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The Early Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson by Tennyson

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Our sons inherit us: our looks are strange:
And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy.
Or else the island princes over-bold
Have eat our substance, and the minstrel sings
Before them of the ten-years' war in Troy,
And our great deeds, as half-forgotten things.
Is there confusion in the little isle? [5]
Let what is broken so remain.
The Gods are hard to reconcile:
'Tis hard to settle order once again.
There 'is' confusion worse than death,
Trouble on trouble, pain on pain,
Long labour unto aged breath,
Sore task to hearts worn out with [6] many wars
And eyes grow dim with gazing on the pilot-stars.[7]


But, propt on beds [8] of amaranth and moly,
How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly)
With half-dropt eyelids still,
Beneath a heaven dark and holy,
To watch the long bright river drawing slowly
His waters from the purple hill--
To hear the dewy echoes calling
From cave to cave thro' the thick-twined vine--
To watch [9] the emerald-colour'd water falling
Thro' many a wov'n acanthus-wreath divine!
Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,
Only to hear were sweet, stretch'd out beneath the pine.


The Lotos blooms below the barren peak: [9]
The Lotos blows by every winding creek:
All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone:
Thro' every hollow cave and alley lone
Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.
We have had enough of action, and of motion we,
Roll'd to starboard, roll'd to larboard, when the surge was seething
Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.
Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl'd
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl'd
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world:
Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery
Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships and praying
But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song
Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
Like a tale of little meaning tho' the words are strong;
Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;
Till they perish and they suffer--some,'tis whisper'd--down in hell
Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell,
Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel.
Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
Oh rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more. [10]

[Footnote 1: 'Cf.' Virgil, AEn., iv., 451:--

Taedet caeli convexa tueri.

Paraphrased from Moschus, 'Idyll', v., 11-15.]

[Footnote 2: For climbing up the wave 'cf.' Virgil, 'AEn.',
i., 381: "Conscendi navilus aequor," and 'cf.' generally Bion,
'Idyll', v., 11-15.]

[Footnote 3: From Moschus, 'Idyll', v.,'passim'.

[Footnote 4: 1833. The.]

[Footnote 5: The little isle, 'i. e.', Ithaca.]

[Footnote 6: 1863 By.]

[Footnote 7: Added in 1842.]

[Footnote 8: 1833. Or, propt on lavish beds.]

[Footnote 9: 1833 to 1850 inclusive. Hear.]

[Footnote 10: 1833 to 1850 inclusive. Flowery peak.]

[Footnote 11: In 1833 we have the following, which in 1842 was excised
and the present text substituted:--

We have had enough of motion,
Weariness and wild alarm,
Tossing on the tossing ocean,
Where the tusked sea-horse walloweth
In a stripe of grass-green calm,
At noontide beneath the lee;
And the monstrous narwhale swalloweth
His foam-fountains in the sea.
Long enough the wine-dark wave our weary bark did carry.
This is lovelier and sweeter,
Men of Ithaca, this is meeter,
In the hollow rosy vale to tarry,
Like a dreamy Lotos-eater, a delirious Lotos-eater!
We will eat the Lotos, sweet
As the yellow honeycomb,
In the valley some, and some
On the ancient heights divine;
And no more roam,
On the loud hoar foam,
To the melancholy home
At the limit of the brine,
The little isle of Ithaca, beneath the day's decline.
We'll lift no more the shattered oar,
No more unfurl the straining sail;
With the blissful Lotos-eaters pale
We will abide in the golden vale
Of the Lotos-land till the Lotos fail;
We will not wander more.
Hark! how sweet the horned ewes bleat
On the solitary steeps,
And the merry lizard leaps,
And the foam-white waters pour;
And the dark pine weeps,
And the lithe vine creeps,
And the heavy melon sleeps
On the level of the shore:
Oh! islanders of Ithaca, we will not wander more,
Surely, surely slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labour in the ocean, and rowing with the oar,
Oh! islanders of Ithaca, we will return no more.

The fine picture in the text of the gods of Epicurus was no doubt
immediately suggested by 'Lucretius', iii., 15 'seq.', while the
'Icaromenippus' of Lucian furnishes an excellent commentary on
Tennyson's picture of those gods and what they see. 'Cf.' too the Song
of the Parcae in Goethe's 'Iphigenie auf Tauris', iv., 5.]


First published in 1833 but very extensively altered on its
republication in 1842. It had been written by June, 1832, and appears to
have been originally entitled 'Legend of Fair Women' (see Spedding's
letter dated 21st June, 1832, 'Life', i., 116). In nearly every edition
between 1833 and 1853 it was revised, and perhaps no poem proves more
strikingly the scrupulous care which Tennyson took to improve what he
thought susceptible of improvement. The work which inspired it,
Chaucer's 'Legend of Good Women', was written about 1384, thus
"preluding" by nearly two hundred years the "spacious times of great
Elizabeth". There is no resemblance between the poems beyond the fact
that both are visions and both have as their heroines illustrious women
who have been unfortunate. Cleopatra is the only one common to the two
poems. Tennyson's is an exquisite work of art--the transition from the
anarchy of dreams to the dreamland landscape and to the sharply denned
figures--the skill with which the heroines (what could be more perfect
that Cleopatra and Jephtha's daughter?) are chosen and contrasted--the
wonderful way in which the Iphigenia of Euripides and Lucretius and the
Cleopatra of Shakespeare are realised are alike admirable. The poem
opened in 1833 with the following strangely irrelevant verses, excised
in 1842, which as Fitzgerald observed "make a perfect poem by themselves
without affecting the 'dream '":--

As when a man, that sails in a balloon,
Downlooking sees the solid shining ground
Stream from beneath him in the broad blue noon,
Tilth, hamlet, mead and mound:

And takes his flags and waves them to the mob,
That shout below, all faces turned to where
Glows ruby-like the far up crimson globe,
Filled with a finer air:

So lifted high, the Poet at his will
Lets the great world flit from him, seeing all,
Higher thro' secret splendours mounting still,
Self-poised, nor fears to fall.

Hearing apart the echoes of his fame.
While I spoke thus, the seedsman, memory,
Sowed my deepfurrowed thought with many a name,
Whose glory will not die.

I read, before my eyelids dropt their shade,
"The Legend of Good Women," long ago
Sung by the morning star [1] of song, who made
His music heard below;

Dan Chaucer, the first warbler, whose sweet breath
Preluded those melodious bursts, that fill
The spacious times of great Elizabeth
With sounds that echo still.

And, for a while, the knowledge of his art
Held me above the subject, as strong gales
Hold swollen clouds from raining, tho' my heart,
Brimful of those wild tales,

Charged both mine eyes with tears.
In every land I saw, wherever light illumineth,
Beauty and anguish walking hand in hand
The downward slope to death. [2]

Those far-renowned brides of ancient song
Peopled the hollow dark, like burning stars,
And I heard sounds of insult, shame, and wrong,
And trumpets blown for wars;

And clattering flints batter'd with clanging hoofs:
And I saw crowds in column'd sanctuaries;
And forms that pass'd [3] at windows and on roofs
Of marble palaces;

Corpses across the threshold; heroes tall
Dislodging pinnacle and parapet
Upon the tortoise creeping to the wall; [4]
Lances in ambush set;

And high shrine-doors burst thro' with heated blasts
That run before the fluttering tongues of fire;
White surf wind-scatter'd over sails and masts,
And ever climbing higher;

Squadrons and squares of men in brazen plates,
Scaffolds, still sheets of water, divers woes,
Ranges of glimmering vaults with iron grates,
And hush'd seraglios.

