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Critics are not zhe legislators , but the judges and police of literature . They do not make laws—they interpret and try to enforce them . —Edinburgh Review .
The week has been decidedly flat . Gossip forsaking the amenities of Literature has hovered over the Hippopotamus , the Nepaulese , and the Greek question ; the last-named topic having all the attraction of the omne ignotum pro Pacifico principle . In vain has a certain publisher industriously circulated the rumour that one of the books he advertises is " dreadfully immoral "; want of faith in the announcement prevents even a vulgar succes du scandale .
Some little curiosity exists as to Evelyn ' s History of Religion , whether it will be pedantic , orthodox , and trimming like the author , or whether it will contain any of the Chubb and Toland spirit . If the work turn out to be of any importance , we shall bestow on it due attention . While on this subject , let us mention two new and important works just issued ; the one in France , called Qu ' est-ce que la Religion , d ' apres la Nouvelle Philosophie Allemande , wherein Feuerbach ' s daring evolutions of Hegel ' s principles are translated for the benefit of those who cannot read German ; the other called , The Progress of Intellect ,
showing the various developments of religious ideas through history—a work weshall notice hereafter . A passing word of commendation on the manner in which Household Words fulfils its promise of treating social questions , is called for by the excellent paper in this week ' s number on the Sunday Screw , wherein the exasperating absurdity and hypocrisy of those who drivel and vote for the better observance of the Sabbath by stopping the Sunday Post are plainly and forcibly indicated . The one great influence of Household Words , will be its carrying wisdom and honest utterance into the families of thousands who would never read the social questions treated in a newspaper .
tennyson ' s new poem . In Memoriam . E . Moxon . Sacred to the memory of one long loved and early dead , this tablet bears neither the name of the deceased nor of the affectionate hand that raised it . Our readers have already been informed that it is erected by our greatest living poet—Alfred Tennyson —to the memory of Arthur Ilallam . On first announcing the volume we stated our belief that it was unique in the annals of literature . The only poems that occurred to us as resembling it were the Lament
of Bio ? i , by Moschus ; Lycidas , by Milton ; and Adonais , by Shelley ; but these are all distinguished from it both by structural peculiarities , and by the spirit which , animates them . They may fitly be compared with each other , because they arc all rather the products of sorrowing Fancy than of genuine sorrow . Herein note a fundamental difference from In Memoriam , which , is the iterated chant of a bereaved soul always uttering one plaint , through all the varying moods of sorrow . There is iteration in Moschus , and it is effective ; but this ever-recurring burden ,
apxere HiKc ' MKCti ru TtevQeoq , afxjere Monrai , is not the " trick of grief" but the trick of art . The unity and recurrence in Tennyson lie deeper—they are internal , not external . Tennyson does not , like Moschus , Milton , and Shelley , call upon the woods and streams , the nymphs and men , to weep for his lost Arthur ; he weeps himself . He does not call upon his fancy for images of woe ; he lets his own desolate heart break forth in sobs of music . The three great poets are superior to him in what the world vulgarly calls poetry , in the graceful arabesque
of fancy , when the mind at ease plays with a grief that is just strong enough to stimulate it , not strong enough to sombre it ; but they are all three immeasurably below him in strength , depth , and passion , consequently in the effect produced upon the minds of others . To read Moschus is a critical delight ; beautiful conceits aro so beautifully expressed , that our admiration at the poet ' s skill is intense ; but who believes in tho poet ' grief ? who is saddened by his mournfulness , or solaced by his hope ? The first twelve lines are exquisite , and even the conceit ,
' Now , Hyacinth , give all thy letters voico . And more than over call Alas ! alas 1 '" vvv CdcKivde XaXei ret . tree ypeiyi-fAara , kuI lihiov cct eci / . dfAfiotve < roi <; ncruKoiffi ,
