Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/207

This page has been validated.
195
TENNYSON AND BOTANY.

priate images borrowed from trees. His artistic use of the pine as a simile for Satan's spear—

"to equal which the tallest pine,

Hewn on Norwegian hills to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand"—

and the comparison of the rebel host to blasted pines, are fine examples of the poetical transmutation of botanical knowledge. Still finer is the exquisite description in "Lycidas" of the vernal flowers strewed on the hearse of his lamented friend. And, not to multiply quotations further, the vale of Vallombrosa has been immortalized forever by three lines in "Paradise Lost."[1]

In later poetry, not of the present century, Shenstone and Cowper were both genuine lovers of Nature, and their works abound with passages relating to rural pleasures and scenery. Cowper, indeed, might be styled par excellence the poet of the country. No one ever believed more thoroughly than himself in his own epigrammatic line—

"God made the country, and man made the town."

The revolution in the poetical taste of the time, afterward consummated by Wordsworth, was mainly initiated by the recluse of Olney. In Shenstone's poems, now, it is to be feared, little read, there are some verses bearing on the subject of this essay which have a curious resemblance to Mr. Tennyson's famous song, "Come into the garden, Maud." We quote eight lines to be found in the piece designated a "Pastoral Ballad, in Four Parts:"

"From the plains, from the woodlands and groves,

What strains of wild melody flow!
How the nightingales warble their loves
From thickets of roses that blow!


"Then the lily no longer is white;
Then the rose is deprived of its bloom;
Then the violets die with despite,
And the woodbines give up their perfume."

The ring and manner of this are very similar to Mr. Tennyson's composition, and, although the measure is a little different, these verses might be interpolated in the modern song without in the least impairing its harmony, or affecting its verisimilitude.

The most distinguished names in the list of the natural poets of the present century are undoubtedly Sir Walter Scott, Wordsworth, and Mr. Tennyson. Of the two former it may be said, in passing,

  1. "Till on the beach
    Of that inflamèd sea he stood, and called
    His legions, angel forms, who lay intranced,
    Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
    In Vallombrosa."