lecture 11 lord tennyson 1809 1892 n.
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Lecture 11 Lord Tennyson (1809--1892)

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Lecture 11 Lord Tennyson (1809--1892). I. Background. The year 1832 marks the death of Scott, Keats. Shelley and Byron had died, Wordsworth had written his best poems, and the glorious period of Romantic poetry had come to an end.

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i background
I. Background
  • The year 1832 marks the death of Scott, Keats. Shelley and Byron had died, Wordsworth had written his best poems, and the glorious period of Romantic poetry had come to an end.
  • The Victorian Age, which followed it, was largely an age of prose, especially the novel, eminently represented by Dickens and Thackeray, as well as literary and social criticism, represented by Carlyle and Ruskin.
the most admired of the prolific Victorian poets--Tennyson, Arnold, the Rossettis, Swinburne, the Brownings, Edward Fitzgerald--we find rarely if ever, in their long writing lives, do they reach the profound significance or emotional intensity achieved, in such varied ways, by Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats." ( A.T. Rubinstein: ' The Great Tradition in English Literature' )
Poetry was no longer a major art intended to change the world, as that of Byron and Shelley.
  • It now seldom touched on the serious social problems but mainly concerned itself with the poet's purely personal or spiritual questionings--such ' luxury problems' as shades of religious belief, the conflict between faith and science, or a study of the Italian Renaissance from a purely aesthetic view.
  • So the Victorian Age witnessed ' the at least temporary decline of English poetry'. It was, "an age which gave us little or no great poetry, although it has left us more than enough of skilful verse".
ii tennyson s life and career
II. Tennyson's Life and Career
  • Alfred Tennyson, the most important poet of the Victorian Age, was born in 1809, the fourth son of a clergyman in Somersby, a village in Lincolnshire.
  • Alfred's youthful hero was Byron.
  • In 1828 he went to Cambridge, where he joined the "Apostles', a group of gifted middle-class students headed by Arthur Henry Hallam.
  • Tennyson's friends did much to frame his mind and encouraged him to devote his life to poetry.
The first book bearing his own name, Poems, Chiefly Lyrical', was printed in 1830. It was enlarged and published again in 1833. But his poems received severe criticismas ' obscure" and "affected".
  • In 1842 he republished his "Poems" in two volumes, which was a success and established his position as a poet.
  • After 1842 he became more and more popular.

"The Princess' (1847) is a ' medley' or mixture of medieval story and modern middle-class morality, showing the author's view on the position of women;

'Maud' (1855) is a monodrama, telling the story of a lover who passes from morbidness to ecstasy, then to anger and murder, followed by insanity and recovery; ' The Idylls of the King' (1859-1885) is meant to be an English epic built upon the stories of King Arthur.

In 1884 he was made a peer and so has since been called Lord Tennyson. In 1892 he died and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