So shape chased shape as swift as, when to land
Bluster the winds and tides the self-same way,
Crisp foam-flakes scud along the level sand,
Torn from the fringe of spray.

I started once, or seem'd to start in pain,
Resolved on noble things, and strove to speak,
As when a great thought strikes along the brain,
And flushes all the cheek.

And once my arm was lifted to hew down,
A cavalier from off his saddle-bow,
That bore a lady from a leaguer'd town;
And then, I know not how,

All those sharp fancies, by down-lapsing thought
Stream'd onward, lost their edges, and did creep
Roll'd on each other, rounded, smooth'd and brought
Into the gulfs of sleep.

At last methought that I had wander'd far
In an old wood: fresh-wash'd in coolest dew,
The maiden splendours of the morning star
Shook in the steadfast [5] blue.

Enormous elmtree-boles did stoop and lean
Upon the dusky brushwood underneath
Their broad curved branches, fledged with clearest green,
New from its silken sheath.

The dim red morn had died, her journey done,
And with dead lips smiled at the twilight plain,
Half-fall'n across the threshold of the sun,
Never to rise again.

There was no motion in the dumb dead air,
Not any song of bird or sound of rill;
Gross darkness of the inner sepulchre
Is not so deadly still

As that wide forest.
Growths of jasmine turn'd
Their humid arms festooning tree to tree, [6]
And at the root thro' lush green grasses burn'd
The red anemone.

I knew the flowers, I knew the leaves, I knew
The tearful glimmer of the languid dawn
On those long, rank, dark wood-walks, drench'd in dew,
Leading from lawn to lawn.

The smell of violets, hidden in the green,
Pour'd back into my empty soul and frame
The times when I remember to have been
Joyful and free from blame.

And from within me a clear under-tone
Thrill'd thro' mine ears in that unblissful clime
"Pass freely thro': the wood is all thine own,
Until the end of time".

At length I saw a lady [7] within call,
Stiller than chisell'd marble, standing there;
A daughter of the gods, divinely tall, [8]
And most divinely fair.

Her loveliness with shame and with surprise
Froze my swift speech: she turning on my face
The star-like sorrows of immortal eyes,
Spoke slowly in her place.

"I had great beauty: ask thou not my name:
No one can be more wise than destiny.
Many drew swords and died.
Where'er I came I brought calamity."

"No marvel, sovereign lady [9]: in fair field
Myself for such a face had boldly died," [10]
I answer'd free; and turning I appeal'd
To one [11] that stood beside.

But she, with sick and scornful looks averse,
To her full height her stately stature draws;
"My youth," she said, "was blasted with a curse:
This woman was the cause.

"I was cut off from hope in that sad place, [12]
Which yet to name my spirit loathes and fears: [13]
My father held his hand upon his face;
I, blinded with my tears,

"Still strove to speak: my voice was thick with sighs
As in a dream. Dimly I could descry
The stern black-bearded kings with wolfish eyes,
Waiting to see me die.

"The high masts flicker'd as they lay afloat;
The crowds, the temples, waver'd, and the shore;
The bright death quiver'd at the victim's throat;
Touch'd; and I knew no more." [14]

Whereto the other with a downward brow:
"I would the white cold heavy-plunging foam, [15]
Whirl'd by the wind, had roll'd me deep below,
Then when I left my home."

Her slow full words sank thro' the silence drear,
As thunder-drops fall on a sleeping sea:
Sudden I heard a voice that cried, "Come here,
That I may look on thee".

I turning saw, throned on a flowery rise,
One sitting on a crimson scarf unroll'd;
A queen, with swarthy cheeks [16] and bold black eyes,
Brow-bound with burning gold.

She, flashing forth a haughty smile, began:
"I govern'd men by change, and so I sway'd
All moods. Tis long since I have seen a man.
Once, like the moon, I made

"The ever-shifting currents of the blood
According to my humour ebb and flow.
I have no men to govern in this wood:
That makes my only woe.

"Nay--yet it chafes me that I could not bend
One will; nor tame and tutor with mine eye
That dull cold-blooded Caesar. Prythee, friend,
Where is Mark Antony? [17]

"The man, my lover, with whom I rode sublime
On Fortune's neck: we sat as God by God:
The Nilus would have risen before his time
And flooded at our nod. [18]

"We drank the Libyan [19] Sun to sleep, and lit
Lamps which outburn'd Canopus. O my life In Egypt!
O the dalliance and the wit,
The flattery and the strife, [20]

"And the wild kiss, when fresh from war's alarms, [21]
My Hercules, my Roman Antony,
My mailed Bacchus leapt into my arms,
Contented there to die!

"And there he died: and when I heard my name
Sigh'd forth with life, I would not brook my fear [22]
Of the other: with a worm I balk'd his fame.
What else was left? look here!"

(With that she tore her robe apart, and half
The polish'd argent of her breast to sight
Laid bare. Thereto she pointed with a laugh,
Showing the aspick's bite.)

"I died a Queen. The Roman soldier found [23]
Me lying dead, my crown about my brows,
A name for ever!--lying robed and crown'd,
Worthy a Roman spouse."

Her warbling voice, a lyre of widest range
Struck [24] by all passion, did fall down and glance
From tone to tone, and glided thro' all change
Of liveliest utterance.

When she made pause I knew not for delight;
Because with sudden motion from the ground
She raised her piercing orbs, and fill'd with light
The interval of sound.

Still with their fires Love tipt his keenest darts;
As once they drew into two burning rings
All beams of Love, melting the mighty hearts
Of captains and of kings.

Slowly my sense undazzled. Then I heard
A noise of some one coming thro' the lawn,
And singing clearer than the crested bird,
That claps his wings at dawn.

"The torrent brooks of hallow'd Israel
From craggy hollows pouring, late and soon,
Sound all night long, in falling thro' the dell,
Far-heard beneath the moon.

"The balmy moon of blessed Israel
Floods all the deep-blue gloom with beams divine:
All night the splinter'd crags that wall the dell
With spires of silver shine."

As one that museth where broad sunshine laves
The lawn by some cathedral, thro' the door
Hearing the holy organ rolling waves
Of sound on roof and floor,

Within, and anthem sung, is charm'd and tied
To where he stands,--so stood I, when that flow
Of music left the lips of her that died
To save her father's vow;

The daughter of the warrior Gileadite, [25]
A maiden pure; as when she went along
From Mizpeh's tower'd gate with welcome light,
With timbrel and with song.

My words leapt forth: "Heaven heads the count of crimes
With that wild oath". She render'd answer high:
"Not so, nor once alone; a thousand times
I would be born and die.

"Single I grew, like some green plant, whose root
Creeps to the garden water-pipes beneath,
Feeding the flower; but ere my flower to fruit
Changed, I was ripe for death.

"My God, my land, my father--these did move
Me from my bliss of life, that Nature gave,
Lower'd softly with a threefold cord of love
Down to a silent grave.

"And I went mourning, 'No fair Hebrew boy
Shall smile away my maiden blame among
The Hebrew mothers'--emptied of all joy,
Leaving the dance and song,

"Leaving the olive-gardens far below,
Leaving the promise of my bridal bower,
The valleys of grape-loaded vines that glow
Beneath the battled tower

"The light white cloud swam over us. Anon
We heard the lion roaring from his den; [26]
We saw the large white stars rise one by one,
Or, from the darken'd glen,

"Saw God divide the night with flying flame,
And thunder on the everlasting hills.
I heard Him, for He spake, and grief became
A solemn scorn of ills.

