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true, the progress of society towards a better and a perfect life must be of almost an infinite slowness ; so very slow, so very far away, that man in the present is left all but hopeless. There is nothing in Tennyson in this matter of the rush or the faith of the prophet. The impulse he gives is faint, and his hope is only too like despair. The young man of Locksley Hall repents when he is old of almost all the enthusiasms of his youth : Forward far and far from here is all the hope of eighty years.
In the very last book, the “Ghost of the Brute' in men may be laid, but only in a hundred thousand years, or in a million summers away. Before the crowning age arrive in the making of man, æon after æon shall pass. " We are far from the noon of man, there is time for the race to grow."
Time ! when half the world and more are in torture ! It ought not to be in a poet to take things so easily. It is true that Tennyson looks beyond this world, and sees the sorrowful made blessed there, and, indeed, I hold that to be the truest of consolations. But if it is to make us take evils easily here—we especially who are comfortable—I hold that it is not unwise to put it out of our minds for a time ; and it may be that the general disbelief in immortality has its deepest ground in that feeling, and perhaps its reason. For my. part I do not think we have any right to think då heaven for others, much less of a heaven for ourselves in the world to come, until we are wholly determined to make this world a heaven for our fellow-men, and are hoping, believing, loving, and working for that, and for its realisation not in a thousand or a million years, but in a nearer and a nearer future. That is what a poet should feel and write for nowadays. That should be the passion in his heart and the fire in his verse.
THE POEMS OF 1830
T is fortunate for the historian of poetry in
this century that the close of each school of poetry is so clearly divided from the rise of its successor. Shelley, Byron and Keats died within a few years of each other, between 1821 and 1824. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Landor and Walter Scott (though they lived beyond 1824), belonged to a school which preceded that of Byron, Shelley and Keats. They overlapped the lives of these three poets, but all the three had arisen when Wordsworth and the rest had done their best work. They represent other spheres of thought, and embody other worlds of emotion. Byron, enamoured of his own powerful personality, and rejoicing in his isolation from the crowd while he was angry with its attack upon him, proud and vain at the same time, laughed to scorn the peaceful, proper, prim and comfortable life into which the English middle class had subsided after the peace of 1815, and held up himself as its poetic contrast—the lonely, soulshattered wanderer whom a quiet home-life revolted, who preferred, for choice, to live like the Giaour or the Corsair-and who finally attacked all the respectable hypocrisy of England in the revolutionary mockery of Don Juan. He did this needful work with exaggeration, but had it not been done with exaggeration, it would not perhaps have rescued England's poetry from the ideal of George III. No temper can be a greater contrast than Byron's on the one side to that of his predecessor, Wordsworth, and on the other to that of his successor, Tennyson. Byron did not like
-and I put it mildly—the philosophic gentlemen of The Excursion; he would have disliked still more the Arthur of the Idylls of the King. Indeed, it was high time, when poetry in the hands of Tennyson had dwelt so much on the conservative, law-abiding, and regular elements of life as to make us fear that the more audacious and freer elements beyond conventional society would be lost to poetry, that Swinburne should again, like Byron, bring in the revolutionary spirit, and attack that temper in poetry which, in weaker hands than Tennyson's, might again degenerate into Pharisaism and put the imagination into a coop like a goose at Strasburg. The way Swinburne did it in his youth was open to objections-poets, by their very nature, sweep into wild exaggeration of their revolts—but it was well that it was done. Byron did the same thing in his time. He was at this point the child of the literature which preceded the Revolution. His movement of mind and emotion is part of the storm which began to blow in the eighteenth century.
Shelley was also its child, but he represented his parent in a very different manner from Byron. He was not personal; he did not attack the
existing society with mockery. He did not praise the isolated or the corsair life, nor the immoral life. He lived as he pleased, it is true, and he left English society severely alone. But he was concerned chiefly with ideas, and what he attacked were the evil things which hindered the progress of mankind. He hated despotisms; he hated those religious views which enslaved the soul, and those persons who used these views for the sake of power. As such, he went back, when the political aim of the Revolution was dead in England, to the original ideas of the Revolution. He took up their all but extinguished torch, and waved it round and round his head, till in his hands it took fire again. It was only for a time. He had not power enough to keep it kindled, and finally he left behind him all hope of realising in his own time the ideas of equality. What he did do, was to conceive in his own mind the regeneration of society and the overthrow of its evils; and to sing of what humanity would be in the future : and it is his undying hope in this regeneration of man, his faith and love of it, and the power with which he has infused it into men, for which we owe him an endless gratitude.
This was the last effort of this school of poetry applied to the conditions of the world of its own time, the last recognition these poets gave to their present. It was also the last breath for the time of the impulse given to song by the early ideas of the Revolution. The poetry of this century, up to this point, had been frequently concerned with the social and political movement, with the European struggle, with ethical or theological forms of