Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/241

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LIFE OF TENNYSON

Sterling, a symbol of the virtue of friendship, a type canonised by genius, but, like some other saints, a little wanting in individuality. We cannot define the merits which prompted eulogies in some ways unparalleled in our literature. Lycidas, as Tennyson and others have said, is a test of poetical sensibility. I deny parenthetically that there can be any universal test in such matters, but the meaning is no doubt that it is a test of the appreciation of such poetical merits as are independent of the pathos of the theme. It is a test, that is, precisely because the beauty of the poetry does not imply any very keen sensibility about the person ostensibly commemorated. Milton could be noble and melodious, though one does not suppose that he lost his appetite for breakfast for a single day after hearing of King's death. The sincerity of Tennyson's grief, on the contrary, is implied in every section. He was, we are told, profoundly impressed by Shakespeare's sonnets when he was writing In Memoriam, and we can understand why at the time he then thought them even greater than the plays. The intense passion of some of the sonnets ('no longer mourn for me when I am dead,' for example) equals or surpasses in its way anything in In Memoriam. But, whatever