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The Early Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson by Tennyson

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Art more thro' Love, and greater than thy years.
The Sun will run his orbit, and the Moon
Her circle. Wait, and Love himself will bring
The drooping flower of knowledge changed to fruit
Of wisdom. [2] Wait: my faith is large in Time,
And that which shapes it to some perfect end.
Will some one say, then why not ill for good?
Why took ye not your pastime? To that man
My work shall answer, since I knew the right
And did it; for a man is not as God,
But then most Godlike being most a man.--
So let me think 'tis well for thee and me--
Ill-fated that I am, what lot is mine
Whose foresight preaches peace, my heart so slow
To feel it! For how hard it seem'd to me,
When eyes, love-languid thro' half-tears, would dwell
One earnest, earnest moment upon mine,
Then not to dare to see! when thy low voice,
Faltering, would break its syllables, to keep
My own full-tuned,--hold passion in a leash,
And not leap forth and fall about thy neck,
And on thy bosom, (deep-desired relief!)
Rain out the heavy mist of tears, that weigh'd
Upon my brain, my senses, and my soul!
For love himself took part against himself
To warn us off, and Duty loved of Love--
O this world's curse--beloved but hated--came Like
Death betwixt thy dear embrace and mine,
And crying, "Who is this? behold thy bride,"
She push'd me from thee.

If the sense is hard
To alien ears, I did not speak to these--
No, not to thee, but to thyself in me:
Hard is my doom and thine: thou knowest it all.
Could Love part thus? was it not well to speak,
To have spoken once? It could not but be well.
The slow sweet hours that bring us all things good, [3]
The slow sad hours that bring us all things ill,
And all good things from evil, brought the night
In which we sat together and alone,
And to the want, that hollow'd all the heart,
Gave utterance by the yearning of an eye,
That burn'd upon its object thro' such tears
As flow but once a life. The trance gave way
To those caresses, when a hundred times
In that last kiss, which never was the last,
Farewell, like endless welcome, lived and died.
Then follow'd counsel, comfort and the words
That make a man feel strong in speaking truth;
Till now the dark was worn, and overhead
The lights of sunset and of sunrise mix'd
In that brief night; the summer night, that paused
Among her stars to hear us; stars that hung
Love-charm'd to listen: all the wheels of Time
Spun round in station, but the end had come.
O then like those, who clench [4] their nerves to rush
Upon their dissolution, we two rose,
There-closing like an individual life--
In one blind cry of passion and of pain,
Like bitter accusation ev'n to death,
Caught up the whole of love and utter'd it,
And bade adieu for ever. Live--yet live--
Shall sharpest pathos blight us, knowing all
Life needs for life is possible to will--
Live happy; tend thy flowers; be tended by
My blessing! Should my Shadow cross thy thoughts
Too sadly for their peace, remand it thou
For calmer hours to Memory's darkest hold, [5]
If not to be forgotten--not at once--
Not all forgotten. Should it cross thy dreams,
O might it come like one that looks content,
With quiet eyes unfaithful to the truth,
And point thee forward to a distant light,
Or seem to lift a burthen from thy heart
And leave thee freer, till thou wake refresh'd,
Then when the first low matin-chirp hath grown
Full quire, and morning driv'n her plow of pearl [6]
Far furrowing into light the mounded rack,
Beyond the fair green field and eastern sea.

[Footnote 1: As this passage is a little obscure, it may not be
superfluous to point out that "shout" is a substantive.]

[Footnote 2: The distinction between "knowledge" and "wisdom" is a
favourite one with Tennyson. See 'In Memoriam', cxiv.; 'Locksley
Hall', 141, and for the same distinction see Cowper, 'Task',
vi., 88-99.]

[Footnote 3: Suggested by Theocritus, 'Id'., xv., 104-5.]

[Footnote 4: 1842 to 1845. O then like those, that clench.]

[Footnote 5: Pathos, in the Greek sense, "suffering". All editions up to
and including 1850 have a small "s" and a small "m" for Shadow and
Memory, and read thus:--

Too sadly for their peace, so put it back
For calmer hours in memory's darkest hold,
If unforgotten! should it cross thy dreams,
So might it come, etc.]

[Footnote 6: 'Cf. Princess', iii.:--

Morn in the white wake of the morning star
Came furrowing all the orient into gold,

and with both cf. Greene, 'Orlando Furioso', i., 2:--

Seest thou not Lycaon's son?
The hardy plough-swain unto mighty Jove
Hath _trac'd his silver furrows in the heaven_,

which in its turn is borrowed from Ariosto, 'Orl. Fur.', xx.,

Apena avea Licaonia prole
Per li solchi del ciel volto


This poem was first published in the fourth edition of the poems 1846.
No alterations were made in it after 1851. The poem had a message for
the time at which it was written. The country was in a very troubled
state. The contest between the Protectionists and Free-traders was at
its acutest stage. The Maynooth endowment and the "godless colleges" had
brought into prominence questions of the gravest moment in religion and
education, while the Corn Bill and the Coercion Bill had inflamed the
passions of party politicians almost to madness. Tennyson, his son tells
us, entered heartily into these questions, believing that the remedies
for these distempers lay in the spread of education, a more catholic
spirit in the press, a partial adoption of Free Trade principles, and
union as far as possible among the different sections of Christianity.

Well, you shall have that song which Leonard wrote:
It was last summer on a tour in Wales:
Old James was with me: we that day had been
Up Snowdon; and I wish'd for Leonard there,
And found him in Llanberis: [1] then we crost
Between the lakes, and clamber'd half-way up
The counterside; and that same song of his
He told me; for I banter'd him, and swore
They said he lived shut up within himself,
A tongue-tied Poet in the feverous days,
That, setting the _how much_ before the _how_,
Cry, like the daughters of the horseleech, "Give, [2]
Cram us with all," but count not me the herd!
To which "They call me what they will," he said:
"But I was born too late: the fair new forms,
That float about the threshold of an age,
Like truths of Science waiting to be caught--
Catch me who can, and make the catcher crown'd--
Are taken by the forelock. Let it be.
But if you care indeed to listen, hear
These measured words, my work of yestermorn.
"We sleep and wake and sleep, but all things move;
The Sun flies forward to his brother Sun;
The dark Earth follows wheel'd in her ellipse;
And human things returning on themselves
Move onward, leading up the golden year.
"Ah, tho' the times, when some new thought can bud,
Are but as poets' seasons when they flower,
Yet seas, that daily gain upon the shore, [3]
Have ebb and flow conditioning their march,
And slow and sure comes up the golden year.
"When wealth no more shall rest in mounded heaps,
But smit with freer light shall slowly melt
In many streams to fatten lower lands,
And light shall spread, and man be liker man
Thro' all the season of the golden year.
"Shall eagles not be eagles? wrens be wrens?
If all the world were falcons, what of that?
The wonder of the eagle were the less,
But he not less the eagle. Happy days
Roll onward, leading up the golden year.
"Fly happy happy sails and bear the Press;
Fly happy with the mission of the Cross;
Knit land to land, and blowing havenward
With silks, and fruits, and spices, clear of toll,
Enrich the markets of the golden year.
"But we grow old! Ah! when shall all men's good
Be each man's rule, and universal Peace
Lie like a shaft of light across the land,
And like a lane of beams athwart the sea,
Thro' all the circle of the golden year?"
Thus far he flow'd, and ended; whereupon
"Ah, folly!" in mimic cadence answer'd James--
"Ah, folly! for it lies so far away.
Not in our time, nor in our children's time,
'Tis like the second world to us that live;
'Twere all as one to fix our hopes on Heaven
As on this vision of the golden year."
With that he struck his staff against the rocks
And broke it,--James,--you know him,--old, but full
Of force and choler, and firm upon his feet,
And like an oaken stock in winter woods,
O'erflourished with the hoary clematis:
Then added, all in heat: "What stuff is this!
Old writers push'd the happy season back,--
The more fools they,--we forward: dreamers both:
You most, that in an age, when every hour
Must sweat her sixty minutes to the death,
Live on, God love us, as if the seedsman, rapt
Upon the teeming harvest, should not dip [4]
His hand into the bag: but well I know
That unto him who works, and feels he works,
This same grand year is ever at the doors."
He spoke; and, high above, I heard them blast
The steep slate-quarry, and the great echo flap
And buffet round the hills from bluff to bluff.

