English Literature » Notes » Critical appreciation of the poem ”Locksley Hall”

Critical appreciation of the poem ”Locksley Hall”

Locksley Hall is one of the famous poems by Alfred Tennyson. The poem is a dramatic monologue, where the speaker is present in a dramatic situation of his life. The speaker returns to the Locksley Hall many years later and narrates the story of his own past. We come to know from his speech that after his father’s death in a Maratha battle in India, the speaker was brought back to Locksley Hall by his tyrannical uncle. He fell in love with his cousin Amy. However, their ‘love was a failure, as Amy surrendered to her parents’ wishes and married another wealthy man. Now from the speaker’s speech, it is clear to the reader that the event has left a permanent scar in his heart. The speaker feels desolate and expresses the general belief that women are inferior to men. He recovers from his shock by participating in the “wild pulsation” of his age. Thus, in this poem we find a speaker who is in a critical juncture of his life. In Locksley Hall, there is a pure sign in the beginning that the speaker is addressing to his mariners. Thus, we find a single speaker and silent listeners.

From his own speech we can deduce some characteristics of the speaker. He is an irresolute young man whose heart always oscillates between hope and hopelessness. At first he feels in harmony with the scientific spirit of his age. Then, the lost love makes him frustrated. In his frantic state he even imagines the failed family life of Amy and her husband. Besides, his attitude to his society also changes time to time. Tennyson’s time was the high period of imperialism.

In this age, the speaker at first wants to escape from the busy world of England into some remote islands of the Pacific and take “some savage woman” to produce “a dusky race”. But, immediately after, he rejects this idea. He declares, “I count the grey barbarian lower than the Christian child” and “I the heir of all ages”. Such declaration amounts to racism and is very like that of Rudyard Kipling who speaks of the “White Man’s burden” to civilised  other nations. Thus, the speaker vaunts at the glory of England.

He wishes that owing to the scientific discovery, the world will be running apace with commerce, trade and even with aerial warfare. Finally there will be lasting peace all over the world with the building of “the Federation of the world”, This is an indication on the part of Tennyson of the future establishment of the United Nations. Thus, in Locksley Hall, Tennyson shows the spirit of the age and portrays what is going oy in Victorian England. The age was marked by rapid scientific discovery and progress in trade and commerce. Tennyson shows how the change in a man’s personal and social life affects his attitude to the world. The poem is one of Tennyson’s best dramatic monologues.

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