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Here, then, reader, we will leave you to make your way, as best you can, out of this enchanted castle, hoping that if you shall ever find yourself a wanderer in the “far west,” you mav experience something of the ecstacy which we felt on that day, as we dreamily wandered about the Starved Rock and the Deer Park.
A FROLIC WITH TENNYSON.
“ Whence comes the juice of the Scio vine,
Tbat flows like the molten gold,
Whose value cannot be told ?” A string of pearls, a bevy of beauties, a vase of flowers, a circlet of dew-drops from the pure leaves of poetry—these are my gifts to you, kind reader, at the snowy portals of a new year. And though I mean to steal them from the casket and the harem, the conservatory and the garden of a foreign author, yet the theft will not dim their splendor, or diminish their value. Inweave them, then, amid the flying hours of the new-born year, and you will have added a new ray to the warm sunbeam of hope, a new diamond to the signet-ring of pleasure.
And now, sir, let me tell you a secret. You might as well look for feeling in a flirt, modesty in an actress, or wit in logic, as for order or harmony, reason, or philosophy, in the tangled web of my tangled thoughts. I don't care for your knowing smiles or battle-axe criticisms, gentle reader, for in truth I am half asleep; thought and feeling all merged in one pleasant and unbroken reverie ; dreams hurrying away the hours of evening, and turning me, from the splendors of the outer world, to the aerial and sylphic phantoms that people the world within. Beautiful forms are flitting over the glowing canvas of Fancy-beautiful forms, clad in the tissue-like drapery of dream-children, and dancing about in all the luxurious carelessness of innocence and purity. I have seen these gay creatures before. Those eyes of lustrous black and placid blue do not belong to strangers : and there! that elastic tread ; that look of mingled mirth and mischief; those glossy raven braids ! Surely that is
O dear! These delicate fancy-paintings are strange things : they lead me far away from the buzz of this vast bee-hive to which we all belong—this busy bustling world-glowing like a mighty furnace with the fires of passion and the molten iron of brilliant and burning intellect : they imprison thought, with silken cords and ivory bars, on a distant island as beautiful and enchanting as that on which Calypso reigned and loved : they take me away from the battle-plains—the warrior-tents—the rough and rugged marches of Reason and Philosophy, to the gayer home of Imagination and Fancy—the moslem Paradise of the mind.
I have sometimes wished-Heaven forgive my folly !--that I was a married man, that I possessed a home, a fire-side all my own, that I had one to whom I could confide every thought and feeling with a certainty of answering sympathy and love, but now I look upon such a consummation with absolute horror. In such a case, what would become of my pleasant dreams and airy reveries! The broom and the mop-stick, reproaches and curtain-lectures, would soon dissipate them all, and the gay dreamer would subside into the sober citizen, just as a chemical test throws down, from a clear and transparent liquid, a thick and cloudy precipitate. No! reader, I have become a confirmed misogynist, an irreclaimable woman-hater, and I abhor the whole race-fire-flys-Canada thistles—rattlesnakes that they are! And I'll tell you the reason why.
Women are proud creatures-proud as Lucifer, or a jackdaw after a successful skirmish with a peacock. Not satisfied with the quiet beauty and usefulness of their own sphere in life, they seek a broader field, and become ridiculous where they hoped for glory; as if the planet Venus should become dissatisfied with its narrow sweep around the Sun, and seek to rival Mars and Jupiter in their bolder and longer march. In her own proper sphere woman is all-powerful, and more victories are won by the zone of the Cyprian Queen than by the angry thunderbolts of Jove : but when that sphere is deserted for a field unsuited to her character and sex, when Cytherea exchanges the dove for the eagle, the cestus for the helmet, her power is gone, and her pompous weakness provokes a laugh. But the women of the present day seem either ignorant or regardless of this well known fact, and we find myriads of them chattering of the “ Nebular theory," tariff duties, and political economy, while they are utterly ignorant of the theory of bread-making, of household duties, and of domestic economy. Really, reader, I do hate them, and, to be honest with you, I fear them too.
Tennyson, in his last Poem entitled “ The Princess," hits off with admirable truth and skill this horde of literary ladies, who always wear book-muslin ; pass by the flower to admire its leaves; and love a Queen, because attended by a throng of pages. Like a skillful angler, he has hooked them to his lines, and, drawing them out of their natural elements, has displayed them to us floundering uneasily in the basket of Science and Literature-dancing, as it were, a “ basket cotillon.”
But I promised you, reader, a “ frolic with Tennyson," and a frolic you shall have. All this talk about reveries and women was merely an introduction—a careless prelude to a pleasant song-an inclined plane down which you might slide easily if not gracefully into my subject. A little ceremony between an author and reader I deem necessary to the comfort of both. Like a bashful boy and a timid girl, the forms of an introduction give them time to recover from embarrassment, to bear each other's glances without a shiver, and to sit down quietly and talk about- Tennyson.