is felt to be in proper keeping with the spirit of the whole ; and so is the beautiful line wherein he says that Echo , hidden among the reeds , fed on Bion ' s songs : — "A % a > ¥ iv $ ova . Kecr < ri reotq im ^ oa-Ker' aotSdq . But from first to last you feel that he is playing with his subject , and si vis me flere , &c . Milton , again , has nobly imitated his favourite classics , and drawn from the wealthier stores of his own capacious mind , images which , will live for ever ; but the only passage recurring to memories of friendship is that famous one , — Together both , ere the high lawns appeared Under the opening eyelids of the morn , We drove afield , " Sec . Every one knows the " beauties " of this poem : the passage about Amary llis in the shade , and that about Alpheus , set to noble music ; but there is one passage we have not seen quoted , and as , in our estimation , it is the most beautiful in the poem , we will give it here : — There entertain him all the saints above In solemn troops and sweet societies , That sing , and , singing , in their glory move . And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes . " What potency of language , image , rhythm ! The reader sees it is not lightly , or irreverently to Milton ' s genius , that we have placed Lycidas below In Memoriam . The comparison is not here of genius , but of feeling . Tennyson sings a deeper sorrow , utters a more truthful passion , and , singing truly , gains the predominance of passion over mere sentiment . In mere amplitude In Memoriam differs from all its predecessors . It is not one expression of bereavement ; it is the slow gathering of seventeen years , and bears within it the varying traces of those varying moods which a long-enduring sorrow would necessarily assume . Our criticism need not be long . The elegiac mournfulness bears the impress of genuine feeling ; it is the musical utterance of a noble loving heart . Instead of criticising , let us suppose the reader has an observing pencil , and that we are looking over his shoulder exchanging remarks . We first bid him notice—perhaps we are fanciful , but the remark comes spontaneously—how exquisitely adapted the music of the poem is to its burden ; the stanza chosen , with its mingling rhymes , and its slow yet not imposing march , seems to us the very perfection of stanzas for the purpose . We then bid him notice how free from . " conceits" ( and what magazine poets call " poetry ") the whole volume is , and yet how abundant the felicities of diction and image , painting by one energetic word a picture which fills the mind , —as in this sea-burial " His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud Drops in his vast and wandering grave' * Never was the wild , mysterious , indefinite idea of sea-burial more grandly pictured than in the incomparable felicity of those words , " vast and wandering grave , " wherein the rhythm partakes of the feeling of the image , and seems to bear away the corpse into infinity . Then , again , " Calm on the seas and silver sleep , AHd waves that sway themselves in rest , And dead calm in that noble breast Which heaves but with the heaving deep . " Or such , touches as The rooks are blown about the ekies . Or as this of " Some dead lake That holds the shadow of a lark Hung in the shadow of a heaven . " Or this : — " And hush'd my deepest grief of all , "When fill'd with tnars that cannot fall , 1 brim with sorrow drowning song . " Or this : — " Her eyes are homes of silent prayer . " Or this larger landscape : — " Till now the doubtful dusk reveal'd The knollfl once more , where , couch'd at ease , The white kino glimmer'd , and the trees Laid their dark arms about the fi eld ; " And , suck'd from out the distant gloom , A breeze began to tremble o ' Tho largo leaves of the sycamore . And fluctuate all the Btill perfume ; " And gathering freshlier overhead , Kock'd the full-foliaged elms , and swung The heavy-folfled rose , and flung The lilies to and fro , and said , M The dawn , the dawn ! ' and died away ; And Kast and West , without a breath , AJixt their dim liglitH , like liJ « aud death , To broaden into boundless day . " While you , reader , are pencilling in this way with so much love , do not forget to place a mark of
