Tennyson’s Treatment of Nature in His Poems

Alfred Tennyson is a notable poet of Victorian age who also studied Nature with minuteness of detail and an accuracy of observation. Although Tennyson handles Nature in his poems but he can not acquire the prominence like Wordsworth and Keats as a poet of Nature. Wordsworth explores the spiritual significance in Nature while Keats’s dealing of Nature is purely sensuous but Tennyson has drawn and colored Nature -pictures with the conscious care of pictorial artist. Tennyson believes with Coleridge that that we interpret the mood of Nature according to our mood and that Nature is happy or otherwise. During the Romantic Movement Nature was regarded as a phenomenon to which one could turn for guidance, spiritual sustenance and psychic restoration. Tennyson’s belief often led him to describe and develop a human in terms of natural phenomena. For instance, in “The Lotos Eaters”the indolence of the sailor is elaborated with reference to the pausing of streams, the lingering of sun, the swooning of the languid air, etc.

Tennyson, Browning and Arnold lost an all-embracing enthusiasm for Nature like the Romantic poets. In the most cases the influence of Nature was on them wholesome and salutary, and symptomatic of spiritual unity of the universe. The Victorians were not able to maintain the confidence and optimist possible for the Romantics. On the one hand, as we shall see, science natured a love for Nature in some ways as intense, as anything that one can recognize in previous centuries, but on the other hand, by stressing the mechanical and chemical aspects of natural process, it look away the magic and left no room for spiritual direction. However now we can channelize the poems of Tennyson where he takes great interest for Nature. “In Memorium”is one of the most outstanding poem that serves immense evidence of Tennyson’s great interest in and love for Nature. In this poem there is calm and tranquil morning with the faded leaves, silvery gossamers, the crowded farms, ambrosial air, towering sycamore, bats went round in fragrant skies, the trees laid their dark arms about the field, the grey old orange, the lonely field, the ship walk up the windy wold etc. the pictures of Nature in this poem give pleasure and sorrow, because the poet shows that moonlight not only falls upon the poet’s bed but also on the dead friends grave in the church. Often the natural objects evoke a mood of sadness rather than joy because they emphasize human morality. In a famous passage (85) for instance, the classical procession of Nature underlines human sorrow.

Reviewing “In Memorium” Charles Kingsley thought that the idea of “dignity of nature in all her manifestations” was the root idea of the whole poetry of his generation. The Nature description of this poem gives us the idea that it plays an important part in the emotional development of the poem. In this poem Tennyson does not seek in Nature any underlying associative principle to which a permanent reference could be made. However Tennyson’s poem “Ooeone” begins with the description of a valley in Ida where swimming vapor creeps from pine to pine. On either side of the current are lawns and meadow ledges rich in flowers. Far below them roars the long brook, falling in cataract after cataract to the sea. Behind the valley stands the topmost peak of Gargarus:

“……..the clov’n ravine
In cataract after cataract of the sea.
Behind the valley topmost Gargarus.”

The subject matter of this poem concentrates by miserable experience of “Oeone” when she is being deserted by her husband Paris. Addressing mother Ida, and addressing the earth, the hills, the caves and the mountain brooks, Oeone began to narrate her sorrowful story in song. Further the poem “Tithonus” starts by the description of Nature as “The woods decay, the woods decay and fall.” In this poem there is the weeping of vapor and the description of swan’s death after many a summer. The poet describes the gradual appearance of dawn in the person of Aurora. We have a richly sensuous picture of Aurora showering her kisses upon Tithonus’s mouth, eye-lids, kisses that were, “balmier than half-opening buds of April.”

The study of Nature in Victorian poetry is inextricably bound up with the study of religion and science, since the revolution that took place in religious and scientific thought, inevitably had a direct effect and attitude to Nature. Nature must always loom large in any study of Victorian poetry, since it was one of the three or four most important poetic themes. For successful foundation of Tennyson’s poems Nature serves as one of basic functions. In “The Lotos Eaters” the landscape and scenery are symbolic of inner feelings of the mariners. There is description of ample Nature-pictures like lingering sunset, the crimson light of setting sun, the snow of the peaks, the leaf, the apple and the flower grow, ripen and fall silently. In fact, Nature, like the inhabitants of this island has eaten of the indolent forgetfulness of lotos fruit. In the “Locksley Hall” the poet addresses the nostalgic feeling by expressing the natural pictures. The poet used to wander about the sea-shore and saw the great Orion and Pleiades at night through the window. In fine, we can not consider Tennyson in terms of the Romantic poets as a poet of Nature but we see that certainly he treats Nature by his close scientific and minute observation. Very often he anticipates Nature to describe and develop the human in general.

Leave a Reply