iii in memoriam
III. In Memoriam
  • In Memoriam was written by Tennyson in memory of A.H. Hallam, his closest friend and the fiance of his sister. Hallam died in 1833 in Vienna at the age of 22. The sadden death of his friend plunged Tennyson into great sorrow, which found its first expression in the exquisite little poem" Break, Break, Break'.
  • From 1833 to 1850 Tennyson wrote a series of elegies to record his feelings and moods related to the death of his friend. All these poems are written in octosyllabic quatrains, rhyming a b b a.
  • This song cycle comprises 131 lyrics with a prologue and an epilogue, less than half of which are directly connected with Hallam's death. As a whole, this "poetic diary is rather a representation of the poet's thoughts on the problems of life, death and immortality.
The poet tried to find some consolation for himself and for the pious Victorians who were thrown into a crisis in faith by the new discoveries in science. Some sort of scanty hope is found in a belief that fear, doubts, and suffering will find answer and relief only through faith in a God of Love.
  • But such a solution, which amounts to a hypothesis that the mere desire of an after-life is in itself a kind of proof that people ought to believe in it, is not powerful enough to dispel the religious doubts and strengthen the old faith.
  • Nevertheless, some of Tennyson's best lyrics are scattered here and there in the collection, and "In Memoriam", for its exquisite form and melody, is regarded by many critics as the summit of Tennyson's poetic achievement.
iv the idylls of the king
IV. The Idylls of the King
  • Between 1859 and 1885 Tennyson worked at his narrative poems based on the stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. These poems were gathered together as "The Idylls of the King".
  • An idyll is a kind of poetical story, and each of Tennyson's "Idylls" relates an episode in the legendary romance of King Arthur.
  • In writing these "Idylls', Tennyson attempted to pour new wine into old bottles. He coloured the old, medieval tales with the middle-class morality and sentiment of his own day and tried "to naturalize the Arthurian heroes and their women in the England of Victoria'.
  • The theme running through the whole collection is "the conflict continually maintained between the spirit and the flesh' as shown by the story of the liaison between Guinevere, the queen of Arthur, and Lancelot, ' the flower of knighthood".
  • Arthur is not a real human being but a shadowy figure, a symbol. He becomes "the embodiment of complete virtue conceived in a Victorian fashion, an " endless clergyman".
  • And the over-exquisite elaboration of form makes the ' Idylls- sound affected to the ear of an ordinary reader.
v major works
V. Major works
  • (1) Poems (1842)
  • The collection contains the famous dramatic monologue "Ulysses" (See Selected Readings), the narrative poem "Morte D' Arthur", a new version of the legend of King Arthur and his round-table knights.
  • (2) The Princess (1847)
  • Written in blank verse, it deals with the theme of women's rights and position both at home and in the society. The well-known lyrics are "Tears, Idle Tears", "Come Down, O Maid", "Sweet and Low", etc. Some of them have been set to music by composers.
  • (3) In Memoriam (1850)
  • This elegy in memory of his dead friend Arthur Hallam is generally considered his greatest work. It's also a diary in poetic form, expressing not only the poet's great sorrow at the loss of a dear friend, but also the philosophical and religious beliefs and doubts which were going on in the minds of most people in an age of fast changes. The poetry is famous for its profound feeling and artistic beauty. The trance-like experience, the musical rhythm and pictorial descriptions make it one of the best elegies in English literature. Of the 132 pieces, about a half is devoted to the memory of Arthur Hallam.
(4) Idylls of the King (1842--85)
  • This is the most ambitious work by the poet. It is made up of 12 books and based on the Celtic legends of King Arthur and his round-table knights. Despite the mystery and romance, the Victorian moral code of exalting purity of heart and censuring treachery and unfaithfulness pervades the whole story, Though King Arthur is here described as a hero trying to restore peace and order to his collapsing kingdom and as one who never loses his faith in God, the poet sounds pessimistic about the inevitable end of civilization.
  • The long narration is arranged according to the seasonal cycle. It starts in spring with the coming of Arthur, through the summer prosperity when many knights and heroes rush to join Arthur at the table and the autumn decline which is symbolized in the last losing battle, and ends in winter with the fast increase of power of his rivals and the final break-up of his kingdom when all his friends and knights, his wife, and his advisor fall away from him.
vi his artistic features
VI. His artistic features
  • Tennyson is a real, conscientious artist who manages to master the best qualities of past great poets and at the same time possesses the creative imagination and the natural ability of poetic production.
  • He is a traditionalist in style. His poetry has a professional perfection. It is rich in poetic images and melodious language and noted for lyrical beauty and metrical charm, its good taste of diction, and ingenuous mixture of visual pictures, musical sound, and human feelings.
vii break break break
VII. Break, break, break.
  • Break, break, break.
  • On thy cold grey stones, O Sear
  • And I would that my tongue could utter
  • The thoughts that arise in me.
  • O well for the fisherman's boy.
  • That he shouts with his sister at play!
  • O well for the sailor lad.
  • That he sings in his boat on the bay!
  • And the stately ships go on
  • To their haven under the hill;
  • But O for the touch era vanished band.
  • And the sound era voice that is still!
  • Break, break, break.
  • At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
  • But the tender grace of a day that is dead
  • Will never come back to me."
"Break, Break, Break" Published in 1842, it is one of Tennyson's first attempts to express his grief over the death of Arthur Hallam and one of his most anthologized poems.
  • In this poem, he contrasts his own feeling of sorrow with the carefree joys of the children at play and the young sailor at works and with the unfeeling movements of the ship and the sea waves. The repetitive beginning of the first and the last stanza indicates not only the indifferent, mechanical movement of the sea waves but is also an echo of the rushes of grief of the heart-broken poet. The five "O" are the exclamations of one whose mourning heart is filled with an unutterable and yet uncontrollable longing and sorrow and of one who wishes "that my tongue could utter the thoughts that arise in me". And the lines after "O" in the second and the third stanza are unfinished as is suitable for a deep-mourning man. There is good reason for them--the children and the sailor lad--to shout and sing with joy, but there is no chance for me to feel the touch and hear the voice of my dear friend again!
viii crossing the bar
VIII. Crossing the Bar
  • Sunset and evening star,
  • And one clear call for me!
  • And may there be no moaning of the bar,
  • When I put out to sea.
  • But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
  • Too full for sound and foam.

