Gerald Massey: Tennyson's "Princess."

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27 September 1851.


By Gerald Massey.



Critics are fallible as well as all other erring mortals.  What an exemplification of this was the conduct of the Athenæum, towards Carlyle's splendid prose Epic, the "French Revolution."  And I remember the flippant literary fop who noticed the "Princess" in Tait's Magazine, remarking, "This book has lain on our table for some time past, but we have not forgotten Mr. Tennyson so far as he has forgotten himself," and proceeded to demonstrate that it was unworthy of him, or any one else pretending to the name of poet.  Indeed, general dissatisfaction was growled by the literary dissectors (Aubrey de Vere in the Edinburgh Review excepted) that this should be the result of six years silent labour on the part of Tennyson.  But we must not expect journalists always to do justice to a great work of art, at first glance;—worked and jaded, like galley-slaves, as they frequently are, compelled to furnish the requisite amount of copy at thunder-speed, what marvel if their criticism exhibit no breadth, save in being very broad of the mark?  Moreover, the spirit of Tennyson's poetry does not respond to the stern questioning "under which King Belzonian, speak or die?"  Neither will it be gauged by rule and compass;— in all such presence it is dumb and shrinking as a shy, sensitive, loving maiden, brooding over her sweet secret amidst her rude and importunate brothers—but only look on it with loving favour, show that you possess the kindred sympathy, and it opens like a thirsty flower to the healing dew.  How eloquent it becomes, babbling its sweet music as a cascade its happy laughter, changing and radiating in its beauty like the burnished colours on the neck of the dove.  After reading the "Princess" again and again, one is surprised at what they missed on reading it the first time; you wilfully deceived yourself because you took it at its own unpretending estimate.  The flowers that lurk in the nooks and bye-places you did not see while watching the royal sweep of the highway, the grandeur of the mountains lifting up their peaks into the laughing heaven, and the blue and boundless burst of ocean in the far distance.  Read it again, it was your carelessness and opaqueness, not the poet's want of light and lustre.  It was your blindness, and deafness, not his lack of divine wisdom, and melody.— Disappointed?  So! you had expected him to commence again, where last the song ended, leaving you perplext with his aerial melodies, and dazzled by the glancing lights of his glorious imagery,—but no, he has travelled far in advance of you, singing his new song of Progress, hopefully and joyfully.  You had watched the majestic swan disport itself hard by, and dive under the surface of the waters, leaving you to watch the widening ripples it had made in the limpid element, expecting it to arise in the same place, but lo!  it ascends once more, out yonder in the distance—beyond the ripples it last made; it is more graceful if possible, strengthened, fold bedropt with richer pearls, only, farther away from you, and less appreciable.

    The "Princess" has all the lyrical beauty of Tennyson's former poems, it is as gorgeous in imagery, as sparkling in quaint and playful fancies, while the diapason of its rythm ranges from the faeriest flutings of elf-land music up to the grand movement of a conqueror's regal march.  And above all, it is essentially a song of Progress, timed to the beating of the pulses of the living Present.

    The grand object of the poem is to show that Woman is not Man in an undevelopt state, and that all attempts to prove the contrary—all her leaps to catch at manhood will but pluck down upon her discomfiture and utter failure.  There have been women who have unsexed themselves—and what have they become?  At best, but cold abstractions, mental Hermaphrodites who have put on a raiment of Bloomerism, and puzzled the world's curiosity,—and at worst, demons of wickedness and crime, as in the instances of Cleopatra and Theroigne de Mericourt.  Of course, the "Princess," and those whose aim she represents in this nineteenth century, are not to be spoken of in the same breath as those women, and yet the result of such emancipation as they desire would induce as fearful a slavery.  Woman cannot belie her nature with impunity—her heart of flesh. will petrify into a heart of stone—she will out-herod Herod, and out-man Man.

