poetry underfoot

September 16, 2014

Tennyson - The Two Voices

What would Alfred, Lord Tennyson say?

The Two Voices,” written when Tennyson was just 24, is a 462-line conversation made up of rhymed tercets. In the poem, two voices attempt to persuade one another of the merits of grief, suicide, faith, loss of faith, despair and hope.

From this intense and rather dark exchange, the British Museum, in London, has inscribed a portion of one stanza in the floor of the Great Court — a fragment that betrays nothing of the poem’s subject or form.

This is the complete tercet, which appears about a quarter of the way into the poem:

Forerun thy peers, thy time, and let
Thy feet, millenniums hence, be set
In midst of knowledge, dream’d not yet.

The space is grand, the sentiment museum-appropriate. What would Tennyson say?
. . . . .
photo by Jon Spence