Page images
PDF
EPUB

• Underneath the bearded barley,
The reaper, reaping late and early,
Hears her ever chanting cheerly,
Like an angel singing clearly..
• No time has she to sport or play,
A charmed web she weaves alway;
A curse is on her if she stay
Her weaving either night or day.

She knows not'
Poor lady, nor we either-

• She knows not what that curse may be,

Therefore she weaveth steadily;
Therefore no other care has she,

The Lady of Shalott.'
A knight, however, happens to ride past her window, coming

• from Camelot;* From the bank, and from the river, He flashed into the crystal mirror “ Tirra lirra, tirra lirra,” (lirrar ?)

Sang Sir Launcelot.'—p. 15. The lady stepped to the window to look at the stranger, and forgot for an instant her web :--the curse fell on her, and she died; why, how, and wherefore, the following stanzas will clearly and pathetically explain :

• A long drawn carol, mournful, holy,
She chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her eyes were darkened wholly,
And her smooth face sharpened slowly,

Turned to towered Camelot.
For ere she reached upon the tide
The first house on the water side,
Singing in her song she died,

The Lady of Shalott !
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
To the planked wharfage came;
Below the stern they read her name,

The Lady of Shalott.'— p. 19. We pass by two-what shall we call them ?-tales, or odes, or sketches, entitled · Mariana in the South' and Eleanore,' of which we fear we could make no intelligible extract, so curiously are they run together into one dreamy tissue-to a little novel in rhyme, called "The Miller's Daughter.' Miller's daughters, poor things, have been so generally betrayed by their sweethearts, that it is refreshing to find that Mr. Tennyson has united himself to his miller's daughter in lawful wedlock, and the poem is a history of his courtship and wedding. He begins with a sketch of his own birth, parentage, and personal appearance

* The same Camelot, in Somersetshire, we presume, which is alluded to by Kent in . King Lear

"Goose ! if I had thee upon Sarum plain,
I'd drive thee cackling home to Camelot.?

· My father's mansion, mounted high,

Looked down upon the village-spire ;
I was a long and listless boy,

And son and heir unto the Squire.' But the son and heir of Squire Tennyson often descended from the mansion mounted high ;' and

• I met in all the close green ways,

While walking with my line and rod, A metonymy for rod and line'

• The wealthy miller's mealy face,

Like the moon in an ivytod.
· He looked so jolly and so good

While fishing in the mill-dam water,
I laughed to see him as he stood,

And dreamt not of the miller's daughter.'-p. 33. He, however, soon saw, and, need we add, loved the miller's daughter, whose countenance, we presume, bore no great resemblance either to the 'mealy face' of the miller, or

the moon in an ivy-tod;' and we think our readers will be delighted at the way in which the impassioned husband relates to his wife how his fancy mingled enthusiasm for rural sights and sounds, with a prospect of the less romantic scene of her father's occupation.

• How dear to me in youth, my love,

Was everything about the mill;
The black, the silent pool above,

The pool beneath that ne'er stood still ;
The meal-sacks on the whitened floor,

The dark round of the dripping wheel,
The
very

air about the door,

Made misty with the floating meal!'-p. 36. The accumulation of tender images in the following lines appears not less wonderful:

• Remember you that pleasant day

When, after roving in the woods,
('Twas April then) I came and lay

Beneath those gummy chestnut-buds?
• A water-rat from off the bank
Plunged in the stream.

With idle care,
Downlooking through the sedges rank,
I saw your troubled image there.

• If had set,

• If you remember, you

Upon the narrow casement-edge,
A long green box of mignonette,

And you were leaning on the ledge.' The poet's truth to Nature in his .gummy' chestnut-buds, and to Art in the long green box’ of mignonette-and that masterly touch of likening the first intrusion of love into the virgin bosom of the Miller's daughter to the plunging of a water-rat into the mill-dam-these are beauties which, we do not fear to say, equal anything even in Keats. We

pass by several songs, sonnets, and small pieces, all of singular merit, to arrive at a class, we may call them, of three poems derived from mythological sources—Enone, the Hesperides, and the Lotos-eaters. But though the subjects are derived from classical antiquity, Mr. Tennyson treats them with so much originality that he makes them exclusively his own. none, deserted by

• Beautiful Paris, evilhearted Paris,' sings a kind of dying soliloquy addressed to Mount Ida, in a formula which is sixteen times repeated in this short poem.

• Dear mother Ida, hearken ere I die.' She tells her dear mother Ida,' that when evilhearted Paris was about to judge between the three goddesses, he hid hier (none) behind a rock, whence she had a full view of the naked beauties of the rivals, which broke her heart.

Dear mother Ida, hearken ere I die :-
It was the deep mid noon: one silvery cloud
Had lost his way among the pined hills:
They came all three-the Olympian goddesses.
Naked they came

*

[ocr errors]

How beautiful they were! too beautiful
To look upon; but Paris was to me
More lovelier than all the world beside.

