From ‘In Memoriam’

(Arthur Henry Hallam, MDCCCXXXIII)

Alfred Tennyson, Lord Tennyson.
August 6, 1809 – October 6, 1892

I

 

FAIR ship, that from the Italian shore

    Sailest the placid ocean-plains

    With my lost Arthur’s loved remains,

Spread thy full wings, and waft him o’er.

 

So draw him home to those that mourn

    In vain; a favourable speed

    Ruffle thy mirror’d mast, and lead

Thro’ prosperous floods his holy urn.

 

All night no ruder air perplex

    Thy sliding keel, till Phosphor, bright

    As our pure love, thro’ early light

Shall glimmer on the dewy decks.

 

Sphere all your lights around, above;

    Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;

    Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now,

My friend, the brother of my love;

 

My Arthur, whom I shall not see

    Till all my widow’d race be run;

    Dear as the mother to the son,

More than my brothers are to me.

 

II

 

I hear the noise about thy keel;

    I hear the bell struck in the night;

    I see the cabin-window bright;

I see the sailor at the wheel.

 

Thou bring’st the sailor to his wife,

    And travell’d men from foreign lands;

    And letters unto trembling hands;

And, thy dark freight, a vanish’d life.

 

So bring him: we have idle dreams:

    This look of quiet flatters thus

    Our home-bred fancies: O to us,

The fools of habit, sweeter seems

 

To rest beneath the clover sod,

    That takes the sunshine and the rains,

    Or where the kneeling hamlet drains

The chalice of the grapes of God;

 

Than if with thee the roaring wells

    Should gulf him fathom-deep in brine;

    And hands so often clasp’d in mine,

Should toss with tangle and with shells.

 

III

 

Calm is the morn without a sound,

    Calm as to suit a calmer grief,

    And only thro’ the faded leaf

The chestnut pattering to the ground:

 

Calm and deep peace on this high wold,

    And on these dews that drench the furze,

    And all the silvery gossamers

That twinkle into green and gold:

 

Calm and still light on yon great plain

    That sweeps with all its autumn bowers,

    And crowded farms and lessening towers,

To mingle with the bounding main:

 

Calm and deep peace in this wide air,

    These leaves that redden to the fall;

    And in my heart, if calm at all,

If any calm, a calm despair:

 

Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,

    And waves that sway themselves in rest,

    And dead calm in that noble breast

Which heaves but with the heaving deep.

 

IV

 

To-night the winds begin to rise

    And roar from yonder dropping day:

    The last red leaf is whirl’d away,

The rooks are blown about the skies;

 

The forest crack’d, the waters curl’d,

    The cattle huddled on the lea;

    And wildly dash’d on tower and tree

The sunbeam strikes along the world:

 

And but for fancies, which aver

    That all thy motions gently pass

    Athwart a plane of molten glass,

I scarce could brook the strain and stir

 

That makes the barren branches loud;

    And but for fear it is not so,

    The wild unrest that lives in woe

Would dote and pore on yonder cloud

 

That rises upward always higher,

    And onward drags a labouring breast,

    And topples round the dreary west,

A looming bastion fringed with fire.

 

V

 

Thou comest, much wept for: such a breeze

    Compell’d thy canvas, and my prayer

    Was as the whisper of an air

To breathe thee over lonely seas.

 

For I in spirit saw thee move

    Thro’ circles of the bounding sky,

    Week after week: the days go by:

Come quick, thou bringest all I love.

 

Henceforth, wherever thou mayst roam

    My blessing, like a line of light,

    Is on the waters day and night,

And like a beacon guards thee home.

 

So may whatever tempest mars

    Mid-ocean, spare thee, sacred bark;

    And balmy drops in summer dark

Slide from the bosom of the stars.

 

So kind an office hath been done,

    Such precious relics brought by thee;

    The dust of him I shall not see

Till all my widow’d race be run.

 

VI

 

Now, sometimes in my sorrow shut,

    Or breaking into song by fits,

    Alone, alone, to where he sits,

The Shadow cloak’d from head to foot,

 

Who keeps the keys of all the creeds,

    I wander, often falling lame,

    And looking back to whence I came,

Or on to where the pathway leads;

 

And crying, How changed from where it ran

    Thro’ lands where not a leaf was dumb;

    But all the lavish hills would hum

The murmur of a happy Pan:

 

When each by turns was guide to each,

    And Fancy light from Fancy caught,

    And Thought leapt out to wed with Thought

Ere Thought could wed itself with Speech;

 

And all we met was fair and good,

    And all was good that Time could bring,

    And all the secret of the Spring

Moved in the chambers of the blood;

 

And many an old philosophy

    On Argive heights divinely sang,

    And round us all the thicket rang

To many a flute of Arcady.

