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'As when we dwell upon a word we know
Becomes a wonder, and we know not why' The following from his · Dream' is perhaps an experience we cannot all assume for ourselves, but we can sympathize :
I started once, or seem'd to start in pain,
Resolved on noble things, and strove to speak
And flushes all the cheek.'—Poems, p. 152. And this fine impersonation of Ignorance, as viewed by the calm, reflecting mind, occurs in the Idylls
And smiling as a Master smiles at one
On all things all day long; he answer'd her.' And as the sensations of inner consciousness, so the great foreboding is constantly rising to the surface and dimly figuring forth itself in apt and sad illustration. The idea of death in its cold obstruction is often brought before us with startling realization; pressing upon us the more heavily in contrast with the vivid, stirring, pleasurable existence, the happy tumult of thought and feeling this mortal life, seen in the hues of his bright verse, is made to appear. What strange sympathy with ebbing life; what a yearning leave-taking of familiar things is in the words,
Ah! sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square ! It is death in its darkness and decay that chills the warm sensient nature, that 'makes his very heart faint and his whole soul grieve,' and that intrudes itself the one repellant root and meaning of every sad, dreary scene; as where Guinevere, in her remorse, sits with the novice
"One low light betwixt them burn'd,
Clung to the dead earth, and the land was still.' It is full time to draw our somewhat desultory remarks to a close.
There is not much anticipation, not much looking beyond in the present beautiful and varied life's work, the poet's collected labours. We experience often a half-defined regret—a sense of void and sadness haunts us—we realize a want. Mr. Tennyson can paint this world in all its phases, in its past, its future; its present best of all. All that makes our life glowing, passionate, and real, has found expression and has been set forth in new and bright colours by his verse. But the blue empyrean is not his element. Where ear and sight and feeling have taught so much, perhaps it is not reasonable to expect flights beyond their range and out of their influences. This world
is very well worth describing ; this life is a very responsible and glorious possession ; we do not complain that some devote their highest powers to setting them forth and giving us keener knowledge of their beauty and worth than we had before. It is our own fault if we allow our range to be bounded by another's horizon. The concentration, no doubt, has snares which our poet may not always have escaped, but truth, though it does not embrace the infinite, must elevate and refine. We have confidence in the moral value of every conscientious, faithful devotion of gifts and powers; though the work may be undertaken without a deliberate, controlling, moral purpose beyond that of delineating life in nature, and in man, as the poet's eye has seen and his heart interpreted them.
MOMMSEN'S HISTORY OF ROME.* THE MHE appearance of a connected history of Rome from its
foundation to the times of the first Cæsar must be an event of great interest to all students of antiquity. Hitherto the same fatality which has deprived us of so many classical records of the most important periods of Roman history has interfered also with modern attempts to combine our imperfect materials. The correct and methodical work of Dean Liddell is somewhat deficient in animation; and, with this exception, the school histories of Keightley and Schmitz alone present us with a connected summary of the whole history. Niebuhr and Arnold left their works in a fragmentary state. Mr. Merivale has, by choice, confined himself to the history of the Empire and its immediate antecedents. The scale, moreover, on which the three last works have been completed or conceived, must render them inaccessible to all but professed students. Dr. Mommsen offers us, in three volumes of moderate size, a connected narrative from the foundation of the city to the fall of the republic, and promises an account of the imperial period in two more; and his task hitherto has been performed with a success which, in our judgment, must place his work at the head of its department of literature. When we add that at least half of it is occupied in dealing with the hundred and twenty years between the battles of Pydna and Thapsus, our readers will perceive at once how important a void is already filled, and how independent our author's judgment is as to the relative importance of different parts of his subject.
Dr. Mommsen's qualifications for his task are remarkable. He is singularly happy in giving the leading features of national and individual character; lively and picturesque in narrative and description ; gifted with a great power of massing details together into a clear and interesting summary; and especially vivid in pictures of the state of parties and of public feeling at important moments. He has evidently added, to his high natural endowments, the instruction which a life passed in a revolutionary era must afford. We think we shall serve our readers better by giving them a notion of the contents of his book than by criticising it: on one or two points only, in the
later narrative, where we think the author has been betrayed into an unjust estimate of great historic characters, we may perhaps venture to question his decisions.
