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She knows I'm wild, reckless, and rough, but her soft gentle heart trusts me; and never shall she know, so help me God, that her brother has blotted the name. Carlos, I should have been dead or banished long ago but for that bright pure child ; she is the only connecting link between me and the little good there is in the world.”
“You are lucky to have even one link, Hardy. My old father was the devil's own ; my mother I never knew; and I have grown up like a stinging nettle: at war with everything and everybody I touch. Had I ever known a bright pure woman, I might have been a better man. I must know that sister of yours, old fellow.”
"God take her first! Such as she should never know such as we. What you might have been is one thing, Carlos; what you are is quite another.”
Here Carlos curled his lip and laughed in a way peculiarly his own : it was the old scornful chuckle that Flint had learned to know well. And he spoke with some sharpness as be said, “That old devilish laugh — have done with it, Carlos. Pray tell me what amuses you now?”
“ I am truly amused, and the question also puzzles me: how Miss Debby Flint ever came to know so proper a gentleman as Mr. Watt Chubb?"
“Carlos, you are probing an old wound; for once be a man, and respect my feelings. How Watt ever knew Debby is more than I ever knew; and I tell you now she has about as much idea of marrying him as she has of taking a trip to the North Pole. The poor fellow loves her, but such a marriage would be a genuine case of Beauty and the Beast.' She has never seen him a dozen times in her life, and will laugh at this ” (tossing up the billet and catching it agair:) " as a good joke. Poor Watt! he's a good-hearted fellow; we are under many obligations to him, and I feel sorry for him, but Debby marry him? No, never ! he is only presuming upon his knowledge of my friendship for him. But enough of private maiters, Carlos; we must leave here to-morrow, make our way to Norfolk, and get ready to ship on board of “The Harvest Moon.' Do you agree?"
“Yes, I have nothing better to suggest; but before we leave the subject we were discussing, let me say I beg your pardon for speaking lightly of a pure woman, and that woman your sister; I had as soon speak roughly of an angel as a pure woman. Never did I crave pardon of any creature on earth until now, but I hope you will forgive me, Hardy.”
Flint said "yes" in a tone intended to be particularly gruff, and brushing his coat-sleeve quickiy across his eyes, walked rapidly out of the room.
Once more as day dawned did the three stand under the old beechtree by the side of the road, and on this occasion Little Juba stood with them. They were now parting from old Juba for the last time, and the old man wept as he held them by the hand, and with his dim eyes gazed into their faces, repeating in solemn broken tones, “Nuver po mo! nuver no mo! farwell !” Their sojourn with him had brought up happy memories: when, unstained by crime, he had dwelt in association with the white man on the old plantation.
departure he would again be left in his old age to the sad monotony of swamp life, with only the companionship of his decrepid wife and Little Juba.
How soon Flint and Armero were to be separated they did not then know, but the old man's grief at the parting touched even their rough natures, and tinged them with gloom as they slowly walked away; nor could they resist a last look at his bent form, as, with both hands shading his eyes, he gazed after them, and continued to exclaim, “Farwell !”
(TO BZ CONTINURD.)
Gareth and Lynette. By Alfred Tennyson. Boston: James R. Os
good & Co. 1872.
in the series immediately after “The Coming of Arthur.” Consequently the action falls in the period when the King's reign was assured by the overthrow of the domestic foes who disputed his legitimacy in what Mr. Tennyson rather oddly calls "the Barons' war," and by the defeat of the Roman invaders. At this time his sway was most absolute and his beneficent activity at its height, before he had lost his wise counsellor Merlin, or the domestic treason of Lancelot and the Queen had begun to sap his security and blight his plans, or the vain quest of the Grail cost him the best and truest of his knights. As we have attempted to show in an earlier paper that each of these Idylls represents a distinct “moment” of the epos, here we have the moment of culmination, the brief period of plenilune.
Gareth, the hero, is the son of Arthur's sister, Bellicent, a spirited youth, fired with ambition to join the goodly company of knights, but kept at home by the timidity and affection of his mother, who can not bear to part with her youngest and favorite son. Finally, unable longer to resist his importunity, she gives him leave to enter the King's service, on condition that he will conceal his name and birth, seek employment as a kitchen-drudge, and continue in his menial servitude for a year.
Gareth accepts at once, disguises himself and goes to Camelot, where he obtains employment in the King's kitchen under the rather tyrannous rule of Kay the seneschal, who disliked him, and
“Would hustle and harry him, and labor him
That graced the lowliest act in doing it." By the time a month is over, Bellicent repenting of her severe condition, lets the King know who Gareth is, and releases her son from his promise. At the youth's eager solicitation, Arthur makes him a knight in secret, and promises him the first adventure that shall offer.
The first adventure offers in this wise: a damsel named Lynette comes before the King and asks the aid of Lancelot to deliver her sister Lyonors, the Lady of Castle Perilous, who is held besieged in her own castle by four brothers, lawless knights, who call themselves, by a sort of allegory, the Morning-Star, the Noon-Sun, the Evening-Star, and Night or Death, who keep the passes against all comers. Gareth at once rises, and naming himself the King's "Kitchen-Knave," demands the adventure, which is granted him, to the immense astonishment and disgust of Lynette, who gives the King a piece of her mind then and there, and goes off in high dudgeon, scolding to herself. Gareth arms and follows, soon overtakes her, and announces himself her champion.
“ She thereat as one
Avoid! thou smellest all of kitchen-grease.'” As she misses her way in the forest, however, and passes through a region beset with eaitiffs, she is privately not at all sorry to have a stout young escort at her heels ; but she vents her spleen and mortification by a running fire of sneers and abusive epithets, ringing all possible changes on kitchen-knave," “ broach-turner," "dish-washer," “scullion,” and repeating her elegant sarcasm about smelling the kitchen-grease.
