Analysis of Song: Tears, Idle Tears

The poem, “Song: tears, Idle Tears” was part of a longer poem, and it was written as a song, as the title clearly states. Alfred lord Tennyson was British and was born in 1809 and he died in 1892.

Th title of the poem is the same as the fist few words of the poem and this suggests that it is a continuation from the title, perhaps like a narrative.

“Tears, idle ears, I know not what they mean”, this probably means that his tears have been flowing for so long tat he doesn’t even remember why he is crying. The repetition on tears emphasizes that he was crying a lot. “tears from the depth of some divine despair…”, despair was considered a sin, so ‘divine despair’ is an oxymoron as divine is something good and despair is not. This probably shows that Lord Tennyson; a) Didn’t believe in religion and its teachings or b) he considered despair as something great. He may have used the word divine to show the d=greatness of his despair.

“Rise in the heart and gathers to the eyes,” here, enjambment from the previous line helps in continuing the rhyme scheme as well as the narrative story. He describes his tears as rising in the ‘heart’, which tells us that his tears were genuine and thy were not fake as they came from his heart. He flashes back to the memories of ‘Autumn-Fields’ and laments on them, “thinking of the days that are no more.”.

“Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail..that brings our friends up from the underworld.” This creates imagery of a ‘sail’ first coming into view. This perhaps means that he is hoping his ‘friends’ come back from the dead. These two lines are a contrast as he says that the first beam was fresh, but the people from the underworld will not be fresh as they are buried underground. “Sad as the last which reddens over one…below the verge.” This creates reversed image of the first two lines of the stanza 2, as in the first two lines, it shows how they emerge while in this one it shows how it sinks. This probably shows the cycle of life and the dipping and rising of the sail creates a moving image int he readers mind. He says “sinks with all we love…”, this may probably mean that his love was also buried which shows that his lover also died. The word ‘all’ may suggest that he has lost a lot in life. “So sad, so fresh, the days that are more more…” this probably is a sort of lament and the reader can almost hear the ‘sigh’ in his voice. He says the sad days are still fresh which may mean that it was something recent, but this then contrasts wit the first statement, “Tears, Idle tears…” as this tells us that he has been crying for so long that he forgot what his tears were for but when he says ‘s fresh’, it means that the memory is still fresh in his head and that’s why he’s crying. This suggests that he is subconsciously revisiting the old memories and crying.

The third stanza of the poem is probably showing that last few moments of the dying person; “To dying ears, when unto dying eyes…grows a glimmering square,”. Dying ears and dying eyes suggests that it is the last few moments before death and his/her eyes are slowly closing. This contrasts with “Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns…the earliest pipe of half awakened birds…” as these lines describe the beginning of the day while the next two lines describes the last minutes before death. This may probably mean that the lover died at a young age as just when the world was about to start living, he/she was dying. Lord Tennyson, repeats the last line of the second stanza in the third stanza to re-emphasize.

The last stanza shows regret of loving his lover as he says, “…sweet as those by hopeless fancy feinged, on lips that are for others,” maybe his lover cheated on him and yet the narrator loved him/her and this makes it much more difficult for him. He says his love for his lover was ‘deep as first love’ and ‘wild with all regret’. which suggests that perhaps his lover had hurt him.

The last stanza may perhaps change the perspective of the reader as it might be that the poem was a metaphor for the ‘death of love’, not ‘death of lover’, for the narrator as his lover cheated on him as he says ‘O death in life’ which means that his emotions were dead even though he was alive.

There is no consistent rhyme scheme as it is a blank verse, yet the internal rhyme and the narrative pace of the poem helps give it a rhyme. The tone of the poem is filled with regret and lament, it is slow and steady and this probably means that the narrator is having a flashback to these memories quite often, A lot of descriptive imagery is used to create a picture in the reader’s mind to express the narrator’s despair more vividly.

The poem is written to describe the narrator’s love for his lover and how devastated he is and Lord Tennyson successfully achieves this by using a simplistic yet descriptive way of writing the poem which makes it very easy for the reader to understand and sympathize with the narrator.


