By An Evolutionist by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The poem “By an Evolutionist” dates back to the 1800s, where Alfred, Lord Tennyson illustrates the views of an evolutionist and of Christianity when it comes to the origin of Man. The poet forms a vivid opinion in the poem stating that the views of evolutionist isn’t the right in thinking that the origin of Man is from apes, who fail to make any life decisions.

By An Evolutionist


The Lord let the house of a brute to the soul of a man,
And the man said, ‘Am I your debtor?’
And the Lord-‘Not yet; but make it as clean as you can,
And then I will let you a better.’

If my body come from brutes, my soul uncertain or a fable,
Why not bask amid the senses while the sun of morning shines,
I, the finer brute rejoicing in my hounds, and in my stable,
Youth and health, and birth and wealth, and choice of women and of wines?

What hast thou done for me, grim Old Age,
save breaking my bones on the rack?
Would I had past in the morning that looks so bright from afar!


Done for thee? starved the wild beast that was linkt with thee eighty years back.
Less weight now for the ladder-of-heaven that hangs on a star.

If my body come from brutes, tho’ somewhat finer than their own,
I am heir, and this my kingdom. Shall the royal voice be mute?
No, but if the rebel subject seek to drag me from the throne,
Hold the sceptre, Human Soul, and rule thy province of the brute.

I have climb’d to the snows of Age, and I gaze at a field in the Past.
Where I sank with the body at times in the sloughs of a low desire,
But I hear no yelp of the beast, and the Man is quiet at last,
As he stands on the heights of his life with a glimpse of a height that is higher.

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Analysis of Tennyson’s “By an Evolutionist”

Alfred Lord Tennyson, who wrote the poem “By an Evolutionist”, sheds a biblical light on the readers’ minds with a picturesque description about the house of the lord. In the first stanza he uses the term “the house of brute” the meaning of which is certainly a class of creature, or even a beast.

The first stanza focuses on the dialogue between the Creator and the soul of a man, which is conceived from the perspective of an Evolutionist. In the poem, the poet is certain that the house of the brute is that of an ape, and firmly believes that even if the evolutionist believes in God, he (evolutionist) believes that people have evolved from the apes, their direct descendants.

The summary of the poem is mainly comprised of the conflicting views of the narrator between the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin, and his compatriots and the religion of Christianity. In the second stanza, Lord Tennyson suffers from this dilemma of how man can come from an ape when apes themselves fumble to choose any decision in their lives.

The theme of the second line of the third stanza refers to the narrator’s hope in criticizing the faith of an evolutionist. The poem slowly shifts to the view of Christianity from the views of an evolutionist where the narrator describes the old age views of the Christians that man is in fact the first of its own.

The narrator, in fact, goes against the views of the evolutionists and states that if the views of an evolutionist degrade the status of mankind, it’s up to the people to safeguard it. In the last stanza, the poet portrays the views of the narrator in stating that Man himself is the “King of Kings” and should never be equated to that of any beast.

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