As a poet Tennyon’s greatness lies in his skill as a poetic artist. For musical quality and descriptive vividness he has hardly any equal. He has been acclaimed as a painter in words. A thing or an object of nature appears in his poetry with its exact shape and color. If we examine his major poetry we will notice this aspect of Tennyson’s poetic fame.
‘The Lotos Eaters’ is a noted poem by Tennyson. In it the poet tries to convey the mood of lethargy and drowsiness. The poem is about the feelings of a group of soldiers who are returning home with their leader Ulysses after the war of Troy. They come to a land where its inhabitants eat a fruit called lotos and lead a life of melancholy. The soldiers eat this fruit. As a result they become as ‘mild-eyed’ and melancholy as the Lotos-eaters. In this poem the poet shows his skill in describing nature. He marks every detail of a wood, its trees, fruits, flowers and the color they assume in different parts of the year. Such description provides setting of the poem adorns the piece and helps to reflect the feelings.
In ‘Locksley Hall’ Tennyson’s skill in describing objects of nature and the surroundings is also marked. In this poem the poet creates striking imagery in which he compares love to a musician and the life of lovers to a cup. To convey the satisfaction and the feeling of joy in the initial period of his love-making the speaker says that love played on their lives and produced a sweet and harmonious music. As a result all discordant and jarring notes in their minds disappeared. In their mind there was no conflict. It was free from any doubt or selfishness. It was completely pure. To convey the idea that it was a time of rare happiness the poet compares it to a scene of revelry where time takes a glass full of joy and gives it to the lovers. This description is suggestive of the intensity of the speaker’s passion.
In ‘Ulysses’ Tennyson portrays the character of Ulysses through imagery and language. The initial imagery of the poem, of an ‘idle king’, and the ‘barren crags’ of his kingdom of Ithaca, sets up a tone of monotony, suggesting ‘Ulysses’ lack of passion for his duties. He describes his own people as a ‘savage race,/ That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me’. But the tone of the imagery changes upon his reference to his son, Telemachus who will inherit his title of King. He describes him as ‘blameless’ and ‘decent not to fail’, ending the reference to his son with ‘He works his work, I mine’.
Thus we see that in all of his poetry Tennyson displays his descriptive skill. He describes human figure, passion, natural sights and objects. Everywhere his keenness of observation is marked.