Today is the birthday of Lord Alfred Tennyson (August 6, 1809 – October 6,1892). He’s one of the most popular poets in the English language, and was one of the last poets to sell as many books as a novelist. At his peak, he was one of the most famous people in England — possibly behind only Queen Victoria and the prime minister. He was made a lord in 1884, when he was 75, and he was the only member of the House of Lords to be there solely on the basis of literary merit.
Tennyson gave us some of the most familiar lines in English poetry, including “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” (In Memoriam) and “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die.” (The Charge of the Light Brigade). I loved The Lady of Shalott in my schooldays and one of my all-time favourite poems is Ulysses. The older I grow, the more I love its closing lines:
… and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
To my mind, Tennyson’s Ulysses and Robert Browning’s The Last Ride Together are two of the greatest poems of the Victorian era. The romanticism, the indomitable spirit, the things that made the Victorians great, run through these poems.Continue Reading