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Alfred,Lord Tennyson : In Memoriam A.H.H

Extracts1

			II
Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
	That name the under-lying dead,
	Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapped about the bones2.

The seasons bring the flower again,
	And bring the firstling to the flock;
	And in the dusk of thee, the clock
Beats out the little lives of men.

O not for thee the glow, the bloom,
	Who changest not in any gale,
	Nor branding summer suns avail
To touch thy thousand years of gloom:

And gazing on thee, sullen tree,
	Sick for thy stubborn hardihood,
	I seem to fail from out my blood
And grow incorporate into thee.

			V
I sometimes hold it half a sin
	To put in words the grief I feel;
	For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
	A use in measured language lies;
	The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
	Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
	But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.

			VII
Dark house3, by which once more I stand
	Here in the long unlovely street,
	Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasped no more—
	Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
	And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here; but far away
	The noise of life begins again,
	And ghastly through the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day. 

			XI
Calm is the morn without a sound,
	Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
	And only through the faded leaf
The chestnut pattering to the ground:

Calm and deep peace on this high world,
	And on these dews that drench the furze,
	And all the silvery gossamers
That twinkle into green and gold:

Clam 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 the noble breast
Which heaves but with the heaving deep.

			XXVII
I envy not in any moods
	The captive void of noble rage,
	The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:

I envy not the beast that takes
	His license in the field of time,
	Unfettered by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;

Nor, what may count itself as blest,
	The heart that never plighted troth
	But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
	I feel it, when I sorrow most;
	'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all. 

			XXX
With trembling fingers did we weave
	The holly round the Christmas hearth;4
	A rainy cloud possessed the earth,
And sadly fell our Christmas-eve.

At our old pastimes in the hall
	We gambolled, making vain pretence
	Of gladness, with an awful sense
Of one mute Shadow watching all.5

We paused: the winds were in the beech:
	We heard them sweep the winter land;
	And in a circle hand-in-hand
Sat silent, looking each at each.

Then echo-like our voices rang;
	We sung, though every eye was dim,
	A merry song we sang with him
Last year: impetuously we sang:

We ceased: a gentler feeling crept
	Upon us: surely rest is meet:
	'They rest,' we said, 'their sleep is sweet,'
And silence followed, and we wept.

Our voices took a higher range;
	Once more we sang: 'They do not die
	Nor lose their mortal sympathy,
Nor change to us, although they change;

'Rapt from the fickle and the frail
	With gathered power, yet the same,
	Pierces the keen seraphic flame
From orb to orb, from veil to veil.'

Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn,
	Draw forth the cheerful day from night:
	O Father, touch the east, and light
The light that shone when Hope was born.

			L
Be near me when my light is low,
	When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
	And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame
	Is racked with pangs that conquer trust;
	And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,
	And men the flies of latter spring,
	That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,
	To point the term of human strife,
	And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.

			LI
Do we indeed desire the dead
	Should still be near us at our side?
	Is there no baseness we would hide?
No inner vileness that we dread?

Shall he for whose applause I strove,
	I had such reverence for his blame,
	See with clear eye some hidden shame
And I be lessened in his love?

I wrong the grave with fears untrue:
	Shall love be blamed for want of faith?
	There must be wisdom with great Death:
The dead shall look me through and through.

Be near us when we climb or fall:
	Ye watch, like God, the rolling hours
	With larger other eyes than ours,
To make allowance for us all. 

			LXVII
When on my bed the moonlight falls,
	I know that in thy place of rest
	By that broad water of the west,
There comes a glory on the walls;

Thy marble bright in dark appears,
	As slowly steals a silver flame
	Along the letters of thy name,
And o'er the number of thy years.

The mystic glory swims away;
	From my bed the moonlight dies;
	And closing eaves of wearied eyes
I sleep till dusk is dipped in grey:

And then I know the mist is drawn
	A lucid veil from coast to coast,
	And in the dark church like a ghost
Thy tablet glimmers to the dawn. 