    Thus with the "Princess," blinded with her hatred of the old custom, and madly stung by her erring pride, she succeeds in crushing all those tender affections that cling about the young heart, and tremble into life.  She cuts the budding, twining tendrils of love, as fast as they grow, with inexorable knife.  The milk of her human kindness curdles and sours her nature instead of creaming to enrich it.  She hardens into senseless hatred against him who loves her so dearly and so well, she hurls back his proferred heart, with insult and trampling scorn, and insists on her brothers fighting with him.  She can rob a mother of her darling child, and that mother her once well-beloved friend and chief companion, that child—the "sweetest child that ever crowed for kisses,"—whom she can speak of in this wise,

"I took it for an hour in mine own bed
 This morning: there the tender orphan hands
 Felt at my heart, and seem'd to charm from thence
 The wrath I nursed against the world

And yet site is heedless of this mute pleading for its mother—and resists for a long while, the appeal of its mother herself, who Stands imploring, with

"Red grief and mother's hunger in her eye."

Vainly do they conjure up tender memories of the past, for she has well nigh slain her sweeter self, and fossilized her woman's heart.  Beautifully and truly does the poet develop the consequences of the false position she has assumed, equally unnatural and fatal as in the instances previously mentioned,—for "Woman" is not undeveloped man."

    Let Woman he educated and developed as far as possible in accordance with her nature and destiny, let her he well versed in history, and learn therefrom to cherish all that is pure and ennobling—till her heart beats grand accompaniment to theirs of old, the great, the good, the martyrs and the saints.  Let her mind be made familiar with lofty thoughts, and noble deeds, and she will learn to think and act greatly.  Astronomy, geology,—phrenology, the science of human nature,—and socialism, the science of society, should each be understood by her, in addition to the fields of learning already open to her, but all attempts to train her into manhood are as false and unnatural as it is to clip and shear the spreading, bush-green yewtree of its branched glories, and torture it into the poor, miserable effigy of a peacock.

    The "Princess," is in the main, a true champion in the cause of Woman, and heaven and earth know they need champions, for in the words of the "Princess Ida " the mass of them are

"No wiser than their mothers, household-stuff,
 Live chattels, mincers of each others fame,
 Full of weak poison, turnspits for the clown,
 The drunkard's football, laughing stocks of time,
 Whose brains are in their hands and in their heels,
 But fit to flaunt, to dress, to dance, to thrum,
 To trump, to scream, to burnish and to scour,
 For ever slaves at home, and fools abroad."

That hits off your character and takes your standard to the breadth of a hair, the generality of you, O Women of To-day!  Mothers of the Future! Why, what can the world expect from ye but slaves, and dolts, and idiots?  Dear God!  God! that Woman would but comprehend her influence, and understand the work she is missioned to do—to save the world she lost!  Scarcely a great man ever lived but has attributed three-fourths of his greatness to the influence of his mother on his character, before and after his birth.  They mould humanity either for good or evil.

    Yet it is only a just retribution on man for his selfish bestial tyranny over Women.  He has looked upon her merely—not in the light—but in the gloom, of a slave, and our system of educating Women for society, and marriage, and maternity, is quite as barbarous as the practice of some tribe I have read of, who fatten their kings' royal concubines till they are fat-blind, before they are eligible for the nuptial couch;—they only eclipse the ordinary visual means, while it is our more refined custom to put out the mental vision.