[Footnote 1: 1846 to 1850.

And joined him in Llanberis; and that same song
He told me, etc.]

[Footnote 2: Proverbs xxx. 15:

"The horseleach hath two daughters, crying,
Give, give".]

[Footnote 3: 1890. Altered to "Yet oceans daily gaining on the land".]

[Footnote 4: 'Selections', 1865. Plunge.]


First published in 1842, no alterations were made in it subsequently.

This noble poem, which is said to have induced Sir Robert Peel to give
Tennyson his pension, was written soon after Arthur Hallam's death,
presumably therefore in 1833. "It gave my feeling," Tennyson said to his
son, "about the need of going forward and braving the struggle of life
perhaps more simply than anything in 'In Memoriam'." It is not the
'Ulysses' of Homer, nor was it suggested by the 'Odyssey'. The germ, the
spirit and the sentiment of the poem are from the twenty-sixth canto of
Dante's 'Inferno', where Ulysses in the Limbo of the Deceivers speaks
from the flame which swathes him. I give a literal version of the

"Neither fondness for my son nor reverence for my aged sire nor the
due love which ought to have gladdened Penelope could conquer in me
the ardour which I had to become experienced in the world and in human
vice and worth. I put out into the deep open sea with but one ship and
with that small company which had not deserted me.... I and my
companions were old and tardy when we came to that narrow pass where
Hercules assigned his landmarks. 'O brothers,' I said, 'who through a
hundred thousand dangers have reached the West deny not to this the
brief vigil of your senses that remain, experience of the unpeopled
world beyond the sun. Consider your origin, ye were not formed to live
like Brutes but to follow virtue and knowledge.... Night already saw
the other pole with all its stars and ours so low that it rose not
from the ocean floor'"

('Inferno', xxvi., 94-126).

But if the germ is here the expansion is Tennyson's; he has added
elaboration and symmetry, fine touches, magical images and magical
diction. There is nothing in Dante which answers to--

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.


It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Of these lines well does Carlyle say what so many will feel: "These
lines do not make me weep, but there is in me what would till whole
Lacrymatorics as I read".

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades [1]
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments, [2]
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end, [3]
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge, like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus, [4]
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle--
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port: the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd and wrought, and thought with me--
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads--you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, [5]
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

[Footnote 1: Virgil, 'AEn'., i., 748, and iii., 516.]

[Footnote 2: 'Odyssey', i., 1-4.]

[Footnote 3: 'Cf'. Shakespeare, 'Troilus and Cressida':--

Perseverance, dear, my lord,
Keeps honour bright: To have done, is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty nail
In monumental mockery.]

[Footnote 4: How admirably has Tennyson touched off the character of the
Telemachus of the 'Odyssey'.]

[Footnote 5: The Happy Isles, the 'Fortunatae Insulae' of the Romans and

[Greek: ai t_on Makar_on naesoi]

of the Greeks, have been identified by geographers as those islands in
the Atlantic off the west coast of Africa; some take them to mean the
Canary Islands, the Madeira group and the Azores, while they may have
included the Cape de Verde Islands as well. What seems certain is that
these places with their soft delicious climate and lovely scenery gave
the poets an idea of a happy abode for departed spirits, and so the
conception of the _Elysian Fields_. The _loci classici_ on these abodes
are Homer, Odyssey, iv., 563 _seqq_.:--

[Greek: alla s' es Elysion pedion kai peirata gaiaes athanatoi
pempsousin, hothi xanthos Rhadamanthus tae per rhaeistae biotae pelei
anthr_opoisin, ou niphetos, out' ar cheim_on polus, oute pot' ombros
all' aiei Zephuroio ligu pneiontas aaetas _okeanos aniaesin
anapsuchein anthr_opous.

[But the Immortals will convey thee to the Elysian plain and the
world's limits where is Rhadamanthus of the golden hair, where life is
easiest for man; no snow is there, no nor no great storm, nor any
rain, but always ocean sendeth forth the shrilly breezes of the West
to cool and refresh men],

and Pindar, 'Olymp'., ii., 178 'seqq'., compared with the splendid
fragment at the beginning of the 'Dirges'. Elysium was afterwards placed
in the netherworld, as by Virgil. Thus, as so often the suggestion was
from the facts of geography, the rest soon became an allegorical myth,
and to attempt to identify and localise "the Happy Isles" is as great an
absurdity as to attempt to identify and localise the island of
Shakespeare's 'Tempest'.]


First published in 1842, and no alterations were made in it subsequently
to the edition of 1850; except that in the Selections published in 1865
in the third stanza the reading was "half in ruin" for "in the
distance". This poem, as Tennyson explained, was not autobiographic but
purely imaginary, "representing young life, its good side, its
deficiences and its yearnings". The poem, he added, was written in
Trochaics because the elder Hallam told him that the English people
liked that metre. The hero is a sort of preliminary sketch of the hero
in 'Maud', the position and character of each being very similar: both
are cynical and querulous, and break out into tirades against their kind
and society; both have been disappointed in love, and both find the same
remedy for their afflictions by mixing themselves with action and
becoming "one with their kind".

'Locksley Hall' was suggested, as Tennyson acknowledged, by Sir William
Jones' translation of the old Arabian Moallakat, a collection from the
works of pre-Mahommedan poets. See Sir William Jones' works, quarto
edition, vol. iv., pp. 247-57. But only one of these poems, namely the
poem of Amriolkais, could have immediately influenced him. In this the
poet supposes himself attended on a journey by a company of friends, and
they pass near a place where his mistress had lately lived, but from
which her tribe had then removed. He desires them to stop awhile, that
he may weep over the deserted remains of her tent. They comply with his
request, but exhort him to show more strength of mind, and urge two
topics of consolation, namely, that he had before been equally unhappy
and that he had enjoyed his full share of pleasures. Thus by the
recollection of his past delights his imagination is kindled and his
grief suspended. But Tennyson's chief indebtedness is rather in the
oriental colouring given to his poem, chiefly in the sentiment and
imagery. Thus in the couplet--

Many a night I saw the Pleiads rising through the mellow shade
Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangl'd in a silver braid,

we are reminded of "It was the hour when the Pleiads appeared in the
firmament like the folds of a silken sash variously decked with gems".