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

  • Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell
  • And after that the dark!
  • And may there be no sadness of farewell,
  • When I embark;
  • For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
  • The flood may bear me far.
  • I hope to see my Pilot face to face
  • When I have crossed the bar."
The poem was written in Tennyson's later life and published in 1889.
  • Here the aged poet is calmly bidding his farewell to this world with apparent serenity though not without sadness. When the time comes, he says, our spirit departs gradually and peacefully as if in sleep.
  • The metaphors of life and death used here are common and easy to understand.
ix ulysses
  • It little profits that an idle king,
  • By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
  • Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
  • Unequal laws unto a savage race,
  • That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
  • Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
  • Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
  • That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
  • Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
  • Vexed the dim sea: I am become a name;
  • For always roaming with a hungry heart
  • Much have I seen and known; cities of men
  • And manners, climates, councils, governments,
  • Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
  • And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
  • Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
  • I am part of all that I have met;
  • Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
  • Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
  • For ever and for ever when I move.
  • How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
  • As though to breath were life. Life piled on life
  • Were all too little, and of one to me
  • Little remains: but every hour is saved
  • From that eternal silence, something more,
  • A bringer of new things; and vile it were
  • For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
  • And this grey spirit yearning in desire
  • To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
  • Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
  • To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle —
  • Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
  • This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
  • A rugged people, and through soft degrees
  • Subdue them to the useful and the good.
  • Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
  • Of common duties, decent not to fail
  • In offices of tenderness, and pay
  • Meet adoration to my household gods,
  • When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
  • There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
  • Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me —
  • That ever with a frolic welcome took
  • The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
  • Free hearts, free foreheads — you and I are old;
  • Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
  • Death closes all: but something ere the end,
  • Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
  • Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
  • The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
  • The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
  • Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
  • 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
  • Push off, and sitting well in order smite
  • The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
  • To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
  • Of all the western stars, until I die.
  • It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
