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Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

The Lotos-eaters


              1"Courage!" he said, and pointed toward the land,
              2"This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon."
              3In the afternoon they came unto a land
              4In which it seemed always afternoon.
              5All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
              6Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
              7Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
              8And like a downward smoke, the slender stream
              9Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.

            10A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,
            11Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;
            12And some thro' wavering lights and shadows broke,
            13Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
            14They saw the gleaming river seaward flow
            15From the inner land: far off, three mountain-tops,
            16Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,
            17Stood sunset-flush'd: and, dew'd with showery drops,
            18Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse.

            19The charmed sunset linger'd low adown
            20In the red West: thro' mountain clefts the dale
            21Was seen far inland, and the yellow down
            22Border'd with palm, and many a winding vale
            23And meadow, set with slender galingale;
            24A land where all things always seem'd the same!
            25And round about the keel with faces pale,
            26Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
            27The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.

            28Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
            29Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
            30To each, but whoso did receive of them,
            31And taste, to him the gushing of the wave
            32Far far away did seem to mourn and rave
            33On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,
            34His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
            35And deep-asleep he seem'd, yet all awake,
            36And music in his ears his beating heart did make.

            37They sat them down upon the yellow sand,
            38Between the sun and moon upon the shore;
            39And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
            40Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore
            41Most weary seem'd the sea, weary the oar,
            42Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
            43Then some one said, "We will return no more";
            44And all at once they sang, "Our island home
            45Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam."

CHORIC SONG
I
            46There is sweet music here that softer falls
            47Than petals from blown roses on the grass,
            48Or night-dews on still waters between walls
            49Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;
            50Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,
            51Than tir'd eyelids upon tir'd eyes;
            52Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
            53Here are cool mosses deep,
            54And thro' the moss the ivies creep,
            55And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
            56And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep."

II
            57Why are we weigh'd upon with heaviness,
            58And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
            59While all things else have rest from weariness?
            60All things have rest: why should we toil alone,
            61We only toil, who are the first of things,
            62And make perpetual moan,
            63Still from one sorrow to another thrown:
            64Nor ever fold our wings,
            65And cease from wanderings,
            66Nor steep our brows in slumber's holy balm;
            67Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
            68"There is no joy but calm!"
            69Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?

III
            70Lo! in the middle of the wood,
            71The folded leaf is woo'd from out the bud
            72With winds upon the branch, and there
            73Grows green and broad, and takes no care,
            74Sun-steep'd at noon, and in the moon
            75Nightly dew-fed; and turning yellow
            76Falls, and floats adown the air.
            77Lo! sweeten'd with the summer light,
            78The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow,
            79Drops in a silent autumn night.
            80All its allotted length of days
            81The flower ripens in its place,
            82Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil,
            83Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.

IV
            84Hateful is the dark-blue sky,
            85Vaulted o'er the dark-blue sea.
            86Death is the end of life; ah, why
            87Should life all labour be?
            88Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
            89And in a little while our lips are dumb.
            90Let us alone. What is it that will last?
            91All things are taken from us, and become
            92Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
            93Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
            94To war with evil? Is there any peace
            95In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
            96All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
            97In silence; ripen, fall and cease:
            98Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.

V
            99How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,
          100With half-shut eyes ever to seem
          101Falling asleep in a half-dream!
          102To dream and dream, like yonder amber light,
          103Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height;
          104To hear each other's whisper'd speech;
          105Eating the Lotos day by day,
          106To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
          107And tender curving lines of creamy spray;
          108To lend our hearts and spirits wholly
          109To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;
          110To muse and brood and live again in memory,
          111With those old faces of our infancy
          112Heap'd over with a mound of grass,
          113Two handfuls of white dust, shut in an urn of brass!

VI
          114Dear is the memory of our wedded lives,
          115And dear the last embraces of our wives
          116And their warm tears: but all hath suffer'd change:
          117For surely now our household hearths are cold,
          118Our sons inherit us: our looks are strange:
          119And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy.
          120Or else the island princes over-bold
          121Have eat our substance, and the minstrel sings
          122Before them of the ten years' war in Troy,
          123And our great deeds, as half-forgotten things.
          124Is there confusion in the little isle?
          125Let what is broken so remain.
          126The Gods are hard to reconcile:
          127'Tis hard to settle order once again.
          128There is confusion worse than death,
          129Trouble on trouble, pain on pain,
          130Long labour unto aged breath,
          131Sore task to hearts worn out by many wars
          132And eyes grown dim with gazing on the pilot-stars.

VII
          133But, propt on beds of amaranth and moly,
          134How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly)
          135With half-dropt eyelid still,
          136Beneath a heaven dark and holy,
          137To watch the long bright river drawing slowly
          138His waters from the purple hill--
          139To hear the dewy echoes calling
          140From cave to cave thro' the thick-twined vine--
          141To watch the emerald-colour'd water falling
          142Thro' many a wov'n acanthus-wreath divine!
          143Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,
          144Only to hear were sweet, stretch'd out beneath the pine.

VIII
          145The Lotos blooms below the barren peak:
          146The Lotos blows by every winding creek:
          147All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone:
          148Thro' every hollow cave and alley lone
          149Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.
          150We have had enough of action, and of motion we,
          151Roll'd to starboard, roll'd to larboard, when the surge was seething free,
          152Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.
          153Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
          154In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
          155On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.
          156For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl'd
          157Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl'd
          158Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world:
          159Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
          160Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
          161Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands.
          162But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song
          163Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
          164Like a tale of little meaning tho' the words are strong;
          165Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
          166Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
          167Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;
          168Till they perish and they suffer--some, 'tis whisper'd--down in hell
          169Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell,
          170Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel.
          171Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
          172Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
          173O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.

Notes

1] Based on an incident in the Odyssey, IX, 82 ff.

88] moly: the herb with magic protective powers given by Hermes to Odysseus to protect him against Circe (Odyssey, X).


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, Poems (London: E. Moxon, 1833). B-11 3233 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto). Revised heavily in Poems (1842). PR 5550 E42a Victoria College Library (Toronto). Alfred lord Tennyson, Works (London: Macmillan, 1891). tenn T366 A1 1891a Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1832
RPO poem editor: H. M. McLuhan
RP edition: 3RP 3.40.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/15

Form: couplets and quatrains
Rhyme: ababbcbcc


Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson