Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 503
Context: Maud, in its day one of Tennyson's most disputed works, has for many readers lost the appeal which it once had for some. Nonetheless, it is still one of the most readable of all his poems. In form it is a "monodrama"–an extended dramatic monologue divided into episodes, each of which is a soliloquy. The plot, typical of the era in which Maud was written, concerns a poor young man; his poverty is a source of great pain to him, for he is proud. He falls in love with the beautiful Maud and struggles to win her in spite of her wealthy family and the rival of their choice; the end is despair, madness, and death. In his first soliloquy the narrator reveals an unstable, or unsettled, mind: he recalls the tragic death of his father, who probably committed suicide; he considers the evils of the world, and says bitterly that war is the best remedy for them. He raves, as his father used to do. In the meantime he notes that the Hall is being refurbished; he has heard of the beauty of Maud, who will live there; he had known her as a child and is eager to see her again. When he does so, his first impression is that she is cold as a stone. After a second meeting, he thinks about her and about the barrier of wealth that lies between them. Later, he hears her sing. Gradually they are drawn together. But the narrator is suddenly convulsed with jealousy: there is a rival, a haughty new-made lord with little to commend him save his money and his title. Maud returns the narrator's love, but he knows he has little chance against Maud's family and the supercilious competitor they have chosen for her. Her love has improved the narrator's mental health, and his nightmare thoughts no longer persecute him. One night there is a huge dinner and dance given at the Hall; Maud will slip away and meet the narrator afterward. He, anticipating her arrival, indulges in a passionate love-song–little dreaming that they will be discovered and that he will kill her brother in a duel:
Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.
. . .
She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear it and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.
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