    We have had great Women; great Women are living now, glorious models for aspiration! noble examples for all time. Women have lived as noble lives and died as heroic deaths as men.  They have suffered as painful martyrdoms; and then, what unwritten sufferings, what unchronicled heroism!  Woman has also achieved no mean position in the realm of Thought and the land of Song, almost rivalling vaunting man with his vantage of some thousand years in starting.  In our own times, a Somerville, Hemans, Wolstonecraft, Mitford, Fry, Howitt, and E. Barrett Browning, and many others in the bright sisterhood of genius, have planted their glorious feet on the mountain of immortality, and earned shining and enduring names.  Though it is not so much the few great and valiant that we want, as that the whole mass should be raised; the demand of the age is not for splendid reputations to be built and pillared apart, so much as that the whole should be permeated, leavened, and quickened into higher intelligence and nobler action.  If Poetry, or Politics, or speculative science be a Woman's vital necessity, in God's name let her write, speak, or demonstrate, otherwise, let her not make them her aspiration.  There is more need of poetry to be lived than written, especially in the home-sphere and household affections of woman.  Written poetry gives us but bright glimpses down sunny vistas, into the world of poetry which might be lived, if we were wise,—somewhat akin to bringing a poor prisoned sky-lark, a cool and dewy green sod to refresh its eyes and feet with, while it is shut out from its natural heritage, the glad and glorious world beyond, radiant with all loveliness, which it ought to live, and love, and luxuriate in.  We do not want Women to be crammed with dead language, and mummied learning, but for Love's sake let them be educated up to the noblest offices and holiest duties of life, which they are not now, and manifold are the miseries consequent thereon.  Where shall the intelligent artizan endowed with large heart and brain, proud aspirations, and high sensitive nature, find the help-mate meet and worthy to unite with him in wedlock?  And the education of the middle-class is a thousand times more pernicious than the non-education of the better class of the workers, for among the latter you may chance to find some natural and noble simplicity, kind generous hearts full of self-sacrifice, with all the virgin dew and the glory of innocence upon them, which you will search for in vain among the "educated" of the middle-class.  Yet, this treasure is not the all that is essential to the wife.  True, as Goethe says in his conversations, "we do not fall in love with the understanding, the intellect of Woman,"—but after we have fallen in love' what then, if she have not understanding?  The highest meaning of marriage is not comprehended, the holiest purpose is not consummated, the bond is unhallowed, and the harrowing wretchedness of this inequality is often a very hell in its torments,—the clasping ring remains, a mocking symbol! but, hearts will fall asunder, and each misunderstanding, rends the rift of difference wider and deeper; and still we make it an incumbent duty to bear the unbearable.  What a societary state is ours! the more you probe it the more you find it reeking with rottenness, and white threading its dark labyrinth of ills—at every step you make toward the light, you tread on a fresh venomous viper.



4 October 1851.


By Gerald Massey.


As many who see this notice may not have read the "Princess," I may as well just glance at the story.—It is holiday at Sir Walter Vivian's, and he has given up his park for the day to the people, for play, instruction, and recreation.  The family are witnessing the sports from the lawn before the hall.  The poet, who is on a visit there, reads the tale of "her who drove the foes with slaughter from her walls", and praises her nobleness; Walter, the baronet's son, asks "where lives such a woman now?" and little Lilia (his sister) replies quickly,

                              "There are thousands now,
 Such women, but convention beats them down;
 It is but bringing up, no more than that,
 You men have clone it: how I hate you all;
                                           Oh, I wish
 That I were some great Princess, I would build
 Far off from men a college like to man's,
 And I would teach them all that men are taught,
 We are twice as quick."

And straightway the poet maps out a poem to the subject given, himself playing the prince.

    He, the prince, has (while only eight years old) been betrothed by proxy to a neighbouring princess, and, when the days draw nigh that they should wed, he takes fitting presents and seeks her father's house, but finds that the lady "Ida," his affianced, has forsworn the marriage state, and taking with her two ladies of her court, her companions Blanche and Psyche, has left her father's palace to rear a University for Ladies, through the portals of which no man shall enter on pain of death.  The prince, who is determined to woo, and win, and wear her, and holds

"That it becomes no man to nurse despair,
  But in the teeth of clench'd antagonisms
  To follow up the worthiest till he die"—

takes takes two of his comrades, Florian and Cyril, and disguised in ladies' raiment obtains entrance into the college.  They are received by the princess as ladies from the court of the prince's father. "Ida" strenuously avoids all loving talk about the prince, whom one of the three ladies is continually babbling of, and gives them fitting exhortation—

"You will do well on entering here, to cast and fling
 The trick that makes us toys of men, that
 Some future time, it so indeed you will,
 You way, with those self-styled our lords, ally
 Your fortunes justlier balanced, scale with scale.
                                        O lift your natures up,
 Embrace our aims, work out your freedom, girls !
 Better not be at all, than not be noble."

The three now enter the Lady Psyche's department,

"Where sat along the forms, like morning doves
 That sun their milky bosoms on the thatch,
 A patient range of pupils."

