Experiments. Milton. Alcaics by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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"Mighty-mouth'd Inventor Of Harmonies"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Like many poets, Tennyson was fascinated by the technique as well as by the content of poetry; thus, while he praises Milton for his inventions in prosody, he imitates the classical form of poetry invented by the Greek lyric poet Alcaeus (fl. 600 B.C.). This form is quantitative, the metrical foot being measured by the duration of sound, whereas the usual English poem has been qualitative or syllabic. Ranking Milton as the superior stylist whom no other English poet has matched, Tennyson fittingly praises the master in this experimental poem. By combining eulogy and metrical experimentation, he achieves one of his remarkable poems in which form and content completely join and illustrate not only Milton's greatness but also Tennyson's own ear for the music of verse.

O mighty-mouth'd inventor of harmonies,
O skill'd to sing of Time or Eternity,
God-gifted organ-voice of England,
Milton, a name to resound for ages;
Whose Titan angels, Gabriel, Abdiel,
Starr'd from Jehovah's gorgeous armories,
Tower, as the deep-domed empyrean
Rings to the roar of an angel onset! . . .