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from both readers and critics. From this time Tennyson took a leading place in the literature of his day. From 1842, until the time of his death, he lived a life of seclusion and of steady industry: a life marked by few striking outward happenings, and chiefly remarkable for that progress of the soul, of which the succession of his books is a lasting memorial. Carlyle has given us a description of Tennyson at this time which serves to bring him vividly before us. “One of the finest looking men in the world. A great shock of rough dusky dark hair; bright, laughing, hazel eyes; massive aquiline face, most massive yet most delicate; of sallow brown complexion, almost Indian looking; clothes ynically loose, free-and-easy, smokes infinite tobacco. His voice is musical, metallic, fit for loud laughter and piercing wail. I do not meet in these late decades such company over a pipe.” In another place Carlyle speaks of him as a "lifeguardsman spoilt by making poetry," for Tennyson was tall and soldierly, with a free and swinging gait. We can easily picture him wrapped in his cloak, with a broad-brimmed soft hat pulled over his brow, as he strode over the downs, or climbed the sea cliffs which he loved so much.
The year 1850 stands out from all other years of Tennyson's life, for in it he was married to Miss Emily Sellwood, he published In Memoriam, and he was appointed to the Laureateship of England. Three years later he settled at Farringford, in the Isle of Wight. With Farringford, and with a place at Blackdown in Sussex, which he bought in 1867, his later life is chiefly associated. When he wrote Demeter, Tennyson had passed the allotted threescore years and ten. He was awaiting with a beautiful tranquillity and confidence the time when this "goodly prison” should be opened.
Death came to him gently, as the gracious and fitting close to a lofty life. The white mist hung low over the earth, but the room in which the poet lay was glorious in moonlight. Illuminated in its white radiance, with a volume of Shakespeare in his hand, his finger still marking the dirge in Cymbeline, which he had lately read, the
Laureate passed peacefully out of this "bourne of time and space" as one prepared to depart.
Tennyson as a Poetic Artist. -- Tennyson is preeminent in his mastery of the poetic form, in his technical skill
artist in words. In many of his poems he deals with very abstruse and difficult themes, but, unlike Browning and Swinburne, he is almost always clear. Indeed, Tennyson has such a wonderful power of making himself understood,
that careless readers often fail to appreciate the depth of his thought. Tennyson is not only remarkable for clearness and conciseness of expression, he is chiefly remarkable for the range and variety of his work. His work covers almost the entire field of the poet's art. He is a lyric poet, an epic poet, a dramatist; he writes ballads, dialect poems, sonnets, and elegies. He is a consummate artist, as varied in subject as in manner. In Ulysses, The Lotus Eaters, and many other poems, he treats of classic themes; in St. Simon Stylites, Galahad, and others, he goes to the Middle Ages for his subjects; while in such poems as Maud, The Gardener's Daughter, or Aylmer's Field, he gives us finished studies of the life of modern England. In Dora, he told a story of quiet country life as simply as Wordsworth might have done; in The Charge of the Light Brigade, he was the patriot poet, stirring the heart of England, very much as Kipling stirred it at a later time. You have only to compare the rough vigor and humor of the Northern Farmer with the spiritual exaltation and refined beauty of In Memoriam to form some idea of the range and variety of Tennyson's art.
Of course Tennyson was not equally successful in all these widely different fields, yet his skill as an artist seldom fails him, and on the whole the average excellence of his poetry is surprisingly high.
Theory of Art. — Tennyson was a true lover of beauty. He is both musical and pictorial; that is, he had a fine ear for the melody of words, and a quick and true eye for all that is picturesque. But while he loved beauty, and while he had a marvelous power of expressing it, he believed, like Milton and Browning, that beauty is not the only essential of great poetry. To Tennyson the true poet must be something of a prophet; he
must not live for himself only, in selfish enjoyment of culture or emotion, - he must be the helper and teacher of others. Tennyson's convictions on this whole question of the right relation of beauty and culture to life were embodied, as has been already said, in a memorable and beautiful poem, The Palace of Art. Not all the refined enjoyments of human life, all knowledge, though we know “the best that has been said and thought in the world," all beauty, not even all religions, — if they are merely studied, but neither practised nor believed, will save the “sinful soul,” if, absorbed in itself, it fails in love to others, for love is the greatest thing in the world.
"And he that shuts Love out, in turn shall be
Shut out from Love, and on her threshold lie
In her high palace of Art, built far above the reach of
“Yet pull not down my palace towers, that are
So lightly, beautifully built:
When I have purged my guilt.”
As a Teacher. Tennyson was not content with pointing out the place that beauty and culture should
hold in life; he practised what he taught. He did not shut himself away from his fellow-men in a Palace of Art, he was keenly interested in the scientific thought and social questions of the day, and more fully than any other Victorian poet he felt and interpreted the changing spirit of his time. We cannot do more here than refer to some of the fundamental principles of Tennyson's teaching, and show in a very general way how he spoke for Victorian England as well as for himself.
First of all, Tennyson was distinctly the poet of the new science. In Locksley Hall, one of his earlier poems, he put into stirring verse the youthful enthusiasm of those who, as they looked at the wonders which were being done by science, thought that a better day had at last dawned for the race.
The hero of the poem has nourished his youthful spirit on “the fairy tales of science.” He is unsuccessful in love, and in the bitterness of his disappointment he finds consolation in the future triumphs of science, in the “Vision of the World” that is to be. Written in the early years in an era of change, this poem sounded as a trumpet call to young men of that generation, for its
is “Forward!” — better fifty years of progress than a cycle of stagnation.
Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us
range, Let the great world spin forever down the ringing grooves of
In the early part of the Victorian period many thought that science was to lead them into the land of promise: in the latter part many saw sadly that the world was still in the land of bondage. In Locksley Hall Sixty