20 DECEMBER 1946, Page 17

Fifty or Myriads ?

A query last week concerning Tennyson's correction of the seed- distribution passage in In Memoriam has been answered, but not perhaps completely. In reference to the line in question, " Of fifty brings but one to bear," Hallam Tennyson in his edition of his father's poems has this note: " ' Fifty ' should be myriad," but he does not say whether the correction was made by himself or by Alfred Tennyson. There is, I fancy, somewhere an account of a conversation on the subject between the poet and some men of science. " Fifty," of course, is an absurd under- statement, especially if " to bear " meant to come to maturity. As an example, a dweller by a common, on which juniper both grows and seeds very freely, sought diligently over a period of forty years for a seedling and never found one. For myself, I have never yet found an apple seed- ling. On the other hand, one may well marvel at the host of seedlings that appear—and disappear—in the neighbourhood of a sycamore tree.