August 6, 1809, Somersby,
England; 12:05 AM LMT
(Source: Sabian Symbols and Notable Nativities; also from him—“a
few minutes after midnight”)
Died, October 6, 1892, Aldworth, England.
(Ascendant Gemini with Venus
in Gemini rising and the Moon also in Gemini; MC, Aquarius; Sun, Leo;
Mercury, Cancer; Mars conjunct Uranus in Scorpio; Jupiter, Aries; Saturn
in Scorpio conjunct Neptune in Sagittarius; Pluto, Pisces)
Alfred Tennyson was one of
the England’s greatest poets, the most famous poet of the Victorian
Age, and a profound voice for the values of his cultural era. He is,
in fact, acclaimed by many as one of the greatest poets of all time,
due to the sheer beauty of his words, his notable mastery of technique,
his superb use of sensuously evocative language, his sensitive employment
of a variety of metric forms, and his profundity of thought. During
most of his life he was celebrated by both critics and the public, “lionized”
by his contemporaries in Victorian society. He became the very embodiment
of the Victorian “poet laureate” to which post he was appointed
by Queen Victoria in 1850. Queen Victoria was a triple Gemini, and,
hence, her appreciation of Tennyson—based in part on astrological
Tennyson was a sensitive
and troubled individual inclined to melancholy. Mental illness was part
of his family heredity, afflicting his father and his three brothers
as well. He, too, was for a time treated for mental problems (from the
appearance of the horoscope, probably a form of depression), and was
also victim of a mild form of epilepsy which ran in the family. But
for all his personal doubts and fears, his poetry had an altogether
inspiring effect upon his readers. Through the spaciousness and nobility
of his best verse, his graceful and harmonious phrasing, his palpable
sense of awe before the mystery of life—through his poetic mastery
altogether—he was able to convey a feeling of confidence, reassurance
and deep serenity.
To read Tennyson is to experience
the struggles of a soul immersed in a period of changing perceptions
about the nature, place and value of the human being. The evolutionary
theories of Darwin had made thinking people question the pedigree of
man, his relation to his fellow human beings and to God. A strong materialistic
strain was running through the second half of the nineteenth century
undermining humanity’s conviction of its own nobility, its own
distinction from the animal nature. All of this distressed Tennyson,
who despite his own misgivings, and awareness of the implications of
the new thought streams, emerged as the champion of the immortality
of the soul. Defiantly he refused to accept the materialistic conclusion,
and in this refusal spoke for the heart and hope of his society.
“Poems, Chiefly Lyrical” (1830 and 1842), including “The
Lotus-Eaters,” “A Dream of Fair Women,” and “The
Lady of Shalott.”, in an the later edition, “Locksley Hall,”
“Ulysses,” “Morte d’Arthur,” and “Break,
Break, Break”; "The Two Voices" (of which the original
title, significantly, was "Thoughts of a Suicide"), "Ulysses,"
"St. Simeon Stylites" (c. 1834-1836); “The Princess”
(1847); “In Memoriam” (1850); “Ode on the Death of
the Duke of Wellington” (1852); “The Charge of the Light
Brigade” (1855); “Maud” (a monodrama 1855) “Idylls
of the King” (1859); “Enoch Arden” (1864); “The
Holy Grail and Other Poems” (1869); “Despair” (1881);
“Tieresias” (1885); “Crossing the Bar” (1889);
“The Death of Oenone, Akbar's Dream, and Other Poems” (1892).
As well there were some plays, produced with little to moderate success.
and Ray Perspective
From a general astrological
perspective, it should be said that Tennyson’s chart confers a
tremendous literary emphasis through the Geminian Ascendant, Venus and
Moon. Leo bestowed his understanding of the nobility of the human soul
and opened his heart wide. The Tibetan Teacher associates Tennyson with
the sixth ray and calls him a “poet of the emotions” (EP
I 209). Clearly, as well, the fourth Ray of Harmony, Beauty and Art
In Esoteric Psychology
we are told:
“The sixth ray man
will be the poet of the emotions (such as Tennyson) and the writer of
religious books, either in poetry or prose. He is devoted to beauty
and colour and all things lovely, but his productive skill is not great
unless under the influence of one of the practically artistic rays,
the fourth or seventh”. (EP I 209-210)
It is always difficult to
discern whether D.K. (when He gives a ray association in general terms)
is talking about the soul or the personality. In general, it is wiser
to think the soul is being referenced. The personality, after all, is
not the real man, but, as evolution proceeds, only a sub-quality through
which the real inner man expresses himself. (Of course, the monad is
the still more real inner individual, but the monadic ray is not yet
of general relevance when considering the behavior and discernible motivation
of even advanced individuals and disciples.)
Tennyson was, indeed, a poet
of the emotions. His thought was deep and his perception of subtlety
keen, but ever his gift was to touch, move, to depress (on occasion),
or more often to inspire—to somehow evoke a deep and lingering
mood in the psyche his reader. So often his poems deal with loss—with
a person, time or place never again to be. He is filled with nostalgic
longing for beauties past retrieving.
“And the stately
ships go on,
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch
of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a
voice that is still!”
(From, Break, Break, Break)
The Neptunian side of the
sixth ray can be filled with melancholy. The reality of the present
never equals the beauty that is past or, far more rarely, yet to be.
The sixth ray is the ray of desire, often of desire unfulfilled. Thus,
in a way, it is the ray of discontent—sometimes “divine
discontent”. As few poets before or after him, Tennyson was able
to express an agonizing intensity of yearning: The following excerpt
is from In Memoriam, a large collection of fine poems mourning the loss
of his best friend Arthur Hallam.
“But what am
An infant crying in
An infant crying for
And with no language
but a cry.”
The language of the sixth
ray is, of course, the cry—the sigh, the prayer, the entreaty,
the inarticulate sound of yearning—all arising out of the solar
plexus, with which the sixth ray has the most affinity.
One can sense pervading Tennyson’s
words the presence of a glorious ideal—unspoken and irretrievably
lost. So much of his verse seems a mourning for the vanished ideal state.
