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philosophy. The experiments of M. D'Arcy prove that the impression of light is often retained on the retina for fully two minutes and a half; a time, it may be remarked, in which a luminous particle or undulation might pass through thirty millions of miles of space! What is the condition of the light be it conceived as matter, or motion, or force—when thus arrested and enchained in a living organization? In this brief question lies one of the most profound of the problems to which we have just adverted. And in this part of science, more especially, such questions are perpetually pressing upon us; each fresh fact (and the simplest are often the most prolific of results) giving access to objects of higher thought and speculation.
We might dilate endlessly on these topics ;-but our space is exhausted, and our object, we hope, fulfilled, of showing the connexion of the physical sciences, as it is established by recent research. It will be seen that these relations in themselves open out a new and wide field of discovery; intricate and obscure in many of its paths, but with fresh light continually breaking in to denote the true way, and with constant glimpses of a clearer and more spacious horizon in the distance. The labourers in this field are now more numerous than ever, the objects of inquiry better defined, and the methods and instruments of research more certain and complete. Happy those who can work tranquilly amidst these wonders of nature, animated by the love of science for its own sake, and undisturbed by the storms of war and political strife which are ever agitating and vexing the world without!
TENNYSON-IDYLLS OF THE KING.*
IT is a question which perhaps few of us face, how much we all
owe to poetry, all, without exception, whether we read it or not. Perhaps the most prosaic are by no means the least debtors to the divine art. Nobody knows how much his tastes have been taught him, how much what he supposes his natural likings, are due to the promptings of other minds. Our senses are led from the very earliest dawn of thought to please themselves with what pleases others, to overlook what others overlook, to expatiate in a certain acknowledged, generally accepted range, and to be blind and dead to the attractions, the repulsions, and the stimulants which lie beyond a given circle.
Now nobody, not even the poet, is above or loose from the influence of his own age. Not the most original heaven-born genius the world ever saw is independent, down to his very innermost springs of thought, of the subtle ties of association connecting him with his own time: he must see with its eyes, hear with its ears, understand with its intelligence. No one can so express himself, but that if there be a supernal Elysian school of critics who deign to keep a record of time, they shall be able to fix the date to a minute nicety, when alone, out of all the six thousand years that have passed, those words could have been written. But, subject to these inevitable bounds, the poets bave still original impulses, direct visitations, a capacity of seeing and feeling for themselves in matters removed from our immediate interests and affections, which distinguish them from other men; a power of accepting and rejoicing in the excellent works of God, though these have not yet received man's imprimatur. As a conspicuous example of what we mean, let us take the love of the picturesque which pervades every branch of our community; which the dullest soul is not absolutely without; which scatters travelling Englishmen of all ranks over every quarter of the globe; which leads them to spend their money, their strength, their energies in laborious toil simply to satisfy their appetite for wild, new, or magnificent form. We suppose that a hundred years ago this universal instinct, as it now seems, was for the most part unknown: the human race had not reached it, would not have reached it to this day, if the
* Idylls of the King, by Alfred Tennyson, D.C.L. London: Moxon. 1859.
poets had not put it into our heads, had not constructed a language, had not sounded words in our ears, brought pictures before our eyes, peopled a wide waste with their fancies, given a meaning to rock and flood; and thus, in their manner, made the desert to blossom as the rose. Those many scenes which we traverse half the globe to see, which fill us with genuine rapture when we do see them, which expand the soul and dilate the fancy, without this initiation would have told the majority of us nothing; would have been passed through with a shudder; would have been described, if we had to describe them, in terms of alienation and repugnance as horrid, savage, rude, inhospitable-in such terms, in fact, as M. Huc still bestows on the mountain passes of Thibet. And yet many
And yet many whose eyes have been enlightened, who have this source of pure happiness bestowed on them, who are endowed with an appropriate language, who say the right things, and think the right thoughts, and are invigorated and refreshed by this intelligent communion with nature, have never one glimpse of the truth that this fine appreciation is as artificial a creation as a corn-field on the Yorkshire wolds ; that if left to themselves not a sheep would have browsed on them, and that poets-
* Poets whose thoughts enrich the blood of the world'have supplied the fertilising guano which has given nourishment and life to the starved imagination of the ordinary man till it waves a golden harvest.
