Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Critical Comparison between Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Tears, Idle Tears” and “Splendor Falls on Castle Walls”

By Sudipa Sarkar
Alfred, Lord Tennyson is one of the most influential poets during Victorian age. As being symbolized by T.S. Eliot, “The saddest of all English poets”, Tennyson portrays the melody of melancholy throughout his creation. His subtle treatment of human feelings encountered with the pain of death and melancholy of loneliness, always influenced his reader in the core of their heart and compelled them to flow in the wave of sadness along with the poet himself.

Tennyson wrote The Princess (1847) as one of his long poems, which emphasizes on the women rights through a musical verse. “Tears, Idle Tears” is the part of this long poem. In this poem, poet typically walking through the memory lane and became nostalgic about those moments which can never be brought back again once in life. Here poet dragged about the true story of life in the frame of time – where we all are the victim in time’s hand. There is no reverse direction, as with time, we only have to move forward – and the moments in our life we shared so precious and valuable, though we can only be able to access their worthiness when we lose them in time’s hand. The remainder in our life is left with the memories of non-returnable events and close persons – those who slept forever, became apart from us and couldn’t come back once again in our life. Truly it brings tears in readers’ eyes, from the very core of heart, while acclimatizing gradually with the decoration of words and passionate themes of the journey, readers can actually relate the pain of human condition – which is universal and inevitable too.

“TEARS, Idle Tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.”

The credit of the poet lies in the depiction of the biggest truth of life within an envelope of simplicity. Throughout the poem, there is a subtle tenderness; no human being could possibly ignore it - we are loosing every moment, every precious second of our life, and when we realize this or try to introspect, we cannot resist tears fallen down from our eyes. This is where this poem crosses all the limits of space and time, and become immortal – by illustrating the eternal truth of life – the mortality itself. The process of life in the unidirectional frame of time, the death is the only answer remains at last – as an ultimate reality of life.

And actually the poem became so heart-touching because the poet treated it in a truly fascinating passion through the eyes of a beloved recalling those moments where the most shared events are gone in the darkness of past and just left behind the pain of lost moments to feel alone sitting beside the casement:

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half awaken'd birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

On the other hand, the song “The Splendor Falls On Castle Walls”, taken from “The Princess” as well, focuses on the inevitability of death after life as it is depicted in the “Tears, Idle Tears”, but the words are synchronized in the form of lyrical melody. The primary theme here is also dealing with the mortality of an entity, but by emphasizing on the journey of life through the interaction of love and passion among individuals and the longing for life.

O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes dying, dying, dying.

This song develops with the illustration of superficiality and nothingness – treating the song as well as the title of the song as a message for an eternal truth – that ascertains the decaying process of any superficial objects in the continuum of time. The only ‘echo’ will remain conveying the shared joy and feelings from one entity to another:

O love they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field, or river:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow forever and forever.

The theme of the song “The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls” equates that of the poem “Tears, Idle Tears”, but the treatment of the same theme is different. In the song, the poet put his emphasize more on generalization of the supreme truth, whereas in the poem, the poet drew his reader to flow in through the reality of life and to feel the melancholy through personalization of truth.
The song and its improvisation is outstandingly philosophical with its own style of presentation of the fact – the individualization has definitely added a new dimension on it, but the poem is more soul-satisfying, more poetic, more sentimental and more passionate of course. Hence, I feel that the poem is truly more appealing where readers are able to personify the experience in the self-mirror and hence feel the passage of time by the core of their heart.
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