The Poet's Song: by Alfred Tennyson - Summary & Analysis

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The rain had fallen, the Poet arose,
He pass'd by the town and out of the street;
A light wind blew from the gates of the sun,
And waves of shadow went over the wheat,
And he sat him down in a lonely place,
And chanted a melody loud and sweet,
That made the wild-swan pause in her cloud,
And the lark drop down at his feet.
The swallow stopt as he hunted the bee,
The snake slipt under a spray,
The wild hawk stood with the down on his beak,
And stared, with his foot on the prey.
And the nightingale thought, 'I have sung many songs,
But never a one so gay,
For he sings of what the world will be
When the years have died away'

      Introduction: The poem is notable for the strain of music that runs throughout the poem. Lyrical to the core, the poem tells the immortality of poet's song, that is, poetry. Tennyson has drawn a beautiful picture of nature. It is beautiful, serene and calm and the world of fauna is enthralled by the melody of the poet's song.

      Summary: The wild swan stopped its flight to listen the song, a skylark got close to the poet as it did not apprehend any fear, a swallow stopped its daily activity, the snake, a creature posing danger, hid itself; the soothing song of the poet mesmerized the bird of prey, a wild hawk, and it stopped its gruesome activity to look up who is singing and lastly the nightingale who had so far enchanted the human race with its beautiful mellifluous song was perplexed to find that the poet's song is superior to it's. 

      Analysis: The last two lines, in a way, reveals Tennyson's dictum- the melody of a poet should be placed in higher rank than that of sweet melody of a bird because it tells of the future. A true artist can perceive the truth of life. He is endowed with poetic insight that makes him to foresee the future. In this context we can quote Fowler's comparison of Tennyson's treatment of the subject with that of Shelley: "Shelley evinces the skylark's joy in the present, because, 'Man looks before and after. And pines for what is not; but Tennyson finds the poet's song better than the nightingale's, because the poet can look forward to the widening of man's thoughts 'by the process of sun' and the gladness of 'the golden year' that is yet to be."

      The picturesque imagery that Tennyson has drawn has an embalming effect. It is soothing and takes to the world where a snake does not pose any danger, where flora and fauna forge a bond with human race not anticipating any imminent danger. The style is lucid and clear. Diction is simple. Written in a regular meter, Tennyson showed his mastery in creating a melody that appeals to all souls.

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