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Stier's Words of the Lord Jesus, Tyler's Bible and Social Reform,
mate of, criticised by L. Bacon, · 154 | dell, M. D., noticed, - - 237
and Slavery, reviewed, . • 110 Tyndall's Glaciers of the Alps, no
tion. Q. B. K. Address,) - 43 Vaughan, Revolutions in English
brews, noticed, . . . 1060 Voltaire's Henrinde, noticed, . 25
al Colleges, .. . - 68 Man and Law, noticed, · · 814
Warren, (1. P.,) Three
· 526 of. noticed. . . - 537
of the Princeton Review on, Art., 726 Watt, Muirhead's Life of James,
1 Wells's Annual of Scientific Dis-
| ticed, - - . 1073
. - 264
noticed, • - . • 825 for Beginners, . . . 845
noticed, · ·
tory of, noticed, . 1096
ticed, . ..
- 627 Winslow's Precious Things of God,
tion, noticed, - - 1091 | Woolsey, (T. D.) Discourse Com.
noticed, . .. . 800 rich, D, D. . . . 328
Doctrine in the first three Cen. the Study of International Law, 815
795 Worcester's Dictionary, noticed, 275
reviewed, • . • 412
40 Young's American Statesman, no.
· 249 Young's Province of Reason, no-
ARTICLE 1.—MR. TENNYSON AND THE IDYLS OF KING
Idyls of the King. By ALFRED TENNYSON, D. C. L., Poet
Laureate. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1859.
John Milton, when, at the age of thirty, he had left England to perfect, by travel and by experience of foreign lands, the varied education by which he had been training himself for immortality,—" pluming his wings and meditating flight,” -had come at last, through France and Northern Italy, along the coast of the blue Mediterranean to Naples. IIere he lingered among the charming scenes of that Italian landscape, rich in natural beauty and not less rich in historic memories. Here he mused over the tomb of Virgil, and as he looked about him or glanced off to seaward, his eyes, as yet not sightless, rested on many an object which had been made immortal by ancient fable or by classic verse. Here too he was the guest of the noble Manso, himself a man of letters and a poet, but more famous as the friend, protector, and biographer of Tasso, and as the patron of the more recent but less worthy
poet Marini. Doubtless, in the weeks that Milton spent surrounded by such scenes and in such companionship, there was much talk and meditation of the poets, ancient and modern, whose names and memory were so associated with the place, and more especially of the tales of chivalry and romance, which lived in the verse of Tasso. Thus it was that the young English poet was led to speak about the ancient tales of British chivalry, and to tell the polite and appreciating Italian the mythic story which, centuries before, the romance writers had begun to fabricate,—the story of Arthur and his noble knights,-of Arthur and the battles that he fought for Christ and Britain. And here it was, most probably, (as indeed his biographer has suggested,)* that the plan of writing a great epic poem, upon which until now he had meditated vaguely, began to take definite shape in his mind, and to be freely spoken of in his intercourse with his friends. He would sing of Arthur and the British kings who fought the Saxons, and would make the valor and the faith of those old warriors to live again in his enduring verse. Such was the plan which he then hoped to accomplish. The hope grew upon him while he stayed in Italy, and, when he was suddenly summoned home again, he expresses it distinctly in his parting epistle to Manso:
“Indigenas revocabo in carmina reges, Arturumque etiam sub terris bella moventem ! Aut dicam invictæ sociali fædere mensæ
Magnanimos heroas." He carried his design with him back to England, and we find him still cherishing it in the elegant elegiac poem which he wrote soon after his return, on hearing of the death of his friend Deodati. In the mythic history of Britain, in the story of the crafty maneuvering of Merlin,—of the betrayal of the fair Igrayne, the birth of Arthur and the wars and treachery that followed,—was to be found the subject for his promised epic. Only it is noticeable that now, in the gravity of his maturing manhood, and chastened by the bereavement which he
* See Toland's Life of Milton, (London ed. of 1761,) page 14-17.
had suffered, he chooses this for his subject, not in the hope of a wide immortality of fame, but preferring rather to live in the affectionate and grateful memory of his own countrymen. If only by his poem he may secure to himself a reward like this, he says:
“mi satis ampla Merces, et mihi grande decus, (sim ignotus in ævum
Tum licet, externo penitusque inglorius orbi.)” Bat the news which hurried Milton back to England, before he had become satisfied with his stay in Naples, was the news of civil discord and commotion which was soon to be followed by civil war and a great revolution; and for years to come, he had enough to do "in liberty's defense,” without planning epics or writing them. When, at last, with a soul strengthened by experience of controversy in matters of religion and of state, disciplined and matured by personal affliction and suffering, he caine to the production of the promised poem, he found that he had all this time been in training for a nobler work than to record the fictitious story of any earthly heroes. He had been occupied too long with matters far sublimer than the wars of Arthur and the adventures of his knights. He could not descend again from the high places from which he had been doing battle for freedom, for purity of faith and order, and for eternal truth. Now that the time had come for him to sing, he sang “of man's first disobedience," and of the wise counsels and the mighty acts of God;
-and so the epic of King Arthur has remained unwritten until now.
It has remained unwritten, but not unattempted. Only a few years after Milton died, Sir Richard Blackmore, a learned and excellent man, so eminent in the profession of medicine that King William III appointed him his own physician, employed his leisure time in writing a long poem, in which he celebrated the military exploits which are attributed to the early part of Arthur's reign. This production being received with unexpected favor, he followed it speedily with another poem, in twelve books, in which he recorded the tedious series of Arthur's later triumphs. Sir Richard was a man of uncommonly religious spirit. His motive in writing was a most excellent one,—and he succeeded in showing to a generation whose literary taste had been fearfully corrupted, that a poet could write good verses, and a great many of them, too, withvut polluting them with all the indecencies in which Dryden and his fellows had delighted. He succeeded, also, to some extent, in elevating the taste which had become thus degraded. But in spite of the excellent spirit in which they are written, and althongh the verses are smooth and polished and rhyme with faultless regularity, the poems are monotonous and heavy. The Arthur whom they celebrate is a mere military hero, although his general character, as far as it appears, is every way respectable; he appears chiefly engaged in battle with opposing armies, and with an occasional dragon; celestial powers array themselves on his behalf against the machinations of Lucifer and his fiends, who are contriving continually for his temporal and eternal destruction. Once or twice he is made to personate some Scriptural character. Lucifer, for instance, asks and obtains leave to distress and tempt him, feeling sure that in adversity his integrity of character will be destroyed. But he endures with the patience and constancy of Job. Merlin, the great magician, is represented, contrary to all history and all fable, as having proved false to Arthur and the British cause, and as giving the assistance of his wicked enchantments to the hostile army. Being brought, as Balaarn was of old, for the purpose of pronouncing a curse upon the British king and people, he is forced to bless instead,-and does so in a very excellent and Scriptural style, very good in its place, but not what we look for from the wizard of King Arthur's court. But we look in vain through all these successive books for that King Arthur who was “the floure of all knights and kings," who was so brave and yet so gentle, who was so pure and just, who was illustrious not only on the battlefield and at the tournament, but also “at the head of all his table round," in council, as a king, a friend, a husband.