October 28th, 2001

Lord Dunsany and Tennyson

I've been slowly reading a strange book called The King of Elfland's Daughter, by Lord Dunsany (Edward Plunkett). It's a work of fantasy, published in 1924, long before Tolkien's work dominated the field of fantasy. He writes delightfully rich prose, with mellifluous descriptions and old-fashioned epithets. For instance, the King of Elfland lives in a "palace that may only be told of in song". We humans are living in "the fields we know".

But I bring this up in order to quote a paragraph I encountered last night. It took my breath away.

And how the horns of Elfland blow over the barrier of twilight, to be heard by any ear in the fields we know, I cannot understand; yet Tennyson speaks of them as heard "faintly blowing" even in these fields of ours, and I believe that by accepting all that the poets say while duly inspired our errors will be fewest. So, though Science may deny or confirm it, Tennyson's line shall guide me here.

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