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Title: A Day with the Poet Tennyson
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [Illustration: A Day with Tennyson]

    "I murmur under moon and stars
        In brambly wildernesses;
    I linger by my shingly bars;
        I loiter round my cresses;

    "And out again I curve and flow
        To join the brimming river,
    For men may come and  men may go.
        But I go on for ever."


  [Illustration: _Painting by E. W. Haslehust._THE BROOK.]


  [Illustration: A DAY WITH THE POET TENNYSON ·LONDON·
                 HODDER & STOUGHTON]


  _In the same Series._

  _Longfellow._
  _Keats._
  _Browning._
  _Wordsworth._
  _Burns._
  _Scott._
  _Byron._
  _Shelley._



A DAY WITH TENNYSON.


Tennyson was no recluse. He shunned society in the ordinary London
sense, but he welcomed kindred spirits to his beautiful home, with
large-hearted cordiality. To be acquainted with Farringford was in
itself a liberal education. Farringford was an ideal home for a great
poet. To begin with, it was somewhat secluded and remote from the
world's ways, especially in the early 'fifties, when the Isle of Wight
was much more of a _terra incognita_ than traffic now permits. One had
to travel down some hundred miles from town, cross from the quaint
little New Forest port of Lymington to the still quainter little
old-world Yarmouth--"a mediæval Venice," the poet called it--and then
drive some miles to Freshwater, before one attained the stately
loveliness of Farringford embowered in trees.

    "Where, far from noise and smoke of town,
    I watch the twilight falling brown
        All around a careless-ordered garden,
    Close to the ridge of a noble down."

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Groves of pine on either hand,
    To break the blast of winter, stand;
        And further on, the hoary Channel
    Tumbles a billow on chalk and sand."

            _Lines to the Rev. F. D. Maurice._

The interior of the house--a very ancient one--was no less ideal than
its outward aspect, "it was like a charmed palace, with green walks
without and speaking walls within." And its occupants crowned all--the
ethereally lovely mistress with her "tender spiritual face," and the
master, tall, broad-shouldered, and massive, dark-eyed and
dark-browed, his voice full of deep organ-tones and delicate
inflections, his mind shaped to all fine issues. "The wisest man,"
said Thackeray, "that ever I knew."

       *       *       *       *       *

Farringford was the ideal home of the great poet. "A charmed palace
with green walks without,"

    "Where, far from noise and smoke of town,
    I watch the twilight falling brown
        All around a careless-ordered garden,
    Close to the ridge of a noble down."


[Illustration: _Painting by E. W. Haslehust._ FARRINGFORD. ]


Subject to slight inevitable variations, a certain method and routine
governed the day of Tennyson. He had definite working-times, indoors
and out, and accustomed habits of family life. The morning brought him
letters from all parts of England: there was hardly any great man who
did not desire to exchange salutations and discuss world-subjects with
a thinker so far above the rest. The poet, with the prophetic soul of
genius, had always been well in advance of his times.

    "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;
    Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
    Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
    Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly dew
    From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
    Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
    With the standards of the peoples plunging through the thunderstorm;
    Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags were
      furled
    In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward, let us range,
    Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of
      change.
    Thro' the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day;
    Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay."

                                                _Locksley Hall._

The daily papers are somewhat late in reaching the Isle of Wight: but
the poet could find inspiration even in a source so apparently prosaic
as a _Times_ column. He noted down some of those valiant and
soul-stirring episodes which go unrecorded save by a passing
paragraph: and the poem which, perhaps, has held the public fancy
longest, the _Charge of the Light Brigade_, was written a few minutes
after reading the _Times'_ description of the battle containing the
phrase "Someone had blundered."

    "Half a league, half a league,
        Half a league onward,
    All in the valley of Death
        Rode the six hundred.
    'Forward, the Light Brigade!
    Charge for the guns!' he said:
    Into the valley of Death
        Rode the six hundred.

    "'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
    Was there a man dismay'd?
    Not tho' the soldier knew
        Someone had blunder'd:
    Their's not to make reply,
    Their's not to reason why,
    Their's but to do and die:
    Into the valley of Death
        Rode the six hundred.

