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The Early Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson by Tennyson

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Lingard, 'Hist'., vol. vi., p. 316.]

[Footnote 10: 'Romance, Id'., v.:

"Then Sir Bedivere departed and went to the sword and lightly took it
up and went to the waterside, and then he bound the girdle about the
hilt and then he threw the sword as far into the water as he might,
and then came an arm and a hand above the water, and met it and caught
it and so shook it thrice and brandished it, and then vanished away
the hand with the sword in the water."]

[Footnote 11: 'Romance, Id.', v.:

"'Alas,' said the king, 'help me hence for I dread me I have tarried
over long'.

Then Sir Bedivere took the king upon his back and so went with him to
that water."]

[Footnote 12: 'Romance, Id'., v.:

"And when they were at the waterside even fast by the bank hoved a
little barge and many fair ladies in it, and among them all was a
queen and all they had black hoods and all they wept and shrieked when
they saw King Arthur. 'Now put me into the barge,' said the king, and
so they did softly. And there received him three queens with great
mourning, and so they set him down and in one of their laps King
Arthur laid his head; and then that queen said: 'Ah, dear brother, why
have ye tarried so long from me?'"]

[Footnote 13: 'Romance, Id'., v.:

"Then Sir Bedivere cried: 'Ah, my Lord Arthur, what shall become of me
now ye go from me and leave me here alone among mine enemies?'

'Comfort thyself,' said the king, 'and do as well as thou mayest, for
in me is no trust to trust in. For I will unto the vale of Avilion to
heal me of my grievous wound. And if thou never hear more of me, pray
for my soul.'"]

[Footnote 14: With this 'cf>/i>. Greene, 'James IV'., v., 4:--

"Should all things still remain in one estate
Should not in greatest arts some scars be found
Were all upright nor chang'd what world were this?
A chaos made of quiet, yet no world."

And 'cf'. Shakespeare, 'Coriolanus', ii., iii.:--

What custom wills in all things should we do it,
The dust on antique Time would be unswept,
And mountainous error too highly heaped
For Truth to overpeer.]

[Footnote 15: 'Cf.' Archdeacon Hare's "Sermon on the Law of

"This is the golden chain of love whereby the whole creation is bound
to the throne of the Creator."

For further illustrations see 'Illust. of Tennyson', p. 158.]

[Footnote 16: Paraphrased from 'Odyssey', vi., 42-5, or 'Lucretius',
iii., 18-22.]

[Footnote 17: The expression "'crowned' with summer 'sea'" from
'Odyssey', x., 195: [Greek: naeson taen peri pontos apeiritos


First published in 1842.

In the 'Gardener's Daughter' we have the first of that delightful series
of poems dealing with scenes and characters from ordinary English life,
and named appropriately 'English Idylls'. The originator of this species
of poetry in England was Southey, in his 'English Eclogues', written
before 1799. In the preface to these eclogues, which are in blank verse,
Southey says: "The following eclogues, I believe, bear no resemblance to
any poems in our language. This species of composition has become
popular in Germany, and I was induced to attempt it by an account of the
German idylls given me in conversation." Southey's eclogues are eight in
number: 'The Old Mansion House', 'The Grandmother's Tale', 'Hannah',
'The Sailor's Mother', 'The Witch', 'The Ruined Cottage', 'The Last of
the Family' and 'The Alderman's Funeral'. Southey was followed by
Wordsworth in 'The Brothers' and 'Michael'. Southey has nothing of the
charm, grace and classical finish of his disciple, but how nearly
Tennyson follows him, as copy and model, may be seen by anyone who
compares Tennyson's studies with 'The Ruined Cottage'. But Tennyson's
real master was Theocritus, whose influence pervades these poems not so
much directly in definite imitation as indirectly in colour and tone.

'The Gardener's Daughter' was written as early as 1835, as it was read
to Fitzgerald in that year ('Life of Tennyson', i., 182). Tennyson
originally intended to insert a prologue to be entitled 'The
Antechamber', which contained an elaborate picture of himself, but he
afterwards suppressed it. It is given in the 'Life', i., 233-4. This
poem stands alone among the Idylls in being somewhat overloaded with
ornament. The text of 1842 remained unaltered through all the subsequent
editions except in line 235. After 1851 the form "tho'" is substituted
for "though".

This morning is the morning of the day,
When I and Eustace from the city went
To see the Gardener's Daughter; I and he,
Brothers in Art; a friendship so complete
Portion'd in halves between us, that we grew
The fable of the city where we dwelt.
My Eustace might have sat for Hercules;
So muscular he spread, so broad of breast.
He, by some law that holds in love, and draws
The greater to the lesser, long desired
A certain miracle of symmetry,
A miniature of loveliness, all grace
Summ'd up and closed in little;--Juliet, she [1]
So light of foot, so light of spirit--oh, she
To me myself, for some three careless moons,
The summer pilot of an empty heart
Unto the shores of nothing! Know you not
Such touches are but embassies of love,
To tamper with the feelings, ere he found
Empire for life? but Eustace painted her,
And said to me, she sitting with us then,
"When will _you_ paint like this?" and I replied,
(My words were half in earnest, half in jest),
"'Tis not your work, but Love's. Love, unperceived,
A more ideal Artist he than all,
Came, drew your pencil from you, made those eyes
Darker than darkest pansies, and that hair
More black than ashbuds in the front of March."
And Juliet answer'd laughing, "Go and see
The Gardener's daughter: trust me, after that,
You scarce can fail to match his masterpiece ".
And up we rose, and on the spur we went.
Not wholly in the busy world, nor quite
Beyond it, blooms the garden that I love.
News from the humming city comes to it
In sound of funeral or of marriage bells;
And, sitting muffled in dark leaves, you hear
The windy clanging of the minster clock;
Although between it and the garden lies
A league of grass, wash'd by a slow broad stream,
That, stirr'd with languid pulses of the oar,
Waves all its lazy lilies, and creeps on,
Barge-laden, to three arches of a bridge
Crown'd with the minster-towers.

The fields between
Are dewy-fresh, browsed by deep-udder'd kine,
And all about the large lime feathers low,
The lime a summer home of murmurous wings. [2]
In that still place she, hoarded in herself,
Grew, seldom seen: not less among us lived
Her fame from lip to lip. Who had not heard
Of Rose, the Gardener's daughter? Where was he,
So blunt in memory, so old at heart,
At such a distance from his youth in grief,
That, having seen, forgot? The common mouth,
So gross to express delight, in praise of her
Grew oratory. Such a lord is Love,
And Beauty such a mistress of the world.
And if I said that Fancy, led by Love,
Would play with flying forms and images,
Yet this is also true, that, long before
I look'd upon her, when I heard her name
My heart was like a prophet to my heart,
And told me I should love. A crowd of hopes,
That sought to sow themselves like winged seeds,
Born out of everything I heard and saw,
Flutter'd about my senses and my soul;
And vague desires, like fitful blasts of balm
To one that travels quickly, made the air
Of Life delicious, and all kinds of thought,
That verged upon them sweeter than the dream
Dream'd by a happy man, when the dark East,
Unseen, is brightening to his bridal morn.
And sure this orbit of the memory folds
For ever in itself the day we went
To see her. All the land in flowery squares,
Beneath a broad and equal-blowing wind,
Smelt of the coming summer, as one large cloud [3]
Drew downward: but all else of heaven was pure
Up to the Sun, and May from verge to verge,
And May with me from head to heel. And now,
As tho' 'twere yesterday, as tho' it were
The hour just flown, that morn with all its sound
(For those old Mays had thrice the life of these),
Rings in mine ears. The steer forgot to graze,
And, where the hedge-row cuts the pathway, stood,
Leaning his horns into the neighbour field,
And lowing to his fellows. From the woods
Came voices of the well-contented doves.
The lark could scarce get out his notes for joy,
But shook his song together as he near'd
His happy home, the ground. To left and right,
The cuckoo told his name to all the hills;
The mellow ouzel fluted in the elm;
The redcap [4] whistled; [5] and the nightingale
Sang loud, as tho' he were the bird of day.
And Eustace turn'd, and smiling said to me,
"Hear how the bushes echo! by my life,
These birds have joyful thoughts. Think you they sing
Like poets, from the vanity of song?
Or have they any sense of why they sing?
And would they praise the heavens for what they have?"
And I made answer, "Were there nothing else
For which to praise the heavens but only love,
That only love were cause enough for praise".
Lightly he laugh'd, as one that read my thought,
And on we went; but ere an hour had pass'd,
We reach'd a meadow slanting to the North;
Down which a well-worn pathway courted us
To one green wicket in a privet hedge;
This, yielding, gave into a grassy walk
Thro' crowded lilac-ambush trimly pruned;
And one warm gust, full-fed with perfume, blew
Beyond us, as we enter'd in the cool.
The garden stretches southward. In the midst
A cedar spread his dark-green layers of shade.
The garden-glasses shone, and momently
The twinkling laurel scatter'd silver lights.
"Eustace," I said, "This wonder keeps the house."
He nodded, but a moment afterwards
He cried, "Look! look!" Before he ceased I turn'd,
And, ere a star can wink, beheld her there.
For up the porch there grew an Eastern rose,
That, flowering high, the last night's gale had caught,
And blown across the walk. One arm aloft--
Gown'd in pure white, that fitted to the shape--
Holding the bush, to fix it back, she stood.
A single stream of all her soft brown hair
Pour'd on one side: the shadow of the flowers
Stole all the golden gloss, and, wavering
Lovingly lower, trembled on her waist--
Ah, happy shade--and still went wavering down,
But, ere it touch'd a foot, that might have danced
The greensward into greener circles, dipt,
And mix'd with shadows of the common ground!
But the full day dwelt on her brows, and sunn'd
Her violet eyes, and all her Hebe-bloom,
And doubled his own warmth against her lips,
And on the bounteous wave of such a breast
As never pencil drew. Half light, half shade,
She stood, a sight to make an old man young.
So rapt, we near'd the house; but she, a Rose
In roses, mingled with her fragrant toil,
Nor heard us come, nor from her tendance turn'd
Into the world without; till close at hand,
And almost ere I knew mine own intent,
This murmur broke the stillness of that air
Which brooded round about her: "Ah, one rose,
One rose, but one, by those fair fingers cull'd,
Were worth a hundred kisses press'd on lips
Less exquisite than thine." She look'd: but all
Suffused with blushes--neither self-possess'd
Nor startled, but betwixt this mood and that,
Divided in a graceful quiet--paused,
And dropt the branch she held, and turning, wound
Her looser hair in braid, and stirr'd her lips
For some sweet answer, tho' no answer came,
Nor yet refused the rose, but granted it,
And moved away, and left me, statue-like,
In act to render thanks. I, that whole day,
Saw her no more, altho' I linger'd there
Till every daisy slept, and Love's white star
Beam'd thro' the thicken'd cedar in the dusk.
So home we went, and all the livelong way
With solemn gibe did Eustace banter me.
"Now," said he, "will you climb the top of Art;
You cannot fail but work in hues to dim
The Titianic Flora. Will you match
My Juliet? you, not you,--the Master,
Love, A more ideal Artist he than all."

