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The ! Lotuseaters'- a kind of classical opium-eaters - are Ulysses and his crew. They land on the charmed island,' and eat of the charmed root,' and then they sing
Long enough the winedark wave our weary bark did carry:
The little isle of Ithaca, beneath the day's decline.'—p. 116. Our readers will, we think, agree that this is admirably characteristic, and that the singers of this song must have made pretty free with the intoxicating fruit. How they got home you must read in Homer :-Mr. Tennyson - himself, we presume, a dreamy lotus-eater, a delicious lotus-eater-leaves them in full song.
Next comes another class of poems,— Visions. The first is the • Palace of Art,' or a fine house, in which the poet dreams that he sees a very fine collection of well-known pictures. An ordinary versifier would, no doubt, have followed the old routine, and dully described himself as walking into the Louvre, or Buckingham Palace, and there seeing certain masterpieces of painting :
-a true poet dreams it. We have not room to hang many of these chefs-d'æuvre, but for a few we must find space.— The Madonna'
• The maid mother by a crucifix,
In yellow pastures sunny warm,
Sat smiling-babe in arm.'-p. 72. The use of this latter, apparently, colloquial phrase is a deep stroke of art. The form of expression is always used to express an habitual and characteristic action, A knight is described • lance in rest'-a dragoon, sword in hand'-so, as the idea of the Virgin is inseparably connected with her child, Mr. Tennyson reverently describes her conventional position - babe in arm.'
His gallery of illustrious portraits is thus admirably arranged:The Madonna-Ganymede-St. Cecilia-Europa-Deep-haired Milton-Shakspeare-Grim Dante-Michael Angelo-LutherLord Bacon-Cervantes—Calderon-King David—' the Halicarnassëan' (quære, which of them ?)—Alfred, (not Alfred Tenny
son, though no doubt in any other man's gallery he would have had a place) and finally
Isaïah, with fierce Ezekiel,
Swarth Moses by the Coptic sea,
And eastern Confutzee !' We can hardly suspect the very original mind of Mr. Tennyson to have harboured any recollections of that celebrated Doric idyll, • The groves of Blarney,' but certainly there is a strong likeness between Mr. Tennyson's list of pictures and the Blarney collection of statues
• Statues growing that noble place in,
All heathen goddesses most rare,
air ! In this poem we first observed a stroke of art (repeated afterwards) which we think very ingenious. No one who has ever written verse but must have felt the pain of erasing some happy line, some striking stanza, which, however excellent in itself, did not exactly suit the place for which it was destined. How curiously does an author mould and remould the plastic verse in order to fit in the favourite thought; and when he finds that he cannot introduce it, as Corporal Trim says, any how, with what reluctance does he at last reject the intractable, but still cherished offspring of his brain ! Mr. Tennyson manages this delicate matter in a new and better way; he says, with great candour and simplicity, If this poem were not already too long, I should have added the following stanzas,' and then he adds them, (p. 84;) -or, the following lines are manifestly superfluous, as a part of the text, but they may be allowed to stand as a separate poem,' (p. 121,) which they do ;-or, I intended to have added something on statuary, but I found it very difficult;'-(he had, moreover, as we have seen, been anticipated in this line by the Blarney poet) — but I had finished the statues of Elijah and Olympias -judge whether I have succeeded,'(p. 73)—and then we have these two statues. This is certainly the most ingenious device that has ever come under our observation, for reconciling the rigour of criticism with the indulgence of parental partiality. It is economical too, and to the reader profitable, as by these means
• We lose no drop of the immortal man.' The other vision is A Dream of Fair Women,' in which the heroines of all ages—some, indeed, that belong to the times of heathen goddesses most rare’-pass before his view. We have not time to notice them all, but the second, whom we take to be Iphigenia, touches the heart with a stroke of nature more power,
ful than even the veil that the Grecian painter threw over the head of her father.
- dimly I could descry
Watching to see me die.
The temples, and the people, and the shore ;
Slowly,--and nothing more! What touching simplicity—what pathetic resignation-he cut my throat nothing more? One might indeed ask, what more' she would have ?
But we must hasten on; and to tranquillize the reader's mind after the last affecting scene, shall notice the only two pieces of a lighter strain which the volume affords. The first is elegant and playful; it is a description of the author's study, which he affectionately calls his Darling Room.
