Characteristics of Alfred Lord Tennyson Poetry | Best Victorian Poet

Characteristics of Alfred Lord Tennyson Poetry

The Victorian age is also known as the age of Alfred Lord Tennyson, hence characteristics that support the Victorian age are there in his poetry. One of the best reasons which built the personality of Tennyson as a poet was his dramatic monologues. In the Victorian era, there was much development in every field of life; mainly in music, art and literature. Poetry that was written in that era rejected the idea of romanticism. It became highly philosophical; therefore, most of the poetry represents philosophical ideas. In his poetry, Lord Tennyson talks about the past, especially about the Greeks; therefore, there is rebirth of Greek myths in his poems. He writes intellectual poems with modern philosophy along with a blend of philosophical ideas.

Characteristics of Alfred Lord Tennyson Poetry are:

  • Realism
  • Naturalism
  • Glory of Past
  • Philosophical Ideas
  • Intellectualism
  • Modernism
Characteristics of Alfred Lord Tennyson Poetry | Best Victorian Poet


Every writer as Aristotle says in his book poetics imitates life, hence, poetry is reflection of life; however, it does not mean that every poet represents reality. Some poets highly exaggerate things when they present an idea. Romantic poets highly focus on imagination and exaggeration. For instance, John Keats and S.T. Coleridge are two famous romantic poets who tremendously talk about nature and overstate the incidents. In his love poetry, John Keats always goes beyond the limitations. Similarly, S. T. Coleridge also talks about the supernatural elements. Hence, it is not necessary that every poet writes poetry on the basis of reality.

It is of the chief characteristics of Alfred Lord Tennyson poetry that he sticks to realism. He paints reality; therefore, it is safe to say that he never told a lie. He tries to portray everyday life in the way we see it. He puts his submissions in front of his readers as he sees it and his readers feel the same. Every character, each place and all the events in the poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson are realistic and best describes him as a Victorian poet and thus adds realism in the list of characteristics of his poetry.


Elaborating nature in poetry does not necessarily make a poet romantic. Romantic poetry is all about passions and emotions and it touches the senses as obvious from the poetry of John Keats. Naturalism in poetry, on the other hand, is all about extreme realistic pictures of everyday society. Realism means to talk about realistic problems and not the imaginary ones but naturalism means to portray utmost realistic images. When a poet writes poetry based on naturalism, he keeps in mind the external sources that may influence a specific situation. In other words, the environment is the key factor in naturalism.

Lord Alfred Tennyson is highly experienced in presentation of such realistic images. He focuses on presenting an utterly realistic environment. Every poem of this poet is evident that he never goes beyond the external circumstances. Every situation, each incident and all elaborations in his poems depicts natural elements. Hence, Naturalism becomes amongst the greatest characteristics of Alfred Lord Tennyson Poetry.

Glory of Past

The Greek past is famous for heroic figures. Mostly, the poets use allusions from Greek poems; especially from Homer’s Iliad. In the same way, Tennyson also likes to talk about the past. One of the best poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson that is worth mentioning here is “Ulysses”. In this famous dramatic monologue, he talks about Greek hero as well as explorer Ulysses. It seems that he wants to let us know that the past was full of glorious victories. His readers must have knowledge about the famous events from the past as he uses far-fetched allusions. Past has much importance in the eyes of Alfred Lord Tennyson and he has a soft spot to discuss it in his poetry due which Glory of Past should also be added in the list of characteristics of his poetry.

Philosophical Ideas

The poet that does poetry for the sake of poetry never talks about philosophical ideas. It is not wrong to say that romantic poets considered it a sin to discuss philosophy in their poems. Tennyson broke the convention. His poetry is full of revolutionary ideas. He motivates his readers and teaches them philosophy of life. He also gives moral lessons to his readers; therefore, his poetry is not only for the purpose of pleasure but also for the purpose of learning. There is no denying the fact that he is a good teacher and also a great reformer. He portrays themes based on philosophy. Thus, critics rightly adjudges Alfred Lord Tennyson as a philosophical poet who explored the field of philosophy while portraying philosophical ideas through his style, metaphors, allusions, symbols and poetic devices due to which presentation of philosophical ideas is also another major characteristics of his poetry.


Poetry of this great Victorian poetry is based on reasons. There is logic in his poetry. He never portrays a utopian world nor does he try to add extra ordinary supernatural elements. He presents philosophy and realistic ideas; therefore, there is no chance of leaving intellectualism behind. As mentioned earlier, Victorian age was the age of development; therefore, readers were highly interested in reading poetry that was based on reasoning. Intellectual poetry is against the norms of romantic poetry. It is because romantic poetry is full of passions and emotions whereas intellectual poetry rejects emotions and feelings. It is the poetry of the mind. People who are highly emotional seldom like this type of poetry. Alfred Lord Tennyson writes poetry of logic and reasoning, hence, intellectualism and logic become the greatest characteristics of his poetry.


The poetry that contains all the above mentioned elements is called modern poetry. Like other ingredients, it also rejects the idea of romanticism. All above said salient features best fit for modern poetry and Tennyson poems though not completely yet near to modern poetry. Somehow, he does not remain mum on modern social problems and discusses them in one way or the other. Symbolic significance of every word in his poetry refers that modernism should not be excluded from the list of major characteristics of Alfred Lord Tennyson poetry.