So home I went, but could not sleep for joy,
Reading her perfect features in the gloom,
Kissing the rose she gave me o'er and o'er,
And shaping faithful record of the glance
That graced the giving--such a noise of life
Swarm'd in the golden present, such a voice
Call'd to me from the years to come, and such
A length of bright horizon rimm'd the dark.
And all that night I heard the watchmen peal
The sliding season: all that night I heard
The heavy clocks knolling the drowsy hours.
The drowsy hours, dispensers of all good,
O'er the mute city stole with folded wings,
Distilling odours on me as they went
To greet their fairer sisters of the East.

Love at first sight, first-born, and heir to all,
Made this night thus. Henceforward squall nor storm
Could keep me from that Eden where she dwelt.
Light pretexts drew me: sometimes a
Dutch love For tulips; then for roses, moss or musk,
To grace my city-rooms; or fruits and cream
Served in the weeping elm; and more and more
A word could bring the colour to my cheek;
A thought would fill my eyes with happy dew;
Love trebled life within me, and with each
The year increased. The daughters of the year,
One after one, thro' that still garden pass'd:
Each garlanded with her peculiar flower
Danced into light, and died into the shade;
And each in passing touch'd with some new grace
Or seem'd to touch her, so that day by day,
Like one that never can be wholly known, [6]
Her beauty grew; till Autumn brought an hour
For Eustace, when I heard his deep "I will,"
Breathed, like the covenant of a God, to hold
From thence thro' all the worlds: but I rose up
Full of his bliss, and following her dark eyes
Felt earth as air beneath me, [7] till I reach'd
The wicket-gate, and found her standing there.
There sat we down upon a garden mound,
Two mutually enfolded; Love, the third,
Between us, in the circle of his arms
Enwound us both; and over many a range
Of waning lime the gray cathedral towers,
Across a hazy glimmer of the west,
Reveal'd their shining windows: from them clash'd
The bells; we listen'd; with the time we play'd;
We spoke of other things; we coursed about
The subject most at heart, more near and near,
Like doves about a dovecote, wheeling round
The central wish, until we settled there. [8]
Then, in that time and place, I spoke to her,
Requiring, tho' I knew it was mine own,
Yet for the pleasure that I took to hear,
Requiring at her hand the greatest gift,
A woman's heart, the heart of her I loved;
And in that time and place she answer'd me,
And in the compass of three little words,
More musical than ever came in one,
The silver fragments of a broken voice,
Made me most happy, faltering [9] "I am thine".
Shall I cease here? Is this enough to say
That my desire, like all strongest hopes,
By its own energy fulfilled itself,
Merged in completion? Would you learn at full
How passion rose thro' circumstantial grades
Beyond all grades develop'd? and indeed
I had not staid so long to tell you all,
But while I mused came Memory with sad eyes,
Holding the folded annals of my youth;
And while I mused, Love with knit brows went by,
And with a flying finger swept my lips,
And spake, "Be wise: not easily forgiven
Are those, who setting wide the doors, that bar
The secret bridal chambers of the heart.
Let in the day". Here, then, my words have end.
Yet might I tell of meetings, of farewells--
Of that which came between, more sweet than each,
In whispers, like the whispers of the leaves
That tremble round a nightingale--in sighs
Which perfect Joy, perplex'd for utterance,
Stole from her [10] sister Sorrow. Might I not tell
Of difference, reconcilement, pledges given,
And vows, where there was never need of vows,
And kisses, where the heart on one wild leap
Hung tranced from all pulsation, as above
The heavens between their fairy fleeces pale
Sow'd all their mystic gulfs with fleeting stars;
Or while the balmy glooming, crescent-lit,
Spread the light haze along the river-shores,
And in the hollows; or as once we met
Unheedful, tho' beneath a whispering rain
Night slid down one long stream of sighing wind,
And in her bosom bore the baby, Sleep.
But this whole hour your eyes have been intent
On that veil'd picture--veil'd, for what it holds
May not be dwelt on by the common day.
This prelude has prepared thee. Raise thy soul;
Make thine heart ready with thine eyes: the time
Is come to raise the veil. Behold her there,
As I beheld her ere she knew my heart,
My first, last love; the idol of my youth,
The darling of my manhood, and, alas!
Now the most blessed memory of mine age.

[Footnote 1: 'Cf. Romeo and Juliet', ii., vi.:--

O so light a foot
Will ne'er wear out the everlasting flint.]

[Footnote 2: 'Cf.' Keats, 'Ode to Nightingale':--

The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.]

[Footnote 3: 'Cf'. Theocritus, 'Id'., vii., 143:--

[Greek: pant' _osden thereos mala pionos.]]

[Footnote 4: Provincial name for the goldfinch. See Tennyson's letter to
the Duke of Argyll, 'Life', ii., 221.]

[Footnote 5: This passage is imitated from Theocritus, vii., 143

[Footnote 6: This passage originally ran:--$

Her beauty grew till drawn in narrowing arcs
The southing autumn touch'd with sallower gleams
The granges on the fallows. At that time,
Tir'd of the noisy town I wander'd there.
The bell toll'd four, and by the time I reach'd
The wicket-gate I found her by herself.

But Fitzgerald pointing out that the autumn landscape was taken from the
background of Titian (Lord Ellesmere's 'Ages of Man') Tennyson struck
out the passage. If this was the reason he must have been in an
unusually scrupulous mood. See his 'Life', i., 232.]

[Footnote 7: So Massinger, 'City Madam', iii., 3:--

I am sublim'd.
Gross earth
Supports me not.
'I walk on air'.]

[Footnote 8: Cf. Dante, 'Inferno', v., 81-83:--

Quali columbe dal desio chiamate,
Con 1' ali aperte e ferme, al dolce nido Volan.]

[Footnote 9: 1842-1850. Lisping.]

[Footnote 10: In privately printed volume 1842. His.]


First published in 1842.