"When the next moon was roll'd into the sky,
Strength came to me that equall'd my desire.
How beautiful a thing it was to die
For God and for my sire!

"It comforts me in this one thought to dwell,
That I subdued me to my father's will;
Because the kiss he gave me, ere I fell,
Sweetens the spirit still.

"Moreover it is written that my race
Hew'd Ammon, hip and thigh, from Aroer [27]
On Arnon unto Minneth." Here her face
Glow'd, as I look'd at her.

She lock'd her lips: she left me where I stood:
"Glory to God," she sang, and past afar,
Thridding the sombre boskage of the wood,
Toward the morning-star.

Losing her carol I stood pensively,
As one that from a casement leans his head,
When midnight bells cease ringing suddenly,
And the old year is dead.

"Alas! alas!" a low voice, full of care,
Murmur'd beside me: "Turn and look on me:
I am that Rosamond, whom men call fair,
If what I was I be.

"Would I had been some maiden coarse and poor!
O me, that I should ever see the light!
Those dragon eyes of anger'd Eleanor
Do haunt me, day and night."

She ceased in tears, fallen from hope and trust:
To whom the Egyptian: "O, you tamely died!
You should have clung to Fulvia's waist, and thrust
The dagger thro' her side".

With that sharp sound the white dawn's creeping beams,
Stol'n to my brain, dissolved the mystery
Of folded sleep. The captain of my dreams
Ruled in the eastern sky.

Morn broaden'd on the borders of the dark,
Ere I saw her, who clasp'd in her last trance
Her murder'd father's head, or Joan of Arc, [28]
A light of ancient France;

Or her, who knew that Love can vanquish Death,
Who kneeling, with one arm about her king,
Drew forth the poison with her balmy breath, [29]
Sweet as new buds in Spring.

No memory labours longer from the deep
Gold-mines of thought to lift the hidden ore
That glimpses, moving up, than I from sleep
To gather and tell o'er

Each little sound and sight. With what dull pain
Compass'd, how eagerly I sought to strike
Into that wondrous track of dreams again!
But no two dreams are like.

As when a soul laments, which hath been blest,
Desiring what is mingled with past years,
In yearnings that can never be exprest
By sighs or groans or tears;

Because all words, tho' cull'd [30] with choicest art,
Failing to give the bitter of the sweet,
Wither beneath the palate, and the heart
Faints, faded by its heat.

[Footnote 1: Suggested apparently by Denham, 'Verses on Cowley's

Old Chaucer, like the morning star
To us discovers
Day from far.]

[Footnote 2: Here follow in 1833 two stanzas excised in 1842:--

In every land I thought that, more or less,
The stronger sterner nature overbore
The softer, uncontrolled by gentleness
And selfish evermore:

And whether there were any means whereby,
In some far aftertime, the gentler mind
Might reassume its just and full degree
Of rule among mankind.]

[Footnote 3: 1833. Screamed.]

[Footnote 4: The Latin 'testudo' formed of the shields of soldiers
held over their heads.]

[Footnote 5: 1883 to 1848 inclusive. Stedfast.]

[Footnote 6: 1833.

Clasping jasmine turned
Its twined arms festooning tree to tree.

Altered to present reading, 1842.]

[Footnote 7: A lady, i.e., Helen.]

[Footnote 8: Tennyson has here noticed what is so often emphasised by
Greek writers, that tallness was a great beauty in women. See Aristotle,
'Ethics', iv., 3, and Homer, 'passim, Odyssey', viii., 416;
xviii., 190 and 248; xxi., 6. So Xenophon in describing Panthea
emphasises her tallness, 'Cyroped.', v.]

[Footnote 9: 1883. Sovran lady.]

[Footnote 10: As the old men say, 'Iliad', iii., 156-8.]

[Footnote 11: The one is Iphigenia.]

[Footnote 12: Aulis.]

[Footnote 13: It was not till 1884 that this line was altered to the
reading of the final edition, 'i.e.', "Which men called Aulis in
those iron years". For the "iron years" of that reading 'cf.'
Thomson, 'Spring', 384, "'iron' times".]

[Footnote 14: From 1833 till 1853 this stanza ran:--

"The tall masts quivered as they lay afloat,
The temples and the people and the shore,
One drew a sharp knife thro' my tender throat
Slowly,--and nothing more".

It is curious that Tennyson should have allowed the last line to stand
so long; possibly it may have been to defy Lockhart's sarcastic
commentary: "What touching simplicity, what pathetic resignation--he cut
my throat, nothing more!" With Tennyson's picture should be compared
AEschylus, 'Agamem.', 225-49, and Lucretius, i., 85-100. For the bold and
picturesque substitution of the effect for the cause in the "bright
death quiver'd" 'cf.' Sophocles, 'Electra', 1395,

[Greek: 'neakonaeton aima cheiroin ech_on,']

"with the newly-whetted blood on his hands". So "vulnus" is frequently
used by Virgil, and 'cf.' Silius Italicus, 'Punica', ix.,

Per pectora 'saevas'
Exceptat 'mortes'.]

[Footnote 15: She expresses the same wish in 'Iliad', iii., 73-4.]

[Footnote 16: Cleopatra. The skill with which Tennyson has here given us,
in quintessence as it were, Shakespeare's superb creation needs no
commentary, but it is somewhat surprising to find an accurate scholar
like Tennyson guilty of the absurdity of representing Cleopatra as of
gipsy complexion. The daughter of Ptolemy Aulates and a lady of Pontus,
she was of Greek descent, and had no taint at all of African
intermixtures. See Peacock's remarks in 'Gryll Grange', p. 206, 7th
edit., 1861.]

[Footnote 17: After this in 1833 and in 1842 are the following stanzas,
afterwards excised:--

"By him great Pompey dwarfs and suffers pain,
A mortal man before immortal Mars;
The glories of great Julius lapse and wane,
And shrink from suns to stars.

"That man of all the men I ever knew
Most touched my fancy.
O! what days and nights
We had in Egypt, ever reaping new
Harvest of ripe delights.

"Realm-draining revels! Life was one long feast,
What wit! what words! what sweet words, only made
Less sweet by the kiss that broke 'em, liking best
To be so richly stayed!

"What dainty strifes, when fresh from war's alarms,
My Hercules, my gallant Antony,
My mailed captain leapt into my arms,
Contented there to die!

"And in those arms he died: I heard my name
Sighed forth with life: then I shook off all fear:
Oh, what a little snake stole Caesar's fame!
What else was left? look here!"

"With that she tore her robe apart," etc.]

[Footnote l8: This stanza was added in 1843.]

[Footnote 19: 1845-1848. Lybian.]

[Footnote 20: Added in 1845 as a substitute for

"What nights we had in Egypt! I could hit
His humours while I crossed them:
O the life I led him, and the dalliance and the wit,
The flattery and the strife,

which is the reading of 1843. Canopus is a star in Argo, not visible in
the West, but a conspicuous feature in the sky when seen from Egypt, as
Pliny notices, 'Hist. Nat.', vi., xxiv. "Fatentes Canopum noctibus
sidus ingens et clarum". 'Cf.' Manilius, 'Astron.', i.,
216-17, "Nusquam invenies fulgere Canopum donec Niliacas per pontum
veneris oras," and Lucan, 'Pharsal.', viii., 181-3.]

[Footnote 21: Substituted in 1843 for the reading of 1833 and 1842.]

[Footnote 22: Substituted in 1845 for
the reading of 1833, 1842, 1843, which ran as recorded 'supra'.
1845 to 1848. Lybian. And for the reading of 1843

Sigh'd forth with life I had no further fear,
O what a little worm stole Caesar's fame!]