disapproval against the insufferable rhymes which three times mar the beauty of the page : again , to rhyme with , then , must be vulgarized into agen ; and Christ , to rhyme with , mist , and elsewhere with Evangeftrf , can only be accepted upon a total change in our pronunciation . Certain prosaisms and obscurities may be better defended ; false rhymes admit of no defence . But how beautiful , how simple , and how touching are the poems when you read them uncritically , giving full sway to the feelings which , that music rouses in you ! Who does not feel with him : — " I sometimes hold it hal f a sin To put in words the grief 1 feel ; For words , like nature , half reveal And half conceal the Soul within . " But , for the unquiet heart and brain , A use in measur'd language lies ; The sad mechanic exercise , Like dull narcotics , numbing pain . " In words , like weeds , I ' 11 wrap me o ' er . Like coarsest clothes against the cold ; But that large grief which these enfold Is given in outline , and no more . " All who have loved will answer for this : — " A happy lover who has come To look on her that loves him well , Who lights and rings the gateway bell , And learns her gone and far from home , " He saddens , all the magic light Dies off at once from bower and hall . And all the place is dark , and all The chambers emptied of delight ; " So find I every pleasant spot In which we two were wont to meet , The field , the chamber , and the street . For all is dark where thou art not . " Tet as that other , wandering there In those deserted walks , may find A flower beat with rain and wind . Which once she foster'd up with care ; " So seem 3 it in my deep regret , 0 my forsaken heart , with thee And this poor flower of poesy Which , little cared for , fades not yet . " , since it pleased a vanish'd eye , 1 go to plant it on his tomb , That , if it can , it there may bloom . Or , dying , there at least may die . " Or this : — " I hear the noise about thy keel ; I hear the bell struck in the night ; I see the cabin-window bright ; I see the sailor at the wheel . " Thou bringest the sailor to his wife . And travell'd men from foreign lands ; And letters unto trembling hands ; And , thy dark freight , a vanish'd life . " So bring him : we have idle dreams : This look of quiet flutters thus Our home-bred fancies : O to u « , The fools of habit , sweeter seems « To rest beneath the clover sod , That takes the sunshine and the rains . Or where the kneeling hamlet drains The chalice of the grapes of God ; Than if with thee the roaring wells Should gulf him fathom deep in brine ; And hands so often clasp'd in mine Should toss with tangle aud with shells . " Very pathetic is the opening image of this poem : *—•• Tears of the widower , when he sees A late-lost form that sleep reveals . And moves his doubtful arms , and feels Her place is empty , fall like these ; " Which weep a loss for ever new , A void where heart on heart reposed ; And , where warm hands have prest and closed , Silence , till I be silent too . " Which weep the comrade of my choice . An awful thought , a life removed . The human-hearted man I loved , A spirit , not a breathing voice . Come , Time , and teach me many years I do not suffer in a dream ; For now , so 8 trance do these things seem . Mine eyes have leisure for their tears . " Here is one of a totally different cast : — " Jtisest thou thus , dim dawn , again . So loud with voices of the birds . So thick with lowings of the herds , Day , when I lost the flower of men ; " Who tremblest thro * thy darkling red On yon swoll ' n brook that bubbles fast By meadows breathing of the past , And woodlands holy to tho dead ; " Who murmurest in the foliaged eaves A song that Blights the coming care , And Autumn laying here and thero A fiery finger on the leaves ; " Who wakenest with thy balmy breath . To myriads on the genial earth . Memories of bridal , or of birth . And unto myriads more , of death . " O , wheresoever those may bo , Betwixt the slumber of the poles , To-day they count as kindred souls ; They , know mo not , but mourn with me . " How sweet and gentle , like the pealing bells it speaks of , is this : — " The time draws near the birth of Christ ; The moon is hid , the night is still ; A single church below the hill Is pealing , folded in the mist . " A single peal of bells below , That wakens at this hour of rest A single murmur in the breast . That hese are not the bells J know .
June 22 , 1850 . ] © & £ ^ Lta'HtV . 303
Leader (1850-1860), June 22, 1850, page 303, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/l/issues/vm2-ncseproduct1843/page/15/