Tennyson's power to evoke beauty itself acts as an intoxicant- the hypnotically vivid perceptions of drugged isolates, in the amber light and languid air of some inhuman paradise, as they gaze upon and are consumed by the blue screen of sea and sky-each day the same day in this foreshadowing of our post-modern Neverland......sun reflects from gleaming armour and is captured in a mirror world of images-the hermetically sealed consciousness trapped a life of shadows.....in a cold marble palace infinitely aged immortality, yearning for death, broods on universal process.....the hard, heroic will, that once fought “far on the ringing plains of windy Troy”, now, in the face of the infinitely open sea, contemplates the ultimate experience of oblivion.....
Tennyson is one of the most sheerly talented of poets and is second only to Milton and Virgil in his command of verbal music. If at times he lapses into somnambulism, ingrown convolutions and bad patriotic verse no one today would casually remark upon his “stupidity”or describe his verse as thoughtless melody.
Beneath the long persistent note of melancholy, the extremes of subjectivity, sloughs of abysmal meaninglessness, anxious vertigos and trance-like states, there is a region of dread and doubt . Deep, buried emotion, like the Kraken, threatens to burst the dark, dissembling surface.
This is the Penguin “Selected Poems”, well presented and excellently read by, amongst others, Derek Jacobi and Prunella Scales.