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is a thirst for it never to be satisfied, of which | sentiment came upon him with the suddenwe are reminded by his portrait. Shelley ness, and appealed to him with the reality admired the beautiful, Keats was absorbed of a sensation. It is not the lowest only, in it; and admired it no more than an infant but also the loftiest part of our being to admires the mother at whose breast he feeds. which this character of unconsciousness and That deep absorption excluded all conscious immediateness belongs. Intuitions and asness of self,—nay, every intrusion of alien pirations are spiritual sensations ; while the thought; and while the genius of others, too physical perceptions and appetites are bodily often like a double-reflecting crystal, returns intuitions. Instinct itself is but a lower form a twofold image, that poetic vision which of inspiration ; and the highest virtue beday by day grew clearer before Keats was an comes a spiritual instinct. It was in the image of beauty only, whole and unbroken. intermediate part of our nature that Keats There is a peculiar significance in the expres had but a small part. His mind had little sion, "a child of song," as applied to him. affinity with whatever belonged to the region Not only his outward susceptibilities retained of the merely probable. To his heart, throughout the freshness of infancy, but his kindly as he was, everything in the outer whole nature possessed that integrity which world seemed foreign, except that which for belongs but to childhood, or to the purest the time engrossed it. His nature was Epiand most energetic genius. When the poetic curean at one side, Platonist at the othermood was not on him, though his heart was and both by irresistible instinct. The Arisfull of manly courage, there was much of a totelian definition, the Stoical dogma, the child's waywardness, want of self-command, Academical disputation, were to him all alike and inexperienced weakness in bis nature. unmeaning. His poetic gift was not a sepaHis poetry is never juvenile. It is either the rate faculty which he could exercise or restammer of the child or the “large utterance strain as he pleased, and direct to whatever of the early gods."
object he chose. It was when “ by predomKeats possessed eminently the rare gift inance of thought oppressed” that there fell of invention—as is proved by the narrative on him that still
, poetic vision of truth and poems he has left behind. He had also, beauty which only thus truly comes.
The though without Shelley’s constructive skill“ burden” of his inspiration came to him "in as to the architecture of sentences, a depth, leni aurâ,” like the visits of the gods ; yet his significance, and power of diction, which fragile nature bent before it like a reed; it even the imitational affectation to be found
was not shaken or disturbed, but wielded by in his earliest productions, could not disguise. it wholly. He instinctively selects the words which ex- To the sluggish temperaments of ordinary hibit the more characteristic qualities of the men excitement is pleasure. The fervor of objects described. The most remarkable Keats preyed upon him with a pain from property of his poetry, however, is the de- which Shelley was protected by a mercurial gree in which it combines the sensuous with mobility ; and it was with the languor of rest the ideal. The sensuousness of Keats's that Keats associated the idea of enjoyment. poetry might have degenerated into the How much is implied in this description of sensual, but for the ideality that exalted it, exhaustion ! Pleasure has no show of en—a union which existed in consequence of ticement, and Pain no unbearable frown; a connection not less intimate between his neither Poetry, nor Ambition, nor Love have sensitive temperament and his wide imagina- any alertness of countenance; as they pass tion. Perhaps we have had no other instance me by they seem rather like three figures on of a bodily constitution so poetical. With a Greek vase-two men and a woman, whom him all things were more or less sensational; no one but myself could distinguish in their his mental faculties being, as it were, ex- disguisement. This is the only happiness ; tended throughout the sensitive part of his and is a rare instance of advantage in the nature—as the sense of sight, according to body overcoming the mind.”—(P.264, vol.i.) the theory of the Mesmerists, is diffused | A nobler relief was afforded to him by that throughout the body on some occasions of versatility which made him live in the obunusual excitement. His body seemed to jects around him. It is thus that he writes: think ; and, on the other hand, he sometimes —“I scarcely remember counting on any appears hardly to have known whether be happiness. I look not for it, if it be not in possessed aught but body. His whole na
His whole na- the present hour. Nothing startles me beture partook of a sensational character in yond the moment. The setting sun will althis respect, namely, that every thought and I ways set me to rights; or if a sparrow were
