candlestick

August-December 1842


The Collected Letters, Volume 15


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TC TO ALFRED TENNYSON ; 7 December 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421207-TC-AT-01; CL 15: 216-217


TC TO ALFRED TENNYSON

CHEYNE ROAD, CHELSEA. 7th Dec. 1842.

DEAR TENNYSON,

Wherever this find you, may it find you well, may it come as a friendly greeting to you. I have just been reading your Poems;1 I have read certain of them over again, and mean to read them over and over till they become my poems: this fact, with the inferences that lie in it, is of such emphasis in me, I cannot keep it to myself, but must needs acquaint you too with it. If you knew what my relation has been to the thing call'd English “Poetry” for many years back, you would think such fact almost surprising! Truly it is long since in any English Book, Poetry or Prose, I have felt the pulse of a real man's heart as I do in this same. A right valiant, true fighting, victorious heart; strong as a lion's, yet gentle, loving and full of music: what I call a genuine singer's heart! there are tones as of the nightingale; low murmurs as of wood-doves at summer noon; everywhere a noble sound as of the free winds and leafy woods. The sunniest glow of Life dwells in that soul, chequered duly with dark streaks from night and Hades: everywhere one feels as if all were fill'd with yellow glowing sunlight, some glorious golden Vapour; from which form after form bodies itself; naturally, golden forms. In one word, there seems to be a note of “The Eternal Melodies” in this man; for which let all other men be thankful and joyful! Your “Dora” reminds me of the Book of Ruth; in the “Two Voices,” which I am told some Reviewer calls “trivial morality,”2 I think of passages in Job. For truth is quite true in Job's time and Ruth's as now. I know you cannot read German: the more interesting is it to trace in your “Summer Oak” a beautiful kindred to something that is best in Goethe; I mean his “Müllerinn” (Miller's daughter) chiefly, with whom the very Mill-dam gets in love; tho' she proves a flirt after all and the thing ends in satirical lines!3 very strangely too in the “Vision of Sin” I am reminded of my friend Jean Paul. This is not babble, it is speech; true deposition of a volunteer witness. And so I say let us all rejoice somewhat. And so let us all smite rhythmically, all in concert, “the sounding furrows”; and sail forward with new cheer, “beyond the sunset,” whither we are bound —

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down,
It may be we shall touch the happy Isles
And see the great Achilles whom we knew!4

These lines do not make me weep, but there is in me what would fill a whole Lachrymatories as I read. But do you, when you return to London, come down to me and let us smoke a pipe together. With few words, with many, or with none, it need not be an ineloquent Pipe!

Farewell, dear Tennyson; may the gods be good to you. With very great sincerity (and in great haste) I subscribe myself

Yours,

T. CARLYLE.