Tennyson, Alfred

Alfred, (Lord) Tennyson, (b. 1809 — d. 1892) was a British poet who, for a time, was Great Britain’s Poet Laureate. His most notable poems include: “Claribel,” “Mariana,” and “Ulysses.” Tennyson was renowned for penning short lyrics, such as “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” This page provides a number of Tennyson’s poems:

01. — Milton
02. — Ulysses
03. — Claribel
04. — Mariana
05. — Timbuctoo
06. — The Charge of the Light Brigade
07. — Recollections of the Arabian Nights

A number of phrases from Tennyson’s work have become and remain common currency: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all”, “Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die”, “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

— § § § —

01. — “Milton”

01. — Milton
02. — Ulysses
03. — Claribel
04. — Mariana
05. — Timbuctoo
06. — The Charge of the Light Brigade
07. — Recollections of the Arabian Nights

“Milton”


(Alcaics)
.
O mighty-mouth’d inventor of harmonies,
O skill’d to sing of Time or Eternity,
  God-gifted organ-voice of England,
    Milton, a name to resound for ages;
Whose Titan angels, Gabriel, Abdiel,
Starr’d from Jehovah’s gorgeous armouries,
  Tower, as the deep-domed empyrean
    Rings to the roar of an angel onset—
Me rather all that bowery loneliness,
The brooks of Eden mazily murmuring,
  And bloom profuse and cedar arches
    Charm, as a wanderer out in ocean,
Where some refulgent sunset of India
Streams o’er a rich ambrosial ocean isle,
  And crimson-hued the stately palm-woods
    Whisper in odorous heights of even.

— § § § —

02. — “Ulysses”

01. — Milton
02. — Ulysses
03. — Claribel
04. — Mariana
05. — Timbuctoo
06. — The Charge of the Light Brigade
07. — Recollections of the Arabian Nights

“Ulysses”


It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

— § § § —

03. — “Claribel”

01. — Milton
02. — Ulysses
03. — Claribel
04. — Mariana
05. — Timbuctoo
06. — The Charge of the Light Brigade
07. — Recollections of the Arabian Nights

“Claribel”


Where Claribel low-lieth
The breezes pause and die,
Letting the rose-leaves fall:
But the solemn oak-tree sigheth,
Thick-leaved, ambrosial,
With an ancient melody
Of an inward agony,
Where Claribel low-lieth.
.
At eve the beetle boometh
Athwart the thicket lone:
At noon the wild bee hummeth
About the moss’d headstone:
At midnight the moon cometh,
And looketh down alone.
Her song the lintwhite swelleth,
The clear-voiced mavis dwelleth,
The callow throstle lispeth,
The slumbrous wave outwelleth,
The babbling runnel crispeth,
The hollow grot replieth
Where Claribel low-lieth.

— § § § —

04. — “Mariana”

01. — Milton
02. — Ulysses
03. — Claribel
04. — Mariana
05. — Timbuctoo
06. — The Charge of the Light Brigade
07. — Recollections of the Arabian Nights

“Mariana”


