Obiit, Aldworth, October 6th, 1892
The moonlight lay with glory on his face
About whose bed in grief the nation bowed,
And darkly flew the wild October cloud:
Sobbed the pale morn, and came with faltering pace
As if it feared to lift a dead man’s shroud;
And all the streams made lamentation loud.
But such majestic calm was in his look
As seemed to say, ‘Why weeping o’er me bend,
Or bid me longer here on earth attend
Whose home is Heaven?’ His hand held Shake-
Shakespeare, so soon to greet him as a friend!
And so he went companioned, to the end.
Then to the poet, crowned with power and years,
One bore the wreath of immortality,
And laid his chaplet of green laurel by.
Wept England; over-seas a land in tears
For its own bard, caught up the bitter cry
That rings right round the world when singers die.
For he, the music-maker of the earth,
Who ruled of right by sound’s melodious sway,
Who still within his heart had words to say,
Turned to the home whence all his song had birth;
The first, last, Laureate of a golden day,
Untouched by time, passed painlessly away.
But as men sorrowed for the glory gone,
And the dark dumbness fallen upon the time,
There rang from Heaven triumphant angel-chime,
And voices cried, “Behold the twain are one,
The friend beloved, who left him ere his prime,
The friend who made Love’s great Memorial Rhyme.”
And lo! at ending of that heavenly psalm
The silent sunshine flooded all the lea,
The golden leaf scarce fluttered from the tree,
The distant ocean lay in autumn-calm;
There was “no moaning at the bar,” when he—
Our princely poet-soul, put out to sea.
But we are left disconsolate; no lyre
To sound a people’s glory, soothe its pain,
No trumpet-call to chivalry again,
No words of subtlest feeling, finest fire
To keep us still a nation, and no strain
To bring new Knowledge to a wiser reign.
He was true patriot, and his soul was set
To give our England flowers of song for weeds.
He planted well, he scattered fruitful seeds;
He showed us love was more than coronet,
And in the jarring of a hundred creeds
Taught life and truth were hid in noble deeds.
Yet most that purest passion for a maid
And manly love with maiden virtue crowned,
Availed to keep our social fabric sound;
And loving Arthur well, he well pourtrayed
That kingliest Arthur of the Table Round,
Who entered Heaven to heal him of Earth’s wound.
And he has entered Heaven by earth unharmed;
Years could not blanch a single lock with grey,
Time could not steal a single bolt away,
Nor blunt the sword wherewith his soul was armed:
But from this shore, whereon he might not stay,
His music nevermore shall die away.
Now he is gone, who up the windy ways
Followed the shepherd to the bleating fold;
Who, when the level plain was laid in gold,
Ran with the reapers, learnt their Doric phrase,
And to his great iambic’s stately mould
Caught back rich words that never can grow old.
Now he is gone, who spoke with Greece and Rome,
And took the herdsman’s sunny pipe, and played
Idyllic music fit for English shade;
Who in his ocean-sounding island home
Walked with the mighty Homer unafraid,
And Saxon metre to his thunder made.
I shall not find his welcome at the home,
Nor front those searching eyes that when we met
Would ask what father’s-features lingered yet;
Nor mark the sun-browned ample forehead’s dome,
Strong Norman mouth-swirls, cheeks whereon was set
The powerful seal of the Plantagenet.
I shall not press that soft and tender hand,
Nor hear far off his rich voice like a bell
Ring after crying “Friend! farewell, farewell!”
Nor see the dreaming dark-cloaked poet stand
Like some Velasquez figure in the dell,
Where o’er his face full shadow rose and fell.
Friends! we no more shall climb the darkened down
And hear him measure music to the beat
Of summer seas reverberant at his feet;
Never in orchard-garden overblown
With spice of rose and lily, and made sweet
With song of birds, can share his arbour seat,
And listen to the tale of boyhood days
Not quite forgotten, in the Lincoln land
Of corn that yellowed to the yellow sand,
Where first he strove to win a mother’s praise
By warbling with his brother, hand in hand,
The wild-wood notes her heart could understand,
Or move from boyhood’s day and personal theme
To hint of curious workmanship confessed
In some great thought his labour had expressed,
To talk of nations, and the poet’s dream
Of England, free, pure, faithful, self-possessed,
His fears for Modred’s battle in the West.
With him we cannot claim the moorland walk
And watch the sunlight shoot athwart the rain,
Or halt to hear new bird-notes in the lane;
Or see him stoop from philosophic talk
To shred some simple wayside weed in twain,
And marvel at the miracle made plain.
