No more shall Commerce be all in all, and Peace Pipe on her pastoral hillock a languid note, And watch her harvest ripen, her herd increase. ... a peace that was full of wrongs and shames, Horrible, hateful, monstrous, not to be told ... For the long long canker of peace is over and done: And now by the side of the Black and the Baltic deep, And deathful grinning mouths of the fortress, names The blood-red blossom of war with a heart of fire!
What interpretation are we meant to give to all this sound and fury? We would fain have put it down as intended to be the finishing-stroke in the picture of a mania which has reached its zenith. We might call in aid of this construction more happy and refreshing passages from other poems, as when Mr. Tennyson is
Certain, if knowledge brings the sword, That knowledge takes the sword away.
 "Poems," p. 182, ed. 1853. See also "Locksley Hall," p. 278.
And again in "The Golden Dream,"—
When shall all men's good Be each man's rule, and universal peace Lie like a shaft of light across the land?
And yet once more in a noble piece of "In Memoriam,"—
Ring out old shapes of foul disease, Ring out the narrowing lust of gold; Ring out the thousand wars of old, Ring in the thousand years of peace.
But on the other hand we must recollect that very long ago, when the apparition of invasion from across the Channel had as yet spoiled no man's slumbers, Mr. Tennyson's blood was already up:—
For the French, the Pope may shrive them ... And the merry devil drive them Through the water and the fire.
 "Poems chiefly Lyrical," 1830, p. 142.
And unhappily in the beginning of "Maud," when still in the best use of such wits as he possesses, its hero deals largely in kindred extravagances (p. 7):—
When a Mammonite mother kills her babe for a burial fee, And Timour-Mammon grins on a pile of children's bones, Is it peace or war? better war! loud war by land and by sea, War with a thousand battles, and shaking a hundred thrones.
He then anticipates that, upon an enemy's attacking this country, "the smooth-faced, snub-nosed rogue," who typifies the bulk of the British people, "the nation of shopkeepers," as it has been emasculated and corrupted by excess of peace, will leap from his counter and till to charge the enemy; and thus it is to be reasonably hoped that we shall attain to the effectual renovation of society.
We frankly own that our divining rod does not enable us to say whether the poet intends to be in any and what degree sponsor to these sentiments, or whether he has put them forth in the exercise of his undoubted right to make vivid and suggestive representations of even the partial and narrow aspects of some endangered truth. This is at best, indeed, a perilous business, for out of such fervid partial representations nearly all grave human error springs; and it should only be pursued with caution and in season. But we do not recollect that 1855 was a season of serious danger from a mania for peace and its pursuits; and even if it had been so, we fear that the passages we have quoted far overpass all the bounds of moderation and good sense. It is, indeed, true that peace has its moral perils and temptations for degenerate man, as has every other blessing, without exception, that he can receive from the hand of God. It is moreover not less true that, amidst the clash of arms, the noblest forms of character may be reared, and the highest acts of duty done; that these great and precious results may be due to war as their cause; and that one high form of sentiment in particular, the love of country, receives a powerful and general stimulus from the bloody strife. But this is as the furious cruelty of Pharaoh made place for the benign virtue of his daughter; as the butchering sentence of Herod raised without doubt many a mother's love into heroic sublimity; as plague, as famine, as fire, as flood, as every curse and every scourge that is wielded by an angry Providence for the chastisement of man, is an appointed instrument for tempering human souls in the seven-times heated furnace of affliction, up to the standard of angelic and archangelic virtue. War, indeed, has the property of exciting much generous and noble feeling on a large scale; but with this special recommendation it has, in its modern forms especially, peculiar and unequalled evils. As it has a wider sweep of desolating power than the rest, so it has the peculiar quality that it is more susceptible of being decked in gaudy trappings, and of fascinating the imagination of those whose passions it inflames. But it is on this very account a perilous delusion to teach that war is a cure for moral evil in any other sense than as the sister tribulations are. The eulogies of the frantic hero in "Maud," however, deviate into grosser folly. It is natural that such vagaries should overlook the fixed laws of Providence; and under these laws the mass of mankind is composed of men, women, and children who can but just ward off hunger, cold, and nakedness; whose whole ideas of Mammon-worship are comprised in the search for their daily food, clothing, shelter, fuel; whom any casualty reduces to positive want; and whose already low estimate is yet further lowered and ground down when "the blood-red blossom of war flames with its heart of fire." But what is a little strange is, that war should be recommended as a specific for the particular evil of Mammon-worship. Such it never was, even in the days when the Greek heroes longed for the booty of Troy, and anticipated lying by the wives of its princes and its citizens. Still it had, in times now gone by, ennobling elements and tendencies of the less sordid kind. But one inevitable characteristic of modern war is, that it is associated throughout, in all its particulars, with a vast and most irregular formation of commercial enterprise. There is no incentive to Mammon-worship so remarkable as that which it affords. The political economy of war is now one of its most commanding aspects. Every farthing, with the smallest exceptions conceivable, of the scores or hundreds of millions which a war may cost, goes directly to stimulate production, though it is intended ultimately for waste or for destruction. Apart from the fact that war destroys every rule of public thrift, and saps honesty itself in the use of the public treasure for which it makes such unbounded calls, it therefore is the greatest feeder of that lust of gold which we are told is the essence of commerce, though we had hoped it was only its occasional besetting sin. It is, however, more than this; for the regular commerce of peace is tameness itself compared with the gambling spirit which war, through the rapid shiftings and high prices which it brings, always introduces into trade. In its moral operation it more resembles, perhaps, the finding of a new gold-field, than anything else. Meantime, as the most wicked mothers do not kill their offspring from a taste for the practice in the abstract, but under the pressure of want, and as war always brings home want to a larger circle of the people than feel it in peace, we ask the hero of "Maud" to let us know whether war is more likely to reduce or to multiply the horrors which he denounces? Will more babies be poisoned amidst comparative ease and plenty, or when, as before the fall of Napoleon, provisions were twice as dear as they now are, and wages not much more than half as high? Romans and Carthaginians were pretty much given to war: but no nations were more sedulous in the cult of Mammon. Again, the Scriptures are pretty strong against Mammon-worship, but they do not recommend this original and peculiar cure. Nay, once more: what sad errors must have crept into the text of the prophet Isaiah when he is made to desire that our swords shall be converted into ploughshares, and our spears into pruning-hooks! But we have this solid consolation after all, that Mr. Tennyson's war poetry is not comparable to his poetry of peace. Indeed he is not here successful at all: the work, of a lower order than his, demands the abrupt force and the lyric fire which do not seem to be among his varied and brilliant gifts. We say more. Mr. Tennyson is too intimately and essentially the poet of the nineteenth century to separate himself from its leading characteristics, the progress of physical science and a vast commercial, mechanical, and industrial development. Whatever he may say or do in an occasional fit, he cannot long either cross or lose its sympathies; for while he elevates as well as adorns it, he is flesh of its flesh and bone of its bone. We fondly believe it is his business to do much towards the solution of that problem, so fearful from its magnitude, how to harmonise this new draught of external power and activity with the old and more mellow wine of faith, self devotion, loyalty, reverence, and discipline. And all that we have said is aimed, not at Mr. Tennyson, but at a lay-figure which he has set up, and into the mouth of which he has put words that cannot be his words.
We return to our proper task, "Maud," if an unintelligible or even, for Mr. Tennyson, an inferior work, is still a work which no inferior man could have produced; nor would it be difficult to extract abundance of lines, and even passages, obviously worthy of their author. And if this poem would have made while alone a volume too light for his fame, the defect is supplied by the minor pieces, some of which are admirable. "The Brook," with its charming interstitial soliloquy, and the "Letters" will, we are persuaded, always rank among Mr. Tennyson's happy efforts; while the "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington," written from the heart and sealed by the conscience of the poet, is worthy of that great and genuine piece of manhood, its immortal subject.
We must touch for a moment upon what has already been mentioned as a separate subject of interest in the "Princess." We venture to describe it as in substance a drama, with a plot imperfectly worked and with characters insufficiently chiselled and relieved. Its author began by presenting, and for many years continued to present, personal as well as natural pictures of individual attitude or movement; and, as in "Oenone" and "Godiva," he carried them to a very high pitch of perfection. But he scarcely attempted, unless in his more homely narrations, anything like grouping or combination. It now appears that for the higher effort he has been gradually accumulating and preparing his resources. In the sections of the prolonged soliloquy of "Maud" we see a crude attempt at representing combined interests and characters with heroic elevation, under the special difficulty of appearing, like Mathews, in one person only; in the "Princess" we had a happier effort, though one that still left more to be desired. Each, however, in its own stage was a preparation for an enterprise at once bolder and more mature.
We now come to the recent work of the poet—the "Idylls of the King." The field, which Mr. Tennyson has chosen for this his recent and far greatest exploit, is one of so deep and wide-reaching an interest as to demand some previous notice of a special kind.
Lofty example in comprehensive forms is, without doubt, one of the great standing needs of our race. To this want it has been from the first one main purpose of the highest poetry to answer. The quest of Beauty leads all those who engage in it to the ideal or normal man as the summit of attainable excellence. By no arbitrary choice, but in obedience to unchanging laws, the painter and the sculptor must found their art upon the study of the human form, and must reckon its successful reproduction as their noblest and most consummate exploit. The concern of Poetry with corporal beauty is, though important, yet secondary: this art uses form as an auxiliary, as a subordinate though proper part in the delineation of mind and character, of which it is appointed to be a visible organ. But with mind and character themselves lies the highest occupation of the Muse. Homer, the patriarch of poets, has founded his two immortal works upon two of these ideal developments in Achilles and Ulysses; and has adorned them with others, such as Penelope and Helen, Hector and Diomed, every one an immortal product, though as compared with the others either less consummate or less conspicuous. Though deformed by the mire of after-tradition, all the great characters of Homer have become models and standards, each in its own kind, for what was, or was supposed to be, its distinguishing gift.
At length, after many generations and great revolutions of mind and of events, another age arrived, like, if not equal, in creative power to that of Homer. The Gospel had given to the whole life of man a real resurrection, and its second birth was followed by its second youth. This rejuvenescence was allotted to those wonderful centuries which popular ignorance confounds with the dark ages properly so called—an identification about as rational as if we were to compare the life within the womb to the life of intelligent though early childhood. Awakened to aspirations at once fresh and ancient, the mind of man took hold of the venerable ideals bequeathed to us by the Greeks as a precious part of its inheritance, and gave them again to the light, appropriated but also renewed. The old materials came forth, but not alone; for the types which human genius had formerly conceived were now submitted to the transfiguring action of a law from on high. Nature herself prompted the effort to bring the old patterns of worldly excellence and greatness—or rather the copies of those patterns still legible, though depraved, and still rich with living suggestion—into harmony with that higher Pattern, once seen by the eyes and handled by the hands of men, and faithfully delineated in the Gospels for the profit of all generations. The life of our Saviour, in its external aspect, was that of a teacher. It was in principle a model for all, but it left space and scope for adaptations to the lay life of Christians in general, such as those by whom the every-day business of the world is to be carried on. It remained for man to make his best endeavour to exhibit the great model on its terrestrial side, in its contact with the world. Here is the true source of that new and noble cycle which the middle ages have handed down to us in duality of form, but with a nearly identical substance, under the royal sceptres of Arthur in England and of Charlemagne in France.
Of the two great systems of Romance, one has Lancelot, the other has Orlando for its culminating point; these heroes being exhibited as the respective specimens in whose characters the fullest development of man, such as he was then conceived, was to be recognised. The one put forward Arthur for the visible head of Christendom, signifying and asserting its social unity; the other had Charlemagne. Each arrays about the Sovereign a fellowship of knights. In them Valour is the servant of Honour; in an age of which violence is the besetting danger, the protection of the weak is elevated into a first principle of action; and they betoken an order of things in which Force should be only known as allied with Virtue, while they historically foreshadow the magnificent aristocracy of mediaeval Europe. The one had Guinevere for the rarest gem of beauty, the other had Angelica. Each of them contained figures of approximation to the knightly model, and in each these figures, though on the whole secondary, yet in certain aspects surpassed it: such were Sir Tristram, Sir Galahad, Sir Lamoracke, Sir Gawain, Sir Geraint, in the Arthurian cycle; Rinaldo and Ruggiero, with others, in the Carlovingian. They were not twin systems, but they were rather twin investitures of the same scheme of ideals and feelings. Their consanguinity to the primitive Homeric types is proved by a multitude of analogies of character and by the commanding place which they assign to Hector as the flower of human excellence. Without doubt, this preference was founded on his supposed moral superiority to all his fellows in Homer; and the secondary prizes of strength, valour, and the like, were naturally allowed to group themselves around what, under the Christian scheme, had become the primary ornament of man. The near relation of the two cycles to one another may be sufficiently seen in the leading references we have made, and it runs into a multitude of details both great and small, of which we can only note a few. In both the chief hero passes through a prolonged term of madness. Judas, in the College of Apostles, is represented under Charlemagne in Gano di Maganza and his house, who appear, without any development in action, in the Arthurian romance as "the traitours of Magouns," and who are likewise reflected in Sir Modred, Sir Agravain, and others; while the Mahometan element, which has a natural place ready made in a history that acknowledges Charlemagne and France, for its centres, finds its way sympathetically into one which is bound for the most part by the shores of Albion. Both schemes cling to the tradition of the unity of the Empire as well as of Christendom; and accordingly, what was historical in Charlemagne is represented in the case of Arthur by an imaginary conquest reaching as far as Rome, the capital of the West: even the sword Durindana has its counterpart in the sword Excalibur.
The moral systems of the two cycles are essentially allied: and perhaps the differences between them may be due in greater or in less part to the fact that they come to us through different media. We of the nineteenth century read the Carlovingian romance in the pages of Ariosto and Bojardo, who gave to their materials the colour of their times, and of a civilization rank in some respects, while still unripe in some others. The genius of poetry was not at the same period applying its transmuting force to the Romance of the Round Table. The date of Sir Thomas Mallory, who lived under Edward IV, is something earlier than that of the great Italian romances; he appears, too, to have been on the whole content with the humble offices of a compiler and a chronicler, and we may conceive that his spirit and diction are still older than his date. The consequence is, that we are brought into more immediate and fresher contact with the original forms of this romance. So that, as they present themselves to us, the Carlovingian cycle is the child of the latest middle age, while the Arthurian represents the earlier. Much might be said on the differences which have thus arisen, and on those which may be due to a more northern and more southern extraction respectively. Suffice it to say that the Romance of the Round Table, far less vivid and brilliant, far ruder as a work of skill and art, has more of the innocence, the emotion, the transparency, the inconsistency of childhood. Its political action is less specifically Christian than that of the rival scheme, its individual more so. It is more directly and seriously aimed at the perfection of man. It is more free from gloss and varnish; it tells its own tale with more entire simplicity. The ascetic element is more strongly, and at the same time more quaintly, developed. It has a higher conception of the nature of woman; and like the Homeric poems, appears to eschew exhibiting her perfections in alliance with warlike force and exploits. So also love, while largely infused into the story, is more subordinate to the exhibition of other qualities. Again, the Romance of the Round Table bears witness to a more distinct and keener sense of sin: and on the whole, a deeper, broader, and more manly view of human character, life, and duty. It is in effect more like what the Carlovingian cycle might have been had Dante moulded it. It hardly needs to be added that it is more mythical, inasmuch as Arthur of the Round Table is a personage, we fear, wholly doubtful, though not impossible; while the broad back of the historic Charlemagne, like another Atlas, may well sustain a world of mythical accretions. This slight comparison, be it remarked, refers exclusively to what may be termed the latest "redactions" of the two cycles of romance. Their early forms, in the lays of troubadours, and in the pages of the oldest chroniclers, offer a subject of profound interest, and one still unexhausted, although it has been examined by Mr. Panizzi and M. Fauriel, but one which is quite beyond the scope of our present subject.
 Essay on the Romantic Narrative Poetry of the Italians: London, 1830. Histoire de la Poesie Provencale: Paris, 1846.
It is to this rich repository that Mr. Tennyson has resorted for his material. He has shown, as we think, rare judgment in the choice. The Arthurian Romance has every recommendation that should win its way to the homage of a great poet. It is national: it is Christian. It is also human in the largest and deepest sense; and, therefore, though highly national, it is universal; for it rests upon those depths and breadths of our nature to which all its truly great developments in all nations are alike essentially and closely related. The distance is enough for atmosphere, not too much for detail; enough for romance, not too much for sympathy. A poet of the nineteenth century, the Laureate has adopted characters, incidents, and even language in the main, instead of attempting to project them on a basis of his own in the region of illimitable fancy. But he has done much more than this. Evidently by reading and by deep meditation, as well as by sheer force of genius, he has penetrated himself down to the very core of his being, with all that is deepest and best in the spirit of the time, or the representation, with which he deals; and as others, using old materials, have been free to alter them in the sense of vulgarity or licence, so he has claimed and used the right to sever and recombine, to enlarge, retrench, and modify, for the purposes at once of a more powerful and elaborate art than his original presents, and of a yet more elevated, or at least of a far more sustained, ethical and Christian strain.
We are rather disposed to quarrel with the title of Idylls: for no diminutive ([Greek: eidullion]) can be adequate to the breadth, vigour, and majesty which belong to the subjects, as well as to the execution, of the volume. The poet used the name once before; but he then applied it to pieces generally small in the scale of their delineations, whereas these, even if broken away one from the other, are yet like the disjoined figures from the pediment of the Parthenon in their dignity and force. One indeed among Mr. Tennyson's merits is, that he does not think it necessary to keep himself aloft by artificial effort, but undulates with his matter, and flies high or low as it requires. But even in the humblest parts of these poems—as where the little Novice describes the miniature sorrows and discipline of childhood—the whole receives its tone from an atmosphere which is heroic, and which, even in its extremest simplicity, by no means parts company with grandeur, or ceases to shine in the reflected light of the surrounding objects. Following the example which the poet has set us in a former volume, we would fain have been permitted, at least provisionally, to call these Idylls by the name of Books. Term them what we may, there are four of them—arranged, as we think, in an ascending scale.
The simplicity and grace of the principal character in Enid, with which the volume opens, touches, but does not too strongly agitate, the deeper springs of feeling. She is the beautiful daughter of Earl Yniol, who, by his refusal of a turbulent neighbour as a suitor, has drawn upon himself the ruin of his fortunes, and is visited in his depressed condition by (p. 1)—
The brave Geraint, a knight of Arthur's court, A tributary prince of Devon, one Of that great order of the Table Round....
Geraint wins her against the detested cousin. They wed, and she becomes the purest gem of the court of Guinevere, her place in which is described in the beautiful exordium of the poem. An accident, slight perhaps for the weight it is made to carry, arouses his jealousy, and he tries her severely by isolation and rude offices on one of his tours; but her gentleness, purity, and patience are proof against all, and we part from the pair in a full and happy reconciliation, which is described in lines of a beauty that leaves nothing to be desired.
The treatment of Enid by her husband has appeared to some of Mr. Tennyson's readers to be unnatural. It is no doubt both in itself repulsive, and foreign to our age and country. But the brutal element in man, which now only invades the conjugal relation in cases where it is highly concentrated, was then far more widely diffused, and not yet dissociated from alternations and even habits of attachment. Something of what we now call Eastern manners at one time marked the treatment even of the women of the West. Unnatural means contrary to nature, irrespectively of time or place; but time and place explain and warrant the treatment of Enid by Geraint.
Vivien, which follows Enid, is perhaps the least popular of the four Books. No pleasure, we grant, can be felt from the character either of the wily woman, between elf and fiend, or of the aged magician, whose love is allowed to travel whither none of his esteem or regard can follow it: and in reading this poem we miss the pleasure of those profound moral harmonies, with which the rest are charged. But we must not on these grounds proceed to the conclusion that the poet has in this case been untrue to his aims. For he has neither failed in power, nor has he led our sympathies astray; and if we ask why he should introduce us to those we cannot love, there is something in the reply that Poetry, the mirror of the world, cannot deal with its attractions only, but must present some of its repulsions also, and avail herself of the powerful assistance of its contrasts. The example of Homer, who allows Thersites to thrust himself upon the scene in the debates of heroes, gives a sanction to what reason and all experience teach, namely, the actual force of negatives in heightening effect; and the gentle and noble characters and beautiful combinations, which largely predominate in the other poems, stand in far clearer and bolder relief when we perceive the dark and baleful shadow of Vivien lowering from between them.
Vivien exhibits a well-sustained conflict between the wizard and, in another sense, the witch; on one side is the wit of woman, on the other are the endowments of the prophet and magician, at once more and less than those of nature. She has heard from him of a charm, a charm of "woven paces, and of waving hands," which paralyses its victim for ever and without deliverance, and her object is to extract from him the knowledge of it as a proof of some return for the fervid and boundless love that she pretends. We cannot but estimate very highly the skill with which Mr. Tennyson has secured to what seemed the weaker vessel the ultimate mastery in the fight. Out of the eater comes forth meat. When she seems to lose ground with him by her slander against the Round Table which he loved, she recovers it by making him believe that she saw all other men, "the knights, the Court, the King, dark in his light": and when in answer to her imprecation on herself a fearful thunderbolt descends and storm rages, then, nestling in his bosom, part in fear but more in craft, she overcomes the last remnant of his resolution, wins the secret she has so indefatigably wooed, and that instant uses it to close in gloom the famous career of the over-mastered sage.
* * * * *
Nowhere could we more opportunely than at this point call attention to Mr. Tennyson's extraordinary felicity and force in the use of metaphor and simile. This gift appears to have grown with his years, alike in abundance, truth, and grace. As the showers descend from heaven to return to it in vapour, so Mr. Tennyson's loving observation of Nature, and his Muse, seem to have had a compact of reciprocity well kept on both sides. When he was young, and when "Oenone" was first published, he almost boasted of putting a particular kind of grasshopper into Troas, which, as he told us in a note, was probably not to be found there. It is a small but yet an interesting and significant indication that, when some years after he retouched the poem, he omitted the note, and generalised the grasshopper. Whether we are right or not in taking this for a sign of the movement of his mind, there can be no doubt that his present use of figures is both the sign and the result of a reverence for Nature alike active, intelligent, and refined. Sometimes applying the metaphors of Art to Nature, he more frequently draws the materials of his analogies from her unexhausted book, and, however often he may call for some new and beautiful vehicle of illustration, she seems never to withhold an answer. With regard to this particular and very critical gift, it seems to us that he may challenge comparison with almost any poet either of ancient or modern times. We have always been accustomed to look upon Ariosto as one of the greatest among the masters of the art of metaphor and simile; and it would be easy to quote from him instances which in tenderness, grace, force, or all combined, can never be surpassed. But we have rarely seen the power subjected to a greater trial than in the passages just quoted from Mr. Tennyson, where metaphor lies by metaphor as thick as shells upon their bed; yet each individually with its outline as well drawn, its separateness as clear, its form as true to nature, and with the most full and harmonious contribution to the general effect.
* * * * *
Mr. Tennyson practises largely, and with an extraordinary skill and power, the art of designed and limited repetitions. They bear a considerable resemblance to those Homeric formulae which have been so usefully remarked by Colonel Mure—not the formulae of constant recurrence, which tells us who spoke and who answered, but those which are connected with pointing moral effects, and with ulterior purpose. These repetitions tend at once to give more definite impressions of character, and to make firmer and closer the whole tissue of the poem. Thus, in the last speech of Guinevere, she echoes back, with other ideas and expressions, the sentiment of Arthur's affection, which becomes in her mouth sublime:—
I must not scorn myself: he loves me still: Let no one dream but that he loves me still.
She prays admission among the nuns, that she may follow the pious and peaceful tenor of their life (p. 260):—
And so wear out in almsdeed and in prayer The sombre close of that voluptuous day Which wrought the ruin of my lord the King.
And it is but a debt of justice to the Guinevere of the romancers to observe, that she loses considerably by the marked transposition which Mr. Tennyson has effected in the order of greatness between Lancelot and Arthur. With him there is an original error in her estimate, independently of the breach of a positive and sacred obligation. She prefers the inferior man; and this preference implies a rooted ethical defect in her nature. In the romance of Sir T. Mallory the preference she gives to Lancelot would have been signally just, had she been free to choose. For Lancelot is of an indescribable grandeur; but the limit of Arthur's character is thus shown in certain words that he uses, and that Lancelot never could have spoken. "Much more I am sorrier for my good knight's loss than for the loss of my queen; for queens might I have enough, but, such a fellowship of good knights shall never be together in company."
We began with the exordium of this great work: we must not withhold the conclusion. We left her praying admission to the convent—
She said. They took her to themselves; and she, Still hoping, fearing, "is it yet too late?" Dwelt with them, till in time their Abbess died. Then she, for her good deeds and her pure life, And for the power of ministration in her, And likewise for the high rank she had borne, Was chosen Abbess: there, an Abbess, lived For three brief years; and there, an Abbess, pass'd To where beyond these voices there is peace.
No one, we are persuaded, can read this poem without feeling, when it ends, what may be termed the pangs of vacancy—of that void in heart and mind for want of its continuance of which we are conscious when some noble strain of music ceases, when some great work of Raphael passes from the view, when we lose sight of some spot connected with high associations, or when some transcendent character upon the page of history disappears, and the withdrawal of it is like the withdrawal of the vital air. We have followed the Guinevere of Mr. Tennyson through its detail, and have extracted largely from its pages, and yet have not a hope of having conveyed an idea of what it really is; still we have thought that in this way we should do it the least injustice, and we are also convinced that even what we have shown will tend to rouse an appetite, and that any of our readers, who may not yet have been also Mr. Tennyson's, will become more eager to learn and admire it at first hand.
We have no doubt that Mr. Tennyson has carefully considered how far his subject is capable of fulfilling the conditions of an epic structure. The history of Arthur is not an epic as it stands, but neither was the Cyclic song, of which the greatest of all epics, the "Iliad," handles a part. The poem of Ariosto is scarcely an epic, nor is that of Bojardo; but it is not this because each is too promiscuous and crowded in its brilliant phantasmagoria to conform to the severe laws of that lofty and inexorable class of poem? Though the Arthurian romance be no epic, it does not follow that no epic can be made from out of it. It is grounded in certain leading characters, men and women, conceived upon models of extraordinary grandeur; and as the Laureate has evidently grasped the genuine law which makes man and not the acts of man the base of epic song, we should not be surprised were he hereafter to realize the great achievement towards which he seems to be feeling his way. There is a moral unity and a living relationship between the four poems before us, and the first effort of 1842 as a fifth, which, though some considerable part of their contents would necessarily rank as episode, establishes the first and most essential condition of their cohesion. The achievement of Vivien bears directly on the state of Arthur by withdrawing his chief councillor—the brain, as Lancelot was the right arm, of his court; the love of Elaine is directly associated with the final catastrophe of the passion of Lancelot for Guinevere. Enid lies somewhat further off the path, nor is it for profane feet to intrude into the sanctuary, for reviewers to advise poets in these high matters; but while we presume nothing, we do not despair of seeing Mr. Tennyson achieve on the basis he has chosen the structure of a full-formed epic.
In any case we have a cheerful hope that, if he continues to advance upon himself as he has advanced heretofore, nay, if he can keep the level he has gained, such a work will be the greatest, and by far the greatest poetical creation, that, whether in our own or in foreign poetry, the nineteenth century has produced. In the face of all critics, the Laureate of England has now reached a position which at once imposes and instils respect. They are self-constituted; but he has won his way through the long dedication of his manful energies, accepted and crowned by deliberate, and, we rejoice to think, by continually growing, public favour. He has after all, and it is not the least nor lowest item in his praise, been the severest of his own critics, and has not been too proud either to learn or to unlearn in the work of maturing his genius and building up his fame.
From his very first appearance he has had the form and fashion of a true poet: the insight into beauty, the perception of harmony, the faculty of suggestion, the eye both in the physical and moral world for motion, light, and colour, the sympathetic and close observation of nature, the dominance of the constructive faculty, and that rare gift the thorough mastery and loving use of his native tongue. Many of us, the common crowd, made of the common clay, may be lovers of Nature, some as sincere or even as ardent as Mr. Tennyson; but it does not follow that even these favoured few possess the privilege that he enjoys. To them she speaks through vague and indeterminate impressions: for him she has a voice of the most delicate articulation; all her images to him are clear and definite, and he translates them for us into that language of suggestion, emphasis, and refined analogy which links the manifold to the simple and the infinite to the finite. He accomplishes for us what we should in vain attempt for ourselves, enables the puny hand to lay hold on what is vast, and brings even coarseness of grasp into a real contact with what is subtle and ethereal. His turn for metaphysical analysis is closely associated with a deep ethical insight: and many of his verses form sayings of so high a class that we trust they are destined to form a permanent part of the household-words of England.
Considering the quantity of power that Mr. Tennyson can make available, it is a great proof of self-discipline that he is not given to a wanton or tyrannous use of it. An extraordinary master of diction, he has confined himself to its severe and simple forms. In establishing this rule of practice his natural gift has evidently been aided by the fine English of the old romances, and we might count upon the fingers the cases in which he has lately deviated into the employment of any stilted phrase, or given sanction to a word not of the best fabric. Profuse in the power of graphic representation, he has chastened some of his earlier groups of imagery, which were occasionally overloaded with particulars; and in his later works, as has been well remarked, he has shown himself thoroughly aware that in poetry half is greater than the whole. That the chastity of style he has attained is not from exhaustion of power may easily be shown. No poet has evinced a more despotic mastery over intractable materials, or has been more successful in clothing what is common with the dignity of his art. The Downs are not the best subjects in the world for verse; but they will be remembered with and by his descriptive line in the "Idylls"—
Far o'er the long backs of the bushless downs.
 We use the word in what we conceive to be its only legitimate meaning; namely, after the manner and with the effect of painting. It signifies the quid, not the quale.
How becoming is the appearance of what we familiarly term the "clod" in the "Princess"! (p. 37)—
Nor those horn-handled breakers of the glebe.
Of all imaginable subjects, mathematics might seem the most hopeless to make mention of in verse; but they are with him
The hard-grained Muses of the cube and square.
Thus at a single stroke he gives an image alike simple, true, and poetical to boot, because suited to its place and object in his verse, like the heavy Caryatides well placed in architecture. After this, we may less esteem the feat by which in "Godiva" he describes the clock striking mid-day:—
All at once, With twelve great shocks of sound, the shameless noon Was clashed and hammered from a hundred towers.
But even the contents of a pigeon-pie are not beneath his notice, nor yet beyond his powers of embellishment, in "Audley Court":—
A pasty, costly made, Where quail and pigeon, lark and leveret lay Like fossils of the rock, with golden yolks Imbedded and injellied.
What excites more surprise is that he can, without any offence against good taste, venture to deal with these contents even after they have entered the mouth of the eater ("Enid," p. 79):—
The brawny spearman let his cheek Bulge with the unswallowed piece, and turning, stared.
The delicate insight of fine taste appears to show him with wonderful precision up to what point his art can control and compel his materials, and from what point the materials are in hopeless rebellion and must be let alone. So in the "Princess" (p. 89) we are introduced to—
Eight daughters of the plough, stronger than men, Huge women blowzed with health, and wind, and rain, And labour.
It was absolutely necessary for him to heighten, nay, to coarsen, the description of these masses of animated beef, who formed the standing army of the woman-commonwealth. Few would have obeyed this law without violating another; but Mr. Tennyson saw that the verb was admissible, while the adjective would have been intolerable.
In 1842 his purging process made it evident that he did not mean to allow his faults or weaknesses to stint the growth and mar the exhibition of his genius. When he published "In Memoriam" in 1850, all readers were conscious of the progressive widening and strengthening, but, above all, deepening of his mind. We cannot hesitate to mark the present volume as exhibiting another forward and upward stride, and that by perhaps the greatest of all, in his career. If we are required to show cause for this opinion under any special head, we would at once point to that which is, after all, the first among the poet's gifts—the gift of conceiving and representing human character.
Mr. Tennyson's Arthurian essays continually suggest to us comparisons not so much with any one poet as a whole, but rather with many or most of the highest poets. The music and the just and pure modulation of his verse carry us back not only to the fine ear of Shelley, but to Milton and to Shakespeare: and his powers of fancy and of expression have produced passages which, if they are excelled by that one transcendent and ethereal poet of our nation whom we have last named, yet could have been produced by no other English minstrel. Our author has a right to regard his own blank verse as highly characteristic and original: but yet Milton has contributed to its formation, and occasionally there is a striking resemblance in turn and diction, while Mr. Tennyson is the more idiomatic of the two. The chastity and moral elevation of this volume, its essential and profound though not didactic Christianity, are such as perhaps cannot be matched throughout the circle of English literature in conjunction with an equal power: and such as to recall a pattern which we know not whether Mr. Tennyson has studied, the celestial strain of Dante. This is the more remarkable, because he has had to tread upon the ground which must have been slippery for any foot but his. We are far from knowing that either Lancelot or Guinevere would have been safe even for mature readers, were it not for the instinctive purity of his mind and the high skill of his management. We do not know that in other times they have had their noble victims, whose names have become immortal as their own.
Noi leggevamo un giorno per diletto Di Lancilotto, e come amor lo strinse. * * * * * Galeotto fu il libro, e chi lo scrisse.
 It is no reproach to say that neither Dante nor Homer could have been studied by Mr. Tennyson at the time—a very early period of his life—when he wrote the lines which are allotted to them respectively in "The Palace of Art."  "Inferno," c. V, v. 127.
How difficult it is to sustain the elevation of such a subject, may be seen in the well-meant and long popular "Jane Shore" of Rowe. How easily this very theme may be vulgarised, is shown in the "Chevaliers de la Table Ronde" of M. Creuze de Lesser, who nevertheless has aimed at a peculiar delicacy of treatment.
But the grand poetical quality in which this volume gives to its author a new rank and standing is the dramatic power: the power of drawing character and of representing action. These faculties have not been precocious in Mr. Tennyson: but what is more material, they have come out in great force. He has always been fond of personal delineations, from Claribel and Lilian down to his Ida, his Psyche, and his Maud; but they have been of shadowy quality, doubtful as to flesh and blood, and with eyes having little or no speculation in them. But he is far greater and far better when he has, as he now has, a good raw material ready to his hand, than when he draws only on the airy or chaotic regions of what Carlyle calls unconditioned possibility. He is made not so much to convert the moor into the field, as the field into the rich and gorgeous garden. The imperfect nisus which might be remarked in some former works has at length reached the fulness of dramatic energy: in the Idylls we have nothing vague or dreamy to complain of: everything lives and moves, in the royal strength of nature: the fire of Prometheus has fairly caught the clay: every figure stands clear, broad, and sharp before us, as if it had sky for its background: and this of small as well as great, for even the "little novice" is projected on the canvas with the utmost truth and vigour, and with that admirable effect in heightening the great figure of Guinevere, which Patroclus produces for the character of Achilles, and (as some will have it) the modest structure of Saint Margaret's for the giant proportions of Westminster Abbey. And this, we repeat, is the crowning gift of the poet: the power of conceiving and representing man.
We do not believe that a Milton—or, in other words, the writer of a "Paradise Lost"—could ever be so great as a Shakespeare or a Homer, because (setting aside all other questions) his chief characters are neither human, nor can they be legitimately founded upon humanity; and, moreover, what he has to represent of man is, by the very law of its being, limited in scale and development. Here at least the saying is a true one: Antiquitas saeculi, juventus mundi; rendered by our poet in "The Day-dream,"
For we are ancients of the earth, And in the morning of the times.
The Adam and Eve of Paradise exhibit to us the first inception of our race; and neither then, nor after their first sad lesson, could they furnish those materials for representation, which their descendants have accumulated in the school of their incessant and many-coloured, but on the whole too gloomy, experience. To the long chapters of that experience every generation of man makes its own addition. Again we ask the aid of Mr. Tennyson in "Locksley Hall":—
Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs, And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.
The substitution of law for force has indeed altered the relations of the strong and the weak; the hardening or cooling down of political institutions and social traditions, the fixed and legal track instead of the open pathless field, have removed or neutralised many of those occasions and passages of life, which were formerly the schools of individual character. The genius of mechanism has vied, in the arts of both peace and war, with the strong hand, and has well-nigh robbed it of its place. But let us not be deceived by that smoothness of superficies, which the social prospect offers to the distant eye. Nearness dispels the illusion; life is still as full of deep, of ecstatic, of harrowing interests as it ever was. The heart of man still beats and bounds, exults and suffers, from causes which are only less salient and conspicuous because they are more mixed and diversified. It still undergoes every phase of emotion, and even, as seems probable, with a susceptibility which has increased and is increasing, and which has its index and outer form in the growing delicacy and complexities of the nervous system. Does any one believe that ever at any time there was a greater number of deaths referable to that comprehensive cause a broken heart? Let none fear that this age, or any coming one, will extinguish the material of poetry. The more reasonable apprehension might be lest it should sap the vital force necessary to handle that material, and mould it into appropriate forms. To those especially, who cherish any such apprehension, we recommend the perusal of this volume. Of it we will say without fear, what we would not dare to say of any other recent work; that of itself it raises the character and the hopes of the age and the country which have produced it, and that its author, by his own single strength, has made a sensible addition to the permanent wealth of mankind.
CANON WILBERFORCE ON DARWIN
[From The Quarterly Review, July, 1860]
On the Origin of Species, by means of Natural Selection; or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. By CHARLES DARWIN, M.A., F.R.S. London, 1860.
Any contribution to our Natural History literature from the pen of Mr. C. Darwin is certain to command attention. His scientific attainments, his insight and carefulness as an observer, blended with no scanty measure of imaginative sagacity, and his clear and lively style, make all his writings unusually attractive. His present volume on the Origin of Species is the result of many years of observation, thought, and speculation; and is manifestly regarded by him as the "opus" upon which his future fame is to rest. It is true that he announces it modestly enough as the mere precursor of a mightier volume. But that volume is only intended to supply the facts which are to support the completed argument of the present essay. In this we have a specimen-collection of the vast accumulation; and, working from these as the high analytical mathematician may work from the admitted results of his conic sections, he proceeds to deduce all the conclusions to which he wishes to conduct his readers.
The essay is full of Mr. Darwin's characteristic excellences. It is a most readable book; full of facts in natural history, old and new, of his collecting and of his observing; and all of these are told in his own perspicuous language, and all thrown into picturesque combinations, and all sparkle with the colours of fancy and the lights of imagination. It assumes, too, the grave proportions of a sustained argument upon a matter of the deepest interest, not to naturalists only, or even to men of science exclusively, but to every one who is interested in the history of man and of the relations of nature around him to the history and plan of creation.
With Mr. Darwin's "argument" we may say in the outset that we shall have much and grave fault to find. But this does not make us the less disposed to admire the singular excellences of his work; and we will seek in limine to give our readers a few examples of these. Here, for instance, is a beautiful illustration of the wonderful interdependence of nature—of the golden chain of unsuspected relations which bind together all the mighty web which stretches from end to end of this full and most diversified earth. Who, as he listened to the musical hum of the great humble-bees, or marked their ponderous flight from flower to flower, and watched the unpacking of their trunks for their work of suction, would have supposed that the multiplication or diminution of their race, or the fruitfulness and sterility of the red clover, depend as directly on the vigilance of our cats as do those of our well-guarded game-preserves on the watching of our keepers? Yet this Mr. Darwin has discovered to be literally the case:—
From experiments which I have lately tried, I have found that the visits of bees are necessary for the fertilisation of some kinds of clover; but humble-bees alone visit the red clover (Trifolium pratense), as other bees cannot reach the nectar. Hence I have very little doubt, that if the whole genus of humble-bees became extinct or very rare in England, the heartsease and red clover would become very rare or wholly disappear. The number of humble-bees in any district depends in a great degree on the number of field-mice, which destroy their combs and nests; and Mr. H. Newman, who has long attended to the habits of humble-bees, believes that "more than two-thirds of them are thus destroyed all over England." Now the number of mice is largely dependent, as every one knows, on the number of cats; and Mr. Newman says, "near villages and small towns I have found the nests of humble-bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the number of cats that destroy the mice." Hence, it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention, first of mice, and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district.—p. 74.
* * * * *
Now, all this is, we think, really charming writing. We feel as we walk abroad with Mr. Darwin very much as the favoured object of the attention of the dervise must have felt when he had rubbed the ointment around his eye, and had it opened to see all the jewels, and diamonds, and emeralds, and topazes, and rubies, which were sparkling unregarded beneath the earth, hidden as yet from all eyes save those which the dervise had enlightened. But here we are bound to say our pleasure terminates; for, when we turn with Mr. Darwin to his "argument," we are almost immediately at variance with him. It is as an "argument" that the essay is put forward; as an argument we will test it.
We can perhaps best convey to our readers a clear view of Mr. Darwin's chain of reasoning, and of our objections to it, if we set before them, first, the conclusion to which he seeks to bring them; next, the leading propositions which he must establish in order to make good his final inference; and then the mode by which he endeavours to support his propositions.
The conclusion, then, to which Mr. Darwin would bring us is, that all the various forms of vegetable and animal life with which the globe is now peopled, or of which we find the remains preserved in a fossil state in the great Earth-Museum around us, which the science of geology unlocks for our instruction, have come down by natural succession of descent from father to son,—"animals from at most four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or less number" (p. 484), as Mr. Darwin at first somewhat diffidently suggests; or rather, as, growing bolder when he has once pronounced his theory, he goes on to suggest to us, from one single head:—
Analogy would lead me one step further, namely, to the belief that ALL ANIMALS and PLANTS have descended from some one prototype. But analogy may be a deceitful guide. Nevertheless, all living things have much in common in their chemical composition, their germinal vesicles, their cellular structure, and their laws of growth and reproduction....
Therefore I shall infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth (man therefore of course included) have descended from some one primordial form into which life was first breathed by the Creator.—p. 484.
This is the theory which really pervades the whole volume. Man, beast, creeping thing, and plant of the earth, are all the lineal and direct descendants of some one individual ens, whose various progeny have been simply modified by the action of natural and ascertainable conditions into the multiform aspect of life which we see around us. This is undoubtedly at first sight a somewhat startling conclusion to arrive at. To find that mosses, grasses, turnips, oaks, worms, and flies, mites and elephants, infusoria and whales, tadpoles of to-day and venerable saurians, truffles and men, are all equally the lineal descendants of the same aboriginal common ancestor, perhaps of the nucleated cell of some primaeval fungus, which alone possessed the distinguishing honour of being the "one primordial form into which life was first breathed by the Creator "—this, to say the least of it, is no common discovery—no very expected conclusion. But we are too loyal pupils of inductive philosophy to start back from any conclusion by reason of its strangeness. Newton's patient philosophy taught him to find in the falling apple the law which governs the silent movements of the stars in their courses; and if Mr. Darwin can with the same correctness of reasoning demonstrate to us our fungular descent, we shall dismiss our pride, and avow, with the characteristic humility of philosophy, our unsuspected cousinship with the mushrooms,—
Claim kindred there, and have our claim allowed,
—only we shall ask leave to scrutinise carefully every step of the argument which has such an ending, and demur if at any point of it we are invited to substitute unlimited hypothesis for patient observation, or the spasmodic fluttering flight of fancy for the severe conclusions to which logical accuracy of reasoning has led the way.
Now, the main propositions by which Mr. Darwin's conclusion is attained are these:—
1. That observed and admitted variations spring up in the course of descents from a common progenitor.
2. That many of these variations tend to an improvement upon the parent stock.
3. That, by a continued selection of these improved specimens as the progenitors of future stock, its powers may be unlimitedly increased.
4. And, lastly, that there is in nature a power continually and universally working out this selection, and so fixing and augmenting these improvements.
Mr. Darwin's whole theory rests upon the truth of these propositions and crumbles utterly away if only one of them fail him. These, therefore, we must closely scrutinise. We will begin with the last in our series, both because we think it the newest and the most ingenious part of Mr. Darwin's whole argument, and also because, whilst we absolutely deny the mode in which he seeks to apply the existence of the power to help him in his argument, yet we think that he throws great and very interesting light upon the fact that such self-acting power does actively and continuously work in all creation around us.
Mr. Darwin finds then the disseminating and improving power, which he needs to account for the development of new forms in nature, in the principle of "Natural Selection," which is evolved in the strife for room to live and flourish which is evermore maintained between themselves by all living things. One of the most interesting parts of Mr. Darwin's volume is that in which he establishes this law of natural selection; we say establishes, because—repeating that we differ from him totally in the limits which he would assign to its action—we have no doubt of the existence or of the importance of the law itself.
* * * * *
We come then to these conclusions. All the facts presented to us in the natural world tend to show that none of the variations produced in the fixed forms of animal life, when seen in its most plastic condition under domestication, give any promise of a true transmutation of species; first, from the difficulty of accumulating and fixing variations within the same species; secondly, from the fact that these variations, though most serviceable for man, have no tendency to improve the individual beyond the standard of his own specific type, and so to afford matter, even if they were infinitely produced, for the supposed power of natural selection on which to work; whilst all variations from the mixture of species are barred by the inexorable law of hybrid sterility. Further, the embalmed records of 3,000 years show that there has been no beginning of transmutation in the species of our most familiar domesticated animals; and beyond this, that in the countless tribes of animal life around us, down to its lowest and most variable species, no one has ever discovered a single instance of such transmutation being now in prospect; no new organ has ever been known to be developed—no new natural instinct to be formed—whilst, finally, in the vast museum of departed animal life which the strata of the earth imbed for our examination, whilst they contain far too complete a representation of the past to be set aside as a mere imperfect record, yet afford no one instance of any such change as having ever been in progress, or give us anywhere the missing links of the assumed chain, or the remains which would enable now existing variations, by gradual approximations, to shade off into unity. On what then is the new theory based? We say it with unfeigned regret, in dealing with such a man as Mr. Darwin, on the merest hypothesis, supported by the most unbounded assumptions. These are strong words, but we will give a few instances to prove their truth:—
All physiologists admit that the swim-bladder is homologous or "ideally similar" in position and structure with the lungs of the higher vertebrate animals; hence there seems to me to be no great difficulty in believing that natural selection has actually converted a swim-bladder into a lung, or organ used exclusively for respiration.—p. 191.
I can indeed hardly doubt that all vertebrate animals having true lungs have descended by ordinary generation from the ancient prototype, of which we know nothing, furnished with a floating apparatus or swim-bladder—p. 191.
We must be cautious
In concluding that the most different habits of all could not graduate into each other; that a bat, for instance, could not have been formed by natural selection from an animal which at first could only glide through the air.—p. 204.
I see no difficulty in supposing that such links formerly existed, and that each had been formed by the same steps as in the case of the less perfectly gliding squirrels, and that each grade of structure was useful to its possessor. Nor can I see any insuperable difficulty in further believing it possible that the membrane-connected fingers and forearm of the galeopithecus might be greatly lengthened by natural selection, and this, as far as the organs of flight are concerned, would convert it into a bat.—p. 181.
For instance, a swim-bladder has apparently been converted into an air-breathing lung.—p. 181.
The electric organs of fishes offer another case of special difficulty: It is impossible to conceive by what steps these wondrous organs have been produced; but, as Owen and others have remarked, their intimate structure closely resembles that of common muscle; and as it has lately been shown that rays have an organ closely analogous to the electric apparatus, and yet do not, as Matteucci asserts, discharge any electricity, we must own that we are far too ignorant to argue that no transition of any kind is possible.—pp. 192-3.
Sometimes Mr. Darwin seems for a moment to recoil himself from this extravagant liberty of speculation, as when he says, concerning the eye,—
To suppose that the eye, with its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.—p. 186.
But he soon returns to his new wantonness of conjecture, and, without the shadow of a fact, contents himself with saying that—
he suspects that any sensitive nerve may be rendered sensitive to light, and likewise to those coarser vibrations of the air which produce sound.—p-187.
And in the following passage he carries this extravagance to the highest pitch, requiring a licence for advancing as true any theory which cannot be demonstrated to be actually impossible:—
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.—p. 189.
Another of these assumptions is not a little remarkable. It suits his argument to deduce all our known varieties of pigeons from the rock-pigeon (the Columba livia), and this parentage is traced out, though not, we think, to demonstration, yet with great ingenuity and patience. But another branch of the argument would be greatly strengthened by establishing the descent of our various breeds of dogs with their perfect power of fertile inter-breeding from different natural species. And accordingly, though every fact as to the canine race is parallel to the facts which have been used before to establish the common parentage of the pigeons in Columba livia, all these are thrown over in a moment, and Mr. Darwin, first assuming, without the shadow of proof, that our domestic breeds are descended from different species, proceeds calmly to argue from this, as though it were a demonstrated certainty.
It seems to me unlikely in the case of the dog-genus, which is distributed in a wild state throughout the world, that since man first appeared one species alone should have been domesticated.—p. 18.
In some cases I do not doubt that the intercrossing of species aboriginally distinct has played an important part in the origin of our domestic productions.—p. 43.
What new words are these for a loyal disciple of the true Baconian philosophy?—"I can conceive"—"It is not incredible"—"I do not doubt" —"It is conceivable."
For myself, I venture confidently to look back thousands on thousands of generations, and I see an animal striped like a zebra, but perhaps otherwise very differently constructed, the common parent of our domestic horse, whether or not it be descended from one or more wild stocks of the ass, hemionous, quagga, or zebra.—p. 167.
In the name of all true philosophy we protest against such a mode of dealing with nature, as utterly dishonourable to all natural science, as reducing it from its present lofty level of being one of the noblest trainers of man's intellect and instructors of his mind, to being a mere idle play of the fancy, without the basis of fact or the discipline of observation. In the "Arabian Nights" we are not offended as at an impossibility when Amina sprinkles her husband with water and transforms him into a dog, but we cannot open the august doors of the venerable temple of scientific truth to the genii and magicians of romance. We plead guilty to Mr. Darwin's imputation that
the chief cause of our natural unwillingness to admit that one species has given birth to other and distinct species is that we are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the intermediate steps.—p. 481.
In this tardiness to admit great changes suggested by the imagination, but the steps of which we cannot see, is the true spirit of philosophy.
Analysis, says Professor Sedgwick, consists in making experiments and observations, and in drawing general conclusions from them by induction, and admitting of no objections against the conclusions but such as are taken from experiments or other certain truths; for hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental philosophy.
 "A Discourse on the Studies of the University," by A. Sedgwick, p. 102.
The other solvent which Mr. Darwin most freely and, we think, unphilosophically employs to get rid of difficulties, is his use of time. This he shortens or prolongs at will by the mere wave of his magician's rod. Thus the duration of whole epochs, during which certain forms of animal life prevailed, is gathered up into a point, whilst an unlimited expanse of years, "impressing his mind with a sense of eternity," is suddenly interposed between that and the next series, though geology proclaims the transition to have been one of gentle and, it may be, swift accomplishment. All this too is made the more startling because it is used to meet the objections drawn from facts. "We see none of your works," says the observer of nature; "we see no beginnings of the portentous change; we see plainly beings of another order in creation, but we find amongst them no tendencies to these altered organisms." "True," says the great magician, with a calmness no difficulty derived from the obstinacy of facts can disturb; "true, but remember the effect of time. Throw in a few hundreds of millions of years more or less, and why should not all these changes be possible, and, if possible, why may I not assume them to be real?"
Together with this large licence of assumption we notice in this book several instances of receiving as facts whatever seems to bear out the theory upon the slightest evidence, and rejecting summarily others, merely because they are fatal to it. We grieve to charge upon Mr. Darwin this freedom in handling facts, but truth extorts it from us. That the loose statements and unfounded speculations of this book should come from the author of the monograms on Cirripedes, and the writer, in the natural history of the Voyage of the "Beagle," of the paper on the Coral Reefs, is indeed a sad warning how far the love of a theory may seduce even a first-rate naturalist from the very articles of his creed.
This treatment of facts is followed up by another favourite line of argument, namely, that by this hypothesis difficulties otherwise inextricable are solved. Such passages abound. Take a few, selected almost at random, to illustrate what we mean:—
How inexplicable are these facts on the ordinary view of creation!—p. 436.
Such facts as the presence of peculiar species of bats and the absence of other mammals on oceanic islands are utterly inexplicable on the theory of independent acts of creation.—pp. 477-8.
It must be admitted that these facts receive no explanation on the theory of creation.—p. 478.
The inhabitants of the Cape de Verde Islands are related to those of Africa, like those of the Galapagos to America. I believe this grand fact can receive no sort of explanation on the ordinary view of independent creation.—pp. 398-9.
Now what can be more simply reconcilable with that theory than Mr. Darwin's own account of the mode in which the migration of animal life from one distant region to another is continually accomplished?
Take another of these suggestions:—
It is inexplicable, on the theory of creation, why a part developed in a very unusual manner in any one species of a genus, and therefore, as we may naturally infer, of great importance to the species, should be eminently liable to variation.—p. 474.
Why "inexplicable"? Such a liability to variation might most naturally be expected in the part "unusually developed," because such unusual development is of the nature of a monstrosity, and monsters are always tending to relapse into likeness to the normal type. Yet this argument is one on which he mainly relies to establish his theory, for he sums all up in this triumphant inference:—
I cannot believe that a false theory would explain, as it seems to me that the theory of natural selection does explain, the several large classes of facts above specified.—p. 480.
Now, as to all this, we deny, first, that many of these difficulties are "inexplicable on any other supposition." Of the greatest of them (128, 194) we shall have to speak before we conclude. We will here touch only on one of those which are continually reappearing in Mr. Darwin's pages, in order to illustrate his mode of dealing with them. He finds, then, one of these "inexplicable difficulties" in the fact, that the young of the blackbird, instead of resembling the adult in the colour of its plumage, is like the young of many other birds spotted, and triumphantly declaring that—
No one will suppose that the stripes on the whelp of a lion, or the spots on the young blackbird, are of any use to these animals, or are related to the conditions to which they are exposed.—pp. 439-40—
he draws from them one of his strongest arguments for this alleged community of descent. Yet what is more certain to every observant field-naturalist than that this alleged uselessness of colouring is one of the greatest protections to the young bird, imperfect in its flight, perching on every spray, sitting unwarily on every bush through which the rays of sunshine dapple every bough to the colour of its own plumage, and so give it a facility of escape which it would utterly want if it bore the marked and prominent colours, the beauty of which the adult bird needs to recommend him to his mate, and can safely bear with his increased habits of vigilance and power of wing?
But, secondly, as to many of these difficulties, the alleged solving of which is one great proof of the truth of Mr. Darwin's theory, we are compelled to join issue with him on another ground, and deny that he gives us any solution at all. Thus, for instance, Mr. Darwin builds a most ingenious argument on the tendency of the young of the horse, ass, zebra, and quagga, to bear on their shoulders and on their legs certain barred stripes. Up these bars (bars sinister, as we think, as to any true descent of existing animals from their fancied prototype) he mounts through his "thousands and thousands of generations," to the existence of his "common parent, otherwise perhaps very differently constructed, but striped like a zebra."—(p. 67.) "How inexplicable," he exclaims, "on the theory of creation, is the occasional appearance of stripes on the shoulder and legs of several species of the horse genus and in their hybrids!"—(p. 473.) He tells us that to suppose that each species was created with a tendency "like this, is to make the works of God a mere mockery and deception"; and he satisfies himself that all difficulty is gone when he refers the stripes to his hypothetical thousands on thousands of years removed progenitor. But how is his difficulty really affected? for why is the striping of one species a less real difficulty than the striping of many?
Another instance of this mode of dealing with his subject, to which we must call the attention of our readers, because it too often recurs, is contained in the following question:—
Were all the infinitely numerous kinds of animals and plants created as eggs, or seed, or as full grown? and, in the case of mammals, were they created bearing the false marks of nourishment from the mother's womb?—p. 483.
The difficulty here glanced at is extreme, but it is one for the solution of which the transmutation-theory gives no clue. It is inherent in the idea of the creation of beings, which are to reproduce their like by natural succession; for, in such a world, place the first beginning where you will, that beginning must contain the apparent history of a past, which existed only in the mind of the Creator. If, with Mr. Darwin, to escape the difficulty of supposing the first man at his creation to possess in that framework of his body "false marks of nourishment from his mother's womb," with Mr. Darwin you consider him to have been an improved ape, you only carry the difficulty up from the first man to the first ape; if, with Mr. Darwin, in violation of all observation, you break the barrier between the classes of vegetable and animal life, and suppose every animal to be an "improved" vegetable, you do but carry your difficulty with you into the vegetable world; for, how could there be seeds if there had been no plants to seed them? and if you carry up your thoughts through the vista of the Darwinian eternity up to the primaeval fungus, still the primaeval fungus must have had a humus, from which to draw into its venerable vessels the nourishment of its archetypal existence, and that humus must itself be a "false mark" of a pre-existing vegetation.
We have dwelt a little upon this, because it is by such seeming solutions of difficulties as that which this passage supplies that the transmutationist endeavours to prop up his utterly rotten fabric of guess and speculation.
There are no parts of Mr. Darwin's ingenious book in which he gives the reins more completely to his fancy than where he deals with the improvement of instinct by his principle of natural selection. We need but instance his assumption, without a fact on which to build it, that the marvellous skill of the honey-bee in constructing its cells is thus obtained, and the slave-making habits of the Formica Polyerges thus formed. There seems to be no limit here to the exuberance of his fancy, and we cannot but think that we detect one of those hints by which Mr. Darwin indicates the application of his system from the lower animals to man himself, when he dwells so pointedly upon the fact that it is always the black ant which is enslaved by his other coloured and more fortunate brethren. "The slaves are black!" We believe that, if we had Mr. Darwin in the witness-box, and could subject him to a moderate cross-examination, we should find that he believed that the tendency of the lighter-coloured races of mankind to prosecute the negro slave-trade was really a remains, in their more favoured condition, of the "extraordinary and odious instinct" which had possessed them before they had been "improved by natural selection" from Formica Polyerges into Homo. This at least is very much the way in which (p. 479) he slips in quite incidentally the true identity of man with the horse, the bat, and the porpoise:—
The framework of bones being the same in the hand of a man, wing of a bat, fin of a porpoise, and leg of the horse, the same number of vertebrae forming the neck of the giraffe and of the elephant, and innumerable other such facts, at once explain themselves on the theory of descent with slow and slight successive modifications.—p. 479.
Such assumptions as these, we once more repeat, are most dishonourable and injurious to science; and though, out of respect to Mr. Darwin's high character and to the tone of his work, we have felt it right to weigh the "argument" again set by him before us in the simple scales of logical examination, yet we must remind him that the view is not a new one, and that it has already been treated with admirable humour when propounded by another of his name and of his lineage. We do not think that, with all his matchless ingenuity, Mr. Darwin has found any instance which so well illustrates his own theory of the improved descendant under the elevating influences of natural selection exterminating the progenitor whose specialities he has exaggerated as he himself affords us in this work. For if we go back two generations we find the ingenious grandsire of the author of the Origin of Species speculating on the same subject, and almost in the same manner with his more daring descendant.
* * * * *
Our readers will not have failed to notice that we have objected to the views with which we have been dealing solely on scientific grounds. We have done so from our fixed conviction that it is thus that the truth or falsehood of such arguments should be tried. We have no sympathy with those who object to any facts or alleged facts in nature, or to any inference logically deduced from them, because they believe them to contradict what it appears to them is taught by Revelation. We think that all such objections savour of a timidity which is really inconsistent with a firm and well-instructed faith:—
"Let us for a moment," profoundly remarks Professor Sedgwick, "suppose that there are some religious difficulties in the conclusions of geology. How, then, are we to solve them? Not by making a world after a pattern of our own—not by shifting and shuffling the solid strata of the earth, and then dealing them out in such a way as to play the game of an ignorant or dishonest hypothesis—not by shutting our eyes to facts, or denying the evidence of our senses—but by patient investigation, carried on in the sincere love of truth, and by learning to reject every consequence not warranted by physical evidence."
He who is as sure as he is of his own existence that the God of Truth is at once the God of Nature and the God of Revelation, cannot believe it to be possible that His voice in either, rightly understood, can differ, or deceive His creatures. To oppose facts in the natural world because they seem to oppose Revelation, or to humour them so as to compel them to speak its voice, is, he knows, but another form of the ever-ready feebleminded dishonesty of lying for God, and trying by fraud or falsehood to do the work of the God of truth. It is with another and a nobler spirit that the true believer walks amongst the works of nature. The words graven on the everlasting rocks are the words of God, and they are graven by His hand. No more can they contradict His Word written in His book, than could the words of the old covenant graven by His hand on the stony tables contradict the writings of His hand in the volume of the new dispensation. There may be to man difficulty in reconciling all the utterances of the two voices. But what of that? He has learned already that here he knows only in part, and that the day of reconciling all apparent contradictions between what must agree is nigh at hand. He rests his mind in perfect quietness on this assurance, and rejoices in the gift of light without a misgiving as to what it may discover:—
"A man of deep thought and great practical wisdom," says Sedgwick, "one whose piety and benevolence have for many years been shining before the world, and of whose sincerity no scoffer (of whatever school) will dare to start a doubt, recorded his opinion in the great assembly of the men of science who during the past year were gathered from every corner of the Empire within the walls of this University, 'that Christianity had everything to hope and nothing to fear from the advancement of philosophy.'"
 "A Discourse on the Studies of the University," p. 149.  Ibid., p. 153.  Speech of Dr. Chalmers at the Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, June, 1833.
This is as truly the spirit of Christianity as it is that of philosophy. Few things have more deeply injured the cause of religion than the busy fussy energy with which men, narrow and feeble alike in faith and in science, have bustled forth to reconcile all new discoveries in physics with the word of inspiration. For it continually happens that some larger collection of facts, or some wider view of the phenomena of nature, alter the whole philosophic scheme; whilst Revelation has been committed to declare an absolute agreement with what turns out after all to have been a misconception or an error. We cannot, therefore, consent to test the truth of natural science by the Word of Revelation. But this does not make it the less important to point out on scientific grounds scientific errors, when those errors tend to limit God's glory in creation, or to gainsay the revealed relations of that creation to Himself. To both these classes of error, though, we doubt not, quite unintentionally on his part, we think that Mr. Darwin's speculations directly tend.
Mr. Darwin writes as a Christian, and we doubt not that he is one. We do not for a moment believe him to be one of those who retain in some corner of their hearts a secret unbelief which they dare not vent; and we therefore pray him to consider well the grounds on which we brand his speculations with the charge of such a tendency. First, then, he not obscurely declares that he applies his scheme of the action of the principle of natural selection to MAN himself, as well as to the animals around him. Now, we must say at once, and openly, that such a notion is absolutely incompatible not only with single expressions in the word of God on that subject of natural science with which it is not immediately concerned, but, which in our judgment is of far more importance, with the whole representation of that moral and spiritual condition of man which is its proper subject-matter. Man's derived supremacy over the earth; man's power of articulate speech; man's gift of reason; man's free-will and responsibility; man's fall and man's redemption; the incarnation of the Eternal Son; the indwelling of the Eternal Spirit,— all are equally and utterly irreconcilable with the degrading notion of the brute origin of him who was created in the image of God, and redeemed by the Eternal Son assuming to himself his nature. Equally inconsistent, too, not with any passing expressions, but with the whole scheme of God's dealings with man as recorded in His word, is Mr. Darwin's daring notion of man's further development into some unknown extent of powers, and shape, and size, through natural selection acting through that long vista of ages which he casts mistily over the earth upon the most favoured individuals of his species. We care not in these pages to push the argument further. We have done enough for our purpose in thus succinctly intimating its course. If any of our readers doubt what must be the result of such speculations carried to their logical and legitimate conclusion, let them turn to the pages of Oken, and see for themselves the end of that path the opening of which is decked out in these pages with the bright hues and seemingly innocent deductions of the transmutation-theory.
Nor can we doubt, secondly, that this view, which thus contradicts the revealed relation of creation to its Creator, is equally inconsistent with the fullness of His glory. It is, in truth, an ingenious theory for diffusing throughout creation the working and so the personality of the Creator. And thus, however unconsciously to him who holds them, such views really tend inevitably to banish from the mind most of the peculiar attributes of the Almighty.
How, asks Mr. Darwin, can we possibly account for the manifest plan, order, and arrangement which pervade creation, except we allow to it this self-developing power through modified descent?
As Milne-Edwards has well expressed it, Nature is prodigal in variety, but niggard in innovation. Why, on the theory of creation, should this be so? Why should all the parts and organs of many independent beings, each supposed to have been separately created for its proper place in nature, be so commonly linked together by graduated steps? Why should not Nature have taken a leap from structure to structure?—p. 194.
It is a truly wonderful fact—the wonder of which we are apt to overlook from familiarity—that all animals and plants throughout all time and space should be related to each other in group subordinate to group, in the manner which we everywhere behold, namely, varieties of the same species most closely related together, species of the same genus less closely and unequally related together, forming sections and sub-genera, species of distinct genera much less closely related, and genera related in different degrees, forming sub-families, families, orders, sub-classes, and classes.—pp. 128-9.
How can we account for all this? By the simplest and yet the most comprehensive answer. By declaring the stupendous fact that all creation is the transcript in matter of ideas eternally existing in the mind of the Most High—that order in the utmost perfectness of its relation pervades His works, because it exists as in its centre and highest fountain-head in Him the Lord of all. Here is the true account of the fact which has so utterly misled shallow observers, that Man himself, the Prince and Head of this creation, passes in the earlier stages of his being through phases of existence closely analogous, so far as his earthly tabernacle is concerned, to those in which the lower animals ever remain. At that point of being the development of the protozoa is arrested. Through it the embryo of their chief passes to the perfection of his earthly frame. But the types of those lower forms of being must be found in the animals which never advance beyond them—not in man for whom they are but the foundation for an after-development; whilst he too, Creation's crown and perfection, thus bears witness in his own frame to the law of order which pervades the universe.
In like manner could we answer every other question as to which Mr. Darwin thinks all oracles are dumb unless they speak his speculation. He is, for instance, more than once troubled by what he considers imperfections in Nature's work. "If," he says, "our reason leads us to admire with enthusiasm a multitude of inimitable contrivances in Nature, this same reason tells us that some other contrivances are less perfect."