Walt Whitman

 

 

A Word about Tennyson

 

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BEAUTIFUL as the song was, the original 'Locksley Hall' of half a century ago was essentially morbid, heart-broken, finding fault with everything, especially the fact of money's being made (as it ever must be, and perhaps should be) the paramount matter in worldly affairs.

Every door is barr'd with gold, and opens but to golden keys.

First, a father, having fallen in battle, his child (the singer)

Was left a trampled orphan, and a selfish uncle's ward.

Of course love ensues. The woman in the chant or monologue proves a false one; and as far as appears the ideal of woman, in the poet's reflections, is a false one, at any rate for America. Woman is not 'the lesser man.' (The heart is not the brain.) The best of the piece of fifty years since is its concluding line:

For the mighty wind arises roaring seaward and I go.

Then for this current 1886–7, a just-out sequel, which (as an apparently authentic summary says) 'reviews the life of mankind during the past sixty years, and comes to the conclusion that its boasted progress is of doubtful credit to the world in general and to England in particular. A cynical vein of denunciation of democratic opinions and aspirations runs throughout the poem, in marked contrast with the spirit of the poet's youth.' Among the most striking lines of this sequel are the following:

Envy wears the mask of love, and, laughing sober fact to scorn,
Cries to weakest as to strongest, 'Ye are equals, equal born.'
Equal-born! Oh yes, if yonder hill be level with the flat.
Charm us, orator, till the lion look no larger than the cat:
Till the cat, through that mirage of overheated language, loom
Larger than the lion Demos – end in working its own doom.
      *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *
Tumble nature heel over head, and, yelling with the yelling street,
Set the feet above the brain and swear the brain is in the feet.
Bring the old Dark Ages back, without the faith, without the hope
Beneath the State, the Church, the throne, and roll their ruins down the slope.

I should say that all this is a legitimate consequence of the tone and convictions of the earlier standards and points of view. Then some reflections, down to the hard-pan of this sort of thing.

The course of progressive politics (democracy) is so certain and resistless, not only in America but in Europe, that we can well afford the warning calls, threats, checks, neutralizings, in imaginative literature, or any department, of such deep-sounding and high-soaring voices as Carlyle's and Tennyson's. Nay, the blindness, excesses, of the prevalent tendency – the dangers of the urgent trends of our times – in my opinion, need such voices almost more than any. I should, too, call it a signal instance of democratic humanity's luck that it has such enemies to contend with – so candid, so fervid, so heroic. But why do I say enemy? Upon the whole is not Tennyson – and was not Carlyle (like an honest and stern physician) – the true friend of our age?

Let me assume to pass verdict, or perhaps momentary judgment, for the United States on this poet – a removed and distant position giving some advantages over a nigh one. What is Tennyson's service to his race, times, and especially to America? First, I should say, his personal character. He is not to be mentioned as a rugged, evolutionary, aboriginal force – but (and a great lesson is in it) he has been consistent throughout with the native, healthy, patriotic spinal element and promptings of himself. His moral line is local and conventional, but it is vital and genuine. He reflects the upper-crust of his time, its pale cast of thought—even its ennui. Then the simile of my friend John Burroughs is entirely true, 'his glove is a glove of silk, but the hand is a hand of iron.' He shows how one can be a royal laureate, quite elegant and 'aristocratic,' and a little queer and affected, and at the same time perfectly manly and natural. As to his non-democracy, it fits him well, and I like him the better for it. I guess we all like to have (I am sure I do) some one who presents those sides of a thought, or possibility, different from our own – different and yet with a sort of home-likeness – a tartness and contradiction offsetting the theory as we view it, and construed from tastes and proclivities not at all our own.

