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of expression, idiomatic ease, and rhythm, must almost necessarily be lost; or, if replaced, should be set down to the credit of the translator, whose language is his own. Dryden said of Shakespeare, that if his embroideries were burnt down, there would be silver at the bottom of the melting-pot. If Mr. Tennyson were submitted to such a process, the residuum would be comparatively small. His greatest beauties are confessedly untranslateable; they are too delicate, too evanescent, too bloomlike, and too slight. Speaking of the female characters in the ‘Poems,' M. Taine says: 'I have translated many ideas and many styles._I will never try to translate a single one of these portraits. Every word is like a tint, curiously heightened or softened by the neighbouring tint, with all the hardihood and the success of the happiest refinement. The least alteration would spoil all.' *
Is, then, Mr. Tennyson's English fame enough ? Is his title to rank as the first English poet of his epoch conclusively established by the fact that a majority of the rising generation of both sexes within this realm insist on so regarding him? We make bold to think not. It rests on divine authority that no man is a prophet in his own country. Many a man has been a poet in his own country whose poetry had no exchangeable value, and could only live in a particular atmosphere; but that these were first-class poets, we deny. We will endeavour to illustrate this proposition before proceeding further, for all sound criticism depends upon the principles involved in it.
Our estimate of books and men are far more frequently subjective than objective. We judge them rather by our own feelings, prejudices, and passions, than by their inherent or individual qualities; and no man is a fair judge of either who does not habitually analyse his impressions as they are caught up or inbibed. Approval and disapproval are too frequently confounded with liking and disliking, with being pleased or displeased. The most cultivated intellects are not exempt from this liability to error, and should be equally on their guard against it. We once heard an eminent scholar and statesman maintain that Gray was the first of modern English poets; and in the course of the ensuing discussion it was made clear that his admiration was mainly owing to the rush of youthful associations which a recent perusal of the Ode to Eton College' had brought back. We strongly suspect that an analogous solution might be given of what we have heard cited as a proof of Mr. Tennyson's pathos, namely, that an ex-ambassador, of resolute will and masculine understanding, by no means given
* *Histoire de la Litterature Anglaise,' rol. iv. 434.
to the melting mood, burst into tears during the reading of • Elaine' aloud to a party at a country house. A word, a phrase, may have loosened the floodgate of association:
And as a fort to which beleaguers win
By memory's magic lets in all the rest.' It is one of Chamfort's aphorisms that what makes the success of numerous works, is the affinity between the mediocrity of the ideas of the author and the mediocrity of the ideas of the public.' Literary history so abounds with instances of adventitious and ill-deserved popularity, that Wordsworth, discontented with the limited circulation of his own poems and deriving cold comfort from (what he called) the parallel case of Milton, was wont to contend that popularity, far from
being a proof of merit, implied that unworthy sacrifices must have been made and solid fame bartered for it. He forgot that most of the great writers who have now taken rank amongst the classics of their respective countries, attained their proud pre-eminence at starting or early enough to enjoy it to the full, and that genius, tremulous with the glowing and agitated atmosphere around and about it, may shine with as bright and sustained a light as if it had shrunk away from the haunts of crowded life to draw inspiration from the grotto or the lake. All we maintain is that local or temporary popularity is unsatisfactory and inconclusive as a test : that it may prove the forerunner of permanent and world-wide reputation, or it may not.
