It would be superfluous to enter upon any general criticism of this collection, which was examined when still recent in this Review, and a large portion of which is established in the familiar recollection and favour of the public. We may, however, say that what may be termed at large the classical idea (though it is not that of Troas nor of the Homeric period) has, perhaps, never been grasped with greater force and justice than in “Oenone,” nor exhibited in a form of more consummate polish. “Ulysses” is likewise a highly finished poem; but it is open to the remark that it exhibits (so to speak) a corner-view of a character which was in itself a cosmos. Never has political philosophy been wedded to the poetic form more happily than in the three short pieces on England and her institutions, unhappily without title, and only to be cited, like writs of law and papal bulls, by their first words. Even among the rejected pieces there are specimens of a deep metaphysical insight; and this power reappears with an increasing growth of ethical and social wisdom in “Locksley Hall” and elsewhere. The Wordsworthian poem of “Dora” is admirable in its kind. From the firmness of its drawing, and the depth and singular purity of its colour, “Godiva” stood, if we judge aright, as at once a great performance and a great pledge. But, above all, the fragmentary piece on the Death of Arthur was a fit prelude to that lordly music which is now sounding in our ears. If we pass onward from these volumes, it is only because space forbids a further enumeration.
The “Princess” was published in 1847. The author has termed it “a medley”: why, we know not. It approaches more nearly to the character of a regular drama, with the stage directions written into verse, than any other of his works, and it is composed consecutively throughout on the basis of one idea. It exhibits an effort to amalgamate the place and function of woman with that of man, and the failure of that effort, which duly winds up with the surrender and marriage of the fairest and chief enthusiast. It may be doubted whether the idea is one well suited to exhibition in a quasi-dramatic form. Certainly the mode of embodying it, so far as it is dramatic, is not successful; for here again the persons are little better than mere personae. They are media, and weak media, for the conveyance of the ideas. The poem is, nevertheless, one of high interest, on account of the force, purity and nobleness of the main streams of thought, which are clothed in language full of all Mr. Tennyson’s excellences; and also because it marks the earliest effort of his mind in the direction of his latest and greatest achievements.