This poem had been written as early as 1835, when it was read to
Fitzgerald and Spedding ('Life', i., 182). No alterations were made in
the text after 1853. The story in this poem was taken even to the
minutest details from a prosestory of Miss Mitford's, namely, 'The Tale
of Dora Creswell' ('Our Village', vol. in., 242-53), the only
alterations being in the names, Farmer Cresswell, Dora Creswell, Walter
Cresswell, and Mary Hay becoming respectively Allan, Dora, William, and
Mary Morrison. How carefully the poet has preserved the picturesque
touches of the original may be seen by comparing the following two

And Dora took the child, and went her way
Across the wheat, and sat upon a mound
That was unsown, where many poppies grew.
She rose and took
The child once more, and sat upon the mound;
And made a little wreath of all the flowers
That grew about, and tied it round his hat.

"A beautiful child lay on the ground at some distance, whilst a
young girl, resting from the labour of reaping, was twisting a
rustic wreath of enamelled cornflowers, brilliant poppies ... round
its hat."

The style is evidently modelled closely on that of the 'Odyssey'.

With farmer Allan at the farm abode
William and Dora. William was his son,
And she his niece. He often look'd at them,
And often thought "I'll make them man and wife".
Now Dora felt her uncle's will in all,
And yearn'd towards William; but the youth, because
He had been always with her in the house,
Thought not of Dora. Then there came a day
When Allan call'd his son, and said,
"My son: I married late, but I would wish to see
My grandchild on my knees before I die:
And I have set my heart upon a match.
Now therefore look to Dora; she is well
To look to; thrifty too beyond her age.
She is my brother's daughter: he and I
Had once hard words, and parted, and he died
In foreign lands; but for his sake I bred
His daughter Dora: take her for your wife;
For I have wish'd this marriage, night and day,
For many years." But William answer'd short;
"I cannot marry Dora; by my life,
I will not marry Dora". Then the old man
Was wroth, and doubled up his hands, and said:
"You will not, boy! you dare to answer thus!
But in my time a father's word was law,
And so it shall be now for me. Look to it;
Consider, William: take a month to think,
And let me have an answer to my wish;
Or, by the Lord that made me, you shall pack,
And never more darken my doors again."
But William answer'd madly; bit his lips,
And broke away. [1] The more he look'd at her
The less he liked her; and his ways were harsh;
But Dora bore them meekly. Then before
The month was out he left his father's house,
And hired himself to work within the fields;
And half in love, half spite, he woo'd and wed
A labourer's daughter, Mary Morrison.

Then, when the bells were ringing,
Allan call'd His niece and said: "My girl, I love you well;
But if you speak with him that was my son,
Or change a word with her he calls his wife,
My home is none of yours. My will is law."
And Dora promised, being meek. She thought,
"It cannot be: my uncle's mind will change!"

And days went on, and there was born a boy
To William; then distresses came on him;
And day by day he pass'd his father's gate,
Heart-broken, and his father helped him not.
But Dora stored what little she could save,
And sent it them by stealth, nor did they know
Who sent it; till at last a fever seized
On William, and in harvest time he died.

Then Dora went to Mary. Mary sat
And look'd with tears upon her boy, and thought
Hard things of Dora. Dora came and said:
"I have obey'd my uncle until now,
And I have sinn'd, for it was all thro' me
This evil came on William at the first.
But, Mary, for the sake of him that's gone,
And for your sake, the woman that he chose,
And for this orphan, I am come to you:
You know there has not been for these five years
So full a harvest, let me take the boy,
And I will set him in my uncle's eye
Among the wheat; that when his heart is glad
Of the full harvest, he may see the boy,
And bless him for the sake of him that's gone."
And Dora took the child, and went her way
Across the wheat, and sat upon a mound
That was unsown, where many poppies grew.
Far off the farmer came into the field
And spied her not; for none of all his men
Dare tell him Dora waited with the child;
And Dora would have risen and gone to him,
But her heart fail'd her; and the reapers reap'd
And the sun fell, and all the land was dark.
But when the morrow came, she rose and took
The child once more, and sat upon the mound;
And made a little wreath of all the flowers
That grew about, and tied it round his hat
To make him pleasing in her uncle's eye.
Then when the farmer passed into the field
He spied her, and he left his men at work,
And came and said: "Where were you yesterday?
Whose child is that? What are you doing here?"
So Dora cast her eyes upon the ground,
And answer'd softly, "This is William's child?"
"And did I not," said Allan, "did I not
Forbid you, Dora?" Dora said again:
"Do with me as you will, but take the child
And bless him for the sake of him that's gone!"
And Allan said: "I see it is a trick
Got up betwixt you and the woman there.
I must be taught my duty, and by you!
You knew my word was law, and yet you dared
To slight it. Well--for I will take the boy;
But go you hence, and never see me more."
So saying, he took the boy, that cried aloud
And struggled hard. The wreath of flowers fell
At Dora's feet. She bow'd upon her hands,
And the boy's cry came to her from the field,
More and more distant. She bow'd down her head,
Remembering the day when first she came,
And all the things that had been. She bow'd down
And wept in secret; and the reapers reap'd,
And the sun fell, and all the land was dark.
Then Dora went to Mary's house, and stood
Upon the threshold. Mary saw the boy
Was not with Dora. She broke out in praise
To God, that help'd her in her widowhood.
And Dora said, "My uncle took the boy;
But, Mary, let me live and work with you:
He says that he will never see me more".
Then answer'd Mary, "This shall never be,
That thou shouldst take my trouble on thyself:
And, now, I think, he shall not have the boy,
For he will teach him hardness, and to slight
His mother; therefore thou and I will go,
And I will have my boy, and bring him home;
And I will beg of him to take thee back;
But if he will not take thee back again,
Then thou and I will live within one house,
And work for William's child until he grows
Of age to help us." So the women kiss'd
Each other, and set out, and reach'd the farm.
The door was off the latch: they peep'd, and saw
The boy set up betwixt his grandsire's knees,
Who thrust him in the hollows of his arm,
And clapt him on the hands and on the cheeks,
Like one that loved him; and the lad stretch'd out
And babbled for the golden seal, that hung
From Allan's watch, and sparkled by the fire.
Then they came in: but when the boy beheld
His mother, he cried out to come to her:
And Allan set him down, and Mary said:
"O Father!--if you let me call you so--
I never came a-begging for myself,
Or William, or this child; but now I come
For Dora: take her back; she loves you well.
O Sir, when William died, he died at peace
With all men; for I ask'd him, and he said,
He could not ever rue his marrying me--
I have been a patient wife: but, Sir, he said
That he was wrong to cross his father thus:
'God bless him!' he said, 'and may he never know
The troubles I have gone thro'!' Then he turn'd
His face and pass'd--unhappy that I am!
But now, Sir, let me have my boy, for you
Will make him hard, and he will learn to slight
His father's memory; and take Dora back,
And let all this be as it was before."
So Mary said, and Dora hid her face
By Mary. There was silence in the room;
And all at once the old man burst in sobs:
"I have been to blame--to blame. I have kill'd my son.
I have kill'd him--but I loved him--my dear son.
May God forgive me!--I have been to blame.
Kiss me, my children." Then they clung about
The old man's neck, and kiss'd him many times.
And all the man was broken with remorse;
And all his love came back a hundredfold;
And for three hours he sobb'd o'er William's child,
Thinking of William. So those four abode
Within one house together; and as years
Went forward, Mary took another mate;
But Dora lived unmarried till her death.

[Footnote 1: In 1842 thus:--

"Look to't,
Consider: take a month to think, and give
An answer to my wish; or by the Lord
That made me, you shall pack, and nevermore
Darken my doors again." And William heard,
And answered something madly; bit his lips,
And broke away.

All editions previous to 1853 have

"Look to't.]


First published in 1842.

Only four alterations were made in the text after 1842, all of which are
duly noted. Tennyson told his son that the poem was partially suggested
by Abbey Park at Torquay where it was written, and that the last lines
described the scene from the hill looking over the bay. He saw he said
"a star of phosphorescence made by the buoy appearing and disappearing
in the dark sea," but it is curious that the line describing that was
not inserted till long after the poem had been published. The poem,
though a trifle, is a triumph of felicitous description and expression,
whether we regard the pie or the moonlit bay.