[Footnote 23: A splendid transfusion of Horace's lines about her, Ode I.,

Invidens Privata deduci superto
Non humilis mulier triumpho.]

[Footnote 24: 1833 and 1842. Touched.]

[Footnote 25: For the story of Jephtha's daughter see Judges, chap. xi.]

[Footnote 26: All editions up to and including 1851. In his den.]

[Footnote 27: For reference see Judges xi, 33.]

[Footnote 28: 1833.

Ere I saw her, that in her latest trance
Clasped her dead father's heart, or Joan of Arc.

The reference is, of course, to the well-known story of Margaret Roper,
the daughter of Sir Thomas More, who is said to have taken his head when
he was executed and preserved it till her death.]

[Footnote 29: Eleanor, the wife of Edward I., is said to have thus saved
his life when he was stabbed at Acre with a poisoned dagger.]

[Footnote 30: The earliest and latest editions, 'i.e.', 1833 and
1853, have "tho'," and all the editions between "though". "Though
culled," etc.]


First printed in 1833.

Another of Tennyson's delicious fancy portraits, the twin sister to


O sweet pale Margaret,
O rare pale Margaret,
What lit your eyes with tearful power,
Like moonlight on a falling shower?
Who lent you, love, your mortal dower
Of pensive thought and aspect pale,
Your melancholy sweet and frail
As perfume of the cuckoo-flower?
From the westward-winding flood,
From the evening-lighted wood,
From all things outward you have won
A tearful grace, as tho' [1] you stood
Between the rainbow and the sun.
The very smile before you speak,
That dimples your transparent cheek,
Encircles all the heart, and feedeth
The senses with a still delight
Of dainty sorrow without sound,
Like the tender amber round,
Which the moon about her spreadeth,
Moving thro' a fleecy night.


You love, remaining peacefully,
To hear the murmur of the strife,
But enter not the toil of life.
Your spirit is the calmed sea,
Laid by the tumult of the fight.
You are the evening star, alway
Remaining betwixt dark and bright:
Lull'd echoes of laborious day
Come to you, gleams of mellow light
Float by you on the verge of night.


What can it matter, Margaret,
What songs below the waning stars
The lion-heart, Plantagenet, [2]
Sang looking thro' his prison bars?
Exquisite Margaret, who can tell
The last wild thought of Chatelet, [3]
Just ere the falling axe did part
The burning brain from the true heart,
Even in her sight he loved so well?


A fairy shield your Genius made
And gave you on your natal day.
Your sorrow, only sorrow's shade,
Keeps real sorrow far away.
You move not in such solitudes,
You are not less divine,
But more human in your moods,
Than your twin-sister, Adeline.
Your hair is darker, and your eyes
Touch'd with a somewhat darker hue,
And less aerially blue,
But ever trembling thro' the dew [4]
Of dainty-woeful sympathies.


O sweet pale Margaret,
O rare pale Margaret,
Come down, come down, and hear me speak:
Tie up the ringlets on your cheek:
The sun is just about to set.
The arching lines are tall and shady,
And faint, rainy lights are seen,
Moving in the leavy beech.
Rise from the feast of sorrow, lady,
Where all day long you sit between
Joy and woe, and whisper each.
Or only look across the lawn,
Look out below your bower-eaves,
Look down, and let your blue eyes dawn
Upon me thro' the jasmine-leaves. [5]

[Footnote 1: All editions except 1833 and 1853. Though.]

[Footnote 2: 1833. Lion-souled Plantagenet. For songs supposed to have
been composed by Richard I. during the time of his captivity see
Sismondi, 'Litterature du Midi de l'Europe', vol. i., p. 149, and
'La Tour Tenebreuse' (1705), which contains a poem said to have
been written by Richard and Blondel in mixed Romance and Provencal, and
a love-song in Norman French, which have frequently been reprinted. See,
too, Barney's 'Hist. of Music', vol. ii., p. 238, and Walpole's
'Royal and Noble Authors', sub.-tit. "Richard I.," and the fourth
volume of Reynouard's 'Choix des Poesies des Troubadours'. All
these poems are probably spurious.]

[Footnote 3: Chatelet was a poet-squire in the suite of the Marshal
Damville, who was executed for a supposed intrigue with Mary Queen of
Scots. See Tytler, 'History of Scotland', vi., p. 319, and Mr.
Swinburne's tragedy.]

[Footnote 4: 1833.

And more aerially blue,
And ever trembling thro' the dew.]

[Footnote 5: 1833. Jasmin-leaves.]


Not in 1833.

This is another poem placed among the poems of 1833, but not printed
till 1842.

O blackbird! sing me something well:
While all the neighbours shoot thee round,
I keep smooth plats of fruitful ground,
Where thou may'st warble, eat and dwell.

The espaliers and the standards all
Are thine; the range of lawn and park:
The unnetted black-hearts ripen dark,
All thine, against the garden wall.

Yet, tho' I spared thee all the spring, [1]
Thy sole delight is, sitting still,
With that gold dagger of thy bill
To fret the summer jenneting. [2]

A golden bill! the silver tongue,
Cold February loved, is dry:
Plenty corrupts the melody
That made thee famous once, when young:

And in the sultry garden-squares, [3]
Now thy flute-notes are changed to coarse,
I hear thee not at all, [4] or hoarse
As when a hawker hawks his wares.

Take warning! he that will not sing
While yon sun prospers in the blue,
Shall sing for want, ere leaves are new,
Caught in the frozen palms of Spring.

[Footnote 1: 1842. Yet, though I spared thee kith and kin. And so till
1853, when it was altered to the present reading.]

[Footnote 2: 1842 to 1851. Jennetin, altered in 1853 to present

[Footnote 3: 1842. I better brook the drawling stares. Altered, 1843.]

[Footnote 4: 1842. Not hearing thee at all. Altered, 1843.]


First printed in 1833.

Only one alteration has been made in this poem, in line 41, where in
1842 "one' was altered to" twelve ".

Full knee-deep lies the winter snow,
And the winter winds are wearily sighing:
Toll ye the church-bell sad and slow,
And tread softly and speak low,
For the old year lies a-dying.
Old year, you must not die;
You came to us so readily,
You lived with us so steadily,
Old year, you shall not die.

He lieth still: he doth not move:
He will not see the dawn of day.
He hath no other life above.
He gave me a friend, and a true, true-love,
And the New-year will take 'em away.
Old year, you must not go;
So long as you have been with us,
Such joy as you have seen with us,
Old year, you shall not go.

He froth'd his bumpers to the brim;
A jollier year we shall not see.
But tho' his eyes are waxing dim,
And tho' his foes speak ill of him,
He was a friend to me.
Old year, you shall not die;
We did so laugh and cry with you,
I've half a mind to die with you,
Old year, if you must die.

He was full of joke and jest,
But all his merry quips are o'er.
To see him die, across the waste
His son and heir doth ride post-haste,
But he'll be dead before.
Every one for his own.
The night is starry and cold, my friend,
And the New-year blithe and bold, my friend,
Comes up to take his own.

How hard he breathes! over the snow
I heard just now the crowing cock.
The shadows flicker to and fro:
The cricket chirps: the light burns low:
'Tis nearly twelve [1] o'clock.
Shake hands, before you die.
Old year, we'll dearly rue for you:
What is it we can do for you?
Speak out before you die.

His face is growing sharp and thin.
Alack! our friend is gone.
Close up his eyes: tie up his chin:
Step from the corpse, and let him in
That standeth there alone,
And waiteth at the door.
There's a new foot on the floor, my friend,
And a new face at the door, my friend,
A new face at the door.