 

VII

 

How fares it with the happy dead?

    For here the man is more and more;

    But he forgets the days before

God shut the doorways of his head.

 

The days have vanish’d, tone and tint,

    And yet perhaps the hoarding sense

    Gives out at times (he knows not whence)

A little flash, a mystic hint;

 

And in the long harmonious years

    (If Death so taste Lethean springs)

    May some dim touch of earthly things

Surprise thee ranging with thy peers.

 

If such a dreamy touch should fall,

    O turn thee round, resolve the doubt;

    My guardian angel will speak out

In that high place, and tell thee all.

 

VIII

 

The wish, that of the living whole

    No life may fail beyond the grave,

    Derives it not from what we have

The likest God within the soul?

 

Are God and Nature then at strife,

    That Nature lends such evil dreams?

    So careful of the type she seems,

So careless of the single life;

 

That I, considering everywhere

    Her secret meaning in her deeds,

    And finding that of fifty seeds

She often brings but one to bear,

 

I falter where I firmly trod,

    And falling with my weight of cares

    Upon the great world’s altar-stairs

That slope thro’ darkness up to God,

 

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,

    And gather dust and chaff, and call

    To what I feel is Lord of all,

And faintly trust the larger hope.

 

IX

 

‘So careful of the type?’ but no.

    From scarpèd cliff and quarried stone

    She cries, ‘A thousand types are gone:

I care for nothing, all shall go.

 

Thou makest thine appeal to me:

    I bring to life, I bring to death:

    The spirit does but mean the breath:

I know no more.’ And he, shall he,

 

Man, her last work, who seem’d so fair,

    Such splendid purpose in his eyes,

    Who roll’d the psalm to wintry skies,

Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,

 

Who trusted God was love indeed

    And love Creation’s final law—

    Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw

With ravine, shriek’d against his creed—

 

Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills,

    Who battled for the True, the Just,

    Be blown about the desert dust,

Or seal’d within the iron hills?

 

No more? A monster then, a dream,

    A discord. Dragons of the prime,

    That tare each other in their slime,

Were mellow music match’d with him.

 

O life as futile, then, as frail!

    O for thy voice to soothe and bless!

    What hope of answer, or redress?

Behind the veil, behind the veil.

 

X

 

Unwatch’d, the garden bough shall sway,

    The tender blossom flutter down;

    Unloved, that beech will gather brown,

This maple burn itself away;

 

Unloved, the sunflower, shining fair,

    Ray round with flames her disk of seed,

    And many a rose-carnation feed

With summer spice the humming air;

 

Unloved, by many a sandy bar,

    The brook shall babble down the plain,

    At noon or when the lesser wain

Is twisting round the polar star;

 

Uncared for, gird the windy grove,

    And flood the haunts of hern and crake;

    Or into silver arrows break

The sailing moon in creek and cove;

 

Till from the garden and the wild

    A fresh association blow,

    And year by year the landscape grow

Familiar to the stranger’s child;

 

As year by year the labourer tills

    His wonted glebe, or lops the glades;

    And year by year our memory fades

From all the circle of the hills.

 

XI

 

Now fades the last long streak of snow,

    Now burgeons every maze of quick

    About the flowering squares, and thick

By ashen roots the violets blow.

 

Now rings the woodland loud and long,

    The distance takes a lovelier hue,

    And drown’d in yonder living blue

The lark becomes a sightless song.

 

Now dance the lights on lawn and lea,

    The flocks are whiter down the vale,

    And milkier every milky sail

On winding stream or distant sea;

 

Where now the seamew pipes, or dives

    In yonder greening gleam, and fly

    The happy birds, that change their sky

To build and brood; that live their lives

 

From land to land; and in my breast

    Spring wakens too; and my regret

    Becomes an April violet,

And buds and blossoms like the rest.

 

XII

 

Love is and was my Lord and King,

    And in his presence I attend

    To hear the tidings of my friend,

Which every hour his couriers bring.

 

Love is and was my King and Lord,

    And will be, tho’ as yet I keep

    Within his court on earth, and sleep

Encompass’d by his faithful guard,

 

And hear at times a sentinel

    Who moves about from place to place,

    And whispers to the worlds of space,

In the deep night, that all is well.

literature, poetry

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