“Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
His verse often swells and falls with a wavelike rhythm as in Saul or in these lines in Abt Vogler:—
“There shall never be one lost good!
What was, shall live as before;
The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;
What was good shall be good, with, for evil, so much good more;
On the earth the broken arc; in the heaven, a perfect round.”
While, therefore, Browning’s poetry is sometimes harsh, faulty, and obscure, at times his melodies can be rhythmically simple and beautiful. He is one of the subtlest analysts of the human mind, the most original and impassioned poet of his age, and one of the most hopeful, inspiring, and uplifting teachers of modern times.
[Illustration: ALFRED TENNYSON. From a photograph by Mayall.]
Life.—Alfred Tennyson, one of the twelve children of the rector of Somersby, Lincolnshire, was born in that hamlet in 1809, a year memorable, both in England and America for the birth of such men as Charles Darwin, William E. Gladstone, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe, and Abraham Lincoln.
Visitors to the Somersby rectory, in which Tennyson was born, note that it fits the description of the home in his fine lyric, The Palace of Art:—
“...an English home,—gray twilight pour’d On dewy pastures, dewy trees, Softer than sleep—all things in order stored, A haunt of ancient peace.”
His mother, one of the beauties of Lincolnshire, had twenty-five offers of marriage. Of her Tennyson said in The Princess:—
With such a mother! faith in womankind
Beats with his blood, and trust in all things high
Comes easy to him, and tho’ he trip and fall,
He shall not blind his soul with clay.”
It is probable that Tennyson holds the record among English poets of his class for the quantity of youthful verse produced. At the age of eight, he was writing blank verse in praise of flowers; at twelve, he began an epic which extended to six thousand lines.
In 1828 he entered Cambridge University; but in 1831 his father’s sickness and death made it impossible for him to return to take his degree. Before leaving Cambridge, Tennyson had found a firm friend in a young college mate of great promise, Arthur Henry Hallam, who became engaged to the poet’s sister, Emily Tennyson. Hallam’s sudden death in 1832 was a profound shock to Tennyson and had far-reaching effects on his poetic development. For a long time he lived in comparative retirement, endeavoring to perfect himself in the poetic art.