Page images

admits, it is true, that there are things in the ordering of the world that he does not understand

[ocr errors][merged small]

Assuredly through Arthur's last speeches there does not ring the note of despair. For himself he is still looking forward, and for those left behind

.... The new sun rose, bringing the new year.' Professor Mahaffy has found a parallel for 'In Memoriam,' * perhaps the most remarkable poem of our generation,' in the sculptured portraiture of grief, and of grief at parting, still existing at Athens on the tombstones of the ancient Greeks. With admirable art they present an ideal portrait of the grief of parting—'a grief that comes to us all and • lays bitter hold of us at some season of life; and it is this 'great universal sorrow—this great common flaw in our lives--which the Greek artist has brought before us, and which calls forth our deepest sympathy. It is not that we are moved either by the poem or the tomb with a special interest in him whose death is recorded. So far as the general reader is concerned the death of any friend of the poet would have served as well as that of Arthur Hallam for the purpose of the poem ; and so impersonal are the sculptures that they have been thought in many cases to have been purchased from the artists ready made, without having been designed for the special personages whose death they record.* Mr. Stopford Brooke in two admirable chapters brings out the growth of the poet's feeling from a condition of mere absorption in his own personal loss to a condition where his self-absorption is merged in his general sympathy with his fellow-men. The Greek sculpture, beautiful, as only the work of real genius can be, depicts and idealises human grief. It neither does nor pretends to do more, and marble has nowhere else so powerfully spoken to men of the sadness of surviving. But ‘In Memoriam' aims at and achieves much more than this. Consolation and hope come again to the grieving friend, after many a despairing and struggling hour, and the poem leaves him at last looking not backward in sorrow but forward in faith to

* Rambles and Studies in Greece.'

* That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far off divine event

To which the whole creation moves.' Arthur Hallam died in September 1833. The course of the poem runs through two years and a half. The splendid prologue, containing a comment of later years and calmer mind upon poetry springing largely from the bitterness of grief, was written in 1849. The epilogue was due to the year 1842, when the poet's sister was married. Mr. Stopford Brooke has taken together the various epochs of sorrow, so to speak, through which Tennyson passed, as his friend's death receded further and further into the background. He compares the stanzas treating of the three Christmas Days, the succeeding springs, and the anniversaries of the death with much care and discernment; and we regret that we cannot afford space to lay before our readers with any fulness the work of these interesting chapters.

"" In Memoriam " is a song of victory and life arising out of defeat and death; of peace which has forgotten doubt; of joy whose mother was sorrow, but who has turned his mother's heart into delight. The conquest of love, the moral triumph of the soul over the worst blows of fate, over the outward forces of Nature, even over its own ill — that is the motive of the poems which endure, which, like the great lighthouses, stand and shine through the storms of time to save and lead into a haven of peace the navies of humanity. We are flooded to-day with poems of despair, with verse which boasts that it describes the real when it describes the base, which takes the vulture's pleasure in feeding on the corruption of society, and prophesies, when it lifts its dripping beak from the offal, that to this carcass complexion the whole of humanity will come at last. . . . The poetry of the souls defeat withers in the mind of the race. The poet himself who writes it withers away. Had " In Memoriam” been only wailing for loss, it would have perished, but since it describes death entering into life it is sure to live. . . . Its subject impassioned its writer, and the subject was simple, close to the heart of man. As the poem moved on the subject expanded, and the sorrow spoken of moved from the particular into the universal. The victory over the evil of sorrow made a similar passage. The poet's personal conquest of pain became the universal conquest of the human race. The expansion of the subject ennobled the poem, and the triumphant close secured and established its nobility. It will last when all its detractors and their criticisms are together dust.'

It is, perhaps, in his treatment of In Memoriam' that we see Mr. Stopford Brooke's study of Tennyson, always acute and interesting, at its best. As he declares elsewhere,


the loveliness of some of his poems speaks for itself, and our appreciation and admiration can hardly be increased by any quantity of explanation. • We love them because we

love them. But with In Memoriam' this is not the case; and many who in the past have only admired it in detail will be led by Mr. Stopford Brooke to understand it as a whole better than they have ever done before. It is, of course, inevitable that in an elaborate criticism of the poetry of a whole life the individuality of the critic himself should be almost as much before our eyes as that of the poet whom he is discussing. Tennyson treated Life and Death, and Religion, Love and Peace and War, Morals and Politics, and his critic of necessity follows him through all the wide range of his work. The very distinct individualities of the two men are constantly present to our minds, and our interest both in the work of the poet and the work of the critic is increased by the friendly friction, so to speak, between natures which are not identical.

It has been our intention here to deal mainly with the criticism of the principal poems of the late Poet Laureate, and we have had, therefore, to leave largely unnoticed our critic's treatment of those beautiful lyrics and minor pieces which for more than half a century Tennyson from time to time issued to the world. For these Mr. Stopford Brooke has nothing but admiration. Every one knows by heart the

Break, break, break

On thy cold grey stones, O Sea,' which first appeared in 1833. And every one knows the • Crossing of the Bar,' published, as it seems to us, but the other day. From the great deep to the great deep he goes,' was Merlin's prophecy about King Arthur, recalled to wind by Sir Bedivere at the final ‘passing. Arthur stands in the allegory for the Soul of Man. And, says Mr. Stopford Brooke, this well-loved speculation of the soul

coming out of the deep and returning to it again ’obtains recognition once more in the lines —

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call for me,
And may there be no moaning of the bar

When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as, moving, seems asleep,

Too full for sound and am,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home.'

[ocr errors]

ART. X.-1. Cloudland : a Study on the Structure and

Characters of Clouds. By the Rev. W. CLEMENT LET,

M.A. 8vo. London: 1894. 2. Weather : a Popular Exposition of the Nature of Weather

Changes from Day to Day. By the Hon. RALPH ABERCROMBY.

Crown 8vo. London : 1837. 3. Seas and Skies in many Latitudes; or, Wanderings in

Search of Weather. By the Hon. RALPH ABERCROMBY.

8vo London : 1888. 4. The Report on Cloud Nomenclature. Presented to the

International Meteorological Committee at Upsala in August 1894. By ROBERT H. Scott, M.A. (Quarterly * Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society,' January

1895.) 5. Report of the Meteorological Council to the Royal Society

for the year ending March 31, 1894. Parliamentary Paper,

1894. Is meteorology really a science? The answer must depend

very much on what we mean by the words. If meteorology consists merely in observing and recording temperatures and barometric pressures, it certainly is not a science; if it pretends-as it is not uncommonly supposed to pretend-to foretell the weather of the coming season, again most certainly it is not a science. But if under the name of science we include the careful and systematic study of the meaning and import of natural phenomena, then assuredly the painstaking attempt to reduce to some standard of comparison accurate observations of temperature, of atmospheric pressure, of wind force or direction, and the countless changes incidental to these; the endeavour to co-ordinate them, to discover their relation to each other, their interdependence on each other, which is what is properly understood as meteorology, is as much a science as astronomy, geology, chemistry, or magnetism, in every one of which there is still a great deal of uncertainty, a great deal of groping in the dark.

Of all the natural sciences, astronomy is unquestionably the most exact. It lends itself to the rigorous application of mathematics with a facility which is absent from all the others; and though we may please ourselves with the fancy that mathematical solutions may be found for the problems suggested by other branches of study, as yet it has not been possible to bring together all the data, the absence of any one of which invalidates the result. One instance of this may illustrate the difficulty. Not very many years ago it was tenaciously held by a school of distinguished physicists that the currents of the ocean were due to differences of specific gravity in the water of different localities, and the celebrated hydrographer, Captain Maury, explained the Gulf Stream as caused in this way. But the crucial instance of this action of the different specific gravities was asserted to be the Red Sea ; and it was very positively stated that since, by evaporation, the level is there lower and the specific gravity greater than in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, the surface current must continually run in, whilst the heavier water, in an under-current, continually runs out. As the statement of a problem in hydrostatics, it seemed incontrovertible. Unfortunately, it was shown to be geographically incorrect: the surface current in the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb not only does not continually run in, but in the summer, when, by the greater heat, the evaporation is at its maximum, and the alleged differences of level and of specific gravity are at their greatest, the surface-current in the Straits runs out. In fact, it is now very generally held to depend, not on differences of level or specific gravity, but on the monsoons in the Arabian Sea, and to change with them. The hydrostatic theory of ocean currents, tempting as it appeared to many, was framed on imperfect knowledge of the circumstances and conditions.

But when such a difficulty occurs in examining the problems which arise out of the motions of large masses of a visible and ponderable fluid like sea-water, it may easily be understood that the investigation of the movements of the fickle and invisible air presents difficulties of a most serious nature, which cannot be expected to yield except to long-continued and patient observation, supported by careful study, and probably at last, if ever, by the suggestions of genius. There is, no doubt, underlying all study of meteorological phenomena, a hope that it may eventually lead to the calculation of future weather, in the same way as-if things so unlike may be compared—the study of astronomy leads to the calculation of the rising or setting of the heavenly bodies, of their eclipses or occultations : to the combination, in fact, of meteorology with astronomy in the production of the 'Nautical Almanack,' then a true Connaissance des Temps. But thousands of years had passed in patient observation before the motion of the heavenly bodies was underste

« PreviousContinue »