"The Bull, the Fleece are cramm'd, and not a room
For love or money. Let us picnic there
At Audley Court." I spoke, while Audley feast
Humm'd like a hive all round the narrow quay,
To Francis, with a basket on his arm,
To Francis just alighted from the boat,
And breathing of the sea. "With all my heart,"
Said Francis. Then we shoulder'd thro' [1] the swarm,
And rounded by the stillness of the beach
To where the bay runs up its latest horn.
We left the dying ebb that faintly lipp'd
The flat red granite; so by many a sweep
Of meadow smooth from aftermath we reach'd
The griffin-guarded gates and pass'd thro' all
The pillar'd dusk [2] of sounding sycamores
And cross'd the garden to the gardener's lodge,
With all its casements bedded, and its walls
And chimneys muffled in the leafy vine.
There, on a slope of orchard, Francis laid
A damask napkin wrought with horse and hound,
Brought out a dusky loaf that smelt of home,
And, half-cut-down, a pasty costly-made,
Where quail and pigeon, lark and leveret lay,
Like fossils of the rock, with golden yolks [3]
Imbedded and injellied; last with these,
A flask of cider from his father's vats,
Prime, which I knew; and so we sat and eat
And talk'd old matters over; who was dead,
Who married, who was like to be, and how
The races went, and who would rent the hall:
Then touch'd upon the game, how scarce it was
This season; glancing thence, discuss'd the farm,
The fourfield system, and the price of grain; [4]
And struck upon the corn-laws, where we split,
And came again together on the king
With heated faces; till he laugh'd aloud;
And, while the blackbird on the pippin hung
To hear him, clapt his hand in mine and sang--
"Oh! who would fight and march and counter-march,
Be shot for sixpence in a battle-field,
And shovell'd up into a [5] bloody trench
Where no one knows? but let me live my life.
"Oh! who would cast and balance at a desk,
Perch'd like a crow upon a three-legg'd stool,
Till all his juice is dried, and all his joints
Are full of chalk? but let me live my life.
"Who'd serve the state? for if I carved my name
Upon the cliffs that guard my native land,
I might as well have traced it in the sands;
The sea wastes all: but let me live my life.
"Oh! who would love? I wooed a woman once,
But she was sharper than an eastern wind,
And all my heart turn'd from her, as a thorn
Turns from the sea: but let me live my life."
He sang his song, and I replied with mine:
I found it in a volume, all of songs,
Knock'd down to me, when old Sir Robert's pride,
His books--the more the pity, so I said--
Came to the hammer here in March--and this--
I set the words, and added names I knew.
"Sleep, Ellen Aubrey, sleep and dream of me:
Sleep, Ellen, folded in thy sister's arm,
And sleeping, haply dream her arm is mine.
"Sleep, Ellen, folded in Emilia's arm;
Emilia, fairer than all else but thou,
For thou art fairer than all else that is.
"Sleep, breathing health and peace upon her breast:
Sleep, breathing love and trust against her lip:
I go to-night: I come to-morrow morn.
"I go, but I return: I would I were
The pilot of the darkness and the dream.
Sleep, Ellen Aubrey, love, and dream of me."
So sang we each to either, Francis Hale,
The farmer's son who lived across the bay,
My friend; and I, that having wherewithal,
And in the fallow leisure of my life
A rolling stone of here and everywhere, [6]
Did what I would; but ere the night we rose
And saunter'd home beneath a moon that, just
In crescent, dimly rain'd about the leaf
Twilights of airy silver, till we reach'd
The limit of the hills; and as we sank
From rock to rock upon the gloomy quay,
The town was hush'd beneath us: lower down
The bay was oily-calm: the harbour buoy
With one green sparkle ever and anon [7]
Dipt by itself, and we were glad at heart. [8]

[Footnote 1: 1842 to 1850. Through.]

[Footnote 2: 'cf'. Milton, 'Paradise Lost', ix., 1106-7:--

A pillar'd shade
High overarch'd.]

[Footnote 3: 1842. Golden yokes.]

[Footnote 4: That is planting turnips, barley, clover and wheat, by
which land is kept constantly fresh and vigorous.]

[Footnote 5: 1872. Some.]

[Footnote 6: Inserted in 1857.]

[Footnote 7: Here was inserted, in 1872, the line--Sole star of
phosphorescence in the calm.]

[Footnote 8: Like the shepherd in Homer at the moonlit landscape,
'gegaethe de te phrena poimaen', 'Il'., viii., 559.]


First published in 1842. Not altered in any respect after 1853.

'John'. I'm glad I walk'd.
How fresh the meadows look
Above the river, and, but a month ago,
The whole hill-side was redder than a fox.
Is yon plantation where this byway joins
The turnpike? [1]

'James'. Yes.

'John'. And when does this come by?

'James'. The mail? At one o'clock.

'John'. What is it now?

James'. A quarter to.

'John'. Whose house is that I see? [2]
No, not the County Member's with the vane:
Up higher with the yewtree by it, and half
A score of gables.

'James'. That? Sir Edward Head's:
But he's abroad: the place is to be sold.

'John'. Oh, his. He was not broken?

'James'. No, sir, he,
Vex'd with a morbid devil in his blood
That veil'd the world with jaundice, hid his face
From all men, and commercing with himself,
He lost the sense that handles daily life--
That keeps us all in order more or less--
And sick of home went overseas for change.

'John'. And whither?

'James'. Nay, who knows? he's here and there.
But let him go; his devil goes with him,
As well as with his tenant, Jockey Dawes.

'John'. What's that?

'James-. You saw the man--on Monday, was it?--[3]
There by the hump-back'd willow; half stands up
And bristles; half has fall'n and made a bridge;
And there he caught the younker tickling trout--
Caught in 'flagrante'--what's the Latin word?--
'Delicto'; but his house, for so they say,
Was haunted with a jolly ghost, that shook
The curtains, whined in lobbies, tapt at doors,
And rummaged like a rat: no servant stay'd:
The farmer vext packs up his beds and chairs,
And all his household stuff; and with his boy
Betwixt his knees, his wife upon the tilt,
Sets out, [4] and meets a friend who hails him,
"What! You're flitting!" "Yes, we're flitting," says the ghost
(For they had pack'd the thing among the beds).
"Oh, well," says he, "you flitting with us too--
Jack, turn the horses' heads and home again". [5]

'John'. He left 'his' wife behind; for so I heard.

'James'. He left her, yes. I met my lady once:
A woman like a butt, and harsh as crabs.

'John'. Oh, yet, but I remember, ten years back--
'Tis now at least ten years--and then she was--
You could not light upon a sweeter thing:
A body slight and round and like a pear
In growing, modest eyes, a hand a foot
Lessening in perfect cadence, and a skin
As clean and white as privet when it flowers.

'James'. Ay, ay, the blossom fades and they that loved
At first like dove and dove were cat and dog.
She was the daughter of a cottager,
Out of her sphere. What betwixt shame and pride,
New things and old, himself and her, she sour'd
To what she is: a nature never kind!
Like men, like manners: like breeds like, they say.
Kind nature is the best: those manners next
That fit us like a nature second-hand;
Which are indeed the manners of the great.

'John'. But I had heard it was this bill that past,
And fear of change at home, that drove him hence.

'James'. That was the last drop in the cup of gall.
I once was near him, when his bailiff brought
A Chartist pike. You should have seen him wince
As from a venomous thing: he thought himself
A mark for all, and shudder'd, lest a cry
Should break his sleep by night, and his nice eyes
Should see the raw mechanic's bloody thumbs
Sweat on his blazon'd chairs; but, sir, you know
That these two parties still divide the world--
Of those that want, and those that have: and still
The same old sore breaks out from age to age
With much the same result. Now I myself, [6]
A Tory to the quick, was as a boy
Destructive, when I had not what I would.
I was at school--a college in the South:
There lived a flayflint near; we stole his fruit,
His hens, his eggs; but there was law for 'us';
We paid in person. He had a sow, sir. She,
With meditative grunts of much content, [7]
Lay great with pig, wallowing in sun and mud.
By night we dragg'd her to the college tower
From her warm bed, and up the corkscrew stair
With hand and rope we haled the groaning sow,
And on the leads we kept her till she pigg'd.
Large range of prospect had the mother sow,
And but for daily loss of one she loved,
As one by one we took them--but for this--
As never sow was higher in this world--
Might have been happy: but what lot is pure!
We took them all, till she was left alone
Upon her tower, the Niobe of swine,
And so return'd unfarrowed to her sty.

'John.' They found you out?

'James.' Not they.

'John.' Well--after all--What know we of the secret of a man?
His nerves were wrong. What ails us, who are sound,
That we should mimic this raw fool the world,
Which charts us all in its coarse blacks or whites,
As ruthless as a baby with a worm,
As cruel as a schoolboy ere he grows
To Pity--more from ignorance than will,
But put your best foot forward, or I fear
That we shall miss the mail: and here it comes
With five at top: as quaint a four-in-hand
As you shall see--three pyebalds and a roan.

[Footnote 1: 1842.