Nor do we only benefit by that acuter feeling for beauty which is the heritage of the poet; his quicker susceptibilities teach us sympathy. We cannot conceal from ourselves that humanity, in an extended sense, towards objects with whom our affinities are remote, is not indigenous in societies. You and I, gentle reader--for we cannot allow the seeds of brutality in ourselves-perhaps could never have assisted heart and soul at an auto-da-fé, or a gladiatorial show, or even at a bull-fight; but we must be candid enough to believe that our neighbours, whom we knew to be very good sort of people, might have sat with unwrung nerves at these celebrations while they were still in fashion, who now would recoil from them with curdling cheek, and every pulse in virtuous commotion. They might, we see, have been
" As ruthless as a baby with a worm,
To pity, more from ignorance than will,' if they had not been taught compassion. This need of guidance, this acknowledgment that the feelings and impressions are not, in the bulk of us, spontaneous, is made quite simply, and as a matter of course in the records of primitive society, and by the unchanging customs of the East. When the prophet, himself endowed by nature with the quick sensibilities fitting him for his task, seeks to make his people realize their evil prospects, he does it through the recognised mode of exciting grief, Consider you and call for the mourning women that they may come, and send for cunning women that they may come, and let them make haste and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears and our eyelids gush out with waters. Just so, we have our cunning men who direct our tears and smiles, our tastes and antipathies; the appointed controllers, whether we know them or not, of our nerves and sympathies so far as these connect us with the outer world; for we do not speak of the domestic sphere of duty ruled by conscience, and the deeper instincts of our nature; nor yet of the soul's highest interests, for which revelation has supplied a divine direction.
Therefore let us all honour the poets, not only those who consciously enjoy their works, to whom every song is a feast, every new poem an event, whose ears ring with their cadences, whose steps move to their music, who spend summer days in reading, and twilight hours in reciting their verses; but the matter-of-fact, the busily immersed in this world's dull tasks, who profit, indirectly, to whom the benefit comes filtered through other minds, by no formal act of their own. But there are only few to whom this universal gratitude is due, whose poetry penetratesworms itself as it were-into plain minds and hearts. We know many who have their circles of admirers and partisans—men and women who have thought intensely and written fervently and are read with enthusiasm in coteries of kindred temperament:—there are few in any age who make way into the general mind, set up monuments of themselves in the language, or put in motion new waves and currents of thought. Of our living poets perhaps Tennyson alone can be classed amongst this number: but his right to the distinction will not be disputed. Persons will differ widely as to his merits, but all must allow that he has become a wide-spreading influence; that he has passed beyond the applause of partisans and schools; that he is the laureate of the nation as well as of the court. What qualities have won him this acceptance, and how far it is beneficial, are other considerations: in every instance there must be qualifications and drawbacks, the good can never be unalloyed while the divine gift is in mortal, fallible hands; and perhaps Mr. Tennyson especially writes without a due sense of
responsibility, giving voice to the doubts or to the enervating influences of the hour with as little hesitation as to his purest and noblest inspirations. Bụt this susceptibility to impressions only adds a certain nervous curiosity to the interest with which every work from so skilled and recognised a hand must be received. What will our poet, who, fresh from the columns of the * Times,' inaugurated his last strange, impulsive, ardent lovepoem, with a passionate raving on cheating yard-wands, adulterated drugs, and murders for the burial-fee, next take for the theme of his song? How shall we all be implicated ? In what light will the world about him be viewed by this keen eye and observant intellect, who lives so entirely in his own times, who is so essentially the voice and product of the age? This was the question after Maud.' To a good many we suspect the name of King Arthur' has fallen rather dead and flat on these racy anticipations. Say what people like, the world in general cares uncommonly little about King Arthur. We do not say the poetical world, who are bound to this royal myth, whether they will or no, by the traditionary dictum of their craft, and who dare not speak their mind on this subject; but that world we have spoken of before, which seems always to have been obtuse on this theme, to judge by the summary terms in which the right to offer an opinion on this great argument is dismissed by the early chronicler, who permits us to read but not judge except thou judge with understanding, for the asse is no competent judge betwixt the owl and nightingale for the sweetness of their voices; cloth of arms or hanging of tapestry are not fit to adorne a kitchen, no more are kettles, pots, and spits to hang in a lady's bed-chamber. Neither is it beseeming for a man to censure that which his ignorance cannot perceive.' Perhaps the qualm in this case is not reasonable, or just to the author. In the first place, he is never long, and length_interminable length-is the bugbear inseparably connected with the very name of Arthur. We need not fear from Tennyson another twelve cantos of fable, mythology, and antiquarian learning ; of long, unpronounceable words, and impossible incidents and adventures, all set in a running commentary of sentiments of the most inexorably poetical character. And he is always interesting: take what theme he will, we may surely trust him to enliven it with touches of human feeling, life, and pathos; he will certainly bring it somehow or other within the compass of our sympathies. He will bring his subject to us, not require us to go back through all the ages to a world of legend, which gives us no rest for the soles of our feet. A little reflection reassures us, but we may still allow