Dionysian Music, Patriotic Sentiment, and Tennyson's Idylls of the King

Dionysian Music, Patriotic Sentiment, and Tennyson's Idylls of the King AYE ÇELIKKOL n The Coming of Arthur, the first idyll in the narrative sequence of Idylls of the King,1 the youthful Gawain, who is not yet a knight, wanders a terrain that is not yet Arthur's: And Gawain went, and breaking into song Sprang out, and followed by his flying hair Ran like a colt, and leapt at all he saw.2 The gush of a spring and its animalistic counterpart, the gallop of a colt, evoke untamed and irrepressible ebullience. The act of breaking into a song, which suggests a sudden outburst, complements the overwhelming energy that Gawain's actions embody. Unbroken like a colt, Gawain sings and travels impulsively. This glimpse at the pre-Arthurian world suggests a link between music and spontaneity that the Idylls in its entirety develops and elaborates. I will suggest in this essay that, through this link, the poem provides a sophisticated commentary on the affective and political functions of music--and, in fact, of the aesthetic as a general category--that is in dialogue with contemporary debates about the topic. As recent scholarship has revealed, music in early- and mid-Victorian culture was "a charged site of struggle insofar as it was promoted as both a http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Victorian Poetry West Virginia University Press

Dionysian Music, Patriotic Sentiment, and Tennyson's Idylls of the King

Victorian Poetry, Volume 45 (3) – Nov 15, 2007

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Publisher
West Virginia University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2007 West Virginia University. All rights reserved.
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1530-7190
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Abstract

AYE ÇELIKKOL n The Coming of Arthur, the first idyll in the narrative sequence of Idylls of the King,1 the youthful Gawain, who is not yet a knight, wanders a terrain that is not yet Arthur's: And Gawain went, and breaking into song Sprang out, and followed by his flying hair Ran like a colt, and leapt at all he saw.2 The gush of a spring and its animalistic counterpart, the gallop of a colt, evoke untamed and irrepressible ebullience. The act of breaking into a song, which suggests a sudden outburst, complements the overwhelming energy that Gawain's actions embody. Unbroken like a colt, Gawain sings and travels impulsively. This glimpse at the pre-Arthurian world suggests a link between music and spontaneity that the Idylls in its entirety develops and elaborates. I will suggest in this essay that, through this link, the poem provides a sophisticated commentary on the affective and political functions of music--and, in fact, of the aesthetic as a general category--that is in dialogue with contemporary debates about the topic. As recent scholarship has revealed, music in early- and mid-Victorian culture was "a charged site of struggle insofar as it was promoted as both a

Journal

Victorian PoetryWest Virginia University Press

Published: Nov 15, 2007

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