Alfred Lord Tennyson was the poet laureate of the United Kingdom from 1850-1892. His duty as poet laureate was to reach out to the common folk of the time by raising issues/concerns with society and life through his poems meanings that they could relate to. His ability to use the context of his poems to provide a greater meaning to the reader is what made him valued as a great poet. Although the way he manages to transcend the themes of his poems such as unrequited love, passing of youth and patriotism to suit and relate to a modern day society is why he continues to be valued as one.
These themes are present through Tennyson’s poetic masterpieces such as ‘The Lady of Shalott’, ‘The Eagle’ and ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ in which he uses poetic devices and techniques to compare and contrast the deeper meaning of the poem to real life concerns and issues. Unrequited love is love that is not returned or is unnoticed. This theme is prominent throughout Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’, as in the poem the Lady of Shalott dies from a curse which is triggered when she leaves her tower because of her love for Lancelot. The Lady of Shalott’ was first published in 1833, when the romantic movement was at its peak, so Tennyson writing about the journey of a women in love makes ‘The Lady of Shalott’ a prime example of Tennyson’s romantic poetry. The poems plot metaphorically represents the pain of unrequited love and the risks involved in sharing your feelings. An example of unrequited love within the ‘Lady of Shalott’ is when the lady’s dead body floats in the boat to Camelot and Lancelot says “She has a lovely face”.
This shows how oblivious Lancelot is in regards to the lady’s feelings for him and that the love she gives is not returned. Passing of youth is a theme that associates with Tennyson’s poem ‘The Eagle’. The first line of the poem; ‘He clasps the crag with crooked hands’, illustrates to the reader that the creature is holding on to life, and inevitably in the last line ‘And like a thunderbolt he falls’, it has died. In contrast with real life Tennyson uses personification like ‘crooked hands’ and context throughout the poem, to compare an Eagles daily doings to the mortal life of a human being.
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The last line in particularly implies how quick and sudden death is, with the comparison of an Eagle catching its prey. Also structurally the poem is only six lines long; Tennyson uses this shortness to reinforce (like an Eagle catching its prey) how quickly life goes by. ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, is another one of Tennyson’s masterpieces in which contains the theme ‘patriotism’. This theme is exploited throughout the poem as the poem is a tribute to all of the lives lost at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War.
To reinforce the patriotism of the soldiers in the poem, Tennyson uses the repetition of the phrase ‘valley of death’ which implies that the death of the soldiers is inevitable but yet they still approach it patriotically. In the poem where it says ‘Cannons to the left of them, Cannons to the right of them, Cannons in front of them’ is an example of imagery which also illustrates to the reader that the death of the light brigade is inevitable and that they are walking straight into it.
The final line of the poem ‘Noble six hundred’ is used to portray the soldiers as highly respected because of the deeds that they have committed to on behalf of their country. In conclusion Tennyson’s poetic works are highly valued among society for Tennyson’s ability to pinpoint a specific audience for each of his poems by using the themes like unrequited love, passing of youth and patriotism as found within the ‘The Lady of Shalott’, ‘The Eagle’ and ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’.
Although these themes intertwine to make a greater theme in which a majority of Tennyson’s poems relate to, and this is the preciousness of life. This is the sort of ideology of romanticism where Tennyson critiques society’s traditional values and expectations of living and fulfilling traditional gender roles, and promotes the idea of following your heart and make the most out of life. Tennyson’s ability to transcend these themes from suiting the people of the Victorian era to suit and relate to a modern day society is what continues to make Tennyson be valued as a ‘great poet’.
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