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Short poem

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

St. Agnes' Eve

              1Deep on the convent-roof the snows
              2      Are sparkling to the moon:
              3My breath to heaven like vapour goes;
              4      May my soul follow soon!
              5The shadows of the convent-towers
              6      Slant down the snowy sward,
              7Still creeping with the creeping hours
              8      That lead me to my Lord:
              9Make Thou my spirit pure and clear
            10      As are the frosty skies,
            11Or this first snowdrop of the year
            12      That in my bosom lies.

            13As these white robes are soil'd and dark,
            14      To yonder shining ground;
            15As this pale taper's earthly spark,
            16      To yonder argent round;
            17So shows my soul before the Lamb,
            18      My spirit before Thee;
            19So in mine earthly house I am,
            20      To that I hope to be.
            21Break up the heavens, O Lord! and far,
            22      Thro' all yon starlight keen,
            23Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star,
            24      In raiment white and clean.

            25He lifts me to the golden doors;
            26      The flashes come and go;
            27All heaven bursts her starry floors,
            28      And strows her lights below,
            29And deepens on and up! the gates
            30      Roll back, and far within
            31For me the Heavenly Bridegroom waits,
            32      To make me pure of sin.
            33The sabbaths of Eternity,
            34      One sabbath deep and wide--
            35A light upon the shining sea--
            36      The Bridegroom with his bride!


1] Until the edition of 1855, the poem was called St. Agnes. The change was perhaps intended to bring out the contrast with Keats's Eve of St. Agnes. Keats develops the theme in secular, Tennyson in religious, terms.

16] argent round: the silvery moon.

17] Lamb: Christ. The name "Agnes" also signifies "lamb."

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: The Keepsake (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1837). AY 13 K5 ROBA. Revised in Alfred lord Tennyson, Poems, 2 vols. (Boston: W. D. Ticknor, 1842). Alfred lord Tennyson, Works (London: Macmillan, 1891). tenn T366 A1 1891a Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1837
RPO poem editor: H. M. McLuhan
RP edition: 3RP 3.44.
Recent editing: 2:2002/1/17

Rhyme: ababcdcdefef

Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson