To J. S.

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1809–1892 Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The wind, that beats the mountain, blows
      More softly round the open wold,
And gently comes the world to those
      That are cast in gentle mould.

And me this knowledge bolder made,
      Or else I had not dare to flow
In these words toward you, and invade
      Even with a verse your holy woe.

'Tis strange that those we lean on most,
      Those in whose laps our limbs are nursed,
Fall into shadow, soonest lost:
      Those we love first are taken first.

God gives us love. Something to love
      He lends us; but, when love is grown
To ripeness, that on which it throve
      Falls off, and love is left alone.

This is the curse of time. Alas!
      In grief I am not all unlearn'd;
Once thro' mine own doors Death did pass;
      One went, who never hath return'd.

He will not smile—not speak to me
      Once more. Two years his chair is seen
Empty before us. That was he
      Without whose life I had not been.

Your loss is rarer; for this star
      Rose with you thro' a little arc
Of heaven, nor having wander'd far
      Shot on the sudden into dark.

I knew your brother: his mute dust
      I honour and his living worth:
A man more pure and bold and just
      Was never born into the earth.

I have not look'd upon you nigh,
      Since that dear soul hath fall'n asleep.
Great nature is more wise than I:
      I will not tell you not to weep.

And tho' mine own eyes fill with dew,
      Drawn from the spirit thro' the brain,
I will not even preach to you,
      "Weep, weeping dulls the inward pain."

Let Grief be her own mistress still.
      She loveth her own anguish deep
More than much pleasure. Let her will
      Be done—to weep or not to weep.

I will not say "God's ordinance
      Of death is blown in every wind;"
For that is not a common chance
      That takes away a noble mind.

His memory long will live alone
      In all our hearts, as mournful light
That broods above the fallen sun,
      And dwells in heaven half the night.

Vain solace! Memory standing near
      Cast down her eyes, and in her throat
Her voice seem'd distant, and a tear
      Dropt on the letters as I wrote.

I wrote I know not what. In truth,
      How should I soothe you anyway,
Who miss the brother of your youth?
      Yet something I did wish to say:

For he too was a friend to me:
      Both are my friends, and my true breast
Bleedeth for both: yet it may be
      That only silence suiteth best.

Words weaker than your grief would make
      Grief more. 'Twere better I should cease;
Although myself could almost take
      The place of him that sleeps in peace.

Sleep sweetly, tender heart, in peace;
      Sleep, holy spirit, blessed soul,
While the stars burn, the moons increase,
      And the great ages onward roll.

Sleep till the end, true soul and sweet.
      Nothing comes to thee new or strange,
Sleep full of rest from head to feet:
      Lie still, dry dust, secure of change.

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Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1809–1892



Subjects Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships, Time & Brevity, Living, Friends & Enemies, Family & Ancestors, Death

Poetic Terms Common Measure, Rhymed Stanza

 Alfred, Lord  Tennyson


More than any other Victorian writer, Tennyson has seemed the embodiment of his age, both to his contemporaries and to modern readers. In his own day he was said to be—with Queen Victoria and Gladstone—one of the three most famous living persons, a reputation no other poet writing in English has ever had. As official poetic spokesman for the reign of Victoria, he felt called upon to celebrate a quickly changing industrial and . . .

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Poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships, Time & Brevity, Living, Friends & Enemies, Family & Ancestors, Death



Poetic Terms Common Measure, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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