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About this poet

Born on August 6, 1809, in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England, Alfred Tennyson is one of the most well-loved Victorian poets. Tennyson, the fourth of twelve children, showed an early talent for writing. At the age of twelve he wrote a 6,000-line epic poem. His father, the Reverend George Tennyson, tutored his sons in classical and modern languages. In the 1820s, however, Tennyson's father began to suffer frequent mental breakdowns that were exacerbated by alcoholism. One of Tennyson's brothers had violent quarrels with his father, a second was later confined to an insane asylum, and another became an opium addict.

Tennyson escaped home in 1827 to attend Trinity College, Cambridge. In that same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers. Although the poems in the book were mostly juvenilia, they attracted the attention of the "Apostles," an undergraduate literary club led by Arthur Hallam. The "Apostles" provided Tennyson, who was tremendously shy, with much needed friendship and confidence as a poet. Hallam and Tennyson became the best of friends; they toured Europe together in 1830 and again in 1832. Hallam's sudden death in 1833 greatly affected the young poet. The long elegy In Memoriam and many of Tennyson's other poems are tributes to Hallam.

In 1830, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical and in 1832 he published a second volume entitled simply Poems. Some reviewers condemned these books as "affected" and "obscure." Tennyson, stung by the reviews, would not publish another book for nine years. In 1836, he became engaged to Emily Sellwood. When he lost his inheritance on a bad investment in 1840, Sellwood's family called off the engagement. In 1842, however, Tennyson's Poems in two volumes was a tremendous critical and popular success. In 1850, with the publication of In Memoriam, Tennyson became one of Britain's most popular poets. He was selected Poet Laureate in succession to Wordsworth. In that same year, he married Emily Sellwood. They had two sons, Hallam and Lionel.

At the age of 41, Tennyson had established himself as the most popular poet of the Victorian era. The money from his poetry (at times exceeding 10,000 pounds per year) allowed him to purchase a house in the country and to write in relative seclusion. His appearance—a large and bearded man, he regularly wore a cloak and a broad brimmed hat—enhanced his notoriety. He read his poetry with a booming voice, often compared to that of Dylan Thomas. In 1859, Tennyson published the first poems of Idylls of the Kings, which sold more than 10,000 copies in one month. In 1884, he accepted a peerage, becoming Alfred Lord Tennyson. Tennyson died on October 6, 1892, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1809 - 1892
Half a league, half a league,  
  Half a league onward,  
All in the valley of Death  
  Rode the six hundred.  
"Forward, the Light Brigade!  
Charge for the guns!" he said:  
Into the valley of Death  
  Rode the six hundred.  
  
"Forward, the Light Brigade!"  
Was there a man dismay’d?    
Not tho’ the soldier knew  
  Some one had blunder’d:  
Theirs not to make reply,  
Theirs not to reason why,  
Theirs but to do and die:     
Into the valley of Death  
  Rode the six hundred.  
  
Cannon to right of them,  
Cannon to left of them,  
Cannon in front of them    
  Volley’d and thunder’d;  
Storm’d at with shot and shell,  
Boldly they rode and well,  
Into the jaws of Death,  
Into the mouth of Hell    
  Rode the six hundred.  
  
Flash’d all their sabres bare,  
Flash’d as they turn’d in air  
Sabring the gunners there,  
Charging an army, while   
  All the world wonder’d:  
Plunged in the battery-smoke  
Right thro’ the line they broke;  
Cossack and Russian  
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke     
  Shatter’d and sunder’d.  
Then they rode back, but not  
  Not the six hundred.  
  
Cannon to right of them,  
Cannon to left of them,      
Cannon behind them  
  Volley’d and thunder’d;  
Storm’d at with shot and shell,  
While horse and hero fell,  
They that had fought so well    
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,  
Back from the mouth of Hell,  
All that was left of them,  
  Left of six hundred.  
  
When can their glory fade?     
O the wild charge they made!  
  All the world wonder’d.  
Honor the charge they made!  
Honor the Light Brigade,  
  Noble six hundred! 
Lord Alfred Tennyson

Lord Alfred Tennyson

Born in 1809, Alfred Tennyson is one of the most well-loved Victorian poets.

by this poet

poem
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.

    Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld
poem

Sweet and low, sweet and low,
   Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
   Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
   Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.

Sleep and rest,

poem
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes; I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming