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sians long ago declared "that we ought to receive the Holy Scripture (as we do), for divine and canonical, that is to say, for the constant rule of our faith and life," and the Free Christian Church in Italy now echoes the statement, saying, "God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost has manifested his will in Revelation, which is the Bible, the alone perfect and immutable rule of faith and conduct."
TENNYSON'S "IDYLLS OF THE KING."
BY PROFESSOR THEODORE W. HUNT, PH.D.
EVERY critic of Tennyson raises, at the outset, the question as to the appropriateness of the term "Idyll" as used by the poet. Meaning, in its Greek form, a little image or representation, it is then applied to a short, descriptive poem of the lyric order, and especially adapted to pastoral themes. There is no reason, however, why such a poem should not be long as well as short; any more than that the lyric should always take the form of the sonnet, and never that of the extended poem, as "L'Allegro" or "Comus." What Tennyson evidently emphasizes in the poem before us is the quality, or literary type of the verse, rather than its length-its descriptive, symbolic, or pictorial character, while the term "Idyll" that he uses is all the more appropriate, in that the poem is made up of a series, a gallery of word pictures, each in itself being entitled to the name "Idyll," applied to the poem as a whole. The name "The Divine Comedy," given by Dante to his celebrated poem, is far more rightfully open to criticism as to literary adaptation.
1. We notice, first, the Origin of the Poem. This is partly historical and partly traditional. We are taken back at once to the name of the notable Sir Thomas Malory, the Welshman, whose "La Morte d'Arthur" was finished in the ninth year of the reign of Edward the Fourth, of England, and based on the legends and traditions gathered up in the French Romances of the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries. There are the so-called Arthurian Legends of Merlin and Tristan, and Lancelot and the Round Table. Malory's work is, of course, a modification or free compilation of the material which he had in hand from these earlier sources in foreign literature; and, yet, it is so well executed that Saintsbury, in his "Specimens of English Prose Style," begins with Malory as rightly entitled to open the illustrious list of English Prose Writers. He speaks of the version as "having caught the whole spirit and beauty of the Arthurian Legends, and as one of the first monuments of accomplished English Prose." His selections open with "The Death of Lancelot." The issue of this work from Caxton's press in 1485, and its immediate and continuous popularity evince the esteem in which it was held by scholars and the general public. An edition by Southey, as late in English literary history as 1817, confirms the same opinion as to its comparative merits.
As Malory's version takes us back to the days of Chaucer, we must go still further back to 1138, to the days of the old Welshman, Geoffrey of Monmouth, the idol and the butt of later chroniclers, as he, in turn, takes us back to the fifth and sixth centuries. Be his character what it may, it is well known that at this time King Arthur was a commanding personage in history and legend, the synonym for all the virtues, the representative of the medieval and chivalric, and so portrayed in prose and song down to the days of Malory and Elizabeth.
In this mass of data, as revised and adorned by Malory, Tennyson found the occasion and subject-matter of his poem, bringing to Malory's version a far defter hand than Malory brought to the story of Geoffrey. One of the Idylls, "Geraint and Enid," is taken, as we learn, from "The Mabinogion," a translation of old Welsh legends, published in 1838. As Malory with Geoffrey and Walter Map, so Tennyson with Malory, took his own way in the VOL. LV. No. 219. 4
use of the material at hand, and, moreover, may be said so thoroughly to have modernized it, as to make it, in a sense, a poem of the present age. Without entering into the precise form and measure of these changes made by the Laureate in the re-casting of the story, suffice it to say, that his two leading objects seem to have been to put the story into better artistic shape, by omission, modification, and addition, and to give to it a more pervading ethical purpose, doing here somewhat as Chaucer and Spenser did with the Italian Romances which they consulted. aimed, indeed, so to reconstruct it as to make it somewhat appropriate to the nineteenth century, just as Spenser in his semi-medieval poem, "The Faerie Queene," treats of Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, and Leicester, and the leading historical events of the day. The exception taken by Swinburne and others to the liberties which Tennyson has assumed with Malory would be more timely, were Malory's story, as based on Geoffrey, unmixed historical fact.
2. The Structure or Plan of the Poem should next be considered. The poem, as a whole, is made up of twelve distinct parts, corresponding, in this respect, to the twelve books of the "Eneid" and "Paradise Lost" and the twelve contemplated books of "The Faerie Queene." These twelve Idylls are made up of "The Introduction," under the name of "The Coming of Arthur," and the conclusion, called "The Passing of Arthur," including, in lines 170-440, "Morte d'Arthur," the first part of the Idylls that was composed, appearing in 1842. Between these opening and closing Idylls are the ten Idylls pertaining but indirectly to King Arthur. They are as follows: "The Marriage of Geraint," "Geraint and Enid," "Merlin and Vivien," "Lancelot and Elaine," "Guinevere,” “The Holy Grail," "Pelleas and Ettarre," "The Last Tournament," "Gareth and Lynette," "Balin and Balan."
will thus be seen that the time of the poem's preparation runs from 1842, the date of the fragment, "Morte d'Arthur," to 1885, the date of "Balin and Balan," a period, in all, of forty-three years, as compared with the seventeen years of the preparation of "In Memoriam." When critics speak of the "Idylls" as covering "more than half a century" in preparation, reference is made to such a poem as "The Lady of Shalott," published in 1832, as it prefigured the story of Elaine. The poem thus covers the best years of the author's life and work, and may naturally be expected to embody the best elements of his mental and poetic power.
What Elsdale has called "the growth of the Idylls" is here worthy of note. As already stated, the poem opens in 1842 with "Morte d'Arthur," which the poet calls the Fragment, the eleventh book of a young poet's epic, King Arthur, the remaining books having been destroyed by fire, just as the six closing books of "The Faerie Queene" are supposed by some critics to have been lost. This reference is, of course, to be taken figuratively, as indicating that the author had prospectively in mind the composition of such an elaborate work, without having, as yet, realized it. To him it seemed in a sense as real as if it had been written and published. Several years later, in 1859, the actual development of the poem began in the preparation of four separate Idylls: "Enid," "Vivien," "Elaine," and "Guinevere"; "Enid" being divided into two parts or poems: "The Marriage of Geraint," "Geraint and Enid." In 1869, what is now the Introduction, "The Coming of Arthur," appeared, as also "The Holy Grail," "Pelleas and Ettarre," and what is now the Conclusion, "The Passing of Arthur," including "Morte d'Arthur," the first frag
In 1871, 1872, and 1875, respectively, there appeared the remaining portions: "The Last Tournament,"