To me, Tennyson shows more than any poet I know (perhaps has been a warning to me) how much there is in finest verbalism. There is such a latent charm in mere words, cunning collocutions, and in the voice ringing them, which he has caught and brought out, beyond all others – as in the line,

And hollow, hollow, hollow, all delight,

in 'The Passing of Arthur,' and evidenced in 'The Lady of Shalott,' 'The Deserted House,' and many other pieces. Among the best (I often linger over them again and again) are 'Lucretius,' 'The Lotos Eaters,' and 'The Northern Farmer.' His mannerism is great, but it is a noble and welcome mannerism. His very best work, to me, is contained in the books of 'The Idyls of the King,' and all that has grown out of them. Though indeed we could spare nothing of Tennyson, however small or however peculiar – not 'Break, Break,' nor 'Flower in the Crannied Wall,' nor the old, <eternally>-told passion of 'Edward Gray:'

Love may come and love may go,
   And fly like a bird from tree to tree
But I will love no more, no more
   Till Ellen Adair come back to me.

Yes, Alfred Tennyson's is a superb character, and will help give illustriousness, through the long roll of time, to our Nineteenth Century. In its bunch of orbic names, shining like a constellation of stars, his will be one of the brightest. His very faults, doubts, swervings, doublings upon himself, have been typical of our age. We are like the voyagers of a ship, casting off for new seas, distant shores. We would still dwell in the old suffocating and dead haunts, remembering and magnifying their pleasant experiences only, and more than once impelled to jump ashore before it is too late, and stay where our fathers stayed, and live as they lived.

May-be I am non-literary and non-decorous (let me at least be human, and pay part of my debt) in this word about Tennyson. I want him to realize that here is a great and ardent Nation that absorbs his songs, and has a respect and affection for him personally, as almost for no other foreigner. I want this word to go to the old man at Farringford as conveying no more than the simple truth; and that truth (a little Christmas gift) no slight one either. I have written impromptu, and shall let it all go at that. The readers of more than fifty millions of people in the New World not only owe to him some of their most agreeable and harmless and healthy hours, but he has entered into the formative influences of character here, not only in the Atlantic cities, but inland and far West, out in Missouri, in [2] Kansas, and away in Oregon, in farmer's house and miner's cabin.

Best thanks, anyhow, to Alfred Tennyson – thanks and appreciation in America's name.

 

 

 

 

Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Critic.
1887, Nr. 157, 1. Januar, S. 1-2.

Gezeichnet: Walt Whitman.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).


The Critic   online
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000057828

 

 

Zeitschriften-Repertorium

 

Aufgenommen in

 

Kritische Ausgabe

 

 

 

Werkverzeichnis


Verzeichnisse

White, William: Walt Whitman's Journalism. A Bibliography.
Detroit 1969.

Myerson, Joel: Walt Whitman. A Descriptive Bibliography.
Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press 1993.

Editorials and Journalistic Articles.
The Walt Whitman Archive.
URL: https://whitmanarchive.org/published/periodical/journalism/index.html



Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass.
Brooklyn, New York 1855.
S. III-XII: [Vorwort].
URL: https://books.google.de/books?id=9U1gZi-O3dEC
URL: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1855/images/index.html
URL: http://whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1855/whole.html

Whitman, Walt: An English and an American Poet.
In: The American Phrenological Journal.
A Repository of Science, Literature, General Intelligence.
Bd. 22, 1855, Nr. 4, Oktober, S. 90-91.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009663235

Whitman, Walt: The Poetry of the Future.
In: The North American Review.
Bd. 132, 1881, Nr. 291, Februar, S. 195-210.
The North American Review   online
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/004528837   (1815-1922)
URL: http://www.unz.org/Pub/NorthAmericanRev/   (1821-1939)

Whitman, Walt: A Memorandum at a Venture.
In: The North American Review.
Bd. 134, 1882, Nr. 307, Juni, S. 546-551.

Whitman, Walt: Robert Burns as Poet and Person.
In: The North American Review.
Bd. 143, 1886, Nr. 360, November, S. 427-435.

Whitman, Walt: A Word about Tennyson.
In: The Critic.
1887, Nr. 157, 1. Januar, S. 1-2.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000057828

Whitman, Walt: A Backward Glance o'er Travel'd Roads.
In: Ders;, November Boughs.
Philadelphia: David McKay 1888, S. 5-18.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001027998
URL: https://archive.org/details/novemberboughs00whitrich

Whitman, Walt: Old Poets.
In: The North American Review.
Bd. 151, 1890, Nr. 408, November, S. 610-615.

