Quotation by Gilbert Highet

In middle life each man wrote a long elegiac work centering on the death of someone very near his heart: Tennyson's In Memoriam surely corresponds to Brahms' German Requiem.... At the other extreme you will no doubt think of Brahms' fiery Hungarian dances and graceful Viennese waltzes: in the work of Tennyson there are similar pieces, in broad dialect with touches of rough comedy and unbuttoned jollity, in particular "The Northern Farmer." Between these extremes, in the work of each man, lies a single masterpiece, strange but characteristic. Tennyson's Maud is what he calls a monodrama, a set of lyrics spoken by one man, telling the story of tragic love. In 1869 Brahms lost the beautiful Julie Schumann: the result was his famous Alto Rhapsody, an extended lyric, in fact a monodrama on the agonies of loneliness in a heart thirsty for love. The nineteenth century was a nationalist era, so both Brahms and Tennyson wrote pieces we should now call jingoistic: they are seldom played or read today, but they are part of the total picture. For Brahms the best known was his Triumph Song, written after the German conquests of France. For Tennyson, it was "The Charge of the Light Brigade," and other galloping and shouting lyrics.
Gilbert Highet (1906–1978), Scottish-born U.S. critic, biographer, educator. "The Poet and Musician," A Clerk of Oxenford: Essays on Life and Literature, Oxford University Press (1954).
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