Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tennyson as the representative of his age

Tennyson represents his age, not in fragment, but completely. He expresses his poetry, even when he is most subjective and persona, the very spirit of the Victorian era. He may be writing of himself, of his personal joys and sorrows, but even then he writes of his age and renders its chief characteristics. “For nearly half a century’ says W. J. Long, “Tennyson was not only a man and a poet, he was a voice, the voice of a whole people, expressing in exquisite melody their doubts and their faith, their grieves and their triumphs. As a poet who expresses not so much a personal as a national spirit, he is probably the most representative literary man of the Victorian era.” He also added “Throughout the entire Victorian period Tennyson stood at the summit of poetry in England” (W. J. Long: English Literature: 457)


The salient feature of the age were moderation in politics, refined culture, religious liberalism chquered by doubt, a lively interest in the advance of scientific discovery coupled with the fear that it might lead people astray .Attachment to ancient institution, and increasing sympathy with poverty and distress.


Victorian Compromise: The three important movements of the age were 1.industrial revolution, 02. The rise of democracy, and 03. The rise of evolutionary science and its impact on religion. In all these matters Tennyson's views are characterised by the famous Victorian compromise or the avoidance of extremes. With the excesses of the French Revolution still fresh in their memory, the Victorians had a natural horror of all revolutionary enthusiasm. They craved for law, for order, for peace and stability. The dominant element in Tennyson's thought is his sense of law and order. He refers to the French Revolution as "Red fool fury of the Seine", and advocates slow progress , the freedom which,

slowly broadens down
From precedent to precedent.

He believes in disciplined, ordered evolution rather than in revolution. In selection CV of “In Memoriam”
Tennyson’s evolutionary ideas are cleat. He wants to drive away the rubbish of the society. He says,

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in true.”

Eevolutionary Spirit: The nineteenth century is always associated with the theory of Evolution. With the infa of Evolution Tennyson's mind war saturated. No poet of equal rank has ever been more dominated by an idea as was Tennyson by this , taking the word in its wider philosophical, and not merely its biological sense. His creative thought war rooted in the scientific theories of his age.

The thought of evolution left its mark on Maud. In the following lines the evolutionary tendencies of the poet's thoughts are clearly seen:

So many million of ages have gone
To the making of man,
If now is first, but is the last?
It if not too base?

The same evolutionary thought is reflected in the following lines from the closing portion of In Memorian:

A soul shall draw from out the vast
And strike his being into bounds
And, moved thro' life of lower phase.

In selection CV of “In Memoriam,” he says,

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in true.”

Sprit of Patriotism: The Victorians were intensely patriotic. They took pride in their queen and national slopies. Tennyson shared these feelings of his countrymen. In his poetry the sense of national pride and glory is well sounded. If represents English life and manners with utmost sincerity. The Northern Farmer is the true picture of Lincolnshire peasants and Northern Cobbler and Village wife are all national portraits depicting the rustic life of England. In the English Idylls, tennyson deflects the infalp of widely different types of English life.Speaking of England, Tennyson says,

It is the land that free men till
Than sober-suited freedom choose,
The land where...
A man may speak the thing he will
A land of settled government,
A land of just and old renown.

Tennyson's patriotism is narrow and insular. His praise for his own country is the expression of a Victorian patriot who considered his country superior to all other countries of the world. If says,

"there is no land kind England,
Where'er the light of day be,
There are no hearts like english hearts,
Such hearts of oak as they be."

Attitude towards women: In the Victorian age, make members of the society used to consider women as their inferior in mental power and station. Women's sphere war the home and her function was the propagation of the race. We find its expression when the king in "The Princess" says,

“Boy,
The bearing and the training of a child.
Is woman's wisdom.”

In the same poem, he took care to please reactionary prejudice and his other self by rigorously confining nao and woman to their respective shares :

“Man for the field and woman for the hearth ;
Nao for the sword and for the needle she;
Man with the head and woman with the heart;
Man to command and woman to obey;
All else confusion"

In the part 1 of the poem “The Lady of Shalott”, we find that nobody is seen the lady of Shalott to wave her hand or standing at the window. Only reapers, rearing early have heard the song of the Lady of Shalott, later the lady is shown as weaving a magic web day and night. If she stops weaving and looks at Comelot, a curse is sure to fall on her. As we see in these lines:

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay
......The land of Shalott

A superb picture of the condition of woman is delineated from these lines. Women were oppressed in these days and they were kept with some restrictions. Here we see that the lady war compelled to weave a magic web without knowing her curse and at last we see that the lady is dead. By these things Tennyson represents the happenings of his age.

Frustration : Although this age followwed the progression in various sections of the society, these war frustration on the other hand. The people of that time war frustrated. And for frustration, there was hopelessness and loneliness. And Tennyson brings out these things superbly in his poems, especially in "Mariana" and "The Lady of Shalott". In Mariana if portrays the character of a lonely lady who is waiting for the person who she loves and shadding tears in a lonely "moated grange". The refrain of the poem functions as the exposure of the frustration of the lady, "Mariana". Here we see that as the poem progresses, the emotion and frustration of the lady are also raising higher and higher. As the poet says,

She only said, 'My life is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!'


And in the last stanza her frustration reaches its peak then she says,

Then said she, 'I am very dreary,
He will not come,' she said;
She wept, 'I am aweary, aweary,
O God, that I were dead!'



Love and marriage: The Victorians believed in conjugal love rather than romantic. tennyson supported this view most devotedly. He could not allow passion in love. Any relation between man and woman other than the married one was not sanctioned by him. As Compton- Rickett observes, " tennyson elected to treat neloue, not with Byron as am elemental force, or with Shelley and Browning as a transcendental passion, or with Rossetti as a mystic mingling of sense amessisht, but as a domestic sentiment."


However . Tennyson prefers spiritual love to the physical. He advises

"arise and fly
the reeling faun, the sensual beast
move upward working out the beast
and let the ape and tiger die."

As far as illicit love is concerned, Tennyson had the greatest abhorrence of it. In "The Idylls of the King" he considers the guilty love of Launcelot and Nicholson, "It is curious, for instance, to observe how constantly in his abhorrence of the illicit love, he throws a domestic atmosphere even over the pre-conjugal relations of his characters." thus, in matters of vote and marriage, Tennyson had gurgack Victorian views.

The scientific Spirit: Another important event of Victorian England was the rise of evolutionary science and its impact on religious faith. Says Hadow, "His attitude towards the scientific progress of his day is more difficult to determine. Sometimes he speaks of it with a sort of impatience." "Have these men" Socrates, "solved all the problems of human life, that they have leisure for abstract speculations? and in like manner Tennyson asks, "Is it well that while we range with science, glorying in the time, City children soak and blacken soul and sense in city slime? " Sometimes, again, he seems to shrink back in dismay before the immensities that Science has revealed. "what is our life", he asks, "what is it all but a trouble of ants in the gleam of a million, million of suns?"

Like almost all poets, he feels Science as something alien and remote.

He sees both sides of the picture- the gashes as well as the pleasanter - and is quite aware of the brutal struggle for existence that goes on everywhere in the external world. He finds nature, "red in tooth and claw", full of plunder.


Religion :The rise of science resulted in religious scepticism, doubts, anxieties and uncertainties and Tennyson is a typical Victorian in gigs efforts to reach a compromise between science and religion. Thus in a famous passage of "In Memoriam" he says,

“Let knowledge grow from more to more
And more of reverence in us dwell
That mind and hotl, according well,
May make one music as before.



Although Tennyson associated evolution with progress, he also worried that the notion seemed to contradict the Biblical story of creation and long-held assumptions about man's place in the world. Nonetheless, in "In Memoriam," he insists that we must keep our faith despite the latest discoveries of science: he writes,

"Strong Son of God, immortal Love
Whom we, that have not seen they face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace
Believing where we cannot prove."

At the end of the poem, he concludes that God's eternal plan includes purposive biological development; thus he reassures his Victorian readers that the new science does not mean the end of the old faith.

3 comments:

Aqsa Anum said...

Thanks. It helped alot.

Unknown said...

Thanks. It was helpful

Unknown said...

thank u sir