In "The Last Tournament," Tennyson opens the poem with the story of the child with the ruby necklace discovered by Arthur and Sir Lancelot in an eagle's nest. The "maiden babe" (line 21), after being given to Guinevere, tragically dies soon after from illness. Guinevere gives the infant's jewels "of dead innocence" to Arthur to serve as a "tourney-prize" (lines 30-31). Later, in "The Tournament of the Dead Innocence" (line 136), Launcelot is forced to award Tristram the innocent infant's jewels. In the following passage, Tennyson describes the feast which is held that night, as the participants attempt to uplift the saddened spirits of Sir Lancelot and the Queen.

So dame and damsel glitter'd at the feast
Variously gay; for he that tells he tale
Liken'd them, saying, as when an hour of cold
Falls on the the mountain in midsummer snows,
And all the purple slopes of mountain flowers
Pass under white, till the warm hour returns
With veer of wind and all are flowers again,
So dame and damsel cast the simple white,
And glowing in all colors, the live grass,
Rose-campion, bluebell, kingcup, poppy, glanced
About the revels, and with mirth so loud
Beyond all use, that, half-amazed, the Queen,
And wroth at Tristram and the lawless jousts,
Brake up their sports, then slowly to her bower
Parted, and in her bosom pain was lord. [lines 225-239]

Discussion Questions

1. What is the literary device employed by Tennyson in this passage? How is this device effective? How does it characterize this work as an epic and demonstrate the influence of classical poetry upon Tennyson?

2. How does snow (and the seasons) figure symbolically throughout the poem? What role does color imagery play in this poem?

3. What other significant literary devices are used by Tennyson to enhance the lyricism of his poetry? For example, examine lines 154-159:

And ever the wind blew, and yellowing leaf,
And gloom and gleam, and shower and shorn plume
Went down it. Sighing weariedly, as one
Who sits and gazes on a faded fire,
When all the goodlier guests are past away,
Sat their great umpire looking o'er the lists.

Here is another example: "And pettish cries awoke, and the wan day / Went glooming down in wet and weariness" (lines 214-215).


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Last modified 15 April 2003