The earlier period of Roman history' is not a favourable field for the display of Dr. Mommsen's peculiar talents. Perhaps the only possible alternatives are the comprehensive scepticism of Sir G. C. Lewis and an imaginative theory like Niebuhr's. Yet even in this part of our author's work are to be found some valuable remarks on the importance of particular critical moments in the world's history-such, for instance, as the year 480 B.C.—and on the varying power and relations of Etruria, Greece, and Carthage. Nor do we know of any passage in which a clearer account is given of the different conflicting elements, the combinations and changes of which form the political life of Rome, than that in which Dr. Mommsen speaks of the three struggles between citizen and ruler, old and new citizen, poor and rich.
We pass without further preface to the time at which real history begins : when political disputes had been set at rest for a century; when Rome had secured her position in central and southern Italy by a well-devised system of fortresses; and when, • as at Olympia, the previous victors met for a second and more serious conflict, Rome, Carthage, and Macedon appeared on the amphitheatre of the world for a last decisive struggle.
The early life and character of Pyrrhus, the chivalrous king of the Epirots, are described with much sympathy, yet with discrimination. His material position did not allow him to be an Alexander. Threatened at home by the superior resources of Macedon, confronted in Italy by Rome, and regarded by Carthage with a jealousy ripening into actual hostility, his position was very different from that of Alexander setting out from loyal Macedon and submissive Greece to conquer the effete Persian empire. His design of founding a new state, of which Syracuse or Tarentum should be the capital, and which should add Southern Italy and Sicily to his hereditary dominions, showed true genius; and his military talents were not inadequate to its fulfilment. But even had he avoided mistakes of policy, he could hardly have triumphed over the difficulties of his position. And in political abisity, compared to Alexander, he was a 'Constable de Bourbon compared to a Louis XI.'
'King Pyrrhus was the son of an Æacid prince of the Molossi, who had been honoured by Alexander as a relation and trusty vassal, and who, after Alexander's death, had lost crown and life in the vortex of Macedonian family politics. His son, then six years old, had been saved by Glaucias, prince of the Illyrian Taulantians, and in course of the struggles for the possession of Macedonia, had been restored to his principality by Demetrius Poliorcetes, while yet a boy. He lost it again in a few years, owing to the influence of the opposite party, and began his military career as an exiled prince in the train of the Macedonian generals. His character soon obtained recognition. He shared the last campaigns of Antigonus : and Alexander's old marshal was much pleased with the born soldier, who, in the judgment of his gray-haired general, only wanted years to be the first warrior of his time. The defeat of Ipsus brought him a hostage to Alexandria, to the court of the founder of the Lagid dynasty ; where his bold and sturdy nature, and his soldier-like spirit, which thoroughly despised all that was not military, drew on him as decidedly the observation of the statesman-like king Ptolemy, as his manly beauty, which neither his wild glance nor his heavy tread marred, did that of the royal ladies. At this time the bold Demetrius was founding himself a new kingdom in Macedonia, naturally with the thought of making it the centre of a new empire like Alexander's. It was worth while to give him occupation at home: and the Lagid, who knew thoroughly how to employ for his delicate policy such fiery spirits as the Epirot youth, forwarded his own interests as well as did a pleasure to his queen Berenice when he gave his step-daughter Antigone in marriage to the young prince, and lent his powerful influence to his dear “son” for his restoration to his home.'
After pointing out how, but for the unseasonable jealousy of the Macedonians, Pyrrhus might have acquired a power which would have changed the history of the world, Dr. Mommsen continues
* Pyrrhus could not content himself with regularly inspecting the accounts of the royal herdsmen, receiving the usual presents of cattle from his brave Epirots, exchanging oaths of allegiance and fidelity to the laws at the altar of Zeus, and carousing all night to ratify the covenant. If there was no place for him on the throne of Macedon he could not stay at home : he felt equal to the first place and would not occupy the second. His eyes therefore turned to more distant objects. . . . A wonderful charm attaches to the name of the Epirot; a peculiar sympathy, partly, indeed, owing to his chivalrous and amiable character, but still more to the circumstance that he was the first Greek who met the Romans in battle. With him begin those relations between Rome and Hellas on which the whole later development of ancient, and an essential part of modern civilization rest. The battle between phalanxes and cohorts, mercenaries and militia, military monarchy and senatorial government, individual talent and national strength; this struggle between Rome and Hellenism was first fought out in the battles between Pyrrhus and the Roman generals ; and although the defeated party often afterwards appealed to a new trial by battle, every subsequent engagement only confirmed the decision. But though the Greeks are inferior in the council-chamber and on the field of battle, their superiority is as decided in every contest that is not political; and even these very struggles make us anticipate that Rome's victory over the Greeks will be different from those over Gauls and Phoenicians: and that Aphrodite's magic first begins to work when lances have been shivered and shield and helmet are laid aside.' VOL. II. No. III.