Yet, after much agonizing (fourth ray), he rises to the moment, and
bravely presses forward in anticipation of greater things. One is so
often left encouraged, despite the suffering over loss. The protagonist
in Locksley Hall, after mourning (for many verses) the loss of his faithless
beloved, whom, clearly, still he deeply loves, heroically throws his
love aside and with it the long and rueful attachment to the manor (Locksley
Hall) which held his memory captive.
mine I knew not) help me as when life begun:
Rift the hills, and
roll the waters, flash the lightnings, weigh the Sun—
O, I see the crescent
promise of my spirit hath not set.
Ancient founts of inspiration
well thro’ all my fancy yet.
Howsoever these things
be, a long farewell to Locksley Hall!
Now for me the woods
may wither, now for me the roof-tree fall.
Comes a vapour from
the margin, blackening over heath and holt,
Cramming all the blast
before it, in its breast a thunderbolt.
Let it fall on Locksley
Hall, with rain or hail, or fire or snow;
For the mighty wind
arises, roaring seaward, and I go.”
may serve to show the depth of Tennyson’s sixth ray—his
immense devotion, and the grief it caused him. When his best friend
Arthur Hallam suddenly died at the age of twenty-two, Tennyson was disconsolate
not for months, but for years. Poem after poem poured from his pen,
as he sought to come to terms with his grief. At last, after many years,
he was willing to let his friend go (the deep and personal attachment
of the sixth ray) and here is how he expressed this release:
“Ring out, wild
bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the
The year is dying in
Ring out wild bells,
and let him die”
Illustrative of the strength
of the sixth ray in Tennyson’s outlook are his Arthurian romances
presented in the impressive collection of poems finally called Idylls
of the King, and the poem, The Lady of Shallot. The stories of King
Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table, of Lancelot, Guinevere, Galahad,
and Camelot have an irresistible fascination for romantic idealists.
Tennyson did his share to add to the mystique, further romanticizing
the famed and fabled time. Perhaps it was his retrospective vision of
a time and place more perfect than his own. Surely, it was a vision
fostered by the sixth ray in its search for ideal beauty, pristine purity
and uncompromised nobility. To this day, the mention of Camelot evokes
a kind of ‘auric glow’ of the promise of an ideal world.
Indeed that world fell, and Tennyson, in all beauty and power, chronicled
the fall—yet still sustained the yearning admiration for what
was promised and what might have been.
Conduits for the
When we look for the conduits
of the sixth ray in Tennyson’s chart, we find tenanted two of
the three signs conveying the sixth ray—first, the sign Pisces
with its esoteric ruler Pluto. Pluto is a planet which can be associated
not only with the first ray, but on the level of emotional obsessiveness,
with the sixth. Pluto attaches violently, then detaches; then the sign
Sagittarius, presently the most powerful of the sixth ray signs/constellations—Sagittarius
holds the sixth ray planet, Neptune.
As for Neptune, there is
such an unmistakable haunting, nostalgic feeling in much of Tennyson’s
poetry, that we might expect it to be very prominent by aspect, but
it is not—at least not by longitudinal aspects. Its major strength
is simply that it is in the aspiring sign Sagittarius, and in house
six, the house of one’s employment. Here it can signify one who
is a poet or musician by occupation. It can also signal illnesses of
a subtle, strange and undetermined nature. Neptune is widely conjunct
Saturn in Scorpio, which helped to render Tennyson’s vague imaginings
more tangible and concrete.
It is also trine to Pallas
Athene conveying the gift of what might be called ‘intelligent
poetic strategy’—Neptune is, with Venus, very much the planet
of poetry. Neptune does, however, have some important parallels of declination:
Neptune is closely parallel Pluto, giving deep intuitive penetration,
and a concentration upon the death (Pluto) of ideals (Neptune), and
contra-parallel Vesta in Gemini (Vesta—being the asteroid of devotion
and commitment—having in it much of the sixth ray), thus strengthening
still further the quality of devotion, especially devotion to his calling
as poet. There is also a wide contra-parallel (but within a degree)
from Neptune to Venus.
Venus and Vesta are found
quite closely conjuncted (longitudinal aspects) and Juno is included
in this little stellium; all are together with the Ascendant. This conjunction
defines for Tennyson the vocation of poet and gives an aesthetic (Venus)
dedication (Vesta) to the written and spoken word. The Venus position
is crucially important in Tennyson’s chart, and is here mentioned
because on a very deep level (most probably monadic) Venus is qualified
by the sixth ray of idealism and devotion. It is therefore, technically,
a conduit for the sixth ray, but only in the case of those who were
beginning to respond to the monad.
Mars is the other major planet
of the sixth ray and it is in a sign congenial to it—Scorpio,
showing the conflict and disturbances within the emotional realm and
the many inner struggles. Neptune in Sagittarius conveys idealism; Mars
in Scorpio, emotional stress and strain. Mars is very important, not
only for its conjunction to transformative Uranus, but for its angularity
(considering angularity in an expanded manner), for Mars is conjunct
the Vertex (“point of fate”) giving Tennyson an inescapable
‘battle in the depths’ (a turmoil which found its redemptive
outlet in poetry). Mars (conjunct Uranus and in the sixth house of sickness
and health) is also implicated in Tennyson’s epileptic seizures.
The Fourth Ray Personality
and Conduits for the Fourth Ray
If we see the sixth ray
as the ray of the idealistic soul, then the fourth ray would be the
ray of the personality and mind, both. Two fourth rays are not rare
in the lives of artists. Together, they will signify the sensitive,
struggling soul, who is seeking harmony and reconciliation both with
his environment and within itself. Constellationally, the fourth ray
has strong conduits, since Scorpio, presently the major fourth ray sign
(conveying, according to the Tibetan’s assignments only the fourth
ray) holds three major (and difficult) planets and the Vertex, and since
Sagittarius (also with a fourth ray quality) holds Neptune (a planet
directly associated with the fourth or buddhic plane).
The fourth ray Moon is placed
in Gemini (which sign gives the kind of alternation and bi-polarity
frequently associated with the fourth ray) and Mercury, which distributes
the fourth ray, is placed in Cancer, the fourth sign of the zodiac (strongly
related to the emotions—the plane of the “dual forces”).
