Tennyson: Music and Meaning

Tennyson thought deeply about how his poetry could tackle profound topics and how it could communicate its discoveries to others. The possibilities of its sounds, or its various kinds of music (actual and metaphorical), were part of that consideration. Making use of the multi-media resources available on the internet, and introducing the key contexts for appreciating the music of his verse, this extended resource opens up the sound of Tennyson's poetry. Graduate editor Simon Calder gives the reader a great deal to think about by undertaking close analysis of Tennyson's poems, exploring critical opinions, illuminating Tennyson's intellectual and social background, and most of all by posing questions throughout.

The 'Music and Meaning' resource is divided into thirteen pages, which you can access in any order from the menu below (or, from within the resource, by using the menu to the left). Obviously the experience will be most coherent if you work through the pages consecutively, starting at the beginning.

1. General Introduction

2. Tennyson's Voice and 'Declamation'

3. Mind and Melody in 'To Poesy' and Poems, Chiefly Lyrical

4. Living In 'The Palace of Art'

5. Memnon's Breathlessness in 'The Palace of Art' and 'A Fragment'

6. 'The Lotus-Eaters': 'A Tale of Little Meaning' and Mellower Tone

7. 'Set the Wild Echoes Flying' in The Princess (1847)

8. One Music of 'Mind and Soul' in In Memoriam (1850)

9. 'Measured Language' and In Memoriam (1850)

10. Tennyson's 'Speaking Voice' in In Memoriam (1850)

11. 'Aeonian Music' in In Memoriam (1850)

12. The City is built to Music, therefore never Built at all': Tennyson's Idylls of the King, 'Gareth and Lynette' (1872)

13. 'Other Songs for other worlds!' in 'Parnassus' (1889)

There are also two different abridgments of the 'Music and Meaning' material, which might work as tasters for the whole thing, or which you might choose because they reflect your particular interests.

1. Tennyson and Music: On the Web

These three pages are parts of the larger 'Music and Meaning' resource. They make use of Tennyson-related recordings available on the web, and they use these to explore questions about the sound of Tennyson's poems, and how that relates to their meanings and functions.

2. Music and Meaning: The In Memoriam Pages

These four pages are parts of the larger 'Music and Meaning' resource. They explore the ways in which sound and sense relate to one another in In Memoriam, Tennyson's poem about the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam. At times here the music of poetry seems capable of making profound connections; but this can also seem a fleeting hope.

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