18 DECEMBER 1886, Page 10

• " LOCKSLEY HALL" IN YOUTH AND AGE. the cumulative

resources of science and the arts ;—in the latter, the melancholy in the man, a result of ebbing Vitality, justifies itself by the failure of knowledge and science to cope with the morn horrors which experience has brought to light, while the set- off against that melancholy is to be found in a real per- sonal experience of true nobility in man and woman. Hence, those who call the new " Lockeley Hall" pessimist, seem to us to do injustice to that fine poem. No one can expect age to be full of the irrepressible buoyancy of youth. Age is con- scious of a dwindling power to meet the evils which loom larger as experience widens. What the noblest old age has to set off against this consciousness of rapidly diminishing buoyancy, is a larger and more solid experience of human goodness, as well as a deeper faith in the power which guides youth and age alike.

Now, Tennyson's poem shows us these happier aspects of age, though it shows us also that exaggerated despondency in counting up the moral evils of life which is one of the consequences of dwindling vitality. tNothing could well be finer than Tennyson's picture of the despair which his hero would feel if he had nothing but " evolution " to depend on, or than the rebuke which the speaker himself gives to that despair when he remembers how much more than evolution there is to depend on,—how surely that has been already " evolved " in the soul of man, which, itself inex- plicable by evolution, yet promises an evolution far richer and more boundless than is suggested by any physical law. The final upshot of the swaying tides of progress and retrogression, in their periodic advance and retreat, is, he tells us, quite incalculable by us,—the complexity of the forward and backward move- ments of the wave being a complexity beyond our• grasp,—and yet he is sure that there is that in us which supplies an ultimate solution of the riddle :— "Forward, backward, backward, forward, in the immeasurable sea Sway'd by vaster ebbs and flows than can be known to you or me.

All the suns—are these but symbols of innumerable man, Manor Mind that sees a shadow of the planner or the plan ?

Is there evil but on earth ? or pain in every peopled sphere ? Well be grateful for the sounding watchword, 'Evolution' here.

Evolution ever climbing after some ideal good, And Reversion ever dragging Evolution in the mud.

What are men that He should heed us ? cried the king of sacred song; Insects of an hour, that hourly work their brother insect wrong., While the silent Heavens roll, and Suns along their fiery way, All their planets whirling round them, flash a million miles a day. Many an ./Eon moulded earth before her highest, m_ an, was born, Many an .on too may pass when earth is manless and-forlorn, — Earth so huge, and yet so bounded—pools of salt, and plots of land— Shallow akin of green and azure—chains of mountain, grains of sand !

Only That which made us, meant us to be mightier by and by, Set the sphere of all the boundless Heavens within the human. eye,

Sent the shadow of Himself, the boundless, thro' the human. soul ; Boundless inward, in the atom, boundless outward, in the Whole."

We doubt whether this, and the exquisite passage which pre- cedes it in relation to the optimistic dreams which astronomical science has given birth to amongst us, is not in depth and beauty superior to any passage in the earlier poem; though it cannot, and ought not to glow with the irrepressible buoy- ancy of youth. And though it is quite true that the old man falls back again from this higher level to his old despondency, as he recalls the hideousness and misery of the haunts of city vice, without recalling, as he might well have recalled, the vastly increased resources of moral heroism devoted to the conflict with that vice,—yet no sooner does his monologue return from this wider survey to the individual life really within the speaker's own experience, than his hope revives, and speaking with the wisdom of true experience, he tells us that, if all would but exert on the side of good that "half-control" over their doom with which men have been endowed, the future of Earth might be a grand one yet:— '"'Ere she gain her Heavenly-best, a God must mingle with the game: Nay, there maybe titOsb abut de whom we neither see nor name,

Felt within us as ourselves, the Powers of Good, the Powers of ill, .Strowing balm, or shedding poison in the fountains of the Will.

'follow you the Sbar that lights a desert pathway, yours or mine. Forward, till you see the highest Human Nature is divine.

Follow Light, and do the Right—for man can half-control his doom-

4111 you find the deathless Angel seated in the vacant tomb."

