« 前へ次へ »
Could not breathe in that fine air,
That pure severity of perfect light. She “wanted warmth and colour,” which she “found in Lancelot." He cannot prevent their vows beginning to "gall his knighthood.” Not even the charmed circle of the Table Round is proof against the wiles of a Vivien, fortified though it is with the art and science and magic of a Merlin. Nay, as Merlin symbolises the sterner human wisdom, and Vivien the lighter human frailties, so Merlin, fooled, enchanted, prisoned by Vivien's charm "of woven paces and of waving hands,” exhibits the defeat of Soul before the harlot arts of Sense,
And lost to life and use and name and fame. The blame of failure rests not with the idealist but with the clay-clod men who “spoil the purpose of his life.” Who does not applaud Xavier as he leaps into the boat at Goa, and, smiting his sandals together, hurls them on the receding shore as a testimony against the epidemical wantonness of his countrymen?
"Soul” was defeated indeed; but it was Sense" that failed.
Yet with what fine justice Tennyson apportions the doom of these moral failures! With what divine sympathy he appraises the lower and higher motives, showing this to be merest wantonness, that a pathetic weakness, and yon a loathed captivity in the bonds of a hated earthiness. A Gawain “light-o'-love,” blown along a "wandering wind”: a Guinevere, not wanton but “wild,” needing “warmth and colour”; victim, perchance, of a mournful blunder when she mistook the messenger for the king : a Lancelot, chivalrous, generous, "made to be loved,” a noble lion caught in snares of the trapper Sense, an earlier Sir Philip Sydney struggling in the toils of a love to which he seemed foredoomed : darkest of all, a Modred, the aspiring Satan of the Table Round, no wanton but worse, a traitor, a sullen dark-browed plotter, whose treacherous espionage sinks him below their hell of sensualism to his own deeper hell of diabolism: and over all the radiant figure of the blameless king, not without a subtle touch of reproach also in this, that if his purity armed hiin against the arts of a Vivien, it blinded him also to the human needs of a Guinevere, and—with a wooden impracticability for which even moral genius cannot atone-suffered him to tarry coldly at home while Lancelot, “his chief knight,” was despatched to bring his queen—these are the symbolic figures which apportion the pity, the blame, and the “deep damnation” of this moral tragedy.
How grandly Tennyson indicates these inevitable defeats of Soul in that still early period of human development before “the ape and
With what impressive and ever heightening effects he
exhibits his ideal knight gloriously triumphing over the lower elements of life, turning his back upon a queen who has failed to keep step with him in the march of Soul, summoning his last powers to destroy his recreant knights, in one “last act of kinghood” “striking the last stroke with Excalibur " at the traitor Modred, and retaining, amid all defeats, the love and loyalty of a few elect souls ! Who can doubt that by the thickening horrors of that “last dim weird battle of the west ” Tennyson would illustrate the moral confusions which fall at last upon the sense-blinded mind? It is a battle of ghosts—the ghosts of deeds done but not done with. It is a fight with the phantoms of former days, which are yet no phantoms. It is a picture of that tumult and horror of great darkness which fills the “chambers of imagery” when all the solid supports of Sense have changed into the hollow unrealities they truly are. Every line is a new feature in a parable which sets forth that crisis in the grapple of Soul and Sense, when upon the whole man descends darkness and illusion and reeling doubt and a blind haze folding from view the earth and the friendly heavens, and isolating him as on some lone promontory circled by a formless eternity, till he die the death, or prove himself king.
Defeated but not conquered is the sentence Tennyson compels us to pronounce on the king who retires from the field, smitten with the death wound indeed, but regnant over his last, worst foe. Arthur is baffled but not beaten. He is baffled only because Sense has beaten the men of his generation. In a transport of anguish he exclaims that the “purport of his throne has failed,” and that his kingdom "reels back into the beast,” but presently the eternal and indestructible issues of his work comfort him with the assurance that he “comes again to rule.” Neither does Arthur perish, nor his work, nor his weapon. While he goes to "the island-valley of Avilion," to “ heal him of his grievous wound,” Excalibur goes before to bide his coming again in the deep bosom of the sacred lake. No moral genius perishes wholly. His weapons of war, his forces of mind and will, survive, spiritually regnant amongst men, and in them he comes again to his throne.
Nay-God my Christ-I pass but shall not die. So the invincible Dante retired from an unreformable Florence, bearing his arms with him-his honour and faith and spiritual genius, which were as pearls to the swine of that generation, but which, translated into a Divine Comedy, became a new power to lift the minds of successive generations. So also the unconquerable Milton fled from the scene of England's renascence of Sense to the calm retreats of poetic meditation, and thence, on the wings of the “ Paradise Lost,” flew forth like his own eagle, "mewing its mighty youth,” to win from Sense to Soul the children and the children's children of that crooked and stiff-necked generation.
