"The White Flower Of A Blameless Life"
Context: Tennyson's version of the Arthurian legends is dedicated to the memory of Prince Albert, Consort of Queen Victoria. The Idylls of the King, a metrical romance, was published over a long period of time (from 1859 to 1885); the dedication was added in 1862, following Albert's death in December, 1861. That a cycle of poems dealing with the noble days of chivalry, in which knightly purity is emphasized, should be dedicated to Albert's memory is appropriate. Born in 1819, Albert was educated at Bonn; he studied the political and natural sciences, and also music and painting. He married Queen Victoria in 1840; they were an unusually devoted couple, and their marriage was a happy one. Albert took his duties as a public figure with great seriousness; he was always deeply and actively interested in the welfare of the English people. He also devoted himself to the cause of science and art, and his contribution in these areas was of considerable importance. The rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament and the great exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851 owed a large measure of their success to the time, knowledge, and judgment he had given to each project. Albert was a kindly man and a devoted husband and father in an age which considered such attributes of great importance; he was in addition a dedicated citizen of his adopted country. The people loved and admired him, and his untimely death from typhoid fever threw all England into deep and sincere mourning. When Tennyson dedicated his Idylls of the King to this good and public-spirited man, he did so with an elegiac tribute which enumerates those qualities for which Albert will be remembered:
. . . indeed he seems to meScarce other than my king's ideal knight,"Who reverenced his conscience as his king;Whose glory was, redressing human wrong;Who spake no slander, no, nor listen'd to it;Who loved one only and who clave to her–"Her–over all whose realms to their last isle,Commingled with the gloom of imminent war,The shadow of his loss drew like eclipse,Darkening the world. We have lost him: he is gone:We know him now: all narrow jealousiesAre silent; and we see him as he moved,How modest, kindly, all-accomplish'd, wise,With what sublime repression of himself,And in what limits, and how tenderly;Not swaying to this faction or to that;Not making his high place the lawless perchOf wing'd ambitions, nor a vantage-groundFor pleasure; but thro' all this tract of yearsWearing the white flower of a blameless life,Before a thousand peering littlenesses,In that fierce light which beats upon a throne,And blackens every blot; . . .