Psyche, with great surprise and indignation, recognises her brother in Florian, and by her woman's honour, she will denounce them to the Head, and deliver them up to death for their intrusion.  But they ply her unremittingly with loving sophistry, and at length she relents, and kisses her brother as becomes an affectionate sister.  While imparting to him this interesting token of reconciliation and amity, the Lady Blanche's daughter enters unwittingly—but,—she begs pardon,—she has heard all,—but, dear little thing! she won't tell, bless her! she couldn't find it in her heart to "give three gallant gentlemen to death," not even to "answer all those hard things that Sheba came to ask of Solomon."  The three then stroll about, through stately "theatres bench'd crescent-wise," delightful gardens, and lecture-rooms where they hear

"A classic lecture rich in sentiment,
 With scraps of thunderous epic lilted out
 By violet-hooded doctors, elegies.
 And quoted odes, and jewels five-words long,
 That on the stretch'd forefinger of old Time
 Sparkle for ever."

    Pleasantly passes the first day, but early the next morning, the little Melissa, Lady Blanche's daughter, hurries to them in breathless haste, and urges them to fly, for her mother knows all—not by any fault of hers.  She relates how her mother fell to canvassing them on the over-night thus—

"'Who ever saw such wild barbarians?
 Girls? More like Men! '—And at these , words the snake
 My secret, seemed to stir within my breast
 My cheek began to burn, and her lynx eye
 To fix, and make me hotter, till she laugh'd,
 'A marvellously modest maiden, you!
 Men! girls like men: Why, if they had been men,
 You need not set your thoughts in rubric thus
 For wholesale comment
 'And so they are, very like men, indeed—'
 Then came these dreadful words out, one by one,
 Why —these—are—men: '   I shudder'd, 'and you know it.'
                                 So my mother clutch'd
 The truth at once, but with no word from me."

Cyril attempts to win the mother over to keep secrecy, but finds 'twere

"Better to clear prime forests, heave and thump
 A league of street in summer solstice down,
 Than hammer at this reverend gentlewoman."

However, he promises that if she will wink at their advent, and help the prince to gain his rightful bride, she shall have a Ladies College to herself, where she may reign

"The head and heart of all the fair she-world,"——

being only a subordinate where she is, and very jealous of the Lady Psyche's influence, she listens to that, and for the present suspends denunciation.  Meanwhile a messenger arrives to announce that the princess is about to take the dip of certain strata to the north, and they ride forth with her.  On the way, the disguised prince still urges his suit, but the princess smartly rebuffs all mention of love.  Arrived at the spot, they pitch their tents for refreshment and rest, when one sings the following exceedingly beautiful song:


"Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
 Tears from the depth of some divine despair,
 Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
 In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
 And thinking of the days that are no more.

"Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail
 That brings our friends up from the underworld,
 Sad as the last which reddens over one
 That sinks with all we love, below the verge,
 So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

"Oh, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
 The earliest pipe of half awakened birds
 To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
 The casement slowly grows a glimmering square
 So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

"Dear as remembered after death,
 And Sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd
 On lips that are for others:—deep as love,
 Deep as first love, and wild with all regret,
 Oh, death in life, the days that are no more."

The princess cries out on such lachrymose stuff as "The days that are no more," and asks the prince—

"Know you no song of your own land,
 Not such as moans about the retrospect,
 But deals with th' other distance and the hues
 Of promise; not a Death's-head at the wine."

And he in a maiden-like voice, so far as he can ape their treble, sings—

"O Swallow, Swallow, flying, flying, South,
 Fly to her, and fall upon her gilded eaves,
 And tell her, tell her what I tell to thee.

"O tell her Swallow, that thou knowest each,
 That bright, and fierce, and fickle, is the South,
 And dark, and true, and tender, is the North.

"O Swallow, Swallow, if I could follow, and light
 Upon her lattice, I would pipe and trill
 And cheep and twitter twenty-million loves.

"O were I thou that she might take me in,
 And lay me on her bosom, and her heart
 Would rock the snowy cradle till I died.

"Why lingereth she to clothe her heart with love,
 Delaying as the tender ash delays
 To clothe herself when all the woods are green?

"O Swallow, flying from the golden woods,
 Fly to her, and pipe and woo her, and make her mine,
 And tell her, tell her, that I follow thee."

