Today is Tennyson's Birthday!

On the 210th anniversary of Tennyson’s Birthday he describes birthdays as a time when we look both forwards and backwards

The 210th Anniversary of Tennyson’s Birthday

I am only merry for an hour or two

Upon a birthday: if this life of ours

Be a good glad thing, why should we make us merry

Because a year of it is gone? but Hope

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come

Whispering 'It will be happier;' and old faces

Press round us, and warm hands close with warm hands – Tennyson ‘The Foresters’ (I.iii)

Tennyson’s ‘The Foresters’, a play about Robin Hood and Maid Marian, is filled with references to Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, where the forest becomes a space for celebration about the joy of life and what Shakespeare’s Rosalind would call a ‘holiday mood’ infects both plays.

On the 210th anniversary of Tennyson’s Birthday his comments about Birthday celebrations ring true. Tennyson describes a mood where we look simultaneously forwards and backwards, filled with happiness but also sadness. Tennyson describes Birthdays as a time where people come together, not only with each other, but also with their past and future selves, a sentiment once again echoed in ‘As You Like It’ by Jacques’s famous speech.

All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages.

The power of birthdays to unite and bring together is made explicit in the end of this speech from ‘The Foresters’ which brings the characters on stage together into a song. This song echoes that of ‘As You Like it’ where the characters also sing together, celebrating the end of winter and the coming of the summer, praying for rebirth, or even, a ‘birthday’. 

And thro' the blood the wine leaps to the brain

Like April sap to the topmost tree, that shoots

New buds to heaven, whereon the throstle rock'd

Sings a new song to the new year — and you,

Strike up a song, my friends, and then to bed.

Recent Posts

Fiddlededeeism and Impossible

Edward Lear met the Tennysons through their mutual friend Franklin Lushington. Tennyson's sister was married to…

Read More
Fiddlededeeism and ImpossiblePosted: 09 Feb 2021

The Carnivalesque in 'The Princess'

T.S. Eliot once described Tennyson as ‘the saddest of poets’, and we tend to think of him as an austere Victorian patriarch ...…

Read More
The Carnivalesque in 'The Princess'Posted: 27 Jan 2021

Tennyson’s Wild: Animals in Tennyson’s Poetry

Writing in the Mid-Nineteenth Century, Tennyson’s poetry is about a countryside on the cusp of going into decline ...…

Read More
Tennyson’s Wild: Animals in Tennyson’s PoetryPosted: 09 Dec 2020

Tennyson's Smoking Habit

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, despite his wife’s delicate constitution and dislike of the habit, was a heavy smoker.…

Read More
Tennyson's Smoking HabitPosted: 23 Nov 2020
© 2021 Farringford