Alfred, Lord Tennyson was a more complex writer than his status as Queen Victoria’s favorite poet might suggest. Though capable of rendering rapture and delight in the most exquisite verse, in another mode Tennyson is brother in spirit to Poe and Baudelaire, the author of dark, passionate reveries. And though he treasured poetic tradition, his work nevertheless engaged directly with the great issues of his time, from industrialization and the crisis of faith to scientific progress and women’s rights. A master of the short, intense lyric, he can also be sardonic, humorous, voluptuous, earthy, and satirical.
This collection includes, of course, such famous poems as “The Lady of Shalott” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” There are extracts from all the major masterpieces—“Idylls of the King,” “The Princess,” “In Memoriam”—and several complete long poems, such as “Ulysses” and “Demeter and Persephone,” that demonstrate his narrative grace. Finally, there are many of the short lyrical poems, such as “Come into the Garden, Maud” and “Break, Break, Break,” for which he is justly celebrated.
About Lord Alfred Tennyson
Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born in 1809 at Somersby, Lincolnshire. Schooled at Louth and by his father, a rector, he began to write early, and at the age of twelve he composed “an epic of 6,000 lines.” In 1828 he matriculated at Cambridge—but only after the elder Tennyson had approved his recitation by heart of the odes of Horace. Poems, Chiefly Lyrical, published in 1830, revealed Tennyson’s swiftly maturing talent, a talent which was augmented by his friendship with Edward FitzGerald and A.H. Hallam. In 1830, the poet and Hallam volunteered in the army of a Spanish insurgent; and Poems (1833) derived largely from experience gained on the Continent. Hallam’s death in the same year gave rise to The Two Voices (1834)—a black period in Tennyson’s life. After a lengthy silence he published Poems (1842), earning the admiration of Carlyle and Dickens. The year 1850 witnessed his marriage to Emily Sarah Sellwood and his appointment as poet laureate, succeeding Wordsworth. The gravity with which he took his office was reflected in many poems on state occasions. His later years produced his acknowledged masterpieces: In Memoriam (1850), Maud (1855), Ballads and Other Poems (1880), Locksley Hall Sixty Years After (1886), and scattered sections of what would eventually become his epic, Idylls of the King (1859-1885). In 1892, reading his favorite Shakespeare, Tennyson died at Aldworth and received a public funeral in Westminster Abbey.