Alfred Tennyson Biography His Live and Literature
Tennyson’s Live and Literature[Alfred Tennyson Biography]
Tennyson had an easy-going life. There was nothing in it to be designated as dramatic by any biographer. He came of a middle class family, quite prosperous and affluent for an easygoing life. His life had nothing sensational to strike. He did never starve in a garret. He did never run off with a woman. He was never rebuffed by a publisher.
Tennyson was born in a village in Lincolnshire in the year 1809. He was the son of a rector and a responsible student. He was drawn to verse quite early and tried to develop his poetic talent. While a young boy, he wrote and published a book with his brother Charles, under the title Poems by Two brothers. He read at Trinity College, Cambridge. As a serious and sober student, he even won the Chancellor’s Gold Medal for his Timbuctoo. He started his full poetic career in 1830 and became the master-poet of his age.
Tennyson was all through methodical and prudent. He did not marry in a hurry and waited for ten years until he could afford to marry. He lived in a comfortable country home with various books to spend his time. He was quite congenial and friendly and had a large number of friends, and was acquainted with a good many interesting people of his time. He was immensely popular in the Queen’s court and a special favourite of the Queen herself.
Tennyson kept away from any controversial matter. Naturally much of the conflict and confrontation of the age could well be avoided by him. He was much concerned with man and nature and naturally, he found easier scope to cultivate his poetic craft.
Tennyson’s poetic success was rewarded in 1850 when he was made the Poet Laureate.
Tennyson died in 1892, at the ripe old age of eighty three.
Tennyson had both enough leisure and a proper background for an active intellectual life. His poetry, written through the long span of his life, testifies to this. The poet in Tennyson is no prophet for humanity. On the other hand, the topics and preoccupations of his age are revealed pretty well in his poetry.
Indeed, Tennyson is the representative poet of the Victorian era. He is a representative not of the melody, wisdom, or passion, or other phases of the era only, but of the era itself as a whole, with its diverse elements, in a harmonious way. In the opinion of a critic, “He has imbibed the spirit of our complex modern civilization with all its refinement and culture, its discriminating art and criticism, its humanity and sensitiveness, its self-consciousness and introspective self-analysis, its exaltation of women and play of sentiment and affection as also its eager spirit of search and enquiry and consequent unsettled and restless position in philosophy and religion.”
Tennyson began his poetic career with an arduous effort to find out the style and the measures in which his poetic talent could be best expressed. He won the Chancellor’s prize at Cambridge in 1829 with his Timbuctoo and published, in 1830, his Poems, Chiefly Lyrical. His works, however, hardly drew attention, and were subjected to harsh criticism by some reviewers in the early stage.
But Tennyson proved his worth, as a poet, with the publication of his two volumes of poetry under the title, Poems by Alfred Tennyson, in 1842. The publication of In Memoriam in 1850 raised his stature, as a poet, further and won for him a unique place in the world of Victorian poetry. His further remarkable works to add to his poetic achievements include Maud and Other Poems, Idylls of the King, Enoch Arden, Ballads and Other Poems, and so on. He also attempted to write some plays, such as Queen Mary, The Cup and Becket, which could not have, however, any enduring success.
Tennyson, the most representative Victorian, was also the most popular poet of his age. Of course, with the progress of time, his poetic reputation has definitely subsided much. Yet, the glory of his poetry is undeniable and acknowledged by all the lovers of English poetry.
In his craftsmanship, Tennyson, indeed, is as good as any English poet who ever lived. One reason, perhaps, why he is one of the most popular English poets is that he is usually so easy to follow. His sense and style draw attention and this is because the poet in Tennyson is an unremitting master of his craft. Of the many merits of his poetic art a few need be noted in particular.
The first of these features is his simplicity of thought and sincerity of feeling. There is something universal in his poetry that has an appeal to all hearts-ancient or modern. The choric song of the drugged crew in The Lotos-eaters, the dying vision of King Arthur and the rare sacrifice of Enoch Arden touch the inmost chord of all hearts, and this is because his thought is so simple and feeling, so sincere and universal.
The second feature of Tennyson’s poetry is his philosophy of faith and hope. His poetry echoes his faith in God and his trust that somehow ‘good will be the final goal of evil? He is an optimist definitely, with a firm conviction that present evil will only lead to future good. At the same time, he does not disown the possibility of the new order in God’s strange plan :
“The old order changeth yielding place to the new.” But, as an artist in verse and in the matter of technical excellence, Tennyson’s place is with the greatest of his race. His genius is essentially artistic. He is an artist first and a poet next. As an artist, he is worthy to be ranked with Keats, Milton and Shakespeare. His unrivalled power of drawing pictures with the magic of his words is, indeed, a great pleasure to every genuine lover of poetry. His melody rings with an unsurpassable appeal. His technical artistry is the greatest element in his poetry, in which imagery and melody are finely fused.
“In the stormy east-wind straining The pale yellow woods were waning. The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining……” (The Lady of Shalott) “Tennyson has Shakespeare’s echoes, but not Shakespeare’s universality ;
Wordsworth’s love of Nature but not Wordsworth’s spititual insight; Keats’s worship of Beauty, but not Keats’s identification of Beauty with Truth ; Milton’s stateliness but not Milton’s sublimity. He has not the revolutionary sentiment of Byron or Shelley, nor the profound optimism of Browning.” This is the just tribute. Masculine vigour and strength form no part of his narrative gifts . Again, his imagination is delicate, and not robust. Yet, with all this, Tennyson remains a force in English literature, and his poetry breathes everywhere the spirit of purity, honour and high morality. This shows the high seriousness as well as sensuousness, simplicity as also sonority of the poetry. These are the marks of great poetry.
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