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that need not vex their spirits. The the labors of the men of science should duke's memory lives in his wife's ever create any material revolution, direct pages ; and the ambition to which the or indirect, in our condition, and in the duchess pleaded guiltymay be fully impressions which we habitually receive, satisfied. Such a tribute as this from the poet will sleep then no more than at Charles Lamb is in itself sufficient lit- present; he will be ready to follow the
steps of the man of science, not only in erary immortality : “Where a book is
those general indirect effects, but he will at once both good and rare ; where the be at his side, carrying sensation into the individual is almost the species, and midst of the objects of the science itself. when that perishes —
The remotest discoveries of the chemist, We know not where is that Promethean the botanist, or mineralogist will be as spark
proper objects of the poet's art as any upon That can its light relumine –
which it can be employed, if the time should such a book, for instance, as the “ Life
come when these things shall be of the Duke of Newcastle,” by his which they are contemplated by the fol
familiar to us, and the relations under duchess no casket is rich enough, no lowers of the respective sciences shall be casing sufficiently durable, to house and manifestly and palpably material to us as keep safe such a jewel.” 2
enjoying and suffering beings. If the time
should ever come wben what is now called 1 “I fear my ambition inclines to vainglory. For I am very ambitious; yet 'tis neither for beauty, science, thus familiarized to men, shall be wit, titles, wealth, nor power, but as they are steps ready to put on, as it were, a form of flesh to raise me to Fame's Tower, which is to live by and blood, the poet will lend his divine remembrance in after ages."
spirit to aid the transfiguration, and will 2 Essays of Elia. (Detached Thoughts on Books welcome the Being thus produced as a dear and Reading.) Moxon, edit. 1867, p. 41.
and genuine inmate of the household of
That he who wrote these words so From The Nineteenth Century. little heeded once, so goldep now, was ASPECTS OF TENNYSON.
debarred from sceing the time he thus AS THE POET OF EVOLUTION. prophesied, a time when to the student In the essay upon “ Tennyson as a of nature, and the nature poet, the Nature Poet,” contributed by me to mere act of living is a joy, was a loss this series,' restrictions of space made not to him only ; it was a loss to the it impossible for me to touch upon human race. For, deep as was Tennythe poet's relations to nature as she son's love of nature, it was not a pasnow stands revealed to us by the new sion so absorbing as Wordsworth’s. cosmogony of growth. This, I feel, What might not be for whom there made my study of the subject incom- was in very truth "a spirit in the plete. For, in criticising Tennyson, woods," he who could draw it is, of course, necessary to remember Even from the meanest flower that blows that his life, though beginning in the Thoughts that do often lie too deep for early years of the present century, ex
tears tended into its latest decade. It was his privilege to see the time which what might not he have done to make
the marvels of this new cosmogony as, Wordsworth prophesied and never saw
the greatest time the world has yet precious to the heart of man as it is to known, when science, in exercising a
man's intelligence ? If a flower was a power mightier than that of all the fascinating and a beloved thing to him fabled wauds of all the fabled magi
who believed, what we now know to be cians of old, has in very truth lent "
literally true, that “every flower enjoys new seeing to human eyes.
the air it breathes,” what would that said Wordsworth in the preface to the same flower have been to him if he second edition of his poems,
could have spent, as the humblest stu
dent of Nature can now spend, an 1 LIVING AGE, No. 2557, p. 28.