Nor ever view soft veils of vapour drawn
From the ‘grey sea’ beyond the Sussex glade,
Nor watch from Aldworth’s height, the morning made,
Nor ever leave the cedar-scented lawn
To thread the high-o’er-arching colonnade
Of cloistral trees that gave the poet shade.
And when the birds have sought their ilex home,
And the magnolia pours its fragrance rare,
We shall not mount again his turret stair
And hear the strong deep-chested music come,
While light in hand within his simple chair
He summoned sound to people all the air,
And set the rafters ringing to the wail
Of a great nation for its warrior dead,
The boom of cannon and the mourner’s tread;
Or bade the bugle’s elfin echoes fail,
The long low lights on castle walls be shed—
Then shut the book in dream, and bowed his head.
Nor ever after meat when lamps are lit,
About the shining table drawing nigher,
Feel the fine soul that flashed forth at desire;
Sharp sallies, rapier-thrusts of genial wit
That called for friend, and bade the foe retire,
And filled the hall with laughter, and with fire.
The hall is filled with silence and with tears!
The stately hound that licked his dying hand,
Fair-flewed, rough-chested, sorrowful must stand,
Must wonder why no well-loved step he hears,
Or, restless, roam among the funeral band
That comes to bear his master thro’ the land.
Yea! bear him down, by weald, and wood, and town;
He knew each rosy farm, he loved each lane,
For he was home-bred English. Lo! the plain
Is gold from harvest; he, whom Death has mown
In ripeness, goes to where our goodliest grain
Is garnered, till the Christ return again.
Bear him in some triumphal leafy car,
Laced round with moss, with laurel interwove,
And let the simple pall be strewn above
With all white flowers that pure and fragrant are—
Wild roses, on the pall embroidered, prove
His zeal for knightliness, our England’s love.
But bear him when the sunset, saffron-gold,
Floods the pale Heaven, above the moorland height,
And in the west one waning star hangs bright;
For now the race is run, the tale is told,
One last lone star sinks down into the night,
Our one last prophet vanishes from sight.
For, though I find thy voice in hall or cot,
And see thy words on every flying sheet,
Or hear thee lisped by children in the street,
And murmured in the cloister,—Thou art not.
Thy soul, that shunned earth’s restlessness and
Has sought Heaven’s unapproachable retreat.
I trace the brooklet swirling to the plain
From near the copse beside thy father’s door,
That ancient grove whence ‘holy waters’ pour;1
I pass by thorpe and tower toward the main,
I roam the long sands thou didst love of yore,2
But ah! thy feet have left the lonely shore.
Far off, by Cam, I catch the careless chimes,3
Through close-cropt meads and stately halls I
Where those disciples of thy glorious day4
Made mirth and music underneath the limes,
Thou with the twelve—nigh latest didst thou stay;
But now the last leaf falls, the world is grey.
I wander to the chapel by the mere,
I win the Hall, beyond the grove of pine,5
Where-over, Skiddaw doth at day’s decline
Shed back its fern-flushed glory. Thou wert there—
There didst out-roll ‘Morte d’Arthur’ line on line
To willing ears—thy ghost alone is mine.
Or leaving Thames I seek by chalky dell6
My father’s terrace-garden o’er the flood,
Where once a bride and bridegroom-poet stood,
And heard in June-tide air the marriage bell
Ring thro’ the walnuts that “the hour is good
When noble man weds noblest woman-hood.”
There are now perchance in thought slow moveth one
Pale and in pain: she hears another sound,
Her eyes for sorrow cannot leave the ground,
The gentlest wife that ever bore a son,
Who once for Love and Life, went gaily-gowned,
And now, for Death, with weeds is wrapt around.
Then to the church close-bosomed in the chine,7
Where moves and moans the silver Severn sea,
I turn. I feel thy spirit, joyous, free;
There lies the heart, once lost, now wholly thine,
Of whose true wards thy music held the key;
There men who mourn shall surely meet with
1 Holywell Wood, at Somersby, Lincolnshire.
2 Skegness, Lincolnshire.
3 The Lime Walk, Trinity College, Cambridge, 1828-1831.
4 The society of twelve undergraduate friends, at Cambridge known as “The Apostles”.
5 Mirehouse, Home of the Speddings, 1835.
6 Shiplake-on-Thames, where Tennyson was married, 1850.
7 Clevedon, 31st Jan., 1834.
(Valete: Tennyson and other Memorial Poems, p. 3)