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Like the Victorian novel, Victorian poetry can be divided in 2 main phases, an early and a late period. In the first  (from the accession of Queen Victoria to about 1850) emerged two poets: Alfred Tennyson (that was a Poet Laureate and an important lyrical poet with an interest for Anglo-Saxon subjects and topics) and Robert Browning.

This period is a reaction to Romanticism (is rejected) and a revival of poet form belong to precedent age and a new poetical expression. Now the poet represents the optimism of the age and partly the necessity of classical models, which were rejected by romantics.

Tennyson and Browning

They were complementary (their characteristics were different) but their basic attitude was similar: broadly didactic and concerned with the age’s most pressing ethical problems (à didactic and moral aim à Tennyson was more patriotic and pessimist, while Browning was more optimism and interested in Italian Renaissance).

Tennyson was more concerned with the individual in society, and his poetry was harmonious and of classical inspiration, while Browning was concerned with the individual as an eccentric, and his verse was more abrupt and difficult to follow.

Late-Romantic tendencies

The early Victorian poets owe a great deal to their Romantic predecessors: for example, Tennyson was indebted to Keats’ verbal sensuousness, while Browning owes much to Shelley’s prophetic force.

However, the Victorian poets did not believe in a life vision. They were less confident that they could solve scientific and religious problems that were breaking down certainties that had lasted a thousand years (the Victorian prose had more success than poetry).

Narrative verse

In this period developed a strong tendency to tell stories in long narrative poems (à Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora).

  • The search of new modes of expression

Victorian poets continued to use many Romantic or traditional forms (à sonnet) but they made some technical innovations: the dramatic monologue (by Tennyson and Browning) and the long autobiographical poem.

The importance of love poetry

A common theme of Victorian poetry was love. With Tennyson and Browning, love became again of paramount importance (as in 16th and 17th centuries). This reflected the age’s concern with sexual morality and with the definition of gender roles. Love poetry now, though less frank and exuberant, explored new areas of sensibility (à frustration, coldness, matrimonial bond in Meredith).


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