Comrades, leave me here a little, while as yet 'tis early morn:
Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle horn.

'Tis the place, and all around it, [1] as of old, the curlews call,
Dreary gleams [2] about the moorland flying over Locksley Hall;

Locksley Hall, that in the distance overlooks the sandy tracts,
And the hollow ocean-ridges roaring into cataracts.

Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.

Here about the beach I wander'd, nourishing a youth sublime
With the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time;

When the centuries behind me like a fruitful land reposed;
When I clung to all the present for the promise that it closed:

When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be.--

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's [3] breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Then her cheek was pale and thinner than should be for one so young,
And her eyes on all my motions with a mute observance hung.

And I said, "My cousin Amy, speak, and speak the truth to me,
Trust me, cousin, all the current of my being sets to thee."

On her pallid cheek and forehead came a colour and a light,
As I have seen the rosy red flushing in the northern night.

And she turn'd--her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs--
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyes--

Saying, "I have hid my feelings, fearing they should do me wrong";
Saying, "Dost thou love me, cousin?" weeping, "I have loved thee

Love took up the glass of Time, and turn'd it in his glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands. [4]

Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass'd in music out of

Many a morning on the moorland did we hear the copses ring,
And her whisper throng'd my pulses with the fulness of the Spring.

Many an evening by the waters did we watch the stately ships,
And our spirits rush'd together at the touching of the lips. [5]

O my cousin, shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!
O the dreary, dreary moorland! O the barren, barren shore!

Falser than all fancy fathoms, falser than all songs have sung,
Puppet to a father's threat, and servile to a shrewish tongue!

Is it well to wish thee happy?--having known me--to decline
On a range of lower feelings and a narrower heart than mine!

Yet it shall be: thou shalt lower to his level day by day,
What is fine within thee growing coarse to sympathise with clay.

As the husband is, the wife is: thou art mated with a clown,
And the grossness of his nature will have weight to drag thee down.

He will hold thee, when his passion shall have spent its novel force,
Something better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse.

What is this? his eyes are heavy: think not they are glazed with wine.
Go to him: it is thy duty: kiss him: take his hand in thine.

It may be my lord is weary, that his brain is overwrought:
Soothe him with thy finer fancies, touch him with thy lighter thought.

He will answer to the purpose, easy things to understand--
Better thou wert dead before me, tho' I slew thee with my hand!

Better thou and I were lying, hidden from the heart's disgrace,
Roll'd in one another's arms, and silent in a last embrace.

Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the living truth!

Cursed be the sickly forms that err from honest Nature's rule!
Cursed be the gold that gilds the straiten'd forehead of the fool!

Well--'tis well that I should bluster!--Hadst thou less unworthy
Would to God--for I had loved thee more than ever wife was loved.

Am I mad, that I should cherish that which bears but bitter fruit?
I will pluck it from my bosom, tho' my heart be at the root.

Never, tho' my mortal summers to such length of years should come
As the many-winter'd crow that leads the clanging rookery home. [6]

Where is comfort? in division of the records of the mind?
Can I part her from herself, and love her, as I knew her, kind?

I remember one that perish'd: sweetly did she speak and move:
Such a one do I remember, whom to look it was to love.

Can I think of her as dead, and love her for the love she bore?
No--she never loved me truly: love is love for evermore.

Comfort? comfort scorn'd of devils! this is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow's crown of sorrow [7] is remembering happier things.

Drug thy memories, lest thou learn it, lest thy heart be put to proof,
In the dead unhappy night, and when the rain is on the roof.

Like a dog, he hunts in dreams, and thou art staring at the wall,
Where the dying night-lamp flickers, and the shadows rise and fall.

Then a hand shall pass before thee, pointing to his drunken sleep,
To thy widow'd marriage-pillows, to the tears that thou wilt weep.

Thou shalt hear the "Never, never," whisper'd by the phantom years,
And a song from out the distance in the ringing of thine ears;

And an eye shall vex thee, looking ancient kindness on thy pain.
Turn thee, turn thee on thy pillow: get thee to thy rest again.

Nay, but Nature brings thee solace; for a tender voice will cry,
'Tis a purer life than thine; a lip to drain thy trouble dry.

Baby lips will laugh me down: my latest rival brings thee rest.
Baby fingers, waxen touches, press me from the mother's breast.

O, the child too clothes the father with a dearness not his due.
Half is thine and half is his: it will be worthy of the two.

O, I see thee old and formal, fitted to thy petty part,
With a little hoard of maxims preaching down a daughter's heart.

"They were dangerous guides the feelings--she herself was not exempt--
Truly, she herself had suffer'd"--Perish in thy self-contempt!

Overlive it--lower yet--be happy! wherefore should I care,
I myself must mix with action, lest I wither by despair.

What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these?
Every door is barr'd with gold, and opens but to golden keys.

Every gate is throng'd with suitors, all the markets overflow.
I have but an angry fancy: what is that which I should do?

I had been content to perish, falling on the foeman's ground,
When the ranks are roll'd in vapour, and the winds are laid with

But the jingling of the guinea helps the hurt that Honour feels,
And the nations do but murmur, snarling at each other's heels.

Can I but relive in sadness? I will turn that earlier page.
Hide me from my deep emotion, O thou wondrous Mother-Age!

Make me feel the wild pulsation that I felt before the strife,
When I heard my days before me, and the tumult of my life;

Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father's field,

And at night along the dusky highway near and nearer drawn,
Sees in heaven the light of London flaring like a dreary dawn; [8]

And his spirit leaps within him to be gone before him then,
Underneath the light he looks at, in among the throngs of men;

Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new:
That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be; [9]

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales; [10]

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue; [10]

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunderstorm;

Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world. [10]

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.

So I triumph'd, ere my passion sweeping thro' me left me dry,
Left me with the palsied heart, and left me with the jaundiced eye;

Eye, to which all order festers, all things here are out of joint,
Science moves, but slowly slowly, creeping on from point to point:

Slowly comes a hungry people, as a lion, creeping nigher, [11]
Glares at one that nods and winks behind a slowly-dying fire.

Yet I doubt not thro' the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widen'd with the process of the suns.

What is that to him that reaps not harvest of his youthful joys,
Tho' the deep heart of existence beat for ever like a boy's?

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and I linger on the shore,
And the individual withers, and the world is more and more.

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and he bears a laden breast,
Full of sad experience, moving toward the stillness of his rest.

Hark, my merry comrades call me, sounding on the bugle-horn,
They to whom my foolish passion were a target for their scorn:

Shall it not be scorn to me to harp on such a moulder'd string?
I am shamed thro' all my nature to have loved so slight a thing.

Weakness to be wroth with weakness! woman's pleasure, woman's pain--
Nature made them blinder motions bounded in a shallower brain:

Woman is the lesser man, and all thy passions, match'd with mine,
Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine--

Here at least, where nature sickens, nothing. Ah, for some retreat
Deep in yonder shining Orient, where my life began to beat;

Where in wild Mahratta-battle fell my father evil-starr'd;--
I was left a trampled orphan, and a selfish uncle's ward.

Or to burst all links of habit--there to wander far away,
On from island unto island at the gateways of the day.

Larger constellations burning, mellow moons and happy skies,
Breadths of tropic shade and palms in cluster, knots of Paradise. [13]

Never comes the trader, never floats an European flag,
Slides the bird o'er lustrous woodland, swings the trailer [14] from
the crag;

Droops the heavy-blossom'd bower, hangs the heavy-fruited tree--
Summer isles of Eden lying in dark-purple spheres of sea.

There methinks would be enjoyment more than in this march of mind,
In the steamship, in the railway, in the thoughts that shake mankind.

There the passions cramp'd no longer shall have scope and
I will take some savage woman, she shall rear my dusky race.

Iron-jointed, supple-sinew'd, they shall dive, and they shall run,
Catch the wild goat by the hair, and hurl their lances in the sun;

Whistle back the parrot's call, and leap the rainbows of the brooks.
Not with blinded eyesight poring over miserable books--

Fool, again the dream, the fancy! but I _know_ my words are wild,
But I count the gray barbarian lower than the Christian child.

_I_, to herd with narrow foreheads, vacant of our glorious gains, [15]
Like a beast with lower pleasures, like a beast with lower pains!

Mated with a squalid savage--what to me were sun or clime?
I the heir of all the ages, in the foremost files of time--

I that rather held it better men should perish one by one,
Than that earth should stand at gaze like Joshua's moon in Ajalon!

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range.
Let the great world spin [16] for ever down the ringing grooves [17]
of change.

Thro' the shadow of the globe [18] we sweep into the younger day:
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay. [19]

Mother-Age (for mine I knew not) help me as when life begun:
Rift the hills, and roll the waters, flash the lightnings, weigh the

O, I see the crescent promise of my spirit hath not set.
Ancient founts of inspiration well thro' all my fancy yet.

Howsoever these things be, a long farewell to Locksley Hall!
Now for me the woods may wither, now for me the roof-tree fall.

Comes a vapour from the margin, blackening over heath and holt,
Cramming all the blast before it, in its breast a thunderbolt.

Let it fall on Locksley Hall, with rain or hail, or fire or snow;
For the mighty wind arises, roaring seaward, and I go.

[Footnote 1: 1842. And round the gables.]

[Footnote 2: "Gleams," it appears, is a Lincolnshire word for the cry of
the curlew, and so by removing the comma after call we get an
interpretation which perhaps improves the sense and certainly gets rid
of a very un-Tennysonian cumbrousness in the second line. But Tennyson
had never, he said, heard of that meaning of "gleams," adding he wished
he had. He meant nothing more in the passage than "to express the flying
gleams of light across a dreary moorland when looking at it under
peculiarly dreary circumstances". See for this, 'Life', iii., 82.]

[Footnote 3: 1842 and all up to and including 1850 have a capital 'R' to

[Footnote 4: Cf. W. R. Spencer ('Poems', p. 166):--

What eye with clear account remarks
The ebbing of his glass,
When all its sands are diamond sparks
That dazzle as they pass.

But this is of course in no way parallel to Tennyson's subtly beautiful
image, which he himself pronounced to be the best simile he had ever

[Footnote 5: Cf. Guarini, 'Pastor Fido':--

Ma i colpi di due labbre innamorate
Quando a ferir si va bocca con bocca,
... ove l' un alma e l'altra Corre.]

[Footnote 6: Cf. Horace's 'Annosa Cornix', Odes III., xvii., 13.]

[Footnote 7: The reference is to Dante, 'Inferno', v. 121-3:--

Nessun maggior dolore
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
Nella miseria.

For the pedigree and history of this see the present editor's
'Illustrations of Tennyson', p. 63.]

[Footnote 8: The epithet "dreary" shows that Tennyson preferred
realistic picturesqueness to dramatic propriety.]

[Footnote 9: See the introductory note to 'The Golden Year'.]

[Footnote 10: See the introductory note to 'The Golden Year'.]

[Footnote 11: Tennyson said that this simile was suggested by a passage
in 'Pringle's Travels;' the incident only is described, and with
thrilling vividness, by Pringle; but its application in simile is
Tennyson's. See 'A Narrative of a Residence in South Africa', by Thomas
Pringle, p. 39:

"The night was extremely dark and the rain fell so heavily that in
spite of the abundant supply of dry firewood, which we had luckily
provided, it was not without difficulty that we could keep one
watchfire burning.... About midnight we were suddenly roused by the
roar of a lion close to our tents. It was so loud and tremendous that
for the moment I actually thought that a thunderstorm had burst upon
us.... We roused up the half-extinguished fire to a roaring blaze ...
this unwonted display probably daunted our grim visitor, for he gave
us no further trouble that night."]

[Footnote 12: With this 'cf'. Leopardi, 'Aspasia', 53-60:--

Non cape in quelle
Anguste fronti ugual concetto. E male
Al vivo sfolgora di quegli sguardi
Spera l'uomo ingannato, e mal chiede
Sensi profondi, sconosciuti, e molto
Piu che virili, in chi dell' uomo al tutto
Da natura e minor. Che se piu molli
E piu tenui le membra, essa la mente
Men capace e men forte anco riceve.]

[Footnote 13: One wonders Tennyson could have had the heart to excise the
beautiful couplet which in his MS. followed this stanza.

All about a summer ocean, leagues on leagues of golden calm,
And within melodious waters rolling round the knolls of palm.]

[Footnote 14: 1842 and all up to and inclusive of 1850. Droops the
trailer. This is one of Tennyson's many felicitous corrections. In the
monotonous, motionless splendour of a tropical landscape the smallest
movement catches the eye, the flight of a bird, the gentle waving of the
trailer stirred by the breeze from the sea.]

[Footnote 15: 'Cf'. Shakespeare, "foreheads villainously low".]

[Footnote 16: 1842. Peoples spin.]

[Footnote 17: Tennyson tells us that when he travelled by the first train
from Liverpool to Manchester in 1830 it was night and he thought that
the wheels ran in a groove, hence this line.]

[Footnote 18: 1842. The world.]

[Footnote 19: Cathay, the old name for China.]

[Footnote 20: 'Cf'. Tasso, 'Gems', ix., st. 91:--

Nuova nube di polve ecco vicina
Che fulgori in grembo tiene.

(Lo! a fresh cloud of dust is near which
Carries in its breast thunderbolts.)]


First published in 1842. No alteration was made in any subsequent

The poem was written in 1840 when Tennyson was returning from Coventry
to London, after his visit to Warwickshire in that year. The Godiva
pageant takes place in that town at the great fair on Friday in Trinity
week. Earl Leofric was the Lord of Coventry in the reign of Edward the
Confessor, and he and his wife Godiva founded a magnificent Benedictine
monastery at Coventry. The first writer who mentions this legend is
Matthew of Westminster, who wrote in 1307, that is some 250 years after
Leofric's time, and what authority he had for it is not known. It is
certainly not mentioned by the many preceding writers who have left
accounts of Leofric and Godiva (see Gough's edition of Camden's
'Britannia', vol. ii., p. 346, and for a full account of the legend see
W. Reader, 'The History and Description of Coventry Show Fair, with the
History of Leofric and Godiva'). With Tennyson's should be compared
Moultrie's beautiful poem on the same subject, and Landor's Imaginary
Conversation between Leofric and Godiva.