'John'. I'm glad I walk'd. How fresh the country looks!
Is yonder planting where this byway joins
The turnpike?]

[Footnote 2: Thus 1843 to 1850:--

'John'. Whose house is that I see
Beyond the watermills?

'James'. Sir Edward Head's: But he's abroad, etc.]

[Footnote 3: Thus 1842 to 1851:--

'James'. You saw the man but yesterday:
He pick'd the pebble from your horse's foot.
His house was haunted by a jolly ghost
That rummaged like a rat.]

[Footnote 4: 1842. Sets forth. Added in 1853.]

[Footnote 5: This is a folk-lore story which has its variants, Mr.
Alfred Nutt tells me, in almost every country in Europe. The
Lincolnshire version of it is given in Miss Peacock's MS. collection of
Lincolnshire folk-lore, of which she has most kindly sent me a copy, and
it runs thus:--"There is a house in East Halton which is haunted by a
hob-thrush.... Some years ago, it is said, a family who had lived in the
house for more than a hundred years were much annoyed by it, and
determined to quit the dwelling. They had placed their goods on a
waggon, and were just on the point of starting when a neighbour asked
the farmer whether he was leaving. On this the hobthrush put his head
out of the splash-churn, which was amongst the household stuff, and
said, 'Ay, we're flitting'. Whereupon the farmer decided to give up the
attempt to escape from it and remain where he was." The same story is
told of a Cluricaune in Croker's 'Fairy Legends and Traditions' in the
South of Ireland. See 'The Haunted Cellar' in p. 81 of the edition of
1862, and as Tennyson has elsewhere in 'Guinevere' borrowed a passage
from the same story (see 'Illustrations of Tennyson', p. 152) it is
probable that that was the source of the story here, though there the
Cluricaune uses the expression, "Here we go altogether".]

[Footnote 6: 1842 and 1843. I that am. Now, I that am.]

[Footnote 7: 1842.

scored upon the part
Which cherubs want.]




This poem first appeared in the seventh edition of the Poems, 1851. It
was written at Llanberis. Several alterations were made in the eighth
edition of 1853, since then none, with the exception of "breath" for
"breaths" in line 66.

O Me, my pleasant rambles by the lake,
My sweet, wild, fresh three-quarters of a year,
My one Oasis in the dust and drouth
Of city life! I was a sketcher then:
See here, my doing: curves of mountain, bridge,
Boat, island, ruins of a castle, built
When men knew how to build, upon a rock,
With turrets lichen-gilded like a rock:
And here, new-comers in an ancient hold,
New-comers from the Mersey, millionaires,
Here lived the Hills--a Tudor-chimnied bulk
Of mellow brickwork on an isle of bowers.
O me, my pleasant rambles by the lake
With Edwin Morris and with Edward Bull
The curate; he was fatter than his cure.

But Edwin Morris, he that knew the names,
Long-learned names of agaric, moss and fern, [1]
Who forged a thousand theories of the rocks,
Who taught me how to skate, to row, to swim,
Who read me rhymes elaborately good,
His own--I call'd him Crichton, for he seem'd
All-perfect, finish'd to the finger nail.[2]
And once I ask'd him of his early life,
And his first passion; and he answer'd me;
And well his words became him: was he not
A full-cell'd honeycomb of eloquence
Stored from all flowers? Poet-like he spoke.

"My love for Nature is as old as I;
But thirty moons, one honeymoon to that,
And three rich sennights more, my love for her.
My love for Nature and my love for her,
Of different ages, like twin-sisters grew, [3]
Twin-sisters differently beautiful.
To some full music rose and sank the sun,
And some full music seem'd to move and change
With all the varied changes of the dark,
And either twilight and the day between;
For daily hope fulfill'd, to rise again
Revolving toward fulfilment, made it sweet
To walk, to sit, to sleep, to wake, to breathe." [4]

Or this or something like to this he spoke.
Then said the fat-faced curate Edward Bull,
"I take it, God made the woman for the man,
And for the good and increase of the world,
A pretty face is well, and this is well,
To have a dame indoors, that trims us up,
And keeps us tight; but these unreal ways
Seem but the theme of writers, and indeed
Worn threadbare. Man is made of solid stuff.
I say, God made the woman for the man,
And for the good and increase of the world."

"Parson," said I, "you pitch the pipe too low:
But I have sudden touches, and can run
My faith beyond my practice into his:
Tho' if, in dancing after Letty Hill,
I do not hear the bells upon my cap,
I scarce hear [5] other music: yet say on.
What should one give to light on such a dream?"
I ask'd him half-sardonically.
"Give? Give all thou art," he answer'd, and a light
Of laughter dimpled in his swarthy cheek;
"I would have hid her needle in my heart,
To save her little finger from a scratch
No deeper than the skin: my ears could hear
Her lightest breaths: her least remark was worth
The experience of the wise. I went and came;
Her voice fled always thro' the summer land;
I spoke her name alone. Thrice-happy days!
The flower of each, those moments when we met,
The crown of all, we met to part no more."

Were not his words delicious, I a beast
To take them as I did? but something jarr'd;
Whether he spoke too largely; that there seem'd
A touch of something false, some self-conceit,
Or over-smoothness: howsoe'er it was,
He scarcely hit my humour, and I said:--

"Friend Edwin, do not think yourself alone
Of all men happy. Shall not Love to me,
As in the Latin song I learnt at school,
Sneeze out a full God-bless-you right and left? [6]
But you can talk: yours is a kindly vein:
I have I think--Heaven knows--as much within;
Have or should have, but for a thought or two,
That like a purple beech [7] among the greens
Looks out of place: 'tis from no want in her:
It is my shyness, or my self-distrust,
Or something of a wayward modern mind
Dissecting passion. Time will set me right."

So spoke I knowing not the things that were.
Then said the fat-faced curate, Edward Bull:
"God made the woman for the use of man,
And for the good and increase of the world".
And I and Edwin laugh'd; and now we paused
About the windings of the marge to hear
The soft wind blowing over meadowy holms
And alders, garden-isles [8]; and now we left
The clerk behind us, I and he, and ran
By ripply shallows of the lisping lake,
Delighted with the freshness and the sound.
But, when the bracken rusted on their crags,
My suit had wither'd, nipt to death by him
That was a God, and is a lawyer's clerk,
The rentroll Cupid of our rainy isles. [9]

'Tis true, we met; one hour I had, no more:
She sent a note, the seal an _Elle vous suit_, [10]
The close "Your Letty, only yours"; and this
Thrice underscored. The friendly mist of morn
Clung to the lake. I boated over, ran
My craft aground, and heard with beating heart
The Sweet-Gale rustle round the shelving keel;
And out I stept, and up I crept: she moved,
Like Proserpine in Enna, gathering flowers: [11]
Then low and sweet I whistled thrice; and she,
She turn'd, we closed, we kiss'd, swore faith, I breathed
In some new planet: a silent cousin stole
Upon us and departed: "Leave," she cried,
"O leave me!" "Never, dearest, never: here
I brave the worst:" and while we stood like fools
Embracing, all at once a score of pugs
And poodles yell'd within, and out they came
Trustees and Aunts and Uncles. "What, with him!
"Go" (shrill'd the cottonspinning chorus) "him!"
I choked. Again they shriek'd the burthen "Him!"
Again with hands of wild rejection "Go!--
Girl, get you in!" She went--and in one month [12]
They wedded her to sixty thousand pounds,
To lands in Kent and messuages in York,
And slight Sir Robert with his watery smile
And educated whisker. But for me,
They set an ancient creditor to work:
It seems I broke a close with force and arms:
There came a mystic token from the king
To greet the sheriff, needless courtesy!
I read, and fled by night, and flying turn'd:
Her taper glimmer'd in the lake below:
I turn'd once more, close-button'd to the storm;
So left the place, [13] left Edwin, nor have seen
Him since, nor heard of her, nor cared to hear.
Nor cared to hear? perhaps; yet long ago
I have pardon'd little Letty; not indeed,
It may be, for her own dear sake but this,
She seems a part of those fresh days to me;
For in the dust and drouth of London life
She moves among my visions of the lake,
While the prime swallow dips his wing, or then
While the gold-lily blows, and overhead
The light cloud smoulders on the summer crag.

[Footnote 1: Agaric (some varieties are deadly) is properly the fungus
on the larch; it then came to mean fungus generally. Minshew calls it "a
white soft mushroom". See Halliwell, 'Dict. of Archaic and Provincial
Words, sub vocent'.]

[Footnote 2: The Latin factus 'ad unguem'. For Crichton, a half-mythical
figure, see Tytler's 'Life' of him.]