			LXXVIII
Again at Christmas did we weave6
	The holly round the Christmas hearth;
	The silent snow possessed the earth,
And calmly fell our Christmas-eve:

The yule-clog7 sparkled keen with frost,
	No wing of wind the region swept,
	But over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost.

As in the winters left behind,
	Again our ancient games had place,
	The mimic picture's breathing grace,
And dance and song and hoodman-blind. 

Who showed a token of distress?
	No single tear, no mark of pain:
	O sorrow, then can sorrow wane?
Of grief, can grief be changed to less?

O last regret, regret can die!
	No—mixed with all this mystic frame,
	Her deep relations are the same,
But with long use her tears are dry.

			XCV
By night we lingered on the lawn,
	For underfoot the herb was dry;
	And genial warmth; and o'er the sky
The silvery haze of summer drawn;

And calm that let the tapers burn
	Unwavering: not a cricket chirred:
	The brook alone far-off was heard,
And on the board the fluttering urn8:

And bats went round in fragrant skies,
	And wheeled or lit the filmy shapes
	That haunt the dusk, with ermine capes
And woolly breasts and beaded eyes; 

While now we sang old songs that pealed
	From knoll to knoll, where, couched at ease,
	The white kine9 glimmered, and the trees
Laid their dark arms about the field.

But when those others, one by one,
	Withdrew themselves from me and night,
	And in the house light after light
Went out, and I was all alone,

A hunger seized my heart; I read
	Of that glad year which once had been,
	In those fallen leaves which kept their green,
The noble letters of the dead:

And strangely on the silence broke
	The silent-speaking words, and strange
	Was love's dumb cry defying change
To test his worth; and strangely spoke

The faith, the vigour, bold to dwell
	On doubts that drive the coward back,
	And keen through wordy snares to track
Suggestion to her inmost cell.

So word by word, and line by line,
	The dead man touched me from the past,
	And all at once it seemed at last
The living soul was flashed on mine,

And mine in this was wound, and whirled
	About empyreal heights of thought,
	And came on that which is, and caught
The deep pulsations of the world,

Aeonian music10 measuring out
	The steps of Time—the shocks of Chance—
	The blows of Death. At length my trance
Was cancelled, stricken through with doubt. 

Vague words! but ah, how hard to frame
	In matter-moulded forms of speech,
	Or even for intellect to reach
Through memory that which I became:

Till now the doubtful dusk revealed
	The knolls once more where, couched at ease,
	The white kine glimmered, and the trees
Laid their dark arms about the field:

And sucked from out the distant gloom
	A breeze began to tremble o'er
	The large leaves of the sycamore,
And fluctuate all the still perfume,

And gathering freshlier overhead,
	Rocked the full-foliaged elms, and swung
	The heavy-folded rose, and flung
The lilies to and fro, and said

'The dawn, the dawn,' and died away;
	And East and West, without a breath,
	Mixed their dim lights, like life and death,
To broaden into boundless day.

			CXXXI
O living will that shalt endure
	When all that seems shall suffer shock,
	Rise in the spiritual rock,
Flow through our deeds and make them pure,

That we may lift from out of dust
	A voice as unto him that hears,
	A cry above the conquered years
To one that with us works, and trust,

With faith that comes of self-control,
	The truths that never can be proved
	Until we close with all we loved,
And all we flow from soul in soul.

Alfred,Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)	1833-50

 
FOOTNOTES
1 There are 133 poems in the full version, including the prologue and epilogue; 2 Arthur Hallam, who died suddenly while on holiday in Vienna on September 15, 1833, at twenty two years of age. He and Tennyson had met at Cambridge and he was engaged to Tennyson's sister Emily. Tennyson's friend and mentor, his death was a truly devastating blow to the poet; 3 Hallam's house; 4 the first Christmas after the death of Hallam; 5 i.e. the absent Hallam; 6 the second Christmas after the death of Hallam; 7 yule log; 8 a teapot, heated by a flame that fluttered in the wind; 9 cows; 10 music that has existed for aeons, perhaps the music of the universe
 

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