The princess, still unsatisfied, asks for some song that shall tell the manners of their countrywomen,—then—

"Cyril with whom the bell-mouth'd flask had wrought,
 O'er-master'd by the sense of sport, began
 To troll a careless, careless tavern-catch,
 Of Moll and Meg, and strange experiences
 Unmeet for ladies.   Florian nodded at him,
 I frowning, Psyche flushed and wanned and shook,—
 'Forbear,' the princess cried, 'Forbear Sir, I,
 And heated through and through, with wrath and love,
 I smote him on the breast,—he started up;
 There rose a cry as of a city sack'd—
 'To horse '—said Ida, 'home, to horse'—and fled."

But, in her rage arid blind hurry, she stumbles on the bridge, and falls into the roaring flood.  The prince plunges in after her, and rescues her, and she is borne home.  After examination, the three are thrust out of the gates, in their draggled women's raiment; meanwhile, the prince's father has invested the walls with an array of men, being bent on the fulfilment of the contract.  Another army is also at hand, headed by the princess's father, and brother Arac. The prince pleads for peace, but the princess will have them fight it out, in the good old English way.  It is agreed that fifty champions from each army shall combat, both parties engaging to abide by the issue, lose or gain.

    They fight, and the champions of the prince's cause are vanquished, and the prince lies on the field wounded almost to the death.  The princess, who has stood to watch the combat, chaunts a grand pœan of


"Our enemies have fall'n! have fall'n! the seed
 The little seed they laughed at in the dark,
 Has risen and cleft the soil, and grown a bulk
 Of spanless girth, that lays on every side
 A thousand arms and rushes to the sun

 Our enemies have fall'n! have fall'n they came;
 The leaves were wet with women's tears: they heard
 A noise of songs they would not understand,
 They marked it with the red-cross to the fall,
 And would have strown it, and are fall'n themselves.

"Our enemies have fall'n! have fall'n! they struck;
 With their own blows they hurt themselves, nor knew
 There dwelt an iron nature in the grain:
 The glittering axe was broken in their arms,
 Their arms were shattered to the shoulder-blade.

 Our enemies have fall'n! but this shall grow
 A night of Summer from the heat, a breadth
 Of Autumn, dropping fruits of power; and, rolled
 With music in the growing breeze of Time,
 The tops shall strike from star to star, the fangs
 Shall move the stony bases of the world."

She descends, and mingles with the wounded of her brother's band, calling them happy warriors, and immortal names,—when by chance she passes by where the wounded prince lies, with his old father bending over him in dumb agony.

       "Up-started from my side
 The old lion, glaring with his whelpless eye
 Silent but when she saw me lying stark
 Dishelm'd and mute, and motionlessly pale,
 Cold even to her, she sighed, and when she saw
 The haggard father's face and reverend beard
 Of grisly twine, all dabbled o'er with blood
 Of his own son, shuddered, a twitch of pain
 Tortured her mouth, and o'er her forehead past
 A shadow, and her brow changed, and she said
 'He saved my life, my brother slew him for it."

But, gentler feelings are stirring at her heart and heaving her breast now—and "she will have the prince taken with the other wounded into the palace, late the College for Ladies, and she will tend him even with her own hand.  Firm as she had stood, like a tree rooted in a cataract, she is being gradually borne away by the stream of love,—but this will better tell the tale.

"Ask me no more: the moon may draw the sea;
     The cloud may stoop from heaven and take the shape,
     With fold to fold, of mountain or of cape:
 But O too fond, when have I answered thee?
                                 Ask me no more.
 Ask me no more: what answer should I give?
     I love not bellow cheek or faded eye
     Yet, O my friend, I will not have thee die!
 Ask me no more, lest I should bid thee live;
                                 Ask me no more.

Ask me no more: thy fate and mine are sealed:
     I strove against the stream and all in vain:
     Let the great river take me to the main:
 No more, dear love, for at a touch I yield;
                                  Ask me no more."