Theconcluding hundred lines of the “Passing of Arthur," without explicit assertion, fill the mind with thronging suggestions of the unconquerability and the permanence of moral purpose. Nowhere has the poet's art, with more exquisite significance, risen into the art of the parabolist. Every succeeding stanza bears in upon the mind with increasing persuasiveness the faith of the immortality of influence. Historic institutions must indeed decay, but the creative spirits who built them up survive in the purer loves and the nobler lives of those who come after. “The whole Round Table is dissolved,” sorrowfully cries the bold Sir Bedivere. True, returns the departing king, but “God fulfils Himself in many ways,"
And the new sun rose bringing the new year.
HE legends and traditions of the people who inhabit the lonely
Indeed, it is only recently that the islands themselves have been brought within reasonable reach. Heligoland, the most celebrated of the long fringe of islands which cling to the coast of SchleswickHolstein, has always been the most accessible, but even to Heligoland until recently there was only one steamer a week from Hamburg during nine months of the year. But Heligoland has basked in the world's favours compared with her more northern sisters—sisters, however, with which she has little in common. Heligoland has, at any rate since 18c7, when Britain took her from the Danes, been well within the ken of civilisation, but it is only a few years since Sylt--the traditional starting point of Hengist and Horsa-and Föhr, have become accessible even to summer visitors. Amrum was for the first time three seasons ago added to the list of islands that one could visit without hiring a special vessel, but Pellworm and the other islands are still more difficult to get at than many places a thousand miles more distant. Under such circumstances, under such conditions of isolation, it is not perhaps to be wondered at that the North Frisian people have been left very much to themselves, to form an enchanted garden of folk-lore, but a garden indeed in which, to be literal, there is nothing of flowers, but only weird stretches of grey sand and long lines of surf-washed shore. When one attempts to write of the legends of those Frisian islanders, he is fain to wish that his readers knew the islands. Folklore is always local. It is always, like wit, racy of the soil. Just as the wine of the Moselle differs from that of the sister Rhine, so do the legends of, say, England and Scotland differ. Each has its characteristic features or its significant details which enable the reader at once to say of two versions of one story to which country each belongs. And if this be true of countries so intimately associated for centuries, it may be assumed it will be true of the Frisian islands as distinguished from
the Continent. Generally speaking, the legends of these islands may be regarded as belonging to one and the same class, for although until the cession of Heligoland they were actually under three powers —for Heligoland was British, Sylt and Föhr were German, and Fanoe was Danish, they were one at least in their Frisian racenationality. I do not wish to push too far the identity of the race. Once had all the islands one king as a separate state ; for many a long year they have had little or no sympathy with each other. The Sylt people used some centuries back to go to Heligoland to join in the herring fishery; they were not particularly welcome ; now there is no herring fishery there ; no Sylter goes to Heligoland, and no Heligolander to Sylt. Each island has, besides, developed dialectic distinctions in the old Frisian language. Again, their “secondary languages, if I may call them so, are entirely different. I have not visited Fanoe, the remanent Danish island of the Frisian group, but I have no doubt that besides the Frisian of the household, the people will use Danish in church and school. German, I believe, they know nothing about. In Sylt, the elder people, besides Syltish, all know Danish ; it is not so long since they were wrenched with the Duchies from Denmark; German is the official language, which no Sylter would think of speaking in private. In Heligoland, the people never speak anything but Heligolandish among themselves. German is very easy to them, for it is the language of the church and of nearly all the summer visitors ; English, like German, was taught in school, and was, until the cession, the language of the magistrate's and Governor's courts; Danish is utterly forgotten. This was illustrated when a Danish ship ran on Sandy Island (which lies a little way off Heligoland), and the crew passed some days in that island ; they were received most fraternally by the Heligolanders, but the conversation was carried on on both sides in very broken English, and yet eighty years ago both parties were Danes. I mention the different linguistic conditions of the Frisian island chiefly to indicate the peculiarity of their legends, the cachet which identifies at once a Frisian legend is not sympathy among the different islands, nor frequent communication among them--for both are entirely wanting—but is due to the local conditions, to their similarity in respect of isolation, of mode of life, of means of amusement and so forth. The Frisians of whom I write are purely islanders, and their unity of thought and ideas is due in the first and foremost place to their geographical situation, although, of course, neither their substantial identity in race, nor their near proximity in point of language, is to be forgotten when considering their legends as a whole.