! ye can not enter now." adding, with emphasis, in her new state of
The little song ceases, and the little mind,
maiden resumes her prattle, hoping to Now I see thee what thou art;
soothe "the noble lady," but in her ignoThou art the highest and most human too, rance wounding only. From rumor she Not Lancelot nor another."
relates the discovery of the infant Arthur, We must not conclude without showing
“A naked child upon the sands the reader how this beautiful poem
Of wild Dundagil by the Cornish sea ;" nates to its conclusion. The idyll of Guinevere is “one entire and perfect chrysolite." and all the supernatural signs which were We do not know in the whole compass of seen to herald and attend it ; how a poetry any effort of equally sustained and Knight of the Round Table, even the fa
ther of the little novice herself, heard brilliant flight, with no pause of dullness, strange music” as he rode after sunset and not even a momentary stoop of wing: from Lyonnesse to Camelot, and turning, and perhaps no three passages in any literature are comparable to the description
“ There of the birth or finding of young Arthur, All down the lonely coast of Lyonnesse the relation by the King of all the glorious Each with a beacon-star upon his head, measures and triumphs which the crime And with a wild sea-light about his feet of Guinevere had thwarted, and his solitary | He saw them—headland after headland flame
Far on into the rich heart of the west;
Made my tears burn-is also past, in part. And in the light the white mermaiden swam, And all is past, the sin is sinned, and I, And strong man-breasted things stood from the Lo! I forgive thee, as eternal God sea,
Forgives : do thou for thine own soul the rest. And sent a deep sea-voice through all the land, But how to take last leave of all I loved ? To which the little elves of chasm and cleft Made answer, sounding like a distant horn. Let no man dream but that I love thee still. So said my father-yea, and furthermore, Perchance, and so thou purify thy soul, Next morning while he passed the dim-lit
And so thou lean on our fair father Christ, woods,
Hereafter in that world where all are pure Himself beheld three spirits mad with joy
We two may meet before high God, and thou Come dashing down on a tall wayside flower,
Wilt spring to me, and claim me thine, and That shook beneath them, as the thistle shakes know When three gray linnets wrangle for the seed: I am thine husband—not a smaller soul, And still at evenings on before his house
Nor Lancelot, nor another. Leave me that, The flickering fairy circle wheeled and broke
I charge thee, my last hope. Now must I Flying, and linked again, and wheeled and broke
leave. Flying, for all the land was full of life.”
Through the thick night I hear the trumpet
blow : These signs and many more are related They summon me their King to lead mine as good omens, all falsified and thwarted hosts by the future Queen. The little novice
Far down to that great battle in the west
Where I must strike against my sister's son, still runs garrulously on till interruption comes from without. Presently, when
Leagued with the Lords of the White Horse,
and Knights Guinevere has lapsed in memories of the
Once mine, and strike him dead, and meet past,
Death, or I know not what mysterious doom." "A murmuring whisper through the gallery
ran, Then on a sudden a cry, 'The King.' She
Enough this to show with what ease sat
and power the poet rises with his arguStiff-stricken, listening ; but when armed feet ment; but we must continue the passage Through the long gallery from the outer doors in a final extract. The departure of the Rang coming, prone from off her seat she fell King from that lone convent in the night And groveled with her face upon the floor : There with her milk-white arms and shadowy all the realm of poetry. Arthur has said,
of ages, is one of the sublimest pictures in hair She made her face a darkness from the King:
“Farewell!" And in the darkness heard his armed feet Pause by her; then came silence, then a “And while she groveled at his feet, voice,
She felt the King's breath wander o'er her neck, Monotonous and hollow like a ghost's
And in the darkness o'er her fallen head Pronouncing judgment, but, though changed, Perceived the waving of his hands that blest. the King's."
Then listening till those armed steps were gone The speech which follows is equal to Rose the pale Queen, and in her anguish found the occasion and worthy the speaker- The casement: Peradventure,' so she thought, “ Britain's mighty King.” It is too long And lo ! he sat on horseback at the door !
• If I might see his face, and not be seen.' for extraction; but we must make room And near him the sad nuns with each a light for a few noble lines, embodying the su- Stood, and he gave them charge about the Queen, blime but qualified forgiveness of the in- To guard and foster her for evermore. jured Monarch.
And while he spake to these his helm was low.
I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere, Of Britain ; so she did not see his face,
And even then he turned; and more and more. The doom of treason and the flaming death, The moony vapor rolling round the King, (When first I learnt thee hidden here,) is past
. Who seemed the phantom of a Giant in it, The pang-which, while I weighed thy heart Enwound him fold by fold, and made him gray with one
And grayer, till himself became as mist Too wholly true to dream untruth in thee, Before her, moving ghostlike to his doom."