It may, however, be admitted that this later poem is full of fine thoughts even by those who deny that it contains anythinglike the resonance and thrill of the earlier poem. This we should not assert ; but we should insist that such a thrill of emotion and such a resonance of expression would be out of place in the " Locksley Hall" of "Sixty Years After." It was of the very essence of the first poem to paint the warm pulses of life beating in the heart of an ardent, disappointed youth. The lines which have become most popular and entered deepest into the thought of the day, such as the line in which the hero of the poem calls himself "the heir of all the ages in the foremost files of time," or those in which he pours forth his scorn of anything like stationariness, and exclaims,—

" Not in vain the distance beacons, Forward, forward let us range ; Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change,"— are, and were meant to be, expressive of the almost irrational

enthusiasm of youth. Such lines as these would be wholly out of character in" Locksley Hall SixtyYears After ;" but are there none to supply their place ? It seems to us that the poem abounds in the imaginative expression of the experience of age, of the sad sense of declining vitality, of the firm sense of dis- interested conviction. Take the following, for example, as an illustration of the former feeling :—

"There again I stood to-day, and where of old we knelt in prayer, Close beneath the casement crimson with the shield of Locksley- there;

All in white Italian marble, looking still as if she smiled, Lies my Amy dead in child-birth, dead the mother, dead the child.

Dead—and sixty years ago and dead her aged husband now, I this old white-headed dreamer stoopt and kiss'd her marble brow.

Gone the fires of youth, the follies, furies, curses, passionate tears, Gone like fires and floods and earthquakes of the planet's dawning years.

Fires that shook me once, but now to silent ashes fall'n away. Cold upon the dead volcano sleeps the gleam of dying day."

And as an illustration of the strong grasp which age gets of convictions which are products neither of hope nor of fear,

take the following on the significance of the belief in eternity as,nleniding -and shaping to new meanings the life of man :— , gone for ever ! Ever ? no—for since our dying race began, Ever, eye, and for ever was the leading light of man.

. - Those that in barbarian burials kill'd the slave, and slew the wife, Felt within themselves the sacred passioztof the second life.

Truth for truth, and good for good ! The Good, the True, the Pare, the Just; Take the charm ' For-ever ' from them, and they crumble into dust."

Has Tennyson ever written anything which concentrates into a single line more of the wisdom of maturity than the last line here , quoted ?

But the devotees of the earlier poem will no doubt refer to _ the admirable invective against "my Amy shallow-hearted," and the angry prophecy, happily falsified by the story of the new poem,—of her probable old age :—

" Oh ! I see thee old and formal, fitted to thy petty part,

With a little hoard of maxims preaching down a daughter's heart,—

' They were dangerous guides, the feelings,—she herself was not exempt,—

Truly she herself had suffered,'—perish in thy self-contempt."

That is very spirited, no doubt, and expresses perfectly the resentful indignation of the unhappy lover. But is it better than the old man's scornful description of the woman who had just refused his grandson, in order to marry a rich old maul'—

, ''Yours has been a slighter ailment, will you sicken for her sake ? Ydtt,aot yon! your modern amourist is of easier, earthlier make.

Anty loved-use, Amy fail'd me, Amy was a timid child ; Bat your Judith—bat your worldling—she had never driven me wild.

She that holds the diamond necklace dearer than the golden ring, She that finds a winter sunset fairer than a morn of Spring.

She that in her heart is brooding on his briefer lease of life,

While she vows 'till death shall part us,' she the would-be-widow wife."

There you have at once the laudator ternporis acti, the belief that the youth of modern days is not like the youth of ancient • days, and yet with it the same vigour of expression in the mood , of intellectual scorn, which was shown in the earlier poem in rendering the mood of resentful indignation.

Any one who will read the two pieces side by side will, we . think, easily convince himself that while there are fewer lines in the new poem which will take captive the popular fancy of the day, than there were in the earlier poem in relation to the popular fancy of that earlier day, there are also fewer feeble lines, fewer lines which might be omitted almost without any one missing them who did not know the poem by heart. For example, in the earlier poem the young man's " curse " on all the social wants and social lies and sickly forms to which he ascribes his mis- fortune, has always seemed to us rather feeble, recalling the famous curse in Faust, without coming near to it in verve and vigour. There are few such passages in the new poem, in which there are only two couplets,—the awkward one in which " Zolaism" rhymes to "abysm," and the grotesque one which represents the "black Australian" as hoping that death will transform him into a white,—which we should be glad to be rid of. On the whole, we have here the natural pessimism of age in all its melancholy, alternating with that highest mood like "old experience" which, in Milton's phrase, " doth attain to something like prophetic strain." The various eddies caused by these posi- tive and negative currents seem to us delineated with at least as firm a hand as that which painted the tumultuous ebb and flow of angry despair and angrier hope in the bosom of the deceived and resentful lover of sixty years since. The later " Locksley Hall" is in the highest sense worthy of its predecessor.