Q. Discuss Tennyson as a representative poet.
Alfred Tennyson (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) is a British poet. He was the Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria’s reign and remains one of the most popular British poets. He is remarkable for his representative quality too.
Tennyson as a representative poet
The term ‘representative poet’ means a poet who epitomizes his contemporary society, art, philosophy, and religion. According to Saintsbury, “No age of poetry can be called the age of one man with such critical accuracy as the later nineteenth century is with us”. The following discussion will determine whether Tennyson is a representative poet or not.
Desire and aspiration for Adventure
The adventure was the soul of the Victorian spirit. Tennyson’s poems relate the thirst for adventure. In the Poems “The Lotos Eaters” and “Ulysses”, we find the indomitable adventurous attitude of Odysseus. Tennyson has reflected on the lives and tendency of Victorian people through Odysseus.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees:
Inferiority of women
Early and middle Victorian people looked on women as inferior to men from the perspective of mental power and prestige. They thought the responsibilities of women were to handle household chores and propagate children. Such attitude to women is firmly declared in the poems of Tennyson such as “Locksley Hall”.
“Weakness to be worth with weakness! woman’s pleasure, woman’s pain—
Nature made them blinder motions bounded in a shallower brain:
Woman is the lesser man, …………………………………………………………”
Actually, the Victorian husband considered married to be an institution for securing his own comfort and satisfaction.
The conflict between science and religion or faith
Perhaps, no period witnesses so acute conflict between faith and religion as it is found in the Victorian era. It is this anguish that gets enshrined with an imperishable interest in Tennyson’s poetry. If one wants to understand the nature of the appalling void that gaped in men’s minds, one has only to read the cantos 34, 35, 36, 54, 55, and 56 of the poem “In Memoriam”.
But the matter of praise for Tennyson is that he has given a remedy for this acute conflict between science and faith that is called “Victorian compromise”.
Click here: for all the notes of poetry
Excessive materialistic outlook
Victorian people were highly ambitious for materialistic gains that mean pelf and power. The commercial motive was the root of their lives. This tendency is well expressed in Tennyson’s poems namely “Locksley Hall”.
The Victorian society kept people into two vessels which created a conflict between the upper class and lower people. The hero of the poem “Locksley Hall” could not marry his beloved because of his lower social and economic background.
“Cursed be the sickly forms that err from honest Nature’s rule!
Cursed be the gold that gilds the straiten’d forehead of the fool!”
By such wrathful expression, Tennyson sketches the excessive materialistic outlook and class difference of society.
Enrichment in knowledge or lust for learning
Scientific discoveries and inventions made people thirsty for enriching knowledge. Though science progressed a lot, millions of hearts were hungry in the Victorian era. People were unquenchable for seeing unseen, knowing the unknown, and thus, they persuaded to enrich in knowledge.
Escape from responsibility
Human beings are not machines. They have tiredness and need to take rest after a long struggle of life. Victorian people were no exception to this tendency. They sometimes wanted to escape from the responsibility of life which is declared in the poem “The Lotos Eaters”.
“Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined”
Besides, the longing for eternal life presented in the poem “Tithonus” and passion for beauty in “Oenone” are also the emblems of Victorian temper.
Thus, we may allow that more than any other Victorian-era writer, Tennyson has seemed the embodiment of his age, both to his contemporaries and to modern readers. That is why his poetry undoubtedly represents the current ideas and tastes of Victorian spirit regarding society, art, philosophy, and religion and whatever issues of the Victorian period, you mention.