Alfred Tennyson breaks away from the pastoral discourse that is typical of the Romantic Age and transcends into the Victorian Age with a poem full of obsession, madness, death, love, and patriotism in his creation of Maud. In Maud, the state of the speaker’s life and his mental health are called into question from the very beginning. The speaker’s initial mental state is one of madness, a melancholic, morbidity that has been influenced by the suicide of his father into a persona that is not perfect or happy, but a disturbed man with nothing to recommend him to a higher state. We see this morbid side immediately when he says, “I hate the dreadful hollow behind the little wood, / Its lips in the field above are dabbled with blood- / red heath, / The red-ribbed ledges drip with a silent horror of blood, / And Echo there, whatever is asked her, answers / “Death.” (I,1-4). The speaker is already preoccupied with death and loss. He is all about thinking in extremes. The extremes of death, love, loss, and patriotism permeate his personality with such intensity that everything in his life is an obsession. The intensity of the character creates a situation where he never operates in the middle. He is always very high or very low either in anguish or happiness. It can be argued that his madness resonates as different phases of obsessions and that sanity at the end is not an arguable point as the reader never actually sees him operating within a sane situation. The speaker’s patriotic discourse in Part III is just one more obsession, another faucet of his internal madness that has found an alternate focus. The speaker’s is caught in a weave of madness that is present throughout ...
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...he edge as his focus moves internally as he figuratively crawls in to his “cavern” where his mind can only focus on the immediate things around him like the sounds of horses’ hooves and voices. Tennyson finally shifts the speaker out of his inner madness and changes the focus again. This time the Crimean War becomes the escape for the speaker. He is now somewhat aware that his mind is not sane and he looks to the only thing that can give him peace, death. Tennyson’s speaker in his morbidity and inner discourse is tragic, but comments such acts of written eloquence the reader can not help but be trapped by his madness as he finds peace in his final act of madness.
Tennyson, Alfred. Maud. The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetic Theory.
Ed. Thomas J. Collins and Vivienne J. Rundle. Toronto: Broadview Press, Ltd, 1999. 254-277. Print.
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