before my window, I take part in its exist- truth in adverse systems. His mind had ence, and pick with it, about the gravel.” | itself much of that “negative capability" (P. 67, vol. i.) Elsewhere he speaks thus which he remarked on as a large part of of that form of poetic genius which belonged Shakspeare's greatness, and which he deto him, and which he contra-distinguishes scribed as a power “of being in uncertainfrom the “egotistical sublime.” "It has ties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable no self. It is everything and nothing—it reaching after fact and reason." (P. 93, vol. has no character—it enjoys light and shade i.) There is assuredly such a thing as philo—it lives in gusts, be it foul or fair, high or sophical doubt, as well as of philosophical low, rich or poor, mean or elevated—it has belief: it is the doubt which belongs to the as much delight in conceiving an Iago as mind, not to the will; to which we are not an Imogen.” (P. 221, vol. i.) In this pas drawn by love of singularity, and from which sage, as elsewhere, he seems to confound we are not scared by nervous tremors ; the versatility with the absence of personal char- doubt which is not the denial of anything, acter. That versatility of imagination is, so much as the proving of all things; the however, by no means incompatible with doubt of one who would rather walk in depth of nature and tenacity of purpose we mystery than in false lights, who waits that have already observed ; and our opinion is he may win, and who prefers the broken confirmed by a remark of Mr. Milnes, whose fragments of truth to the imposing comlife of Keats, from which we have so largely pleteness of a delusion. Such is that uncerquoted, is enriched with many pieces of ad- tainty of a large mind, which a small mind mirable criticism. Keats's versatility show- cannot understand; and such no doubt was, ed itself, like Mr. Tennyson's, not only in the in part, that of Keats, who was fond of saydramatic skill with which he realized various ing that “every point of thought is the and alien forms of existence, but also, though centre of an intellectual world.” The passive to a lesser degree, in the fact that the char- part of intellect, the powers of susceptibility acter of his poetry varied according to the and appreciation, Keats possessed to an almodel he had been studying. In “Endym- most infinite degree : but in this respect his ion” he reminds us of Chaucer and Spen- mind appears to have been cast in a feminine ser; in “ Hyperion” of Milton; in his “Cap mould ; and that masculine energy which and Bells" of Ariosto; and in his drama, Shakspeare combined with a susceptive temthe last act of which is very fine, of Ford. perament unfathomably deep, in him either Mr. Milnes remarks, with reference to the existed deficiently, or bad not had time for last two works, that Keats's occasional re- its development. semblance to other poets, though it proves If we turn from the poet to the man, that his genius was still in a growing state, from the works to the life, the retrospect is in no degree detracts from his originality. less painful in the case of Keats than of He did not imitate others, Mr. Milnes ob- Shelley. He also suffered from ill-health, serves, so much as emulate them; and no and from a temperament which, when its matter whom he may resemble, he is still fine edge had to encounter the jars of life, always himself.
was subject to a morbid despondency: but The character of Keats’s intellect corre- he had many sources of enjoyment, and his sponded well with his large imagination and power of enjoyment was extraordinary: His versatile temperament. He had not Mr. disposition, which was not only sweet and Shelley's various and sleepless faculties, but simple, but tolerant and kindly, procured he had the larger mind. Keats could neither and preserved for him many friends. It form systems nor dispute about them; has been commonly supposed that adverse though germs of deep and original thought criticism had wounded bim deeply : but the are to be found scattered in his most care-charge receives a complete refutation from less letters. The two friends used some- a letter written on the occasion referred to. times to contend as to the relative worth of In it he says, “Praise or blame has but a truth and of beauty. Beauty is the visible momentary effect on the man whose love of embodiment of a certain species of truth ; beauty in the abstract makes him a severe and it was with that species that the mind critic on his own works. : . : I will write of Keats, which always worked in and through independently. I have written independently the sensibilities, held conscious relations. He without judgment. I may write independently, fancied that he had no access to philosophy, and with judgment, hereafter. The Genius of because he was to definitions and | Poetry must work out its own salvation in dogmas, and sometimes saw glimpses of a man. ... I was never afraid of failure.”
