Describe Alfred Tennyson as a poet of imagination.

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All great poets are poets of imagination, since imagination is the essence of all that is artistic. To understand the special qualities of Tennyson's imaginative power, we might do best by seeing what distinguishes him from both his predecessors, the Romantics, and his Victorian contemporaries.

The imaginative basis of Tennyson's work is both forward-looking and backward-looking. The Victorians were in some sense anchored in a material and literal world in a way the earlier generation was not, or did not think it had to be. Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind," for instance, exists in a timeless fantasy-world into which the poet seeks to extend his own personal identity. Even in "The Mask of Anarchy," which is a metaphorical representation of a contemporary event (the "Peterloo Massacre"), Shelley presents an alternative world in which the actual happenings are subordinated to his own poetic design and vision. The same is true of the inclusion of historical figures in the apocalyptic but...

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