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The two poems ‘The Old Familiar Faces’ and ‘Tears, Idle Tears’ both share the same genre; loss and regret. Each poet Charles Lamb with ‘The Old Familiar Faces’ and Alfred, Lord Tennyson with ‘Tears, Idle Tears’ talk about the past and their experiences.
The poems both convey an atmosphere of sadness and regret and this is continued throughout every line of each poem. Lamb is ultimately saddened because he is left as the carer of his mentally ill sister, after his mother’s death.
But there is a twist. Lambs mentally unstable sister murdered their mother and as to prevent his sister being taken to an asylum Lamb was forced to nurse her. This meant that Lamb had to live with the person who had killed his own mother, which is very difficult situation to be in! As it would to anyone the death of his mother was extremely traumatic to Lamb, this is the most terrible event Lamb has incurred (especially in the given circumstances), as this is the first subject that Lamb writes about.
We become suspicious of the above facts when we read she,
‘Died prematurely in a day of horrors’. Lamb then lists in his poem eight other specific reasons why he is sad. Overall Lamb is sad because he believes everyone in his life has gone when he quotes,
‘All, all are gone the old familiar faces’. Tennyson’s poem is definitely contrasted to Lambs as Lamb knows why he is upset but Tennyson is crying ‘idle tears’ and the poem is about Tennyson’s subconscious self.
Tennyson does not know what he is distressed about as he admits,
‘Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,’ Tennyson realises there must be a reason in his inner self why he is crying but still does not know why he is crying. I believe Tennyson is much more deeply upset, as he does not know why he is crying. A reason why Tennyson could be crying is because he has reached his ‘Autumn years’. The ‘Autumn years’ can be explained using the metaphor as follows: Spring in these terms is a time of new life and new beginnings, Summer is a time of living life to the full and great happiness (maybe marriage), Autumn is a season when leaves drop off tree’s and everything is getting old and Winter is a time when the natural world is near death as plants die and animal hibernate. Therefore Tennyson is getting old and has realised he has no one and he doesn’t want to be old and lonely.
Both poets are significantly devastated for their individual reasons. Lamb as I have stated is devastated because his mother was killed by his sister, and Tennyson because of something in his subconscious self. I conclude this is the main reason why Lamb is tormented as Lamb prioritises his poem to show what he has lost and which things he has lost have affected him the most. Lamb comments he has lost people such as his, playmates, girlfriends and friends, but not all have died some he has left. We can see this from quotations such as,
‘I left him abruptly’ and ‘all are departed’. I believe Lamb wrote his poem this way to try and solve his deepest dilemmas. He also throughout the poem concentrates on who has gone out of his life and how he feels about that. Lamb feels everyone and everything has left him. He feels abandoned and depraved as he writes,
‘I had a mother but she died and left me’. Lamb also uses words like,
‘ day of horrors’ and ‘prematurely’ to show how devastated he really was. Lamb also says he feels like a ghost. I believe Lamb’s mother being killed was the inspiration for this piece of poetry, as he seems most upset about her death. Her death was probably the one event that ‘tipped him over the edge and made him decide to write the poem. Tennyson shows his devastation in a very different way, at the start of the poem he is puzzled to why he is upset but then he realizes it is to do with,
‘the days that are no more’ Tennyson also uses word such as, ‘despair’, ‘sad’ and ‘death’ to express his ruin. Tennyson also uses many phrases such as,
‘Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail, That brings our friends up from the underworld’. Tennyson uses contrast such as this throughout his poem to show that he compares everything good and positive to negative and evil thoughts. He does this to show that he cannot bring himself to see good in the more purist of experiences. For example the sunrise is a symbol of a new day, a new beginning or a new chance but Tennyson writes,
‘Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns’. This is Alfred, Lord Tennyson using an oxymoron to good effect as ‘dawns’ are supposed to be positive but the poet in question is so depressed that he sees it only in a negative tense. Tennyson, like Lamb also uses repetition to express and emphasise his ultimate devastation as he keeps repeating the line,
‘the days that are no more’, again this is Tennyson reflecting that what has gone and he cannot retrieve it. In this state of mind Tennyson cannot even (he feels) be rescued by the most powerful emotion: love. As love has failed him he says,
‘On lips that are for others’. By writing this line Tennyson is telling us that people love others but not him In contrast to this Lamb has encountered love but when we read,
‘I loved once, fairest among women. Closed all her doors to me’ we are lead to believe that she left Lamb but didn’t return. I think that there are a number of points that have accumulated to lead Tennyson into the depths of depression and sadness that he has reached.
The two poems have each been written in a different approach to telling the reader about their loss and regret. For example, Tennyson begins his poem by telling us that he is in despair and that he is reflecting upon his past, ‘Autumn fields’ and what he has lost. We know he is reflecting on what he has lost because he repeats the line,
‘the days that are no more’. Tennyson then reveals that what he feels should be happy images to him are sad because he cannot see good in anything. Tennyson talks about a happy past, but remembering good times still does not ease his depression as he again then describes some sadness. Tennyson contrasts opposites as he writes phrases such as,
‘Deep as first love, and wild with regret’ this is linking a good, happy event (his first love) with negativity (regret) so it is a contrast. Alternatively to this, Lamb states in the poem what he has HAD, then he will give a line describing whatever it is, then he will express that it has now gone and he regrets that fact. For example he quotes,
‘I have had playmates, I have had companions, in my days of childhood, in my joyful school days, All, all are gone, the old familiar faces’. Here Lamb is admitting that he has been happy but emphasising on the ‘has’ part of the verse, and that he is not happy now. Lambs says he is not happy now but he would like to change that fact as we read,
‘Why were thou not born in my father’s dwelling? So might we talk of old familiar faces.’ Which means he is asking anyone and everyone (the reader) why they were not born in his father’ house (meaning the person he was asking would then know the people he wanted to talk about) so he could talk about people he remembered. Lamb wants to talk about the past because he was happy and if he could talk to someone about the past and they could reply then he would be happy again.
The design of Lambs poem is different to Tennyson’s as Lamb has eight stanzas and Tennyson has four. Charles Lamb has eight verses for the reason that he is trying to tell the reader all the reasons why he is devastated. He also prioritises the reasons for his depression, as he talks about his mother first then about his happy childhood and so on. In ‘The Old Familiar Faces’ Lamb Tells the reader about his life story, he mention the change from childhood to adulthood and how he was happy and innocent when he was a child but now he is an adult he is sad and unhappy, and he feels regret about the changes brought on by time.
Each poet, uses repetition to reiterate their sadness and regret. For example, Tennyson uses
‘The days that are no more’, Tennyson here is reflecting on, what has happened has happened, and that cannot be changed and he is getting older and older each day and he cannot change that fact either. Lamb decided to repeat the line,
‘All, all are gone, the old familiar faces’ which means everyone he knew and loved have gone (died or left him) and he is depressed because of this, he cannot bring them back, so he feels helpless.
Finally, I believe Tennyson’s poem ‘Tears, Idle Tears’ is a more powerful poem, as in just four verses Tennyson gives the reader a detailed insight in to his inner thoughts and feelings. Yet, Lambs poem is more of a list and tells you, the reader what is hassling him and he does not give you a defined insight into his inner feelings. To help the reader, ‘feel’ what Tennyson thought he uses a lot of similes and metaphors as to put across his thoughts, which I believe helps to give a better insight into what Tennyson was actually enduring.
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