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The Legacy of Alfred Tennyson

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Mark Volk

on 15 April 2011

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Transcript of The Legacy of Alfred Tennyson

The Legacy of Alfred Tennyson Timeless emotions Feelings Questions Contemporary Work written by Chris Martin on the 2005 Coldplay album, 'X & Y' Inspiration for the work Chris Martin wrote this song for his wife after his father-in-law passed away in 2002 from pneumonia and oral cancer ("Coldplay: Song Meanings", par. 4) 'In Memoriam' - Group Analysis My own dim life should teach me this,
That life shall live for evermore,
Else earth is darkness at the core,
And dust and ashes all that is;

This round of green, this orb of flame,
Fantastic beauty such as lurks
In some wild Poet, when he works
Without a conscience or an aim.

What then were God to such as I?
'Twere hardly worth my while to choose
Of things all mortal, or to use
A tattle patience ere I die;

'Twere best at once to sink to peace,
Like birds the charming serpent draws,
To drop head-foremost in the jaws
Of vacant darkness and to cease. Dim life – dull, lack of clarity

Should teach me this, suggesting that Tennyson did once believe that life was once eternal, but this has been skewed

Earth and life for Tennyson is just an abundance of darkness at its soul, the exact opposite of what religion had told Tennyson he should believe. For him, but not all, there is no aim or conscience

Biblical allusion – Serpent, Satan – Endless darkness is what will continue to engulf him and stop his life that he has suffered through since the death of his friend. Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasp'd no more—
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro' the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day. Alluding to his past

sense of nostalgia lets the reader understand how drastically his life has changed since the passing of his friend.

Losing his friend is like losing a part of him, like someone he walked hand in hand with.

Some literary critics suggest that Tennyson and Hallam had a secretive homosexual relationship

This person is no longer, personifying his hatred through rain

Source of water, source for growth and essential part of life for all things, life is a ghastly aspect of Tennyson’s surroundings.

The street use to bring such joy to Tennyson, and now it is blank and bald, plain, lifeless. Calm is the morn without a sound,
Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
And only thro' the faded leaf
The chestnut pattering to the ground:...
Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
These leaves that redden to the fall;
And in my heart, if calm at all,
If any calm, a calm despair
Stanza 11 is at the time in the work where Tennyson is grieving

imagery from nature, specifically a leaf fading, a chestnut falling

indications that time has passed

Pathetic fallacy is used by embodying the aspect of life/death, more specifically, Hallam’s, in nature running their course and calmly passing

‘Calm and deep peace’ and ‘calm, calm despair’. To-night the winds begin to rise
And roar from yonder dropping day:
The last red leaf is whirl'd away,
The rooks are blown about the skies;

The forest crack'd, the waters curl'd,
The cattle huddled on the lea;
And wildly dash'd on tower and tree
The sunbeam strikes along the world stanza 15

depicts nature with much more animosity

pathetic fallacy makes the reader feel Tennyson’s sense of despair by showing the ‘rooks blown’, ‘leaves whirl’d away’, etc.

sun like a single and lone object

It refers to the sunbeam striking the world, when usually it would sooth the earth as a unit, not a lone beam.

The sun is known as the abyss of energy for all life, but almost antagonistic to Tennyson’s life now.
What words are these have falle'n from me?
Can calm despair and wild unrest
Be tenants of a single breast,
Or sorrow such a changeling be?
Whose fancy fuses old and new,
And flashes into false and true,
And mingles all without a plan?
confusion in reader as Tennyson felt at this time.

How could this calm despair and wild unrest come from the same nurturing source

Imagery with the breast, nurturing life, infant life

Close to heart

Questioning is it possible for this to even happen?

False and true, referring to confusion about creation with science during the time.

Without a plan refers to Tennyson’s questioning of a purpose to life and existence if man ends up dying.
Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is rack'd with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,
And men the flies of latter spring,
That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day. Tennyson is calling out to God, as he is nearing his reaffirmation

Personification: wheels of being, blood creeps, time, life.

Contrast: saying to the reader that he needs his faith at all times in his life, especially the parts that are awful.

This communicates the power of God, being able to pull him out of slowed life, illness, with hopes and confidence it will pull him up and rid him of these low points. Oh yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy'd,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry. commentary on the meaning of faith, if one

wants to believe nothing walks with ‘aimless feet’, a symbol for no direction or purpose

Alludes to science ‘cast as rubbish to the void’, saying not a single life will be cast to the nothingness and unimportant of the universe when God is in power

Turns perspective and lets his doubt take control. Contrast and juxtaposition of ideas in this stanza, LIV, saying no matter how much he wants to believe, the importance of ‘we’ (perspective as an entire species/humanity) is unclear

Switches back to ‘I’, and says he is virtually nothing, ‘only a cry’ to communicate with whatever force there could be. I found Him not in world or sun,
Or eagle's wing, or insect's eye;
Nor thro' the questions men may try,
The petty cobwebs we have spun looking back and describing his quest that reaffirmed his faith

The ‘questions men may try’ are referring to scientific advancements that were being made throughout the Victorian Age

As Tennyson began writing this collection of cantos in 1830, after the death of his dearest friend, A.H.H, major breakthroughs in science were being made.

Geologist Charles Lyell proposed the idea of uniformitarianism in 1827, and this caught the attention of many Victorians. Other scientists, like geologist James Hutton, had proposed tons of life changing ideas in recent time. Lyell suggested that the earth in present day had been formed by series of catastrophic and gradual changes in the earth due to Natural Laws acting in the universe.