By the way Gareth has a tilt with his old master Kay, whom he overthrows, rescues a rather important Baron from a set of outlaws who were about to drown him, encounters the three allegorical brothers and vanquishes them, has a passage of arms with Lancelot (neither knowing the other) by whom he is overthrown, and finally brings to the ground the fourth allegorical brother, who, notwithstanding his formidable appearance, and the popular report that he is "a huge manbeast of boundless savagery,” proves to be but a blooming boy, disguised as a frightful scarecrow.
And here we may pause to consider the view of those critics who fancy they see in this quest of Gareth a sort of romantic Pilgrim's Progress, in which the hero is the militant Christian, who, in his passage through life, has to combat successively the fiery passions of youth, the pride and self-confidence of manhood, and the inveterate habits of age, typified by the tough old knight, whose close-fitting raiment of hardened skins was even harder to cleave than his rusty
armor (that is, in age it is not the immediate impulses to evil that are so hard to resist, but the inveteracy of habit). These vanquished, when the hero encounters Death, reputed more fierce and stronger than all the others, the terror of all men, he not only proves no formidable antagonist, but even a gracious visitor.
That this view of the adventure is ingenious, it can not be denied ; but we do not believe it to be the poet's meaning. Such an allegory were far too solemn to be presented by such slight puppets as the foolish knights, the light-headed Gareth, and the petulant, sharp-tongued Lynette. The mode of handling is too light and trivial; and if this were what it meant, the poet would not have made the ending a mere outburst of earthly jollification:
“— Lady Lyonors and her house, with dance
So large mirth lived, and Gareth won the quest." It is true that when Christian enters the Celestial City, he is welcomed with sound of trumpets, harp-music, and melodious shouts, but this is the solemn joy of angels, not dancing, feasting, mirth, and revelry. Tennyson could never strike so false a key. Again, the inward or ethical meaning of these poems, as we have endeavored to show in our previous notice, is perfectly clear, and it is not possible that the poet would confuse it by introducing an allegory in an allegory, a parable in a parable, like the ivory puzzle-balls the Chinese carve. Even if this were possible, the poet would never have used the comparison (where Gareth fights against the Evening-Star, who leaps up again as often as stricken down) —
" he seemed as one
• Thou hast made us lords and canst not put us down !'" - thus comparing the allegory back again with the thing typified. It is as if Bunyan in describing Christian's passage through the gloomy valley where he is beset by Apollyon and the fiends, had added: “It fared with him much as it fares with the believer who at times passes through a season of doubt and gloom, wherein he is beset by temptations and fears and brought nigh to despair." We know Mr. Tennyson to be a consummate artist; and though we look upon this poem – for reasons presently to be given as the least artistic of the series
we can not imagine him capable of so great a blunder.
But to come back to the story. The sharp-tongued Lynette, as we have said, rails at Gareth and “beknaves” him, coarsely enough, all the way; but when, beyond her expectations, he has overthrown the first knight, she grows somewhat less shrewish, and even admits that while he was fighting she did not smell the kitchen-grease quite so strongly. When he vanquishes the second, she concedes that, knave and scullion though he be, he is rather good-looking ; but when he has overthrown the tough old Evening Star, she apologises, admitting that if not a knight, he is worthy to be one, and is "the kingliest of all the kitchen-knaves.' Nay, after each passage at arms she sings a little love-song, but takes care to warn Gareth that he is not to presume that he is the person alluded to. To all which he replies with unruffled courtesy, calling her attention to the fact that knight or knave, he would seem to be knight enough for her purposes. Finally, when the adventure is achieved, and the lady rescued, we are told that Gareth wedded either Lyonors or Lynette, but chroniclers are not agreed as to which it was.
This is the bald outline of Gareth and Lynette, and we must say that whether considered as an isolated poem, or as part of an organic whole, it is not equal to its predecessors. Being the only one of these Idylls which gives a view of Arthur's reign in the plenitude of its splendor and power, we certainly have a right to expect an action of more importance, both in itself and in its consequences, than the raising the siege of an unknown castle, and the deliverance of an unknown lady from the restraint of three arrogant but not ruffianly knights. In truth this is no moment of the epos at all; it has no connection with the march of events, and no results follow. Had the adventure never happened, we can not see that the course of subsequent events would have been in the least changed. In this respect it differs from all the rest of the series. We might call it an episode ; but an episode has no place in the plan that Mr. Tennyson has adopted.
Even considered as an episode, or as an isolated poem, it is, in our opinion, equally open to objections. The adventure is not only unmomentous as regards the whole epic action, but is unimportant in itself. It is nothing more than what we might imagine was of daily occurrence at a court to which, at this time, perpetually –
"suppliants crying came
And evermore a knight would ride away.” The separate incidents of the poem share in this want of connection and result. The nameless Baron whom Gareth rescues by the way, gives them food and a night's lodging, but nothing comes of it. Now even in the novel, which is a far looser form of art than the epos, it would be an absurd piece of inconsequence for the hero to rescue a powerful noble, the king's friend, from a terrible death, and nothing further result than a single invitation to dinner. So with the encounter with Lancelot, which is equally without results. Finally we have the unsatisfactory conclusion that the hero marries either Lyonors, whom we have only seen as a figure waving a pair of white hands at a distant window, and who therefore has had no chance to enlist our sympathy, or Lynette, who has certainly not displayed herself in an attractive light.
This brings us to an examination of the personages. The hero of each of the other idylls has a distinct, well-marked character, influencing and influenced by the events in which he figures, in a special way, so that the action becomes highly dramatic. No one of them, placed in another's circumstances, would have acted like that other :