There are, however, trials in the world The genius of the poet whose latest work from which the most imaginative cannot es- we have discussed at the beginning of this cape; and which are more real than those paper has been more justly appreciated than which self-love alone can make important to that of either of them : But it will now probus. Keats's sensibility amounted to disease. ably be asked to which of the two great “ I would reject,” he writes, “a Petrarchal schools of English poetry illustrated by us coronation—on account of my dying day, he is to be referred? The answer to that and because women have cancers !" A few question is not easy, for in truth he has much months later, after visiting the house of in c mmon with both. His earlier poems Burns, he wrote thus,—“His misery is a dead might sometimes be classed in the same cateweight on the nimbleness of one's quill: I gory with those of Shelley and Keats : For, tried to forget it ... it won't do.. :. We the three have in common an ardent tempercan see, horribly clear, in the works of such ament, a versatile imagination, and an admia man, his whole life, as if we were God's rable power of embodying the classical; but spies.” (P. 171.) It was this extreme sen- in other respects they differ widely. Tensibility, not less than his ideal tendencies, nyson has indeed, like Keats, with whom he which made him shrink with prescient fear has most in common, a profound sense of from the world of actual things. Reality the beautiful, a calm and often soft intensity, frowned above him like a cliff seen by a man a certain voluptuousness in style, that rein a nightmare dream. It fell on him at last! minds us of the Venetian school of painting, The most interesting of all his letters is that and a marvelous depth and affluence of dicto his brother (p. 224, vol. i.), in which he, tion—but here the resemblance ends. We with little anticipation of results, describes do not yet observe in his works, to the same his first meeting with the Oriental beauty degree, that union of strength with lightness who soon after became the object of his and freedom of touch, which, like the unerpassion. In love he had always been, in one ring but unlabored handling of a great massense: and personal love was but the devo- ter, characterized Keats's latest works. On tion to that in a concentrated form which he the other hand, Tennyson has greater variety. had previously and more safely loved as a Wide, indeed, is bis domain-extending as it thing scattered and diffused. He loved and does from that of Keats, whose chief charhe won; but death cheated him of the prize. acteristic was ideal beauty, to that of Burns, Tragical indeed were his sufferings during whose songs, native to the soil, gush out as the months of his de.line. In leaving life spontaneously as the warbling of the bird or he lost what can never be known by the the murmuring of the brook. Even in their multitudes who but half live: and poetry at delineation of beauty, how different are the least could assuredly have presented him two poets! In Keats that beauty is chiefly but in scant measure with the consolations beauty of form; in Tennyson that of color which the Epicurean can dispense with most has at least an equal place: one consequence easily, but which are needed most by those of which is, that while Keats, in his descripwhose natures are most spiritual, and whose tions of nature, contents himself with emthirst after immortality is strongest. Let us bodying separate objects with a luxurious not, however, intrude into what we know not. vividness, Tennyson's gallery abounds with In many things we are allowed to rejoice cool far-stretching landscapes, in which the with him. His life had been one long revel. fair green plain and winding river, and violet “ The
open sky,” he writes to a friend, “sits mountain ridge and peaks of remotest snow, upon our senses like a sapphire crown: the are harmonized through all the gradations of air is our robe of state; the earth is our aerial distance. Yet his is not to be classed throne; and the sea a mighty minstrel play with that recent poetry which has been noted ing before it !” Less a human being than an for a devotion, almost religious, to mere outImagination embodied, he passed, "like a ward nature. His landscapes, like those of new-born spirit,” over a world that for him Titian, are for the most part but a beautiful ever retained the dew of the morning; and background to the figures. Men and manbathing in all its freshest joys he partook but ners are more his theme than nature. His little of its stain.