[Footnote 1: 1833. One.]

TO J. S.

First published in 1833.

This beautiful poem was addressed to James Spedding on the death of his
brother Edward.

The wind, that beats the mountain, blows
More softly round the open wold, [1]
And gently comes the world to those
That are cast in gentle mould.

And me this knowledge bolder made,
Or else I had not dared to flow [2]
In these words toward you, and invade
Even with a verse your holy woe.

'Tis strange that those we lean on most,
Those in whose laps our limbs are nursed,
Fall into shadow, soonest lost:
Those we love first are taken first.

God gives us love. Something to love
He lends us; but, when love is grown
To ripeness, that on which it throve
Falls off, and love is left alone.

This is the curse of time. Alas!
In grief I am not all unlearn'd;
Once thro' mine own doors Death did pass; [3]
One went, who never hath return'd.

He will not smile--nor speak to me
Once more. Two years his chair is seen
Empty before us. That was he
Without whose life I had not been.

Your loss is rarer; for this star
Rose with you thro' a little arc
Of heaven, nor having wander'd far
Shot on the sudden into dark.

I knew your brother: his mute dust
I honour and his living worth:
A man more pure and bold [4] and just
Was never born into the earth.

I have not look'd upon you nigh,
Since that dear soul hath fall'n asleep.
Great Nature is more wise than I:
I will not tell you not to weep.

And tho' mine own eyes fill with dew,
Drawn from the spirit thro' the brain, [5]
I will not even preach to you,
"Weep, weeping dulls the inward pain".

Let Grief be her own mistress still.
She loveth her own anguish deep
More than much pleasure. Let her will
Be done--to weep or not to weep.

I will not say "God's ordinance
Of Death is blown in every wind";
For that is not a common chance
That takes away a noble mind.

His memory long will live alone
In all our hearts, as mournful light
That broods above the fallen sun, [6]
And dwells in heaven half the night.

Vain solace! Memory standing near
Cast down her eyes, and in her throat
Her voice seem'd distant, and a tear
Dropt on the letters [7] as I wrote.

I wrote I know not what. In truth,
How _should_ I soothe you anyway,
Who miss the brother of your youth?
Yet something I did wish to say:

For he too was a friend to me:
Both are my friends, and my true breast
Bleedeth for both; yet it may be
That only [8] silence suiteth best.

Words weaker than your grief would make
Grief more. 'Twere better I should cease;
Although myself could almost take [9]
The place of him that sleeps in peace.

Sleep sweetly, tender heart, in peace:
Sleep, holy spirit, blessed soul,
While the stars burn, the moons increase,
And the great ages onward roll.

Sleep till the end, true soul and sweet.
Nothing comes to thee new or strange.
Sleep full of rest from head to feet;
Lie still, dry dust, secure of change.

[Footnote 1: Possibly suggested by Tasso, 'Gerus.', lib. xx., st.

Qual vento a cui s'oppone o selva o colle
Doppia nella contesa i soffi e l' ira;
Ma con fiato piu placido e piu molle
Per le compagne libere poi spira.]

[Footnote 2: 1833.

My heart this knowledge bolder made,
Or else it had not dared to flow.

Altered in 1842.]

[Footnote 3: Tennyson's father died in March, 1831.]

[Footnote 4: 1833. Mild.]

[Footnote 5: 'Cf.' Gray's Alcaic stanza on West's death:--

O lacrymarum fons tenero sacros
'Ducentium ortus ex animo'.]

[Footnote 6: 1833. Sunken sun. Altered to present reading, 1842. The
image may have been suggested by Henry Vaughan, 'Beyond the Veil':--

Their very memory is fair and bright,
It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast Like stars
Or those faint beams in which the hill is drest
After the sun's remove.]

[Footnote 7: 1833, 1842, 1843. My tablets. This affected phrase was
altered to the present reading in 1845.]

[Footnote 8: 1833. Holy. Altered to "only," 1842.]

[Footnote 9: 1833. Altho' to calm you I would take. Altered to present
reading, 1842.]


This is another poem which, though included among those belonging to
1833, was not published till 1842. It is an interesting illustration,
like the next poem but one, of Tennyson's political opinions; he was, he
said, "of the same politics as Shakespeare, Bacon and every sane man".
He was either ignorant of the politics of Shakespeare and Bacon or did
himself great injustice by the remark. It would have been more true to
say--for all his works illustrate it--that he was of the same politics
as Burke. He is here, and in all his poems, a Liberal-Conservative in
the proper sense of the term. At the time this trio of poems was written
England was passing through the throes which preceded, accompanied and
followed the Reform Bill, and the lessons which Tennyson preaches in
them were particularly appropriate. He belonged to the Liberal Party
rather in relation to social and religious than to political questions.
Thus he ardently supported the Anti-slavery Convention and advocated the
measure for abolishing subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles, but he
was, as a politician, on the side of Canning, Peel and the Duke of
Wellington, regarding as they did the new-born democracy with mingled
feelings of apprehension and perplexity. His exact attitude is indicated
by some verses written about this time published by his son ('Life', i.,
69-70). If Mr. Aubrey de Vere is correct this and the following poem
were occasioned by some popular demonstrations connected with the Reform
Bill and its rejection by the House of Lords. See 'Life of Tennyson',
vol. i., appendix.

You ask me, why, tho' [1] ill at ease,
Within this region I subsist,
Whose spirits falter in the mist, [2]
And languish for the purple seas?

It is the land that freemen till,
That sober-suited Freedom chose,
The land, where girt with friends or foes
A man may speak the thing he will;

A land of settled government,
A land of just and old renown,
Where Freedom broadens slowly down
From precedent to precedent:

Where faction seldom gathers head,
But by degrees to fulness wrought,
The strength of some diffusive thought
Hath time and space to work and spread.

Should banded unions persecute
Opinion, and induce a time
When single thought is civil crime,
And individual freedom mute;

Tho' Power should make from land to land [3]
The name of Britain trebly great--
Tho' every channel [4] of the State
Should almost choke with golden sand--

Yet waft me from the harbour-mouth,
Wild wind! I seek a warmer sky,
And I will see before I die
The palms and temples of the South.

[Footnote 1: 1842 and 1851. Though.]

[Footnote 2: 1842 to 1843. Whose spirits fail within the mist. Altered
to present reading in 1845.]

[Footnote 3: All editions up to and including 1851. Though Power, etc.]

[Footnote 4: 1842-1850. Though every channel.]


First published in 1842, but it seems to have been written in 1834. The
fourth and fifth stanzas are given in a postscript of a letter from
Tennyson to James Spedding, dated 1834.

Of old sat Freedom on the heights,
The thunders breaking at her feet:
Above her shook the starry lights:
She heard the torrents meet.

There in her place [1] she did rejoice,
Self-gather'd in her prophet-mind,
But fragments of her mighty voice
Came rolling on the wind.

Then stept she down thro' town and field
To mingle with the human race,
And part by part to men reveal'd
The fullness of her face--

Grave mother of majestic works,
From her isle-altar gazing down,
Who, God-like, grasps the triple forks, [2]
And, King-like, wears the crown:

Her open eyes desire the truth.
The wisdom of a thousand years
Is in them. May perpetual youth
Keep dry their light from tears;

That her fair form may stand and shine,
Make bright our days and light our dreams,
Turning to scorn with lips divine
The falsehood of extremes!

[Footnote 1: 1842 to 1850 inclusive. Within her place. Altered to
present reading, 1850.]

