Tennyson excelled at writing short lyrics. Much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes, such as Ulysses. Tennyson also wrote some notable blank verse including Idylls of the King, "Ulysses," and "Tithonus." During his career, Tennyson tried to write drama, but his plays enjoyed little success.
A number of phrases from Tennyson's work have become commonplaces of the English language, including:
=> "'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all"
=> "Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die."
=> "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield," and
=> "Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers."
Below are six poems that I read to Sophia and Olivia; and their reactions to them:
The Poet's Song
The rain had fallen, the Poet arose,
He passed by the town, and out of the street,
A light wind blew from the gates of the sun,
And waves of shadow went over the wheat,
And he set him down in a lonely place,
And chanted a melody loud and sweet,
That made the wild-swan pause in her cloud,
And the lark drop down at his feet.
The swallow stopt as he hunted the bee,
The snake slipt under a spray,
The hawk stood with the down on his beak
And stared, with his foot on the prey
And the nightingale thought, “I have sung many songs,
But never a one so gay,
For he sings of what the world will be
When the years have died away.
Sophia: I thought it was a bit sad and gloomy. I could picture him sitting out in the field. It was a quiet poem. I kind of liked it.
Olivia: I am not quite sure I liked it because I didn't really understand it. I liked the swan part because I like swans.
Live thy life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
Then; and then
All his leaves
Fall'n at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough,
Sophia: Well...that last part was kind of interesting. I liked the part about the gold and how it described an oak. I thought it described an oak quite well.
Olivia: I liked it, but it wouldn't be my favorite poem. I liked how he described the gold. I thought it was neat because I like the color gold.
The Princess: O Swallow
O Swallow, Swallow, flying, flying South,
Fly to her, and fall upon her gilded eaves,
And tell her, tell her, what I tell to thee.
O tell her, Swallow, thou that knowest each,
That bright and fierce and fickle is the South,
And dark and true and tender is the North.
O Swallow, Swallow, if I could follow, and light
Upon her lattice, I would pipe and trill,
And cheep and twitter twenty million loves.
O were I thou that she might take me in,
And lay me on her bosom, and her heart
Would rock the snowy cradle till I died.
Why lingereth she to clothe her heart with love,
Delaying as the tender ash delays
To clothe herself, when all the woods are green?
O tell her, Swallow, that thy brood is flown:
Say to her, I do but wanton in the South,
But in the North long since my nest is made.
O tell her, brief is life but love is long,
And brief the sun of summer in the North,
And brief the moon of beauty in the South.
O Swallow, flying from the golden woods,
Fly to her, and pipe and woo her, and make her mine,
And tell her, tell her, that I follow thee.
Sophia: It was long and sort of interesting. I really didn't like that one because it wasn't to the point.
Olivia: I didn't understand it too well. I liked how he described the swallows flying.
What does little birdie say
In her nest at peep of day?
Let me fly, says little birdie,
Mother, let me fly away.
Birdie, rest a little longer,
Till thy little wings are stronger.
So she rests a little longer,
Then she flies away.
What does little baby say,
In her bed at peep of day?
Baby says, like little birdie,
Let me rise and fly away.
Baby, sleep a little longer,
Till thy little limbs are stronger.
If she sleeps a little longer,
Baby too shall fly away.
Sophia: I thought it was a cute story. If you change a few words it could be a book or something. I liked the second part of the poem that focused on the baby because it is all about growing up and doing your own thing...flying away from your nest or your home.
Olivia: That one was good because it was about a bird learning how to fly. The mother and the baby are talking to one another. The mom had good advice. I liked the part that says: "Let me fly, says little birdie, Mother let me fly away."
Flower in the Crannied Wall
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower - but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
Sophia: It's complicated for being a short poem, but it's a nice poem. I don't know why, but I like the fourth line ("Little flower - but if I could understand").
Olivia: The poet is thinking about the flower in the wall. He wishes that he could know everything in the world if he understood the flower. I liked this poem a little bit, especially the part about when he was picking it out.
The Deserted House
Life and Thought have gone away
Side by side,
Leaving door and windows wide.
Careless tenants they!
All within is dark as night:
In the windows is no light;
And no murmur at the door,
So frequent on its hinge before.
Close the door; the shutters close;
Or through the windows we shall see
The nakedness and vacancy
Of the dark deserted house.
Come away: no more of mirth
Is here or merry-making sound.
The house was builded of the earth,
And shall fall again to ground.
Come away: for Life and Thought
Here no longer dwell;
But in a city glorious -
A great and distant city -have bought
A mansion incorruptible.
Would they could have stayed with us!
Sophia: I liked at the end how the poet wrote about how a mansion is incorruptible or can't decay like the house did. It basically is about an old house that is deserted and quiet. They were talking about how it was and how it could be if it wasn't corruptible.
Olivia: I thought it was kind of depressing and sad because it was telling about an old house. It was kind of creepy, and I don't like haunted things.