The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Splendor Falls” was written in 1848 shortly after Alfred, Lord Tennyson visited Killarney in Ireland. The poem describes a sunset in mountainous country. The scene is glorious: The setting sun illuminates an old castle and the snow-capped peaks beyond. The surface of a nearby lake reflects the light, as does a waterfall seen tumbling from a cliff. In the scene, too, is a “scar,” or cleft in the rock face, from which the echoes of sounds emerge, first strongly, then with decreasing intensity.

Celebrating the joy of the scene, the speaker calls for bugles to blow, so that the echoes may set off a clarion call heralding the wonders of the day’s end. There is a magical quality about the scene, suggested by the castle and the mountains “old in story,” and further emphasized by a reference to the “horns of Elfland,” a fairy kingdom. Highly romanticized, the sunset scene evokes moods of elation, wonder, and even excitement. In the final stanza, the speaker says to an unidentified listener—clearly his own beloved—that, unlike the echoes from the fissure along the cliff wall, the echoes of their love will not diminish.

The poem succeeds on its own merits as a lyric by creating a mood and evoking powerful emotions in readers. However, its initial publication as one of the songs interspersed into a longer blank-verse narrative warrants some attention. In 1847, Tennyson published The Princess, a story focused on...

(The entire section is 487 words.)