[Footnote 3: 1851. Of different ages, like twin-sisters throve.]

[Footnote 4: 1853. To breathe, to wake.]

[Footnote 5: 1872. Have.]

[Footnote 6: The reference is to the 'Acme' and 'Septimius' of Catullus,

Hoc ut dixit,
Amor, sinistram, ut ante,
Dextram sternuit approbationem.]

[Footnote 7: 1851. That like a copper beech.]

[Footnote 8: 1851.

garden-isles; and now we ran
By ripply shallows.]

[Footnote 9: 1851. The rainy isles.]

[Footnote 10: Cf. Byron, 'Don Juan', i., xcvii.:--

The seal a sunflower--'elle vous suit partout'.]

[Footnote 11: 'Cf'. Milton, 'Par. Lost', iv., 268-9:--

Not that fair field
Of Enna where Proserpine gathering flowers
Was gather'd.]

[Footnote 12: 1851.

"Go Sir!" Again they shrieked the burthen "Him!"
Again with hands of wild rejection "Go!
Girl, get you in" to her--and in one month, etc.]

[Footnote 13: 1851.

I read and wish'd to crush the race of man,
And fled by night; turn'd once upon the hills;
Her taper glimmer'd in the lake; and then
I left the place, etc.]


First published in 1842, reprinted in all the subsequent editions of the
poems but with no alterations in the text, except that in eighth line
from the end "my" was substituted for "mine" in 1846. Tennyson informed
a friend that it was not from the 'Acta Sanctorum', but from Hone's
'Every-Day Book', vol. i., pp. 35-36, that he got the material for this
poem, and a comparison with the narrative in Hone and the poem seems to
show that this was the case.

It is not easy to identify the St. Simeon Stylites of Hone's narrative
and Tennyson's poem, whether he is to be identified with St. Simeon the
Elder, of whom there are three memoirs given in the 'Acta Sanctorum',
tom. i., 5th January, 261-286, or with St. Simeon Stylites, Junior, of
whom there is an elaborate biography in Greek by Nicephorus printed with
a Latin translation and notes in the 'Acta Sanctorum', tom. v., 24th
May, 298-401. It seems clear that whoever compiled the account
popularised by Hone had read both and amalgamated them. The main lines
in the story of both saints are exactly the same. Both stood on columns,
both tortured themselves in the same ways, both wrought miracles, and
both died at their posts of penance. St. Simeon the Elder was born at
Sisan in Syria about A.D. 390, and was buried at Antioch in A.D. 459 or
460. The Simeon the Younger was born at Antioch A. D. 521 and died in
A.D. 592. His life, which is of singular interest, is much more
elaborately related.

This poem is not simply a dramatic study. It bears very directly on
Tennyson's philosophy of life. In these early poems he has given us four
studies in the morbid anatomy of character: 'The Palace of Art', which
illustrates the abuse of aesthetic and intellectual enjoyment of self;
'The Vision of Sin', which illustrates the effects of similar indulgence
in the grosser pleasures of the senses; 'The Two Voices', which
illustrates the mischief of despondent self-absorption, while the
present poem illustrates the equally pernicious indulgence in an
opposite extreme, asceticism affected for the mere gratification of
personal vanity.

Altho' I be the basest of mankind,
From scalp to sole one slough and crust of sin,
Unfit for earth, unfit for heaven, scarce meet
For troops of devils, mad with blasphemy,
I will not cease to grasp the hope I hold
Of saintdom, and to clamour, morn and sob,
Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer,
Have mercy, Lord, and take away my sin.
Let this avail, just, dreadful, mighty God,
This not be all in vain that thrice ten years,
Thrice multiplied by superhuman pangs,
In hungers and in thirsts, fevers and cold,
In coughs, aches, stitches, ulcerous throes and cramps,
A sign betwixt the meadow and the cloud,
Patient on this tall pillar I have borne
Rain, wind, frost, heat, hail, damp, and sleet, and snow;
And I had hoped that ere this period closed
Thou wouldst have caught me up into Thy rest,
Denying not these weather-beaten limbs
The meed of saints, the white robe and the palm.
O take the meaning, Lord: I do not breathe,
Not whisper, any murmur of complaint.
Pain heap'd ten-hundred-fold to this, were still
Less burthen, by ten-hundred-fold, to bear,
Than were those lead-like tons of sin, that crush'd
My spirit flat before thee. O Lord, Lord,
Thou knowest I bore this better at the first,
For I was strong and hale of body then;
And tho' my teeth, which now are dropt away,
Would chatter with the cold, and all my beard
Was tagg'd with icy fringes in the moon,
I drown'd the whoopings of the owl with sound
Of pious hymns and psalms, and sometimes saw
An angel stand and watch me, as I sang.
Now am I feeble grown; my end draws nigh;
I hope my end draws nigh: half deaf I am,
So that I scarce can hear the people hum
About the column's base, and almost blind,
And scarce can recognise the fields I know;
And both my thighs are rotted with the dew;
Yet cease I not to clamour and to cry,
While my stiff spine can hold my weary head,
Till all my limbs drop piecemeal from the stone,
Have mercy, mercy: take away my sin.
O Jesus, if thou wilt not save my soul,
Who may be saved? who is it may be saved?
Who may be made a saint, if I fail here?
Show me the man hath suffered more than I.
For did not all thy martyrs die one death?
For either they were stoned, or crucified,
Or burn'd in fire, or boil'd in oil, or sawn
In twain beneath the ribs; but I die here
To-day, and whole years long, a life of death.
Bear witness, if I could have found a way
(And heedfully I sifted all my thought)
More slowly-painful to subdue this home
Of sin, my flesh, which I despise and hate,
I had not stinted practice, O my God.
For not alone this pillar-punishment, [1]
Not this alone I bore: but while I lived
In the white convent down the valley there,
For many weeks about my loins I wore
The rope that haled the buckets from the well,
Twisted as tight as I could knot the noose;
And spake not of it to a single soul,
Until the ulcer, eating thro' my skin,
Betray'd my secret penance, so that all
My brethren marvell'd greatly. More than this
I bore, whereof, O God, thou knowest all.[2]
Three winters, that my soul might grow to thee,
I lived up there on yonder mountain side.
My right leg chain'd into the crag, I lay
Pent in a roofless close of ragged stones;
Inswathed sometimes in wandering mist, and twice
Black'd with thy branding thunder, and sometimes
Sucking the damps for drink, and eating not,
Except the spare chance-gift of those that came
To touch my body and be heal'd, and live:
And they say then that I work'd miracles,
Whereof my fame is loud amongst mankind,
Cured lameness, palsies, cancers. Thou, O God,
Knowest alone whether this was or no.
Have mercy, mercy; cover all my sin.