[1] _I waited for the train at Coventry;
I hung with grooms and porters on the bridge,
To match the three tall spires; [2] and there I shaped
The city's ancient legend into this:_
Not only we, the latest seed of Time,
New men, that in the flying of a wheel
Cry down the past, not only we, that prate
Of rights and wrongs, have loved the people well,
And loathed to see them overtax'd; but she
Did more, and underwent, and overcame,
The woman of a thousand summers back,
Godiva, wife to that grim Earl, who ruled
In Coventry: for when he laid a tax
Upon his town, and all the mothers brought
Their children, clamouring, "If we pay, we starve!"
She sought her lord, and found him, where he strode
About the hall, among his dogs, alone,
His beard a foot before him, and his hair
A yard behind. She told him of their tears,
And pray'd him, "If they pay this tax, they starve".
Whereat he stared, replying, half-amazed,
"You would not let your little finger ache
For such as _these?_"--"But I would die," said she.
He laugh'd, and swore by Peter and by Paul;
Then fillip'd at the diamond in her ear;
"O ay, ay, ay, you talk!"--"Alas!" she said,
"But prove me what it is I would not do."
And from a heart as rough as Esau's hand,
He answer'd, "Ride you naked thro' the town,
And I repeal it"; and nodding as in scorn,
He parted, with great strides among his dogs.
So left alone, the passions of her mind,
As winds from all the compass shift and blow,
Made war upon each other for an hour,
Till pity won. She sent a herald forth,
And bad him cry, with sound of trumpet, all
The hard condition; but that she would loose
The people: therefore, as they loved her well,
From then till noon no foot should pace the street,
No eye look down, she passing; but that all
Should keep within, door shut, and window barr'd.
Then fled she to her inmost bower, and there
Unclasp'd the wedded eagles of her belt,
The grim Earl's gift; but ever at a breath
She linger'd, looking like a summer moon
Half-dipt in cloud: anon she shook her head,
And shower'd the rippled ringlets to her knee;
Unclad herself in haste; adown the stair
Stole on; and, like a creeping sunbeam, slid
From pillar unto pillar, until she reach'd
The gateway; there she found her palfrey trapt
In purple blazon'd with armorial gold.
Then she rode forth, clothed on with chastity:
The deep air listen'd round her as she rode,
And all the low wind hardly breathed for fear.
The little wide-mouth'd heads upon the spout
Had cunning eyes to see: the barking cur
Made her cheek flame: her palfrey's footfall shot
Light horrors thro' her pulses: the blind walls
Were full of chinks and holes; and overhead
Fantastic gables, crowding, stared: but she
Not less thro' all bore up, till, last, she saw
The white-flower'd elder-thicket from the field
Gleam thro' the Gothic archways [3]in the wall.
Then she rode back cloth'd on with chastity:
And one low churl, [4] compact of thankless earth,
The fatal byword of all years to come,
Boring a little auger-hole in fear,
Peep'd--but his eyes, before they had their will,
Were shrivell'd into darkness in his head,
And dropt before him. So the Powers, who wait
On noble deeds, cancell'd a sense misused;
And she, that knew not, pass'd: and all at once,
With twelve great shocks of sound, the shameless noon
Was clash'd and hammer'd from a hundred towers, [5]
One after one: but even then she gain'd
Her bower; whence reissuing, robed and crown'd,
To meet her lord, she took the tax away,
And built herself an everlasting name.

[Footnote 1: These four lines are not in the privately printed volume of
1842, but were added afterwards.]

[Footnote 2: St. Michael's, Trinity, and St. John.]

[Footnote 3: 1844. Archway.]

[Footnote 4: His effigy is still to be seen, protruded from an upper
window in High Street, Coventry.]

[Footnote 5: A most poetical licence. Thirty-two towers are the very
utmost allowed by writers on ancient Coventry.]


First published in 1842, though begun as early as 1833 and in course of
composition in 1834. See Spedding's letter dated 19th September, 1834.
Its original title was 'The Thoughts of a Suicide'. No alterations were
made in the poem after 1842.

It adds interest to this poem to know that it is autobiographical. It
was written soon after the death of Arthur Hallam when Tennyson's
depression was deepest. "When I wrote 'The Two Voices' I was so utterly
miserable, a burden to myself and to my family, that I said, 'Is life
worth anything?'" It is the history--as Spedding put it--of the
agitations, the suggestions and counter-suggestions of a mind sunk in
hopeless despondency, and meditating self-destruction, together with the
manner of its recovery to a more healthy condition. We have two
singularly interesting parallels to it in preceding poetry. The one is
in the third book of Lucretius (830-1095), where the arguments for
suicide are urged, not merely by the poet himself, but by arguments
placed by him in the mouth of Nature herself, and urged with such
cogency that they are said to have induced one of his editors and
translators, Creech, to put an end to his life. The other is in Spenser,
in the dialogue between Despair and the Red Cross Knight, where Despair
puts the case for self-destruction, and the Red Cross Knight rebuts the
arguments ('Faerie Queene', I. ix., st. xxxviii.-liv.).

A still small voice spake unto me,
"Thou art so full of misery,
Were it not better not to be?"

Then to the still small voice I said;
"Let me not cast in endless shade
What is so wonderfully made".

To which the voice did urge reply;
"To-day I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.

"An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.

"He dried his wings: like gauze they grew:
Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew."

I said, "When first the world began
Young Nature thro' five cycles ran,
And in the sixth she moulded man.

"She gave him mind, the lordliest
Proportion, and, above the rest,
Dominion in the head and breast."

Thereto the silent voice replied;
"Self-blinded are you by your pride:
Look up thro' night: the world is wide.

"This truth within thy mind rehearse,
That in a boundless universe
Is boundless better, boundless worse.

"Think you this mould of hopes and fears
Could find no statelier than his peers
In yonder hundred million spheres?"

It spake, moreover, in my mind:
"Tho' thou wert scatter'd to the wind,
Yet is there plenty of the kind".

Then did my response clearer fall:
"No compound of this earthly ball
Is like another, all in all".

To which he answer'd scoffingly;
"Good soul! suppose I grant it thee,
Who'll weep for thy deficiency?

"Or will one beam [1] be less intense,
When thy peculiar difference
Is cancell'd in the world of sense?"

I would have said, "Thou canst not know,"
But my full heart, that work'd below,
Rain'd thro' my sight its overflow.

Again the voice spake unto me:
"Thou art so steep'd in misery,
Surely 'twere better not to be.

"Thine anguish will not let thee sleep,
Nor any train of reason keep:
Thou canst not think, but thou wilt weep."

I said, "The years with change advance:
If I make dark my countenance,
I shut my life from happier chance.

"Some turn this sickness yet might take,
Ev'n yet." But he: "What drug can make
A wither'd palsy cease to shake?"

I wept, "Tho' I should die, I know
That all about the thorn will blow
In tufts of rosy-tinted snow;

"And men, thro' novel spheres of thought
Still moving after truth long sought,
Will learn new things when I am not."

"Yet," said the secret voice, "some time,
Sooner or later, will gray prime
Make thy grass hoar with early rime.

"Not less swift souls that yearn for light,
Rapt after heaven's starry flight,
Would sweep the tracts of day and night.

"Not less the bee would range her cells,
The furzy prickle fire the dells,
The foxglove cluster dappled bells."

I said that "all the years invent;
Each month is various to present
The world with some development.

