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being utterly unaware what excellent pan-cakes it affords. Some European nations are equally ignorant of the pumpkin's utility for human sustenance. We Americans make a very inferior pie of it, tasting something like wet ginger-bread - a dish the offspring of necessity in the infancy of New-England when the unfortunate inbabitants had nothing else to make pies of, and which, with their usual cycnanserifying propensity that is to say, their habit of making swans out of geese they have imposed upon the Union at large, as something not only eatable, but palatable. The French have put the vegetable to its right use: they make a most delicious soup of it.
'I fancy, too, that many ripe figs must be wasted in our Southern States. Now the Southern French have a way of preserving theirs. Dismiss from your mind, I beg of you, all ideas of the Eastern, drum-packed, flat-pressed, mite-nourishing commodity. No, these figs (they are large green ones, like the best Italian) are round and swelling, slightly candied on the outside, yet not so as to disguise entirely their native emerald hue; all fresh and luscious inside with all their original juices a delight of children, and not to be despised by parents. The sellers of comestibles call them golden figs (hyues d'or,) and they well merit the appellation.
"Perhaps some of your unsophisticated country readers may imagine that I am going to enlarge on the value of the frog as an article of food, for it is one of our popular delusions (derived from the English, who have long since outgrown it) that this amphibious animal is a usual and favorite Parisian plat. I fancy you would be as likely to see a vol-au-vent de grenouille at a French restaurant as a colt-steak or rattlesnake fricassee at one of our hotels. Yet truth compels me to say that I once heard a Frenchman (he was an officer and a gentleman, and belonged to the aristocratic faubourg St. Germain) boast of having eaten dish which throws all possible frogs into the shade ; to wit, a fox! He said it tasted like game, only more so! I suspect, however, that he was joking. We had been talking of unusual meats, and I mentioned having eaten peacock and
He probabiy thought I was quizzing him, and wanted to cap my story.
And now this indefinite letter has rambled on far enough. Vale vive que KNICK., which means, may you live a thousand years, and always have a good cook.
A TALE ABOUT THE PRINCESS.
American Review, July 1848.
CÁRL BENSON'S LIBRARY. Present: CARL AND FRED PETERS.
PETERS. And so Carl, while I have been in the thickest of the stirring times abroad, and seen one monarchy topple after another, you have been quietly reading at home. And that gray-covered book is poetry of course.
BENSON. It is TENNYSON'S PRINCESS.
PETERS. Oh, Tennyson! Yes, I remember you always had a great admiration for him – not but what he is justly entitled to a good standing among the secondary poets.
BENSON. Perhaps you would be surprised to hear Tennyson spoken of as a greater poet than Byron.
PETERS. Ay, that should I.
BENSON. And yet such is at present the opinion of a very large number of the best educated men in England.
PETERS. Indeed! I knew that of late years Wordsworth had become the fashionable poet of his literary countrymen, but did not suspect that they had now set up a new idol in his place.
BENSON. The process in natural enough. Men grow sated with passion and excitement; they rush for relief to quiet meditation. The popular taste passes from poetry which defies theory and morality to poetry which is all theory and morality. In time the proper medium between and union of the two begins to be seen and appreciated. The literary world has its oscillations of this sort as well as the political.
PETERS. This then you are disposed to consider Tennyson's great merit, that he is a uniter and harmonizer of the two opposite schools, the Byronic and the Wordsworthian?
* Fred talks Yorkshire, but writes as pure English as any of us, so that it is only doing him justice to translate his remarks into the ordinary dialect.
BENSON. I am, though well aware it is not the ground that most of his admirers would take. They would make him (so far as they would allow him to have any master) a follower of Wordsworth. But the passionate element is certainly very predominant in him at times, sufficiently so to have annoyed some over-proper people here. And I do consider this fusion or eclecticism, or whatever you choose to call it, as one mark of a great poet, because it gives a truer representation of man than is afforded by either of the schools which it combines. The slave of passion, on however grand a scale he may be depicted, is a low development of our nature. The meditative philosopher is a high, but an incomplete development. You would not choose as your type of government an unbridled democracy or an immovable conservatism, but one in which the two parties had room and scope to struggle. So in the man, you wish to see the play of his feelings and the supervision of his judgment, his better reason prevailing in the end amid the conflict of his passions, but only saving him as by fire." And where in modern poetry will you find a greater example of this than in Locksley Hall?