Then, that I might be more alone with thee, [3]
Three years I lived upon a pillar, high
Six cubits, and three years on one of twelve;
And twice three years I crouch'd on one that rose
Twenty by measure; last of all, I grew
Twice ten long weary weary years to this,
That numbers forty cubits from the soil.
I think that I have borne as much as this--
Or else I dream--and for so long a time,
If I may measure time by yon slow light,
And this high dial, which my sorrow crowns--
So much--even so. And yet I know not well,
For that the evil ones comes here, and say,
"Fall down, O Simeon: thou hast suffer'd long
For ages and for ages!" then they prate
Of penances I cannot have gone thro',
Perplexing me with lies; and oft I fall,
Maybe for months, in such blind lethargies,
That Heaven, and Earth, and Time are choked. But yet
Bethink thee, Lord, while thou and all the saints
Enjoy themselves in Heaven, and men on earth
House in the shade of comfortable roofs,
Sit with their wives by fires, eat wholesome food,
And wear warm clothes, and even beasts have stalls,
I, 'tween the spring and downfall of the light,
Bow down one thousand and two hundred times,
To Christ, the Virgin Mother, and the Saints;
Or in the night, after a little sleep,
I wake: the chill stars sparkle; I am wet
With drenching dews, or stiff with crackling frost.
I wear an undress'd goatskin on my back;
A grazing iron collar grinds my neck;
And in my weak, lean arms I lift the cross,
And strive and wrestle with thee till I die:
O mercy, mercy! wash away my sin.
O Lord, thou knowest what a man I am;
A sinful man, conceived and born in sin:
'Tis their own doing; this is none of mine;
Lay it not to me. Am I to blame for this,
That here come those that worship me? Ha! ha!
They think that I am somewhat. What am I?
The silly people take me for a saint,
And bring me offerings of fruit and flowers:
And I, in truth (thou wilt bear witness here)
Have all in all endured as much, and more
Than many just and holy men, whose names
Are register'd and calendar'd for saints.
Good people, you do ill to kneel to me.
What is it I can have done to merit this?
I am a sinner viler than you all.
It may be I have wrought some miracles, [4]
And cured some halt and maim'd; but what of that?
It may be, no one, even among the saints,
May match his pains with mine; but what of that?
Yet do not rise: for you may look on me,
And in your looking you may kneel to God.
Speak! is there any of you halt or maim'd?
I think you know I have some power with Heaven
From my long penance: let him speak his wish.
Yes, I can heal. Power goes forth from me.
They say that they are heal'd. Ah, hark! they shout
"St. Simeon Stylites". Why, if so,
God reaps a harvest in me. O my soul,
God reaps a harvest in thee. If this be,
Can I work miracles and not be saved?
This is not told of any. They were saints.
It cannot be but that I shall be saved;
Yea, crown'd a saint. They shout, "Behold a saint!"
And lower voices saint me from above.
Courage, St. Simeon! This dull chrysalis
Cracks into shining wings, and hope ere death
Spreads more and more and more, that God hath now
Sponged and made blank of crimeful record all
My mortal archives. O my sons, my sons,
I, Simeon of the pillar, by surname Stylites, among men;
I, Simeon, The watcher on the column till the end;
I, Simeon, whose brain the sunshine bakes;
I, whose bald brows in silent hours become
Unnaturally hoar with rime, do now
From my high nest of penance here proclaim
That Pontius and Iscariot by my side
Show'd like fair seraphs. On the coals I lay,
A vessel full of sin: all hell beneath
Made me boil over. Devils pluck'd my sleeve; [5]
Abaddon and Asmodeus caught at me.
I smote them with the cross; they swarm'd again.
In bed like monstrous apes they crush'd my chest:
They flapp'd my light out as I read: I saw
Their faces grow between me and my book:
With colt-like whinny and with hoggish whine
They burst my prayer. Yet this way was left,
And by this way I'scaped them. Mortify
Your flesh, like me, with scourges and with thorns;
Smite, shrink not, spare not. If it may be, fast
Whole Lents, and pray. I hardly, with slow steps,
With slow, faint steps, and much exceeding pain,
Have scrambled past those pits of fire, that still
Sing in mine ears. But yield not me the praise:
God only thro' his bounty hath thought fit,
Among the powers and princes of this world,
To make me an example to mankind,
Which few can reach to. Yet I do not say
But that a time may come--yea, even now,
Now, now, his footsteps smite the threshold stairs
Of life--I say, that time is at the doors
When you may worship me without reproach;
For I will leave my relics in your land,
And you may carve a shrine about my dust,
And burn a fragrant lamp before my bones,
When I am gather'd to the glorious saints.
While I spake then, a sting of shrewdest pain
Ran shrivelling thro' me, and a cloudlike change,
In passing, with a grosser film made thick
These heavy, horny eyes. The end! the end!
Surely the end! What's here? a shape, a shade,
A flash of light. Is that the angel there
That holds a crown? Come, blessed brother, come,
I know thy glittering face. I waited long;
My brows are ready. What! deny it now?
Nay, draw, draw, draw nigh. So I clutch it. Christ!
'Tis gone: 'tis here again; the crown! the crown! [6]
So now 'tis fitted on and grows to me,
And from it melt the dews of Paradise,
Sweet! sweet! spikenard, and balm, and frankincense.
Ah! let me not be fool'd, sweet saints: I trust
That I am whole, and clean, and meet for Heaven.
Speak, if there be a priest, a man of God,
Among you there, and let him presently
Approach, and lean a ladder on the shaft,
And climbing up into my airy home,
Deliver me the blessed sacrament;
For by the warning of the Holy Ghost,
I prophesy that I shall die to-night,
A quarter before twelve. [7] But thou, O Lord,
Aid all this foolish people; let them take
Example, pattern: lead them to thy light.

[Footnote 1: For this incident 'cf. Acta', v., 317:

"Petit aliquando ab aliquo ad se invisente funem, acceptumque circa
corpus convolvit constringitque tarn arete ut, exesa carne, quae istuc
mollis admodum ac tenera est, nudae costae exstarent".

The same is told also of the younger Stylites, where the incident of
concealing the torture is added, 'Acta', i., 265.]

[Footnote 2: For this retirement to a mountain see 'Acta', i., 270, and
it is referred to in the other lives:

"Post haec egressus occulte perrexit in montem non longe a monasterio,
ibique sibi clausulam de sicca petra fecit, et stetit sic annos

[Footnote 3: In accurate accordance with the third life, 'Acta',
i., 277:

"Primum quidem columna ad sex erecta cubitos est, deinde ad duodecim,
post ad vigenti extensa est";

but for the thirty-six cubits which is assigned as the height of the
last column Tennyson's authority, drawing on another account ('Id'.,
271), substitutes forty:

"Fecerunt illi columnam habentem cubitos quadraginta".]

[Footnote 4: For the miracles wrought by him see all the lives.]

[Footnote 5: These details seem taken from the well-known stories about
Luther and Bunyan. All that the 'Acta' say about St. Simeon is that
he was pestered by devils.]

[Footnote 6: The 'Acta' say nothing about the crown, but dwell on the
supernatural fragrance which exhaled from the saint.]

[Footnote 7: Tennyson has given a very poor substitute for the
beautifully pathetic account given of the death of St. Simeon in 'Acta',
i., 168, and again in the ninth chapter of the second Life, 'Ibid'.,
273. But this is to be explained perhaps by the moral purpose of the


First published in 1842, and republished in all subsequent editions with
only two slight alterations: in line 113 a mere variant in spelling, and
in line 185, where in place of the present reading the editions between
1842 and 1848 read, "For, ah! the Dryad-days were brief".

Tennyson told Mr. Aubrey de Vere that the poem was an experiment meant
to test the degree in which it is in the power of poetry to humanise
external nature. Tennyson might have remembered that Ovid had made the
same experiment nearly two thousand years ago, while Goethe had
immediately anticipated him in his charming 'Der Junggesett und der
Muehlbach'. There was certainly no novelty in such an attempt. The poem
is in parts charmingly written, but the oak is certainly "garrulously
given," and comes perilously near to tediousness.

Once more the gate behind me falls;
Once more before my face
I see the moulder'd Abbey-walls,
That stand within the chace.

Beyond the lodge the city lies,
Beneath its drift of smoke;
And ah! with what delighted eyes
I turn to yonder oak.

For when my passion first began,
Ere that, which in me burn'd,
The love, that makes me thrice a man,
Could hope itself return'd;

To yonder oak within the field
I spoke without restraint,
And with a larger faith appeal'd
Than Papist unto Saint.

For oft I talk'd with him apart,
And told him of my choice,
Until he plagiarised a heart,
And answer'd with a voice.

Tho' what he whisper'd, under Heaven
None else could understand;
I found him garrulously given,
A babbler in the land.

But since I heard him make reply
Is many a weary hour;
'Twere well to question him, and try
If yet he keeps the power.

Hail, hidden to the knees in fern,
Broad Oak of Sumner-chace,
Whose topmost branches can discern
The roofs of Sumner-place!

Say thou, whereon I carved her name,
If ever maid or spouse,
As fair as my Olivia, came
To rest beneath thy boughs.--

"O Walter, I have shelter'd here
Whatever maiden grace
The good old Summers, year by year,
Made ripe in Sumner-chace:

"Old Summers, when the monk was fat,
And, issuing shorn and sleek,
Would twist his girdle tight, and pat
The girls upon the cheek.

"Ere yet, in scorn of Peter's-pence,
And number'd bead, and shrift,
Bluff Harry broke into the spence, [1]
And turn'd the cowls adrift:

"And I have seen some score of those
Fresh faces, that would thrive
When his man-minded offset rose
To chase the deer at five;

"And all that from the town would stroll,
Till that wild wind made work
In which the gloomy brewer's soul
Went by me, like a stork:

"The slight she-slips of loyal blood,
And others, passing praise,
Strait-laced, but all too full in bud
For puritanic stays: [2]

"And I have shadow'd many a group
Of beauties, that were born
In teacup-times of hood and hoop,
Or while the patch was worn;

"And, leg and arm with love-knots gay,
About me leap'd and laugh'd
The Modish Cupid of the day,
And shrill'd his tinsel shaft.

"I swear (and else may insects prick
Each leaf into a gall)
This girl, for whom your heart is sick,
Is three times worth them all;

"For those and theirs, by Nature's law,
Have faded long ago;
But in these latter springs I saw
Your own Olivia blow,

"From when she gamboll'd on the greens,
A baby-germ, to when
The maiden blossoms of her teens
Could number five from ten.