entire morning over a single blossom,
tracing its ancestry step by step, while wealth. we prize most — though they the surrounding floras and faunas which would be as iguorant of “ The Excurthe flower's ancestors koew would have sion” as of the doctrines of the latest passed before the eyes of the poet's fervid political and social reformer who delighted imagination, lapping his soul looks upon his parochial reforms as the in a dream of wonder and beauty such final cause of the existence of an inas it was not given to him to know ? | finite universe - they would have a Standing upon the chalk cliffs that look greater book than even “The Escuracross the Channel, Wordsworth, had sion” to read or the blue-books of the he lived in our time, would still have English Parliament - they would have, been blest with all the proud visions in common with the human race, the that blessed him as a patriotic poet ; he book of the starry heavens. Not but would still have seen as Tennyson saw that Wordsworth was, by the power of Drake, still have seen Blake, sweeping mere instinct, if not of knowledge, the green waves free of their country's more in touch with nature than was foes; but also he would have been any other man in the England of bis blessed with sights undreamed of by time. The only other human soul on poets of his time. He would have this planet that loved nature better seen as Tennyson saw the wonderful than he was that of Dorothy, his sispictures of the chalk formations — pic- ter, that sister of whom it is impossible tures called up by the white and gleam- for any student of nature to think or ing bastions of the coast; he would speak without emotion. None but bave read as Tennyson read the story these two knew what it is so easy now of the deposit of those minute shells, to know, that the truest nature-poet is to count which by millions instead of not necessarily he who can most faithunits would require more
centuries fully render nature as a picture, nor than in his time were supposed to have even he who can depict nature as a elapsed since the world arose out of great interpreter of man's soul, but he chaos. Gazing at the patch of stars who can confront her as she exists reflected in the beloved mirror of Win- apart from the human story, as she dermere, he would have felt all the existed when man was but a far-off rapture he used to feel at their un- dream of hers. Many a lovely verse of speakable loveliness, but also he would Wordsworth's shows that he knew this, bave felt the still higher rapture which and I long to quote some of them here, Tenuyson felt when gazing at the stars but must not. Yet, with all his passion from Aldworth or Farringford — the for nature, so enslaved by authority of rapture of knowing that the illimitable antiquated tradition was the poetic art universe is all made of the same simple of his time that Wordsworth spent his elements as those around us here, as long life among the Lakes, thinking proved by the spectroscope, and that that he could hold true converse with consequently life is probably every- nature and still remain comparatively where. Thoughts would have come to ignorant of the rudiments of natural him as they came to Tennyson that, science even under the system of Linamong the billions of orbs revolving næus. And here I come upon that around the millions of suns, there are which troubles every Wordsworthian probably other planets inhabited by who is also an evolutionist : as regards reasoning beings, between
and the vitality of nature-poetry based upon whom there is this sublime interest in the old knowledge, how long will it common : we have the selfsame book last ? Is the lovely poetry of “ The to read - the book of nature. He Excursion, "The Prelude,” etc., to would have felt that, if the quaint become antiquated and unsatisfactory ? fancy about the canal-makers in Mars Upon whatsoever cosmogony built, were really more than a quaint fancy, great poetry which deals with man's they, though they would have no life is likely to be immortal; there knowledge of much of the intellectuall seems to be a perennial vitality in
poetry whose material is human passion an entirely different kind, judging from and human conduct. Yes — though in his recent discussion of the great suba large degree conduct, and in some ject of man in relation to the cosmic degree passion, are and must be based process. upon man's conception of nature. his conception of what kind of universe he Here, as in my previous essay,
I finds himself in — poetry, which faith- leave all living poets undiscussed. Tenfully depicts man at any given period, nyson among foremost poets was not will surely survive ; until the very only the first, but the only one, to see structure of man's mind has undergone that the birth of the new cosmogony changes so vast that they cannot be was the birth of an entirely new epoch, confronted by the most vigorous cosmic an entirely new chapter in the human imagination of our own period, such story. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes in poetry, I say, will surely survive. But America, and the parable-writer, Dr. the first business of the nature-poet is Gordon Hake, showed (as has been with the great mother herself, to whom pointed out by Mr. Earl Hodgson in man, with all his passions and aspira- lis preface to “ The New Day” of tions, was once a pleasant dream of the last-mentioned poet) a recognition the future ; to whom man, with all his of the dawn, but neither of these passious and aspirations will some day poets achieved distinction. Tennyson be a dream, pleasant or otherwise, of was the first to foresee that the effect the past.
upon pure literature worked by this Not, of course, that any poet could great revolution in the history of the pass into the temper of Darwin, to human mind contained within itself the whom the proper study of mankind seeds of a universal revolt against the was nature.
