The Two Voices: A Tennyson Study

The Two Voices: A Tennyson Study

The Two Voices: A Tennyson Study

The Two Voices: A Tennyson Study

Excerpt

In Essays, Ancient and Modern, Thomas Stearns Eliot called Alfred Tennyson "a great poet for reasons that are perfectly clear. He has three qualities which are seldom found together except in the greatest poets: abundance, variety, and complete competence."

The "abundance" of a poet who wrote from early childhood until his death at the age of eighty-three is clear to all. His "variety" is attested to by Stephen Gwynn in a Spectator article for March 22, 1946: "If I had to defend myself for praising Tennyson, I should dwell on the range and variety of his output. Few poets in the world have done so many things so well as Tennyson...." Mr. Eliot magnificently supports his own claim of Tennyson's competence with a bit of florid criticism: "whatever he sets out to do, he succeeds in doing.... He had the finest ear of any English poet since Milton.... Maud and In Memoriam are each a series of poems, given form by the greatest lyrical resourcefulness that a poet has ever shown.... Tennyson is the great master of metric as well as of melancholia ... the saddest of all English poets, among the Great in Limbo, the most instinctive rebel against the society in which he was the most perfect conformist."

But despite the bravura of praise, the tone is noticeably defensive. Mr. Gwynn felt he might have to "defend" himself . . .

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