The ‘petty cobwebs we have spun’ is a metaphor for the scientific knowledge at that time. Looking further, cobwebs are very thin, but are flexible and usually occurring in large elaborate patterns, almost like ideas blocking and clouding out Tennyson’s faith that he longed to reaffirm.
Whatever I have said or sung,
Some bitter notes my harp would give,
Yea, tho' there often seem'd to live
A contradiction on the tongue, talks about his past, with much more knowledge after his faith is reaffirmed

Metaphor – bitter notes my harp would give: questionable thoughts he has had about life in general since the 19 years when he began these poems

Also, harps are often associated with angelic/religious figures, seems oxymoronic to have something as warm and pure as a harp to sound bitter Yet Hope had never lost her youth;
She did but look through dimmer eyes;
Or Love but play'd with gracious lies,
Because he felt so fix'd in truth:
And if the song were full of care,
He breathed the spirit of the song;
And if the words were sweet and strong
He set his royal signet there;

Abiding with me till I sail
To seek thee on the mystic deeps,
And this electric force, that keeps
A thousand pulses dancing, fail.
Personification – Hope: something youthful, and always remaining this way

Saying faith is full of the characteristics of youth – powerful, playful, and blossoming

Love-always there with him, sending his seal everywhere with him Dear friend, far off, my lost desire,
So far, so near in woe and weal;
O loved the most, when most I feel
There is a lower and a higher;

Known and unknown; human, divine;
Sweet human hand and lips and eye;
Dear heavenly friend that canst not die,
Mine, mine, for ever, ever mine;

Strange friend, past, present, and to be;
Loved deeplier, darklier understood;
Behold, I dream a dream of good,
And mingle all the world with thee. Juxtaposition - so far/ so near, higher/lower – he is addressing his friend, Hallam, regardless of where he is. His emotions although at times still sad, have high points as well.

Repetition – mine, mine, and forever mine: exercising his clear belief that the human soul is eternal, as said in the bible. The soul cannot die, and his faith has reaffirmed this. The repetition drives home the point that the religious and spiritual belief of the course of life is rooted in a religious foundation.

Dream a dream of good, mingle – allusion to heaven. Saying do not fear, I have had a dream/I now see the beautiful world of heaven, where we will see one and other once again.
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse? Outpour of emotion

Streaming like something you can’t escape

Directly related to loss O heart, how fares it with thee now,
That thou should'st fail from thy desire,
Who scarcely darest to inquire,
'What is it makes me beat so low?'

Something it is which thou hast lost,
Some pleasure from thine early years.
Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief hath shaken into frost!
Tennyson talks about ‘the beating so low’

The something that has made him and his desire shatter like a vase

Metaphor: vase of chilling tears
Conjured emotion

Victorian era used flowers as symbols

Vase of chilling tears – solid, rigid structure, breaking free but not flowing

Piercing, as a result of the coldness of grief When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Describing process during the time of loss
after it has happened
sense of maturity same sense of maturity
realization of the time wasted by the wild and wandering cries And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth
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 the true. Sense of hope is created

Dark time in life

An idea that will soon flourish Stuck in reverse
Could it be worse?
So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.

'What keeps a spirit wholly true
To that ideal which he bears?
What record? not the sinless years Questioning:
events of life
meaning of life
KNOWLEDGE Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes Love is and was my Lord and King,
And in his presence I attend
To hear the tidings of my friend,
Which every hour his couriers bring.
Concept of learning from failures and mistakes


Possibility of varying subject matter in Coldplay piece

Could still relate to learning right from wrong in time of anger Understanding and Acceptance Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.
Accepting hardships they have been faced with

Sense of direction in the writing
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face
And I

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.
Absolute sense of direction
Thoughts are composed and collected
Clarity in something that caused such turmoil
Purpose Emotion of grief and loss through using layered chording Descending melody line
Mimicing human emotion Highest point of melody on a minor chord
sense of confusion Similar high melodic point
Complete chords Repeated melodic fragment
Perfect cadence V-I
Fix You is sung on a VII-VIII/I chord
Played on piano, clear, definitive tones

In conclusion, Alfred Tennyson is a typical Victorian poet because of the time period in he lived, the connections he drew between neo-classical and romantic poetry, the use of timeless themes throughout his work, In Memoriam. ("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 34-37) ("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 7-10)

("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 11-12)

("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 15-16)
("In Memoriam A.H.H.", par. 17-18)
("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 50-54)

("In Memoriam A.H.H.", par. 48-52)
("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 124)

("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 126)

("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 135-138)

("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 145-148) ("Coldplay: Song Meanings", par. 2)

("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 3-4)
("Coldplay: Song Meanings", par. 1) ("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 102) ("Coldplay: Song Meanings", par. 4) ("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 51) ("Coldplay: Song Meanings", par. 1-2) ("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 54) ("Coldplay: Song Meanings", par. 6) ("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 126) ("Coldplay: Song Meanings", par.9) ("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 4-6) ("Coldplay: Song Meanings", par. 6-9) ("In MemoriamA.H.H.", par. 161) Works Cited
"Coldplay: Songs Meaning." Song Meanings. Tons Fuse Music Co., 2007. Web. 3 Apr. 2011.
."In Memoriam A.H.H." The Literature Network: Online Classic Literature, Poems, and Quotes. Essays & Summaries. 2000. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. .
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