Poets of Victorian Literature

Matthew Arnold

Robert Browning

Alfred Tennyson




Gerard Manley Hopkins

Alfred Tennyson

1809 - 1892

Tennyson is one of the great poets in world literature. In E375L we will study both the sensibility and the vision that inspires his best poetry. The focus of our study is best stated in this passage adapted from J. H. Buckley, Tennyson: The Growth of a Poet

All his life Tennyson remembered standing as a small child with outstretched arms on the gale-swept lawn at Somersby, his childhood home, and crying in wild delight, "I hear a voice that's speaking in the wind.". . . To him the voice was already the call of the imagination borne in upon his sharpened senses from some remote realm beyond all sensuous measurement; and the message that haunted his whole being was even then a cryptic "far- far- away," a challenge from time immemorial which filled him with what he came to call "the passion of the past." . . . Tennyson's sense of dissociation from the darkened earth may be compared to the loneliness, the isolement , of Berlioz, who throughout his life suffered a recurrent nostalgia, a feeling that he might never find the home or the destination he had glimpsed. To a friend Berlioz complained: "Space, absence, forgetfulness, pain and rage assailed me. Despite all my efforts, life escapes me. I only catch shreds of it." Tennyson likewise knew moods of melancholy frustration, the obverse of his ecstasy, and he often felt the burden of aloneness. But unlike Berlioz he cherished his passion of the past as a positive emotion, and he regarded isolation not merely as the source of despondency but also on occasion as the prelude to vision.

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