The art of Tennyson's poetry
Tennyson used a wide range of subject matter, ranging from medieval legends to classical myths and from domestic situations to observations of nature, as source material for his poetry. The influence of John Keats and other Romantic poets published before and during his childhood is evident from the richness of his imagery and descriptive writing. He also handled rhythm masterfully. The insistent beat of Break, Break, Break emphasizes the sadness and relentlessness of the subject matter. Tennyson's use of the musical qualities of words to emphasize his rhythms and meanings is sensitive. The language of "I come from haunts of coot and hern" lilts and ripples like the brook in the poem and the last two lines of "Come down O maid from yonder mountain height" illustrate his telling combination of onomatopoeia, alliteration and assonance:
The moan of doves in immemorial elms
And murmuring of innumerable bees.
Tennyson was a craftsman who polished and revised his manuscripts extensively. Few poets have used such a variety of styles with such an exact understanding of metre. He reflects the Victorian period of his maturity in his feeling for order and his tendency towards moralizing and self-indulgent melancholy. He also reflects a concern common among Victorian writers in being troubled by the apparent conflict between religious faith and scientific progress. Like many writers who write a great deal over a long time, he can be pompous or banal, and his personality rings throughout all his works—work that reflects a grand and special variability in its quality. Tennyson possessed the strongest poetic power; he put great length into many works, most famous of which are Maud and Idylls of the King, the latter one of literature's greatest treatments of the legend of King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table.
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