PETERS. What is the reason then that some people complain of Tennyson's writing namby-pamby, and emasculating poetry?
BENSON. Simply because some people are dummies. I can understand a charge of this kind as applied to Mrs. Hemans, or Keats, or Wordsworth, (not meaning that I should agree with the man who makes the charge, but I can see why he makes it ;) but as applied to Tennyson it seems to me neither more nor less than absurd. There is pathos and sentiment in him: there are passages which may make those cry who are cryingly disposed. In the name of Apollo and the nine Muses, is that to be set down to his discredit? Read Locksley Hall, I say again, and read Morte d'Arthur, and then tell me that the man who wrote them has emasculated poetry. Bulwer and Mrs. Norton, whichever it was of them that perpetrated the New Timon, might write their heads off before they could achieve two poems that will live alongside of those. Ought a man never to feel pensive? Is it a crime to be sometimes moved by the pathetic? I well remember that I used to lie on a green bank of summer
mornings and read Theocritus till I was full of pity for Daphnis and the unfortunate man who “had a cruel companion;" but I never found that it unfitted me for taking a horse across country or digging up hard words out of a big lexicon at the proper time.
PETERS. Yes, I remember Romano and you lying on that very bank you are thinking of, between the Trinity bridge and the Trinity library, and him making his confession thus: “I acknowledge the influence of the scene. At this moment any one might do me.”
BENSON. There was a man of the world who was not ashamed to be sentimental, and why should a poet be?
PETERS. Thus far you have praised Tennyson's taste and judgment rather than his genius and originality, it seems to me. What peculiar and individual merits do you find in his poetry?
BENSON. In the first place, wonderful harmony of verse; in the second
PETERS. Wait a moment, and let us dispose of the first place before going further. It really surprises me to hear you make such a point of Tennyson's harmony, for he is frequently blamed on this very head. There are some violent, old-fashioned elisions, to which he is over-prone
BENSON. Such as “i' the” for “in thee."
PETERS. Exactly; and though not professing to have read his poems critically, I would engage to point you out a number of lines in them which contain weak or superfluous syllables.
BENSON. It must be confessed that occasional blemishes of the sort may be detected in him, yet it is scarce possible to read one of his poems carefully through without being struck with his exquisite sense of melody. Try it especially with his blank verse: blank verse, as every judge of verse knows, is a much greater trial of an author's powers of versification than any rhyming metre. Read Enone or Morte d'Arthur, and you will see what I mean.
PETERS. But after all, allowing what you claim, is not this a small matter to build a poetic reputation on? You may have mere nonsense verses, like the “Song by a Person of Quality," perfect in the way of rhythm
and metre: indeed it is a very common device of small poets to make sound supply tbe place of sense.
BENSON. It is also a very common device of people who are not poets at all to profess themselves such geniuses that they can despise the ordinary laws of versification. An every-day trick that, and a sad nuisance are these little great men who set up to write poetry without being able to write verse. Is the most correct and elegant prose translation of a passage from Homer or Dante poetry? The question seems almost absurd, but why isn't it poetry? There are all the ideas of the original. It is the vehicle of them that makes the essential difference. And any tangible and practicable definition of poetry must somehow include metrical erpression;
you admit one independent of this element, you may be driven to allow that the Vicar of Wakefield is a poem, to which felicitous conclusion I once pushed a transcendentalist who was arguing the point with me.
PETERS. But metrical excellence is, to a certain extent at least, a matter of study and practice.
BENSON. What then?
BENSON. Nascitur to be sure. Which means that unless a man has a genius for poetry he can never be made a poet. And the very same thing is true of the painter or the mathematician. A man requires education for everything, even for the proper development of his physical powers.
PETERS. Of course you except political wisdom and statesmanship, which in a democracy come to every man by nature, like Dogberry's reading and writing. BENSON. Of course.
man can afford to despise the rudiments of art, I don't care what his natural genius is. What would you say to a young painter who should refuse to study anatomy and perspective ?
PETERS. Then you think it as necessary for a poet in posse to study metre, as for a painter in posse to study anatomy?
BENSON. Rem acu.
PETERS. You were going to mention another excellence of Tennyson.
BENSON. Yes, his felicity of epithet. You may go through his two volumes without finding a single otiose