Whether “ The Princess" was intended to be a sober or a witty VOL. XIV.
poem, a powerful or a graceful one, granite or marble, it is difficult to decide. The author himself, at its close, pronounces it a mixture of both, a
“ Compound story which, at first
Of tragic;" and this is probably the truth. Starting with the ridiculous whim of a book-mad Princess-a College of maiden-students,
“ With prudes for proctors, dowagers for deans,
And sweet girl-graduates in their golden hair," the natural and inevitable tendency of his story led him on to the sterner and darker scenes to which the folly of an ambitious woman will ever lead, and then the soft sunlight left his Poem, the stars went out one by one, and, beneath a clouded and a stormy sky, the Princess Ida is taught the bitter lesson of repentance.
And now, reader, let's have a race through the Poem. I'll bet a silver dollar against your spectacles, grave classmate-against your black eyes, pretty maiden, that you never raced over a fairer lawn or among sweeter flowers! I shall play the butterfly to perfection during the rest of this article, for I do not love a straight-forward flight when my wings are free to bear me whither I choose.
The “prologue” to “The Princess" is beautiful, alike from the careless ease and gracefulness of its style, and the quaint and piquant richness of its material. Walter—a hair brained young Collegianwith his sister,
- The mignonette of Vivian-place,
The little hearth-flower Lilia,” and a college friend, by whom the Poet intends to represent himself, are assembled on the green sward, in front of a gray old Abbey, to witness a festival of Science-an exhibition of the triumphs of modvern Art. Here
“ One reared a font of stone
And drew, from butts of water on the slope,
A dozen angry models jetted steam:
Between the mimic stations." I have quoted this description entire because of its singular elegance and beauty. It invades boldly the domain of Science and Art, and our learned Professor of Natural Philosophy must stand on the defensive, and“ prepare to repel boarders,” or Poetry will “ steal his thunder.” They are saucy fellows, these Poets, and they deem every thing their own, from the silken eyelash of a maiden to the rods and wheels of a machinist.
Walter, and his fair sister Lilia, and the bashful Poet, observe with interest and admiration the miniature experiments progressing around them, and at their close are amused with the gay and sportive scene which immediately succeeds. Lads and lasses bounded through the mazes of the country dance; a herd of noisy boys were engaged at wicket; and
“ Babies rollid about
Like tumbled fruit in grass."
“ Yet I fear
Some boy would spy it.” . A comical idea, is it not, and yet perfectly natural. The Poet is now called upon for a story, and forthwith, identifying himself with his hero, commences the romantic tale which makes up the remainder of the Poem, and which is apparently suggested by the previous conversation. Suffer me to sketch a general outline of the author's plan. The Princess Ida-betrothed in her girlhood to the son of a neighboring King—becomes suddenly aware of the natural superiority and social inferiority of her sex, and determines to become their champion. Obtaining her doting father's consent, she founds a college from which the “ Lords of Creation” are carefully excluded, thus forming a sanctuary within which she designs to collect and educate the fair ones of the land. Here, assisted by Lady Blanche and Lady Psyche-two dangerous articles commonly termed widows—she pursues her plans for the future elevation of her sex. Into this earthly Paradise the. Devil, in the shape of the Prince her lover, intrudes, accompanied by Cyril and Florian, his two friends, all disguised in female attire.
Their ingenious masquerade is discovered, and the punishment attempt-
“ A Prince I was, blue-eyed, and fair in face,
For on my cradle shone the northern star.” The meeting between the eager lover and the father of the Princess Ida, “ a little dry old man, without a star,” furnishes us with a specimen of cool impudence which I have never seen equalled. In reply to the Prince's demand of his daughter's hand, in accordance with the contract of betrothal, Gama says,
- You do us, Prince, he said,
The cool effrontery of this last line is inimitable. Gama now continues with more of honesty and earnestness, and with some little show of regard for the contract and respect for the Prince,
“I would you had her, Prince, with all my heart,
The woman were an equal to the man.” No wonder that the judgment of poor Ida was warped by the advice of two such counselors. From all widows, Fate preserve me! They are the “ lone stars” of Love's Republic--the “ conductors” on Hymen's railway-pirates on the broad sea of matrimony. Give them a single chance, one opportunity, and with a look from a tearful eye, with a pressure of the warm, trembling hand, with a “suggestive" allusion to the “dear departed,” they captivate, conquer, victimize you. Don't knit your brows and talk of resistance, young man. There's no such thing as resistance in the case. They'll take you to the altar in spite of prayers and promises-kicks and curses ; they'll have you, whether you like it or not. Their eye has the rattlesnake's fascinating power. The charmed victim is conscious of his danger, he knows that he is