One could wish, indeed, that more decisive marks of moral development had been exhibited in the latter stages of Faust’s career. But here comes in the Christian doctrine of Grace, which Goethe applies to the problem of man’s destiny. Faust is represented as saved by no merit of his own, but by the interest which Heaven has in every soul in which there is the possibility of a heavenly life.
And so the new-born ascending spirit is committed by the Mater gloriosa to the tutelage of Gretchen [Margaret],—una poenitentium,—now purified from all the stains of her earthly life, to whom is given the injunction:—
up to higher spheres!
When he divines, he’ll follow thee.”
And the Mystic Choir chants the epilogue which embodies the moral of the play:—
“All that is perishing
Types the ideal;
Dream of our cherishing
Thus becomes real.
Here it is done;
The ever womanly
Draweth us on.”
ALFRED (LORD) TENNYSON.
THE SPIRIT OF MODERN POETRY.
BY G. MERCER ADAM.
Of Tennyson what can one write freshly to-day that will not seem but an echo of what has been said or written of England’s noble singer who, on the death of Wordsworth, now over half a century ago, assumed the official bays of the English laureateship? Personal homage, of course, one can pay to the illustrious name, so dear to the heart of the English-speaking race; but how freshly or vitally can any writer now speak of that magnificent body of his verse which is the glory of his age, of the nobility and knightly virtues of its author’s character, of the splendor of his genius, or of the breadth of intellectual and spiritual interests which was so signally manifested in all that Tennyson thought and wrote? Among the “Beacon Lights” in the present series of volumes the Laureate of the age has not hitherto been included, and to fill the gap the writer of this sketch has ventured, not, of course, to say all that might be said of the great poet, but modestly to deal with the man and his art, so that neither his era nor his work shall go unchronicled or fail of some recognition, however inadequate, in these pages.
Tennyson’s supreme excellence, it is admitted, lies not so much in his themes as in his transcendent art. It is this that has given him his hold upon a cultured age and won for him immortality. His work is the perfection of literary form, and, in his lyrical pieces especially, his melody is exquisite. Not less masterly is his power of construction, while his sensibility to beauty is phenomenal. His secluded life brought him close to nature’s heart and made him familiar with her every voice and mood. In interpreting these, much of the charm lies in the fidelity of his descriptions and in the surpassing