Alfred Lord Tennyson
Tennyson is one of the most skilled and self-conscious poets of the Victorian age. He is typical Victorian who adopted the conventional religious and social views and values of his age. His early poems were not much accepted, but gradually he sharpened his skill.
Tennyson's later poems are serious, thoughtful and musical. His poem The Idylls of the King is preferred by many people even today. In Morte D Arthur he turned Malory’s story into poetry. He did experiment with different meters. In his long poem In Memoriam he laments for the death of his friend Arthur Hallam. Tennyson’s shorter poems are generally better than longer ones. Ulysses is his most controlled and perfectly written poem which presents the heroic voice of the aged hero. The Princess is the collection of his fine lyric which shows his best mysterious and musical quality.
Browning is a major Victorian poet who voiced the mood of optimism in his works. For Browning the intellect was more important than the music. His great knowledge was the result of his self-study and travels. His reputation is higher as the writer of dramatic monologue. One of his successful dramatic poems is Pippa Passes. We find many such poems in his dramas, but his natural gift was in poetry. Sometimes we notice his poetic style very difficult. It is because of his unusual knowledge of words and his strange sentence structure. Sordello is a good example of his difficult poem. The Ring and the Book is a poem based on a book that he found in Florence. Asolando is a collection of many fine poems which was published on the day of Browning death.
Arnold was a great poet and critic of his time. He had been a professor of poetry in Oxford for ten years. His works truly represent his age. A sad undertone runs through nearly all his poetry. His views of modern life, of its complexity, its sick hurry and divided aims are present in his poetry.
Arnold was also the headmaster of Rugby School. He wrote a poem entitled Rugby Chapel. Thyrsis is a poem of lament for his friend, Clough. In his poem The Scholar Gipsy the poet talks about an Oxford man who joins a band of gypsies and wanders with them. Memorial Verses is his sad poem in which the poet laments for the deaths of many poets at home and abroad. He also wrote a critical sonnet of Shakespeare, whom he praised too much. One of his other poems, Empedocles on Etna, has been highly praised, perhaps because it is not altogether sad.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Rossetti was a poet as well as a noted painter. His sonnets are among the most musical in English. Many critics have accused him of writing a moral poems belonging to the Fleshy School of poetry. But he argued that poetry ought to be based on the senses. Many of his poetic lines are written in a way a painter’s eye captures the beauty of the thing. Rosseti wrote about nature with his eye on it, but did not feel it in his bones as Wordsworth does. Rossetti was too fond of alliteration.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Another great poetess of this time was Elizabeth Barrett, who, on her marriage, became Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Some of her poems are too long, but in a sonnet she could not write too much because the form is limited to fourteen lines. Thus much of her best work is contained in Sonnets from the Portuguese. She pretended at first that these sonnets were translated from the Portuguese; they were really an entirely original expression of her love for Robert Browning.
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Swinburne followed the poetic style of Rossetti, but could not use alliteration so much successfully in his poems as did Rossetti. Critics argue that his poetry does not contain much thought, though it can be sung well. When his work Poems and Ballads appeared in 1866, he was much blamed for moral reasons. A later book of Poems and Ballads is not so much offensive as the previous one. It shows his interest in French writers and includes the laments for them. Tristram of Lyonesse is usually considered to be his best work. It tells the undying story of Tristram and Iseult.
One of the greatest poetic translators was Edward Fitzgerald. He translated six of Calderon’s plays the Agamemnon of Aeschylus and the Rubaiyat of the Persian poet Omar Khayyam. Most translations lose something and are not as good as the originals. But this book is considered by some Persian scholars to be better than Omar Khayyam’s work. In this translation of the Rubaiyat, he entirely omitted the hidden meanings of the original. The other poets of this age are Arthur Clough, and Christina Rossetti.
Fleshly School of Poetry or the Pre-Raphaelites
The Fleshly School Poets or the Pre-Raphaelites were inspired by the Italian painters before Raphael. In 1848, a group of three young painters, who were also poets, founded the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. They followed a medieval outlook, art for the sake of art, sensuous and clear word painting, and a poetry rich in music and melody. Due to their detailed description of scene and situation, and the frank and free dealing of sexual passion, they are also referred to as the ‘Fleshly School’.
D. G. Rossetti was the chief among these young poets, as well as painters. He is sometimes criticized as a fleshly poet because his poems contain sensuous pictures of feminine beauty. But he combines the physical beauty with spiritual beauty in The Blessed Demozel. He also wrote about nature, but instead of feeling like Wordsworth, he studied it. He was also fond of alliteration, as in “flying hair and fluttering hem”.
A. C. Swinburne was a follower of D. G. Rossetti, but he misused alliteration. He wrote much political verse, but he had a new rich music in his verse drama Atlanta in Calydon. Though his music is good, there is a lack of thought in his poetry. He was also criticized for moral reasons when his Poems and Ballads was published in 1866. His best work is considered to be Tristram of Lyonese.
William Morris was also influenced by Rossetti. His early works The Defense of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858), The Life and Death of Jason (1867), and The Earthly Paradise (1870) are purely romantic in method and style, with an undertone of sadness.
Sharma, K.N. "Victorian Poets." BachelorandMaster, 13 Jan. 2014, bachelorandmaster.com/englishperiods/victorian-poets.html.