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Tears Idle Tears

Tears, Idle Tears

"Tears, Idle Tears" is a lyric poem written by the great Victorian era poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The poem first appeared in Tennyson's 1847 collection The Princess. One of the most notable aspects of the poem is that it is written in blank verse. None of it rhymes, purposely structured to evoke more powerful emotions.

Tennyson (1809-1892) was the Poet Laureate of Great Britain for a substantial period of Queen Victoria's reign. He accepted the post in 1850 following the death of William Wordsworth, and held it until his own death in 1892. One of the primary functions of the poet laureate was to compose works for specific purposes. As poet laureate, he produced one of his most famous works, "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

"Tears, Idle Tears" was inspired by a visit to Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire, which had been abandoned in 1536. However, the ruin served merely to evoke the initial prompting. Most of the poem appears to address the following:

  • Lamenting the past
  • Lamenting unrequited love
  • The lyrical stanzas are full of ambiguity

While many students note the poem's lack of rhyme, they may not notice the more subtle use of open vowel or consonant sound at the end of each line, except the penultimate line. When read aloud, each line's sound can be drawn out to a fading away, giving better indication of the tone of regret.

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