[Dominic Carlone has kindly shared Snatched Away in Beauty's Bloom, his elegantly designed Hallam site at the University of Windsor (from which this document comes), with readers of the the Victorian Web.]
Hallam rarely stepped out of "the abysmal depths of personality" in his poetry. His poems are personal and often deliberately autobiographical. We often hear echoes of the ultra-egotistical Byron in lines such as these:
Why throbbest thou, my heart, why thickly breathest?
I ask no rich and splendid eloquence:
A few words of the warmest and the sweetest
Sure thou mayst yield without such coy pretence. (Complete text)
Leaders of Victorian thought, such as Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, and even Alfred Tennyson, would likely have covered their eyes from such sentimentality as this. They sought to remedy Romantic self-indulgence, and they advocated poetry which grappled with contemporary social and moral issues. However, for Hallam, it seems that the ideal was to retreat with his lover into a fantasy world apart from the trials of reality, as we see in the lines:
Beloved, from the boisterous deeds that fill
The measure up of this unquiet time,
The dull monotonies of Faction's chime,
And irrepressible thoughts foreboding ill,
I turn to thee as to a heaven apart--
How shall I fear, knowing there is for me
A City of refuge, builded pleasantly
Within the silent places of the heart? (Complete text)
Victorian earnestness and social consciousness are nowhere to be found here. Of course, the notion that subjectivity, escapism and the probing of deep personal emotions is ipso facto wrong has been diluted since the anti-Romantic backlash of the later nineteenth century. Hallam's poems often do tend toward Romantic egotism. However, poems such as those quoted above, inspired by Hallam's relationsip with Emily Tennyson, capture the emotional exuberance of young love wonderfully, in much the same way that Keats' famous poems inspired by Fanny Brawne do. Furthermore, despite the efforts of some Victorians to destroy it, escapism has survived as a dominant force in literature to this day. By tapping directly into his emotions and expressing them frankly in vivid and concise verse, Hallam allows the reader to escape into his dreams with him, if only momentarily, through the vehicle of poetry.
Last modified 8 April 2000.