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(1) Lord Alfred Tennyson (1808-1892):

Tennyson is a representative poet, one who represents his age not in fragments but completely, in all its manifold variety and complexity. But even more typical are the content and quality of his poems. His Locksley Hall, 1842, is full of the restless spirit of “young England” and of its faith in science, commerce, and the progress of mankind.

In The Princess the poet grapples with one of the rising questions of the day-that of the higher education of women and their place in the fast changing conditions of modern society; Maud quivers with the patriotic passion of the time of the Crimean War and with the general ferment which followed this war.

It also reflects the mammon worship of the day. In the Idylls of the King, while the medieval machinery is retained, the old story is turned into a parable the lessons of which have a direct bearing upon contemporary life. Both politically and socially he stands out as, on the whole, the poetic exponent of the cautious spirit of Victorian liberalism.

Tennyson was essentially the poet of law and order as well as of progress; he was quite as firmly opposed to ‘raw haste’, rash experiments, and everything that savoured of revolution. “Tennyson’s poetry is often the vehicle of he spreading democratic sympathies of Victorian England.” Recluse and aristocratic as he was, he was profoundly interested in common people and common things; and it is not the least significant feature of his work as a whole that along with The Princess, Maud. The Idylis of the King, it contains such things as The May Queen, Enoch Arden, Dora.

A careful student of science and philosophy, he was-deeply impressed by the far reaching meaning of the new discoveries and speculations by which the edifice of old thought was being undermined. He represents the Victorian spirit of compromise when he writes: Let knowledge grow from more to more Bust more of reverence in us dwell. The “two voices – science and religion – of that century are perpetually heard in his work; in

In Memoriam we may read of the great conflict of the age between doubt and faith; while in many later poems as in The Ancient Sage, we may see how the poet challenged the current materialism and asserted the eternal verities of God and immortality.

He was a great artist because of being a minute observer of Nature, which furnished him with a store of poetic description and imagery; a scholarly apprecater of all that is most picturesque in the literature of the past; an exquisite precise in the use of words and phrases; and the picturesque ness and aptness of similes. He has an avoidance of the commonplace (by the use of clever, roundabout expression.) His use of repetition and assonance; the expressive harmonies of his rhythm; and the subtle melody of his diction. Also proves his artistic abilities in poetry writing.

In his word-painting Tennyson follows the example of keats. Nearly all Tennyson’s poems, even the simplest, abound in ornate description of natural and other scenes. They show exactness of observation and a rare loveliness of epithet; but they lack the intense insight, the ringing, romantic note, of the best efforts of Keats. Often his art degenerates into artifice, and manner into mannerism.

Tennyson is a great and original nature-poet and in his nature-poetry the impact on him of contemporary science can best be studied, his view of Nature is full of the brutal struggle for existence. He finds Nature, “red in tooth and claw.”

Modern critics believe that the best of Tennyson is not to be found in his longer and more ambitious poems, but in his lyrics. He wrote lyrics of many kinds. In Memoriam is a long elegy composed to many short lyrics.

The elegy was peculiarly suited to Tennyson’s melancholy and reflective temper. He also wrote a number of lyrical poems dealing with classical subjects. Tithonus is an example.

Tennyson has expressed himself on various matters, political, social, religious and ethical, but his philosophy is neither great nor inspiring. To-day, he is valued not as a thinker, but as a consummate literary artist.

(2) Robert Browning (1812-1889):

Browning was gifted with an almost unlimited power of imagination which was always exerted upon real things. He treats of visible realities-the experiences of men and women – and this makes him a dramatic poet; he also treats of invisible realities, i.e., the spiritual and the abstract, and this makes him a philosophical poet.

The most marked feature of Browning’s poetry is his profound interest in character. He is a great master of the art of representing the inner side of human beings, their mental and moral qualities. He catches his characters in a cool moment of introspection or of guarded self-revelation, and he lets us see in their minds the causes and results of previous actions as few other poets have been able to do. But, he was lacking in some of the most essential qualifications of the dramatist.

He presents not only single characters in solitude, but also groups of characters, and he can make each describe how feels and thinks be. He emphasises antithetical attributes in a character, a little over much. In the department of narrative poetry, he takes a high rank. His descriptions of scenery and natural objects are extraordinary vivid.

