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Victorian Age in Poetry Essay Sample

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  • Category: poetry

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Introduction of TOPIC

The Victorian age was an age where many changes occurred socially, economically, and industrially. People began to explore into areas such as the earth, the human body, and how to benefit the daily lives of individuals. English literature was also something that was beginning to be developed. Historically, it began when Queen Victoria was anointed to the thrown in 1837 and brought a new prosperity to England. She held the throne for 63 years which is the longest monarch to hold the thrown ever in English history. To many people, she was a symbol of stability and prosperity as evidenced by the following feeling from her people. The Victorian age has been said to be a very diverse time. Historian T.B. Macaulay in 1838 said that the English had become ‘the greatest and most highly civilized people that ever the world saw.’ Yet, another man by the name of Benjamin Disraeli, who was a writer and a politician, disagreed with this statement and pointed out that the existence of an England of ‘two nations who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were … of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws.’ He further says that ‘these two nations were the richest and poorest.’

It was a time when the rich were rich, and the poor people were poor. The poor or lower class of people went hungry and half naked throughout most of their lives. Life and death went hand in hand; wealth and poverty stood side by side; repletion and starvation laid them down together. Such rapid change in industry destroyed jobs as it provided new ones. The population shifted and left thousands housed in urban slums with bad water, no sanitation, and little food. The depression left whole factories unemployed, and with no means of producing goods. Yet, some people believed that the only way to control population growth was through starvation or self-control. Men, women, and children accustomed to the community life of rural towns and farms to the varied and independent work habits of the farm, and the small shop, found themselves laboring up to sixteen hours a day, six days a week, in factories without any government safety regulations, and with very low pay. People were not known as individuals only as ‘hands’ with no control over their lives, hired, and fired at the whim of the owner or the fluctuation of the market.

There was no way to make a better life for oneself because you were born into a certain social status, or you lived a life of poverty for the rest of your life or you were one of the privileged classes and were guaranteed the status of the royalty. The Victorian years also brought with them the increasing efforts to achieve political, social, and economic reforms that would change the structure of the country to meet the changes created by industry. The Reform Bill was passed in 1832 which increased the electorate by fifty percent. The bill made it impossible for workers and women to vote, therefore, only one in five Englishmen could vote. These men were generally from the upper class and they controlled everything. To many people, this was a light of hope that England would improve, but during the 1840’s England saw the worst years of the century for unemployment, hunger, and disease. It brought radical working class agitation for the People’s Chapter, which demanded universal male suffrage and a Parliament in which any man could serve.

The effects of these problems prompted a series of bills to be passed. Parliament repealed

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some of the more unjust laws, and began to legislate shorter working hours, industrial safety, and urban sanitary reform. Due to the economic prosperity, it reduced radical agitation and in 1867 a second Reform Bill, which meant that most working men were allowed to vote. It brought a more liberal view of what was needed in life. People’s thoughts and ideas also changed with the development of the country. The peoples’ ideas became more free and they accepted change more easily, yet not everybody wanted to admit to change. People began to ask more questions about life, which prompted the development of science and many people began to question the bible. Lyell’s Principles of Geology and Chamber’s Vestiges of creation brought out the view publically that the earth was older than the bible said it to be. People’s beliefs were suddenly being shattered and the quest for answers was in need. The change caused a great deal of confusion and alarm, which prompted English writers to accept responsibility and write about new thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. Alfred Tennyson, who is a very famous poet, is often regarded as the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry. Tennyson was a man who had seen pain and sorrow in his life.

After the death of his best friend, Arthur Hallam, Tennyson found relief from his pain in writing. Many of his writings were indeed about his dead friend. For example in ‘The Passing of Arthur, the hero has the same name as Tennyson’s friend and also many lyrical poems, that later were to become In Memorian A.H.H. These writing were full of emotions, pain, fear, caring, and the desire to remember his friend. Almost throughout all of Tennyson’s work there were pain, sadness, fear, love, and hidden messages to be found, and he was very romantic. He opened himself up to the world in a very private way, and also to severe criticism by many people. In ‘The Lady of Shalott,’there is pain, frustration, and that of life as a journey that leads to death. The poem is a way of showing how people are destined to certain fates in life and that they cannot escape their fate. Tennyson made people’s feelings real and more vocal. His writings, later in his life, were publicly admired and sought out. In 1842 he published another of his works called Poems which had two volumes, one containing a revised selection from the volumes of 1830 and 1832, the other, new poems.

The new poems included ‘Morte d’ Arthur,’ and ‘The Two Voices of Sin’ and other poems that revealed a strange naive quality such as ‘The May Queen,’ ‘Lady Clara Vere de Vere,’ and ‘The Lord of Burleigh.’ The new volume was not received well publically. But the grant to him at this time, by the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, helped stop his worries in financial matters. In 1847 he published his first long poem, The Princess, a poem about anti-feminist fantasia. A man by the name of Edward Moxon offered to publish the elegies on Hallam that Tennyson had been composing over the years. To Tennyson this was a dream that he thought would never come true. At first they appeared anonymously, which helped with the success with both reviewers and the public readers won him the friendship of Queen Victoria, and helped bring about, in the same year, his appointment as poet laureate. Tennyson’s ascendancy among Victorian poets began to be questioned even during his lifetime. Many writers became jealous and rivals of Tennyson. And 20th-century criticism, influenced by the rise of a new poetry headed by T.S. Eliot has proposed some drastic new concepts of his work.

Much of Tennyson that appealed to his readers has ceased to appeal many readers today. He can be pompous, arrogant, offering little more than shallow or confused thoughts caused by a lot of pain. A more balanced estimate of Tennyson has begun to prevail, however, with the recognition of the enduring greatness of ‘Ulysses,’ some of Tennyson’s best lyrics and above all the stature of In Memoriam as the great representative poem of the Victorian Age. It is now also recognized that the realistic and comic aspects of Tennyson’s work are more important than they were thought to be during the period of the reaction against him. Lord Alfred Tennyson also tried to be very dramatic in such poems as Queen Mary, but his success was only moderate. He only showed signs of growing more frustrated and resentment at the religious, moral, and political tendencies of the age.

He had already caused a sensation by publishing a poem called ‘Despair.’ It evoked a rush of pamphlets being published, and lectures and sermons. He shocked many people. Finally the perception of the poet’s awkward sense of the mystery of life, which lies at the heart of his greatness, as in ‘Crossing the Bar’ or ‘Flower in the Cranied Wall,’ unites his admirers in this century with those in the last. Though less of Tennyson’s work may survive than appeared likely during his Victorian heyday, what does remain and it is by no means small in quality seems likely to vanish. In conclusion, the Victorian century was a era of change and confusion. England improved itself for the people and it’s government. The writers of the time were supposed to be indicative for answering questions and for guidance. Lord Alfred Tennyson was a man who changed the way people thought about literature and poets. He has also influenced many writers of books, TV shows, and movies in the plots of stories.

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