In his essay, ‘Tennyson and the Cultural Politics of Prophesy’, referred to in the Introduction to this book, Alan Sinfield sets the visionary against the sceptical in stark dichotomy. If the ‘visionary’ has a politically and culturally conservative, even reactionary, dimension, then there is an implication that the ‘sceptical’ carries an inherently progressive agenda. Tennyson’s work does not sustain such a straightforward contrast. The condition of thought and feeling explored in his poetry is more subtle. It is certainly open to criticise Tennyson for his inadequacy as, say, a sympathiser with imperial values, and the like. These kinds of feature are obvious enough on the surface of his poetry, though it remains useful that they have been commented upon. There is, however, a more telling insufficiency that does not lie with Tennyson. Many may nowadays take for granted that neither life nor such things as imperial attitude have God on their side. Tennyson, by contrast, yearned for there to be a spiritual meaning to existence. Some of his minor poems, like ‘The Ancient Sage’, express this yearning, albeit often in dramatic form. Tennyson could feel visceral dread at the thought of an alien universe.