His lyrics have a charm of their own which marks them of from all others. The best of his lyrics are love-lyrics in which he treats of all shades and varieties of love – married love, love triumphant and love unsuccessful, passionate love and abnormal love.

Browning frequently expresses his views on human life. He was not a profound philosopher. But he had more of the air of a profound philosopher than a poet ought to wear. He is striving to utter in his writings some truth too deep for ordinary language. He seems to come as one preaching a new revelation, as having a “message” which he alone can deliver.

He is an optimist to the core. He is not mere ascetic, protesting against art and culture as well as folly. He finds all things good, though virtue is the best. Imperfection is due to an inability to see things in their -proper relation to each other. In Abt Vogler, Rabi Ben Ezra and the Epilogue to Asolando we have that fullest and the most uncompromising statement of this faith.

Browning is the very, ‘antithesis of Pope’. He is careful of the thought, but careless of expression.

He is one of the greatest metrical artists in the English language. He invented a large variety of verse-forms and used them with consummate success. His use of the grotesque is usually artistically justified. As one critic has said, he is the greatest poet of the grotesque in the English language. Finally, we may conclude about him that he was astonishingly great but also astonishingly faulty, and his faults have come in the way of the appreciation of his real greatness.

(3) Matthew Arnold (1822-1883):

Arnold is regarded as the greatest elegiac poet of England. Rugby Chapel, Thyrsis, Scholar Gypsy, Dover Beach, etc., are some of his finest elegies. Matthew Arnold is mainly a writer of personal expressions of grief; but he also philosophises over the fate of humanity in general.

As a matter of fact, Matthew Arnold’s elegies are an expression of his inherent pessimism and sense of loneliness. Various factors combined to make him a frustrated individual. His elegies are an expression of this inner gloom. He seizes every possible opportunity to express his pessimistic view of life. His expressions of grief have been called, “the Virgillian cry of horror over the mournfulness of human destiny.” But it is to be noted that his lamentations are always characterised by classical self-control, dignity and decorum.

Rugby Chapel, for example, is a personal elegy in which the poet mourns the death of his father. It shows Arnold’s elegiac genius at its best.

In Thyrsis, a great pastoral elegy, he mourns the death of his friend and Oxford companion, Arthur Clough. The expression of grief gains in intensity by the poet’s self-control and the elegy ends on a note of calm acceptance, consolation and serenity, which reminds one of the ends of Tennyson’s In Memoriam or Shelley’s Adnais. There is, in the worlds of Compton- Rickett, “No winning, no luxury of grief, no sentimental pessimism. Neither is there any joy, and real peace. It is the serenity of a troubled but brave spirit.” And this is true not only of Thyrsis but also of the other elegies penned by him.

(4) Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1961):

Clough was a life long friend and college companion of Arnold and his death was the subject of Arnold’s elegy Thyrsis. Clough resembles his friend in may respects. F.L. Lucas calls him, “a half hewn Matthew Arnold, left lying in the quarry.” However, in his inquiries and analyses he does not approach the dignity and stature of Arnold. For one thing, he does not have the single-mindedness and emotional integrity of his friend.

His is not an unrelieved pessimism – in the Bothie the dominant note is that of high spirits and holiday tranquility. G.D. Klingopulos observes, “Clough’s work is not by any means entirely somber much is humorous and faintly satirical.” For example, “say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth”, a usual anthology piece, puts forward an optimistic message of action and hope for the best. “During the dark years of the Second World War the poem was used by Sir Winston Churchill for a morale-boosting text.

It contains in l//ysses-like terms what is called the philosophy of action, not stoic endurance which characterises Arnoldian attitude.” Comparing the two poets, Huge Walker writes, “Clough is the more hopeful poet of the two. Arnold lays the whole stress upon courageous endurance, the doing of duty in spite of the certainly of defeat. Clough sees all the western land bright in his sunshine, and the tide breading in else-where, if not here.”

Clough’s Dipspchus is a good example of the Victorian conflict between its two spiritual voices – science and religion. But as is usual with Clough, the note of seriousness in the poem is often broken by salies of wit and humour.

