Major Victorian Poets and Their Contributions in the History of English Literature


The poetic temper of the Victorian Age is not materially different from that of the early 19th century. In its individualism, play of imagination, love of the picturesque, and interest in Nature and the past, it continues the romantic tradition. But in its response to the changed conditions -- political, economic, and scientific and religions -- it no doubt acquired a distinctive character of its own. The Victorian poets lived in the world of their day which looked up to them for guidance. Democracy introduced a new face; science banished God from the universe; and religion therefore had little useful role to play. Upon what platform would England stand then? Tennyson, Browning and Arnold came to her rescue. Each came out with a message of his own to reassure his readers that their doubts, distractions and fears were all right with the world. The poets turned prophets too. Victorian poetry came to be related more to life than the romantic. It is the voice of Victorian England.

Science also had its impact on the poet's attitude to nature. with the existence of god himself in doubt, he saw no divinity in it , nor did he invest it with any philosophical significance . It was Darwin's evolutionary theory which caused this change of attitude. On the contrary, Nature was discovered to be ' red in tooth and claw '. Under the impact of science, the poetic style also underwent a change.While the style continued to be ornate, most notably in Tennyson and the Pre - Raphaelites, it became more to the point than before. Victorian poetry therefore shed the mere flowers of speech .It stove for beauty within the limits of reason.

The poets of this age may be classified as follows: the major poets, Tennyson and Browning, Who are often compared and contrasted; the skeptics who include Arnold, clough, Fitzgerald and games Thompson; the Pre -Raphaelites consisting chiefly of D. G. Rossetti ; and the ' Decadents'. In each the trends of the age expressed themselves in different ways. For a precise treatment of the topic, we here choose only three major representative poets -- Tennyson, Browning and the woman poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the wife of Robert Browning.




Tennyson wrote several volumes of verse but the more important of his poems include : The Lotus - Eaters , Ulysses , Break, Break, Break, Locksley Hall, The Lady of shallot, The princess , In memoriam , The charge of the Light Brigade , Maud , Idylls of the king , Enoch Arden , and Crossing the Bar . They comprise Lyrics, odes, dramatic monologues, an elegy, metrical romances, and verse tales. Victorian England re -lives in his pages. The princess thus deals with a question that vexed his age -- woman's place in society. In Memoriam, an elegy endeavors to reconcile the conflicting claims of science and religion. The charge of the Light Brigade and several other poems voice the patriotic fervour of the age. Even The Lotus -Eaters and Ulysses which deal with Greek themes , and the Idylls of the king which retell the tales of the medieval English king , Arthur , present a picture of Victorian life rather than that of ancient Greece or medieval England . Tennyson's treatment of nature is also coloured by the spirit of the age. Above all, he was a master craftsman and a great experimentalist in rhymes.

The volumes of verse by which Robert Browning is best known are Men and women, Dramatic personae and The Ring and the Book . His best known poems include: ' Evelyn  Hope , Porphyria's Lover , My Last Duchess.

 Elizabeth Barrett Browning's work roughly falls into Two divisions: Poems that are purely topical in there interest and those that have a more abiding appeal. To the farmer category belong The cry of the children , drawing attention to the evils of child labour ; the cry of the Human , expressing similar sympathy for the oppressed ; Casa guidi windows , inspired by the Italian struggle for freedom ; and Aurora Leigh , a blank -verse romance , voicing the Victorian woman's yearning for a place of honour in society category belong the Sonnets from the Portuguese , a sequence of 44 sonnets expressing Elizabeth's love for Robert Browning . They are truer poetry than any of her other poems, sincere in feeling and simple in expression. Part of their interest is due to the fact that they are the first sequence of sonnets in English literature to be addressed by a woman to a man. They are her only title to a place in literature to- day. 

 
Ref:1. Encarta Yearbook 
        2. Wikipedia