Tennyson as a representative poet of his age.
His praise for his own country is the expression of a Victorian patriot who considered his country superior to other countries of the world. Speaking of England Tennyson says:
“It is the land that free men till,
That sober-suited freedom chose,
The land where girt with friends and foes.
A man may speak the thing he will,
A land of settled government,
A land of just and old renown.”
Tennyson is essentially a Victorian in his concept of love and his high regard for domestic virtues. In his attitude towards women he is also a true Victorian. The Victorians did not approve of women’s struggle for rights of equality with men. It was thought that they were created for looking after the house-hold. Tennyson presents this faith in “The Princes”.
Coming to the subject of Love and Sex, the Victorians condemned illegal gratification of the sex urge. Tennyson reflects them in his love-poems that true love can be found no where except a married life. He con not even contemplate the possibility of any relation between man and woman other than the conjugal. Thus, he idealises married life which we can find in “The Miller’s Daughter”.
The Victorians who upheld moral virtues in domestic life were moralists at heart. They had a particular fascination for moralizing and teaching lessons of morality to the younger generation. In this respect, Tennyson is the mouthpiece of the Victorians. In his poetry, there is a strong feeling for moral preaching and ethical edification. He is a moralist giving to his readers the proper guidance for the wise conduct of life. He also turned to the Greek legends not so much for the sake of their beauty of their ethical significance. The legendary “Ulysses” imparts the message of action and urges the readers.
Thus, Tennyson’s poetry is historically interesting on the social and political sides, it is at the same time, even more important as a record of the intellectual and spiritual life of the time. Tennyson presented all the essential features of Victorian life, the ideas and tastes in his poetry and for this reason we can rightly call him the most representative literary man of the Victorian era as W.J. Long has said earlier.
The answer will be in three parts-
Literature reflects the tendencies of the age in which it is produced, and there is always a great literary artist who becomes the mouthpiece of his Age and he gives expression to its hopes and aspirations, fears and doubts, prosperity and enterprise in his works. Such an artist was Alexander Pope in the early 18th century and Chaucer in the later 14th century.
Alfred Tennyson who was born in 1809 stands in the same relation to his times as Chaucer does to the later 14th century and Alexander Pope to the early 18th century. He is truly “the glass of fashion and the mould of form” of the Victorian period as Spenser was of the Elizabethan Age. He is the typical Victorian poet voicing in his poetry the hopes and aspirations, the doubts and scepticism, the refined culture and the religious liberation of the age. Like a detached but intent spectator, he closely watched the odd and flow of events happening in his country. He believed that it was the function of a poet to penetrate and interpret the spirit of his own age for the future generations. True to his poetic creed, Tennyson presented flawlessly the Victorian Age in its varied aspects in his poetry. In the words of W.J. Long---- “For nearly half a century Tennyson was not only a man and poet but also he was a voice of a whole people, expressing in exquisite melody their doubts and their faith, grief and their triumphs. As a poet who expresses not so much a personal as a national spirit, he is probably the most representative literary man of the Victorian era.
Tennyson faithfully reflected the various aspects of the Victorian life in his poetry. W. H. Hudson puts it thus ------“The change which Tennyson’s thought underwent a change in regard to social and political questions itself reveals his curious sensitiveness to the tendencies of his time.” Now it will be our endeavour to examine how faithfully the poet is the organ---voice of his age.
The Victorian era was essentially an age of peace and settled government. People did not want excitement rather they wished to be soothed and assured. Tumult, storm, and the revolutionary feelings upsetting established conventions were frowned by the Victorians. Tennyson reflects this craving of the age for the authority of law, and settled order. The dominant element in Tennyson’s thought is his sense of law. The thing which most pleases and impresses him is the spectacle of order in the universe. The highest praise showered by Tennyson on his country is that she is-----“A land of settled government where freedom is ever broadening down from precedent to precedent.” The poet finds the working of law even in the sorrows and losses of humanity.
Politically the age was striking a compromise between the growing tide of democracy and political freedom to the masses and the continuation of the old order of aristocracy. Tennyson presents this compromising spirit of the age in his poetry. He concedes the claim os democracy and at the same time he upholds the old aristocracy.
Patriotism and love for the country were the significant features of the age. The Victorians took pride in their nation and national glories. In Tennyson’s poetry the sense of national pride and glory is well-sounded. He presents English life and manners with utmost sincerity. ‘The Northern Cobbler’ and ‘Village Wife’ are all national portraits depicting the rustic life of England.