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ALFRED TENNYSON, the third of seven sons, was born August 5th, 1809, at Somersby, a small village near Horncastle, in Lincolnshire. His father, Dr. George Clayton Tennyson, was the rector of this parish, he was a man remarkable for his strength, stature, and varied attainments as poet, painter, musician and linguist. In 1827, Alfred Tennyson, with his elder brother Charles, both then being scholars at the Louth Grammar School, published a small volume entitled, "Poems by Two Brothers." Shortly afterwards, these two young men removed to Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1829, Alfred Tennyson obtained the Chancellor's Gold Medal for his poem on "Timbuctoo." His subsequent poetical works rapidly attracted attention, and, on the death of William Wordsworth, he was created Poet Laureate, the Warrant being dated the 19th November, 1850. As a poet he has achieved almost the highest fame, but in his numerous efforts as a dramatist he has been far less successful,
For the consideration of the Parodies of Tennyson's poems, they may conveniently be divided into three periods; namely, his early Poems, poems in connection with his appointment in 1850 to the office of Poet Laureate, and Poems since that date. Although Tennyson has suppressed many of his early works, yet he occasionally furbishes up, and re-issues as a new poem one or other of his youthful compositions.
Fastidious as he is known to be in his selection of what he thus re-publishes, it is still a matter of some surprise that he should have entirely suppressed his prize poem, Timbuctoo, which would always be of interest as a specimen of his early work, and is, besides, far removed above the average of Prize Poems. It is printed in full in the edition of his works, published by Harper and Brothers, New York, 1873.
The poems were sent in for competition in the month of April, 1829; and on June 12, 1829, the Cambridge Chronicle recorded that "On Saturday last, the Chancellor's Gold Medal for the best English poem by a resident undergraduate was adjudged to Alfred Tennyson, of Trinity College." Shortly afterwards the poem was published, and was favourably reviewed in The Athenæum, which in speaking of Prize poems generally, stated, "These productions have "often been ingenious and elegant, but we have "never before seen one of them which indicated
"really first-rate poetical genius, and which "would have done honour to any man that ever "wrote. Such, we do not hesitate to affirm, is the "little work before us."
W. M. Thackeray was at Cambridge at the same time as Tennyson, and early in 1829 he commenced the publication of a small paper entitled "THE SNOB, a Literary and Scientific Journal, not conducted by members of the University." This was published by W. H. Smith, of Rose Crescent, Cambridge, and ran for eleven weeks; its contents were humorous sketches in prose and verse, and the most remarkable paper amongst them is the following droll poem on Timbuctoo, which appeared on the 30th April, 1829. This has most unaccountably been omitted from recent editions of Thackeray's works, although it seems almost certain he must have written it :
To the Editor of the "SNOB."
SIR,-Though your name be Snob, I trust you will not refuse this tiny "Poem of a Gownsman," which was unluckily not finished on the day appointed for delivery of the several copies of verses on Timbuctoo. I thought, Sir, it would be a pity that such a poem should be lost to the world; and conceiving "THE SNOB" to be the most widely circulated periodical in Europe, I have taken the liberty of submitting it for insertion or approbation. -I am, Sir, yours, &c., &c. TIMBUCTOO.-PART I.
The day shall come when Albion's self shall feel Stern Afric's wrath, and writhe 'neath Afric's steel. I see her tribes the hills of glory mount, And sell their sugars on their own account; While round her throne the prostrate nations come, Sue for her rice, and barter for her rum ! NOTES.-Lines 1 and 2.-See Guthrie's Geography. The site of Timbuctoo is doubtful; the author has neatly expressed this in the poem, at the same time giving us some slights hints relative to its situation.
Line 5.-So Horace : leonum arida nutrix.
Line 13.-" Pop goes the musketoons." A learned friend suggested" Bang" as a stronger expression, but as African gunpowder is notoriously bad, the author thought "Pop" the better word.
Lines 15-18.-A concise but affecting description is here given of the domestic habits of the people. The infamous manner in which they are entrapped and sold as slaves is described, and the whole ends with an appropriate moral sentiment. The enthusiasm the author feels is beautifully expressed in lines 25 and 26.
Although this poem is not actually a parody of Tennyson's Timbuctoo, it is a clever burlesque of Prize poems in general, and derives additional interest from being one of Thackeray's earliest writings.
The first independent volume of poems which Tennyson published in 1830, contained Mariana; The Ballad of Oriana; Adeline; Lilian; The Poet; The Merman; and the Mermaid; all of which are so well known that the following parodies require no introduction ::
From Fun, February 26th, 1873. "Oriana," a romantic legend in three acts, by James Albery, music by F. Clay, was first performed at the Globe Theatre, on Saturday, February 15th, 1873. The lessee and manager, Mr. H. J. Montague, performed the part of King Raymond, that of Oriana being represented by Miss Rose Massey. The plot was founded on a fairy tale, slightly resembling Mr. Gilbert's "Palace of Truth,” but, beyond the name, the play had nothing in common with Tennyson's poem of "Oriana.”
(At the Railway Station.)
HER parcels, tied with many a knot,
She waited for the train to call.
