That is like nothing on earth: music and diction are stark new. And that was the way of it for a forty years of freedom.
Then came a reaction. With Queen Victoria we all went to church again in our Sunday clothes. You cannot date Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth by the fashions; but you can date Tennyson assuredly. He belongs to the top-hat and the crinoline; to Friends in Council and “nice feelings.” True, there was nothing dressy about Tennyson himself. I doubt if he ever wore a top-hat. But is not The Gardener’s Daughter in ringlets? Did not Aunt Elizabeth and Sister Lilia wear crinolines? And as for Maud—
Look, a horse at the door,
And little King Charley snarling:
Go back, my lord, across the moor,
You are not her darling.
That settles it. “Little King Charley’s” name would have been Gyp. I yield to no man in my admiration of In Memoriam; but when one compares it with Adonais it is impossible not to allocate the one and salute the other as for all time and place:
When in the down I sink my head
Sleep, Death’s twin-brother, times my breath;
Sleep, Death’s twin-brother, knows not Death,
Nor can I dream of thee as dead.
He lives, he wakes—’tis
Death is dead, not he;
Mourn not for Adonais. Thou young Dawn,
Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee
The spirit thou lamentest is not gone.
No: In Memoriam is a beautiful poem, and technically a much better one than Adonais. But the spirit is different; narrower, more circumscribed; in a word, it dates, like the top-hat and the crinoline.
In our day, clothes have lost touch with mankind, they cover the body but do not express the soul. With the vogue of the short coat, short skirt, slouch hat, and brown boots, style has gone out and ease come in; and with ease, it would seem, easy, not to say free-and-easy, manners. I speak not of the “nineties” when a young degenerate could lightly say,
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara, in my fashion,
and be praised for it, but rather of the Georgians, of whom a golden lad, who happily lived long enough to do better, wrote thus of a lady of his love:
And I shall find some girl, perhaps,
And a better one than you,
With eyes as wise, but kindlier,
And lips as soft, but true.
And I daresay she will do.
If that is not slouch-hat and brown boots, I don’t know what to call it. For that golden lad I think The Shropshire Lad must answer, who perhaps brought corduroys into the drawing-room. And if that is to be the way of it, we should do well to go back to Lovelace or Waller, and make believe with a difference. I shall find myself watching the sunny side of Bond Street for a revival—because while one does not ask for passion, or even object