O mother Ida, hearken ere I die.'-p. 56. In the place where we have indicated a pause, follows a description, long, rich, and luscious—Of the three naked goddesses ? Fye for shame—no-of the • lily flower violet-eyed,' and the singing pine,' and the overwandering ivy and vine,' and · festoons,' and 'gnarled boughs, and tree tops, and · berries,' and ' flowers,' and all the inanimate beauties of the scene. It would be unjust to the ingenuus pudor of the author not to observe the art with which he has veiled this ticklish interview behind such luxuriant trellis-work, and it is obvious that it is for our special sakes he has entered into these local details, because if there was one thing which mother Ida' knew better than another, it must have been

her

[ocr errors]

ber own bushes and brakes. We then have in detail the tempting speeches of, first- • The imperial Olympian,

With arched eyebrow smiling sovranly,

Full-eyed Here;' secondly of Pallas-- Her clear and barèd limbs

O'er-thwarted with the brazen-headed spear,' and thirdly- 'Idalian Aphrodite ocean-born,

Fresh as the foam, new-bathed in Paphian wells' for one dip, or even three dips in one well, would not have been enough on such an occasion—and her succinct and prevailing promise of

• The fairest and most loving 'wife in Greece;'upon evil-hearted Paris's catching at which prize, the tender and chaste Enone exclaims her indignation, that she herself should not be considered fair enough, since only yesterday her charms had struck awe into

A wild and wanton pard, Eyed like the evening star, with playful tailand proceeds in this anti-Martineau rapture

Most loving is she?'
* Ah me! my mountain shepherd, that my arms
Were wound about thee, and my hot lips prest
Close--close to thine in that quick-falling dew
Of fruitful kisses. ....

Dear mother Ida ! hearken ere I die !'-p. 62. After such reiterated assurances that she was about to die on the spot, it appears that none thought better of it, and the poem concludes with her taking the wiser course of going to town to consult her swain's sister, Cassandra—whose advice, we presume, prevailed upon her to live, as we can, from other sources, assure our readers she did to a good old age.

In the Hesperides' our author, with great judgment, rejects the common fable, which attributes to Hercules the slaying of the dragon and the plunder of the golden fruit. Nay, he

Nay, he supposes them to have existed to a comparatively recent period-namely, the voyage of Hanno, on the coarse canvas of whose log-book Mr. Tennyson has judiciously embroidered the Hesperian romance. The poem opens with a geographical description of the neighbourhood, which must be very clear and satisfactory to the English reader; indeed, it leaves far behind in accuracy of topography and melody of rhythm the heroics of Dionysius Periegetes.

The north wind fall'n, in the new-starred night.' Here we must pause to observe a new species of metabolé with which Mr. Tennyson has enriched our language. He suppresses the e in fallen, where it is usually written and where it must be pronounced, and transfers it to the word new-starrèd, where it would not be pronounced if he did not take due care to superfix a grave accent. This use of the grave accent is, as our readers may have already perceived, so habitual with Mr. Tennyson, and is so obvious an improvement, that we really wonder how the language has hitherto done without it. We are tempted to suggest, that if analogy to the accented languages is to be thought of, it is rather the acute () than the grave () which should be employed on such occasions; but we speak with profound diffidence; and as Mr. Tennyson is the inventor of the system, we shall bow with respect to whatever his final determination may be,

must charmed

• The north wind fall'n, in the new-starred night
Zidonian Hanno, voyaging beyond
The hoary promontory of Soloë,

Past Thymiaterion in calmed bays.' We must here note specially the musical flow of this last line, which is the more creditable to Mr. Tennyson, because it was before the tuneless names of this very neighbourhood that the learned continuator of Dionysius retreated in despair

επωνυμίας νυν άλλαχεν άλλας Αιθίοπων γαίη, δυσφωνες εδ' επιήρους

Μεσαις, ένεκα τασδ' εγω ουκ αγορευσομ' απασας. but Mr. Tennyson is bolder and happier

• Past Thymiaterion in calmed bays,
Between the southern and the western Horn,

Heard neither' We pause for a moment to consider what a sea-captain might have expected to hear, by night, in the Atlantic ocean-he heard

neither the warbling of the nightingale

Nor melody o' the Libyan lotusflute, but he did hear the three daughters of Hesper singing the following song : • The golden apple, the golden apple, the hallowed fruit,

Guard it well, guard it warily,
Singing airily,
Standing about the charmed root,

Round about all is mute'mute, though they sung so loud as to be heard some leagues out at sea

- all is mute
As the snow-field on mountain peaks,
As the sand-field at the mountain foot.
Crocodiles in briny creeks

Sleep, and stir not: all is mute.'
How admirably do these lines describe the peculiarities of this

6

« PreviousContinue »