With this man:
Dashing, isn’t he? That aristocratic nose, that intense gaze.
But seriously. Lord Alfred Tennyson has stolen my heart completely.
Specifically, it’s his thirteen hundred line poem, Maud, that has captured me so. I’m currently reading John Fowel’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman (which is brilliant, more about that later), and each chapter starts with a poetry reference. Most recently, it was this piece from Maud:
Sooner or later I too may passively take the print
Of the golden age – why not?I have neither hope nor trust;
May make my heart as a millstone, set my face as a flint
Cheat and be cheated, and die: who knows? we are ashes and dust.
Maud is, as much as I can understand, because 1300 lines is hard going, the tragic tale of a man who falls in love with a young lady, who then marries some brute of a man who treats her really badly.
Why, why, why do we not write like this anymore? I mean, look at those words. They just bleed with the utter depeseration of this man who’s love has been ripped from him, whom life has played and left hanging, who cannot see any way out of his situation and so must turn away from all emotion, and thus die.
The loving parts of the poem are beautiful. You truly believe that Maud is the most divine creature, the most perfect, the most innocent of women. She is a goddess in her lover’s eyes. But is is the despairing parts that really get me, that make my stomach clench and my breath stop. Tennyson describes so perfectly the misery of being right next to someone you cannot touch, someone you may never be truly honest with, someone you must keep at arm’s length when all you wish to do is hold them and never let go.
This, for example:
I hate the dreadful hollow behind the little wood,
Its lips in the field above are dabbled with blood-red heath, The red-ribb`d ledges drip with a silent horror of blood,
And Echo there, whatever is ask`d her, answers “Death.”
So the place where he and Maud met, and fell in love, before she married someone else, becomes a metaphor for his dying heart, inside his broken bleeding ribs.
But I look`d, and round, all round the house I beheld
The death-white curtain drawn;
Felt a horror over me creep,
Prickle my skin and catch my breath,
Knew that the death-white curtain meant but sleep,
Yet I shudder`d and thought like a fool of the sleep of death.
If this doesn’t make you shiver, read it again until it does. It’s more eloquent than Lord Byron, more terrifying than The Happening, and I didn’t sleep for weeks after watching that.
Please, please, please can I go back 150 years to a time when people wrote like this?