Journal

Beloved English Poet – Alfred, Lord Tennyson

by | Aug 5, 2014 | Editorial

August 6th is the birthday of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), who was the Poet Laureate of Great Britain for more than 40 years during the reign of Queen Victoria. One of Britain’s most beloved poets, he was made a baron in
1883 and thus added “Lord” to his name. He is the author of Idylls of the King, a beautiful epic of twelve poems about King Arthur and his Round Table, written over a period of 20 years. He wrote many other books, poems, even plays, and is still widely read and anthologized today.

Some of the most famous lines in English literature come from Tennyson, although we don’t always remember the source. For example:

    “Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to do or die.”

(From “The Charge of the Light Brigade”)

and another:

    “’Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all.”

(from “I Envy Not in Any Moods”)

My very favorite poem by Tennyson – both to read and to teach – is “Crossing the Bar.” In it he creates a metaphor equating going out to sea with his own death, and he entreats the reader not to mourn for him:

    “And may there be no sadness of farewell
        When I embark;”

He doesn’t fear his own death. He uses the word “embark” because he sees it not as an ending but a beginning. He knows the journey may take him far from where he is, but concludes:

    “I hope to see my Pilot face to face
        When I have crossed the bar.”

It’s a beautiful poem, perhaps one of the strongest statements of faith in the English poetry canon.

1883 and thus added “Lord” to his name. He is the author of Idylls of the King, a beautiful epic of twelve poems about King Arthur and his Round Table, written over a period of 20 years. He wrote many other books, poems, even plays, and is still widely read and anthologized today.

Some of the most famous lines in English literature come from Tennyson, although we don’t always remember the source. For example:

    “Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to do or die.”

(From “The Charge of the Light Brigade”)

and another:

    “’Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all.”

(from “I Envy Not in Any Moods”)

My very favorite poem by Tennyson – both to read and to teach – is “Crossing the Bar.” In it he creates a metaphor equating going out to sea with his own death, and he entreats the reader not to mourn for him:

    “And may there be no sadness of farewell
        When I embark;”

He doesn’t fear his own death. He uses the word “embark” because he sees it not as an ending but a beginning. He knows the journey may take him far from where he is, but concludes:

    “I hope to see my Pilot face to face
        When I have crossed the bar.”

It’s a beautiful poem, perhaps one of the strongest statements of faith in the English poetry canon.

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