genius seems to tend as naturally to the Shelley and Keats remained with us only idyllic as that of Shelley did to the lyrical, long enough to let us know how much we or that of Keats to the epic. have lost
The moral range of Mr. Tennyson's poetry, “We have beheld these lights, but not possessed too, is as wide as the imaginative. It is rethem."
markable how little place, notwithstanding
the ardor of Shelley and of Keats, is given | ulty to other subjects instead of the dram a in their works, to the affections properly so all his important poems are complete embodcalled. They abound in emotion and "pas-iments, not merely illustrations of the subject sion: in which respect Mr. Tennyson resem- treated. Each is evidently the result of long
. bles them; but he is not less happy in the musings, meditative and imaginative; and delineation of those human affections which each represents, in its integrity and distinctdepend not on instinct or imagination alone, ness, an entire system of thought, sentiment, but which, growing out of the heart, are manners, and imagery. Each is a window modified by circumstance and association, from which we have a vista of a new and and constitute the varied texture of social | distinct world. In each, too, we come to existence. His poetry is steeped in the char- | know far more of the characters than is exities of life, which he accompanies from the plicitly stated; we know their past as well cradle to the grave. He has a Shakspearean as their present, and speculate about their enjoyment in whatever is human, and a associates. How much, for instance, of our Shakspearean indulgence for the frailties of time and country do we find in “ Locksley humanity; the life which his verse illustrates Hall,” that admirable delineation of the modwith a genial cheer or a forlorn pathos, is ern Outlaw, the over-developed and undislife in its homely honesty, life with its old ciplined youth, the spoilt child and cast-away familiar associations and accidents, its “merry son of the nineteenth century! How many quips,” remembered sadly at the death of tracts against asceticism are condensed in his the old year, its “flowing can” and its “empty St. Simeon! Whether idyllic or philosophic cup.” The truth of this statement will at in form, not a few of these poems are at once be recognized by all who have read his heart dramas. If it were true, which we
Miller's Daughter,” his “ May Queen," and cannot believe, that the drama is amongst us “ New Year's Eve,” with their beautiful but an anachronism, such poems would be “Conclusion;" his “Dora,”'“ Audley Court,” perhaps the most appropriate substitute for “ Talking Oak,” or his “ Lyrical Mono- it. They are remarkable also as works of logue."
art. Mr. Tennyson is a great artist ; nor Nor is his intellectual region less ample. would it have been possible without much Many of his poems are the embodiment of study, as well as a singular plastic power, to deep philosophical speculations on the prob-have given his poems that perfection of shape lem of life. We allude to such pieces as which enables a slender mould to sustain a the “Palace of Art,” “ The Two `Voices," various interest. the “ Vision of Sin,” and those brief but ad- It is frequently asked whether Mr. Tennymirable political poems, “You ask me why son is capable of producing a great and nathough ill at ease,” and “Of old sat Free- tional work. Hitherto such has obviously dom on the Heights." In these poems, not been his ambition; nor can we think any whether metaphysical or ethical, there is a man wise who, instead of keeping such a characteristic difference between the style of design steadily before him, and making all Mr. Tennyson and Shelley ; the latter of his labors a preparation for it, embarks on whom was essentially dogmatic in the corre- the execution of it at a period earlier than sponding part of his works, while the former, that at which his faculties and his experience with an interest not less deep in the intellect- | approach their maturity. A great poem is ual and political progress of the human a great action ; and requires the assiduous race, speaks only in the way of suggestion, exercise of those high moral powers with and in his significant hints reminds us of Mr. which criticism has no concern, and action Keats’s expression, “Man should not dispute much ;-courage, prudence, enterprise, paor assert, but whisper results to his neigh- tience, self-reliance founded on self-knowlbor.” In this department of Mr. Tennyson's edge, a magnanimous superiority to petty obpoetry we can, perhaps, trace the influences stacles, a disinterested devotion to art for its of German literature, modified by an Eng- own sake, and for that of all which it interlish mind, and, we are glad to observe, by prets and communicates. Should Mr. TenEnglish traditions.
