3/06/2019

"The Oenone" by Tennyson : Critical Appreciation.


"Oenone" is considered the simplest dramatic monologue written by the Victorian poet Lord Alfred Tennyson in 1829. In this lyric, the events precipitating the Trojan War are narrated by an abandoned woman, the mountain nymph "Oenone" who was the first
wife of Paris. The poem is focused on an ironic dilemma. The character Oenone laments her fate and is portrayed as a victim to outside circumstances. But she is also trapped by her own fruitless passion, left in desolation and forced to regard death as a victory.

The poem is also admired for the sketch of natural scenery which was influenced by the poet's experience of the Pyrenees Mountains.
The title character of the poem Oenone is a character from Greek myth. Oenone watches as her spouse chooses among Hera, Pallas
Athena, and Aphrodite as "the most fair". She hoped that he would either Hera's offer or Pallas' better promise of Self-reverence,
self-knowledge, self-control'. But swayed by venereal beauty and erotic desire, he chose Aphrodite's gift of the fairest and most loving
wife in Greece. The poem finally hints at the aftermath of Paris choice and the fall of Troy.

In "Oenone", the title character represents the absolute contrary of the self-control, self-knowledge and self-reverence that
characterizes the main message of the Idylls. Her actions in letting her emotions control her is similar to the actions that Paris, her
betrayer, committed. She, like him, is a victimiser to herself. When he refuses, she is dominated by her emotions in the same way Paris is dominated by his own. Her actions are closer to those of Aphrodite, the goddess that Oenone competes against for Paris's affection. It is a slant commentary on the difficulties of "women's influence," made from the long perspective of history and perhaps the poet's close study of contemporary male behaviour. Despite such ironic twist, the poem lacks the usual deep psychological analysis of the speaker found in a successful dramatic monologue.

Tennyson wrote "Oenone" in a metre over which he afterwards obtained an eminent command. It is also the first of his idylls and of his classical studies, with their melodious rendering of the Homeric epithets and the composite words, which Tennyson had the art of coining after the Greek manner (lily-cradled,' 'river-sundered, dewy-dashed') for compact description or ornament. Critics often
complains that the blank verse of "Oenone" lacks the even flow and harmonious balance of later poems. Yet his style is simple and he has rejected cumbrous metaphor. He is less sententious. He is endowed with the flowery exuberance and the sensuous colour of his
composition. The following lines and the opening lines of the poem are among the best of Tennyson's blank verse lines, and therefore
among the best that English poetry contains. The description owes some of its beauty to Homer

“It was the deep midnoon: one silvery cloud
Had lost his way between the piney sides
Of this long glen. Then to the bower they came,
Naked they came to that smooth-swarded bower,
And at their feet the crocus brake like fire,
Violet, amaracus, and asphodel,
Lotos and lilies: and a wind arose,”

The refrain, "Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die” reveals Oenone's imprisonment to both the situation she finds herself in and of her emotions. Blank verse matches well with the passionate tone of the speaker.

The poem, therefore, is a classic example of human frailty which is prevalent not only in Victorian society but also in every age. The
jealousy and possessiveness of Oenone is similar to Tennyson's feelings at the time for Hallam's company, as Tennyson believed that
he would be separated from his friend by a woman.

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