The poem’s intense popularity is critically important. Thousands of copies were sold, it was warmly reviewed, Queen Victoria, after the death of her husband Albert, gained much comfort from it, lines from it (‘God’s finger touch’d him and he slept’) were used on tombstones, it was set to music, poems from it appeared in hymn-books, it was frequently quoted in sermons (the present author heard the last stanza of Epilogue quoted in a sermon in 1985) and phrases such as ‘red in tooth and claw’ entered the common language. A delightful example of the last point appears in an article on batting by the late Victorian and Edwardian cricketer Gilbert Jessop, a big hitter and fastest scoring batsman of all time, in which he says: ‘It’s better to have hit and missed than never to have hit at all.’
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