  • It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
  • And see the great Achilles, whom we knew
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and though
  • We are not now that strength which in old days
  • Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
  • One equal temper of heroic hearts,
  • Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
  • To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
  • 安居家中,在这个嶙峋的岛国.
  • 我与年老的妻子相匹,颁布着
  • 不公的法律,治理野蛮的种族,——
  • 他们吃、睡、收藏,而不理解我。
  • 我不能停歇我的跋涉;我决心
  • 饮尽生命之杯。我一生都在
  • 体验巨大的痛苦、巨大的欢乐,
  • 有时与爱我的伙伴一起,有时却
  • 独自一个;不论在岸上或海上,
  • 当带来雨季的毕宿星团催动
  • 激流滚滚,扬起灰暗的海波。
  • 我已经变成这样一个名字,—一
  • 由于我如饥似渴地漂泊不止,
  • 我已见识了许多民族的城
  • 及其风气、习俗、枢密院、政府,
  • 而我在他们之中最负盛名;
  • 我曾陶醉于与敌手作战的欢欣。
  • 我自己是我全部经历的一部分;
  • 而全部经验,也只是一座拱门,
  • 尚未游历的世界在门外闪光,
  • 而随着我一步一步的前进,
  • 它的边界也不断向后退让。
  • 最单调最沉闷的是停留,是终止,
  • 是蒙尘生锈而不在使用中发亮!
  • 难道说呼吸就能算是生活?
  • 几次生命堆起来尚嫌太少,
  • 何况我唯一的生命已余年无多。
  • 唯有从永恒的沉寂之中抢救
  • 每个小时,让每个小时带来
  • 一点新的收获。最可厌的是
  • 把自己长期封存、贮藏起来,
  • 让我灰色的灵魂徒然渴望
  • 在人类思想最远的边界之外
  • 追求知识.像追求沉没的星星。
  • 我给他留下我的岛国和王杖,
  • 他是我所爱的,他有胆有识,
  • 能胜任这一工作;谨慎耐心地
  • 教化粗野的民族,用温和的步骤
  • 驯化他们,使他们善良而有用。
  • 他是无可指责的,他虽年少,
  • 在我离去后他会担起重任,
  • 并对我家的佑护神表示崇敬。
  • 他和我,将各做各的工作。
  • 海港就在那边,船儿已经扬帆,
  • 大海黑暗一片。我的水手们——
  • 与我同辛劳、同工作、同思想的人,
  • 对雷电和阳光永远同等欢迎.
  • 并用自由的心与头颅来抗争,——
  • 你们和我都已老了,但老年
  • 仍有老年的荣誉、老年的辛劳;
  • 死亡终结一切,但在终点前
  • 我们还能做一番崇高的事业,
  • 使我们配称为与神斗争的人。
  • 长昼将尽,月亮缓缓攀登,
  • 大海用无数音响在周围呻唤。
  • 来呀.朋友们,探寻更新的世界
  • 现在尚不是为时过晚。开船吧!
  • 坐成排,划破这喧哗的海浪,
  • 我决心驶向太阳沉没的彼方,
  • 超越西方星斗的浴场,至死方止。 也许深渊会把我们吞噬,
  • 也许我们将到达琼岛乐土,
  • 与老朋友阿喀琉斯会晤。
  • 尽管已达到的多,未知的也多啊,
  • 虽然我们的力量已不如当初,
  • 已远非昔日移天动地的雄姿,
  • 但我们仍是我们,英雄的心
  • 尽管被时间消磨,被命运削弱,
  • 我们的意志坚强如故,坚持着
  • 去奋斗、去探索、去寻求,决不屈服。
(A) Main idea
  • Written in blank verse, it is a story about Ulysses, king of the Ithaca Island, a Trojan War hero. Now, in his old age and three years back in his homeland, he calls on his old followers to give up their idle life at home and to set forth with him on further quests and travels. The story is based upon Dante's account of Ulysses on his last voyage to "explore the world and search the ways of life" (Inferno, XXVI).
  • Ulysses tries to convince his followers:" How dull it is to pause, to make an end,/To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use! /As tho' to breathe were life," He persuades them: "'Tis not too late to seek a newer world." "...tho'/We are not now that strength which in old days/Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;/One equal temper of heroic hearts, / Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." The general idea of his speech is that the value and significance of human life ties in living it to the full, to do and achieve something new when one is alive. And even in old age, when one is weaker in body, his spirit never wanes, his heart is as heroic and his will as strong as before. The search and strife ends only with life. Such undying spirit of adventure and exploration in an old man is really admirable. In a way, it expresses the unconquerable urge of mankind to seek knowledge and enrich our life in this world.
(B) Comprehension notes
  • (a) I am become a name": I've become a very famous warrior and adventurer.
  • (b) "I am a part of all that I have met; /Yet all experience is an arch where-thro'/ Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades/ Forever and forever when I move": I've made myself well-known wherever I went, and yet my past experience always allures me to the unknown world. The more I explore, the more there is for me to explore.
  • (c) "And this grey spirit yearning in desire/To follow knowledge like a sinking star, / Beyond the utmost hound of human thought": This old man (I) still longs to explore the knowledge of a world still unknown to us.