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Short poem

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)


              1One writes, that "Other friends remain,"
              2      That "Loss is common to the race"--
              3      And common is the commonplace,
              4And vacant chaff well meant for grain.

              5That loss is common would not make
              6      My own less bitter, rather more.
              7      Too common! Never morning wore
              8To evening, but some heart did break.

              9O father, wheresoe'er thou be,
            10      Who pledgest now thy gallant son,
            11      A shot, ere half thy draught be done,
            12Hath still'd the life that beat from thee.

            13O mother, praying God will save
            14      Thy sailor,--while thy head is bow'd,
            15      His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud
            16Drops in his vast and wandering grave.

            17Ye know no more than I who wrought
            18      At that last hour to please him well;
            19      Who mused on all I had to tell,
            20And something written, something thought;

            21Expecting still his advent home;
            22      And ever met him on his way
            23      With wishes, thinking, "here to-day,"
            24Or "here to-morrow will he come."

            25O somewhere, meek, unconscious dove,
            26      That sitteth ranging golden hair;
            27      And glad to find thyself so fair,
            28Poor child, that waiteth for thy love!

            29For now her father's chimney glows
            30      In expectation of a guest;
            31      And thinking "this will please him best,"
            32She takes a riband or a rose;

            33For he will see them on to-night;
            34      And with the thought her colour burns;
            35      And, having left the glass, she turns
            36Once more to set a ringlet right;

            37And, even when she turn'd, the curse
            38      Had fallen, and her future Lord
            39      Was drown'd in passing thro' the ford,
            40Or kill'd in falling from his horse.

            41O what to her shall be the end?
            42      And what to me remains of good?
            43      To her, perpetual maidenhood,
            44And unto me no second friend.


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 him."
OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: he died in 1833.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Alfred lord Tennyson, In Memoriam (London: E. Moxon, 1850). PR 5562 A1 1850 Victoria College Library (Toronto). Alfred lord Tennyson, Works (London: Macmillan, 1891). tenn T366 A1 1891a Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1850
RPO poem editor: J. D. Robins
RP edition: 2RP 2.400.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Rhyme: abba

Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson