Lecture 32: Victorian Poetry

Lecture 32: Victorian Poetry

Alfred Tennyson
The tone of Tennyson’s poetry was quite different from the poetry of the Romantics.
For Tennyson, nature is not simply the object of beauty:
Nature red in tooth and claw.
Tennyson shows a more realistic vision of nature.
He stresses its cruelty more than its effect on the senses and memory.

Tennyson is best known for his “In Memoriam A. H. H”, an elegy to a friend.
The poem’s tone of loss and regret reached a very wide audience.
The poem even became Queen Victoria’s fabourite text.
Tennyson is usually considered to be a poet of ssadness and loss.
But his poetry shows a wide range of subject matter and not all his poems have a tone of unhappiness.

Tennyson wrote a lot in dramatic monologue form.
This form uses a speaking voice which shows his or her thoughts, and a full idea of the character comes out from the words.
Tennyson’s speakers in his monologues include Ulysses, the hero from Homer’s “Odyssey”.
Ulysses speaks in old age about the need to go on and find new ambitions:
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Tennyson became the national poet who composed poetry on national occasions.
Tennyson became famous for his praise of the heroes who accept their roles as soldiers dying for their country:
Theirs not to reason why
Theirs but to do or die.
In his later years, Tennyson’s poetry continued its lyrical sadness.
The poems combine history, dramatic effect, and sadness.

Tennyson’s “The Eagle”

He clasps the crag with crooked hands; 
Close to the sun in lonely lands, 
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands. ?
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; 
He watches from his mountain walls, 
And like a thunderbolt he falls. 

Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold wrote “Dover Beach” a short poem (37 lines) about the crisis of belief of his times.
With “Dover Beach”, Arnold caught the mood of the period
Many critics consider it the most important single poem of the age.
The poet looks over the English Channel from Dover, seeing the calm of the seas.
but then he thinks how calm hides the struggles and changes which affect everyone.
‘Dover Beach’ is a vision of how pessimistic later Victorian writing became.
By the end, Arnold calls for love and honesty.

 ARNOLD’s ‘Dover Beach’

Ah, love, let us be true 
To one another! for the world, which seems 
To lie before us like a land of dreams, 
So various, so beautiful, so new, 
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, 
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;