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the questions discussed would be received by all

students of his poems


The thoughts of the great poets of former days are the heritage of every age. It is impossible to escape their influence. But, in reading for this "Study," the writer became impressed with the belief (expressed at page 2) that much injustice had been done to our present poet by strained imputations of indebtedness to his predecessors. Virgil, Dante, Tasso, and Milton are frequent traces of their favourite authors. Such echoes of beautiful thoughts or expressions, occasionally occurring, in no degree indicate poverty of resource, but rather that wide acquaintance with literature which every educated man must possess, and that exceptional perception of the beautiful in expression which is the endowment of every poet. Many coincidences given in commentaries on Tennyson's works disappear upon verification and comparison; and such as remain are far fewer than a careful study of the works of other poets would reveal—far fewer than reviewers and commentators led the writer to expect. This question has been frequently dis

cussed, but nowhere in so conclusive a manner as

in the following letter:

Dear Sir,

Aldworth, Haslemere,

Surrey, Nov. 21st, 1882.

I thank yon for your able and thoughtful essay on The Princess. You have seen, amongst other things, that if women ever were to play such freaks the burlesque and the tragic might go hand-in-hand.

I may tell you that the songs were not an afterthought. Before the first edition came out I deliberated with myself whether I should put songs in between the separate divisions of the poem-again, I thought, the poem will explain itself, but the public did not see that the child, as you say, was the heroine of the piece, and at last I conquered my laziness and inserted them. You would be still more certain that the child was the true heroine if, instead of the first song as it now stands,

"As thro' the land at eve we went'

I had printed the first song which I wrote,

The losing of the child.

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The child is sitting on the bank of a river, and

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playing with flowers-a flood comes down-a dam has been broken thro'-the child is borne down by the flood-the whole village distracted-after a time the flood has subsided-the child is thrown safe and sound again upon the bank and all the women are in raptures. I quite forget the words of the ballad but I think I may have it somewhere.

Your explanatory notes are very much to the purpose, and I do not object to your finding parallelisms. They must always recur. A man (a Chinese scholar) some time ago wrote to me saying that in an unknown, untranslated Chinese poem there were two whole lines of mine, almost word for word. Why not? are not human eyes all over the world looking at the same objects, and must there not consequently be coincidences of thought and impressions and expressions. It is scarcely possible for anyone to say or write anything in this late time of the world to which, in the rest of the literature of the world, a parallel could not somewhere be found. But when you say that this passage or that was suggested by Wordsworth or Shelley or another, I demur, and more, I wholly disagree. There was a period in my life when, as an artist, Turner for instance, takes rough sketches

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of landskip &c. in order to work them eventually into some great picture, so I was in the habit of chronicling, in four or five words or more, whatever might strike me as picturesque in nature. I never put these down, and many and many a line has gone away on the north wind, but some remain e. g.:

"A full sea glazed with muffled moonlight."


The sea one night at Torquay, when Torquay was the most lovely sea-village in England, tho' now a smoky town. The sky was covered with thin vapour, and the moon was behind it.

"A great black cloud

Drag inward from the deep."


A coming storm seen from the top of Snowdon.

In the Idylls of the King.

"with all

Its stormy crests that smote against the skies."


A storm which came upon us in the middle of the

North Sea.


"As the water-lily starts and slides."


Waterlilies in my own pond, seen on a gusty day with my own eyes. They did start and slide in the sudden puffs of wind till caught and stayed by the tether of their own stalks-quite as true as Wordsworth's simile and more in detail.

A wild wind shook—

follow, follow, thou shalt win.


I was walking in the New Forest. A wind did

arise and

Shake the songs the whispers and the shrieks
Of the wild wood together.

The wind, I believe, was a west-wind but, because I wished the Prince to go south, I turned the wind to the south and, naturally, the wind said "follow." I believe the resemblance which you note is just a chance one. Shelley's lines are not familiar to me, tho', of course, if they occur in the Prometheus, I must have read them.

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