[Footnote 2: The "trisulci ignes" or "trisulca tela" of the Roman


First published in 1842.

This poem had been written by 1834, for Tennyson sends it in a letter
dated that year to James Spedding (see 'Life',, i., 173).

Love thou thy land, with love far-brought
From out the storied Past, and used
Within the Present, but transfused
Thro' future time by power of thought.

True love turn'd round on fixed poles,
Love, that endures not sordid ends,
For English natures, freemen, friends,
Thy brothers and immortal souls.

But pamper not a hasty time,
Nor feed with crude imaginings
The herd, wild hearts and feeble wings,
That every sophister can lime.

Deliver not the tasks of might
To weakness, neither hide the ray
From those, not blind, who wait for day,
Tho' [1] sitting girt with doubtful light.

Make knowledge [2] circle with the winds;
But let her herald, Reverence, fly
Before her to whatever sky
Bear seed of men and growth [3] of minds.

Watch what main-currents draw the years:
Cut Prejudice against the grain:
But gentle words are always gain:
Regard the weakness of thy peers:

Nor toil for title, place, or touch
Of pension, neither count on praise:
It grows to guerdon after-days:
Nor deal in watch-words overmuch;

Not clinging to some ancient saw;
Not master'd by some modern term;
Not swift nor slow to change, but firm:
And in its season bring the law;

That from Discussion's lip may fall
With Life, that, working strongly, binds--
Set in all lights by many minds,
To close the interests of all.

For Nature also, cold and warm,
And moist and dry, devising long,
Thro' many agents making strong,
Matures the individual form.

Meet is it changes should control
Our being, lest we rust in ease.
We all are changed by still degrees,
All but the basis of the soul.

So let the change which comes be free
To ingroove itself with that, which flies,
And work, a joint of state, that plies
Its office, moved with sympathy.

A saying, hard to shape an act;
For all the past of Time reveals
A bridal dawn of thunder-peals,
Wherever Thought hath wedded Fact.

Ev'n now we hear with inward strife
A motion toiling in the gloom--
The Spirit of the years to come
Yearning to mix himself with Life.

A slow-develop'd strength awaits
Completion in a painful school;
Phantoms of other forms of rule,
New Majesties of mighty States--

The warders of the growing hour,
But vague in vapour, hard to mark;
And round them sea and air are dark
With great contrivances of Power.

Of many changes, aptly join'd,
Is bodied forth the second whole,
Regard gradation, lest the soul
Of Discord race the rising wind;

A wind to puff your idol-fires,
And heap their ashes on the head;
To shame the boast so often made, [4]
That we are wiser than our sires.

Oh, yet, if Nature's evil star
Drive men in manhood, as in youth,
To follow flying steps of Truth
Across the brazen bridge of war--[5]

If New and Old, disastrous feud,
Must ever shock, like armed foes,
And this be true, till Time shall close,
That Principles are rain'd in blood;

Not yet the wise of heart would cease
To hold his hope thro' shame and guilt,
But with his hand against the hilt,
Would pace the troubled land, like Peace;

Not less, tho' dogs of Faction bay, [6]
Would serve his kind in deed and word,
Certain, if knowledge bring the sword,
That knowledge takes the sword away--

Would love the gleams of good that broke
From either side, nor veil his eyes;
And if some dreadful need should rise
Would strike, and firmly, and one stroke:

To-morrow yet would reap to-day,
As we bear blossom of the dead;
Earn well the thrifty months, nor wed
Raw haste, half-sister to Delay.

[Footnote 1: 1842 and so till 1851. Though.]

[Footnote 2: 1842. Knowledge is spelt with a capital K.]

[Footnote 3: 1842. Or growth.]

[Footnote 4: 1842. The boasting words we said.]

[Footnote 5: Possibly suggested by Homer's expression, [Greek: ana
ptolemoio gephuras], 'Il'., viii., 549, and elsewhere; but Homer's
and Tennyson's meaning can hardly be the same. In Homer the "bridges of
war" seem to mean the spaces between the lines of tents in a bivouac: in
Tennyson the meaning is probably the obvious one.]

[Footnote 6: All up to and including 1851. Not less, though dogs of
Faction bay.]


This was first published in 1842. No alteration has since been made in

This poem, which was written at the time of the Reform Bill agitation,
is a political allegory showing how illusory were the supposed
advantages held out by the Radicals to the poor and labouring classes.
The old woman typifies these classes, the stranger the Radicals, the
goose the Radical programme, Free Trade and the like, the eggs such
advantages as the proposed Radical measures might for a time seem to
confer, the cluttering goose, the storm and whirlwind the heavy price
which would have to be paid for them in the social anarchy resulting
from triumphant Radicalism. The allegory may be narrowed to the Free
Trade question.

I knew an old wife lean and poor,
Her rags scarce held together;
There strode a stranger to the door,
And it was windy weather.

He held a goose upon his arm,
He utter'd rhyme and reason,
"Here, take the goose, and keep you warm,
It is a stormy season".

She caught the white goose by the leg,
A goose--'twas no great matter.
The goose let fall a golden egg
With cackle and with clatter.

She dropt the goose, and caught the pelf,
And ran to tell her neighbours;
And bless'd herself, and cursed herself,
And rested from her labours.

And feeding high, and living soft,
Grew plump and able-bodied;
Until the grave churchwarden doff'd,
The parson smirk'd and nodded.

So sitting, served by man and maid,
She felt her heart grow prouder:
But, ah! the more the white goose laid
It clack'd and cackled louder.

It clutter'd here, it chuckled there;
It stirr'd the old wife's mettle:
She shifted in her elbow-chair,
And hurl'd the pan and kettle.

"A quinsy choke thy cursed note!"
Then wax'd her anger stronger:
"Go, take the goose, and wring her throat,
I will not bear it longer".

Then yelp'd the cur, and yawl'd the cat;
Ran Gaffer, stumbled Gammer.
The goose flew this way and flew that,
And fill'd the house with clamour.

As head and heels upon the floor
They flounder'd all together,
There strode a stranger to the door,
And it was windy weather:

He took the goose upon his arm,
He utter'd words of scorning;
"So keep you cold, or keep you warm,
It is a stormy morning".

The wild wind rang from park and plain,
And round the attics rumbled,
Till all the tables danced again,
And half the chimneys tumbled.

The glass blew in, the fire blew out,
The blast was hard and harder.
Her cap blew off, her gown blew up,
And a whirlwind clear'd the larder;

And while on all sides breaking loose
Her household fled the danger,
Quoth she, "The Devil take the goose,
And God forget the stranger!"


First published in 1842; "tho'" for "though" in line 44 has been the
only alteration made since 1850.

This Prologue was written, like the Epilogue, after "The Epic" had been
composed, being added, Fitzgerald says, to anticipate or excuse "the
faint Homeric echoes," to give a reason for telling an old-world tale.
The poet "mouthing out his hollow oes and aes" is, we are told, a good
description of Tennyson's tone and manner of reading.

