Adventures Among Books eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 273 pages of information about Adventures Among Books.

It would be interesting, were it possible, to know what proportion of people really care for poetry, and how the love of poetry came to them, and grew in them, and where and when it stopped.  Modern poets whom one meets are apt to say that poetry is not read at all.  Byron’s Murray ceased to publish poetry in 1830, just when Tennyson and Browning were striking their preludes.  Probably Mr. Murray was wise in his generation.  But it is also likely that many persons, even now, are attached to poetry, though they certainly do not buy contemporary verse.  How did the passion come to them?  How long did it stay?  When did the Muse say good-bye?  To myself, as I have remarked, poetry came with Sir Walter Scott, for one read Shakespeare as a child, rather in a kind of dream of fairyland and enchanted isles, than with any distinct consciousness that one was occupied with poetry.  Next to Scott, with me, came Longfellow, who pleased one as more reflective and tenderly sentimental, while the reflections were not so deep as to be puzzling.  I remember how “Hiawatha” came out, when one was a boy, and how delightful was the free forest life, and Minnehaha, and Paupukkeewis, and Nokomis.  One did not then know that the same charm, with a yet fresher dew upon it, was to meet one later, in the “Kalewala.”  But, at that time, one had no conscious pleasure in poetic style, except in such ringing verse as Scott’s, and Campbell’s in his patriotic pieces.  The pleasure and enchantment of style first appealed to me, at about the age of fifteen, when one read for the first time—­

   “So all day long the noise of battle rolled
   Among the mountains by the winter sea;
   Until King Arthur’s Table, man by man,
   Had fallen in Lyonnesse about their Lord.”

Previously one had only heard of Mr. Tennyson as a name.  When a child I was told that a poet was coming to a house in the Highlands where we chanced to be, a poet named Tennyson.  “Is he a poet like Sir Walter Scott?” I remember asking, and was told, “No, he was not like Sir Walter Scott.”  Hearing no more of him, I was prowling among the books in an ancient house, a rambling old place with a ghost-room, where I found Tupper, and could not get on with “Proverbial Philosophy.”  Next I tried Tennyson, and instantly a new light of poetry dawned, a new music was audible, a new god came into my medley of a Pantheon, a god never to be dethroned.  “Men scarcely know how beautiful fire is,” Shelley says.  I am convinced that we scarcely know how great a poet Lord Tennyson is; use has made him too familiar.  The same hand has “raised the Table Round again,” that has written the sacred book of friendship, that has lulled us with the magic of the “Lotus Eaters,” and the melody of “Tithonus.”  He has made us move, like his own Prince—­

      “Among a world of ghosts,
   And feel ourselves the shadows of a dream.”

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Adventures Among Books from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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