    The cold self-reliant pride that had gathered round and frosted up her true and tender heart, sealing up the sweet springs of affection at their fountain-head—gradually melts in the great and glorifying light of priceless human love—it becomes a warm living thing, pulsing boundless humanity, and budding-out like the earth at the voice of Spring; and all her better self,—the angel-side of her nature,—shines out in the dewy radiance of that holy dawn.  Long does she nurse the prince with anxious care—

"And out of memories of her kindlier days,
 And side-long glances at my father's grief,
 And at the happy lovers heart in heart,
 And out of hauntings of my spoken love,
 And lonely listenings to my muttered dream,
 And frequent feeling of the helpless hands.
 And wordless brooding on my wasted cheek,
 From all a closer interest flourished up,
 Tenderness touch by touch, and last, to these,
 Love, like an Alpine harebell hung with tears
 By some some cold morning glacier; frail at first .
 And feeble, all unconscious of itself,
 But such as gathered colour clay by day."

The prince who has long lain insensible and raving, at last wakes sane, and seeing Ida by his side, whispers—

"If you be what I think you, some sweet dream,
 I would but ask you to fulfil yourself:
 But if you be that Ida whom I knew
 I ask you nothing,—only, if a dream
 Sweet dream! be perfect; I shall die to-night,
 Stoop down and seem to kiss me ere I die,'
                         She turn'd, she paused,
 She stoop'd: and out of languor leapt a cry,
 Leapt fiery Passion from the brinks of death:
 And I believed that in the living world
 My spirit closed with Ida's at the lips,
 Till back I fell, and from mine arms she rose,
 Glowing all over noble shame; and all
 Her falser self slipt from her like a robe,
 And left her a woman."

Glorious! she has felt the delicious happiness of being humbled by love, the dark cloud that has gathered over her has wept itself in blessed-fructifying rain, she is humbled, and broken,—but what exaltation there is in such a fall!  It is the dumb, cold marble, quickened into warm, breathing, living, loving life, stepping from its lofty pedestal and its isolation, a Woman!  She ascends the mount of transfiguration, unwonted splendour clothes her like a raiment of Paradise, and she sits at the feet and in the presence of the Beloved, glorying and glorified.



11 October 1851.


By Gerald Massey.


Words of mine would but dim the beauty of the following jewel, which the prince lies and listens to, in the night watches, read by Ida.  Was ever Persian or Arabic poetry so charmingly tender, or so beautiful in imagery?—

"Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white,—
 Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
 Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
 The fire-fly wakens: waken thou with me.

"Now droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,
 And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

"Now lies the earth all Danaë to the stars,
 And all thy heart lies open unto me.

 Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
 A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

"Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
 And slips into the bosom of the lake:
 So fold thyself my dearest, thou, and slip
 Into my bosom and be lost in me."

And the following is akin to the noblest poetry in the songs of Solomon—

                    THE SHEPHERD'S SONG.

"Come down, O maid from yonder mountain height,
 And cease to move so near the heavens, and cease
 To glide a sunbeam by the blasted pine,
 To sit a star up by the sparkling spire—
 And come, for Love is of the valley, come,
 For Love is of the valley, come thou down,
 And find him, by the happy threshold, he—
 Or hand in hand with Plenty in the maize,
 Or red with spirted purple of the vats,
 Nor wilt thou snare him in the white ravine,
 Nor find him dropt upon the firths of ice,
 But follow, let the torrent dance thee down
 To find him in the valley, let the wild
 Lean-headed eagles yelp alone, and leave
 The monstrous ledges there to slope, and spill
 Their thousand wreaths and dangling water-smoke,
 That like a broken purpose waste in air:
 So waste not thou, but come, for all the vales
 Await thee, children call on thee, and I
 Thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound,
 Sweeter thy voice but every sound is sweet,
Myriads of rivulets hurrying through the lawn,
 The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
 And murmur of innumerable bees."

    May the happy fulness of ineffable love ever over-flow the heart, and flood the hand, that touches the lyre into such music as that! What a flood of sweet sound and delectable melody it warbles into; more luscious than dropping honeycombs, or ripe grapes, glistening with their purple life-blood, and radiant with fire drawn from summer sunlight.

    Then follows loving talk and grand conjectures, and hopeful prophecy of dear Woman's future—to them it wears the beauty of promise.

