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2      For underfoot the herb was dry;
3      And genial warmth; and o'er the sky
4The silvery haze of summer drawn;
5And calm that let the tapers burn
6      Unwavering: not a cricket chirr'd:
7      The brook alone far-off was heard,
8And on the board the fluttering urn:
9And bats went round in fragrant skies,
10      And wheel'd or lit the filmy shapes
11      That haunt the dusk, with ermine capes
12And woolly breasts and beaded eyes;
13While now we sang old songs that peal'd
14      From knoll to knoll, where, couch'd at ease,
15      The white kine glimmer'd, and the trees
16Laid their dark arms about the field.
17But when those others, one by one,
18      Withdrew themselves from me and night,
19      And in the house light after light
20Went out, and I was all alone,
21A hunger seized my heart; I read
22      Of that glad year which once had been,
23      In those fall'n leaves which kept their green,
24The noble letters of the dead:
25And strangely on the silence broke
26      The silent-speaking words, and strange
27      Was love's dumb cry defying change
28To test his worth; and strangely spoke
29The faith, the vigour, bold to dwell
30      On doubts that drive the coward back,
31      And keen thro' wordy snares to track
32Suggestion to her inmost cell.
33So word by word, and line by line,
34      The dead man touch'd me from the past,
35      And all at once it seem'd at last
36The living soul was flash'd on mine,
37And mine in this was wound, and whirl'd
38      About empyreal heights of thought,
39      And came on that which is, and caught
40The deep pulsations of the world,
42      The steps of Time--the shocks of Chance--
43      The blows of Death. At length my trance
44Was cancell'd, stricken thro' with doubt.
45Vague words! but ah, how hard to frame
46      In matter-moulded forms of speech,
47      Or ev'n for intellect to reach
48Thro' memory that which I became:
49Till now the doubtful dusk reveal'd
50      The knolls once more where, couch'd at ease,
51      The white kine glimmer'd, and the trees
52Laid their dark arms about the field:
53And suck'd from out the distant gloom
54      A breeze began to tremble o'er
55      The large leaves of the sycamore,
56And fluctuate all the still perfume,
57And gathering freshlier overhead,
58      Rock'd the full-foliaged elms, and swung
59      The heavy-folded rose, and flung
60The lilies to and fro, and said
61"The dawn, the dawn," and died away;
62      And East and West, without a breath,
63      Mixt their dim lights, like life and death,
64To broaden into boundless day.


1] First published anonymously in the volume with this title in 1850, though the 131 sections or separate poems that compose it were written and rewritten from 1833 to the time of publication. Two of the 131 sections were added in later editions: LIX in 1851, and XXXIX in 1872. The poem is in memory of Tennyson's friend Arthur Henry Hallam, son of the eminent historian. Hallam was engaged to marry Tennyson's sister Emily, when he died suddenly of a stroke in Vienna on September 15, 1833, at the age of twenty-two. Although written without any plan at first, the parts of the poem were finally arranged in a pattern to cover the period of about three years following Hallam's death. Tennyson himself insisted that it is "a poem, not a biography .... The different moods of sorrow as in a drama are dramatically given, and my conviction that fear, doubts, and suffering will find answer and relief only through Faith in a God of Love. `I' is not always the author speaking of himself, but the voice of the human race speaking through im."
OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: he died in 1833. Back to Line
41] Æonian music: music of the æons transcending the phenomenal world of time and matter, and harmonizing its conflicts. Back to Line