dominance of all the old tyrannies along There is a danger to some of the vari- all the old lines of thought--a revolt ous faculties of man in a too close and compared with which that of the French exclusive study of nature- - a study Revolution against the ancien régime which is so fascinating that it may well was as insignificant as the revolt of tend in some degree to isolate the stu- provincial children in a provincial dent's soul from the heart of man. school. For the bond of brotherhood seems to No doubt it was not wholly his widewiden till at last it takes in not only eyed intelligence that made him the the higher animals, but all the mem- most advanced of nineteenth-century bers of the animal kingdom takes iu poets. During a large portion of his even the vegetable world, whose grand life he lived at a time when the fireand mysterious function it is to turn balloon of the French Revolution had inorganic matter into organic life. The burnt itself out and left the "advanced mind of the student of nature is apt to thinkers” and the advanced poets form the habit of looking upon human without a luminary. Meantime nature, life as a spectacle, as a tragi-comedy who had been yearning to grow an acted in a dream, amusing at one mo- organism capable of turning round and ment, saddening at the next, and as looking at her with eyes that could evanescent as the picture the moon guess at her dreams, had grown at last looked down upon during the ages that Darwin, Spencer, Wallace, and Huxley. produced the coal formations. Original In so far as the French Revolution temperament, however, has no doubt a was anything more than a revolt of good deal to do with this mood ; if the the Third Estate against the burden of study of nature had this effect upon corvées and feudal dues — a revolt which Darwin, leading him to turn away from might never have grown into a great poetry altogether, its effect upon an- revolution had the harvest of 1788 been other great naturalist — perhaps the fat instead of lean — its heart-thought widest and strongest intelligence now was that of the Contrat Social. It is in the world seems to have been of 'scarcely exaggeration to say that the
ceutral sophism of Rousseau's book, of the universe that have preceded it the sophism which vitalized the litera- is so fundamental that the phrase ture of the French Revolution, and has “ modern literature” must next cenbeen the foundation, in some form or tury have an entirely different meaning another, of so much of the “ advanced” from what it has hitherto borne ; the literature of the nineteenth century, is ancient or mythological literature of about as far removed from the new the Western world, which began with 'epoch as though it had been formulated the Homeric poems, will be considered by Hesiod, or by whatsoever poet it to have closed with the decade precedwas who gave us the “Theogony.” ing that in which literature accepted Indeed, the latest commentator upon as its heart-thought the doctrine of the that poem, Mr. W. F. Cornish, has new epoch — that of nature's growth. actually been just telling us that the For so soon as the popular imaginatitle Ocoyovia does not properly mean tion has entirely accepted the idea that "the generation or origin of the gods,” the emancipation of man, so far as it but the being begotten of or by has at present gone, has been an emangods,” and “a consideration of the cipation from the chains of “ape and process according to which man gets tiger,” rather than from the chains of to being god-begotten.” If he is right maleficent gods and miscreant kings, in this fancy of his, the message to the or of that composite ogre of manyhuman race of the Deoyovia is actually million-man-power called Society nearer to the new cosmogony of growth soon as it has entirely accepted the than Rousseau's resuscitation of sophi- idea that man, everywhere born in isms that were hoary before ever Gen-chains, is only just beginning to shake esis was
written. For, instead of them off — then, of course, the more saying with Rousseau and the French advanced” is any poet whose system Revolutionists that
was born is in harmony with the advanced ideas free and is everywhere in chains," the of the French Revolution, the more new teaching says that man is yet antiquated will his work seem. Upon scarcely born at all.
several occasions it was my privilege
to converse with Tennyson upon this Man as yet is being made, and ere the crowning Age of ages,
most interesting subject. One of these Shall not won after aon pass and touch occasions lives in my memory with an him into shape ?
especially vigorous life. I had been
endeavoring to support the thesis that All about him shadow still, but, while the amoug past English poets Shakespeare races flower and fade,
was the only one who by instinct symProphet-eyes may catch a glory slowly pathized with the temper of the new gaining on the shade,
epoch now dawning. I bad been sayTill the peoples all are one, and all their
ing that Shakespeare, having learnt as voices blend in choric Hallelujah to the Maker, “It is finish' a. much as he could learn of the terrene Man is made."
drama, in which man plays undoubt
edly the leading part, baving learnt all If this is, indeed, the true voice of that he could learn in an exhaustive the new epoch, may it not be safely study of man in London, went down to affirmed that, compared with the writ. Stratford-on-Avon to learn as much as ing of many of the latest of our “ad- the imperfect science of his time would vanced thinkers," the twelfth-century allow him to learn from the coneys and Arabian novel, by Abubekr-ibn-Tofail, squirrels and dappled deer of the Warin which the development of man from wickshire woods; that, although it is the lower animals was taught, is already manifestly pardonable in any poet to in spirit quite a modern work ?
take too seriously the human race, a With regard to pure literature, the race for whose cars his rhymes are difference between a cosmogony of made, it was only on occasion that evolution and any and all the systems Shakespeare fell into the mistake of
over - estimating this or that social that the only thing which threatened structure of man's in a universe where to paralyze his artistic function was there is so much of the wonderful. I the overwhelming revelation of astronhad been saying that, save at moments omy, is so vigorously impressed on my when the impulse of his dramatic imag- memory that as I recall it here I seem ination was upon him, he never fell to smell the very perfume of the suninto the mistake into which poets like warmed heather trod out by our feet ; Shelley and Hugo and other high- I seem to see the luxuriant, basking minded dreamers are apt to fall — the ferns, and that favorite hound of his mistake of supposing that the universe leaping through them, making little is so entirely enclosed in man that the dusty whirlwinds as he moved ; I seem little economies of one nation or parish to hear the birds in the bushes too. are of greatly more importance than It was then that I saw clearly what I the little economies of another nation had long guessed, that he belonged to or parish, whether the nation or parish that class of poets who by temperabe composed of Englishmen, of Irish- ment are progressive, as truly progresmen, of Caucones, or of Zamzumnin sive, perhaps, as those fervid ones who the mistake of supposing that nature followed the French Revolution, bewho teaches the ant “there's no labor- longed to that class of poets who, haying in winter" — nature who takes as ing in some cases the knowledge, in deep an interest in the work of
other cases the instinct, to see how The singing masons building roofs of gold man's upward movement towards his
slow as well as how long has been as ever she took in the work of human present position, and how slow and masons, even of those mighty workers how long probably will be his upward who built Westminster Abbey — is so movement in the future, do not condeeply concerned with the doings of sider change and progress to be conman that the stars bave to be neglected. vertible terms, and do not consider the The moment the wings of his imagina- ideals of any particular civilization tion were folded for rest his philosoph- Assyrian, Babylonian, Hellenic, Chiical intellect resumed its sway, and nese, English, French, or German — to although there was no scientific doc- be absolute and final, but only relative trine of evolution to enlighten him, he to the particular civilization itself. by many a gird at the “ fool of na- I saw, in short, that he was one of
seems to have known that man, those philosophical poets who, studying notwithstanding all the nobility of his the present by the light of the past, spiritual side, is on the other side “the and finding that all civilization is proparagon of animals” highly developed visional, do not look upon every change by circumstances over which he had in the social structure as being necesonly partial control ; seems to have sarily mischievous, yet who see that known that although in many things every new scheme of society which the the social economies in which mau doctrinaire formulates fails to strike at moves are superior to those of the human nature down to the roots ; see bees, they are not so in all ways; and that round every human fibre are that it is when we study the royalties woven the old sophisms which origiand aristocracies of other gregarious nally aided in man's development have animals which are entirely functional, been keeping him back for ages - the rational, and philosophic, it is when we sophisms which are the basis not only study the economies of a beehive, that of every civilization, but of almost the humor of man's civilization softens every Utopian dream, from Plato to Sir its pathos and its tragedy. The way in Thomas More and Campanella. which Tennyson then began to speak At a time so revolutionary as this, of the littleness of all human ambition when it seems to be impossible to find confronted by the workings of infinite the proper place of any thinker without nature, the way in which he told me first inquiring as to the standpoint from