She only said, "The night is dreary-
She sought the grim refreshment stall-
Shot coloured beams into the dark.
In tones the opposite of gay:
"The hour is late, the night is dreary-
Then mentally: "The man is beery-
About the middle of the night
She heard the shrill steam-whistle blow,
She said, "I am aweary, aweary,
The tired officials kept aloof,
The telegraphic wires did sound
Their notes Eolian on the roof,
And goods trains shunting did confound
It seems to me," she said,
"Your tables, like yourself, are beery
Go find me now a bed."
THE WEDDING DRESS.
IN picturesque confusion lies
Her scattered finery on the floor,
She only said, "The morn is dreary ;"
She hears the sound of pipe and drum,
"Oh ! ain't he swallowed lots o' starch!" She laughed not, for she heard a chime: "Eleven o'clock !" she said.
"I wonder if 'twill be in time?
How swiftly now the minutes pass,
Of her who would be made a wife.
"Three quarters!" cried she weeping-weary, "It cometh now," they said.
The maiden looked no longer dreary,
But hastened to be wed.
From Funny Folks.
In the Bon Gaultier Ballads is a parody of Lilian, entitled :
LIGHTSOME, bright some, cousin mine,
With thy locks all raven-shaded,
Thou in chains of love hast bound me-
When I fain would go to sleep
Wherefore on my slumbers creep-
Wherefore, then, if thou dost love me,
Would she only say she'd love me, Winsome, tinsome, Caroline, Unto such excess 'twould move me, Teazing, pleasing, cousin mine!
That she might the live-long day
Tickle still my hookèd nose,
With her pretty persecution; Throw the tongs against my shins, Run me through and through with pins, Like a pierced cushion; Would she only say she'd love me, Darning-needles should not move me; But, reclining back I'd say,
"Dearest! there's the snuffer-tray; Pinch, O pinch those legs of mine! Cork me, cousin Caroline !"'
THE LAUREAte. (After "The Merman.")
WHO would not be
The Laureate bold,
With his butt of sherry
To keep him merry,
And nothing to do but to pocket his gold?
Oh, that would be the life for me,
Then the chambermaids, that clean the rooms,
Oh, would not that be a merry life,
With the Laureate's wine, and the Laureate's pay,
With plenty to get and nothing to do,
But to deck a pet poodle with ribbons of blue,
I would not be a Mermaid dank,
Or a seven-foot slug from the deep blue sea.
The Mermaid of fiction was something fine.
On a handy rock, 'midst the breezy brine,
If that Mariner chanced to be anyways green.
A sort of shapeless squab sea-lubber,
And I mean to say it's a thundering shame
To bestow the Siren's respectable name,
Which savours of all that is rare and romantic,
On such a preposterous monster as this is,
From Punch, July 20th, 1878, in reference to the socalled Mermaid then being exhibited at the Westminster Aquarium.
Alfred Tennyson's "The Poet," was in fourteen
And throng with poisonous blooms the verdant Spring
Till many minds were lit with borrowed beams
And many fed their sick souls with hot dreams
Thus trash was multiplied on trash; the world
And through the clouds of Stygian dark upcurled,
And Licence lifted in that false sunrise
And on her robe's hem, "FOLLY" showed in flames
With "PHRENSY" names to shake Coherency and sense-misleading names— And when she spake,
Her words did gather fury as they ran,
And as mock lightning and stage thunder, With firework flash and empty rataplan,
Make schoolboys wonder,
So thrilled thro' fools her windy words. No sword
But one bad Poet's scrawl, and with his word
In 1832 Tennyson published another small volume of poems which contained Enone, The Sisters, The Palace of Art, Lady Clara Vere de Vere, The May Queen, The Lotus-Eaters, The Dream of Fair Women, and Margaret, all of which have been so frequently parodied that selection is difficult.
The following parody of Tennyson's The Sisters, concerning a division in the House of Commons, on the vexed question of marriage with a deceased wife's sister, appeared in The Tomahawk.
THEY were two daughters of one race;
Oh! the Ayes were two forty-three!
Who'd run a tilt 'gainst common sense? I married for convenience;
Brotherly love? oh! fiddle-de-dee!
Brotherly love? oh! fiddle-de-dee!
Though uninclin'd to give offence,
The Lady Clara can but say
That always from the very first
From Lady Clara, when they met,
To show a disregard for truth
Like stabbing folks behind their backs.
Is gone for good, since noble dames
Get pelted with improper names,
The Lady Clara cannot think
How time and money should be spent,
The plan that Alfred T. has sent.
To let the "foolish yeoman" go,
The other, a reply to the well-known song, is scarcely so good, because it does not follow its original so closely: MAUD.
NAY, I cannot come into the garden just now,
Tho' it vexes me much to refuse ;
But I must have the next set of waltzes, I vow,
I am sure you'll be heartily pleased when you hear
You had better at once hurry home, dear, to bed;
You may catch the bronchitis or cold in the head
Don't be obstinate, Alfy; come, take my advice,
No, I tell you I can't and I shan't get away,
If you feel it a pleasure to talk to the flow'rs
When you might have been snoring for two or three hours, Why, it's not the least business of mine.