    "Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
        Volley'd and thunder'd;
    Storm'd at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Death,
    Into the mouth of Hell
        Rode the six hundred.

    "Flash'd all their sabres bare,
    Flash'd as they turned in air
    Sabring the gunners there.
    Charging an army, while
        All the world wonder'd;
    Plunged in the battery-smoke
    Right thro' the line they broke;
    Cossack and Russian
    Reel'd from the sabre stroke
        Shatter'd and sunder'd.
    Then they rode back, but not,
        Not the six hundred.

    "Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon behind them
        Volley'd and thunder'd;
    Storm'd at with shot and shell,
    While horse and hero fell,
    They that had fought so well
    Came thro' the jaws of Death,
    Back thro' the mouth of Hell,
    All that was left of them,
        Left of six hundred.

    "When can their glory fade?
    O, the wild charge they made!
        All the world wonder'd.
    Honour the charge they made!
    Honour the Light Brigade,
        Noble six hundred!"

            _The Charge of the Light Brigade._

A little while after breakfast, Tennyson would retire to his "den" on
the top storey, for that "sacred half-hour" devoted to poetical
composition, and assisted by his beloved pipe, during which nobody
dared disturb him. This den, or study, formed a setting worthy of its
inmate. Every inch of wall was covered with portrait, sketches,
drawings. Almost every distinguished name of the nineteenth century
was in some manner represented here: the poet literally worked
surrounded by his friends. And in this congenial atmosphere he devoted
himself to that life-long pursuit of his, as he has imaged it in the
"Gleam," which "flying onward, wed to the melody, sang through the
world."

       *       *       *       *       *

Whatever respective values a future generation may set upon Tennyson's
work, there can be little doubt that he himself considered the _Idylls
of the King_, with its inner spiritual meanings, as his greatest work.
"There is no single fact or incident in the Idylls," he said, "which
cannot be explained without any mystery or allegory whatever." Hence
their appeal to the least mystical reader, through sheer beauty of
language and superb pictorial effect. But at the same time he let it
be known that his whole story was inherently one of pure symbolism:
starting from the suggestion that Arthur represented conscience. This
idea is predominant, without undue insistence upon it, in _Guinevere_.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Yet think not that I come to urge thy crimes,
    I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere,
    I, whose vast pity almost makes me die
    To see thee laying there thy golden head,
    My pride in happier summers, at my feet.
    ... Let no man dream, but that I love thee still."


[Illustration: _Painting by W. H. Margetson._ GUINEVERE. ]


    "Queen Guinevere had fled the court, and sat
    There in the holy house at Almesbury,
    Weeping, none with her save a little maid,
    A novice: one low light betwixt them burned,
    Blurred by the creeping mist; for all abroad,
    Beneath a moon unseen albeit at full,
    The white mist, like a face-cloth to the face,
    Clung to the dead earth, and the land was still.

           *       *       *       *       *

    There rode an armed warrior to the doors,
    A murmuring whisper thro' the nunnery ran,
    Then on a sudden a cry, 'The King.' She sat
    Stiff-stricken, listening; but when armed feet
    Thro' the long gallery from the outer doors
    Rang, coming, prone from off her seat she fell
    And grovell'd with her face against the floor:
    There with her milk-white arms and shadowy hair
    She made her face a darkness from the King;
    And in the darkness heard his armed feet
    Pause by her; then came silence, then a voice,
    Monotonous and hollow like a ghost's,
    Denouncing judgment, but, tho' changed, the King's.

           *       *       *       *       *

    'Yet think not that I come to urge thy crimes,
    I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere,
    I, whose vast pity almost makes me die
    To see thee laying there thy golden head,
    My pride in happier summers, at my feet.
    ... Let no man dream, but that I love thee still,
    Perchance, and so thou purify thy soul,
    And so thou lean on our fair father Christ,
    Hereafter in that world where all are pure
    We two may meet before high God, and thou
    Wilt spring to me, and claim me thine, and know
    I am thine husband--not a smaller soul,
    Nor Lancelot, nor another. Leave me that,
    I charge thee, my last hope. Now must I hence.
    ... But hither shall I never come again,
    Never lie by thy side: see thee no more--
    Farewell!'
              And while she grovell'd at his feet,
    She felt the King's breath wander o'er her neck,
    And in the darkness o'er her fallen head
    Perceived the waving of his hands that blest.

    Then, listening till those armed steps were gone,
    Rose the pale Queen, and in her anguish found
    The casement: 'peradventure,' so she thought,
    'If I might see his face, and not be seen.'
    And lo, he sat on horseback at the door!
    And near him the sad nuns with each a light,
    Stood, and he gave them charge about the Queen,
    To guard and foster her for evermore."

                               _Idylls of the King._

In the course of the day the poet would devote considerable time and
energy to his favourite exercise of garden work. To plant trees and
shrubs, to roll the lawn, to dig the kitchen garden, and lovingly to
tend the simple flowers which he had set, was his constant delight as
long as his strength sufficed. He had a passionate love, and an
extraordinary knowledge of Nature: he rejoiced in watching the birds
in his great cedar, ilex and fir trees, and his mind was thoroughly
attuned to the sweet influences of colour and foliage. Few else could
have written that unsurpassable lyric, _Come into the Garden, Maud_.

    "Come into the garden, Maud,
        For the black bat, night, has flown,
    Come into the garden, Maud,
        I am here at the gate alone;
    And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
        And the musk of the rose is blown.
    For a breeze of morning moves,
        And the planet of Love is on high,
    Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
        On a bed of daffodil sky.
    To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
        To faint in his light, and to die....

    "And the soul of the rose went into my blood,
        As the music clash'd in the hall;
    And long by the garden lake I stood,
        For I heard your rivulet fall
    From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood,
        Our wood, that is dearer than all;

    "From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
        That whenever a March wind sighs
    He sets the jewel-print of your feet
        In violets blue as your eyes,
    To the woody hollows in which we meet
        And the valleys of Paradise.

    "The slender acacia would not shake
        One long milk-bloom on the tree;
    The white lake-blossom fell into the lake
        As the pimpernel dozed on the lea;
    But the rose was awake all night for your sake,
        Knowing your promise to me;
    The lilies and roses were all awake,
        They sighed for the dawn and thee.

    "Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
        Come hither, the dances are done,
    In gloss of satin, and glimmer of pearls,
        Queen lily and rose in one;
    Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
        To the flowers and be their sun.

    "There has fallen a splendid tear
        From the passion-flower at the gate,
    She is coming, my dove, my dear;
        She is coming, my life, my fate;
    The red rose cries, 'She is near, she is near;'
        And the white rose weeps, 'She is late;'
    The larkspur listens, 'I hear, I hear;'
        And the lily whispers, 'I wait.'"

                                           _Maud._

The same love of Nature made his eye alert for every obscurest beauty,
when he put aside his gardening tools and started, as was his wont,
for a stroll with some friend along the glorious cliffs of Freshwater.
Those were favoured folk, who, like Mrs. Thackeray Ritchie, "walked
with Tennyson along High Down, treading the turf, listening to his
talk, while the gulls came sideways, flashing their white breasts
against the edge of the cliff, and the Poet's cloak flapped time to
the gusts of the west wind." This cloak and the Poet were practically
synonymous. It figures--a first edition of it--in all the early
sketches of him by Spedding, Fitzgerald, etc. (1830-40) and to the
last, one can hardly imagine him apart from it.

       *       *       *       *       *

During these quiet rambles he was wont to discuss with enthusiasm the
religious and social problems of the day; they weighed heavily upon
his thoughtful mind. His philosophy was a hopeful one, rooted in
Christian belief, yet constantly over-shadowed by fugitive misgivings
and by a sense of the impermanence of human existence. And while
voicing these misgivings in lines which might give pause to weaker
minds, he never lost his firm faith in right, in duty, and in ultimate
rectification of all apparent wrong.

    "Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
        Come hither, the dances are done,
    In gloss of satin, and glimmer of pearls,
        Queen lily and rose in one;
    Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
        To the flowers and be their sun."


[Illustration: _Painting by W. H. Margetson._ MAUD.]


    "Oh, yet we trust that somehow good
        Will be the final goal of ill,
        To pangs of nature, sins of will,
    Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

    "That nothing walks with aimless feet;
        That not one life shall be destroy'd,
        Or cast as rubbish to the void,
    When God hath made the pile complete;

    "That not a worm is cloven in vain;
        That not a moth with vain desire
        Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire,
    Or but subserves another's gain.

    "Behold, we know not anything;
        I can but trust that good shall fall
        At last--far off--at last, to all,
    And every winter change to spring.

    "So runs my dream; but what am I?
        An infant crying in the night;
        An infant crying for the light:
    And with no language but a cry.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "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."

                                 _In Memoriam._

But these mysteries of life and death will not bear too persistent a
contemplation: and presently Tennyson, discarding them in favour of
less sombre subjects, would regale his hearers with marvellous
recitations. "The roll of his great voice acted sometimes almost like
an incantation." The old-world classical legends had always found in
him a noble exponent; and nowhere was his peculiar felicity of
diction and delicate sense of sound better exemplified than in
_OEnone_.

    "'O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida,
    Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
    Hear me, O Earth, hear me, O Hills, O Caves
    That house the cold crown'd snake! O mountain brooks,
    I am the daughter of a River-God,
    Hear me, for I will speak, and build up all
    My sorrow with my song, as yonder walls
    Rose slowly to a music slowly breathed,
    A cloud that gather'd shape; for it may be
    That, while I speak of it, a little while
    My heart may wander from its deeper woe.

    "'O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida,
    Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
    I waited underneath the dawning hills,
    Aloft the mountain lawn was dewy-dark,
    And dewy-dark aloft the mountain pine:
    Beautiful Paris, evil-hearted Paris,
    Leading a jet-black goat white-horn'd, white-hooved,
    Came up from reedy Simois all alone.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Dear mother Ida, harken, ere I die.
    He smiled, and opening out his milk-white palm
    Disclosed a fruit of pure Hesperian gold,
    That smelt ambrosially, and while I look'd
    And listen'd, the full-flowing river of speech
    Came down upon my heart.
            'My own OEnone,
    Beautiful-brow'd OEnone, my own soul,
    Behold this fruit, whose gleaming rind ingrav'n,
    'For the most fair,' would seem to award it thine,
    As lovelier than whatever Oread haunt
    The knolls of Ida, loveliest in all grace
    Of movement, and the charm of married brows.'

    "Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
    He prest the blossom of his lips to mine,
    And added, 'This was cast upon the board,
    When all the full-faced presence of the Gods
    Ranged in the halls of Peleus; whereupon
    Rose feud, with question unto whom 'twere due:

    "'But light-foot Iris brought it yester-eve,
    Delivering, that to me, by common voice
    Elected umpire, Herè comes to-day,
    Pallas and Aphroditè, claiming each
    This meed of fairest. Thou, within the cave
    Behind yon whispering tuft of oldest pine,
    Mayst well behold them, unbeheld, unheard
    Hear all, and see thy Paris judge of Gods.'

    "'Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
    It was the deep mid-noon: one silvery cloud
    Had lost his way between the piney sides
    Of this long glen. Then to the bower they came,
    Naked they came to that smooth-swarded bower
    And at their feet the crocus brake like fire,
    Violet, amaracus, and asphodel,
    Lotus and lilies; and a wind arose,
    And overhead the wandering ivy and vine
    This way and that, in many a wild festoon
    Ran riot, garlanding the gnarled boughs
    With bunch and berry and flower thro' and thro'.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida,
    Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
    Idalian Aphroditè beautiful,
    Fresh as the foam, new-bathed in Paphian wells,
    With rosy slender fingers backward drew
    From her warm brows and bosom her deep hair
    Ambrosial, golden round her lucid throat
    And shoulder: from the violets her light feet
    Shone rosy-white, and o'er her rounded form
    Between the shadows of the vine-bunches
    Floated the glowing sunlights as she moved.

    "Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
    She with a subtle smile in her mild eyes,
    The herald of her triumph, drawing nigh
    Half-whisper'd in his ear, 'I promise thee
    The fairest and most loving wife in Greece.'
    She spoke and laugh'd: I shut my sight for fear:
    But when I look'd, Paris had raised his arm,
    And I beheld great Herè's angry eyes,
    As she withdrew into the golden cloud,
    And I was left alone within the bower;
    And from that time to this I am alone.
    And I shall be alone until I die."

                                        _OEnone._

The afternoon was spent, sometimes in further gardening pursuits,
sometimes in a drive around the peaceful Island lanes and
thatch-browed villages; frequently there were visitors to be met at
Yarmouth, where the Tennysons' carriage might often be seen in the
quaint cobbled streets. The soft and lovely colouring of the Solent
was one to attract the poet's fancy: and it was after coming freshly
one day into sight of the familiar waters of the estuary, and a tide,
"that moving seems too full for sound or foam," lapping the lichened
sea-walls of Yarmouth, that he composed, in his eighty-first year, the
verses that he devised to be placed at the end of his whole collected
poems:--"Crossing the Bar." The mystic simplicity of these lines
strikes the very key-note of his character.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
        Father will come to thee soon;
    Rest, rest on mother's breast,
        Father will come to thee soon;
    Father will come to his babe in the nest,
    Silver sails all out of the west,
        Under the silver moon:
    Sleep my little one, sleep my pretty one, sleep!"


[Illustration: _Painting by W. H. Margetson._ SWEET AND LOW.]


Tea was served in the drawing-room, "its oriel window full of green
and golden lights, of the sounds of birds and of the distant sea." The
air of extreme and unstudied simplicity, which dominated the whole
Farringford household, was just as noticeable here. Tea was a happy
gathering of the family and friends, enlivened with talk on current
topics. The Laureate's sympathies were wide-reaching, and his
conversation, forcible and often racy, was characterised by the
strongest common-sense. He held firmly-defined views on all social
subjects; and had declared himself on the question of "Woman's
Rights"--then comparatively fresh--at considerable length in _The
Princess_.

    "The woman's cause is man's: they rise or sink
    Together, dwarf'd or god-like, bond or free.
    ... For woman is not undevelopt man,
    But diverse: could we make her as the man,
    Sweet Love were slain: his dearest bond is this,
    Not like to like, but like in difference.
    Yet in the long years liker must they grow;
    The man be more of woman, she of man;
    He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
    Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
    She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,
    Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind;
    Till at last she set herself to man,
    Like perfect music unto noble words;
    And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time,
    Sit side by side, full-summ'd in all their powers.
    ... Let this proud watchword rest
    Of equal; seeing either sex alone
    Is half itself, and in the marriage ties
    Nor equal, nor unequal; each fulfils
    Defect in each, and always thought in thought,
    Purpose in purpose, will in will they grow,
    The single pure and perfect animal,
    The two-cell'd  heart  beating  with one full stroke
    Life."

                                 _The Princess._

The poet's ideal of woman was set very high: he held her to be far
above man, morally and spiritually: and an ideal as perfect as may
well be conceived was daily before his eyes, in the person of his
beautiful wife, with her pure and saintly face: who was yet

    "No angel, but a dearer being, all dipt
    In Angel instincts, breathing Paradise,
    Interpreter between the gods and men,
    Who looked all native to her place, and yet
    On tiptoe seem'd to touch upon a sphere
    Too gross to tread, and all male minds perforce
    Sway'd to her from their orbits as they moved,
    And girdled her with music."

                                 _The Princess._

Later on in the evening, came, perhaps, the sweetest hour of the day,
when, playing and romping with his little ones, the tall and stately
man became a very child for a while. A peculiar tenderness towards
children was a distinctive feature of Tennyson: and whether helping
his own boys build stone castles on the cliff, or frolicking with any
village school children whom he might meet, he was intent upon giving
that joy and laughter to the new generation which had been denied to
his own childhood. "Make the lives of children as beautiful and as
happy as possible," was a favourite saying with him. The "Children's
Hour," which Longfellow had sung, was a radiant hour for him: and most
of all he was enchanted by the sight of little drowsy heads, asleep in
cot or cradle. They inspired some of his loveliest lyrics, such as:

    "Sweet and low, sweet and low,
        Wind of the western sea,
    Low, low, breathe and blow,
        Wind of the western sea!
    Over the rolling waters go,
    Come from the dying moon, and blow,
        Blow him again to me;
    While my little one, while my pretty one sleeps.

    "Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
        Father will come to thee soon;
    Rest, rest on mother's breast,
        Father will come to thee soon;
    Father will come to his babe in the nest,
    Silver sails all out of the west,
        Under the silver moon:
    Sleep my little one, sleep my pretty one, sleep!"

And the loss of his first-born infant had touched him with that
infinite poignancy of pathos, which breathes in other lines:

    "As thro' the land at eve we went
      And pluck'd the ripened ears,
    We fell out, my wife and I,
    O! we fell out, I know not why,
      And kiss'd again with tears.
    And blessings on the falling out
      That all the more endears,
    When we fall out with those we love
      And kiss again with tears!
    For when we came where lies the child
      We lost in other years,
    There above the little grave,
    O there above the little grave,
      We kissed again with tears."

The dinner-table was enlivened by Tennyson's boundless store of
anecdote, and keen sense of humour. It was a "feast of intellect," to
quote Mrs. Cameron; hour after hour of the most brilliant
conversation. The supernatural loomed largely. The poet had a
_penchant_ for well-authenticated ghost stories, a deep interest in
psychical phenomena, and an open mind towards the unknowable. And very
strange tales of dreams, clairvoyance, and occult happenings, were to
be heard at Farringford. A master of the romantic pervaded by
supernatural elements, he had long since drawn with deft touches the
mysterious confines of "fäery-lands forlorn," steeped in the very
atmosphere of dream.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "She left the web, she left the loom,
    She made three paces thro' the room,
    She saw the water-lily bloom,
    She saw the helmet and the plume,
        She look'd down to Camelot.
    Out flew the web and floated wide;
    The mirror crack'd from side to side,
    'The curse is come upon me,' cried
        The Lady of Shalott."


[Illustration: _Painting by W. H. Margetson._ THE LADY OF SHALOTT.]


    "Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
    Little breezes dusk and shiver
    Thro' the ways that runs for ever
    By the island in the river
        Flowing down to Camelot.
    Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
    Overlook a space of flowers.
    And the silent isle embowers
        The Lady of Shalott....

    "Only reapers, reaping early
    In among the bearded barley,
    Hear a song that echoes cheerly,
    From the river winding clearly,
        Down to tower'd Camelot:
    And by the moon the reaper weary,
    Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
    Listening, whispers, ''Tis the fairy
        Lady of Shalott.'

    "There she weaves by night and day
    A magic web with colours gay.
    She has heard a whisper say,
    A curse is on her if she stay
        To look down on Camelot.
    She knows not what the curse may be,
    And so she weaveth steadily,
    And little other care hath she,
        The Lady of Shalott.

    "And moving thro' a mirror clear
    That hangs before her all the year,
    Shadows of the world appear.
    There she sees the highway near,
        Winding down to Camelot:
    There the river eddy whirls,
    And there the surly village-churls,
    And the red cloaks of market girls,
        Pass onward from Shalott.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "A bow-shot from her bower eaves,
    He rode between the barley-sheaves,
    The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
    And flamed upon the brazen greaves
        Of bold Sir Lancelot.
    A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
    To a lady in his shield,
    That sparkled on the yellow field,
        Beside remote Shalott.

    "All in the blue unclouded weather
    Thick-jewelled shone the saddle-leather,
    The helmet and the helmet feather,
        As he rode down to Camelot.
    As often thro' the purple night,
    Below the starry clusters bright,
    Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
        Moves over still Shalott.

    "His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
    On burnish'd hooves his warhorse trode;
    From underneath his helmet flow'd
    His coal-black curls as on he rode,
        As he rode down to Camelot.
    From the bank and from the river
    He flashed into the crystal mirror,
    "Tirra lirra," by the river
        Sang Sir Lancelot.

    "She left the web, she left the loom,
    She made three paces thro' the room,
    She saw the water-lily bloom,
    She saw the helmet and the plume,
        She look'd down to Camelot.
    Out flew the web and floated wide;
    The mirror crack'd from side to side,
    'The curse is come upon me,' cried
        The Lady of Shalott."

                   _The Lady of Shalott._

Sitting in his old oak armchair in the drawing-room after dinner, the
Laureate "talked of all that was in his heart, or read some poem
aloud, with the landscape lying before us like a beautiful picture
framed by the dark-arched bow-window. His moods," says Mrs. Bradley,
"were so variable, his conversation so earnest, his knowledge of all
things so wide and minute!" Wide and minute above all, perhaps, was
his acquaintance with Nature. The long quiet years in Lincolnshire had
endowed him with an almost unrivalled power of detail: and, as the old
Farringford shepherd said in dying, "Master was a wonderful man for
nature and life." No one quotation could do justice to his powers: but
the lesser music of the countryside tinkles and ripples audibly
through _The Brook_ and all the exquisite details of its
landscape.

    "I come from haunts of coot and hern,
      I make a sudden sally,
    And sparkle out among the fern,
      To bicker down a valley.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "I chatter over stony ways,
      In little sharps and trebles,
    I bubble into eddying bays,
      I bubble on the pebbles.

    "With many a curve my banks I fret,
      By many a field and fallow,
    And many a fairy foreland set
      With willow-weed and mallow.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "I wind about, and in and out,
      With many a blossom sailing,
    And here and there a lusty trout,
      And here and there a grayling.

    "And here and there a foamy flake
      Upon me as I travel,
    With many a silvery waterbreak
      Above the golden gravel.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
      I slide by hazel covers;
    I move the sweet forget-me-nots
      That grow for happy lovers.

    "I slide, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
      Among my skimming swallows;
    I make the netted sunbeam dance
      Against my sandy shallows.

    "I murmur under moon and stars
      In brambly wildernesses;
    I linger by my shingly bars;
      I loiter round my cresses;

    "And out again I curve and flow
      To join the brimming river,
    For men may come and men may go,
      But I go on for ever."

                     _The Brook._

In the course of the evening, the poet would retire to the "den" for a
second "sacred half-hour" of unbroken silence, into which we need not
follow him. Lastly, when slumber filled the house, and night hung
black above the trees, he ascended to a platform on the leads of the
house-top, to observe the march and majesty of the stars. Farringford,
it has been said, "seemed so remote and still, and as though the jar
of the outside world had never entered it." But in the throbbing
starlight, the sea purring in the distance, the seer on the roof
communing with the mysterious skies above him, it was more than ever a
House of Dream--a house whose roof touched heaven. Here and thus were
thrilling _nocturnes_ imagined.

    "Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
    Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
    Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
        The firefly wakens: waken thou with me.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Now lies the Earth all Danäe to the stars,
    And all thy heart lies open unto me.

    "Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
    A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

    "Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
    And slips into the bosom of the lake:
    So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
    Into my bosom and be lost in me."

                                 _The Princess._

And so we leave Alfred Tennyson, at the end of his day, gazing
"forward to the starry track glimmering up the height beyond," alone
with the Creator.

    "He lifts me to the golden doors:
       The flashes come and go;
     All heaven bursts her starry floors,
       And strews her lights below;"

while the discords of earth are hushed beneath the magic of the
spheral harmony, and "The Gleam" hovers upward into heaven.


_Printed by Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., Ltd., Bradford and London._





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