For even and morn
Ever will be
Nothing was born;
Nothing will die;
All things will change.
- Nothing Will Die
Lord Alfred Tennyson was a poet of the highest calibre, a man who almost made the myths of poets being descended from the gods a reality. His poetry, as it stands, is both in a class of its own and part of the grand literature of his era (the mid 1800s). It is radiant, moral, mythological and artistic poetry. T.S. Eliot certainly gets it correct when he states that the three qualities possessed by the greatest poets such as Tennyson are "abundance, variety and complete competence." Because Tennyson himself fits all those aspects.
Tennyson's more famous poems are to be found in this volume: The Lotos Eaters, The Kraken, Ulysses, The Charge of the Light Brigade
and The Lady of Shalott
to name most of them. Yet it is also in his lesser known poems that Tennyson shines. These poems include such titles as: The Poet's Mind, All Things Will Die, The Palace of Art
and The Two Voices
. A comparison of all these poems reveals some of the key ideas connected to most of Tennyson's poetry. Firstly, Tennyson believes in evoking the power of emotion through an artistic, romantic depiction of nature or the environment. His poetry is all centred around key embodiments of nature, each of which has a particular emotion connected to them. It may be the glorious fields of battle, tinged with melancholy. It may be the old, weathered hills covered in nostalgia. It may even be the soft, coloured petals of trees in spring and their lovely bliss. However Tennyson chooses to work his magic he always seems to aim to weave together nature and beauty, nature and the soul.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
- The Charge of the Light Brigade
There are some religious themes to Tennyson's poetry, in that he is concerned with universal themes of life, death, love and war - themes of eternity and mortality. This is perhaps why Tennyson often seems to rely upon popular myths and legends in his poems, using them to describe other ideals. For instance many believe The Lady of Shalott
to be about the poet's condition; Ulysses
uses the popular tale of [b:The Odyssey|1381|The Odyssey|Homer|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1349112871s/1381.jpg|3356006] to refer to the process of aging and the loss of power; and The Kraken
is again a symbol for death, aging and power. In fact, a great theme of Tennyson's appears to be the loss of power and majesty. One could almost assume he is referring to the loss of Great Britain's imperial nobility that it once possessed in history. Or perhaps he instead criticises how one can be caught up by the grandeur of a noble past and so not look to the future.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the later fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angel to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
- The Kraken
Tennyson was remarkable in his sheer range of depth. He wrote elegiac poetry, sonnets, narrative poems and a variety of other rhythmic verses. It seems the only poetic forms he did not attempt were that of free verse or the haiku, as his poetry is all remarkably tight and constrained while being free with its expression. His poetry is rather remarkable in how tight, yet how unexplainably free it is at the same time.
Poetry, in many ways is the simplest form of language. Not in that it abolishes all grammatical forms and values. Poetry certainly has its own internal structures, vocabulary and syntax. However, poetry is language taken back to the simple ideals and values of communication with rhythm. It is language taken to a point where one can speak truly without the need of long, complicated sentences. Tennyson shows in these poems that he is the master of being able to use poetry's honest simplicity for these very purposes and it is for this reason that he deserves a place among the great poetic pantheon.
For even and morn
Ye will never see
All things were born.
Ye will come never more,
For all things must die.
- All Things Will Die