Alfred Lord Tennyson frequently referred to historical events and the past. Some examples of this are "Ulysses- and "The Lotos-Eaters,"" in which Tennyson explored the mythological past. Tennyson spoke of the Crimean War in "The Charge of the Light Brigade,"" and even explored his own past in, "In Memoriam."".
Critics claim that Tennyson's greatest achievement was "In Memoriam,"" the series of 131 elegies written over seventeen years and published anonymously in 1850. "In Memoriam,"" was written in 1833 after the death of his close friend, Arthur Hallam. Not only was Hallam a close friend, he was the fiancé of Tennyson's sister, Emily. "In Memoriam,"" starts off as a funeral and ends with a wedding. The poem was described by Tennyson as "a kind of Divina Commedia,"" but to a friend he confessed "It's too hopeful, this poem, more than I am myself-.
Tennyson did not forget about his friend and wrote "Tears, Idle Tears,"" in 1845. One line stated, "O Death in Life, the days that are no more."" That line was a reference to his years of friendship with Hallam. "Death in Life,"" was a reference to the years after Hallam's death. The death of his good friend remained a haunting, obsessive presence for the rest of Tennyson's life, a focal point for all of his sadness and his feelings of loss.
Even in Tennyson's times of depression, he was often described as a national watchdog. In early 1852, he thought that England's government was not sufficiently alert to the threat of invasion from France. He was enraged and fired off a series of complaints to the press, calling on the ministers to wake up and bring the country to arms.
Soon after Tennyson voiced his complaints, he had something to say about his country's reluctance to go to war and wrote "Maud."" The public and critics were shocked and confused. They disapproved of his experiments with meter and of his endorsement of not only the Crimean War, but war in general.