(5) James Thomson (1834-1882):

James Thomson in The City of Dreadful Night and the shorter Insomnia strikes a note of the in tensest, nightmarish pressimism. In him we come across unrelieved pessimism, largely subjective. As young boy he was fed on Calvinistic doctrines, in which, under the influence of science, he later on lost faith.

Absolute despair, unrelieved by any, “silver lining”, was the outcome. He himself was subject to insomnia and at night he often felt lonely and gloomy; and his personal experience and melancholy give a touch of reality to ghastly, horrible pictures he draws in the poem mentioned above.

His pessimism does not have the brooding energy of Stoic fortitude of Arnold’s or Clough’s. In the words of Hugn Walker, “his pessimism was founded on the conviction that there was no hope for humanity any more than of himself, and that the appearance of progress was a mere illusion.”

As a man, Thomson was not altogether an unalloyed melancholiac lost to all sense of humour, fun, or humanitarianism. He definitely had more sides to his personality. He was, says Compton Rickett, “in his happier moments, an affectionate and steadfast friend, a delightful companion, and an unselfish worker in the cause of humanity.”

(6) Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1888):

Edward Fetzerald is chiefly known for his verse transition of the Persian Rubaiyatof Omar Khayyam. This work, says David Daiches “puts an altogether more attractive face on pessimism. Thomson alternated between hedonism and despair; Fitzerald expressed a hedonism grounded on skepticism.”

Fitzerald’s pessimism is inherent in his acceptance of the evanescence of life and its purposelessness. This acceptance makes him cry a halt to all maddening activity and prompts him to devote, whatever time has been granted to him in this world, to sensual pleasures.

His pessimism is the cause of Victorian Period his Epictureanism; eat, drind and be merry, for human life is sort and may end at any moment. “His paradise is earthly, somewhat befogged, but overflowing with orientasl splendour and luxury.” wine, women and music are the chief objects of his pleasure.

Fatalism like that of the orient is an important ingredient in Fiazgerald’s pessimism. Afterall he may be summed up as renowned poet of the age.

The Differences: Uniqueness of ‘In Memoriam’-

However, the distinctive nature of In Memoriam and its real greatness are thrown into sharp relief by the differences between Tennyson’s elegy, and the other elegies. While the other three elegies are in the pastoral convention and the poets mourn their loss in the guise of shepherds mourning the death of another shepherd, Tennyson does not follow the patrol convention. He mourns in his own person, his expression of grief is direct, and so it is more poignant and effective.

It has a greater ring of sincerity. Not only is Tennyson’s grief more intense and poignant, it is also deeper and more lasting. It lasts for over seventeen years while the grief of the other three the poets are of a much shorter duration. The passage of time does not weaken the poet’s grief. It only grows calmer, but deeper. Thirdly, “In Memoriam is a much more ambitious work than either of the other elegies. It is much longer, consists of 131 elegiac lyrics carefully arranged to from an integrated whole.”

An Epitome of the Age:

Not only is In Memoriam superior as an expression of grief, it is superior in another respect also. As Percival points out, besides the elegy, there also runs a theology; It is also an expression of the poet’s view of God, Nature, immortality of the soul, and the mystery of life and death. It travels the way of the soul from grief and despair, through the conquest of that despair, to ultimate hope and joy.

It is a record of Tennyson’s spiritual troubles, and as his spiritual troubles are also those of his age, In Memoriam is a valuable social document, a faithful record of the doubts and uncertainties, hopes and aspirations, of the times in which it was written.

Evolutionary science had given a knockout blow to the traditional theories of creation, and faith both in God and Nature was shaken. In Memoriam reflects this loss of faith. If God is merciful and if he has a holy plan, why is there so much of suffering, such brutal struggle for existence, and pain and death?

Thus in Tennyson’s breast, and in the age, there was a conflict between science and religion. God’s omnipotence and His love were hard to reconcile with the fact of suffering, Tennyson’s plea is for a compromise between science and religion, and he stresses that such reconciliation can be possible only through faith, and not through knowledge.

The best and most lyrical parts of In Memoriam and those in which he becomes the voice of the human race and deals with problems which exercised his age and which have always exercised mankind. In short, “In Memoriam” is an epitome of its age, which the other elegies are not. In this respect, Tennyson’s elegy stands alone in the whole range of literature.

(7) The Pre-Raphaelite Poets:

It was in 1848, that a Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood was formed in England by three young painters, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These young artists aimed at a return to older principles in painting, but as Rossetti and many of his followers were gifted writers, their work gave rise to a literary movement which advocated a close study of nature and a revival of the spirit and methods of the early Italian masters.

But as the movement Progressed, it developed a literary manner of its own which, through not strictly Pre-Raphaelite in character, is still given that name for want of a better name. Among the notable poets of this school are D.G. Rossetti, William Morris and Suinburne.

(a) D.G. Rossetti:

Truth to Nature, distinctness of details, vividness and profusion of images, warmth of loudness of colour- these are the leading characteristics of the Pre-Raphaelites, and Rossetti’s Poetry has all these qualities.

He may be called “the Apostle of Beauty”. He had great artistic gifts; his poetry is richly coloured, his verse is curiously and skillfully wrought, but his work is not entirely wholesome, manly or sincere. His poetic world lies beyond the limits of our ordinary experience-a shadowy world ruled by mystery, wonder, beauty and love, and lit by another light than that of common day. His poems are full of sensuous pictures of feminine beauty.

As a result of this tendency to describe feminine beauty, Rossetti was criticised as a ‘fleshly’ poet but it must be said that he is not sensual, but seusuous. Besides, he usually combines physical beauty with spiritual beauty; there is in him a love of mysticism as is reflected in The Blessed Demozel, and this saves him from the charge of being “fleshly”. His love of beauty, along with his supernaturalism, makes him an essentially romantic poet.

The extreme fondness for elaboration of detail, and the outlook upon Nature not as a rhythmic pageant of colour, but as study in still life, is specially noticeable in the poetry of Rossetti. He thinks and feels in pigments, as a painter.

His passion for beauty governed also his choice of words an phrases and made him lover of melody and music, He aims at “the pure gold of a perfect phrases” and is a great melodist. His style is marked by an abundant use of symbois. The House of Life, his materpiece, has the treme of passionate love, treated in a symbolic manner. The chief Pre-Raphaelite trait, i.e., pictorial quality, is also an essential feature of his style.

His poetry shows no contact with the political or social condition of his age. He has written several medieval poems. The Staff and Script is a tale of medieval chivalry. Sister Helen deals with the medieval belief in magic, ghost and hell-fire. In Such poems as The King’s Tragedy and The White Ship he touches the popular ballad with all its rough simplicity and naivete; and if he fails to realise the hearty humanity that touches Scott’s best work, he is more faithful to the conventions of the old ballad form. Again, he has essayed in poems like The Bride’s Prelude and Rose Mary to reproduce that sensuous atmosphere which gave such richness of effect to Keats’ The Eve of St. Agnes and Lamia; and his success here is unquestioned.

For him the supernatural had an intense reality. His supernaturalism is suggestive and psychological, not crude like Scott’s.

Conclusively, he is admired for his pictorial qualities, supernaturalism and his own pre raphaelite trend.

(b) A.C. Swinburne (1973-1909):

Swinburne’s most popular works are Atlanta in Calydon and Songs before Sunrise. Music and melody, and pictorialism are the two leading qualities of Victorian Period his poetry. Melodic splendour is the most obvious thing about his poetry, but the full value of its significancee is not always realised. All great poerty, must necessarily charm both the eye and the ear; these are the avenues by which it seeks to hold the imagination of the reader.

To concede melodic beauty to a poet is really only to save in other words that he is a poet, and the question therefore in Swinburne is one of degree, not of kind. “And it is here that the emphatic quality of Swinburne’s music is appreciated for he is the most musical of our poets” (Composing-Rickett).

In many of our poets the pictorial faculty is quite as dominant, sometimes, as in Rossetti’s case everything is subordinate to the melodic. “I would never have belived,” said a distinguised critic “that there could be such music in words, and especially in the English language.” “Just as Rossetti made thought pictorially sensuous, Swinburne has made thought musically sensuous.

He is not merely melodic- Shelley was gloriously melodic – he harmonic; Shelley’s music is the music of the lute; Swinburne’s the music of a full orchestra; his melodies are rich and complex, with a sweeping grandeur that no other poet has equalled, much less excelled” (Comption – Rickett).

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