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Mr. Edmund W. Gosse, in his article `On the Early Writings of Robert Browning', in the `Century' for December, 1881, has characterized this interregnum a little too contemptuously, perhaps. There was, indeed, a great fall in the spiritual tide; but it was not such a dead-low tide as Mr. Gosse would make it.

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At length, in 1830, appeared a volume of poems by a young man, then but twenty-one years of age, which distinctly marked the setting in of a new order of things. It bore the following title: `Poems, chiefly Lyrical. By Alfred Tennyson, London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, Cornhill, 1830.' pp. 154.

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The volume comprised fifty-three poems, among which were `The Poet' and `The Poet's Mind'. These two poems were emphatically indicative of the high ideal of poetry which had been attained, and to the development of which the band of poets of the preceding generation had largely contributed.

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A review of the volume, by John Stuart Mill, then a young man not yet twenty-five years of age, was published in `The Westminster' for January, 1831. It bears testimony to the writer's fine insight and sure foresight; and it bears testimony, too, to his high estimate of the function of poetry in this world -- an estimate, too, in kind and in degree, not older than this present century. The review is as important a landmark in the development of poetical criticism, as are the two poems I have mentioned, in the development of poetical ideals, in the nineteenth century.

In the concluding paragraph of the review, Mill says: "A genuine poet has deep responsibilities to his country and the world, to the present and future generations, to earth and heaven. He, of all men, should have distinct and worthy objects before him, and consecrate himself to their promotion. It is thus that he best consults the glory of his art, and his own lasting fame. . . . Mr. Tennyson knows that "the poet's mind is holy ground"; he knows that the poet's portion is to be "Dower'd with the hate of hate, the scorn of scorn, The love of love"; he has shown, in the lines from which we quote, his own just conception of the grandeur of a poet's destiny; and we look to him for its fulfilment. . . . If our estimate of Mr. Tennyson be correct, he too is a poet; and many years hence may be read his juvenile description of that character with the proud consciousness that it has become the description and history of his own works."

Two years later, that is, in 1832 (the volume, however, is antedated 1833), appeared `Poems by Alfred Tennyson', pp. 163. In it were contained `The Lady of Shalott', and the untitled poems, known by their first lines, `You ask me why, tho' ill at ease', `Of old sat Freedom on the Heights', and `Love thou thy Land, with Love far brought'.

In `The Lady of Shalott' is mystically shadowed forth the relation which poetic genius should sustain to the world for whose spiritual redemption it labors, and the fatal consequences of its being seduced by the world's temptations, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

The other poems, `You ask me why', `Of old sat Freedom', and `Love thou thy land', are important as exponents of what may be called the poet's institutional creed. A careful study of his subsequent poetry will show that in these early poems he accurately and distinctly revealed the attitude toward outside things which he has since maintained. He is a good deal of an institutional poet, and, as compared with Browning, a STRONGLY institutional poet. Browning's supreme and all-absorbing interest is in individual souls. He cares but little, evidently, about institutions. At any rate, he gives them little or no place in his poetry. Tennyson is a very decided reactionary product of the revolutionary spirit which inspired some of his poetical predecessors of the previous generation. He has a horror of the revolutionary. To him, the French Revolution was "the blind hysterics of the Celt", [`In Memoriam', cix.], and "the red fool-fury of the Seine" [`I. M.', cxxvii.]. He attaches great importance to the outside arrangements of society for upholding and advancing the individual. He would "make Knowledge circle with the winds", but "her herald, Reverence", must "fly Before her to whatever sky Bear seed of men and growth of minds."

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