At Francis Allen's on the Christmas-eve,--
The game of forfeits done--the girls all kiss'd
Beneath the sacred bush and past away--
The parson Holmes, the poet Everard Hall,
The host, and I sat round the wassail-bowl,
Then half-way ebb'd: and there we held a talk,
How all the old honour had from Christmas gone,
Or gone, or dwindled down to some odd games
In some odd nooks like this; till I, tired out
With cutting eights that day upon the pond,
Where, three times slipping from the outer edge,
I bump'd the ice into three several stars,
Fell in a doze; and half-awake I heard
The parson taking wide and wider sweeps,
Now harping on the church-commissioners, [1]
Now hawking at Geology and schism;
Until I woke, and found him settled down
Upon the general decay of faith
Right thro' the world, "at home was little left,
And none abroad: there was no anchor, none,
To hold by". Francis, laughing, clapt his hand
On Everard's shoulder, with "I hold by him".
"And I," quoth Everard, "by the wassail-bowl."
"Why, yes," I said, "we knew your gift that way
At college: but another which you had,
I mean of verse (for so we held it then),
What came of that?" "You know," said Frank, "he burnt
His epic, his King Arthur, some twelve books "--[2]
And then to me demanding why? "Oh, sir,
He thought that nothing new was said, or else
Something so said 'twas nothing--that a truth
Looks freshest in the fashion of the day:
God knows: he has a mint of reasons: ask.
It pleased _me_ well enough." "Nay, nay," said Hall,
"Why take the style of those heroic times?
For nature brings not back the Mastodon,
Nor we those times; and why should any man
Remodel models? these twelve books of mine [3]
Were faint Homeric echoes, nothing-worth,
Mere chaff and draff, much better burnt."
"But I," Said Francis, "pick'd the eleventh from this hearth,
And have it: keep a thing its use will come.
I hoard it as a sugar-plum for Holmes."
He laugh'd, and I, though sleepy, like a horse
That hears the corn-bin open, prick'd my ears;
For I remember'd Everard's college fame
When we were Freshmen: then at my request
He brought it; and the poet little urged,
But with some prelude of disparagement,
Read, mouthing out his hollow oes and aes,
Deep-chested music, and to this result.

[Footnote 1: A burning topic with the clergy in and about 1833.]

[Footnote 2: 1842 to 1844. "You know," said Frank, "he flung His epic
of King Arthur in the fire!" The present reading, 1850.]

[Footnote 3: 1842, 1843.

Remodel models rather than the life?
And these twelve books of mine (to speak the truth).

Present reading, 1845.]


This is Tennyson's first study from Malory's 'Morte d'Arthur'. We learn
from Fitzgerald that it was written as early as the spring of 1835, for
in that year Tennyson read it to Fitzgerald and Spedding, "out of a MS.
in a little red book," and again we learn that he repeated some lines of
it at the end of May, 1835, one calm day on Windermere, adding "Not bad
that, Fitz., is it?" ('Life', i., 184). It is here represented as the
eleventh book of an Epic, the rest of which had been destroyed, though
Tennyson afterwards incorporated it, adding introductory lines, with
what was virtually to prove an Epic in twelve books, 'The Idylls of the
King'. The substance of the poem is drawn from the third, fourth and
fifth chapters of the twenty-first book of Malory's 'Romance', which is
followed very closely. It is called "an Homeric echo," but the diction
bears a much closer resemblance to that of Virgil than to that of Homer,
though the rhythm is perhaps more Homeric than Virgilian. It is
Tennyson's masterpiece in "the grand style," and is indeed as near
perfection as any work of this kind could be. In spite of its singular
mixture of simplicity, purely Homeric, and artificiality, at times
ultra-Virgilian, the incongruity never shocks, so noble and impressive
is the general effect. The text of 1842 was never subsequently altered
except in the spelling of "mere" and "though" in lines 37, 77, 147, 155,
162, 272, and in the insertion in 1853 of the line:--

"Across the ridge and pac'd beside the mere."

So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
Among the mountains by the winter sea;
Until King Arthur's table, man by man,
Had fall'n in Lyonness about their Lord,
King Arthur: then, because his wound was deep,
The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him,
Sir Bedivere, the last of all his knights,
And bore him to a chapel nigh the field, [1]
A broken chancel with a broken cross,
That stood on a dark strait of barren land.
On one side lay the Ocean, and on one
Lay a great water, and the moon was full.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
"The sequel of to-day unsolders all
The goodliest fellowship of famous knights
Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep
They sleep--the men I loved. I think that we
Shall never more, at any future time,
Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds,
Walking about the gardens and the halls
Of Camelot, as in the days that were.
I perish by this people which I made,--
Tho' Merlin sware that I should come again
To rule once more--but let what will be, be,
I am so deeply smitten thro' the helm
That without help I cannot last till morn.
Thou therefore take my brand [2] Excalibur,
Which was my pride: for thou rememberest how
In those old days, one summer noon, an arm
Rose up from out the bosom of the lake,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
Holding the sword--and how I row'd across
And took it, and have worn it, like a king:
And, wheresoever I am sung or told
In aftertime, this also shall be known:
But now delay not: take Excalibur,
And fling him far into the middle mere:
Watch what thou seest, and lightly bring me word."
To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere:
"It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus,
Aidless, alone, and smitten thro' the helm.
A little thing may harm a wounded man.
Yet I thy hest will all perform at full,
Watch what I see, and lightly bring thee word."
So saying, from the ruin'd shrine he stept
And in the moon athwart the place of tombs,
Where lay the mighty bones of ancient men,
Old knights, and over them the sea-wind sang
Shrill, chill, with flakes of foam. He, stepping down
By zig-zag paths, and juts of pointed rock,
Came on the shining levels of the lake.
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,
And o'er him, drawing it, the winter moon,
Brightening the skirts of a long cloud, ran forth
And sparkled keen with frost against the hilt:
For all the haft twinkled with diamond sparks, [3]
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work
Of subtlest jewellery. He gazed so long
That both his eyes were dazzled, as he stood,
This way and that dividing the swift mind, [4]
In act to throw: but at the last it seem'd
Better to leave Excalibur conceal'd
There in the many-knotted waterflags,
That whistled stiff and dry about the marge.
So strode he back slow to the wounded king.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
"Hast thou perform'd my mission which I gave?
What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
"I heard the ripple washing in the reeds, [5]
And the wild water lapping on the crag."
To whom replied King Arthur, faint and pale:
"Thou hast betray'd thy nature and thy name,
Not rendering true answer, as beseem'd
Thy fealty, nor like a noble knight:
For surer sign had follow'd, either hand,
Or voice, or else a motion of the mere.
This is a shameful thing for men to lie.
Yet now, I charge thee, quickly go again [6]
As thou art lief and dear, and do the thing
I bade thee, watch, and lightly bring me word."
Then went Sir Bedivere the second time
Across the ridge, and paced beside the mere, [7]
Counting the dewy pebbles, fix'd in thought;
But when he saw the wonder of the hilt,
How curiously and strangely chased, he smote
His palms together, and he cried aloud,
"And if indeed I cast the brand away,
Surely a precious thing, one worthy note,
Should thus be lost for ever from the earth,
Which might have pleased the eyes of many men.
What good should follow this, if this were done?
What harm, undone? deep harm to disobey,
Seeing obedience is the bond of rule,
Were it well to obey then, if a king demand
An act unprofitable against himself?
The king is sick, and knows not what he does.
What record, or what relic of my lord
Should be to aftertime, but empty breath
And rumours of a doubt? but were this kept,
Stored in some treasure-house of mighty kings,
Some one might show it at a joust of arms,
Saying, 'King Arthur's sword, Excalibur,
Wrought by the lonely maiden of the Lake.
Nine years she wrought it, sitting in the deeps
Upon the hidden bases of the hills."
So might some old man speak in the aftertime
To all the people, winning reverence.
But now much honour and much fame were lost."
So spake he, clouded with his own conceit,
And hid Excalibur the second time,
And so strode back slow to the wounded King.
Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily:
"What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
"I heard the water lapping on the crag,
And the long ripple washing in the reeds."
To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath:
"Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue, [8]
Unknightly, traitor-hearted! Woe is me!
Authority forgets a dying king, [9]
Laid widow'd of the power in his eye
That bow'd the will. I see thee what thou art,
For thou, the latest-left of all my knights,
In whom should meet the offices of all,
Thou wouldst betray me for the precious hilt;
Either from lust of gold, or like a girl
Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes.
Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice,
And the third time may prosper, get thee hence:
But, if thou spare to fling Excalibur,
I will arise and slay thee with my hands."
Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran, [10]
And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged
Among the bulrush-beds, and clutch'd the sword,
And strongly wheel'd and threw it. The great brand
Made lightnings in the splendour of the moon,
And flashing round and round, and whirl'd in an arch,
Shot like a streamer of the northern morn,
Seen where the moving isles of winter shock
By night, with noises of the northern sea.
So flash'd and fell the brand Excalibur:
But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
And caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere.
And lightly went the other to the King.
Then spoke King Arthur, drawing thicker breath:
"Now see I by thine eyes that this is done.
Speak out: what is it thou hast heard, or seen?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
"Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems
Should blind my purpose, for I never saw,
Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die,
Not tho' I live three lives of mortal men,
So great a miracle as yonder hilt.
Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him;
But when I look'd again, behold an arm,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
That caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere."
And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard:
"My end draws nigh;'tis time that I were gone.
Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight,
And bear me to the margin; yet I fear [11]
My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die."
So saying, from the pavement he hath rose,
Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm,
And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes
As in a picture. Him Sir Bedivere
Remorsefully regarded thro' his tears,
And would have spoken, but he found not words,
Then took with care, and kneeling on one knee,
O'er both his shoulders drew the languid hands,
And rising bore him thro' the place of tombs.
But, as he walk'd, King Arthur panted hard,
Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed
When all the house is mute. So sigh'd the King,
Muttering and murmuring at his ear"
Quick, quick! I fear it is too late, and I shall die ".
But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge,
Clothed with his breath, and looking, as he walk'd,
Larger than human on the frozen hills.
He heard the deep behind him, and a cry
Before. His own thought drove him like a goad.
Dry clash'd his harness in the icy caves
And barren chasms, and all to left and right
The bare black cliff clang'd round him, as he based
His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang
Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels--
And on a sudden, lo! the level lake,
And the long glories of the winter moon.
Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge, [12]
Dark as a funeral scarf from stem to stern,
Beneath them; and descending they were ware
That all the decks were dense with stately forms
Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream--by these
Three Queens with crowns of gold--and from them rose
A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars,
And, as it were one voice, an agony
Of lamentation, like a wind, that shrills
All night in a waste land, where no one comes,
Or hath come, since the making of the world.
Then murmur'd Arthur, "Place me in the barge,"
And to the barge they came. There those three Queens
Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept.
But she, that rose the tallest of them all
And fairest, laid his head upon her lap,
And loosed the shatter'd casque, and chafed his hands,
And call'd him by his name, complaining loud,
And dropping bitter tears against his brow
Striped with dark blood: for all his face was white
And colourless, and like the wither'd moon
Smote by the fresh beam of the springing east;
And all his greaves and cuisses dash'd with drops
Of onset; and the light and lustrous curls--
That made his forehead like a rising sun
High from the daeis-throne--were parch'd with dust;
Or, clotted into points and hanging loose,
Mix'd with the knightly growth that fringed his lips.
So like a shatter'd column lay the King;
Not like that Arthur who, with lance in rest,
From spur to plume a star of tournament,
Shot thro' the lists at Camelot, and charged
Before the eyes of ladies and of kings.
Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere, [13]
"Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole ROUND TABLE is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world;
And I, the last, go forth companionless.
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds."
And slowly answer'd Arthur from the barge:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways, [14]
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within Himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains [15] about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seest--if indeed I go--
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, [16] or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawns
And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea, [17]
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."
So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Look'd one black dot against the verge of dawn.
And on the mere the wailing died away.