O darling room, my heart's delight;
Wherein to read, wherein to write.' We entreat our readers to note how, even in this little trifle, the singular taste and genius of Mr. Tennyson break forth. In such a dear little room a narrow-minded scribbler would have been content with one sofa, and that one he would probably have covered with black mohair, or red cloth, or a good striped chintz ; how infinitely more characteristic is white dimity !—'tis as it were a type of the purity of the poet's mind. He proceeds
For I the Nonnenwerth have seen,
Wherein to read, wherein to write.'--. 153. A common poet would have said that he had been in London or in Paris—in the loveliest villa on the banks of the Thames, or the most gorgeous chateau on the Loire-that he had reclined in
Madame de Staël's boudoir, and mused in Mr. Rogers's comfortable study; but the darling room of the poet of nature (which we must suppose to be endued with sensibility, or he would not have addressed it) would not be flattered with such common-place comparisons ;--no, no, but it is something to have it said that there is no such room in the ruins of the Drachenfels, in the vineyard of Oberwinter, or even in the rapids of the Rhene, under the Lurleyberg. We have ourselves visited all these celebrated spots, and can testify, in corroboration of Mr. Tennyson, that we did not see in any of them anything like this little room so exquisite.
The second of the lighter pieces, and the last with which we shall delight our readers, is a severe retaliation on the editor of the Edinburgh Magazine, who, it seems, had not treated the first volume of Mr. Tennyson with the same respect that we have, we trust, evinced for the second.
TO CHRISTOPHER NORTH.
You did late review my lays,
Fusty Christopher.'-p. 153. Was there ever anything so genteelly turned--so terse—so sharp—and the point so stinging and so true ?
• I could not forgive the praise,
Fusty Christopher! This leads us to observe on a phenomenon which we have frequently seen, but never been able to explain. It has been occasionally our painful lot to excite the displeasure of authors whom we have reviewed, and who have vented their dissatisfaction, some in prose, some in verse, and some in what we could not distinctly say whether it was verse or prose; but we have invariably found that the common formula of retort was that adopted by Mr. Tennyson against his northern critic, namely, that the author would always
Forgive us all the blame,
not forgive the praise. Now this seems very surprising. It has sometimes, though we regret to say rarely, happened, that, as in the present instance, we have been able to deal out unqualified praise, but we never found that the dose in this case disagreed with the most squeamish stomach; on the contrary, the patient has always seemed exceedingly comfortable after he had swallowed it. He has been known to take the Review' home and keep his wife from a ball, and his children from bed, till he could administer it to them, by reading the article aloud. He has even been heard to recommend the · Review' to his acquaintance at the clubs, as the best number which has yet appeared, and one, who happened to be an M.P. as well as an author, gave a conditional order, that in case his last work should be favourably noticed, a dozen copies should be sent down by the mail to the borough of — But, on the other hand, when it has happened that the general course of our criticism has been unfavourable, if by accident we happened to introduce the smallest spice of praise, the patient immediately fell into paroxysms—declaring that the part which we foolishly thought might offend him had, on the contrary, given him pleasure-positive pleasure, but that which he could not possibly either forget or forgive, was the grain of praise, be it ever so small, which we had dropped in, and for which, and not for our censure, he felt constrained, in honour and conscience, to visit us with his extreme indignation. Can any reader or writer inform us how it is that praise in the wholesale is so very agreeable to the very same stomach that rejects it with disgust and loathing, when it is scantily administered ; and above all, can they tell us why it is, that the indignation and nausea should be in the exact inverse ratio to the quantity of the ingredient? These effects, of which we could quote several cases much more violent than Mr. Tennyson's, puzzle us exceedingly ; but a learned friend, whom we have consulted, has, though he could not account for the phenomenon, pointed out what he thought an analogous case. It is related of Mr. Alderman Faulkener, of convivial memory, that one night when he expected his guests to sit late and try the strength of his claret and his head, he took the precaution of placing in his wine-glass a strawberry, which his doctor, he said, had recommended to him on account of its cooling qualities : on the faith of this specific, he drank even more deeply, and, as might be expected, was carried away at an earlier period and in rather a worse state, than was usual with him. When some of his friends condoled with him next day, and attributed his misfortune to six bottles of claret which he had imbibed, the Alderman was extremely indignant—the claret,' he said, 'was sound, and never could do any man any harm his discomfiture was altogether caused by that damned single strawberry' which he had kept all night at the bottom of his glass.