"Were this not well, to bide mine hour,
Tho' watching from a ruin'd tower
How grows the day of human power?"

"The highest-mounted mind," he said,
"Still sees the sacred morning spread
The silent summit overhead.

"Will thirty seasons render plain
Those lonely lights that still remain,
Just breaking over land and main?

"Or make that morn, from his cold crown
And crystal silence creeping down,
Flood with full daylight glebe and town?

"Forerun thy peers, thy time, and let
Thy feet, millenniums hence, be set
In midst of knowledge, dream'd not yet.

"Thou hast not gain'd a real height,
Nor art thou nearer to the light,
Because the scale is infinite.

"'Twere better not to breathe or speak,
Than cry for strength, remaining weak,
And seem to find, but still to seek.

"Moreover, but to seem to find
Asks what thou lackest, thought resign'd,
A healthy frame, a quiet mind."

I said, "When I am gone away,
'He dared not tarry,' men will say,
Doing dishonour to my clay."

"This is more vile," he made reply,
"To breathe and loathe, to live and sigh,
Than once from dread of pain to die.

"Sick art thou--a divided will
Still heaping on the fear of ill
The fear of men, a coward still.

"Do men love thee? Art thou so bound
To men, that how thy name may sound
Will vex thee lying underground?

"The memory of the wither'd leaf
In endless time is scarce more brief
Than of the garner'd Autumn-sheaf.

"Go, vexed Spirit, sleep in trust;
The right ear, that is fill'd with dust,
Hears little of the false or just."

"Hard task, to pluck resolve," I cried,
"From emptiness and the waste wide
Of that abyss, or scornful pride!

"Nay--rather yet that I could raise
One hope that warm'd me in the days
While still I yearn'd for human praise.

"When, wide in soul, and bold of tongue,
Among the tents I paused and sung,
The distant battle flash'd and rung.

"I sung the joyful Paean clear,
And, sitting, burnish'd without fear
The brand, the buckler, and the spear--

"Waiting to strive a happy strife,
To war with falsehood to the knife,
And not to lose the good of life--

"Some hidden principle to move,
To put together, part and prove,
And mete the bounds of hate and love--

"As far as might be, to carve out
Free space for every human doubt,
That the whole mind might orb about--

"To search thro' all I felt or saw,
The springs of life, the depths of awe,
And reach the law within the law:

"At least, not rotting like a weed,
But, having sown some generous seed,
Fruitful of further thought and deed,

"To pass, when Life her light withdraws,
Not void of righteous self-applause,
Nor in a merely selfish cause--

"In some good cause, not in mine own,
To perish, wept for, honour'd, known,
And like a warrior overthrown;

"Whose eyes are dim with glorious tears,
When, soil'd with noble dust, he hears
His country's war-song thrill his ears:

"Then dying of a mortal stroke,
What time the foeman's line is broke.
And all the war is roll'd in smoke." [2]

"Yea!" said the voice, "thy dream was good,
While thou abodest in the bud.
It was the stirring of the blood.

"If Nature put not forth her power [2]
About the opening of the flower,
Who is it that could live an hour?

"Then comes the check, the change, the fall.
Pain rises up, old pleasures pall.
There is one remedy for all.

"Yet hadst thou, thro' enduring pain,
Link'd month to month with such a chain
Of knitted purport, all were vain.

"Thou hadst not between death and birth
Dissolved the riddle of the earth.
So were thy labour little worth.

"That men with knowledge merely play'd,
I told thee--hardly nigher made,
Tho' scaling slow from grade to grade;

"Much less this dreamer, deaf and blind,
Named man, may hope some truth to find,
That bears relation to the mind.

"For every worm beneath the moon
Draws different threads, and late and soon
Spins, toiling out his own cocoon.

"Cry, faint not: either Truth is born
Beyond the polar gleam forlorn,
Or in the gateways of the morn.

"Cry, faint not, climb: the summits slope
Beyond the furthest nights of hope,
Wrapt in dense cloud from base to cope.

"Sometimes a little corner shines,
As over rainy mist inclines
A gleaming crag with belts of pines.

"I will go forward, sayest thou,
I shall not fail to find her now.
Look up, the fold is on her brow.

"If straight thy track, or if oblique,
Thou know'st not. Shadows thou dost strike,
Embracing cloud, Ixion-like;

"And owning but a little more
Than beasts, abidest lame and poor,
Calling thyself a little lower

"Than angels. Cease to wail and brawl!
Why inch by inch to darkness crawl?
There is one remedy for all."

"O dull, one-sided voice," said I,
"Wilt thou make everything a lie,
To flatter me that I may die?

"I know that age to age succeeds,
Blowing a noise of tongues and deeds,
A dust of systems and of creeds.

"I cannot hide that some have striven,
Achieving calm, to whom was given
The joy that mixes man with Heaven:

"Who, rowing hard against the stream,
Saw distant gates of Eden gleam,
And did not dream it was a dream";

"But heard, by secret transport led, [3]
Ev'n in the charnels of the dead,
The murmur of the fountain-head--

"Which did accomplish their desire,--
Bore and forbore, and did not tire,
Like Stephen, an unquenched fire.

"He heeded not reviling tones,
Nor sold his heart to idle moans,
Tho' cursed and scorn'd, and bruised with stones:

"But looking upward, full of grace,
He pray'd, and from a happy place
God's glory smote him on the face."

The sullen answer slid betwixt:
"Not that the grounds of hope were fix'd,
The elements were kindlier mix'd." [4]

I said, "I toil beneath the curse,
But, knowing not the universe,
I fear to slide from bad to worse. [5]

"And that, in seeking to undo
One riddle, and to find the true,
I knit a hundred others new:

"Or that this anguish fleeting hence,
Unmanacled from bonds of sense,
Be fix'd and froz'n to permanence:

"For I go, weak from suffering here;
Naked I go, and void of cheer:
What is it that I may not fear?"

"Consider well," the voice replied,
"His face, that two hours since hath died;
Wilt thou find passion, pain or pride?

"Will he obey when one commands?
Or answer should one press his hands?
He answers not, nor understands.

"His palms are folded on his breast:
There is no other thing express'd
But long disquiet merged in rest.

"His lips are very mild and meek:
Tho' one should smite him on the cheek,
And on the mouth, he will not speak.

"His little daughter, whose sweet face
He kiss'd, taking his last embrace,
Becomes dishonour to her race--

"His sons grow up that bear his name,
Some grow to honour, some to shame,--
But he is chill to praise or blame. [6]

"He will not hear the north wind rave,
Nor, moaning, household shelter crave
From winter rains that beat his grave.

"High up the vapours fold and swim:
About him broods the twilight dim:
The place he knew forgetteth him."

"If all be dark, vague voice," I said,
"These things are wrapt in doubt and dread,
Nor canst thou show the dead are dead.

"The sap dries up: the plant declines. [7]
A deeper tale my heart divines.
Know I not Death? the outward signs?

"I found him when my years were few;
A shadow on the graves I knew,
And darkness in the village yew.

"From grave to grave the shadow crept:
In her still place the morning wept:
Touch'd by his feet the daisy slept.

"The simple senses crown'd his head: [8]
'Omega! thou art Lord,' they
said; 'We find no motion in the dead.'

"Why, if man rot in dreamless ease,
Should that plain fact, as taught by these,
Not make him sure that he shall cease?

