I identify myself more as a ‘verse’ person. I am the person you will always find with a notebook full of verses, proses, shayaris, ghazals. And I usually do not miss out on any opportunity to get my hands on such beautiful pieces.
Having read Tennyson’s poem a few years back, I always wanted to read more of his work. And then, I found this gem at a local bookstore and that too Everyman’s edition! How cool, right? Now, Tennyson’s work has a myriad range starting from political issues to historical concerns, mythology to scientific matters, and sometimes even deep sentimental thoughts.
Let’s pick the first poem, Mariana. Here, he uses the natural world to depict the inner states of a woman’s mind; how she is patiently waiting for her lover but is dying inside. Quoting one stanza,
Her tears fell with the dews at even;
Her tears fell ere the dews were dried;
She could not look on the sweet heaven,
Either at morn or eventide.
After the flitting of the bats,
When the thickest dark did trance the sky,
She drew her casement-curtain by,
And glanced athwart the glooming flats.
She only said, ‘The night is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that if I were dead!’
We also find poems, like The Lady of Shalott, portraying a world of Knights in shining armour and damsels in distress.
Sometimes a troop of damsels glad.
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-haired page in crimson clad,
Goes by to towered Camelot;
And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue
The Knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.
The breadth of his work, as said earlier, is difficult to comprehend into a system or a theme. We find another poem: Tithonus, experimenting with Greek mythology. According to it, Tithonus is the brother of Priam, King of Troy, and is loved by Aurora, the immortal goddess of the dawn, who carries off beautiful young men whom she desires. Aurora abducts Tithonus and asks Zeus to grant him immortality, but forgets to ask him to grant eternal youth, and soon Tithonus becomes an old man. However Tennyson, in this poem, changes the story. Now Tithonus asks for immortality, and it is Aurora, not Zeus, who confers this gift upon him. The idea is that man, even after being immortal, also suffers. That we are never fully content.
Of happy men that have the power to die,
And grassy barrows of the happier dead.
Release me, and restore me to the ground;
Thou seest all things, thou wilt see my grave:
Thou wilt renew thy beauty morn by morn;
I earth in earth forget these empty courts,
And thee returning on thy silver wheels.
And lastly, a stanza from the poem Maud, that I could relate to instantly, and I am still not over it.
My life has crept so long on a broken wing
Thro’ cells of madness, haunts of horror and fear,
That I come to be grateful at last for a little thing:
My mood is changed, for it fell at a time of year
When the face of night is fair on the dewy downs,
And the shining daffodil dies, and the Charioteer
And the starry Gemini hang like glorious crowns
Over Orion’s grave low down in the west,
That like a silent lightning under the stars
She seemed to divide in a dream from a band of the blest,
And spoke of hope for the world in the coming wars-
‘And in that hope, dear soul, let trouble have rest,
Knowing I tarry for thee,’and pointed to Mars
As he glowed like a ruddy shield on a Lion’s breast