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William Faulkner was one writer who had a negative opinion of Tennyson. Here is something interesting, amusing, and original that Faulkner has to say about the famous English poet:
One wall of the study is lined with books. He pauses before them, seeking, until he finds the one which he wants. It is Tennyson. It is dogeared. He has had it ever since the seminary. He sits beneath the lamp and opens it. It does not take long. Soon the fine galloping language, the gutless swooning full of sapless trees and dehydrated lusts begins to swim smooth and swift and peaceful. It is better than praying without having to bother to think aloud. It is like listening in a cathedral to a eunuch chanting in a language which he does not even need to not understand.
Light in August
The character Faulkner is talking about in this portion of his novel is Reverend Gail Hightower, D.D.
There appears to be little disagreement between critics that Tennyson was massively influenced by the work of his Romantic predecessor, and Tennyson was known to have been a big reader of Keats' poetry. Even in some of the earliest reviews of Tennyson's poetry, for example, the link was made between Keats and Tennyson. Note what Lockhart wrote in response to Tennyson's first volume of poetry, containing "The Lady of Shallot" in which Lockhart announced:
...a new prodigy of genius, another and brighter star of that galaxy or milky way of poetry of which the lamented Keats was the harbinger.
Other critics likewise agree that in many ways Tennyson himself took the principles and philosophy of Keats and carried them beyond where Keats, in his short life, was able to take them. There is some speculation therefore that if Keats had lived, he would have written work such as Tennyson, though this of course is merely hypothetical. The comparison between the two can be most clearly seen in the way Tennyson demonstrates a similar "sympathy towards the countryside" and a "richness of variety and melody," according to Arthur Waugh. Note, for example, how the countryside is described in the following stanza from "The Lady of Shallot":
Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
The focus on the natural world through the description of the impact of the wind on the willows and the aspens create an image of natural beauty that help the reader to imagine very clearly the scene of the Island of Shallot and the surrounding countryside. Such an emphasis on visual description and rich, lush natural imagery is reminiscent of Keats and the way he described nature in a number of his poems, such as "Bright star!" and also "Hyperion." It is definitely true therefore that Tennyson's work was impacted massively through the work of Keats, and that Tennyson in turn had an immeasurable impact on those who came after him.
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