N°. 019


And quoted odes, and jewels five-words-long
That on the stretched forefinger of all Time
Sparkle forever.

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Definition: /Verb/

Old English streccan, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch strecken.

prostrate (oneself, one’s body); extend (one’s limbs) in a reclining position.

2) extend the arms laterally, straighten to one’s full height or length, especially from a stooped, cramped or relaxed position.

3)  make taut; make a rope, piece of cloth, etc., straight by pulling at the ends.

4) direct one’s hope, trust, etc., towards someone or something, extend relieve to a person.

Extra Elements of Interest ::

This quote is from The Princess by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, canto II, line 355-56, published in 1847.
(As this poem is in the public domain, you can download on Kindle and many other devices for free.)

In the poem, Princess Ida decides to never marry and instead founds a school of higher learning exclusively for women in a remote location.  A love story is woven throughout wherein – Shakespeare-like – her suitor (betrothed to her from birth) disguises himself as a women in order to pursue her.  Drama ensues including a drowning, war and sickness.  But the poem is remarkable for addressing and debating the equality of the genders – in love, in education and in marriage. (Read a summary of the plot here.)

The full section of this quote describes what learning at the University of Maidens is like ::

And then we stroll ‘d
For half the day thro’ stately theatres
Bench ‘d crescent-wise. In each we sat, we heard
The grave Professor. On the lecture slate
The circle rounded under female hands 
With flawless demonstration. Follow’ d then
A classic lecture, rich in sentiment,
With scraps of thunderous epic lilted out
By violet-hooded Doctors, elegies
And quoted odes, and jewels five-words-long 
That on the stretch ‘d forefinger of all Time
Sparkle forever. Then we dipp’d in all
That treats of whatsoever is, the state,
The total chronicles of man, the mind,
The morals, something of the frame, the rock, 
The star, the bird, the fish, the shell, the flower,
Electric, chemic laws, and all the rest,
And whatsoever can be taught and known;
Till like three horses that have broken fence,
And glutted all night long breast-deep in corn, 
We issu’d gorg’d with knowledge


Alfred Tennyson was poet laureate of the United Kingdom for over forty years – from 1850-1892.  As such, he and his work is closely associated with the Victorian age and Romantic poetry.  He is best known for his poem, The Idylls of the King, about the legend of King Arthur.  Other famous poems include The Charge of the Light Brigade about a battle in the Crimean War and The Lady of Shalott, which is based on Elaine, a lesser-known character of the legend of Arthur.  I had a poster of John William Waterhouse’s 1888 painting, now at the Tate Gallery in London, based on that poem.


By John William Waterhouse

Here is another Victorian painter – John Melhuish Strudwick’s depiction of Princess Ida, the heroine of this poem.  You can see today in the Liverpool Museum.


By John Melhuish Strudwick

The Poetry Foundation offers Tennyson’s biography here.

The Amercian Academy of Poets describes his life and contributions here.


In 1884, Gilbert and Sullivan created an opera based on Tennyson’s poem, Princess Ida.

Here are excerpts from the opera.

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