« EdellinenJatka »
"But after I am gone
Harold. My most dear Master,
And sleep again. The general conversation serves to indicate the character of the brothers, though we learn it more by what they say of each other than of what each himself says: the main point is the fact that Tostig, the hot-tempered one of the family, is always in difficulties in his earldom of Northumberland, owing chiefly to his own overbearing rule. Upon the disturbances in Northumberland, which in the latter part of the poem demand Harold's presence there, turns in great measure the crisis of Harold's history. Aldwyth, when the brothers retire, has already nearly settled her plan for hastening the downfall of Tostig, which she sees to be inevitable, finding a tool in Gamel, son of Orm, a fat fool whom she puts upon stirring up Tostig's people against him, and who eventually gets slain by Tostig when in Northumberland for this purpose; being a sort of fellow, like Lampe the hare, only born to be made use of first and eaten afterwards. Her plan is divulged to us more fully at the close of the next scene; and part of her soliloquy may be quoted as one of the best pieces of character in the poem, and serving at the same time to explain a good deal of the plan of the action :
• I love him, or I think I love him.
I see the goal and half the way to it.
And bless the Queen of England.' The she' who is to be cloistered' is Edith, whom we meet in the earlier part of the scene. The place which this young person takes in modern treatments of the story is curiously varied. All that is really known of her is that there was an Edith who was fair and was beloved by Harold; who was not his wife, for he married Aldwyth, but who alone could recognise his body on the field of battle. This latter part of the tradition is generally accepted, and the inference from it would seem too obvious to be questioned. As Mr. Freeman says, doubtless she recognised him, disfigured as his countenance was, by some mark which even his own mother might not have known. But the romancists seem to have been troubled with an inexpugnable spirit of morality in regard to Edith: they will accept anything but the natural and probable rendering of the matter. Lord Lytton, in his · Harold,' makes Edith the cousin of the Earl, in love with him, but debarred from marriage by being within the ecclesiastical pale of consanguinity, and schooling herself to accept the position of a sister. Sir Henry Taylor, in his short poem, the Eve of the Conquest,' makes her the daughter of Harold, summoned to his tent for a last colloquy the night before the battle. A young American poet, Mr. Leighton, whose recent tragedy, the Sons of
Godwin,' contains some well-written passages, and deserves a word of recognition as an almost contemporaneous treatment of the subject on the other side of the Atlantic, makes the Lady • Edith' a sainted maiden, resisting the temptation of the man she loves, and desiring for herself only the martyr's holy ' hope.' Mr. Tennyson is a poet too sensitive to the emotional element in human nature not to see how the wild tragedy of the scene on the battle-field is weakened and deprived of its sharpest pathos by the elimination of that abandon of passion in rebellion against law, which (moralise as we will) appeals to some of the strongest and most deep-seated of human sympathies. But he too seems desirous to give his Edith a sidehold on the proprieties by leaving us the option of supposing some sort of private marriage ceremony by which her con
science was partially set at rest. Some such hint is, we confess, absolutely necessary to reconcile one part of his picture with another. His Edith, as we first see her soliloquising, and then conversing with Harold, in the garden, is a modest, gentle, sentimental young girl, slightly childish in her remarks, such as we might imagine engaged in lawful and permitted love-making in some suburban garden of to-day. She has moderately High-church views, and we half expect her to answer some of Harold's remarks with a quotation from the Christian Year' or the · Lyra Anglicana.' Not but that she is a very pretty figure, and there is a tender touch of true womanly self-sacrifice in the passage, where, in reference to the report of Harold's intended marriage with Aldwyth, she says:
• If this be politic,
Care not for me who love thee.' There is something really pathetic, too, in her half-crazed rebuke and taunt to Aldwyth in the last scene of all:
• What was he like, this husband ? like to thee?
Go further hence and find him.' The tone and manner of this passage reminds us of the manner of Amelia to Mrs. Rawdon Crawley in that most touching scene after their respective husbands have marched off to the battle-field: but what satisfies us as in keeping with the timid, right-minded, modern girl-wife, stung by a great grief out of her usual propriety of endurance and submission, has a very different aspect as a picture of the Saxon Edith. In short, Mr. Tennyson's Edith, though by no means without touches of beauty and feeling, is in every sense a being too fragile, too sensitive, too modern for her surroundings; she never rises to heroic proportion. The tall wild figure of Edith of the • Swan neck ’in Hilton's picture, her long hair blown about her ghastly countenance, comes home with far more probability, as an image of the heroine in this tale
“Of old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago.' We have gone out of the way to take a comprehensive glance at the character of Edith. The story of the play takes us in the second act to Harold's shipwreck at Ponthieu, through which he fell into the power of William. In the first scene an unfortunate attempt is made to realise a sort of grim
humour in the talk of the wrecking-folk on the coast, of which the less said the better. The second scene sketches the position of Harold, a prisoner in fact though not in show, at William's court, when he is exhorted by Malet, an old acquaintance, and by his young brother Wulfnoth, to comply with William's wishes, at least to temporise, if he would ever wish to see England again, or to preserve his life and liberty; Wulfnoth enforcing his arguments by a description of the penance of the 'oubliette,' which recalls some of the poet's old power of concentrated word-painting. The end to which the scene progresses is the celebrated oath extracted by William from Harold on the coffer containing the bones of the Norman saints; the manner in which Harold is pestered into the promise, William refusing categorically all subterfuge or conditional language, and Malet and Wulfnoth on either hand adding arguments from their own point of view, though, to say truth, it reads tamely enough, might be susceptible of effective stage treatment. The rage of Harold, when he is left alone, and finds himself bound by a promise which to him, a truth-loving, honest man, is even more than the oath he has been juggled into, is depicted with some force. We look in vain, however, for anything in the character of William which may account for the position he acquired, save merely his unrelenting and unscrupulous cruelty towards his opponents when in his power. Of the intellectual qualities of the Conqueror we find no adequate representation Act III. takes us to the bedside of the dying king, Edward the Confessor, whose monkish character is brought before us in his feeble rhapsodies over the completion of the Abbey, and his warnings to Harold against marrying Edith, and luring her from the state of virginity in which he himself has lived, and to which he has sworn to dedicate Edith. King Edward waxes very prophetic on his death-bed, and his dream of the doom of England is expressed with a certain power, but its meaning is completely reflected from the present day; and as to his foreboding exclamations of Sanguelac—the arrow, the arrow!' which are again repeated to Harold in a vision the night before the battle, we hold that to introduce this sort of supernatural omen into a modern play only produces an unreality of colouring which defeats its own end, while it affects the modern reader no more than stage lightning.*
much question whether the name of Senlac, or Sanguelac, was ever applied to the site of the battle before that event took place. The greater probability is that the hill or down was a howling wilder
The fourth act brings us to the result of Aldwyth’s and Morcar's machinations in the North, where Harold comes to quiet the insurrection which has been raised against Tostig, and is puzzled to find the people greet him with shouts of Aldwyth l’explained by Morcar
"She hath won upon our people through her beauty,
And pleasantness among them.' There is a good deal of dry talk, but the scene where Harold summons Aldwyth, the manner in which he is represented as conscious of her duplicity, yet coldly determining to wed her out of policy, forms a passage of strong dramatic character: · Harold.
I doubt not but thou knowest
Why? I stay with these,
Canst thou love one
Oh! my lord,
Oh, ay-all Welsh-and yet
I had rather
ness with no name at all. Senlac is obviously a Norman name, and refers to the blood shed there. It is curious that the lower part of the main street at Battle still retains the name of The Lake.'