To the Queen by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1842). 
Following the death of William Wordsworth in 1850 Alfred, Lord Tennyson was appointed Poet Laureate. One of his 'official' poems was To the Queen, which was written for Queen Victoria's birthday on 24th May 1851 when she was 33 and had ruled for almost fourteen years. In this poem Tennyson dedicates the seventh edition of his Poems. It's short enough to quote in full:

Revered, beloved—O you that hold
  A nobler office upon earth
  Than arms, or power of brain, or birth
Could give the warrior kings of old,

Victoria,—since your Royal grace         
  To one of less desert allows
  This laurel greener from the brows
Of him that utter’d nothing base;

And should your greatness, and the care
  That yokes with empire, yield you time
  To make demand of modern rhyme
If aught of ancient worth be there;

Then—while a sweeter music wakes,
  And thro’ wild March the throstle calls,
  Where all about your palace walls         
The sun-lit almond-blossom shakes—

Take, Madam, this poor book of song;
  For tho’ the faults were thick as dust
  In vacant chambers, I could trust
Your kindness. May you rule us long,         

And leave us rulers of your blood
  As noble till the latest day!
  May children of our children say,
“She wrought her people lasting good;

“Her court was pure, her life serene;         
  God gave her peace; her land reposed;
  A thousand claims to reverence closed
In her as Mother, Wife and Queen;

“And statesmen at her council met
  Who knew the seasons when to take         
  Occasion by the hand, and make
The bounds of freedom wider yet

“By shaping some august decree,
  Which kept her throne unshaken still,
  Broad-based upon her people’s will,         
And compass’d by the inviolate sea.”

Naturally, given the nature of the poem and the reasons for it being written, it is designed to flatter, and flatter it does. He acknowledges his subordinate status and humbly asks her to read his poems, or "poor book of song". He then flatters her further by writing that he knows she will treat them kindly. He finishes by hoping that she will reign over them for a long time and that her children will go on to reign after her death. It's an interesting poem but it's probably my least favourite of his. It reminds me of older poems, Spenser for example, in the overt and somewhat overpowering servility (which Spenser seems to do better). When it comes to Tennyson's poems as the Poet Laureate The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854) is probably the most famous one, so it was, to repeat that tepid word again, interesting and indeed worthy to read one of his lesser known poems.

And that was my 4th title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Next week - Amores by Ovid.

Comments

  1. it does seem a bit forced... i have wondered what a throstle was...

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    1. Forced is the word. And a throstle... I looked that up, think it was a mistle thrush. Except no, I googled it again to remind myself and it's a song thrush :) There's an entry on Scottish Wikipedia - do look - I never knew there was a Scottish Wikipedia until now!

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    2. tx, O... i didn't know that either...

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  2. I was thinking Spenser, Spenser, Spenser as I was reading through and then I see you actually called that out! I understand the need of subservience but I cannot digest it. I think Lord Tennyson has written far better stuff and while I think there was a need to eulogize, considering his talent, I don't know....think it could have been better!

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    Replies
    1. Indeed, that's what I thought. It felt more motivated out of obligation than passion. But who knows - it must be rather tricky writing a poem for a monarch, especially when you know they're going to read it! I'm sure I felt the same about one of Ted Hughes' poems, but I can't honestly remember what it was...

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