"The woman's cause is man's: they rise or sink
 Together, dwarf 'd or Godlike, bond or free:
 If she be small, slight- natured, miserable,
 How shall men grow?   But work no more alone!
 For woman is not undevelopt man,
 But diverse: could we make her as the man,
 Sweet love were slain; his dearest bond is this—
 Not like to like, but like in difference.
 Yet in the long years liker must they grow;
 The man be more of woman, she of man;
 He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
 Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
 She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,
 Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind;
 Till at the last she set herself to matt
 Like perfect music unto noble words;
 And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time,
 Sit side by side, full summ'd in all their powers,
 Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-be,
 Self-reverent each and reverencing each,
 Distinct in individualities,
 But like each other, even as those who love.
 Then comes the statlier Eden back to men:
 Then reign the world's great bridals, chaste and calm,
 Then spring; the crowning race of human kind."

And the "Princess" concludes with lines worthy of being the Epithalamium to those bridals from which shall spring the crowning race of our humanity, whose home shall be the Millennium,

"Dear, look up, let thy nature strike on mine
 Like yonder morning on the blind half world:
 Approach and fear not: breathe upon my brows:
 In that fine air I tremble, all the past
 Melts mist-like into this bright hour, and this
 Is more to more, and all the rich to come
 Reels, as the golden autumn woodland reels
 Athwart the smoke of burning weeds.
   For-give me,
 I waste my heart in signs, let be, my Bride!
 My Wife! my Life: O we will walk this world
 Yoked in all exercise of noble end,
 And so through those dark gates across the wild
 That no man knows.    My hopes and thine are one:
 Accomplish thou my manhood and thyself;
 Lay thy sweet hands in mine; and trust to me."

    In the epilogue, the poet, speaking in his own person, shows that he does not take up advanced opinions merely to make poetry upon, but that he is an earnest reformer;—in answer to some Tory vauntings of England's boasted superiority over France, he replies—

"'Have patience,' we ourselves are full
 Of social wrong
; and may be, wildest dreams
 Are but the needful preludes of the truth;
 For me, the genial day, the happy crowd,
 The sport half science, fill me with a faith,
 This fine old world of ours is but a child
 Yet in the go-cart.    Patience!    Give it time
 To learn its limbs:
there is a hand that guides."



1 November 1851.


By Gerald Massey.


I cannot quit the "Princess" without one more loving glance into its gallery of glorious pictures.  Tennyson is as rich in pictures as old Spenser, and as much a painter of the poets.  How vividly the mystic glory of moon-lit midnight broods over this—

                           "Half in doze I seem'd
 To float about a glimmering night, and watch
 A full sea, glazed with muffled moonlight, swell
 On some dark shore, just seen that it was rich."

How perfect the following—

"There stood Melissa with her lips apart,
 And all her thoughts as fair within her eyes,
 As bottom agates seen to wave and float
 In crystal currents of clear morning seas."


"Morn in the white wake of the morning star
 Came furrowing all the orient into gold."

"Here and there the small bright head," (of the little child)
"A light of healing, glanced about the couch,
 Or through the parted silks the tender face
 Peep'd, shining in upon the wounded man
 With blush and smile, a medicine in themselves."


                                "Many a little hand
 Glanced like a touch of sunshine on the rock,
 Many a light foot shone like a jewel set

 In the dark crag. . . . Till the sun
 Grew broader toward his death and fell, and all
 The rosy heights came out above the lawns."

And again—

"My mother looks as whole as some serene
 Creation minted in the golden moods
 Of sovereign artists; not a thought, a touch,
 But pure as lines of green that streak the white
 Of the first snowdrop's inner leaves; I say
 Not like the piebald miscellany man,
 Bursts of great heart, and slips in sensual mire,
 But whole and one."

How true, and how well said is this too—

                               "And let me tell you girl
 Howe'er you babble, great deeds cannot die:
 They with the sun and moon renew their light
 For ever, blessing those that look on them

This is grand as Homer—

                        "But that large-moulded man,
 His visage all agrin as at a wake,
 Made at me through the press, and, staggering back
 With stroke on stroke the horse and horseman came,
 As comes a pillar of electric cloud,
 Flaying the roofs and sucking up the drains,
 And shadowing down the champain till it strikes a
 On a wood, and takes, and breaks, and cracks, and splits,
 And twists the grain with such a roar that earth
 Reels, and the herdsmen cry,—for everything
 Gave way before him."

