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Ah no, - she is asleep in Tyntagil
My princess, art thou there? Sweet, 't is too late.
To bed-good night. And so, (our poet passing without notice from Tristram’s semidramatic musings and talkings, to his own not more coherent narrative) —
She left the gleam-lit fireplace,
of one who can divine
Sleeping with her little ones, and, it may be, dreaming too, though less happily than they, lies Iseult of Brittany. And now
What voices are those on the clear night air?
Tristram. Raise the light, my page, that I may see her.
Iseult. Blame me not, poor sufferer, that I tarried.
Yes, the Queen Iseult of Cornwall, Iseult that was of Ireland, Iseult of the ship upon the dreamy seas long since, has crossed these stormy seas to-night, is here, holds his hand. And so proceeds, through some six or seven pages of Part II., the fine colloquy of the two sad, world-worn, late-reunited lovers. When we open upon Part III.,
A year had flown, and in the chapel old
Beautiful, simple, old mediæval story! We have followed it, led on as much by its own intrinsic charm as by the form and coloring - beautiful too, but indistinct - which our modern poet has given it. He is obscure at times, and hesitates and falters in it; the knights and dames, we fear, of old NorthFrance and Western Germany would have been grievously put to it to make him out. Only upon a fourth re-reading, and by the grace of a happy moment, did we satisfy our critical conscience that, when the two lovers have sunk together in death, the knight on his pillows, and Queen Iseult kneeling at his side, the poet, after passing to the Cornish court where she was yesternight, returns to address himself to a hunter with his dogs, worked in the tapestry of the chamber here, whom he conceives to be pausing in the pictured chase, and staring, with eyes of wonder, on the real scene of the pale knight on the pillows and the kneeling lady fair. But
Cheer, cheer thy dogs into the brake,
A thousand years ago." Fortunately, indeed, with the commencement of Part III., the most matter-of-fact quarterly conscience may feel itself pretty well set at ease by the unusually explicit statements that
A year had fled; and in the chapel old
The young surviving Iseult, one bright day
Yet anon, again and thicker now perhaps than ever, the mist of more than poetic dubiousness closes over and around us. And as he sings to us about the widowed lady Iseult, sitting upon the sea-banks of Brittany, watching her bright-eyed children, talking with them and telling them old Breton stories, while still, in all her talk and her story, her own dreamy memories of the past, and perplexed thought of the present, mournfully mingle, it is really all but impossible to ascertain her, or rather his, real meanings. We listen, indeed, not quite unpleased, to a sort of faint musical mumble, conveying at times a kind of subdued half-sense, or intimating, perhaps, a threequarters-implied question; Is any thing real?— is love any thing? - what is any thing?- is there substance enough even in sorrow to mark the lapse of time?—is not passion a diseased unrest ?- did not the fairy Vivian, when the wise Merlin forgot his craft to fall in love with her, wave her wimple over her sleeping adorer ?
Nine times she waved the fluttering wimple round,
Why or wherefore, or with what purport, who will venture exactly to say ? — but such, however, was the tale which, while Tristram and his first Iseult lay in their graves, the second Iseult, on the sea-banks of Brittany, told her little ones.
And yet, dim and faint as is the sound of it, we still prefer this dreamy patience, the soft submissive endurance of the Breton lady, and the human passions and sorrows of the Knight and the Queen, to the high, and shall we say, pseudoGreek inflation of the philosopher musing above the crater, and the boy Callicles, singing myths upon the mountain.
Does the reader require morals and meanings to these stories? What shall they be, then ?- the deceitfulness of knowledge, and the illusiveness of the affections, the hardness and roughness and contrariousness of the world, the difficulty of living at all, the impossibility of doing any thing, — voilà tout? A charitable and patient reader, we believe, (such as is the present reviewer,) will find in the minor poems that accompany these pieces, intimations — what more can reader or reviewer ask? - of some better and further thing than these; some approximations to a kind of confidence, some incipiences of a degree of hope, some roots, retaining some vitality, of conviction and moral purpose.
And though we wear out life, alas,
Yet shall we one day gain, life past,
We shall not then deny a course
In the future, it seems, there is something for us; and for the present also, which is more germane to our matter, we have discovered some precepts about " hope, light, and persistence," which we intend to make the most of. Meantime, it is one promising point in our author of the initial, that his second is certainly on the whole an improvement upon his first volume. There is less obvious study of effect; upon the whole, a plainer and simpler and less factitious manner and method of treatment. This, he may be sure, is the only safe course.
Not by turning and twisting his eyes, in the hope of seeing things as Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, or Milton saw them; but by seeing them, by accepting them as he sees them, and faithfully depicting accordingly, will he attain the object he desires. In the earlier volume, one of the most generally admired pieces was “ The Forsaken Merman.”
Come, dear children, let us away
Down, and away below,
says the Merman, standing upon the sea-shore, whither he and his children came up to call back the human Margaret, their mother, who had left them to go, for one day — for Easterday — to say her prayers with her kinsfolk in the little gray church on the shore :
"'T will be Easter-time in the world — ah me,
And I lose my poor soul, Merman, here with thee.' And when she staid, and staid on, and it seemed a long while, and the little ones began to moan, at last, up went the Merman with the little ones to the shore, and so on into the town, and to the little gray church, and there looked in through the small leaded panes of the window. There she sits in the aisle; but she does not look up, her eyes are fixed upon the holy page; it is in vain we try to catch her attention.
Come away, children, call no more,
Down, down to the depths of the sea. She will live up there and be happy, among the things she had known before. Yet sometimes a thought will come across her; there will be times when she will
Steal to the window and look at the sand;
A long, long sigh,
And the gleam of her golden hair.
Come away, children, come down. We will be happy in our bright home under the sea - happy, though the cruel one