Here ended Hall, and our last light, that long
Had wink'd and threaten'd darkness, flared and fell:
At which the Parson, sent to sleep with sound,
And waked with silence, grunted "Good!" but we
Sat rapt: It was the tone with which he read--
Perhaps some modern touches here and there
Redeem'd it from the charge of nothingness--
Or else we loved the man, and prized his work;
I know not: but we sitting, as I said,
The cock crew loud; as at that time of year
The lusty bird takes every hour for dawn:
Then Francis, muttering, like a man ill-used,
"There now--that's nothing!" drew a little back,
And drove his heel into the smoulder'd log,
That sent a blast of sparkles up the flue;
And so to bed; where yet in sleep I seem'd
To sail with Arthur under looming shores.
Point after point; till on to dawn, when dreams
Begin to feel the truth and stir of day,
To me, methought, who waited with a crowd,
There came a bark that, blowing forward, bore,
King Arthur, like a modern gentleman
Of stateliest port; and all the people cried,
"Arthur is come again: he cannot die".
Then those that stood upon the hills behind
Repeated--"Come again, and thrice as fair";
And, further inland, voices echoed--
"Come With all good things, and war shall be no more".
At this a hundred bells began to peal,
That with the sound I woke, and heard indeed
The clear church-bells ring in the Christmas morn.

[Footnote 1: 'Cf. Morte d'Arthur', xxxi., iv.: "They led him betwixt
them to a little chapel from the not far seaside".]

[Footnote 2: 'Cf. Id.', v.:

"'Therefore,' said Arthur, 'take thou my good sword Excalibur and go
with it to yonder waterside. And when thou comest there I charge thee
throw my sword on that water and come again and tell me what thou
there seest.'

'My lord,' said Bedivere, 'your commandment shall be done and lightly
will I bring thee word again.'

So Sir Bedivere departed and by the way he beheld that noble sword,
that the pommel and the haft were all of precious stones, and then he
said to himself, 'If I throw this rich sword in the water, thereof
shall never come to good but harm and loss'. And then Sir Bedivere hid
Excalibur under a tree."]

[Footnote 3: 1842-1853. Studs.]

[Footnote 4: Literally from Virgil ('AEn.', iv., 285).

"Atque animum nunc huc celerem nunc dividit illuc."]

[Footnote 5: 'Cf. Romance, Id.', v.:

"'I saw nothing but the waters wap and the waves wan.'"]

[Footnote 6: 'Romance, Id.', v.:

"'That is untruly said of thee,' said the king, 'therefore go thou
lightly again and do my command as thou to me art lief and dear; spare
not, but throw in.'

Then Sir Bedivere returned again and took the sword in his hand, and
then him thought sin and shame to throw away that noble sword, and so
eft he hid the sword and returned again, and told the king that he had
been to the water and done his commandment."]

[Footnote 7: This line was not inserted till 1853.]

[Footnote 8: 'Romance, Id.', v.:

"'Ah, traitor untrue!' said King Arthur, 'now thou hast betrayed me
twice. Who would have weened that thou that hast been so lief and
dear, and thou that art named a noble knight, would betray me for the
riches of the sword. But now go again lightly.... And but if thou do
not now as I bid thee, if ever I may see thee I shall slay thee with
mine own hands."']

[Footnote 9: There is a curious illustration of this in an anecdote told
of Queen Elizabeth. "Cecil intimated that she must go to bed, if it were
only to satisfy her people.

'Must!' she exclaimed; 'is must a word to be addressed to princes?
Little man, little man, thy father if he had been alive durst not have
used that word, but thou hast grown presumptuous because thou knowest
that I shall die.'"

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