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Short poem

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

To J. S.

              1The wind, that beats the mountain, blows
              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
            22    Once more. Two years his chair is seen
            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.

22-23] The death of Tennyson's father took place in March 1831.

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 Tennyson, Poems (London: E. Moxon, 1833). B-11 3233 (Fisher Library). Works (London: Macmillan, 1891). tenn T366 A1 1891a (Fisher Library).
First publication date: 1833
RPO poem editor: W. J. Alexander, William Hall Clawson
RP edition: RP (1912), pp. 203-05; RPO 1997.
Recent editing: 2:2002/1/17

Rhyme: abab

Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson