“Therelives more faith in honest doubt,Believeme, than in half the creeds.”( In Memoriam, Section:XCVI, Line : 3374-3375) As a consequence of rapidscientific and industrial progress or the theories of Evolution and Communism,Victorian people and of course the literary writers are consigned to reach theacme of religious confusion or spiritual loss or conflict between faith anddoubt.
It is an admitted fact that the Victorian people and writers are dividedinto two idealistic worlds. So if one group goes in the favor of faith orreligion, the other is of course in the favor of doubt. So conflict inideologies is a must. As much ink is spilled over writing or enough debate istabled regarding this very issue, the topic conflict between faith and doubt orscience and religious places in the different sorts of Victorian literarydevices especially in the Victorian poetry as “Poetry is the criticism oflife.”6 This is because, Hugh Walker comments; ‘it is curious that in theyear 1850 both Tennyson and Browning produced poems in which the religiouselements is more prominent that it is in anything they had previously written.”7 Needless to say hundreds of books like ”History of the Conflict betweenReligion and Science” (1875), Origin of Species (1859) and” The Warfare ofScience with Theology in Christendom (1876) by John Draper, Andrew Whites and Charles Darwin respectively arewritten on this conflict . This is why, being the Children of the time. Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning,Alfred Tennyson and Cristina Rosette’s poetry started concerning with this very conflict and of course itbecomes the mirror on which Victorian faith and doubt are clearly reflected.
Tolament on the loss of faith, Matthew Arnold “who chastises and instructs thereader on contemporary socialissues,”8 says in his poem : “The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear And naked shingles of the world”. (Dover Beach, Line: 21- 28 ) In these quoted lines, makingan explicit comparison between Victorian religious faith and sea, Arnold, intruth, laments over the transition from the age of faith into the age ofskepticism, uncertainty or turbulence. The sea of faith, to Arnold, was full inpast. It had flown with great energy and left it vigorous waves on the seashore. But now the poet hears the melancholic sounds of withdrawing waves. Moreclearly, religious faith of the Victorian people is replaced by agnostic,atheistic or skeptic thoughts.
Again, Matthew Arnoldexplicates the religious doubt or spiritual loss of modern man of Victorian agein his poem. As he states: “……this strange disease ofmodern man,With its sick hurry, itsdivided aims Itsheads o’ertaxed, its palsied hearts,”(The Scholar-Gipsy, Line:203-205) This disease, actually,indicates the religious or spiritual bareness and the victory of theirreligious or doubtful thoughts or immoral actions. Which is why, the poetinstruments the Scholar Gipsy to escape from the world in which doubt andimmorality prevails over faith and spirituality. Likewise, Alfred LordTennyson considered to be one of the most well-liked British poets during moreof Queen Victorian period 9 questions faith in God, in nature and even inscientific without any hesitancy in his poetry. In the truest sense of theterm, we observe that Tennyson possessesmixed feeling about scientific progress.
This is why Tennyson acknowledged evolution as progress andconcerned about this conflict with the Christian scripture theory of creationlike most of the Victorian people whose faith is being tempted by CharlesDarwin’s theory of Natural Selection. Inthis connection, Tennyson sometimes goes in the favors of religion and sametimes is in the favor of doubt or religion. He is, actually, in between.
Thisis because, Tennyson exposes his sufferings from the conflict of faith anddoubt in his poetry. In the poems ‘The Lotos-Eaters’ “and ‘Locksley Hall’ thespeakers are wild to abandon modern society and return to a savage lifestyle inthe jungle. In the poem, ‘In Memoriam’ the Victorian poet concerns with thisidea saying “We have but faith we cannotknow…. For knowledge,…”( In Memoriam: Line: 21-22) But in every poems Tennyson seems to arriveat the conclusion that we should have faith in scientific progression and of course in our religion .He is ,infact, reluctant to reject belief and to accept knowledge as the path ofsolution for the Victorian crisis of faith. In truth, he is keen to reconcile Victorian belief with knowledge.So it can be noted that Tennyson wants to solve the problem originated from the Victorian conflicts of faith anddoubt reconciling his faith withknowledge.
In a similar manner the Victorian crisis of faith and doubt has beenclearly appeared in the poetry of Elizabeth Barret Browning, one of the most prominent of the Victorian poets. Her very poem ‘The Cry of the Children’ speaksabout the suffering and faithlessness of the Victorian people through childlabor. Even though Matthew Arnold’s poem ‘Dover Beach’ discusses the Victorian crisis of faith fromthe spiritual point of view. Elizabeth Barret Browning’s poem ‘The Cry of theChildren’ concerns with this very issue from practical point of view. Childrenask help to God but he doesn’t pay need to them.
“Is it likely God, with anyaround Him, Hears our weeping anymore”( Line: 227-228 )But this scene is somewhatdifferent for the dead girl. She looks happier because she is now out theindustrially developed Victorian society. And she has not to been compelled todo lot of works in mills and factories around fourteen to fifteen hours withlittle wages. In truth, the children symbolizes the working class people, the worst sufferers ofthe Victorian society. This industrial unscrupulous society is established through the blood andsweat of the working classes people. Truly, the children are innocent but theyare forced to go against the God. As the poem states: “How long,” they say, “how long, O cruelnation, Will you stand, to move the world, on achild’s heart, — (‘The Cry of theChildren’: Stanza: xiii, Line : 33-34) This is because, the faith ofVictorian children declines.
Again the poet says: “But, no !”say the children, weeping faster, “He is speechless as a stone ;…..Do not mock us ; griefhas made us unbelieving — Welook up for God, but tears have made us blind.” Do ye hear the childrenweeping and disproving,” (‘The Cry of the Children’: Stanza: xi, Line :125-126 &131-133) Here, we are not considering allVictorian people to be atheist. Because loss of faith doesn’t meanatheism.
It, to us, means the Victorianconflict between faith and doubt. Because scientific discoveries,industrialization, and the theory ofevolution and communism make the people skeptic regarding religion and even inscience .