Alfred Tennyson: A Literary Life by Leonee Ormond

By Leonee Ormond

Throughout his lengthy operating lifestyles, Tennyson used to be experimenting with new varieties and topics. extensively learn in a variety of disciplines, he responsed to a few of the personalities, occasions and discoveries of the Victorian age. nonetheless commonly considered as an apologist for the 'establishment', Tennyson was once continuously an intruder. Scourged via reviewers, and haunted via his personal apprehensive disposition, Tennyson persevered years of melancholy. even if the tide grew to become in 1850 Tennyson remained a stern critic of his contemporaries.

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23 Tennyson was to face the challenge posed by his great predecessor many times. He reacted privately by describing Wordsworth, 'old Wordey'/4 as barren, prosaic and 'thick ankled'. 25 He valued the older man as a composer of sonnets and of blank verse, 'on the whole the finest since Milton' (Memoir, II, 70), but was otherwise ambivalent about his work, mingling general 26 Alfred Tennyson admiration and respect with pointed criticism of individual poems. He had, however, formed his impressions of Wordsworth without knowing The Prelude, published posthumously in 1850.

1. 3) 'The Dying Swan' mingles pain and pleasure as the bird sings for the first, but also for the last, time. Creativity, these poems imply, is associated with extinction; the song, the poetic utterance, becomes an act of suicide. Mariana lives in a world of stagnation, and her dreary refrain 'He cometh not', is far from the 'awful', 'jubilant' song of the swan. In Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, Mariana, deserted by her lover, Angelo, lives in the 'moated grange'. The relief of marriage comes in the final act.

He was provoked to write it by Arthur Hallam's praise of Poems, Chiefly Lyrical in the Englishman's Magazine of August 1831. This remains one of the best critiques of Tennyson's early work. Following the prophetic line of S. T. Coleridge, Hallam sees the poet as a being apart, for whom popular taste is an irrelevance: 'Whenever the mind of the artist suffers itself to be occupied, during its periods of creation, by any other predominant motive than the desire of beauty, the result is false in art'.

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