Whitman, Walt: Have We a National Literature?
In: The North American Review.
Bd. 152, 1891, Nr. 412, März, S. 332-338.


Whitman, Walt: Grashalme.
Eine Auswahl. Übersetzt von Karl Federn.
Minden i. Westf.: Bruns [1904].
PURL: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:hbz:6:1-141652

Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass and Other Writings.
Authoritative Texts, Prefaces, Whitman on his Art, Criticism.
Hrsg. von Michael Moon.
New York: Norton 2001.

Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass. The First (1855) Edition.
Introduction by Harold Bloom.
New York u.a.: Penguin Books 2005 (= Penguin Classics).

Whitman, Walt: Grasblätter.
Nach der Ausg. von 1891-92
erstmals vollständig übertragen und herausgegeben von Jürgen Brôcan.
München: Hanser 2009.

Whitman, Walt: Grashalme.
In Auswahl übertragen von Johannes Schlaf.
Stuttgart: Reclam 2013 (= Universal-Bibliothek, 4891).
zuerst 1907.

Noverr, Douglas A. u.a. (Hrsg.): Walt Whitman's Selected Journalism.
Iowa City: University of Iowa Press 2014.

 

 

 

Literatur

Bendixen, Alfred u.a. (Hrsg.): The Cambridge History of American Poetry. Cambridge 2015.

Bergman, Herbert: Whitman and Tennyson. In: Studies in Philology 51 (1954), S. 492-504.

Blodgett, Harold: Walt Whitman in England. Ithaca, N.Y. 1934.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/003569654

Brandmeyer, Rudolf: Poetiken der Lyrik: Von der Normpoetik zur Autorenpoetik. In: Handbuch Lyrik. Theorie, Analyse, Geschichte. Hrsg. von Dieter Lamping. 2. Aufl. Stuttgart 2016, S. 2-15.

Ditsky, John M.: Whitman-Tennyson Correspondance: A Summary and Commentary. In: Walt Whitman Review 18 (1972), S. 75-82.

Jump, John D. (Hrsg.): Tennyson. The Critical Heritage. London u.a. 1967 (= The Critical Heritage Series).

Killingsworth, M. Jimmie: The Cambridge Introduction to Walt Whitman. Canbridge 2007.

LeMaster, J. R. u.a. (Hrsg.): The Routledge Encyclopedia of Walt Whitman. New York u.a. 2011.

MacLeod, Kirsten: American Little Magazines of the Fin de Siecle. Art, Protest, and Cultural Transformation. Toronto u.a. 2018.

Martus, Steffen u.a. (Hrsg.): Lyrik im 19. Jahrhundert. Gattungspoetik als Reflexionsmedium der Kultur. Bern u.a. 2005 (= Publikationen zur Zeitschrift für Germanistik, 11).

Mazzeno, Laurence W.: Alfred Tennyson: The Critical Legacy. Rochester, NY u.a. 2004.

Oliver, Charles M.: Critical Companion to Walt Whitman. A Literary Reference to his Life and Work. New York 2006.

Reynolds, David S.: Walt Whitman's Journalism. The Foreground of Leaves of Grass. In: Literature and Journalism. Inspirations, Intersections, and Inventions from Ben Franklin to Stephen Colbert. Hrsg. von Mark Canada. New York, NY 2013, S.  47-67.

Schmidgall, Gary: Containing Multitudes. Walt Whitman and the British Literary Tradition. Oxford 2015.

Thomas, M. Wynn: Transatlantic Connections. Whitman U.S., Whitman U.K. Iowa City 2005.

Thomas, M. Wynn: Whitman, Tennyson, and the Poetry of Old Age. In: Something Understood. Essays and Poetry for Helen Vendler. Hrsg. von Stephen Burt u. Nick Halpern. Charlottesville u.a. 2009, S. 161-182.

 

 

Edition
Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer