Today is the 125th anniversary of the death of Alfred Lord Tennyson. It’s amazing how time flies, it doesn’t seem like 8 years since the 200th birth anniversary. The following are some links to blogs with very interesting descriptions of his passing away in that moonlit room at his Sussex house:
Also, here is a link to a poll where people can chose their favourite Tennyson poem (devised for the 200th birth anniversary in 2009)
The Lady of Shalott is featured in a programme on BBC Radio 4 Extra – Sunday 8th October 17:00
Also available on the BBC website is the Great Lives programme from 2009:
The hour long classic “Circle of the Hills” documentary
The BBC is broadcasting a series of programmes to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Alfred Lord Tennyson (all on the Radio). Some of these programmes have already been broadcast but are still available on the BBC Iplayer:
Wednesday 5th August 23:00 Radio 3 - The Essay. Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis discusses the importance to her of Tennyson's poem The Kraken.
Thursday 6th August 23:00 Radio 3 - The Essay. Brian Patten discusses the importance to him of Tennyson's poem Come into the Garden, Maud
Friday 7th August 23:00 Radio 3 - The Essay. Kit Wright on the importance to him of Tennyson's lyric poem Tears, Idle Tears.
Friday 7th August 23:00 Radio 4 - Andrew Motion champions the life of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate for over 40 years and creator of In Memoriam and The Charge of the Light Brigade. Ann Thwaite provides further details of Tennyson's often-troubled life
Saturday 8th August 23:30 Radio 4 - Tennyson's Ulysses revisited. Poet Sean O'Brien explores Alfred, Lord Tennyson's great poem, Ulysses.
Sunday 9th August 16:30 Radio 4 - Tennyson: Poetry Please. Roger McGough presents a special edition devoted to the poetry of Tennyson, as part of the poet's bicentenary celebrations. Tennyson is one of the most frequently requested 19th-century poets on the programme.
Sunday 9th August 22:45 Radio 3 - To Strive, to Seek, to Find and Not to Yield. In a programme celebrating the work of Tennyson, Beth Goddard and Michael Pennington read poetry from Tennyson himself and others on the theme of destiny, alongside with music inspired by, and reflecting the texts. The poet is represented by excerpts from favourites such as The Lady of Shalott and Ulysses
Sunday 15th August 23:30 Radio 4 - Tennyson: Poetry Please. Roger McGough presents a special edition devoted to the poetry of Tennyson, as part of the poet's bicentenary celebrations. Tennyson is one of the most frequently requested 19th-century poets on the programme.
Some programmes now gone but on the iplayer for a few days only:
Andrew Motion discussing Tennyson at the Proms LIterary Festival:
Searching for Alfred in the Shadow of Tennyson. Poet and writer Ruth Padel goes in search of the real Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a poet who for many people today is an iconic image of the Victorian era. We know him as Queen Victorian's Poet Laureate, an imposing figure with a beard and cape and the author of long poems often based on myths and legends. But this image hides other facets of Tennyson and obscures the fact that many creative artists today are drawing on his work.
The Essay - Vicki Feaver on Ulysses. Vicki Feaver talks about Tennyson's long poem Ulysses, about the aged hero of Greek myth, driven to travel onwards even after reaching his home on Ithaca and his long-suffering wife Penelope.
Favourite Tennyson Poems Poll
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Tennyson was arguably the second most well known person in the kingdom (after Queen Victoria). When people such as Garibaldi came to the country, visiting Tennyson at his home on the Isle of Wight was a priority. Edison took recordings of only a few people when he came to Britain in the late 1880s, Tennyson being one of them. At Charles Dickens’ funeral, mothers held their children up in the air so that they might catch a glimpse of the reclusive poet on one of his rare public appearances. So many tourists came to the Isle of Wight in order to see Tennyson on one of his walks across the High Down that he was forced to spend his summers elsewhere.
6th August is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alfred Lord Tennyson, and to celebrate this event, a poll has been set up to find people’s favourite Tennyson poem. To help people make their choice here are extracts from the 20 poems in the shortlist (first 10)
As thro’ the land
As thro' the land at eve we went,
And pluck'd the ripen'd ears,
We fell out, my wife and I,
O we fell out I know not why,
And kiss'd again with tears.
And blessings on the falling out
That all the more endears,
When we fall out with those we love
And kiss again with tears!
For when we came where lies the child
We lost in other years,
There above the little grave,
O there above the little grave,
We kiss'd again with tears.
[Tennyson and his wife Emily were married in 1850 after a long engagement. Their first child was stillborn. Probably, this poem marks a visit to the grave of this child at the Parish church in Twickenham, London where they were living in the early years of their marriage]
O bridesmaid, ere the happy knot was tied,
Thine eyes so wept that they could hardly see;
Thy sister smiled and said, ‘No tears for me!
A happy bridesmaid makes a happy bride.’
And then, the couple standing side by side,
Love lighted down between them full of glee,
And over his left shoulder laugh’d at thee,
‘O happy bridesmaid, make a happy bride.’
And all at once a pleasant truth I learn’d,
For while the tender service made thee weep,
I loved thee for the tear thou couldst not hide,
And prest thy hand, and knew the press return’d,
And thought, ‘My life is sick of single sleep:
O happy bridesmaid, make a happy bride!’
[Tennyson met his wife Emily at the wedding of his brother Charles to Emily’s sister]
Break break break
Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.
O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!
Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.
[Written in 1834, not long after the death of Arthur Hallam]
The Charge of the Light Brigade
'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
[short extract from possibly Tennyson’s most famous work]
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
The Idylls of the King
(from The passing of Arthur)
And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:
'The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
[The Idylls are a monumental work that kept Tennyson busy for the last 30 years of his life. They reflect his life-long interest in the legends of King Arthur which he did a great deal to revive]
Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.
Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is rack’d with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.
Be near me when my faith is dry,
And men the flies of latter spring,
That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.
Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.
I envy not in any moods
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods;
I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the field of time,
Unfetter'd by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;
Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth
But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'T is better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
[Just two short extracts from the work which propelled Tennyson to fame and fortune and the Laureateship in 1850. It had a huge influence on the Victorian psyche and response to questions about the meaning of life and death and human existence]
In the Valley of Cauteretz
All along the valley, stream that flashest white,
Deepening thy voice with the deepening of the night,
All along the valley, where thy waters flow,
I walk'd with one I loved two and thirty years ago.
All along the valley while I walk'd to-day,
The two and thirty years were a mist that rolls away;
For all along the valley, down thy rocky bed
Thy living voice to me was as the voice of the dead,
And all along the valley, by rock and cave and tree,
The voice of the dead was a living voice to me.
Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant fins the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battering upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by men and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
The Lady of Shallott
She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro' the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me!' cried
The Lady of Shalott.
[A short extract from this long poem, published when Tennyson was only 23. This poem was voted the nation’s second favourite poem (after Kipling’s “If”) in the BBC poll]
To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Hallam, the BBC put on a reading of In Memoriam as the afternoon play today on Radio 4. Only listened to a short part of it so far but already heard my favourite
bits, "Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" and "Be near me when my faith is dry..." David Bamber (Mr Collins from BBC Pride & Prejudice?) reads it superbly. If you missed it it'll be on the BBC Iplayer for a week:
One or two other Tennyson things on TV/radio: Tuesday 8th Feb at 20:00 BBC4 TV. Clare Balding cycling around the Isle of Wight. Includes some stuff on Tennyson (probably a visit to Farringford or Tennyson Down)
4AM Friday 4th February BBC2 looks to be worth recording