Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Because this poem is often published apart from the longer narrative in which it originally appeared, it is possible to develop both a general and a specific interpretation for it. Like many lyrics, “The Splendor Falls” is not constructed principally to tell a story, but rather to evoke particular feelings in readers. Many poets equate the passing of the day with the passing of a life, or of some bond between individuals, such as love. In fact, Tennyson himself used both daybreak and sunset to suggest certain human emotions. In stanza 7 of his most renowned work, In Memoriam (1850), he expresses his speaker’s pain at the loss of a good friend by describing sunrise in stark terms: “ghastly through the drizzling rain/ On the bald street breaks the blank day.” In “Crossing the Bar,” an often-reprinted lyric written late in his life, Tennyson gives readers clear indication that the “sunset and evening star” referred to in the poem represents the end of his life.

In “The Splendor Falls” the suggestive visual and auditory imagery, repetition and variation of key words and phrases, and linking rhyme scheme all work to create a vivid picture of the setting sun’s effect on the landscape. Colors change on the walls of the castle, sounds echo from the cataract, all heralding the passing of the day. Tennyson does not suggest, however, that the end of the day is a time of sorrow or loss, as is the case in many poems. Rather, this is a...

(The entire section is 500 words.)