Although Venus has, apparently, no prominent fourth ray in its makeup,
it is a planet much associated with both art and harmonization, and
the fourth ray is the Ray of Harmony, Beauty and Art. So rising Venus,
in the oscillatory sign Gemini, has to be significant in at least resonating
to the fourth ray.
The Rays of the Emotional
and Physical Vehicles
life was rich a varied. It is difficult to assign a single ray to this
field. Surely, he was capable of the passions, transports and devotions
of the sixth ray (probably the principle ray of this vehicle) but its
assignment would not tell the whole story. The calms of the second ray
and the turmoils of the fourth were also present—rarely, however,
the explosions of the first ray. The emotional vehicle was, after all,
Tennyson’s main instrument of expression (being resonant with
his proposed sixth ray soul). He was, in the Tibetan’s words,
a “poet of the emotions”, and so a rich variety of energies
would pour through this field.
Judging from his refined
physical appearance, and his superlative poetic craft (especially, in
this regard, his sensitivity to poetic meter), the seventh Ray of Order
would be a good choice for the ray of the etheric-physical vehicle.
This ray would add to the sensitivity and vulnerability of his physical
mechanism and would emphasize his retiring ways and love of privacy.
to the Monadic Ray
The monadic ray may or may
not be discernible, but one has the sense of a pervasive second ray
behind and within all the more obvious energies. Tennyson had a keen
intelligence, but it was very much the intelligence of the heart. Above
all, he was a man of refined “sensibilities”.
The conduits for ray two
energy are particularly the Gemini Ascendant and Venus placed therein.
The Sun (second ray) is placed in the sign of the heart (Leo), and the
point opposite the Sun, through which the monad may express in the chart
(provided the degree of advancement is sufficient), is almost exactly
conjunct the MC (the ‘career point’ or ‘vocational
point’). The point opposite the Sun is, as will be recognized,
the Earth (heliocentrically considered), and Earth is the hierarchical
ruler of Gemini (thus, more related to the level of the monad than any
of the three rulers). The soul ray of the Earth (its monadic ray is
not active while yet it is a non-sacred planet) is the second ray. We
can discern from the association of these ideas a high potential for
monadic expressiveness along the second ray line through his vocation
of poet. The psychology of the monad has yet to be developed; truly,
as far as present day humanity is concerned, this psychology of the
deepest aspect of the human being is in its infancy.
Monad: Ray Two, proposed
Soul: Ray VI
Personality: Ray 4
Mental Vehicle: Ray 4
Rays 6 (2, 4)
Features of Tennyson’s Chart
1. Gemini is sign of tremendous
importance in Tennyson’s chart, holding the Moon, Vesta and is
own esoteric ruler, Venus. Gemini has the well-deserved reputation of
being the most literary sign, bestowing particular facility in the manipulation
and association of words. In Tennyson’s case it rendered him sensitive
to the constant mutability of conditions, and helped him understand
and respond to the painful dynamic tension between opposites which he
ever sought to reconcile in his writings.
Venus, in Gemini, is implicated
in what the Tibetan calls a “‘desperate conflict of the
imprisoned soul upon the astral plane’ which characterises our
planetary life” (EA 362). We often sense this desperation (however
subdued by artistic refinement) in Tennyson’s poetry. Gemini,
in the highly developed individual, is also one of the intuitive signs,
related to the development of the antahkarana. From whence a poet’s
inspiration? Perhaps, quite often, simply from the activation of the
sensitive astral nature, but the intuition is resonantly related to
the astral plane, and must be considered a possible source. In a verse
from In Memoriam, Tennyson expresses intimations of oneness which can
only come from a sensitivity to the unitive, buddhic faculty:
“One God, one
law, one element
And one far-off divine
To which the whole
2. The Sun sign is Leo, placed
in the beginning of the fourteenth degree, the evocative Sabian Symbol
for which is: “Cherub-like, a Human Soul Whispers, Seeking to
Manifest”, or “A Human Soul Seeking Opportunities for Outward
Manifestation”; “The yearning for self-actualization”;
“Let the soul manifest”. While not all the Sabian Symbols
are equally refined or evocative, this one is, somehow, very appropriate,
given the inspired nature of Tennyson’s best poetry. His was a
poetic soul-animated individual and, so it would seem, his most recent
incarnation afforded him the opportunity to manifest, through poetry,
the accumulated sensitivities and poignant perceptions of many lives.
The Sun is placed in a powerful
position conjunct the IC within eight minutes of arc. This shows us
Tennyson going to the “roots’ of his own Self-inherited
nature as the source of his poetic expression, but it also shows his
distinguished (Leo) role as “Poet Laureate” of England during
the Victorian Age—the ‘first poet’ of his country
or motherland (fourth house). A patriotic relationship with one’s
nation (in this case, the soul of one’s nation) can be indicated
by the fourth house. The Sun on the cusp of the IC also contributes
to the ease with which Tennyson became the spokesperson for the values,
uncertainties and aspirations of his society. This position also shows
his potential to draw successfully upon the poetic tradition which preceded
him (and even at an early age he was adept in writing in the styles
of certain great poets of the past, drawing, it would seem, upon his
own pre-established gifts). From a strictly external perspective, it
shows Tennyson (especially in the middle and later years of his life)
staying “at home” and expressing himself through the writing
The Sun is conjunct the Part
of Fortune, showing the ease of flow and expression. It is also quintile
to the North Node, showing how the force and quality of his own character
(Sun in Leo) contributed to bringing influential people into his life.