"Who forged that other influence,
That heat of inward evidence,
By which he doubts against the sense?

"He owns the fatal gift of eyes, [9]
That read his spirit blindly wise,
Not simple as a thing that dies.

"Here sits he shaping wings to fly:
His heart forebodes a mystery:
He names the name Eternity.

"That type of Perfect in his mind
In Nature can he nowhere find.
He sows himself in every wind.

"He seems to hear a Heavenly Friend,
And thro' thick veils to apprehend
A labour working to an end.

"The end and the beginning vex
His reason: many things perplex,
With motions, checks, and counterchecks.

"He knows a baseness in his blood
At such strange war with something good,
He may not do the thing he would.

"Heaven opens inward, chasms yawn.
Vast images in glimmering dawn,
Half shown, are broken and withdrawn.

"Ah! sure within him and without,
Could his dark wisdom find it out,
There must be answer to his doubt.

"But thou canst answer not again.
With thine own weapon art thou slain,
Or thou wilt answer but in vain.

"The doubt would rest, I dare not solve.
In the same circle we revolve.
Assurance only breeds resolve."

As when a billow, blown against,
Falls back, the voice with which I fenced
A little ceased, but recommenced.

"Where wert thou when thy father play'd
In his free field, and pastime made,
A merry boy in sun and shade?

"A merry boy they called him then.
He sat upon the knees of men
In days that never come again,

"Before the little ducts began
To feed thy bones with lime, and ran
Their course, till thou wert also man:

"Who took a wife, who rear'd his race,
Whose wrinkles gather'd on his face,
Whose troubles number with his days:

"A life of nothings, nothing-worth,
From that first nothing ere his birth
To that last nothing under earth!"

"These words," I said, "are like the rest,
No certain clearness, but at best
A vague suspicion of the breast:

"But if I grant, thou might'st defend
The thesis which thy words intend--
That to begin implies to end;

"Yet how should I for certain hold, [10]
Because my memory is so cold,
That I first was in human mould?

"I cannot make this matter plain,
But I would shoot, howe'er in vain,
A random arrow from the brain.

"It may be that no life is found,
Which only to one engine bound
Falls off, but cycles always round.

"As old mythologies relate,
Some draught of Lethe might await
The slipping thro' from state to state.

"As here we find in trances, men
Forget the dream that happens then,
Until they fall in trance again.

"So might we, if our state were such
As one before, remember much,
For those two likes might meet and touch. [11]

"But, if I lapsed from nobler place,
Some legend of a fallen race
Alone might hint of my disgrace;

"Some vague emotion of delight
In gazing up an Alpine height,
Some yearning toward the lamps of night.

"Or if thro' lower lives I came--
Tho' all experience past became
Consolidate in mind and frame--

"I might forget my weaker lot;
For is not our first year forgot?
The haunts of memory echo not.

"And men, whose reason long was blind,
From cells of madness unconfined, [12]
Oft lose whole years of darker mind.

"Much more, if first I floated free,
As naked essence, must I be
Incompetent of memory:

"For memory dealing but with time,
And he with matter, could she climb
Beyond her own material prime?

"Moreover, something is or seems,
That touches me with mystic gleams,
Like glimpses of forgotten dreams--

"Of something felt, like something here;
Of something done, I know not where;
Such as no language may declare."

The still voice laugh'd. "I talk," said he,
"Not with thy dreams.
Suffice it thee Thy pain is a reality."

"But thou," said I, "hast miss'd thy mark,
Who sought'st to wreck my mortal ark,
By making all the horizon dark.

"Why not set forth, if I should do
This rashness, that which might ensue
With this old soul in organs new?

"Whatever crazy sorrow saith,
No life that breathes with human breath
Has ever truly long'd for death.

"'Tis life, whereof our nerves are scant,
Oh life, not death, for which we pant;
More life, and fuller, that I want."

I ceased, and sat as one forlorn.
Then said the voice, in quiet scorn,
"Behold it is the Sabbath morn".

And I arose, and I released
The casement, and the light increased
With freshness in the dawning east.

Like soften'd airs that blowing steal,
When meres begin to uncongeal,
The sweet church bells began to peal.

On to God's house the people prest:
Passing the place where each must rest,
Each enter'd like a welcome guest.

One walk'd between his wife and child,
With measur'd footfall firm and mild,
And now and then he gravely smiled.

The prudent partner of his blood
Lean'd on him, faithful, gentle, good, [13]
Wearing the rose of womanhood.

And in their double love secure,
The little maiden walk'd demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.

These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.

I blest them, and they wander'd on:
I spoke, but answer came there none:
The dull and bitter voice was gone.

A second voice was at mine ear,
A little whisper silver-clear,
A murmur, "Be of better cheer".

As from some blissful neighbourhood,
A notice faintly understood,
"I see the end, and know the good".

A little hint to solace woe,
A hint, a whisper breathing low,
"I may not speak of what I know".

Like an Aeolian harp that wakes
No certain air, but overtakes
Far thought with music that it makes:

Such seem'd the whisper at my side:
"What is it thou knowest, sweet voice?" I cried.
"A hidden hope," the voice replied:

So heavenly-toned, that in that hour
From out my sullen heart a power
Broke, like the rainbow from the shower,

To feel, altho' no tongue can prove
That every cloud, that spreads above
And veileth love, itself is love.

And forth into the fields I went,
And Nature's living motion lent
The pulse of hope to discontent.

I wonder'd at the bounteous hours,
The slow result of winter showers:
You scarce could see the grass for flowers.

I wonder'd, while I paced along:
The woods were fill'd so full with song,
There seem'd no room for sense of wrong.

So variously seem'd all things wrought, [14]
I marvell'd how the mind was brought
To anchor by one gloomy thought;

And wherefore rather I made choice
To commune with that barren voice,
Than him that said, "Rejoice! rejoice!"

[Footnote 1: The insensibility of Nature to man's death has been the
eloquent theme of many poets. 'Cf'. Byron, 'Lara', canto ii. 'ad init'.,
and Matthew Arnold, 'The Youth of Nature'.]

[Footnote 2: 'Cf. Palace of Art', "the riddle of the painful earth".]

[Footnote 3: 'Seq'. The reference is to Acts of the Apostles vii.

[Footnote 4: Suggested by Shakespeare, 'Julius Caesar', Act v., Sc.

and _the elements_
So mix'd in' him that Nature, etc.]

[Footnote 5: An excellent commentary on this is Clough's

_Perche pensa, pensando vecchia_.]

[Footnote 6: 'Cf'. Job xiv. 21:

"His sons come to honour, and he knowcth it not; and they are brought
low, but he perceiveth it not of them."]

[Footnote 7: So Bishop Butler, 'Analogy', ch. i.:

"We cannot argue _from the reason of the thing_ that death is the
destruction of living agents because we know not at all what death is
in itself, but only some of its effects".]

[Footnote 8: So Milton, enfolding this idea of death, 'Paradise
Lost', ii., 672-3:--

What seemed his head
The _likeness_ of a kingly crown had on.]

[Footnote 9: 'Cf'. Plato, 'Phaedo', x.:--

[Greek: ara echei alaetheian tina opsis te kai akoae tois anthr_opois.
Ae ta ge toiauta kai oi poiaetai haemin aei thrulousin oti out
akouomen akribes ouden oute or_omen]

"Have sight and hearing any truth in them? Are they not, as poets are
always telling us, inaccurate witnesses?"

