Page images

dark; why do you not tell what good would come after death, when the soul had new organs? You have made death end all; and man desires life, not death.

"Whatever crazy sorrow saith,

No life that breathes with human breath
Has ever truly long'd for death.

""Tis life, whereof our nerves are scant,
O life, not death, for which we pant;
More life, and fuller, that I want."

This is a conclusive argument, and the voice ceases further effort. George Macdonald has the hero of one of his novels, Donal Grant, say, in the victorious moment of a great conflict, that the cure of all the ills of life is more life. The soul craves more, not less, life. Hence the mission of Christ: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." In fit connection with this point the Sabbath morning is introduced, and 66 a second voice was at mine ear," and "the dull and bitter voice was gone." And now there was a new hope.

"From out my sullen heart a power

Broke, like the rainbow from the shower."

This hope in Christianity is the chief means of victory in "In Memoriam." That poem swings frequently around to the Christmas time. So that after all the victory is not in argument, but in faith and feeling. He wishes


"To feel, altho' no tongue can prove,
That every cloud, that spreads above
And veileth love, itself is love."


Tennyson, while the poet of deepest thought, is also the poet of sweetest music. This poem, however, is not so informed with the musical element as the bugle song in “The Princess," "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington," "Locksley Hall," and others. This poem is quite simple in its rhythm and rhyme, yet somewhat peculiar in the latter.

Note the rhythmical recurrence of "There is one remedy for all." This suggests the Hebraic element so conspicuous in some other poems by Tennyson, and also in some of Longfellow's. It is the rhythmical swing of the thought rather than the form. The second half of each line of the Psalms repeats the meaning of the first half; as, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork." Such "rhythmical fulness is prominent in "The Courtship of Miles Standish," and in "The Charge of the Light Brigade."


This poem is not rich in allusion. Explain those which may be found.

The chief merit of style is the success with which close truth is thrown into concrete form. The argument is fully illuminated. The very peculiar merit is in the closest grasping of the thought in the briefest statement and imagery. Intensity of conception is the great point with Tennyson. He, too, squeezes meaning into a phrase with an hydraulic press. He does not state his figures in the full form of comparison, in similes and metaphors, but speaks allegorically; that is, he presents the minor term of comparison, leaving the reader to supply the major term. This gives tension to the language, and appeals strongly to the self-activity of the reader. As an example of this, note

"And I arose, and I released

The casement, and the light increased
With freshness in the dawning east."

How beautifully he mirrors in this, without telling the reader what he is mirroring, the dawning light of Christianity. We cannot but take the hint from what follows.

Note the same again in the following:

[blocks in formation]

He gives splendid imagery of the thought here, but the reader is left to supply the thought. How much more effec

tive than if he had made the explicit comparison of the simile, or even the metaphor! The allegorical figure is decidedly best when there is a fair chance for the reader to take the hint. The metaphor may be used when it is absolutely necessary to be more explicit than the mere statement of the imagery, the minor term of comparison; and if still more explicitness is desirable, the simile should be used. Tennyson in his close style runs many a risk, but he thus becomes most delightful reading for those who have their eyes open to hidden meanings. It requires a high degree of energy to interpret Tennyson; that is, a high degree of free self-activity; hence a great part of the charm in his writings.

Space forbids the analysis of the figures of this poem; but it is hoped that the student will analyze them quite completely. Especially should those figures-the imagerybe fixed in mind which are markedly sunbursts of truth.

In conclusion let it be observed that the close tension in the theme -the sharp set-to between Tennyson and the voice requires the closest possible style of expression. The soul girt up for the one is in fit condition for the other. The short, quick stanza and verse arise in the same way. The style of the poem fosters the energetic mood necessary to the victory of feeling for which the poem stands. Once more, a poem is a unit; it is all style, or it is all theme, as you like. Every element in the style must reinforce the theme; and the theme incarnates itself in the style.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »