Poem

Tennyson – In Memoriam

June 24, 2013

I have only included part of the poem here it is very long, and includes the wonderful Ring Out Wild Bells section for the New Year. Some of it is very good, some of it is awful Victorian verse, but the very good is very good indeed. I find quatrains that I need and I learn them, and speak them it is a useful method with very long poems that inevitably have a lot in them we dont want but we can take what we do.

Tennyson wrote this poem when his closest friend Hallam died.

I. I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drownd,
Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
To dance with death, to beat the ground,

Than that the victor Hours should scorn
The long result of love, and boast,
Behold the man that loved and lost,
But all he was is overworn.

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

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.

III. O Sorrow, cruel fellowship,
O Priestess in the vaults of Death,
O sweet and bitter in a breath,
What whispers from thy lying lip?

The stars, she whispers, blindly run;
A web is wovn across the sky;
From out waste places comes a cry,
And murmurs from the dying sun:

And all the phantom, Nature, stands
With all the music in her tone,
A hollow echo of my own,
A hollow form with empty hands.

And shall I take a thing so blind,
Embrace her as my natural good;
Or crush her, like a vice of blood,
Upon the threshold of the mind?

IV. To Sleep I give my powers away;
My will is bondsman to the dark;
I sit within a helmless bark,
And with my heart I muse and say:

O heart, how fares it with thee now,
That thou shouldst fail from thy desire,
Who scarcely darest to inquire,
What is it makes me beat so low?

Something it is which thou hast lost,
Some pleasure from thine early years.
Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief hath shaken into frost!

Such clouds of nameless trouble cross
All night below the darkend eyes;
With morning wakes the will, and cries,
Thou shalt not be the fool of loss.

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, Ill wrap me oer,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.

VI. One writes, that Other friends remain,
That Loss is common to the race
And common is the commonplace,
And vacant chaff well meant for grain.

That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter, rather more:
Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.

O father, wheresoeer thou be,
Who pledgest now thy gallant son;
A shot, ere half thy draught be done,
Hath stilld the life that beat from thee.

O mother, praying God will save
Thy sailor,while thy head is bowd,
His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud
Drops in his vast and wandering grave.

Ye know no more than I who wrought
At that last hour to please him well;
Who mused on all I had to tell,
And something written, something thought;

Expecting still his advent home;
And ever met him on his way
With wishes, thinking, here to-day,
Or here to-morrow will he come.

O somewhere, meek, unconscious dove,
That sittest ranging golden hair;
And glad to find thyself so fair,
Poor child, that waitest for thy love!

For now her fathers chimney glows
In expectation of a guest;
And thinking this will please him best,
She takes a riband or a rose;

For he will see them on to-night;
And with the thought her colour burns;
And, having left the glass, she turns
Once more to set a ringlet right;

And, even when she turnd, the curse
Had fallen, and her future Lord
Was drownd in passing thro the ford,
Or killd in falling from his horse.

O what to her shall be the end?
And what to me remains of good?
To her, perpetual maidenhood,
And unto me no second friend.

VII. Dark house, 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 claspd 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 thro the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.