In Alfred Tennyson's poem "Locksley Hall", the speaker recounts the tragic love story of his youth. The poem's early lines recall the moment Amy reveals that she loves the speaker, followed by descriptions of the blissful times the lovers share. But their love is impermanent, as the speaker's abrupt change of tone reveals:
Many an evening by the waters did we watch the stately ships,
And our spirits rush'd together at the touching of the lips.
O my cousin, shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!
O the dreary, dreary moorland! O the barren, barren shore!
Within the span of these four lines, Tennyson establishes the poem's true target. This is not a happy love story; it is a bitter reminiscence of a love that might have been, had Amy not married another man. The remainder of the poem is filled with angry reprimands and cynical warnings, as the speaker viciously lashes out at Amy and all women as a whole.
Sir John Everett Millais's illustration of "Locksley Hall" depicts the young lovers embracing, unaware that their love will soon fail. The lovers' pose indeed illustrates their spirits rushing together "at the touching of the lips. "They hold each other tightly at the edge of a beach, just before the sea begins, while "the stately ships" sail in the distance.
1. The majority of the poem attacks Amy for being unfaithful to the speaker. Why might Millais have chosen to illustrate the lovers embracing? Are there any signs of the misery to come?
2. Does the couple seem out of place on the beach? What might be the thematic significance of the lovers' placement on a beach at the sea's edge?
Left. Millais's illustration to "Locksley Hall." Right. Hunt's illustration to "Oriana."
3. Does Amy fit the criteria of a femme fatale figure? Is this supported by the way in which Millais illustrated her physical appearance?
4. How necessary is a viewer's knowledge of the poem to the viewing of the illustration?
5. William Holman Hunt's illustration of "The Ballad of Oriana" also portrays two lovers unaware of their doomed love. How is Hunt's illustration different from Millais's?
Last modified 1 October 2006