nyson devote himself to a great work, he has Mr. Tennyson's genius, so far as we can already exhibited the faculties necessary for pretend to judge of what is so large and his success : But, whether he writes it or not manifold, is perhaps, on the whole, most strik- he has taken his place among the true poets ingly characterized by that peculiar species of his country. With reference to a national of versatility which, as we have already ob- poem, and to our previous observations conserved, is the application of the dramatic fac- I cerning the ideal and the national in poetry,
we may remark, that Mr. Tennyson's prog- , those materials unquestionably are obscured ress has constantly been toward the latter, by the rubbish that now overlays them; and while he has carried along with him many to extricate and exhibit them requires, thereattributes of the former. His early poems, fore, unusual poetic discernment. The diffisteeped as they were in a certain fruit-like culty of illustrating our modern manners is richness, and illumined by gleams of an ima- increased by the fact that they include much gination at once radiant and pathetic, like from which poetic sympathies recoil. A deep the lights of an evening horizon, were defi- interest in national manners and history is the cient, as all young poetry is, in subject and best imaginative preparation for a national substance. They had then also a defect, poem. In what way the poetical side of which they shared with much of Shelley's modern life might be seized and set forth on and some of Keats's—that of appearing po- a large scale, is a problem well worth conetry, distilled from poetry, rather than drawn sideration; but our limits deter us from even from the living sources of life and of truth. an attempt at the solution of it. Assuredly But that defect has long since been corrected; that life will not be poetically exhibited merely and it is observable, that in proportion as his by allusions to its outward accidents,—its poetry has become more robust and charac- railways, and its steamboats, or by the apteristic, it has also become more home-bred. plication of poetry, in the spirit of a partisan, He has given us admirably characteristic to the disputes of the hour. To delineate landscapes from almost all countries; but it modern life, the first thing must be to underis plainly among the meads and lawns of his stand human life; and the second to trace its native land that his imagination finds a home. permanent relations as they are modified by Nor is it English scenery only that he illus- the more essential characteristics of modern trates with such truth and power, but Eng. society. In this process the poet will be aslish manners likewise ; indeed, when we say sisted in proportion as his sympathies are that his poetry does not shrink from the in- vivid, as bis habits are thoughtful, and as terests and accidents of daily life, it is espe- his versatile imagination unites itself to fixed cially English life to which we refer. It is principles. The sympathies which give power not merely the romantic tale that he records, to those who feel them, are such as help as in “ Godiva” and “ The Lord of Burleigh,' their immediate objects likewise. The man but many a modern trait from the village must feel himself a part of that life which he green, the corn-field, the manor-house, many would illustrate (though the poet in the man, a recollection from college life, or the social must ever preserve his isolation); the hand circle. The tale which we have reviewed, must inform the heart, and the heart direct though not English in subject, is yet eminently the mind; for it is through the neighborly English in its setting. That modern England duties alone that the universal relations of does not contain the materials of poetry we society become understood vitally. Scanned cannot believe, as long as we find that it pro- in speculation alone, they are a theme for the duces the faculties that tend to poetry; but philosopher, not the poet.
CHASTE orator! whose silv'ry voice, when strung
To lofty subjects hitherto untaught,
Unheard in senate-house or regal fort,
Where heroes lie who by Trafalgar sought
A resting-place Plantagenets among?
In Libya, where the sun, a glaring flame
The Senegal pursues his tardy course,
The manumitted slaves pronounce thy name,