Friday, March 23, 2012

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: The Princess "Sweet and Low"

This poem is a lyric written by Tennyson as a kind of children's song. He tries to employ nature in order to symbolize death. This poem is sung by a mother to her baby during his sleep. It is about the departure or death of the father. The tone has a sense of melancholy and regret for the loss of the father. Moreover, it may have a sense of hope that the father may be back one day. Tennyson wrote about political reference as the Victorian Age was characterized with colonization and discovery. 

In this poem, Tennyson employs a mother as the persona of the poem. She is talking to her young baby to calm him down in order to sleep. She describes the sweet wind of the western sea to remind her of the memory of her husband. Her addressing the child may be a kind of consolation for herself. The word "west" is repeated to symbolize death as it is the location of sunset. Furthermore, at the end of the poem, the word "silver" may refer to the coffins that are made of silver.

Tennyson uses some imagery to generate a sense of pathetic fallacy in the poem. The sadness of the persona is reflected in the description of nature. There is a personification in "the dying moon" as it anticipates the father's death. There is a sensory image as there are some words that appeal to the sense of sight such as "sea", "silver" and "moon". The word "blow" connotes the sense of touch. It shows the mother's nostalgia to her husband.

Tennyson uses evocative language to express the feelings of the persona. The vocabulary is so simple to suit a child's song and the tenderness of emotions. Furthermore, he uses blank verse to show the spontaneity of his ideas. The word "rest" is repeated to show the maternal emotions and feelings. Tennyson is pro-feminist, so he tries to highlight the role of women in his poems to call for the change of the Victorian society. The sentence "father will come to thee soon" may be repeated to show the inner feelings of the mother that the father will never be back.

Tennyson portrays this lyric very melodious. The rhyme scheme is regular in the first part of each stanza as it goes as ABAB. However, it is a broken rhyme as the second part of each stanza goes as AA BC. This confusion of the rhyme states the melancholy and frustration of the mother. The rhyme is quick as he uses short monosyllabic words to show her stress and anxiety. There is an alliteration of the /s/ sound in "silver sails". It is also stated in the repetition of the words "sleep" and "sweet". This soft sound indicates a state of monotony that is related to death. It also suits the mother's singing to her baby to sleep.