Themes

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Locksley Hall" (1842) tells the story of a soldier returning to his childhood home on the moorland of Locksley Hall. During this visit, he is poignantly reminded of his experience as a child enjoying the young love of his cousin, Amy. Eventually, however, Amy marries another man, and so the memory of this relationship has permanently damaged the narrator's memory of Locksley Hall. The major themes of the poem are unrequited love and the contrast between civilization versus barbarism.

The narrator remembers vividly his first openly romantic encounter with Amy, recalling her specific words: "I have loved thee long." The narrator explains that his beloved has since taken a new husband. The explicit reasons are not given; however, it seems to have something to do with her parents' approval ("Puppet to a father's threat, and servile to a shrewish tongue!"). Their disapproval, in turn, might have to do with the narrator's social status ("Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!"). The narrator takes comfort exacting vengeance on Amy's current husband by calling him a "clown." Moreover, he spites Amy by averring that her current husband will degrade her by means of the "grossness of his nature" and claiming that her husband values her as little more than a pet. Because the narrator has so many memories of spending time with Amy as a child at Locksley Hall, he cannot enjoy the place any longer.

The poem also explores the relative merits of civilization and savagery. The narrator divulges more of his background during the latter half of the poem. He states that his father was killed in battle, and, with no mother, he became the ward of his uncle. As he is a solider, he admits to being attracted to the idea of "burst[ing] all links of habit" and settling in the tropics with a native wife who will bear him "dusky children." Jaded by his now loveless experience as an Englishman, he feels attracted to the idea of living beyond the reach of the "European flag." However, by the poem's end, the speaker chastens himself and admits to preferring the Christian child to the "gray barbarian." He closes by cursing Locksley Hall and resolving to leave it, along with (presumably) the memories it carries of his lost love.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Previous

Summary

Next

Critical Essays