And then there's Maud (long)
Posted by Karen R on October 22, 1997 at 17:04:12:
I had a difficult time finding this one in its entirety; most collections only print excerpts and those, more famous excerpts don't include the relevant images.
This poem was not well-received by the public and the critics at that time. This was mainly to do with a couple of factors: (1) its form, it was unlike anything that preceded and (2) its jingoistic ending about going to war (the Crimean War was going on).
However, Tennyson considered it one of his most original poems and liked to recite it. Those who heard him read it could then understand why he felt that way. The emotion and passion he put into it was apparently quite evident. Tennyson said: "It shows the unfolding of a lonely, morbid soul, touched with inherited madness, under the influence of a pure and passionate love."
BTW, Tennyson subtitled it "the Madness" a la Hamlet.
Our unnamed hero returns home, pretty much insane (maybe a little strong), but at a minimum his mind is disordered and his sight discolored by the tragedy of his youth (i.e., father lost all their money and then committed suicide). Our hero has his faults. He takes offense and magnifies any slights. He is pretty paranoid.
After ranting and raving for a number of stanzas, all of a sudden, his thoughts go to Maud, who he remembers playing with as a child. He goes on to describe her from memory as fair, sweet and "Maud, the beloved of my mother, the moon-faced darling of all."
Then he sees her passing in a carriage with a "cold and clean-cut face," "perfectly beautiful," "dead perfection," and the best line IMHO is:
Faultily, faultless, icily regular, splendidly null
Maud is the daughter of his father's business partner and he was betrothed to her in childhood, but he doesn't know this yet. He continues despairing about being poor, alone, etc. He is a victim and has a very bad self-image.
He also expresses what are probably his first thoughts about love (the "cruel madness of love"). Of course, this will change. At this point, Maud is a "milk-white fawn." She is also "tall and stately." (But it never says how tall he is!!)
Then he sees her in a meadow..."with her exquisite face" and the meaness and sordidness leave him and bring him to tears. The guy's in love. He hears her singing. She has "sunny hair" and a "smile as sunny as cold."
But Maud has a brother, who more or less follows in the father's footsteps. This is a long poem, so let me cut to the chase....
Maud wants to reconcile with the man who her father had wronged. But she does fall in love with him. They arrange to meet in a garden at dawn. He waits at the gate. The brother finds them there and in the presence of a wealthy fool who he has selected to marry her, he strikes our hero. He fights back and wounds the brother. Maud urges our hero to flee, which he does to Brittany, and she says she will wait for him. ("Like a shipwreck;d man on a coast/Of ancient fable and fear--/")
But Maud dies. Our hero goes mad (again!!) Later he recovers his sanity and decides that the only hope for him is to fight for God and country. This is the virtuous way.
(I think I set the world's speed record for wrapping this one up).
But I think we need some more images from the poem:
"Maud's own little oak-room--
Which Maud, like a precious stone
Set in the heart of the carven gloom,
Lights with herself, when alone
She sits by her music and books"
"Knew that the death-white curtain meant but sleep,
Yet I shudder'd and thought like a gool of the sleep of death."
"Of a peacock, sits on her shining head"
(the turban Maud wears when Roland first sees her)
Moral of the Story
Our hero changes, is changed by a pure love, as described in a number of lines, including:
"And ah for a man to arise in me,
That the man I am may cease to be!"
He finds "worth" in himself:
"But I be dear to some one else,
Then I should be to myself more dear."
And finally, "It is better to fight for the good than to rail at the ill."
I didn't mean for it to be almost as long as the actual poem!!
Posting followups to old messages is disabled; instead go to the main index and post a new message which mentions this one.