Fancy has been amused by conjecturing with what temper Milton surveyed the silent progress of his work, and marked its Teputation stealing its way in a kind of subterranean current through fear and silence.' Its reputation did not burst forth in full brilliancy till he had been forty years in his grave, and shows what invaluable services may occasionally be rendered by retrospective criticism in compelling the complete recognition of genius. Addison devoted eighteen papers of the ‘Spectator,' interspersed with numerous extracts, to Paradise Lost, and thereby (in Johnson's words) has made Milton an universal favourite, with whom readers of every class think it necessary to be pleased.'* With Byron the progress of fame has been reversed. He rose in splendour, and his meridian is obscured by clouds. He states that the morning after the publication of the first and second cantos of “Childe Harold,' he awoke and found himself famous. These cantos would have made a name at any time, but their effect was undeniably enhanced by the choice of topics and the state of the public mind. “The Comedy of the Visionnaires,' wrote Madame de Sevigné, delighted us much: we found it the representation of everybody; each of us has his or her visions shadowed out.' “Childe Harold,' on his first appearance had thus much in common with this forgotten Comedy. He had a word for everything and everybody that was uppermost in men's thoughts: theories of government for the political speculator, of social progress for the moralist, classical reminiscences for the scholar, and never ending sentiment for the fair. He dealt swashing blows right and left at Whigs and Tories, aristocracy and democracy. He described the scenes on which all English eyes and interests were fixed. He lingered on the battle-fields where English laurels had been won. He sang of the Tagus and the Guadalquivir, of Talavera and Albuera. He denounced the devastating ambition of Napoleon, and mingled the denunciation with a sneer at the fools who were pouring out their blood like water to maintain their own domestic despots on their thrones. War is thus grandly personified :
* Life of Addison,' Johnson's Works, vol. vii. p. 142. In the ‘Life of Milton,' vol. vi. p. 173, he had said: “ Paradise Lost” is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather thau a pleasure.'
*Lo! where the Giant on the mountain stands,
For on this morn three potent nations meet,
There shall they rot-Ambition's honour'd fools !
Or call with truth one span of earth their own,
Ye who shall marvel when you hear her tale,
Seen her long locks that foil the painter's power,
Beheld her smile in Danger's Gorgon face,
Who hang so fiercely on the flying Gaul, Foil'd by a woman's hand, before a batter'd wall?' To idealise modern warfare, or invest it with an air of chivalry in verse, is no common feat. Addison's 'Campaign' is barely redeemed by a single image (the angel), and the author of • Marmion,' whose Flodden Field stirs the blood like a trumpettone, became tame and prosaic at Waterloo. Byron makes the dragoon's sabre glitter like Arthur's sword Excalifur, and by mere dint of imagination gives to a modern fortification, bristling with cannon, the picturesqueness of a mountain side or valley crowned with rocks. This is Cintra, the natural object to be described :
“The horrid crags, by toppling convent crown'd,
The vine on high, the willow branch below,
Mix'd in one mighty scene, with varied beauty glow.'
'At every turn Morena's dusky height
The holster'd steed beneath the shed of thatch,
The ball-piled pyramid, the ever-blazing match.' We shall come to descriptive passages of far higher grasp and richer colouring; but those we have just quoted illustrate a quality in which no modern poet has rivalled the noble author. Not the least of the attractions of 'Childe Harold,' especially to the young, lay in the self-revealings, the avowal of over-indulged and yet unsuppressed passions, the premature feeling of satiety, and the deep all-pervading despondency :
"To sit on rocks, to muse o'er flood and fell,
This is not solitude; 'tis but to hold
To hear, to see, to feel, and to possess,
Of all that flatter'd, follow'd, sought, and sued; This is to be alone; this, this is solitude!' When it is remembered that the writer was young, noble, and handsome—that his career, short as it had been, was involved in mystery—that the keen-edged falchion which he had unsheathed in his satire was ready at any moment to leap from the scabbardno wonder that he speedily became the idol, in due course the spoiled child, of the fashionable world, and was by common consent enrolled amongst
Permits whate'er they please, or did not long since. Intoxicating as all this was, and intensely as it was for a time enjoyed by him despite of his morbid melancholy, he seems to have had an instinctive consciousness that he could not depend on these two cantos of Childe Harold' any more than on · Hours of Idleness,
' or · English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,' for permanent reputation, and that he had in him something better that
Admiration is catching and imitative. When a book has once attracted marked attention, people buy and read in self-defence, whether they derive pleasure from it or The odds are, that the mass of readers did not derive
must come out.