"I swear, by leaf, and wind, and rain
(And hear me with thine ears),
That, tho' I circle in the grain
Five hundred rings of years--

"Yet, since I first could cast a shade,
Did never creature pass
So slightly, musically made,
So light upon the grass:

"For as to fairies, that will flit
To make the greensward fresh,
I hold them exquisitely knit,
But far too spare of flesh."

Oh, hide thy knotted knees in fern,
And overlook the chace;
And from thy topmost branch discern
The roofs of Sumner-place.

But thou, whereon I carved her name,
That oft hast heard my vows,
Declare when last Olivia came
To sport beneath thy boughs.

"O yesterday, you know, the fair
Was holden at the town;
Her father left his good arm-chair,
And rode his hunter down.

"And with him Albert came on his.
I look'd at him with joy:
As cowslip unto oxlip is,
So seems she to the boy.

"An hour had past--and, sitting straight
Within the low-wheel'd chaise,
Her mother trundled to the gate
Behind the dappled grays.

"But, as for her, she stay'd [3] at home,
And on the roof she went,
And down the way you use to come,
She look'd with discontent.

"She left the novel half-uncut
Upon the rosewood shelf;
She left the new piano shut:
She could not please herself.

"Then ran she, gamesome as the colt,
And livelier than a lark
She sent her voice thro' all the holt
Before her, and the park.

"A light wind chased her on the wing,
And in the chase grew wild,
As close as might be would he cling
About the darling child:

"But light as any wind that blows
So fleetly did she stir,
The flower she touch'd on dipt and rose,
And turn'd to look at her.

"And here she came, and round me play'd,
And sang to me the whole
Of those three stanzas that you made
About my 'giant bole';

"And in a fit of frolic mirth
She strove to span my waist:
Alas, I was so broad of girth,
I could not be embraced.

"I wish'd myself the fair young beech
That here beside me stands,
That round me, clasping each in each,
She might have lock'd her hands.

"Yet seem'd the pressure thrice as sweet
As woodbine's fragile hold,
Or when I feel about my feet
The berried briony fold."

O muffle round thy knees with fern,
And shadow Sumner-chace!
Long may thy topmost branch discern
The roofs of Sumner-place!

But tell me, did she read the name
I carved with many vows
When last with throbbing heart I came
To rest beneath thy boughs?

"O yes, she wander'd round and round
These knotted knees of mine,
And found, and kiss'd the name she found,
And sweetly murmur'd thine.

"A teardrop trembled from its source,
And down my surface crept.
My sense of touch is something coarse,
But I believe she wept.

"Then flush'd her cheek with rosy light,
She glanced across the plain;
But not a creature was in sight:
She kiss'd me once again.

"Her kisses were so close and kind,
That, trust me on my word,
Hard wood I am, and wrinkled rind,
But yet my sap was stirr'd:

"And even into my inmost ring
A pleasure I discern'd
Like those blind motions of the Spring,
That show the year is turn'd.

"Thrice-happy he that may caress
The ringlet's waving balm
The cushions of whose touch may press
The maiden's tender palm.

"I, rooted here among the groves,
But languidly adjust
My vapid vegetable loves [4]
With anthers and with dust:

"For, ah! my friend, the days were brief [5]
Whereof the poets talk,
When that, which breathes within the leaf,
Could slip its bark and walk.

"But could I, as in times foregone,
From spray, and branch, and stem,
Have suck'd and gather'd into one
The life that spreads in them,

"She had not found me so remiss;
But lightly issuing thro',
I would have paid her kiss for kiss
With usury thereto."

O flourish high, with leafy towers,
And overlook the lea,
Pursue thy loves among the bowers,
But leave thou mine to me.

O flourish, hidden deep in fern,
Old oak, I love thee well;
A thousand thanks for what I learn
And what remains to tell.

"'Tis little more: the day was warm;
At last, tired out with play,
She sank her head upon her arm,
And at my feet she lay.

"Her eyelids dropp'd their silken eaves.
I breathed upon her eyes
Thro' all the summer of my leaves
A welcome mix'd with sighs.

"I took the swarming sound of life--
The music from the town--
The murmurs of the drum and fife
And lull'd them in my own.

"Sometimes I let a sunbeam slip,
To light her shaded eye;
A second flutter'd round her lip
Like a golden butterfly;

"A third would glimmer on her neck
To make the necklace shine;
Another slid, a sunny fleck,
From head to ancle fine.

"Then close and dark my arms I spread,
And shadow'd all her rest--
Dropt dews upon her golden head,
An acorn in her breast.

"But in a pet she started up,
And pluck'd it out, and drew
My little oakling from the cup,
And flung him in the dew.

"And yet it was a graceful gift--
I felt a pang within
As when I see the woodman lift
His axe to slay my kin.

"I shook him down because he was
The finest on the tree.
He lies beside thee on the grass.
O kiss him once for me.

"O kiss him twice and thrice for me,
That have no lips to kiss,
For never yet was oak on lea
Shall grow so fair as this."

Step deeper yet in herb and fern,
Look further thro' the chace,
Spread upward till thy boughs discern
The front of Sumner-place.

This fruit of thine by Love is blest,
That but a moment lay
Where fairer fruit of Love may rest
Some happy future day.

I kiss it twice, I kiss it thrice,
The warmth it thence shall win
To riper life may magnetise
The baby-oak within.

But thou, while kingdoms overset,
Or lapse from hand to hand,
Thy leaf shall never fail, nor yet
Thine acorn in the land.

May never saw dismember thee,
Nor wielded axe disjoint,
That art the fairest-spoken tree
From here to Lizard-point.

O rock upon thy towery top
All throats that gurgle sweet!
All starry culmination drop
Balm-dews to bathe thy feet!

All grass of silky feather grow--
And while he sinks or swells
The full south-breeze around thee blow
The sound of minster bells.

The fat earth feed thy branchy root,
That under deeply strikes!
The northern morning o'er thee shoot
High up, in silver spikes!

Nor ever lightning char thy grain,
But, rolling as in sleep,
Low thunders bring the mellow rain,
That makes thee broad and deep!

And hear me swear a solemn oath,
That only by thy side
Will I to Olive plight my troth,
And gain her for my bride.

And when my marriage morn may fall,
She, Dryad-like, shall wear
Alternate leaf and acorn-ball
In wreath about her hair.

And I will work in prose and rhyme,
And praise thee more in both
Than bard has honour'd beech or lime,
Or that Thessalian growth, [6]

In which the swarthy ringdove sat,
And mystic sentence spoke;
And more than England honours that,
Thy famous brother-oak,

Wherein the younger Charles abode
Till all the paths were dim,
And far below the Roundhead rode,
And humm'd a surly hymn.

[Footnote 1: Spence is a larder and buttery. In the 'Promptorium
Parverum it is defined as "cellarium promptuarium".]

[Footnote 2: Cf. Burns' "godly laces," 'To the Unco Righteous'.]

[Footnote 3: All editions previous to 1853 have 'staid'.]

[Footnote 4: The phrase is Marvell's. 'Cf. To his Coy Mistress' (a
favourite poem of Tennyson's), "my vegetable loves should grow".]

[Footnote 5: 1842 to 1850. "For, ah! the Dryad-days were brief.]

[Footnote 6: A reference to the oracular oaks of Dodona which was, of
course, in Epirus, but the Ancients believed, no doubt erroneously, that
there was another Dodona in Thessaly. See the article "Dodona" in
Smith's 'Dict. of Greek and Roman Geography'.]


Published first in 1842.

Whether this beautiful poem is autobiographical and has reference to the
compulsory separation of Tennyson and Miss Emily Sellwood, afterwards
his wife, in 1840, it is impossible for this editor to say, as Lord
Tennyson in his 'Life' of his father is silent on the subject.

Of love that never found his earthly close,
What sequel? Streaming eyes and breaking hearts?
Or all the same as if he had not been?
Not so. Shall Error in the round of time
Still father Truth? O shall the braggart shout [1]
For some blind glimpse of freedom work itself
Thro' madness, hated by the wise, to law
System and empire? Sin itself be found
The cloudy porch oft opening on the Sun?
And only he, this wonder, dead, become
Mere highway dust? or year by year alone
Sit brooding in the ruins of a life,
Nightmare of youth, the spectre of himself!
If this were thus, if this, indeed, were all,
Better the narrow brain, the stony heart,
The staring eye glazed o'er with sapless days,
The long mechanic pacings to and fro,
The set gray life, and apathetic end.
But am I not the nobler thro' thy love?
O three times less unworthy! likewise thou

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