The proper commentary on the whole of this passage is Plato
'passim', but the 'Phaedo' particularly, 'cf. Republic',
vii., viii. and xiv.-xv.]

[Footnote 10: An allusion to the myth that when souls are sent to occupy
a body again they drink of Lethe that they may forget their previous
existence. See the famous passage towards the end of the tenth book of
Plato's 'Republic':

"All persons are compelled to drink a certain quantity of the water,
but those who are not preserved by prudence drink more than the
quantity, and each as he drinks forgets everything".

So Milton, 'Paradise Lost', ii., 582-4.]

[Footnote 11: The best commentary on this will be found in Herbert
Spencer's 'Psychology'.]

[Footnote 12: Compare with this Tennyson's first sonnet ('Works', Globe
Edition, 25), and the lines in the 'Ancient Sage' in the 'Passion of the
Past' ('Id'., 551). 'Cf'. too the lines in Wordsworth's ode on
'Intimations of Immortality':--

But there's a tree, of many one,
A single field which I have looked upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone;
The pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat.

For other remarkable illustrations of this see the present writer's
'Illustrations of Tennyson', p. 38.]

[Footnote 13: 'Cf'. Coleridge, 'Ancient Mariner, iv'.:--

"O happy living things ... I blessed them
The self-same moment I could pray."

There is a close parallel between the former and the latter state
described here and in Coleridge's mystic allegory; in both cases the
sufferers "wake to love," the curse falling off them when they can

[Footnote 14: 1884. And all so variously wrought (with semi-colon instead
of full stop at the end of the preceding line).]


First published in 1842, but written in 1835. In it is incorporated,
though with several alterations, 'The Sleeping Beauty', published among
the poems of 1830, but excised in subsequent editions. Half extravaganza
and half apologue, like the 'Midsummer Night's Dream', this delightful
poem may be safely left to deliver its own message and convey its own
meaning. It is an excellent illustration of the truth of Tennyson's own
remark: "Poetry is like shot silk with many glancing colours. Every
reader must find his own interpretation according to his ability, and
according to his sympathy with the poet."


(No alteration has been made in the Prologue since 1842.)

O, Lady Flora, let me speak:
A pleasant hour has past away
While, dreaming on your damask cheek,
The dewy sister-eyelids lay.

As by the lattice you reclined,
I went thro' many wayward moods
To see you dreaming--and, behind,
A summer crisp with shining woods.
And I too dream'd, until at last
Across my fancy, brooding warm,
The reflex of a legend past,
And loosely settled into form.
And would you have the thought I had,
And see the vision that I saw,
Then take the broidery-frame, and add
A crimson to the quaint Macaw,
And I will tell it. Turn your face,
Nor look with that too-earnest eye--
The rhymes are dazzled from their place,
And order'd words asunder fly.


(No alteration since 1851.)


The varying year with blade and sheaf
Clothes and reclothes the happy plains;
Here rests the sap within the leaf,
Here stays the blood along the veins.
Faint shadows, vapours lightly curl'd,
Faint murmurs from the meadows come,
Like hints and echoes of the world
To spirits folded in the womb.


Soft lustre bathes the range of urns
On every slanting terrace-lawn.
The fountain to his place returns
Deep in the garden lake withdrawn.
Here droops the banner on the tower,
On the hall-hearths the festal fires,
The peacock in his laurel bower,
The parrot in his gilded wires.


Roof-haunting martins warm their eggs:
In these, in those the life is stay'd.
The mantles from the golden pegs
Droop sleepily: no sound is made,
Not even of a gnat that sings.
More like a picture seemeth all
Than those old portraits of old kings,
That watch the sleepers from the wall.


Here sits the Butler with a flask
Between his knees, half-drain'd; and there
The wrinkled steward at his task,
The maid-of-honour blooming fair:
The page has caught her hand in his:
Her lips are sever'd as to speak:
His own are pouted to a kiss:
The blush is fix'd upon her cheek.


Till all the hundred summers pass,
The beams, that thro' the Oriel shine,
Make prisms in every carven glass,
And beaker brimm'd with noble wine.
Each baron at the banquet sleeps,
Grave faces gather'd in a ring.
His state the king reposing keeps.
He must have been a jovial king. [1]


All round a hedge upshoots, and shows
At distance like a little wood;
Thorns, ivies, woodbine, misletoes,
And grapes with bunches red as blood;
All creeping plants, a wall of green
Close-matted, bur and brake and briar,
And glimpsing over these, just seen,
High up, the topmost palace-spire.


When will the hundred summers die,
And thought and time be born again,
And newer knowledge, drawing nigh,
Bring truth that sways the soul of men?
Here all things in there place remain,
As all were order'd, ages since.
Come, Care and Pleasure, Hope and Pain,
And bring the fated fairy Prince.

[Footnote 1: All editions up to and including 1851:--He must have been
a jolly king.]


(First printed in 1830, but does not reappear again till 1842. No
alteration since 1842.)


Year after year unto her feet,
She lying on her couch alone,
Across the purpled coverlet,
The maiden's jet-black hair has grown, [1]
On either side her tranced form
Forth streaming from a braid of pearl:
The slumbrous light is rich and warm,
And moves not on the rounded curl.


The silk star-broider'd [2] coverlid
Unto her limbs itself doth mould
Languidly ever; and, amid
Her full black ringlets downward roll'd,
Glows forth each softly-shadow'd arm,
With bracelets of the diamond bright:
Her constant beauty doth inform
Stillness with love, and day with light.


She sleeps: her breathings are not heard
In palace chambers far apart. [3]
The fragrant tresses are not stirr'd
That lie upon her charmed heart.
She sleeps: on either hand [4] upswells
The gold-fringed pillow lightly prest:
She sleeps, nor dreams, but ever dwells
A perfect form in perfect rest.

[Footnote 1: 1830.

The while she slumbereth alone,
_Over_ the purple coverlet,
The maiden's jet-black hair hath grown.]

[Footnote 2: 1830. Star-braided.]

[Footnote 3: A writer in 'Notes and Queries', February, 1880, asks
whether these lines mean that the lovely princess did _not_ snore
so loud that she could be heard from one end of the palace to the other
and whether it would not have detracted from her charms had that state
of things been habitual. This brings into the field Dr. Gatty and other
admirers of Tennyson, who, it must be owned, are not very successful in
giving a satisfactory reply.]

[Footnote 4: 1830. Side.]


(No alteration after 1853.)


All precious things, discover'd late,
To those that seek them issue forth;
For love in sequel works with fate,
And draws the veil from hidden worth.
He travels far from other skies
His mantle glitters on the rocks--
A fairy Prince, with joyful eyes,
And lighter footed than the fox.


The bodies and the bones of those
That strove in other days to pass,
Are wither'd in the thorny close,
Or scatter'd blanching on [1] the grass.
He gazes on the silent dead:
"They perish'd in their daring deeds."
This proverb flashes thro' his head,
"The many fail: the one succeeds".


He comes, scarce knowing what he seeks:
He breaks the hedge: he enters there:
The colour flies into his cheeks:
He trusts to light on something fair;
For all his life the charm did talk

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