The people one must meet and cultivate during a particular incarnation
are indicated (partially) at the North Node. More importantly, however,
for his poetic expression is the very close, harmonious sextile between
the Leo Sun and the Gemini Moon, both in the fourteenth degree of their
respective signs and only nineteen minutes of arc from exactitude. Tennyson’s
Moon in Gemini is in the twelfth house, where it is acutely sensitive
to every fluctuating energy current, within and without. This keen perceptiveness
feeds directly and harmoniously into his “Will-to-Express”
represented by the Leo Sun. There is also an almost exact Chiron opposition
to the Sun. This elevated Chiron shows Tennyson as a guide and mentor
to his society; it indicates a man who has risen into prominence, possessing
the right to lead through inspiration because he has worked through
and conquered many of his own personality liabilities (Chiron, the wounded-healer,
opposing the Sun, center of the sense of personality). A Chiron/Sun
opposition will also indicate a strong individuality—one who will
“go his own way”, “march to his own drummer”
and pursue his own quest. It is not that Tennyson adapted himself to
the demands of the Victorian Age; as a true Leonian individual, he would
not do this. Rather, he was an exemplary figure that the prevailing
culture found it could adopt as its own—a man representative of
his age without having to labor to be so. It should be mentioned that
this potent, angular Sun in Leo position contributed to Tennyson’s
inherent and well-recognized dignity and the noble power of some of
his finest verse. The fourth house is the house of what might be called
the ‘ashram-as-refuge’. The Sun position shows Tennyson
firmly established there.
3. We have, therefore, a
picture of the sixth ray soul expressing through the Gemini Ascendant
and to a degree through the Leo Sun Sign, and the fourth ray personality
expressing through the Leo Sun sign and, to a degree, through the Gemini
Ascendant. The sixth ray through Gemini bestows the ability to articulate
one’s ideals, and to aspire toward true brotherhood and reconciliation—the
ideals of “I Serve My Brother” and “I Serve the One”.
The sixth ray through Leo impels one to become the embodiment of that
which one idealizes. The fourth ray through Leo gives drama, color and
vividness. The fourth ray through Gemini renders one alive to all of
life’s multitudinous contrasts.
4. If Tennyson was a “poet
of the emotions”, the versatile, sensitive Gemini Moon would be
most important. It would bestow responsiveness to all manner of impacts
and touches—especially subtle ones (as the twelfth house would
indicate). The psyche of humanity is symbolized very much by the twelfth
house. The individual psyche becomes the window to the collective psyche,
and the individual achieves a responsive sensitivity to many thoughts
and feelings which are not, technically, “his own”. He becomes
a “medium” for their expression. The Moon in Gemini in house
twelve is certainly an important point of receptivity in this chart.
More mundanely, it contributed to early uncertainties (often about his
own mental health) and instabilities, and a period of ‘wandering’.
The Geminian lunar liabilities, however, gave way to stable intuitive
perception (Gemini Ascendant) once his “place in society”
(fourth house) was confirmed by the solar eclipse of 1850 which saw
him established as Poet Laureate.
5. If the Moon is said always
to veil one of three planets—Vulcan, Neptune or Uranus, the most
fitting choice in this instance would, from the author’s perspective,
be sensitive, intuitive Neptune.
6. The Moon’s position
is not only closely sextile the Sun and IC, but closely trine both Chiron
and the MC. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the reader of Tennyson’s
poetry feels both deeply moved (the Moon represents the emotional life)
and yet affirmed and redeemed. Chiron the healer is at work, and the
mood is never allowed to lapse into a terminal depression. Even in the
facing of death, which many people find depressing, Chiron is securely
guiding us on the journey across the “waters”. The Sun on
the IC gives assurance of immortality, permanence in the face of all
fluctuation. With Sun, Moon and Chiron so well integrated, all the most
important aspects of man (soul and personality) are soundly guided,
as one of his finest late poems, “Crossing the Bar” illustrates:
and evening star,
one clear call for me!
may there be no moaning of the bar,
I put out to sea,
such a tide as moving seems asleep,
full for sound and foam,
that which drew from out the boundless deep
and evening bell,
after that the dark!
may there be no sadness of farewell,
tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
flood may bear me far,
to see my Pilot face to face
I have crossed the bar.”
What a beautiful affirmation
of hope and devotion! One sees here the deeper faith of the sixth ray,
and through it, Tennyson’s power to comfort and reassure the immortal
soul of his reader.
7. When we speak of crossing
the waters (the “bar”), we notice that the watery element
is well represented in Tennyson’s chart. Three major planets,
plus the Vertex are in Scorpio, Mercury in Cancer and Pluto in Pisces
(six major factors). We have, by sign at least, a grand trine in water—the
symbol of the emotions. As well, the importance to Tennyson of Neptune
and the Moon (often associated with water) cannot be overlooked.
8. Since Mercury is the exoteric
ruler of the Gemini Ascendant and is alone in the third house (which
is correlated with Gemini) it will be a planet of considerable importance.
Mercury is the “God of Eloquence”, and it rules all writers
and speakers. Its placement in the sign Cancer makes it responsive to
the past. Mercury as ‘god of memory’ (especially in Cancer—so
retentive of the past) evokes sentimental reminiscence. This placement
contributes to Tennyson’s feeling-laden words; his words are rarely
if ever ‘dry’; rather, they are emotionally evocative. We
enter with Tennyson, the world of sentiment, which is another way of
saying, the world of kama-manas.
The major aspects to Mercury
are the trine from Saturn, conferring formal restraint and classicism
with respect to the structure of his verse; the square from Jupiter
in Aries, inclining Tennyson to undertake subjects with broad implications—his
mind may be sentimental and bound to feeling, but his optimistic sense
of greater possibilities is always (after much struggle) present; the
quintile from nurturing Ceres, inclining him to lavish great and thoughtful
care upon the choice of every word; a close square to the Nodal Axis,
causing him to muse ruefully upon the comings and goings of those who
are closely related to him; the semi-sextile to Venus (close enough
to be counted) adding finesse to his expression.
Mercury in the water sign
Cancer throws a kind of ‘kama-manasic veil’ over one’s
perceptions (third house), and all things are seen through the film
of sentiment, and through a recollected past. While this position may
not contribute to the making of great scientist, it does to the making
of a great poet.
9. Venus, Goddess of Love
and Beauty is, perhaps, the most important planet in the chart. It rises
close to the Ascendant and is found in a sign to which it is esoterically
congenial—Gemini, of which it is the esoteric ruler. We have already
commented on the extraordinary beauty of Tennyson’s words; this
beauty is a direct gift of Venus in Gemini.
Venus’ major aspects
are as follows: there is a sextile from Jupiter in Aries which increases
the magnetic appeal of his poetry—beautiful words and phrases
which, ultimately, uplift (Jupiter in Aries); Saturn is in close quincunx
(150°) and contributes to his poetic craftsmanship (even as did
Saturn trine Mercury); Saturn further contributed to the long and frustrating
fourteen year delay of his marriage (Venus) to Emily Sellwood (finances—ruled
generically by both Venus and Saturn—were the cause, and conservative
Victorian attitudes played their part as well); Venus is closely trine
and sextile the Nodal Axis which, with its conjunction to Juno in Gemini,
contributed to his long and happy marriage—Tennyson really had
two marriages (Juno in Gemini)—one to his wife, and one to his
poetic art; Venus’ conjunction to Vesta tells of his dedication
to the vocation of poet, moreover, to the beauty of life—a perceived
beauty to be rendered into word; a close parallel of declination of
Venus with Mercury (which two are already semi-sextile) again contributes
to the beauty and eloquence of his poetic expression—the Venusian
light perceived is sensitively translated into verse.
Like all great artists, Tennyson
had to deal with disturbing contradictions in both the social and psychological
spheres. Venus is a great planet of reconciliation and harmonization,
and is placed in the major sign of duality, Gemini. Given Tennyson’s
strong fourth ray, and this Venus position, the opportunity to harmonize
the extremes through artistic expression is his gift. There are not
too many terminally raw edges. Instead we have inner torture (Scorpio
planets) followed by reconciliation (Venus in Gemini).
In general, this esoteric
position of Venus makes possible the wide sharing in words of the “Word
of the soul”.
10. Mars is both the exoteric
and esoteric ruler of Scorpio, and is potently placed. Tennyson was
a man of great dignity and outer reserve, both of which concealed considerable
inner turmoil and struggle. So many planets in the sixth house indicate
a struggle for self-perfection. Mars conjunct Uranus is an explosive
combination—especially in Scorpio in which they are both strong—Mars
as the ruler, and Uranus as the planet of exaltation. There must have
been a intense restlessness in Tennyson’s psyche, a desire to
break free and change everything. But like so many Victorians, he held
this in check with the proper outer behavior (angular Leo Sun, Saturn
inconjunct Venus). We do not have to stretch the orbs to far to see
a square from Mars/Uranus to both the Sun in Leo and Chiron in Aquarius.
Tennyson would now and then break into such verse as shocked and disturbed
his readership who had certain prejudicial expectations of the national
From the health perspective,
Mars conjunct Uranus is a fitting symbol of epileptic seizure. Together
they are the unpredictable, the irrational and the unruly—those
factors of life which refuse to be contained. Yet, over all, Tennyson
The conjunction of these
two with the Vertex shows that the energies they represented could not
be avoided—fortunately, as they provided a great deal of the ‘poetic
ferment’ from which his artistry arose. If the creative process
did not always flow as smoothly as his final and masterful creations
would suggest, we can attribute as least some of the difficulty to the
Mars/Uranus conjunction which is in a somewhat inharmonious sesquiquadrate
to the poetically expressive Gemini planets.
11. Jupiter in Aries, as
already implied, brings the great inherent optimism beneath the outer
melancholy. The Victorian age, for all its later misgivings, was essentially
an age of optimism, and faith in continued and greater expansions and
conquests. It was, for England, the period of “Empire”.
Tennyson, though he saw the contradictions, shared this great faith,
and Jupiter in Aries is the exemplification. This position means that
no matter how defeated, one shall always ‘rise again’. This
is a distinctive feature of Tennyson’s work—he broods with
ongoing melancholy and rue over all that is not as it should be, but,
in the end, snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, and asserts his
confidence in a better future, and, ultimately, confidence in an immortal
future. Jupiter is closely quintile the MC, and contributed to his popularity
and critical acclaim. He was reliable (his poetry would always be good),
but unpredictable enough to be interesting (the quintile, and also Mars/Uranus
12. Saturn is an important
planet, placed in Scorpio to ensure that all negativity would be confronted
and realistically assessed. Tennyson’s optimism (though it somewhat
declined in outer show during later years) is earned; he faced the spectre
of death, loss and defeat and prevailed. This Saturn is in aspect with
two planets of poetic inspiration (conjunct to Neptune and inconjunct
to Venus), and thus exerts a tempering, retraining effect. Interestingly,
Saturn is also on the West Point (a kind of alternative Descendant formed
by the intersection of what we can call the ‘Polar Circle’
with the ecliptic). Thus Saturn is, in a sense, angular, contributing
to Tennyson’s sense of reserve and adding to his dignity and bearing.
13. Uranus has been much
discussed, but, in general, in Scorpio, contributes to deep-seated transformations—in
Tennyson’s case, a rising out of the grip of certain binding emotions.
Uranus and Mars together in Scorpio in the purifying sixth house, place
Tennyson in the ‘alchemical cauldron’; in the roiling of
the reagents, he had to work out his salvation.
14. Neptune has been mentioned
as an important conduit for the sixth ray. It is also the esoteric ruler
of Leo for disciples and some initiates, and it relates to the “solar
flames”. During and following the second degree, desire must increasingly
be transmuted into love and the solar plexus energies raised into a
heart increasingly sensitive to solar fire. When interpreting the charts
of initiates (presumably even second degree initiates) the esoteric
ruler of the Sun Sign is to be considered and not alone the exoteric
ruler. Neptune is the veiled planet esoterically ruling the sign Leo,
and it has its role to play in the process of emotional transformation
which characterized Tennyson’s life. Though melancholy, sad, wistful,
pining and nostalgic (all Neptunian and water sign qualities), there
emerged on occasion a higher and more fiery level of feeling. He does,
after all, have the Sun in Leo, Jupiter in Aries, and Neptune in Sagittarius—not
mathematically a grand trine, but qualitatively so. These are all planets
of the heart, and all are ruled on one or another level of their being
by the second ray. Suffice it to say that, together, they contributed
to the continuing opening of the heart center which (it can be reasonably
presumed) Tennyson was experiencing.
15. As for Pluto, it is powerful
in its own sign (esoterically and hierarchically) Pisces. Its main aspects
are a square to the Moon and an inconjunct to the Sun, and significantly,
a square to the Ascendant/Descendant axis. Pluto brought death into
Tennyson’s life—most notably the death of his best friend
Arthur Hallam (which inspired one of Tennyson’s greatest works—In
Memoriam, the work which most of all brought him to Queen Victoria’s
attention and to his appointment as Poet Laureate). His first child
was also born dead (Pluto square the Moon). Psychologically, this elevated
Pluto is a source of gloom and depression, and in his bouts with mental
illness, Pluto was involved. But this Pluto position also brought, at
length, a deep-seated release from worldly attachments and illusions.
For all his many attachments, Tennyson was finally one who knew how
to “let go” with courage and dignity.
A Few Parallels of
Most of the significant parallels
of declination have already been discussed in the body of the text.
We should also note that the Moon is parallel the Part of Fortune (to
which the Sun is conjuncted). These are indications that Tennyson’s
greatest flow of ‘happiness’ (the feeling which arises when
personality expression is unobstructed) emerges through the expression
of his full identity, soul identity (Sun) personality identity (Sun
and Moon), and subconscious accumulations (Moon).
Vesta, Venus and the Ascendant
are not only conjunct but parallel—strengthening his life-long
dedication to express beauty in words.
The Sun is not only conjunct
the IC and opposed the MC, but it is (as might be expected) parallel
the IC and contra-parallel the MC. Tennyson had his assured and immovable
place in society, in which position, he was serving as an important
spokesperson for the ideals and finer sensibilities of the British Nation.
The Testimony of
the Fixed Stars
There are several important
fixed star contacts.
1. The Moon is conjunct Rigel,
a star of learning, education, and in general, the dissemination of
knowledge. This star is, in addition, a protecting and civilizing force.
For Tennyson, it further reinforces his intimate connection to Victorian
culture as a significant factor in the march of civilization.
2. The Sun is conjunct Dubhe,
a star which the Tibetan discusses as related to the sign Leo, and particularly
to the expression of the personality. As one of the “pointers”
of the Great Bear, it is involved in a triple alignment between spirit
(Polaris), soul (Merak) and personality (Dubhe). It is, in terms of
his brightness, the Alpha star of the Great Bear, and may relate to
the full expression of personality gifts. Interestingly, Manilius, speaking
in the first century AD, and speaking of those who have this star rising,
says that they will be “tamers of wild beasts, that is men to
teach bears, bulls and lions to lay aside their fierceness and share
in human ways”. It is significant to realize that the personality,
ruled by Leo, is called by the Tibetan the “king of beasts”
(EA 155), and so some inference can be gathered about the role of this
star in not only expressing (sometimes disastrously) but also taming
and domesticating the personality. As early suggested, Tennyson (a Leo
by Sun Sign) was “lionized” by his society; he simply had
to decide what sort of ‘lion’ he would be. For the most
part he was a noble and dignified lion. This would be the place to insert
the interesting fact that the hypothetical planet “Lion”
(with a very long circum-solar period of more that 1500 years) sits
very close to Tennyson’s Sun in Leo. It would be close for all
Leo’s born near his degree during those years, but he seems to
have embodied some of its quality which is dignified and very concerned
with the preservation of culture.
3. Venus is parallel Arcturus—a
potent star prompting the taking of a different path, a different way.
Tennyson, as an advanced Leo subject, would always be true to his own
individuality. To be a professional poet is no conventional path, and
he followed it faithfully for his entire life. This star is called by
the intriguing names: “The Keeper of Heaven”, the “Patriarch
Mentor of the Train”, the “Guardian Messenger”, the
“Lofty One”. As the “Mentor”, it looks out for
the deportment of its lesser companions—a function which Tennyson,
as aesthetic custodian of the values of his society, subtly upheld.
The star is said to bring riches and honor to those born under it. The
Venus parallel to Arcturus is exactly exact. Venus, already maximally
important in his chart, is further dignified by its contact with this
4. Jupiter, within the orb
of a sextile to Venus, is closely parallel to Altair. Altair is another
powerful star which gives the flight of the eagle. Sometimes it seems
that Tennyson had great ‘wings’ on which he could bear his
reader aloft—to higher, purer places. Altair is called “The
Star of Mighty Virtue”. It is said to give a great imagination
and strong passions, Again this is a star which causes one to rise in
life and receive honors—certainly applicable here. It adds courage,
boldness, nobility and generosity. With Jupiter it acts in contradistinction
to the Tennyson’s characteristic melancholy, being a source of
5. Finally, Toliman, is in
close conjunction to Saturn. Again, we find the promise, in general,
of beneficence, friends, refinement and positions of honor. With Saturn
there is introduced an added caution; Toliman with Saturn leads to being
studious, well-read, and is favorable for both monetary gain and marriage.
These meanings are very limited; more spiritual meanings will emerge
as this star (closest to our Sun of all major stars) is more studiously
observed with an eye to its influence on spiritual progress. Most positively
it is said to relate to learning, education and spiritual growth. Among
the six major solar systems related to ours, Toliman is certainly numbered,
and has been theorized as representing a sacral center. Further examination
of the six solar systems contiguous to our own is necessary before definite
conclusions can be reached.
It is unfortunate but ephemeredes
for many asteroids are not readily available for times of birth approximately
two hundred years ago. One would like to search out the location of
asteroids related to poetry and the music of poetry, especially Orpheus
(with its love of melancholy but beautiful expression) to see if it
played a significant role.
Juno, Vesta, Pallas, Ceres
and Chiron (if Chiron is really an asteroid) have been noted and interpretations
offered. Juno, Vesta and Chiron are of especial importance. Chiron shows
Tennyson as a spiritual leader, mentor, guide to his culture—holding
an ideal of faith, hope and progress regardless of defeats and disappointments.
Important Moments in His Life
(For their Instructive Value)
1. In 1828 Tennyson won the
Chancellor’s Gold Medal for his poem, “Timbuctoo”.
There was a solar eclipse exactly on his Jupiter, esoteric ruler of
his MC and orthodox ruler of the Descendent. Further, Jupiter was transiting
N-Uranus, orthodox ruler of his MC. Honors, therefore were bestowed.
A lunar eclipse was also occurring quite near his Vertex and thus involving
the Mar/Uranus in Scorpio conjunction.
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Apr 14
1828 NS 18:18 24°Ar23' D
Mon LEcl (X) Tr-Tr Apr 30 1828 NS 07:29 09°Sc32' D
2. In 1829 Tennyson met the
man who was to become his best friend, Arthur Hallam. Transiting Jupiter
was crossing his Descendent during that year. The P-Moon was in Pisces
(sign of relinquishment) and there was a lunar eclipse widely involving
Pluto, planet of death. The relationship would end within a few shorts
years because of Hallam’s untimely death.
Mon LEcl (X) Tr-Tr Sep 13
1829 NS 15:33 2 0°Pi10' D
3. In 1831 he left Cambridge
without a degree and in the same year his father died. There is a solar
eclipse within two degrees of his Sun. Uranus is transiting over the
MC (sometimes the father), opposing the Sun (which rules the fourth
house—sometimes the father) and solar arc Uranus (SA-Uranus) is
making a conjunction of natal Saturn (archetypally ruling the father).
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Aug 8
1831 NS 07:16 14°Le35' D
4. Arthur Hallam’s
death in 1833 at age 22 shocked Tennyson deeply and led to some of his
most celebrated poetry, including “In Memoriam,” (1850),
written to Hallam’s memory. Note the solar eclipse on N-Mercury
which exoterically rules the Ascendant. This eclipse is square the Nodal/Axis
(i.e., people entering and leaving the life). SA-Saturn has moved within
the conjuncting degree of the seventh house cusp—partnerships,
close relations. Saturn natally is in the sign of death, Scorpio. A
year later, during the psychological depression that followed, there
is a solar eclipse on Tennyson’s Moon.
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Jul 17
1833 NS 16:07 24°Cn23' D
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Jun 7 1834 NS 19:09 16°Ge07' D
5. In 1836, Tennyson began
a fourteen year courtship of Emily Sellwood, though they did not marry
until 1850 for financial reasons. T-Jupiter in Cancer was crossing his
progressed Ascendant in Cancer, his P-Juno in Cancer and P-Venus in
Cancer. A lunar eclipse just before 1836 involves his Moon.
Mon LEcl (X) Tr-Tr Dec 5
1835 NS 14:20 12°Ge24' D
6. Tennyson’s fame
was firmly established in 1842 with the republication of his earlier
collection, “Poems”. Near the beginning of the year there
is a solar eclipse reasonably close to P-Venus and near the end of the
year there is a lunar eclipse which includes N-Venus. Progressed SA-Jupiter
is directed within the degree opposite N-Saturn also opposite progressed
Mars and Uranus, and signaling the end of his long servitude.
Mon LEcl (X) Tr-Tr Jan 27
1842 NS 02:44 06°Le27' D
Mon LEcl (X) Tr-Tr Dec 18 1842 NS 04:02 25°Ge30' D
7. In 1843, he was under
a doctor’s care for mental problems. There are three lunar eclipses—one
very close to Mercury (the mind, and in the third house, also the mind),
one exactly on the Ascendant/Descendant and one involving the Moon.
T-Saturn is opposing N-Mercury (depression) and P-MC is conjuncting
Pluto and opposing his P-Sun—more of the same. P-Moon has entered
Virgo (putting oneself under a doctor’s care).
Mon LEcl (X) Tr-Tr Jan 16
1843 NS 17:14 25°Cn37' D
Mon LEcl (X) Tr-Tr Jun 12 1843 NS 16:22 20°Sg38' D
Mon LEcl (X) Tr-Tr Dec 7 1843 NS 09:11 14°Ge17' D
8. Being acclaimed as a great
poet with the publications of “Poems” in 1842, in which
collection the new poems “Locksley Hall,” “Ulysses,”
“Morte d’Arthur,” and “Break, Break, Break”
appeared, he was granted an annual government pension of £200
in 1845. There is a solar eclipse occurring at the approximate midpoint
between his N-Moon and N-Ascendant. There is also a solar eclipse conjuncting
his natal Mars/Uranus conjunction and exactly on his Vertex. He had
met his destiny. Saturn shows itself here as the “god of opportunity”,
as T-Saturn transits back and forth across his MC and opposes his natal
Sun. New responsibilities had arrived through this government pension.
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Dec 10
1844 NS 05:02 17°Sg56' D
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Oct 31 1845 NS 08:51 07°Sc27' D
9. In 1850, there was a great
change of fortune. He was appointed Poet Laureate by Queen Victoria
and at last was able to marry Emily Sellwood. T-Jupiter is transiting
the progressed Sun. P-Venus is closing on the IC (we might rectify this
chart slightly earlier). There is another solar eclipse right on his
N-Sun, just a when his father died nineteen years before.
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Aug 8
1850 NS 06:33 14°Le56' D
10. In 1851, his first child
was born dead. There is a solar eclipse on his MC, and two lunar eclipses
which bracket the Mercury as a midpoint. T-Saturn and T-Pluto have been
squaring Mercury, orthodox ruler of his Ascendant. Slowly moving solar
arc Pluto is in the twenty-sixth degree of Aries still squaring his
Mercury in the twenty sixth degree of Cancer.
Mon LEcl (X) Tr-Tr Jan 18
1851 NS 01:51 27°Cn03' D
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Feb 1 1851 NS 14:53 11°Aq50' D
Mon LEcl (X) Tr-Tr Jul 13 1851 NS 16:22 20°Cp15' D
11. In 1859, Tennyson first
published “Idylls of the King,” and 10,000 copies sold in
the first month. Note the solar eclipse almost exactly on his N-MC and
opposed his N-Sun. SA-Jupiter is within one degree of his N-Moon, and
T-Jupiter is crossing his N-Ascendant—a fortunate time in every
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Feb 3
1859 NS 10:22 13°Aq44' D
12. In 1883 Tennyson was
created a peer and occupied a seat in the House of Lords. Note that
again the Vertex with N-Mars and N-Jupiter receives an exact solar eclipse,
much as when, thirty eight years before he had received his first government
pension. The P-Ascendant had reached the IC and was crossing the N-Sun.