My take on the ‘Sociological Imagination’

C. Wright Mills explains that sociological imagination is the ability to see and understand the impact of social factors and changes on individuals’ private and/or public lives. Sociological imagination plays a vital role in the life of a sociologist as, only when we have the ability to look beyond our lives and view the world with a different perspective, do we have the power to escape or destroy our traps.

We do not view the changes in our lives as being part of a bigger picture; rather we view them as our own private troubles. Mills says that people are seldom aware of the social forces behind the ups and downs of their personal lives. They fail to connect their lives to the ‘Bigger picture’ often times failing to realize that the shaping of their lives also shapes the society that they live in and that it also determines the historical changes taking place. They don’t understand that their life is entwined with the structural arrangements of our society and the times in which we live. We should be aware of the fact that everything we do or everything that happens to us has a sort of a ‘Butterfly effect’ on the society. Just like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings could affect the weather or cause a hurricane, any changes in our lives are also responsible for historical changes no matter how minute they are.

To have an active sociological imagination, a person must have the ability to think from a broader perspective and think of how it may affect the society as a whole. We often use the term ‘Why me?” when going through certain problems in our lives but instead of feeling hopeless, one should consider the factors that may have led to the situation. Things that can affect what goes on in one’s life are; firstly, the time we live in. We all know that as the world has evolved and gone through various stages since the Stone Age, the characteristic of humans and societies have also changed in order to adapt to that period of time. So every time is different to the one before and the one coming after and every time comes with its own characteristics that affect the lives of the individuals in that time. Secondly, consider the society that one lives in; are the people in your society the same as the people in an Indian or African society? Do people have the same social norms, values, opinions in every part of the world? It is usually social norms that affect our behavior and our personal lives the most as we all live in communities and as part of a society. We are not individuals each living in his/her own island and we all contribute to the formation of our society.

At first when I was faced with the problem of racism, I felt it was my personal issue and as most people I kept dwelling over the question ‘Why me?’ but after reading and understanding Mills theory of a sociological imagination, I forced myself to think outside my personal wall and understand the issue in a larger perspective. Although, it is very easy to tell somebody else to have a social imagination or ‘think from someone else’s point of view’, it is in reality very difficult to achieve because as humans we are born with the tendency to feel sorry or pity ourselves. This restrains us from looking at a broader perspective but we have to push ourselves out there in order to achieve social imagination.

Looking at the problem of racism from a broader perspective, I realized that firstly, due to the times we are currently living in, racism is kind of like an inbuilt characteristic in the people of this time due to many factors such as the media and the way that it manipulates our minds. Various forms of media are easily available to everybody these days and the portrayal of certain countries in certain ways has led to the shaping of our thinking. Secondly, I realized that racism is prevalent in my society more due to the fact that most of the people in society have had an upbringing that teaches them to look down upon certain ethnicities. Although realizing this may not have had a huge impact on the society as a whole, it made me feel less trapped and gave me the understanding that being racist was considered a ‘social norm’ for some people.

Reason Vs Passion

Being a romantic novel Jane Eyre includes many light and heavy passionate scenes yet at the same time being a realistic autobiography it also includes reason and logic in order to make the novel seem realistic and not very fairytale like. Charlotte Bronte achieves perfect balance between these two contradictory notions by using them alongside each other cleverly disguising one in the other.

Passion and practicality are strong emotions that often control the way people think; passion usually takes the lead when it comes to choosing between passion and reason.  Jane and Rochester are faced with many situations where they have to make a decision either sacrificing passion or reason. Jane usually sacrifices passion as she has morals and self respect. She does not want to be a mistress as she does not like being second best and she wants to be an equal.  Rochester however acts on impulse and so does not make reasonable decisions.

 In the play, the passion scenes begin when Jane becomes governess of Thornfield and meets Mr. Rochester.  The first meeting although it isn’t love at first sight leads to the building up of the romance between these two characters. The first scene where passion is shown evidently when Jane rescues Rochester from the fire started by Bertha on his bed and Rochester asks her to stay even after the fire is put out; “what! Are you quitting me already…?” This shows that Rochester was lonely and he saw some kind of a friend in Jane. He asks her to shake hands with him but he is still not familiar with his inner feelings for her. When Jane and Rochester are in the same room together, the fire in the fireplace seems to grow brighter. This reflects their unknown growing passion for each other as even the fire grows unknowingly.  Jane feels the passion after she leaves from Rochester’s room “a shore sweet as the hills of Beulah;” but her sense takes over and she says “Sense would resist delirium: judgment would warn passion.”

Rochester is a very rebellious character as he does everything that is against society and he proves himself once again when he asks Jane to play charades with him Blanche Ingram; “Will you play?” Jane being a governess is not supposed to “play” or “mingle” with anyone from outside but Rochester disregards this society law and asks Jane to play with him. Again Jane turns down this invitation as she knows her place in society and she knows the laws of society and how they should be followed. “I shook my head.” This shows Jane is a very reasonable lady and she thinks before she acts which is completely opposite to Rochester’s thinking. Jane is very considerate about how the society views her and what they think about her. Used to being rejected by Mrs. Reed and Mr. Brocklehurst  Jane finds herself trying to be accepted in society by following the laws of the society and behaving according to how the society expects her to behave.

Rochester’s longing for Jane is revealed when Rochester disguises himself as a gypsy and tries to find out Jane’s feelings for him and Jane does inquire about Rochester’s marriage “is it known that Mr. Rochester is to be married?” this unveils the fact that Jane in fact does care for Rochester as she inquires about him. This also shows that she has some feelings for Rochester but she does not accept it because she knows that Rochester is on a higher level than her and she also knows that she is no match against Blanche Ingram, that’s one of the reasons why she is denial of her feelings for Rochester. Jane demands equality and self respect and she knows that she can never be an equal in front of Rochester so she decides to keep her feelings to herself and tries to ignore them as much as possible. When the gypsy tells her about Rochester getting married, she changes the topic “I came to hear my own; and you have told me nothing of it.” She gets offended when she finds out that the gypsy woman was actually Mr. Rochester, “It is scarcely fair, sir” as she didn’t want Rochester to find out that she inquired about him and she feels very awkward.

Rochester gets more and more desperate as each passing chapter and he gets more frantic when the idea of Jane staying away from him comes, he can’t let her go for more than a week; “promise me only to stay a week-“but Jane replies in a diplomatic way saying, “I had better not pass my word: I might be obliged to break it” Rochester again and again proves that he is immature and unruly and Jane keeps proving that she is responsible and has her moral sense in the right place. She doesn’t lead Rochester into believing anything has changed which proves that she is smart and responsible.

The time finally comes when Rochester realises that he loves Jane and he proposes to her after she comes back from Gate shed, “I summon you as my wife: it is you only I intend to marry.” Jane is shocked at hearing this because once again she thinks that Rochester has took this decision in a hurry and that’s the reason she tried to read his face, but when she is completely sure that Rochester loves her, she accepts, “Then, sir, I will marry you.” This again proves that Jane does not take any decision in a hurry even if it is something that she wants.

All the scenes in the novel have been fiery passionate scenes that have always been initiated by Rochester, but the last scene when Jane meets Rochester in Fern dean is a very soft, comforting passion scene which is a perfect ending for a romantic novel; “the muted autumnal delicacy of their reconciliation at Fern dean, poised between laughter and tears.” This scene brings out the emotional side of both Jane and Rochester and this makes the audience empathise with them.

Rochester being a fiery character always chooses passion over reason without thinking twice. Even when he realises that acting on impulse is not always the best thing to do, he does not learn from his mistakes and this affects his relationship with Jane. Jane meanwhile being neither a cold nor fiery character is perfectly balanced and makes the right decisions on the right time without hurrying into anything too fast. She considers the effect that her decision will have on her and those around her as well and this helps her make reasonable decisions. In the end Jane’s moral sense triumphs Rochester’s rebellious nature and at the end of the novel Jane finally tames Rochester and lives an imperfect yet happy life.