Experiments. Milton. Hendecasyllabics by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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"O You Chorus Of Indolent Reviewers"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Although poet laureate and highly acclaimed by his contemporaries, Tennyson was still greatly disturbed by unfavorable reviews; in fact, he often rewrote poems after their publication in order to perfect the meter or to enhance the word order. This almost neurotic fear of censure and an ear for the sounds of his language combined to form some of the most melodious poems of the English tradition. Tennyson strives for the full union of sound, metrics, and meaning; and while he is often criticized for his superfluity, he is recognized as the master of the well structured, musical poem. In this poem he writes in a form alien to English poetry, the eleven-syllable complexly organized line that was mastered by the Latin poet Catullus. By showing his adeptness at such a difficult form, he scorns the very critics who have scorned him.

O you chorus of indolent reviewers,
Irresponsible, indolent reviewers,
Look, I come to the test, a tiny poem
All composed in a metre of Catullus,
All in quantity, careful of my motion,
Like the skater on ice that hardly bears him,
Lest I fall unawares before the people,
Waking laughter in indolent reviewers. . . .