To J. S.

Original Text: 
Alfred Tennyson, Poems (London: E. Moxon, 1833). B-11 3233 (Fisher Library). Works (London: Macmillan, 1891). tenn T366 A1 1891a (Fisher Library).
2    More softly round the open wold,
3And gently comes the world to those
4    That are cast in gentle mould.
5And me this knowledge bolder made,
6    Or else I had not dare to flow
7In these words toward you, and invade
8    Even with a verse your holy woe.
9'Tis strange that those we lean on most,
10    Those in whose laps our limbs are nursed,
11Fall into shadow, soonest lost:
12    Those we love first are taken first.
13God gives us love. Something to love
14    He lends us; but, when love is grown
15To ripeness, that on which it throve
16    Falls off, and love is left alone.
17This is the curse of time. Alas!
18    In grief I am not all unlearn'd;
19Once thro' mine own doors Death did pass;
20    One went, who never hath return'd.
21He will not smile--not speak to me
23Empty before us. That was he
24    Without whose life I had not been.
25Your loss is rarer; for this star
26    Rose with you thro' a little arc
27Of heaven, nor having wander'd far
28    Shot on the sudden into dark.
29I knew your brother: his mute dust
30    I honour and his living worth:
31A man more pure and bold and just
32    Was never born into the earth.
33I have not look'd upon you nigh,
34    Since that dear soul hath fall'n asleep.
35Great nature is more wise than I:
36    I will not tell you not to weep.
37And tho' mine own eyes fill with dew,
38    Drawn from the spirit thro' the brain,
39I will not even preach to you,
40    "Weep, weeping dulls the inward pain."
41Let Grief be her own mistress still.
42    She loveth her own anguish deep
43More than much pleasure. Let her will
44    Be done--to weep or not to weep.
45I will not say "God's ordinance
46    Of death is blown in every wind;"
47For that is not a common chance
48    That takes away a noble mind.
49His memory long will live alone
50    In all our hearts, as mournful light
51That broods above the fallen sun,
52    And dwells in heaven half the night.
53Vain solace! Memory standing near
54    Cast down her eyes, and in her throat
55Her voice seem'd distant, and a tear
56    Dropt on the letters as I wrote.
57I wrote I know not what. In truth,
58    How should I soothe you anyway,
59Who miss the brother of your youth?
60    Yet something I did wish to say:
61For he too was a friend to me:
62    Both are my friends, and my true breast
63Bleedeth for both: yet it may be
64    That only silence suiteth best.
65Words weaker than your grief would make
66    Grief more. 'Twere better I should cease;
67Although myself could almost take
68    The place of him that sleeps in peace.
69Sleep sweetly, tender heart, in peace;
70    Sleep, holy spirit, blessed soul,
71While the stars burn, the moons increase,
72    And the great ages onward roll.
73Sleep till the end, true soul and sweet.
74    Nothing comes to thee new or strange,
75Sleep full of rest from head to feet:
76    Lie still, dry dust, secure of change.


1] To James Spedding on the death of his brother Edward. James Spedding was from college days an intimate friend of the Poet's; he was a man of marked ability and distinguished himself as a critic, and as the biographer of Bacon. The poem was published in 1833. Back to Line
22] The death of Tennyson's father took place in March 1831. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
W. J. Alexander; William Hall Clawson
RPO Edition: 
RP (1912), pp. 203-05; RPO 1997.