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ART. VI.-I. Lycidas. By John Milton.

2. Adonais. By Percy Bysshe Shelley.

1637. 1821.

3. In Memoriam. By Alfred Tennyson. 1850.


THERE HERE is no question that Lord Tennyson first earned his great fame by his 'In Memoriam.' It was the appearance of this monody, in 1850, that sent serious and thoughful men back to his early writings, to see if there was any trace of power there such as might have given promise of a riper maturity; and, to the astonishment of many, a mine of great richness lay open before them, which they had passed by almost unnoticed. few poets prelude by a monody, though it is a sort of crucial test of ability. Any man whose genius leads him to come forward and write an In Memoriam throws it down as a gauntlet at the feet of all critics, and challenges investigation into his literary status and character. In some respects a monody is an utterance which it seems a species of presumption to give to the world at all, being entirely personal and individual in its nature. A man must stand pretty high indeed, to warrant his expecting the public to listen to his wailing with any sort of patience. For the most part they have never seen, perhaps never even heard of, the person who is made the subject of all these outpourings. The world, they think, is very wide, and abounds with many good men worthy of a tribute, who never get any; and they naturally consider the homage accorded to a dead man somewhat superfluous, and, it may be, somewhat too strained. The monody therefore-except in the case of a great public character-wants the essential ingredient of interest, and the choice is rather a dangerous one to make, even in the case of a beloved friend. Byron's monody on Sheridan, whom he met only as a boon companion at dinner, is tame and uninteresting, although the subject of it was a writer, and a distinguished public man. We can hardly, indeed, remember at this moment a good monody worth a second reading, except the three we have placed at the head of this article, and they are all marked by distinct characteristics of merit.

The monody has come down to us from antiquity, like almost every other good thing, and is akin to the elegy, which probably preceded it. The finest and most spirit-stirring elegy we know of-but then it applies to a whole nation-is that repeated by Demosthenes in his speech De Corona,' as having been composed for the dead after the battle of Cheronea. mournful sublimity it is unsurpassed, and sounds on the ear as the dying requiem of the departing glory of Greece, which has


This habit of

made her last effort, and will never rise again. wailing, we fancy, was rather pleasing, or, it may be, rather comforting, to the Hellenic people, for all the Greek tragedies abound in it. Nothing shows the supreme mastery of Sophocles more than the fact that he is able to keep up the sad strain of Electra-which is in point of fact a monody-through an entire drama without tiring us. Of course where an individual mourns for himself, the strain ceases to be an In Memoriam. 'Childe Harold' would be a magnificent monody if any other poet had poured out his distress for Byron, as he has poured it out there on his own behalf. We may add, that two fine examples of Greek prose have come down to us, which might almost be called monodies-the 'Apologia' of Plato, and the 'Memorabilia' of Xenophon-were it not that the writers manfully repress their sorrow for their friend and master, leaving the reader, however, probably more heart-sick than themselves. A monody is assuredly a theme to evoke great powers, but we fear it should only be attempted by the hand of a practised master.



In the case of the three persons who form the subjects of the monodies of Milton, Shelley, and Tennyson, two of them were almost unknown, and the fame of the third was only known among the poets of his day. We have learnt to appreciate Keats since his death, and his fame is enhanced by Shelley's magnificent tribute to his memory. Shelley's splendid transfigurations, indeed, would set off the greatest being that ever lived-nay, they are almost too good for mortal man: but then Shelley could never keep himself within reasonable bounds. delighted to soar, and the dead-weight of Keats both kept him down, and afforded him a clear and direct purpose to descant upon. With such ballast his car moves so steadily and with such unbroken progress to the close, that the Adonais' may well be pronounced the most perfect of all his efforts; and perhaps in respect of genius it deserves the post of honour among the three. Nowhere do we find among his works more magnificent handling, or a finer display of that power of going out of himself, which Shelley possessed in a greater degree than any modern poet. Of Milton's subject, Edward King, who was drowned in his twenty-fifth year on the passage from Chester to Dublin, we know nothing, except that he was the son of Sir John King, Secretary for Ireland, and the college friend of the poet, and that both were at one time intended for holy orders. To him, therefore, the case of Arthur Henry Hallam, the friend of Tennyson, bears a much closer parallel than that of Keats, both being fellow-collegians, though there was some

disparity in respect of age. The 'In Memoriam' consequently may be compared with the 'Lycidas;' and we see in more than one place that Tennyson evidently had it in his mind; but, there is not the slightest trace of the influence of the 'Adonais.' On the contrary, the 'In Memoriam' may be safely pronounced the antithesis of the Adonais'-we had almost said, the antidote to it-in respect both of the mode and treatment and the moral impression it leaves finally on the mind. We are certainly not soothed after reading Shelley-perhaps we may be even a little indignant at our fate; but in the case of the tribute of Tennyson we believe we are all the better for having read and duly weighed these several stanzas, and we promise ourselves on finishing them that we shall not forget to read them again; for we seem to have been associating with some good beadsman, who has not been forgetful to breathe a prayer

for us all.

