A touching illustration of angels in the churchyard (18) where the May Queen will be laid to rest. It is entirely the artist’s invention – no such scene features in Tennyson’s poem. Boyle combines realistic observation of a churchyard with the fantasy figures of the cherubic angels. Converted into children, the divine visitors suggest that youthful dying is part of God’s plan, and not the result of arbitrary forces. The church is again a monumental and reassuring element within the design; Boyle also stresses the order of the divine structure by juxtaposing the seasonal and ever-changing snowdrops (which do feature in the verse, 18) with emblems of eternity in the form of the graves and the yew which presides over the heavenly visitation. The great trunk is noticeably divided into three, a realistic detail that connotes the presence of the Trinity. 3¼ x 4 inches. Wood engraving, cut by Horace Harral. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image and text by Simon Cooke. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned it and (2) link to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.


Tennyson, Alfred. The May Queen. London: Sampson Low, 1861.

Created 22 April 2021