The following is equally fine—

"Not peace she looked the Head! but rising up
 Robed in the long night of her deep hair, so
 To the open window moved, remaining there
 Fixt like a beacon-tower above the waves
 Of tempest, when the crimson-rolling eye
 Glares ruin: and the wild birds in the light
 Dash themselves dead.    She stretch'd her arms and called
 Across the tumult, and the tumult fell

    It is also gemmed with beautiful similes, how aptly this hits the Italianesque of ladies penmanship—

"Then I sat down and wrote,
  In such a hand as when a field of corn
  Bows all its ears before the roaring east."

This again is a happy fancy—

"She held it out, and as a parrot turns
 Up through gilt wires a crafty, loving eye,
 And takes a lady's finger with all care,
 And bites it for true heart, and not for harm,
 So he with Lilia's

And the description of LiIia herself—

"A rosebud set with little wilful thorns,
 And sweet as English air could make her."

Here is a fine image—

                               "And Hope,
A poising eagle, burns above th' unrisen morrow."

Affright and dismay are graphically depicted and admirably realized, in the following—

Stared in her eyes, and chalk'd her face, and wing'd
Her transit to the Throne, whereby she fell."

Honour is justly called—

                                   "This wild wreath of air,
 This flake of rainbow flying on the highest
 Foam of men's deeds."

And here is a whole cluster of rich thoughts—

                 "When a boy, you stoop'd to me
 From all high places, lived in all fair' lights,
 Came in long breezes rapt from inmost south
 And blown to inmost north; at eve and dawn
 With Ida, Ida, Ida, rang the woods;
 The leader wild-swan in among the stars
 Would clang it, and lapt in wreaths of glow-worm light
 The mellow breaker murmur'd Ida.   Now
 I cannot cease to follow you as they say
 The seal does music; who desire you more
 Than growing boys their manhood, dying lips
 With many thousand matters left to do,
 The breath of life."

The "Princess" is interspersed with beautiful songs, one in the pause of each canto.  I have already quoted one of these gems "Ask me no more."  And how powerfully they contrast the true ideal of Womanhood, with the object of Ida's false ambition.  And how they enhance your estimate of Tennyson's wonderful genius, and mastery of art.  In the midst of the fanciful, the mystical, the heroic, and the false—they surprise you with their sweet and simple gushings of natural feeling, and naive truthfulness.  How direct is the following? not a simile, or metaphor, or fancy-word.  I wonder why Tennyson has altered it in later editions;—he may have improved the moral of the thing, but certainly not the Poetry.

"As through the land at eve we went,
     And pluck'd the ripen'd ears
 We fell out, my wife and I,
     And kiss'd again with tears.

 And blessings on the falling out
     That all the more endears,
 When we fall out with those we love,
     And kiss again with tears.

 For where we came where sleeps the child
     We lost in other years—
 There above the little grave
     We kiss'd again with tears."

    It seems to me that by cutting out that middle verse, he has not only injured the poetry, but, forsworn some of its love's sweetest philosophy—why, it's quite as true that a true lover will bless "the falling out that all the more endears" as that a devout Christian will bless God for purifying suffering, and ennobling chastisement; it is as true now, O, Poet, as when you wrote it; you may have waxed somewhat older, but eternal love has not,—it lives on in its immortality of youth.  But, I must conclude, and it shall be with the following lyric, unequalled in modern or ancient song; it ought to be set to noble music by some composer, grand as Handel, and subtle as Mozart—and then warbled by Jenny Lind, for its lyrical qualities to be full'y appreciated.

                  THE BUGLE-SONG.

   "The splendour falls on castle-walls
          And snowy summits old in story:
     The long light shakes across the lakes
         And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle, answer echoes, dying, dying, dying.
     O hark! O hear! how thin and clear,
          And thinner, clearer, farther going!
     O sweet and far from cliff and scar
         The horns of Elfland faintly blowing:
 Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying
 Blow, bugle, answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
     O love, they die in yon rich sky,
         They faint on hill, or field, or river:
     Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
         And grow for ever and for ever.

Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying."