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To which an answer peal'd from that high land,
God made Himself an awful rose of dawn.
THE CLASSICAL AND ROMANTIC POEMS OF 1842
WITH THE LATER CLASSICAL POEMS
'HE classical poems in the volume of 1833
were two, Enone and The Lotos-Eaters. I have kept them for separate treatment, because in 1842, when they reappeared, they were so largely recast, and their landscape so changed, that it would have been unfair to Tennyson to consider them save in the finished form he gave them in 1842. In that year also he added another classical poem to these, the Ulysses. These are the three, and the first thing to think of is their landscape, which is distinct and invented.
I have said that Tennyson, when he worked on natural scenery outside of his own land, was not a good landscapist. Not only had he little sympathy with southern Nature, but he also required to assimilate during long years of companionship the scenery he described, before he could, with his full power, embody it in verse. But the impressions he received in travel were brief. They did not soak into him, and he could not reproduce them well. This, I said, was the case when he painted direct from Nature.
But it is not the case when he invented, when he painted from the vision he had of a landscape in his own soul. He saw it, rising like an exhalation into form around his figures. He took the cloud-shapes, and composed them slowly ; rejecting this, accepting that, till he had got the background which he needed for Enone, or Ulysses, or the mild-eyed Lotos-eaters. Then his Nature-painting, wherever the scene is placed, is fine in itself, and necessarily fits the subject. Of course, he does not stand alone in such invention. Every poet, as every painter, practises, more or less, this part of his art. Wordsworth and Walter Scott are almost solitary in their habit, rarely infringed, of painting all their landscape on the spot, direct from Nature. But then, they did not take subjects outside of their own country and their own time, or, if they did, as when Wordsworth took a classical subject like Laodamia, they did not put in a landscape.
But the greater number of the poets invent ; and there is no more fascinating subject in literature, or one as yet more untouched, than this invented landscape of the poets. In what way each of them did it; their favourite tricks in doing it; the different way each of them uses Nature for his purpose or his figures; the limits of invented landscape ; its analogies to landscape paintingthese are all branches of the subject, and when we have little to do and want amusement, we could not find happier entertainment than the study of this kind of Nature-painting in Shelley or Keats or Spenser; or, when we have done such a study of two or three poets' work, than a comparison of their separate methods of invention.
Such invented landscape is sometimes done from a previous study from Nature which is worked up afterwards into a picture, and of this the landscape in the Enone of 1833 is an instance. At other times, it is a picture composed out of various impressions of diverse places brought together into one landscape, and this is the case with a number of the landscapes in The Revolt of Islam, and in the Prometheus Unbound. It is sometimes used to illustrate the human passions treated of in the poem, the landscape echoing as it were the feelings of the persons, even the progress of their thoughts. Spenser does this echoing landscape with great directness, ás in the description of the bower of Acrasia, or of the Cave of Mammon, or of the haunt of Despair. Tennyson does it with great deliberation in The LotosEaters. Shelley, in the latter part of Alastor, makes the whole scene and especially the course of the river down the glen, the narrowing of the glen, and the sudden opening out of its jaws on a vast landscape lying far below in the dying sunlight-image, step by step, the thoughts of his poet wandering to his death. Sometimes this invented landscape is simply a background, without any purpose in it, only that the tones are kept in harmony with the human action; and sometimes it is done for pure pleasure in composing Nature, but in that case, when there are human beings in the foreground of the poem, there is a great danger lest Nature overwhelm humanity in the poem, or lest the poem lack unity; and both these pitfalls, for example, are fallen into by Keats in Endymion.
In classical poems, the landscape must of course be invented, unless, like the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the poet should go to Troy or Ithaca, and describe things as they are now, in order to gain local colour. Since the days of PreRaphaelitism, some poets have used this way, but for the most part they invent ; and Tennyson saw his Lotos Island and the Mount of Ida only “ with the intellectual eye." In Enone, however, he began with direct description, with his eye upon the scene.
valley in the Pyrenees, we are told, which he chose as background for his betrayed maiden, for Paris and the goddesses, when he wrote of them in 1833; and here is this first landscape :
There is a dale in Ida, lovelier
As Tennyson thought of this, he saw how poor it was in comparison with what he might do if he chose. The blank verse halts ; a hurly-burly of vowels like “ Than any in old Ionia" is a sorrowful thing; there is no careful composition of the picture; the things described have not that vital connection
with the other which should