Discuss Tennyson as a representative poet of his age.

Discuss Tennyson as a representative poet of his age.

Or, Write how Tennyson highlights the Victorian spirit in his poems.

Introduction: 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 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: Adventure was the soul of Victorian spirit. Tennyson’s poems relate the thirst for adventure. In the Poems “The Lotos Eaters”and “Ulysses”,we find 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 at 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.

Conflict between science and religion or faith: Perhaps, no period witnessed 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 into 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”.

Excessive materialistic outlook: Victorian people were high ambitious for materialistic gains that mean pelf and power. Commercial motive was root for their lives. This tendency is well expressed in Tennyson’s poems namely “Locksley Hall”.

Class distinction: The Victorian society kept people into two vessels which created a conflict between 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 a wrathful expression, Tennyson sketches the excessive materialistic outlook and class differences of society.

Enrichment in knowledge or lust for learning: Scientific discoveries and inventions made people thirsty for enrich knowledge. Though science progressed a lot, millions of hearts were hungry in Victorian era. People were unquenchable for seeing unseen, knowing the unknown and thus, they persuaded to enrichment in knowledge.

Escape from responsibility: Human beings are not machines. They have tiredness and need to take rest after a long struggle in 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

Others : Besides, the long for eternal life presented in the poem “Tithonus” and the passion for beauty in “Oenone” is also emblems of Victorian temper.

Conclusion: 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 the Victorian spirit regarding society, art, philosophy and religion, and whatever issues of the Victorian period, you mention.

Shihabur Rahaman
Shihabur Rahaman
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