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Tennyson: 10 essential quotes

Tennyson
Image caption Tennyson was a man for the maxim

The poetic words of Alfred Lord Tennyson will be engraved in the 2012 Olympic village. But what other notable expressions can be attributed to Tennyson?

The last line of Tennyson's monologue Ulysses, "to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield", will serve as inspirational words for the world's athletes when they come to London for next year's games.

Tennyson is quoted everywhere from books to episodes of the Simpsons, and some of his phrases have become commonly used maxims.

Here are 10 other quotes by Tennyson that may ring a bell.

1. "Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die."

From The Charge of the Light Brigade, the poem tells of the famous and brutal military disaster in the Crimean war. Nowadays, the saying is often used in the workplace and encourages one to press on no matter what the task.

Though the narrative as a whole tells the story of soldiers, pieces of the text can be applied to modern situations. "Readers can detach lines from their context and enjoy rolling them around in their mouths and heads," says Oxford University literature professor Dr Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.

2. "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

Perhaps the most well-known of Tennyson's quotes comes from "In Memoriam", a tribute to one of his late friends.

The saying, which is most commonly used to console someone after a break-up, tugs at the heartstrings and serves as a comfort for those with tumultuous love lives.

3. "If I had a flower for every time I thought of you... I could walk through my garden forever."

This romantic sentiment may sound like the message on a greeting card, but it now makes its way into wedding speeches and toasts.

4."Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers."

From the dramatic monologue Locksley Hall, this poem tells the story of a soldier who stays behind to reflect on childhood struggles.

This simple phrase insinuates that knowledge is pieces of information that aren't always retained, but wisdom is a deeper understanding based on life experiences.

5. "A lie that is half-truth is the darkest of all lies."

"His poems are full of concentrated lines and phrases that linger in the mind because of their shape, their sound, their mouthability. They ask to be read and then re-read," explains Douglas-Fairhurst.

6. "I am a part of all that I have met."

In Ulysses, a dramatic monologue detailing the Greek hero's escapades, Tennyson succinctly offers his view that humans are shaped by a combination of all life's experiences.

7. "Better not be at all than not be noble."

In The Princess, Tennyson tells the story of a heroine who refuses to marry, and instead ends up founding a women's university. After a long pursuit and a series of trials, the princess eventually falls in love with a prince.

Tennyson's musing on nobility suggests that there is nothing worse than poor character.

8. "No man ever got very high by pulling other people down. The intelligent merchant does not knock his competitors. The sensible worker does not knock those who work with him. Don't knock your friends. Don't knock your enemies. Don't knock yourself."

This is the kind of maxim that The Office's David Brent might consider framing.

"Often he composed individual lines before working out where to fit them into a poem, and just as he sometimes treated these lines like pieces of lego he could build up into bigger blocks of writing," according to Douglas-Fairhurst.

9. "Who are wise in love, love most, say least."

In Merlin and Viviene, Tennyson tells the passionate love story of a woman seducing a man.

In this particular line of the poem, Tennyson suggests that someone who is in love should show love, not just vocalise their admiration.

10. "Nor is it wiser to weep a true occasion lost, but trim our sails, and let old bygones be."

"Many of Tennyson's poems are concerned with memory - what we should hold onto from the past, and what we should abandon," says Douglas-Fairhurst. "His best poems don't just describe the workings of memory - they also enable it by making themselves so memorable."