If the birth time were a little earlier, this would be more exact. P-Ascendant
to N-Sun represents an earned fulfillment. He has reached an external
nobility to match the internal noble stature he always possessed.
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Oct 31
1883 NS 08:50 07°Sc14' D
13. Blessing his wife and
son, Tennyson died peacefully with the room filled with light from the
full moon, 01:35 AM, October 6, 1892, Aldworth, England. Again the sensitive
Vertex/Anti-Vertex axis is activated, with a solar eclipse exactly on
the Anti-Vertex, involving, of course, the Mars/Uranus conjunction.
Sun SEcl (X) Tr-Tr Apr 27
1892 NS 06:55 07°Ta05' D
Criticism of His
In the early part of the
century following his own, Tennyson’s reputation suffered considerably
(N-Chiron on the MC). Poets of a different kind were more highly valued—T.S.
Eliot, William Butler Yeats—even Tennyson’s contemporaries
Robert Browning (second ray soul) and Gerard Manley Hopkins (very probably
a fourth ray soul) were respected more highly than he. His poetry, reassessed,
was judged frequently overly-sentimental, mawkish, pompous, rhetorical,
emptily mellifluous and even banal (qualities related to the exaggeration
of the sixth ray). But like all reactions, repudiation of his poetic
stature ran its course, and today he is again recognized as a great
poet—for the haunting poignancy of his lyricism, his captivating
evocation of mood, his irresistibly beautiful ‘melodies’,
the breadth of his imaginative range, the vividness of his imagery,
his choice of the completely perfect word, his dignity, his appreciation
for and unification of the styles of his best predecessors, and the
masterful manner in which he spoke (or sang) for a great era in the
development of human consciousness—the Victorian era.
Always, it is unreliable
to interpret the initiatory standing of disciples. This is a matter
which exists strictly between the Master and his disciple, and cannot
be fully assessed from the ‘outside’. Yet some signs are
there to be read, and by attempting to read, the disciple learns to
know his fellow human beings, and thus to put himself, others and all
persons in truer proportion relative to the larger Plan and Purpose.
Tennyson was a man of culture,
of refined sensibilities, of deep perceptions and, as time progressed,
of wise and inclusive perspective. His major field of labor was the
mind as it applied to the understanding of the emotional body. He was
passing (so it would seem) through a process of emotional detachment,
transformation, sublimation. Under the general regime of the second
ray he was achieving “positivity”, especially emotional
positivity, and his entire poetic process was assisting in this evolutionary
He seems to be one who (given
his essentially soft-ray line) had “mental illumination”
and “spiritual intelligence”. Venus, Jupiter and Neptune
were all prominent in their way. Neptune would connect him with the
heart of the Sun. The following citation from Esoteric Astrology may
“Neptune, being the
sign of the Deity of the waters, is related to the sixth ray which governs
the astral or emotional plane of desire. When Neptune is thus active
in the advanced Leo subject, then emotion-desire have been transmuted
into love-aspiration and are dedicated to and oriented to the soul;
the entire emotional or sensitive nature is responsive to energies coming
from ‘the heart of the Sun,’ and when this is the case,
it indicates that the disciple is now ready for the second initiation”.
Gemini and Leo, both, were
involved in the chart of a disciple in the Tibetan’s group who
was a candidate for the second degree (in this case Gemini Sun and Leo
rising). AAB, however, who we can reasonably presume had taken the third
degree, also had a Gemini Sun and Leo rising. In any case, the presence
of Gemini is significant not only at the first degree but at the second
when the warring dualities of the astral plane have to be somewhat calmed
and reconciled and pervaded by unitive love.
A reasonable assessment would
be that Tennyson had passed the point of the second degree, and was
moving towards a greater illumination conferred at the third degree.
Sentiment and attachment would be in his way, and there is much in his
chart ‘soul-calculated’ to release him from these impediments.
Whether he achieved the goal is not for us to say. Surely he was a great
artist with eventual influence far beyond his own culture, and so, along
his own aesthetic, artistic line, he was something of a world-disciple.
Perhaps he did not have the stature or universality of a Shakespeare
(or whoever wrote the Shakespearian plays), but his thoughts have crept
into our language, and so many beautiful phrases familiar to English
speaking people were born in his poems.
It would seem that his way
of progress would be greater and greater love. Did he break through
into this wider love? Surely there were intimations of it, but not so
many bold declarations as in the poetry of Walt Whitman who definitely
lived in the unity which the third degree confers. Yet, the sense of
a great and impending unity is found in his poems—whether he was
“crossing the bar” or setting out to sea once again as Ulysses.
A journey would be made leading to a land of greater freedom and realization.
It seems that he could not see into this new domain—something,
it seems, obscured his sight (perhaps the veil of Neptune), but he was
definitely on his way.
Conclusion and Summary
The last years of Alfred
Lord Tennyson were lived in autumnal times. The great impulse of Romanticism
had run its course. Most of the great romantics were dead or fading,
and new impulses (uncertain and strangely destructive to their cherished
values) were arising. Tennyson succumbed somewhat to the general mistrust
of the future, felt, perhaps, unconsciously. Victoria was not yet dead
and the British Empire was still great, but forebodings could be felt.
In not so many years, the Empire would begin to come apart. Great wars
would be fought, and Britain, though victorious, would no longer be
what once it was. The world of science and materialism were fast encroaching.
Still, in Tennyson, the sixth
ray fire burned, and always some new adventure of the spirit or of consciousness
was possible. Perhaps the credo of his ardor and strength of heart is
embodied in the conclusion of the poem, Ulysses, written, actually,
many years earlier, but somehow prognosticating his reflections as an
aged Poet Laureate. In it, we find the best of the sixth ray as it ventures
towards something unknown and higher.
not too late to seek a newer world.
off, and sitting well in order smite
sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
beyond the sunset, and the baths
the western stars until I die.
be that the gulfs will wash us down:
be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
much is taken, much abides; and tho’
not now that strength which in old days
earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
equal temper of heroic hearts,
weak by time and fate, but strong in will
to seek, to find, and not to yield.”