The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Locksley Hall” is a dramatic monologue in which the youthful speaker, revisiting the site of an earlier love affair, comes to terms with his rejection by the woman he once loved. Through the course of the poem he seeks consolation first in imagining his beloved’s future misery with her new husband; next in foreseeing a brighter future for humankind, based on his own childhood visions of the future; and finally in dreaming of escape from the restrictive society that played a role in ending the lovers’ relationship.

The poem begins with the speaker’s arrival at Locksley Hall, the stately home of his wealthy uncle, where, after his own father’s death, he came to nourish “a youth sublime” with “the fairy tales of science” and nights of gazing at the stars. He then recalls the youthful romance that blossomed between himself and his cousin, Amy. Unfortunately, however, their relationship ended unhappily, for the speaker cries, “Oh my cousin, shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!” His cousin, “Puppet to a father’s threat,” has married another, presumably wealthier, suitor.

The poem then turns to an exploration of the jilted speaker’s mingled feelings of jealousy, resentment, and lingering affection toward his former lover. He asks “Is it well to wish thee happy?” in spite of his lover’s decision to settle on “a range of lower feelings and a narrower heart than mine!” He continues to wrestle with this...

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Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Locksley Hall” takes the form of a dramatic monologue, in which a fictional character assumes the speaking role, rather than the poet himself, as in the case of a lyric poem. The thoughts expressed by this character cannot, therefore, be directly attributed to Tennyson himself, but must be understood as those of a fictional persona who may or may not reflect the poet’s own attitudes. Tennyson said of the poem that it “represents young life, its good side, its deficiencies, and its yearnings.”

Nevertheless, it is clear that the poem does largely reflect Tennyson’s attitudes about the inhibiting social and economic restrictions imposed upon his generation, as well as his earnest hopes for the possibilities of scientific, as well as social, progress.

The occasion upon which this dramatic monologue takes place is the speaker’s return to Locksley Hall after a prolonged absence. This event acts as a frame for the retelling of his sad tale, as well as for his bitter reflections about the past and his hopes for the future. The frame also serves as a transition from one section of the poem to another, as when the speaker emerges from his reverie to hear his “merry comradessounding on the bugle-horn.”

The poem consists of 194 lines, arranged into ninety-seven rhymed couplets. The simplicity of the rhyme scheme is offset, however, by the complex meter—trochaic octameter—as well as the unusual length of the lines, which...

(The entire section is 555 words.)

The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

An unnamed narrator has just returned to his childhood home of Locksley Hall. He asks a group of friends there to leave him in solitude so he may reflect on his past. He recalls his life in the large country house, which included leisurely contemplation and an education in the classics and science. The estate belongs to the narrator’s uncle, who took him in after the death of his parents.

The narrator is now despondent because Amy, the woman he loves, has broken their engagement and plans to marry another man. She apparently made the decision at her parents’ insistence on the grounds that the other man has more desirable prospects. After recalling in detail idyllic walks on the beach with Amy, the narrator denounces her bitterly and predicts that her husband will mistreat and neglect her. Unable to forget Amy, he questions the nature and endurance of love. Amy may find comfort from her husband’s predicted aloofness in the love of a child, but the narrator imagines her hypocritically warning her own daughter of the dangers of yielding to one’s emotions.

In order to forget Amy, the narrator resolves to turn to further adventures. Economic forces in his society deny him access to military glory or commercial success. He recalls the dreams of his younger years, when he saw infinite possibilities for both himself and others, including technological advances and the advent of an international government that would eliminate war. The future...

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(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Alden, Raymond Macdonald. Alfred Tennyson: How to Know Him. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1917. This early study compares the story to a novel, highlighting the hero’s evolving emotions.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Modern Critical Views. New York: Chelsea House, 1985. An essay by A. Dwight Culler in this collection of Tennyson criticism compares the reaction of “Locksley Hall” to catastrophe to that of Tennyson’s “Maud” (1855) and traces the origins of the monologue form in Arabian poetry.

Goslee, David. Tennyson’s Characters: “Strange Faces, Other Minds.” Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1989. Draws on readings by several other critics to reveal the weaknesses of the poem’s narrator.

Hughes, Linda K. The Manyfacèd Glass: Tennyson’s Dramatic Monologues. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1987. Dwelling on the role of time, this study sees the remembered past and visions of the future in “Locksley Hall” as defining both the poem’s narrator and his society.

Kissane, James D. Alfred Tennyson. New York: Twayne, 1970. The chapter “The Dramatic Poet” outlines the independent persona of the narrator and the role of Locksley Hall itself as an emblem of his past.

Shaw, David W. Alfred, Lord Tennyson: The Poet in an Age of Theory. Twayne’s English Authors Series 525. New York: Twayne, 1996. This general study presents the hero as Byronic and alternating between opposing emotions. Here, his violent feelings mask a failure to assume responsibility.

_______. Tennyson’s Style. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1976. This study sees various stages of the poem progressively modifying the story.

Smith, Elton Edward. Tennyson’s “Epic Drama.” Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1997. This reading shows the hero progressing from negative jealousy to a positive and hopeful resolution.

Wright, F. W. Nielsen. Tennyson, Locksley Hall Then and After, and “The Alexandrians, an Epic Poem”: An Essay in Literary Derivation. Wellington, New Zealand: Cultural and Political Booklets, 2007. Detailed study of the relationship between “Locksley Hall” and an epic poem of New Zealand.