Tennyson’s Suppressed Poems


The New Timon and the Poets

From Punch, February 28, 1846. Bulwer Lytton published in 1845 his satirical poem ‘New Timon: a Romance of London,’ in which he bitterly attacked Tennyson for the civil list pension granted the previous year, particularly referring to the poem ‘O Darling Room’ in the 1833 volume. Tennyson replied in the following vigorous verses, which made the literary sensation of the year. Tennyson afterwards declared: ‘I never sent my lines to Punch. John Forster did. They were too bitter. I do not think that I should ever have published them.’—Life, vol. I, p. 245.

Alfred Tennyson

WE know him, out of Shakespeare’s art,
    And those fine curses which he spoke;
The old Timon, with his noble heart,
    That, strongly loathing, greatly broke.

So died the Old: here comes the New:
    Regard him: a familiar face:
I thought we knew him: What, it’s you
    The padded man—that wears the stays—

Who killed the girls and thrill’d the boys
    With dandy pathos when you wrote,
A Lion, you, that made a noise,
    And shook a mane en papillotes.

And once you tried the Muses too:
    You fail’d, Sir: therefore now you turn,
You fall on those who are to you
    As captain is to subaltern.

But men of long enduring hopes,
    And careless what this hour may bring,
Can pardon little would-be Popes
    And Brummels, when they try to sting.

An artist, Sir, should rest in art,
    And wave a little of his claim;
To have the deep poetic heart
    Is more than all poetic fame.

But you, Sir, you are hard to please;
    You never look but half content:
Nor like a gentleman at ease
    With moral breadth of temperament.

And what with spites and what with fears,
    You cannot let a body be:
It’s always ringing in your ears,
    ‘They call this man as good as me.’

What profits now to understand
    The merits of a spotless shirt—
A dapper boot—a little hand—
    If half the little soul is dirt?

You talk of tinsel! why we see
    The old mark of rouge upon your cheeks.
You prate of nature! you are he
    That spilt his life about the cliques.

A Timon you! Nay, nay, for shame:
    It looks too arrogant a jest—
The fierce old man—to take his name
    You bandbox. Off, and let him rest.

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