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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 436

At the beginning of the poem, an unnamed speaker asks his friends to leave him alone for a bit so that he can ruminate on his past, the time he spent at Locksley Hall, where he is now visiting again. He reflects on his youthful years spent in this place as well as the time he spent with his young love, his cousin, Amy, here. He says that they were in love, and they spent all their time together, but then, the "shallow-hearted" Amy rejected the narrator due to her "father's threat" and perhaps her mother's "shrewish tongue." She married someone else, someone with more money (making her "shallow"), and this new man is "[gross] in nature," a veritable "clown" in the narrator's eyes. He realizes, however, that Amy must act the good wife to this man, and it makes him feel disgusted. He curses the "social wants" that lead people away from their true feelings. He wrestles with his feelings, wondering if it is possible to love her still the way he knew her then. The narrator goes on to consider the babies that Amy will have with this man and how they will demand all her attention.

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The narrator goes on to describe how he "must mix with action, lest [he] wither by despair." He is angry, and he had wished to die, but he tries to move on and consider the future. He imagines that "the heavens [will] fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails": he predicts that the "heavens [will] fill with shouting" and nations will wage war on one another, all due to people's greed and focus on money and things rather than people and feelings. Eventually, however, he believes that "common sense" will prevail and a "Parliament of man" will be created in peace. He predicts the decline in the importance of the individual and the rise in the importance of the world as a whole.

He hears his friends calling for him to come—they do not understand him—and he expresses his belief that "Woman is the lesser man." In other words, women are weaker, and their emotions are more frail than men's. He thinks of his home in the Orient, where he was a "trampled orphan, and a selfish uncle's ward." Despite his hardships, he describes that place as a "Paradise." His imagination is rekindled by his memories of his home, and he feels newly inspired. Now, he feels as though he can leave Locksley Hall and all its sad memories behind him, and he hopes that a thunderbolt might "fall" on the place and destroy it.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 450

“Locksley Hall” is typical of Tennyson’s poetry, in that the pattern of the poem follows one characteristic of much of the poet’s work. A personal experience sparks Tennyson’s creative imagination, and he uses that incident as a springboard for investigating issues of greater social concern.

The biographical germ of the poem lies in Rosa Baring’s rejection of Tennyson as a suitor in 1837; the poet’s poor financial position made him unsuitable for her as a husband, and she rejected him in favor of a man of greater means. In “Locksley Hall,” Tennyson transforms his own disappointment and grief over this rejection into a bitter analysis of the society in which materialism takes precedence over love. The speaker of the poem, a young suitor whose beloved Amy leaves him to marry a boorish man of suitable financial means, rebukes both his beloved and her new husband. His maundering attack leads him to consider the world in which true love can be dismissed so lightly, and he eventually begins to daydream about a future in which people, driven by greed, will eventually clash in world war to satisfy their insatiable materialistic appetites. In passages that border on science fiction, Tennyson describes “airy navies” engaging in battle. There is a ray of hope, however; the speaker finally sees an end to nationalistic strife, and the formation of a “Parliament of man,” a worldwide federation that will eventually bring peace to warring nations. All of this is mere reverie, of course, and in the final couplets the speaker turns away bitterly from Locksley Hall, the place where he wooed his Amy unsuccessfully, and goes off to wander the world in an attempt to suffuse his bitterness.

Written in trochaic couplets, “Locksley Hall” is an excellent example of Tennyson’s ability to sustain a complicated meter and rhyme scheme. Some critics have complained, however, that the jingling nature of the meter works against the serious message of the poem, the speaker’s indictment of modern society. Like the best of Tennyson’s poetry, “Locksley Hall” contains phrases of vivid description and lines that capture the mood of the speaker in such a way as to give his personal feelings a universal significance. The Byronic qualities of the hero of this poem, his brooding over his fate in life, and his somber portrait of the future (even when tempered by his final vision of a world at peace) suggest the darker side of Tennyson’s personality; the poet seems fascinated by characters whose life experiences drive them to the brink of madness as they face frustration and disappointment in a world where money has supplanted love as the highest of human aspirations.

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Themes