The New Student's Reference Work/The Princess

The Princess, a medley by Tennyson, is among his earlier productions and appeared in 1847. The story is a single one, told in blank verse in seven cantos with a prologue and a conclusion and with a lyrical song between each canto. A princess of the south has been betrothed to a prince of the north in early childhood. She, however, was not favorably inclined to the marriage when she had matured. She felt the call to something higher. Consequently she set up a women's college in entire isolation from the world, it being an inviolable rule that no man should ever enter. The outcome of the story is that the college fails, the princess weds and thus illustrates that knowledge and high intellectual and esthetic ideals apart from real social life are impotent. A child is one of the potent means of arousing and bringing the princess to her true self. The poem is a medley in that it unites in itself the medieval and the modern, the serious and the farcical, the congruous and the incongruous, the possibly real and the impossibly fanciful. The lyrics between the cantos are the most delightful parts of the poem, and critics are well-agreed that when The Princess has been forgotten these exquisitely beautiful songs will live. Aside from their own beauty, they assist in interpreting and predicting the meaning of the whole poem.