To justify an 'In Memoriam' there must always be a strong friendship, and that too the friendship of younger years. There must also be a deprivation, and the nipping of a beautiful bud of promise-if suddenly and unexpectedly, all the fitter, at least for the theme. In this respect Milton had the advantage, as his friend was drowned in the prime of life at an utterly unforeseen moment; whereas Keats was languishing in consumption, and his hour of reckoning had been summed up. In the case of Arthur Henry Hallam, though his was not a tragic ending, the shock seems to have come by surprise upon everybody, most of all upon his own father. The subject, therefore, afforded every material to justify the anguish of an admirer and a friend; and perhaps in respect of sincerity and truth the tribute of Tennyson is the most accurate and the least exaggerated of the three. We fancy, however, that Milton has most touched the chord of sympathy within us, and we feel, even at this distance of time, a greater wrench on reading the Lycidas.' The solemnity of the opening is singularly

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touching :

'Who would not sing for Lycidas? He knew
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.

He must not float upon his watery bier

Unwept, and welter in the parching wind,
Without the meed of some melodious tear,'

The prelude of Shelley, on the contrary, is indignant. He makes an almost hysterical call on all to join

'O weep for Adonais! though our tears

Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!'

Yes, to weep for him, until the Future dares forget the Past.' His weeping, however, is not a soothing flow, but rather fiery tears;' for Adonais is gone where all things fair and wise must descend. Do not be so weak as to think he will be restored to the vital air-No:

'Death feeds on his mute voice, and laughs at our despair!'

The opening of Tennyson, on the other hand, resembles one of old Chaucer's prayers in its spirit of calmness, and he commences by admitting the chastening hand of love, which, although we see it not, we embrace by faith

'Believing where we cannot prove.'

Nay, this very loss will be our stepping-stone to higher things; and out of the waste of mourning will bloom the consolation even of the suffering to come.

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The openings therefore of the three poems, as soon as the several key-notes have been struck, show not only the different tone in which the subject is approached, but the very temperament of the writers themselves; and the same strain is continued to the close in each. Shelley's pessimism breaks out at every turn. He does not cease to protest, by an appeal to all the powers of reason and imagination, against the great wrong mankind and the world have suffered by this stroke of fate. Milton never forgets the personality of his friend. At every solemn pause he turns to throw another laurel on the bier, until it is heaped with fallen leaves which are not meant to wither; and he leaves it rather to ourselves to draw useful lesson on the wisdom of calm resignation. But the author of the In Memoriam' seeks to get us to unfold our own breasts by laying open his own, and would make us converts to his way of thinking. Nature indeed mourns, as becomes her; but man, superior to Nature in his immortal aspect, must consent rather to learn a lesson and this lesson of the omnia vanitas of life is imparted in the several stanzas which follow, which are in the nature of deep and searching self-examination, after the manner of St. Augustine and such early Fathers of the Church as made the subjective faculty in man their primary study. Another remarkable feature in Tennyson, regarded as a self-questioning poet, is that we have little or nothing in the abstract: he views the world and all that inhabit it almost entirely in the concrete. On the other hand, in Shelley we have much of the abstract contemplation of things. All Tennyson's characters are representative merely of individuals. He rarely gives us a species, and never on any occasion presents to our view humanity

under a single type. His 'Ulysses' is the Ulysses of the 'Odyssey;' his 'St. Simeon Stylites' only a mad recluse. Perhaps it is for this reason that the In Memoriam' is not so stirring, and is more of an exercise to read than the other two; but it is at least a profitable exercise, and a single reading will neither suffice to do justice to it, nor enable us to embrace the full depth and purport of the self-enquiry undertaken apparently with the view of purifying and perfecting the soul. A wholesome comfort, indeed, is the main object of these inner homilies. We are taught that it is rational to suffer, for such losses are common to all :

'Too common! Never morning wore

To evening, but some heart did break.'

This is a turn of phraseology worthy of Dante, * whom Tennyson in his serious moods most resembles of all modern poetseven to that incapacity to travel out of himself, which marked the manner of the great Florentine. When we say, to travel out of himself,' let us not be misunderstood. We mean that the self-communing spirit is so strong in both, that it prevents their ever being frank or taking the reader fully into their confidence. There is in both, either more or less, a sort of rigid, almost obstinate reticence, far removed from egotism, but still so self-absorbing as to make us almost complain of a want of frankness of nature-the impulsive frankness of Shakspeare, for instance, or the free communion of Byron, who even pushes it to the extreme. Shakspeare never writes to please himself, but to charm the spectator: he therefore moves completely out of himself for the time; but Dante and Tennyson, we fancy, have always an eye upon themselves as the audience ft though few.' This constitutes an obvious defect as regards comprehensiveness; for, however, great and stirring the theme may be, the man who will not consent to make the whole world kin will always have a narrower, though perhaps a more select, circle of admirers. It is in his serious efforts especially that Tennyson shows this characteristic faculty most; but we even fancy that the ring of 'Locksley Hall,' the finest perhaps of all his minor efforts, was not primarily intended to echo very far beyond the reach of his own ear. It is the self-communing of the inner spirit which has unconsciously allowed itself in an unguarded moment to break the bounds.

The quality to which we refer is entirely absent from the

"A mezzo Novembre non giunge

Quel che tu d' Ottobre filli."—Il Purgatorio.

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