3/07/2019

Tennyson 's use of myth in his poem "Oenone".


Like the romantic poets who preceded him, Tennyson found much inspiration in the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome. In
poems such as Tithonus", "Oenone" and "Ulysses," Tennyson the stories of Greek myths and legends. However, Tennyson slightly alters these mythic stories, shifting the time frame of some of the action and often adding more descriptive imagery to the plot. The intention was to keep his nation aware of the right moral vision. New knowledge of science, historical criticism of Marx and economical affluence created chaotic situation. The Victorians were at a loss that
they desired a peaceful compromise among the conflicting ideologies. Tennyson's poems on myths and legends always convey solutions to his contemporary problems. But the solutions provided here have the moral significances that have universal appeal.

The reworking of Greek Myth and legend can be seen in the indirect method of poetic commentary in "Oenone," in which
Tennyson depicts Paris, the son of Priam, King of Troy, as judging who is the most beautiful of the three principal goddesses, Hera,
Pallas Athene, or Aphrodite. Tennyson employed classical myths extensively as a vehicle for exploring alternative answers to the
question, "how to live?" By illuminating, through mythic and legendary material; the tensions among values, he makes us think
and arrive at our own judgments independently.

In this poem, Oenone, a mountain nymph who is Paris's beloved, recounts the events. We hear each goddess advances the arguments
for the attribute which she represents: power, wisdom, and beauty. Tennyson as poet does not emphasize the decision that Paris should
have made for wisdom and self-control instead of for beauty. The commentary occurs in the jealous and psychologically valid interior
monologue of Oenone. War and the sacking of Troy by.the Greeks is, of course, the outcome that the ending of the poem foreshadows but
does not state. While the flaw in Paris's decision may seem obvious we should not overlook the symbolic significance that the myth gives to the necessity of choices in human life and to the fact that such
choices always bear consequences which can be fatal to individuals and to society. Ironically, even with the most careful reasoning, in
the light of the information available at the time, the consequence often cannot be foreseen.

Myth is also used to highlight the clashes of ideals. As presented by Hera, power, properly used, especially for unselfish ends and for
the good of humanity, has genuine worth. Kept in perspective beauty, too, is surely a desirable attribute in life. But in Tennyson's
version, Aphrodite promises Paris, if he decides for her, "the fairest and most loving wife in Greece," since each of the goddesses proffers to Paris a means of his own self-aggrandizement. They are really
bribing him and corrupting the ideal of a disinterested judgment turning solely upon reason and merit. Yet among several alternatives in life, a most loving wife could be a wise decision for a man to make
and could lead to his greatest happiness. But Paris's selecting Aphrodite and a loving wife, however, illustrates the ambiguity of
circumstances in which we have to make choices. Helen is not simply a young woman capable of being the most beautiful and the most loving wife that Greece can provide. She is already a wife-somebody else's wife. Thus ideals clash. To fulfil what is an ideal for Paris
means destroying that of Menelaus. Also, to gain Helen, Paris must abandon and alienate Oenone, whose. love turns to bitterness
and hate.

Thus, Tennyson emerges as a superior craftsman by employing Greek myth and legend to highlight and comment on the prevalent moral crises and offer thoughts for solving such contradictions. The
poem is an exquisite example of art for the sake of life.

No comments:

Post a Comment