“Mariana in the Moated Grange”
(Shakespeare, Measure for Measure)
.
With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look’d sad and strange:
Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said, “My life is dreary,
He cometh not,” she said;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!”
.
Her tears fell with the dews at even;
Her tears fell ere the dews were dried;
She could not look on the sweet heaven,
Either at morn or eventide.
After the flitting of the bats,
When thickest dark did trance the sky,
She drew her casement-curtain by,
And glanced athwart the glooming flats.
She only said, “The night is dreary,
He cometh not,” she said;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!”
.
Upon the middle of the night,
Waking she heard the night-fowl crow:
The cock sung out an hour ere light:
From the dark fen the oxen’s low
Came to her: without hope of change,
In sleep she seem’d to walk forlorn,
Till cold winds woke the gray-eyed morn
About the lonely moated grange.
She only said, “The day is dreary,
He cometh not,” she said;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!”
.
About a stone-cast from the wall
A sluice with blacken’d waters slept,
And o’er it many, round and small,
The cluster’d marish-mosses crept.
Hard by a poplar shook alway,
All silver-green with gnarled bark:
For leagues no other tree did mark
The level waste, the rounding gray.
She only said, “My life is dreary,
He cometh not,” she said;
She said “I am aweary, aweary
I would that I were dead!”
.
And ever when the moon was low,
And the shrill winds were up and away,
In the white curtain, to and fro,
She saw the gusty shadow sway.
But when the moon was very low
And wild winds bound within their cell,
The shadow of the poplar fell
Upon her bed, across her brow.
She only said, “The night is dreary,
He cometh not,” she said;
She said “I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!”
.
All day within the dreamy house,
The doors upon their hinges creak’d;
The blue fly sung in the pane; the mouse
Behind the mouldering wainscot shriek’d,
Or from the crevice peer’d about.
Old faces glimmer’d thro’ the doors
Old footsteps trod the upper floors,
Old voices called her from without.
She only said, “My life is dreary,
He cometh not,” she said;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!”
.
The sparrow’s chirrup on the roof,
The slow clock ticking, and the sound
Which to the wooing wind aloof
The poplar made, did all confound
Her sense; but most she loathed the hour
When the thick-moted sunbeam lay
Athwart the chambers, and the day
Was sloping toward his western bower.
Then said she, “I am very dreary,
He will not come,” she said;
She wept, “I am aweary, aweary,
Oh God, that I were dead!”

— § § § —

05. — “Timbuctoo”

01. — Milton
02. — Ulysses
03. — Claribel
04. — Mariana
05. — Timbuctoo
06. — The Charge of the Light Brigade
07. — Recollections of the Arabian Nights

“Timbuctoo”


I Stood upon the mountain which o’erlooks
The narrow seas, whose rapid interval
Parts Afric from green Europe, when the sun
Had fallen below the Atlantic, and above
The silent heavens were blenched with faery light,
Uncertain whether faery light or cloud,
Flowing southward, and the chasms of deep, deep blue
Slumbered unfathomable, and the stars
Were flooded over with clear glory and pale.
I gazed upon the sheeny coast beyond,
There where the Giant of old Time infixed
The limits of his prowess, pillars high
Long time erased from earth; even as the Sea
When weary of wild inroad buildeth up
Huge mounds whereby to stay his yeasty waves.
And much I mused on legends quaint and old,
Which whilome won the hearts of all on earth
Toward their brightness, even as flame draws air;
But had their being in the heart of man,
As air is the life of flame: and thou wert then
A centred glory-circled memory,
Divinest Atalantis, whom the waves
Have buried deep, and thou of later name,
Imperial Eldorado, roofed with gold:
Shadows to which, despite all shocks of change,
All onset of capricious accident,
Men clung with yearning hope which would not die.
.
* * * * *
.
      Then I raised
My voice and cried, “Wide Afric, doth thy sun
Lighten, thy hills enfold a city as fair
As those which starred the night o’ the elder world?
Or is the rumor of thy Timbuctoo
A dream as frail as those of ancient time?”
A curve of whitening, flashing, ebbing light!
A rustling of white wings! the bright descent
Of a young Seraph! and he stood beside me
There on the ridge, and looked into my face
With his unutterable, shining orbs,
So that with hasty motion I did veil
My vision with both hands, and saw before me
Such colored spots as dance athwart the eyes
Of those that gaze upon the noonday sun.
Girt with a zone of flashing gold beneath
His breast, and compassed round about his brow
With triple arch of everchanging bows,
And circled with the glory of living light
And alternation of all hues, he stood.
“O child of man, why muse you here alone
Upon the mountain, on the dreams of old
Which filled the earth with passing loveliness,
Which flung strange music on the howling winds,
And odors rapt from remote Paradise?
Thy sense is clogged with dull mortality;
Open thine eyes and see.”
.
* * * * *
.
Then first within the south methought I saw
A wilderness of spires, and crystal pile
Of rampart upon rampart, dome on dome,
Illimitable range of battlement
On battlement, and the imperial height
Of canopy o’ercanopied.
      Behind
In diamond light upspring the dazzling peaks
Of pyramids, as far surpassing earth’s
As heaven than earth is fairer. Each aloft
Upon his narrowed eminence bore globes
Of wheeling suns, or stars, or semblances
Of either, showering circular abyss
Of radiance. But the glory of the place
Stood out a pillared front of burnished gold,
Interminably high, if gold it were
Or metal more ethereal, and beneath
Two doors of blinding brilliance, where no gaze
Might rest, stood open, and the eye could scan,
Through length of porch and valve and boundless hall,
Part of a throne of fiery flame, wherefrom
The snowy skirting of a garment hung,
And glimpse of multitude of multitudes
That ministered around it—if I saw
These things distinctly, for my human brain
Staggered beneath the vision, and thick night
Came down upon my eyelids, and I fell.
With ministering hand he raised me up:
Then with a mournful and ineffable smile,
Which but to look on for a moment filled
My eyes with irresistible sweet tears,
In accents of majestic melody,
Like a swollen river’s gushings in still night
Mingled with floating music, thus he spake:
“There is no mightier spirit than I to sway
The heart of man; and teach him to attain
By shadowing forth the Unattainable;
And step by step to scale that mighty stair
Whose landing-place is wrapt about with clouds
Of glory of heaven.
.
* * * * *
.
      The permeating life which courseth through
All the intricate and labyrinthine veins
Of the great vine of Fable, which, outspread
With growth of shadowing leaf and clusters rare,
Reacheth to every corner under heaven,
Deep-rooted in the living soil of truth;
So that men’s hopes and fears take refuge in
The fragrance of its complicated glooms,
And cool impeachéd twilights. Child of man,
Seest thou yon river, whose translucent wave,
Forth issuing from the darkness, windeth through
The argent streets o’ the city, imaging
The soft inversion of her tremulous domes,
Her gardens frequent with the stately palm,
Her pagods hung with music of sweet bells,
Her obelisks of rangéd chrysolite,
Minarets and towers? Lo! how he passeth by,
And gulfs himself in sands, as not enduring
To carry through the world those waves, which bore
The reflex of my city in their depth.
O city! O latest throne! where I was raised
To be a mystery of loveliness
Unto all eyes, the time is wellnigh come
When I must render up this glorious home
To keen Discovery; soon yon brilliant towers
Shall darken with the waving of her wand;
Darken and shrink and shiver into huts,
Black specks amid a waste of dreary sand,
Low-built, mud-walled, barbarian settlements.
How changed from this fair city!”
      Thus far the Spirit:
Then parted heavenward on the wing: and I
Was left alone on Calpe, and the moon
Had fallen from the night, and all was dark!

— § § § —

06. — “The Charge of the Light Brigade”

01. — Milton
02. — Ulysses
03. — Claribel
04. — Mariana
05. — Timbuctoo
06. — The Charge of the Light Brigade
07. — Recollections of the Arabian Nights

“The Charge of the Light Brigade”



I
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.
.
II
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
.
III
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.
.
IV
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.
.
V
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.
.
VI
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!

— § § § —

07. — “Recollections of the Arabian Nights”

01. — Milton
02. — Ulysses
03. — Claribel
04. — Mariana
05. — Timbuctoo
06. — The Charge of the Light Brigade
07. — Recollections of the Arabian Nights

“Recollections of the Arabian Nights”



