Art is like a little society within the large society- a society of art within the society at large. Many artists have two ambitions – to gain artistic recognition within the society of art, and to have effects in the society at large social effects are also expected as part of art policy. The problem is that these ambitions are not easily reconcilable. The society of art has its own system of power,with norms that makes it difficult for artists to have effects in the society at large without its prior recognition. The society of art must balance its demand for full independence against its need for resources from the society at large. The society at large, on its part must balance its contributions towards the society of art against the surplus value it creates for it in return. .
Just like so many Victorian poets and intellectuals, Alfred Lord Tennyson found it hard to give poetry and the figure of the poet a place in society. Not only was he concerned about his public role as a poet, but he struggled with the notion of art for art's sake, at times propagating that art should have no purpose, while on other occasions claiming that art should be socially and morally committed. This uncertainty about tyhe role of the poet and the function of poetry was reflected in his poetry as well, as Catherine Barnes Stevenson claims, Tennyson had been looking , since the very beginning of his career, for images that accurately portrayed his ideas on the poet's role and the function of poetry. .
In this paper, I will attempt to define Tennyson's poetry in general and his alignment with Victorian notions of poetry in specific. More specifically, I will examine how Tennyson conceives of the poet's persona , his/her role in society and the ultimate purpose of the poetry . However, Tennyson's oevre is too large to encompass every single poem poem of his.