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Monday, 4 June 2018

Elucidate the use of myth and legend in Tennyson's poems

Alfred Lord Tennyson draws the legends and myths to suit his purpose and thoughts in his poems. He takes classical story and blended classical and medieval legends with the modern thoughts. Examples  can be found in his poems, Oenone, Tithonus, Lotus Eater, and Locksley  Hall.
myth and legend in Tennyson's poems
Alfred Tennyson 

The poem, Oenone is compact with the use of myth and legend directly and indirectly.  Oenone is a Greek nymph and daughter of the river god Cebren and Mound Ida.She met the legendary character,  paris of the city of Troy. The two were married and enjoyed their happy life until Paris ' voyage to Sparta where he met Helen, wife of Menelaus.  She eloped with Paris. It caused the Trojan War depicted in Homer's Iliad. In the poem , after being deserted by Paris , Oenone starts to complain to her mother against him. Another mythical figure Pallas, goddess of wisdom is found in the poem.  She consoles Oenone with a witty statement . There is also references to Hera and Aphrodite.

Next, Tithonus is the legendary character who fell in love with Aurora, goddess of dawn. According to the Homeric Hymm to Aphrodite,  When Aurora asked Zeus to grant Tithonus eternal life, the god consented . But Aurora forgot to ask also for eternal youth , so her husband grew old and withered. In the poem , Tithonus Tennyson portrays the story to signify the blessing of death.

The poem, Lotus Eater deals with the story of Greek mythology . In Greek mythology Lotus Eater is one of the tribe encountered by the Greek hero Odysseus during his return from Troy. The local inhabitants invited Odysseus scouts to eat of the mysterious plant having the power of forgetfulness . The philosophy of inaction is the central theme. Either it is Tennyson's  point of view or not , his technical craftsmanship makes style suit the content in the poem.

After a few lines in Locksley Hall there is a reference to Orion and Pleiades .In Greek mythology , Orion is a giant who relentlessly pursued the seven Pleiades , daughters of Atlas . The names of the Pleiades were Alcyone , Celaeno , Electra,  Maia,  Merope, Sterope, and Taygete.  Zeus, the king of the gods , changed the Pleiades into stars to put them out of Orion's reach . Orion may be interpreted as the speaker while Pleiades as Amy , his beloved. Like Pleiades Amy is out of reach to the speaker.

Thus, Tennyson's treatment of myth and old legends is unique. He does not change the basic facts with them he creates  superb Best Poetry . He brighten the past to highlight the present.

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