When the breeze of a joyful dawn blew free
In the silken sail of infancy,
The tide of time flow’d back with me,
The forward-flowing tide of time;
And many a sheeny summer-morn,
Adown the Tigris I was borne,
By Bagdat’s shrines of fretted gold,
High-walled gardens green and old;
True Mussulman was I and sworn,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
Anight my shallop, rustling thro’
The low and bloomed foliage, drove
The fragrant, glistening deeps, and clove
The citron-shadows in the blue:
By garden porches on the brim,
The costly doors flung open wide,
Gold glittering thro’ lamplight dim,
And broider’d sofas on each side:
In sooth it was a goodly time,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
Often, where clear-stemm’d platans guard
The outlet, did I turn away
The boat-head down a broad canal
From the main river sluiced, where all
The sloping of the moon-lit sward
Was damask-work, and deep inlay
Of braided blooms unmown, which crept
Adown to where the water slept.
A goodly place, a goodly time,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
A motion from the river won
Ridged the smooth level, bearing on
My shallop thro’ the star-strown calm,
Until another night in night
I enter’d, from the clearer light,
Imbower’d vaults of pillar’d palm,
Imprisoning sweets, which, as they clomb
Heavenward, were stay’d beneath the dome
Of hollow boughs.—A goodly time,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
Still onward; and the clear canal
Is rounded to as clear a lake.
From the green rivage many a fall
Of diamond rillets musical,
Thro’ little crystal arches low
Down from the central fountain’s flow
Fall’n silver-chiming, seem’d to shake
The sparkling flints beneath the prow.
A goodly place, a goodly time,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
Above thro’ many a bowery turn
A walk with vary-colour’d shells
Wander’d engrain’d. On either side
All round about the fragrant marge
From fluted vase, and brazen urn
In order, eastern flowers large,
Some dropping low their crimson bells
Half-closed, and others studded wide
With disks and tiars, fed the time
With odour in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
Far off, and where the lemon-grove
In closest coverture upsprung,
The living airs of middle night
Died round the bulbul as he sung;
Not he: but something which possess’d
The darkness of the world, delight,
Life, anguish, death, immortal love,
Ceasing not, mingled, unrepress’d,
Apart from place, withholding time,
But flattering the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
Black the garden-bowers and grots
Slumber’d: the solemn palms were ranged
Above, unwoo’d of summer wind:
A sudden splendour from behind
Flush’d all the leaves with rich gold-green,
And, flowing rapidly between
Their interspaces, counterchanged
The level lake with diamond-plots
Of dark and bright. A lovely time,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
Dark-blue the deep sphere overhead,
Distinct with vivid stars inlaid,
Grew darker from that under-flame:
So, leaping lightly from the boat,
With silver anchor left afloat,
In marvel whence that glory came
Upon me, as in sleep I sank
In cool soft turf upon the bank,
Entranced with that place and time,
So worthy of the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
Thence thro’ the garden I was drawn—
A realm of pleasance, many a mound,
And many a shadow-chequer’d lawn
Full of the city’s stilly sound,
And deep myrrh-thickets blowing round
The stately cedar, tamarisks,
Thick rosaries of scented thorn,
Tall orient shrubs, and obelisks
Graven with emblems of the time,
In honour of the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
With dazed vision unawares
From the long alley’s latticed shade
Emerged, I came upon the great
Pavilion of the Caliphat.
Right to the carven cedarn doors,
Flung inward over spangled floors,
Broad-based flights of marble stairs
Ran up with golden balustrade,
After the fashion of the time,
And humour of the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
The fourscore windows all alight
As with the quintessence of flame,
A million tapers flaring bright
From twisted silvers look’d to shame
The hollow-vaulted dark, and stream’d
Upon the mooned domes aloof
In inmost Bagdat, till there seem’d
Hundreds of crescents on the roof
Of night new-risen, that marvellous time,
To celebrate the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
Then stole I up, and trancedly
Gazed on the Persian girl alone,
Serene with argent-lidded eyes
Amorous, and lashes like to rays
Of darkness, and a brow of pearl
Tressed with redolent ebony,
In many a dark delicious curl,
Flowing beneath her rose-hued zone;
The sweetest lady of the time,
Well worthy of the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.
.
Six columns, three on either side,
Pure silver, underpropt a rich
Throne of the massive ore, from which
Down-droop’d, in many a floating fold,
Engarlanded and diaper’d
With inwrought flowers, a cloth of gold.
Thereon, his deep eye laughter-stirr’d
With merriment of kingly pride,
Sole star of all that place and time,
I saw him—in his golden prime,
THE GOOD HAROUN ALRASCHID!