The Pre-Eminent Victorian: A Study of Tennyson

By Joanna Richardson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE
PLAYS AND TRAGEDIES

AT the end of November, Kegan Paul published Ballads and Other Poems. The ballads were The Revenge and the graphic, vigorous The Defence of Lucknow, and Rizpah, Tennyson's ballad of common life. The poems included those distressingly sentimental narratives In the Children's Hospital and The First Quarrel (the Laureate had once refused to stay with Dickens 'because I should be entreating him to dismiss his sentimentality', but that, after all, had been thirty-four years ago). The most interesting poem in the new collection, apart from the richly lyrical The Voyage of Maeldune, was De Profundis, which Tennyson had begun on Hallam's birth in 1852, and had now completed. In the first part of the poem he had greeted the new-born child, the physical miracle; in the second part he now greeted the child who had come from the world of the spirit, the creature endowed with a soul and a moral being:

We feel we are nothing -- for all is Thou and in Thee;
We feel we are something -- that also has come from Thee;
We know we are nothing -- but Thou wilt help us to be.
Hallowed be Thy name -- Halleluiah!

Swinburne rushed into parody,

God whom we see not is: and God who is not we see:
Fiddle we know is diddle: and diddle we know is dee,

and The Edinburgh Review lamented that 'the age has changed, but Tennyson has remained constant; and instead of being the impassioned exponent of contemporary thought, all he can do now is to bow his head and submit to it.' Yet Tennyson's admirers rejoiced at his return to lyric and narrative verse, at his showing himself again 'the Poet of the People', and the new book promised to rival Enoch Arden in popularity.

Tennyson himself remained intent on the conquest of the

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