"Victorian poetry is the record of consciousness of the time". How would you examine this in terms of a specific poem?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In one way, the statement that "Victorian poetry is the record of consciousness of the time" is obviously and trivially correct. It would be impossible for a poem not to record the consciousness of some person living at a given time. Moreover, a poem cannot represent an entire time period -- no single poem could express the ideas and attitudes of poor Welsh miners, English aristocrats, Methodist preachers, Roman Catholic Irish immigrants, atheists, middle class housewives, etc., all at the same time.

Tennyson's poem, "In Memoriam" attempts to grapple with on major issue unique to the Victorian period, namely the new discovery of evolution. He writes of the death of his close friend Hallam and tries to make sense of it in light of evolution, saying of nature:

So careful of the type she seems,:
So careless of the single life ...

At first, Tennyson seems to be presenting the survival of the species as consolation, something that makes individual death meaningful, but then he reflects that the fossil record has shown species to go extinct as well.