25 March 2012
In Memoriam…of a Legend “Tis’ better to have loved and lost/Than to have never loved at all.” The saying created by a widely known and famous poet has permeated generations. Alfred Tennyson has been acknowledged as one with poetic talent at a young age and later would become renowned for his work that ambiguously pushed the questions on faith, the inner workings of nature and mankind, and also the trials of humans throughout the globe. Throughout his life he explored the sentimentality of writing and the happenings in his life deeply influenced that aspect of his writings. Joyce Moss described the muse Tennyson may have often worked with as, “scientists such as Sir Charles Lyell and J. F. W. Her-schel, left their mark on Tennyson and on many of his contemporaries.”(Moss).Lord Alfred Tennyson has equally been influenced by the writings of others breeching scientific discovery that changed the perceptions of religion as much as his poems, if not more, have influenced generations of thinkers and just about any youth who happens across his work.
Throughout Tennyson’s line of work, two notable poems would be his “Charge of the Light Brigade” and “In Memoriam” which is an elegy lamenting about his close friend’s unfortunate death. Richard Barker, a notable historian, says, “Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ is one of the most frequently quoted and most controversial poems of the nineteenth century.”(Barker). The Charge of the Light Brigade recounts the Crimean War that involved the six hundred manned Light Brigade of Britain and Russia. It’s become controversial because Tennyson reflects in the poem that the soldiers practically become machines sent in to do their duty, having a false sense of honor as they’re being put to their death. Although the war was extremely outnumbered in favor of Russia, the war was seen as a patriotic and honorable cause. Barker goes on to say, “This incident is commonly acknowledged as one of the most catastrophic moments in military history.”(Barker). Tennyson had become well known for his poetry and had eventually come to hold the position of the Laureate for the royal family. As their official poet, Tennyson was obliged to write patriotic poems for the public that shed a favorable light on the activities of his country. So Tennyson set forth to write The Charge of the Light Brigade. Tennyson saw that the conflict was practically a pointless death sentence and ambiguously incorporated his views into his most favored poem among soldiers. He had to be discrete and made many revisions to do so says Natalie Houston, “The fact that Tennyson repeatedly revised this poem, arguably censoring himself at times, shows his careful efforts of crafting the poem so that his conservative Victorian audiences would not be offended.”(Houston). This next passage shows how Tennyson incorporated his views of the war while also writing a patriotic poem: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred, For up came an order which Some one had blundered. 'Forward, the Light Brigade! Take the guns,' Nolan said: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. (In Memoriam 3-8) By obviously pointing out the hopelessness of the mission as “The valley of Death” and by mentioning that someone had “blundered” he also is able to pull it off as a memorable charge into a situation that’s most likely to fail. The poem contains double meanings, which Tennyson has come to adopt through most of his work. Houston put it as, “Tennyson’s poem has most often been read as a patriotic tribute to the military, but its context and content are much more ambiguous. The most famous lines quoted above celebrate military bravery while simultaneously suggesting that soldiers function as machines sent to fulfill orders and face inevitable death.” Through his methods Tennyson