The Unspoken Elegiac Influence Of Old English

in English
The gleam of poetry, the imaginative transfiguration of Hallam, was Tennyson's passport out of the valley of the shadow of death. And the Anglo-Saxon alliterative meter points to the role Old English played, fifty-six years earlier, in that transfiguration. Beowulf is not just a great heroic poem, but also a great elegy, punctuated throughout by some of the most poignant scenes of grief and mourning in the English language. I do not believe that Tennyson knew it thoroughly, or had a fluent grasp of its language, or anything even approaching a modern critical understanding. In 1833 he could not be expected to. But clearly Tennyson did have an imaginative grasp of Old English elegy. 'The Gleam that had waned to a wintry glimmer on icy fallow and faded forest': these are the lines of someone who responded to its chill landscapes of mourning. He found in them bleakness, a refusal to make easy claims to consolation, and a deeply ingrained sense of the cosmic processes as something inscrutable. This helped him acknowledge the more pessimistic side of his grief and thus begin to Thomas Sabo Jewellery work it out in poetry. The affirmation that concludes In Metnoriam, the final triumphant vision of divine love, is built upon elegy. 'Merlin and the Gleam' looks back in valediction and acknowledges not only the centrality of elegy but also, in its very meter the unspoken elegiac influence of Old English.

Tennyson was supremely qualified to fulfill the Victorian conception of medieval romance as display, spectacle and excess, being as exquisite a word-painter as the English language has produced, and yet the author of 'The Palace of Art' and 'The Lotos-Eaters' felt that to give this skill free rein was too private, too irresponsible a retreat into a romantic endgame. In the work that grew around the 'Morte d'Arthur' he tried to fashion a public narrative reflecting on Thomas Sabo Bracelets the state of the contemporary British Empire, and the strain this placed upon his romance material is frequently all too evident. Had he simply abandoned himself to verbal delights he might, far from being too private, have done more to reinforce cultural equations of the medieval and the oriental and thus contribute to the justification of empire? But he would not, even had he been aware of that possibility, have wished to do so. Idylls of the King has been much criticized as a flawed work, lacking organic unity, and cumbersome in its implied parallels with modernity. These faults are undeniable. Yet it has integrity of a kind, not just in giving scepticism its due, but in locating that scepticism in one of his own most deeply felt traumas, and working only from there towards any kind of affirmation, following the pattern In Memoriam had established. And there is little reason to believe that the monster of doubt has been cleansed, in Tennyson's mind, once and for all. It is a flawed but nevertheless intriguing part of his oeuvre.



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The Unspoken Elegiac Influence Of Old English

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This article was published on 2010/10/17